Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Debut Author Jenn Marie Thorne Takes The SAT

Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Jenn Marie Thorne, author of THE WRONG SIDE OF RIGHT, coming from Dial/Penguin 2015.

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

I am 100% a planner. Outlines/spreadsheets/character breakdowns, you name it. Whenever I hit something even vaguely resembling “writer’s block,” it’s because my outline has gotten fuzzy or otherwise failed me. I take those days to re-outline, then forge ahead fresh.

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

Before I had kids or after? ☺ These days, it takes me about four months to get from prep (outlining, making character notes) to a draft I’m prepared to show my agent and beta readers. Then I’ll redraft once or twice (or three times!) before it goes out to editors. That takes about a month. But in terms of writing a rough draft from start to finish – two months on average. I like to get into a steady pace where I’m writing something every day. Not necessarily NaNo numbers, but NaNo certainly helps.

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

I really have to focus on one thing at a time. I need that monogamous infatuation with a project in order to really be creative about it – that thing where everything reminds you of your book and you solve the third act problem while you’re taking a shower because you’re obsessed. But edits do pop up with other books, so I’ll put projects aside and pick them up again as needed.

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

Oh yeah. I still do! My rampant insecurities have not gone away, especially since every new book is more challenging than the last one. I always question whether I’m qualified to write the book I’m writing. But I set small goals that are easily exceeded, and then I get into a nice groove of patting myself on the back before terror strikes again in the form of Draft Two.

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

Two trunked books – a fantasy MG and a future-set Western, both of which I’ll likely dismantle for pieces and rewrite in the future. I’m proud of having finished multiple drafts of both of them, even though they’ll never see the light of day in their current form. They were great learning experiences. I call them “my free MFA.”

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

I’ve never quit in the middle of a draft, but I’ve got a whole graveyard of discarded ideas on my laptop. I have a long enough “concept queue” that I’m able to look back over concepts or hooks that I thought were genius when I came up with them and can now see are excruciatingly derivative.

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

My agent is the lovely Katelyn Detweiler at Jill Grinberg Literary Management. I came through the slush pile – and am therefore a huge proponent of the query system. When I was querying my first two books and getting no bites, I heard so much “The system is rigged against us, it’s all about who you know,” but that just rang so false to me. I kept writing and querying. Katelyn read my second book and had sent me some incredible notes for a revise and resend, but in the meantime, I’d written THE WRONG SIDE OF RIGHT, so I sent that to her as an FYI. That wound up being the book she signed me on.

How long did you query before landing your agent? 

Oh gosh, it’s so hard to say with that many trunked books! Two years? My query list got much, much smaller and more targeted as I gained more experience in querying, so I’d only sent THE WRONG SIDE OF RIGHT to a tiny handful of agents who had specifically asked to see more from me after reading the trunked previous book.

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

Write. Another. Book. I mean – embroider that and frame it and hang it over your desk. If this is the career you intend to have, then start treating it as your career now - keep writing and reading and querying and learning and growing. The stars will align when they’re meant to.

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

I’m on Twitter but I think it’s probably more of an addiction than a platform at this point! I have a website but I can’t commit to blogging at the moment. Although, I do feel tempted from time to time.

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

Twitter is tremendously helpful while you’re in the slush pile trenches – and when you’re working on a book, which hopefully is always. I don’t think you need a website before you’ve sold a book, unless you have a particularly interesting blog with content you can’t find anywhere else.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

Absolutely! Sometimes it does feel like preaching to the choir, but hey – choirs sing. Loudly. If social media is something you enjoy, something that comes naturally to you, there is absolutely no reason not to use it to spread the word about your work. If you’ve never tweeted in your life and suddenly you’re on Twitter every hour linking to your Amazon page and retweeting reviews and…nothing else? I don’t think that helps much. You’ve got to be authentic or it’s just kind of a downer for everybody who’s trying to interact with you in their own authentic way.

Monday, April 28, 2014

A Quick Mindy Update

There's a lot going on in this farm girl's life, let me tell you.

In case you didn't hear, NOT A DROP TO DRINK has been optioned for film to Stephenie Meyer's (TWILIGHT) film production company, Fickle Fish Films. Fickle Fish has produced the Breaking Dawn movies, The Host, and Austenland. They have also acquired the rights to other YA novels including Lois Duncan's DOWN A DARK HALL and Kendare Blake's ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD. Needless to say, I'm thrilled to be working with such a talented group of women, and am flattered to be keeping company with such great authors as we take the next step.

So that's a pretty big deal, and I'm thrilled. But paper continues to rule my world and I've got some updates coming for you on that end as well.

The paperback of NOT A DROP TO DRINK will be released on August 26, and it will have some awesome bonus content that you'll be pleased with, I think. It will also help whet your appetite (so to speak) for the companion novel, IN A HANDFUL OF DUST, which releases September 23. DUST takes place ten years after the events in DRINK, and follows both Lucy and Lynn on a journey through this horribly perilous world I've forced them to live in.

Sorry about that, guys. But I know you're tough.

In the meantime, last time I checked there were only 5 copies of the hardcover of DRINK left on Amazon. Yep, only five. So you might want to grab yours, if you still haven't. Or, if you're anxious to meet me in person and have me sign your book, you can always check out my appearance schedule. I've got a lot of stops coming up this summer and fall. But hey, we can't all be in the same place at the same time (that gets ugly). If you want a signed copy of DRINK but can't get anywhere I plan on being anytime soon, you can always order through Fundamentals, my local indie bookstore. They're happy to take your order, and I'm happy to pop in there and sign.

In the meantime, I'm hard at work on the WIP - a YA title that will be coming from Katherine Tegen Books in 2015. It's not related to DRINK or DUST. In fact, it's something entirely different. And I think you'll like it.

What else is going on?

Hmm.... I've got a squirrel in my yard. This is the first time one has ventured to live this close to the house. He's a handsome boy with a big fluffy tail and I've made a vow to not kill and eat him.

That's about it! And now I've got to go inventory a library. The physical world needs me.

Saturday, April 26, 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.

They were happy—that was all that mattered. Orphaned at a young age and raised by their grandmother Rose, Tommy, Isabelle and Joe have never wanted for anything. Rose had her quirks—she rarely left the house, wore a key around her neck to a locked closet they had never seen her open, and refused to speak about the past—but she loved them, and they were happy together. I like your opening para here. It's got an interesting Gothic feel to it that certainly has me curious. But the last sentence here is a bit unwieldy.

But then a fire sweeps through their house, claiming the lives of Rose and Tommy and blowing the twice-orphaned Isabelle and Joe out of their safe, secluded world. They are sent to France to live with a cousin they've never met, and there they will learn that their grandmother’s secrets go deeper than they ever could have imagined. Same situation - you've got a rather unwieldy sentence here at the end. Also, the proper names of everyone here gets a little confusing, especially with two people dying right at the outset. Find rephrases - just "grandma" etc., to cut down on character name usage.

Briovera is a hauntingly beautiful old chateau set off in the middle of the farmland just outside of Saint-Lô, Normandy, a real town that was dubbed “The Capital of Ruins” after it was bombed into near oblivion during World War II. Again, long sentence here that needs chopped up. Use more economical wording for a query. Its beauty and history are lost on sixteen-year-old Isabelle—she wants nothing more than to leave this strange place as soon as possible. However, thirteen-year-old Joe’s curiosity is immediately piqued by the strange rumors surrounding the estate. Soon after their arrival, a vicious animal begins stalking the farmland, and Isabelle and Joe are forbidden to set foot outside the house on their own. But Joe is determined to uncover the truth at any cost.

And when Isabelle glimpses a boy who looks like Tommy—whose body was never found—she, too, resolves to discover what exactly is out there in the dark wood surrounding the chateau. She enlists the help of Marc, a farmhand who lives and works on the estate. But Marc—and his elusive brother Tristan—have secrets of their own. Again, a lot of name usage here that you don't necessarily need. 

Nothing Gold (109,000 words) is a unique YA mystery, infused with history and the stirrings of romance, set in a place where the protagonists’ struggles parallel the real history of a town that had to literally rebuild itself from its ashes. This novel works as a stand-alone, but I envision it as the first in a series.

I currently live in Brooklyn and work in Manhattan as a social media manager for a global cosmetics company. The seed of my story was planted the year after college, when I applied for an English teaching assistantship in France and was placed in the small, seemingly uninteresting town of Saint-Lô. This is good information - you're showing that you are internet savvy when it comes to marketing and social media, as well as illustrating that you know what you're talking about in terms of the historicity of your setting.

Overall this is really intriguing. You've got a great setting and a mysterious storyline - in fact, it might be a little too mysterious. A query isn't meant to tease the agent, but to show them that you've got a real story here. I think you can almost get away with it, but then there's another allusion to mystery with the brothers, without really saying why they need to have secrets in the first place. It's got a bit of a paranormal / Hound of the Baskervilles feel to it as well... which is great, unless it is a paranormal masquerading as a mystery... or is it the other way around? 

I'm honestly a little torn on this one because I can see that going into too much explanation is going to make this a weighty query, but you don't want to just tease either. I think the historical Gothic feel and the paranormal touch might be high-concept enough to reel an agent in on its own, but I'm not positive you're illustrating that there's enough of a story here to merit such a high word count. Anything over 100k for a debut is a risk. Try to pare down. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Book Talk: THE FEARLESS by Emma Pass & Giveaway!

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.

Cass can't forget the night that the Fearless took everything from her. A new serum developed to make soldiers more aggressive and give them high pain tolerance had been modified, and quickly burned out of control. The Fearless swarmed the British countryside, interested only in killing - and making more Fearless. She saw her father injected and her mother die giving birth to her younger brother Jori as they escaped. She and infant Jori were hustled to the safety of an isolated island by the father of her friend Sol, whose involvement in the project allowed him to prepare ahead of time.

Now a teen trained to fight and hate the Fearless, Cass leads a protected life on the island where no one is allowed to leave and strangers from the mainland are not welcome. Sol has always assumed that Cass will fall in love with him eventually, so when a strange boy sneaks onto the island and gains her attention, Sol is not pleased. The stranger is scheduled for execution, but when he escapes, taking Jori hostage, Cass has no choice but to follow him off the island - even it means her permanent exile.

Once on the mainland Cass soon sees that everything there was not as she'd been led to believe. Life is difficult, but there are civilized pockets of society, and kind people there too. Even the stranger, Myo, is not as evil as Sol and his father would have her think. He's on a mission to save his sister, who had been turned into a Fearless, and only kidnapped Jori to facilitate his own escape. Stranded on the mainland with no hope of returning home, Cass joins Myo, unaware that even though he may not be the monster she was told, he is not quite what he appears, either. And Sol is coming for her, whether she wants him to, or not.

Enter to win a copy of THE FEARLESS below - international giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Emma Pass On Writing the Second Novel

Welcome to another of my fabulous acronym-based interviews. The second novel is no easy feat, and with that in mind I put together a series of questions for debuts who are tackling the next obstacle in their career path. I call it the SNOB - Second Novel Omnipresent Blues. Whether you’re under contract or trying to snag another deal, you’re a professional now, with the pressures of a published novelist compounded with the still-present nagging self-doubt of the noobie. How to deal?

Today's guest is fellow Lucky13er Emma Pass. Emma has been making up stories for as long as she can remember. Her debut novel, ACID, is out now from Corgi/Random House in the UK, and from Delacorte in the US.  It won the 2014 North East Teenage Book Award, was shortlisted for the Doncaster Book Award, was nominated for the 2014 CILIP Carnegie Medal and has been longlisted for the 2014 Branford Boase Award and a Silver Inky Award in Australia. Her second novel, THE FEARLESS, is out on 24th April 2014 from Corgi/Random House and in early 2015 from Delacorte. By day, she works as a library assistant and lives with her husband and crazy greyhound G-Dog in the North East Midlands.

If you want to learn more about THE FEARLESS, hit up my librarian book talk and enter to win the giveaway here!

Is it hard to leave behind the first novel and focus on the second? 

It is! While I was trying to write THE FEARLESS, I was also editing/copyediting/reading proof pages for ACID, and it was sometimes quite difficult to balance working on a rough first draft (the part of the writing process I always find the hardest) with working on a polished, almost finished novel… and wondering if THE FEARLESS would ever reach that stage! 

At what point do you start diverting your energies from promoting your debut and writing / polishing / editing your second?

A lot of this stuff has to be done concurrently – there's no other way round it when there's only a year between your novels being released. And ACID released in the US just a few weeks ago, so I've been doing online promo stuff for it all over again just as THE FEARLESS is due to hit the shelves in the UK. But it's all good – and I hope there'll be lots of love for THE FEARLESS when Delacorte publish it in the US in 2015!

Your first book landed an agent and an editor, and hopefully some fans. Who are you writing the second one for? Them, or yourself?

First and foremost, myself. I have to love the story I'm writing; love the characters and the journey they're embarking on. Plus, if you think too much about what other people are going to say about the book, especially at the early stages, it can paralyse you.

Is there a new balance of time management to address once you’re a professional author? 

Definitely. It's easy to get sucked into spending lots of time online, chatting to readers and other authors, instead of writing. I was definitely more productive before I discovered Twitter! But on the other hand, I didn't have the incredible support network of fellow authors that I have now, so I wouldn't change anything. I do try and limit my online time now, but it's so tempting when you hit a plot snarl and the only other option for procrastination is doing the dishes…

The other thing that keeps me very busy is workshops and school visits. I love doing them, but it's very time consuming. I've found the trick is to fit writing in whenever you can – even if you only have an hour, get 500 words done. Every little helps! Luckily, I have a very understanding husband who doesn't mind me sitting in bed next to him tapping away on my laptop in the mornings while he's trying to get a bit more sleep.

What did you do differently the second time around, with the perspective of a published author?

Well, I definitely panicked more! When I wrote ACID, my debut, I only had an agent, not a publisher, and several years to write and polish it. THE FEARLESS was written in a much shorter space of time, under a deadline, and I was terrified, after hearing some horror stories from other writers, that my editor would hate it when it was done! But she didn't, and was really encouraging, which was a big help in calming my nerves.

However, all that fear (how ironic, eh?!) turned out to be a good thing in the end, because it showed me I can write an entire novel under the pressure of a deadline and contract – something I would never have believed I could do a few years ago. I've learnt new things with each novel – not just about writing but what I can do as a writer. And I think that's really important.

Thanks for having me on the blog, Mindy!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

NOT A DROP TO DRINK Movie News!

My Twitter feed exploded today with the news that NOT A DROP TO DRINK has been optioned for film by Stephenie Meyer's film production company, Fickle Fish Films.

The official press release can be found here!

It goes without saying that I am excited, and thrilled to be working with another author on a project so dear to my heart!


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

On Submission With A Debut Author - Christine Kohler & NO SURRENDER SOLDIER

If there's one thing that many aspiring writers have few clues about, it's the submission process. There are good reasons for that; authors aren't exactly encouraged to talk in detail about our own submission experiences, and - just like agent hunting - everyone's story is different. I managed to cobble together a few non-specific questions that some debut authors have agreed to answer (bless them). And so I bring you the submission interview series - Submission Hell - It's True. Yes, it's the SHIT.

Today's guest is debut Christine Kohler, whose title NO SURRENDER SOLDIER is available from Merit Press (Adams Media/ F+W Media), now!

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

Though NO SURRENDER SOLDIER is my debut YA novel, I have been writing professionally for 30 years, with 16 children’s books in different genres and ages prior to this novel. I was very fortunate in high school to have had a mentor, Norma Atkins, who had been a journalist and a radio advertising writer and executive.

Did anything about the process surprise you?

My first question in submitting my first book in the early 1980s was what to do about illustrations. I had asked a magazine editor and he offered me a job. I took the job and called someone else who said not to worry about illustrations, just sell the text. So I sold that picture story book to the second publisher I sent it to, then sold them a series.  

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

Absolutely I recommend researching editors. In the case of NO SURRENDER SOLDIER, even though I had an agent at Curtis Brown Ltd., I still kept an eye out for new YA imprints. When I read the announcement that Adams Media/F+W Media was starting Merit Press and had hired the Jacquelyn Mitchard as executive editor, I e-mailed my agent in Spring 2012 and suggested she submit my contemporary YA novel GRIDIRON GIRLS. What I didn’t know was that my agent was not only leaving Curtis Brown, but agenting. By Fall 2012 I had forgotten about the e-mail, but hadn’t forgotten about Jackie at Merit Press. I e-mailed and asked if I could submit without an agent. She said, “Yes,” and I submitted NO SURRENDER SOLDIER.    

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

When I’ve sold a book, I’ve heard back from the editor quickly.

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

It is easy to say to put it out of your mind and get to work on something else, but as one who tends to obsess, I’d be a hypocrite to say it’s easy.  

How did you deal rejections emotionally? How did ms. rejections compare to query rejections?

Query rejections just roll off me; they are to be expected in this business. I receive a high percentage of personalize rejection letters, and most of the time it’s a matter of “not what I’m looking for at this time.”

The most difficult rejections are ones where there has been a “maybe,” especially if I do pre-contract revisions, then a rejection. The several times this has happened I’ve spent one to two years in pre-contract revisions, I felt a huge let-down to point of depression, and I’m not one who normally gets depressed.

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

It depends on the feedback and not on who gives it. If I get feedback that seems off, as if the person didn’t get my work, then the first day I rant until I peel myself off the ceiling and sort out what is useful and what is way off base. But if I get a really good, hard critique then I love it, embrace it, and break it down into specific points.

NO SURRENDER SOLDIER is a good example. I had submitted NO SURRENDER SOLDIER to Christy Ottaviano at Henry Holt years ago. She sent me a one-page revision letter and said she was interested in acquiring NO SURRENDER SOLDIER if I would revise it pre-contract. I still have that letter, even though at the end of the year when I re-submitted Christy had to turn it down because she was going home to have another baby and cut back on her list. (She now has her own imprint.)

When my Curtis Brown agent read NO SURRENDER SOLDIER she loved it and gave me a 14-page revision letter. It was great! I will always be grateful to her for that critique. I revised NO SURRENDER SOLDIER once more then submitted it to Jackie, who offered me a contract. My ms. was so well polished by that point that I only had a light 10-point easy revision letter from Ashley, an editor at Merit Press, before it was printed.      

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

Although Jackie Mitchard and I had talked a couple of times on the phone before NO SURRENDER SOLDIER went to the committee, when they accepted it Jackie e-mailed me right away, “We got a yes!” Without a doubt I was excited, but my husband constantly tells me I’m not allowed to celebrate until I cash the check. (Then we still don’t celebrate.) I have actually signed contracts and then editors have been laid off and I’ve been paid a kill fee, so that’s why he feels this way. But still, yeah, I was excited, yet anxious to negotiate and sign the contract.

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

No one asked me to stay mum, but I did on my own for the reasons I just explained. Yes, it is always hard for me to sit on a secret.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Anthology Collection Giveaway!

Because my brain never stops, I also write short stories. I tend to come up with a really great idea every now and then that can't be stretched into a novel. That doesn't mean it's less deserving of being captured. In fact, I find it much more difficult to craft a short story than a novel. I'm really proud of my shorts, all of which have been published in seasonal anthologies available from Elephant's Bookshelf Press. The final EBP anthology, Winter's Regret, was recently published. To celebrate, I'm giving away the entire collection - one short from me in each title - along with matching bookmarks.

To be human is to have regrets, to question decisions, even to doubt our own abilities and capacities. Whether it’s because of a path not taken or a decision made for selfish or – perhaps worse – unselfish reasons, we all have had moments and decisions we regret. We might regret not recognizing an opportunity. In the end, the choices we make help shape our future. WINTER'S REGRET features my short story "Perfection." Available in print and download.

My short, "First Kiss" is the lead story in SPRING FEVERS. An anthology of short stories, it explores tales of relationships in their varied states: love -- requited and unrequited -- friendships discovered and lost, family in its many guises, and the myriad places in between. Individual stories in the anthology will appeal to fans of young adult, literary, and science fiction, as well as other genres. Spring Fevers is available in printdownload and is also free on Kindle.

THE FALL: TALES FROM THE APOCALYPSE, explores different visions of the apocalypse. Ancient prophecies, technological Armageddon, failures of government, a distracted deity, and yes, zombies all have their moments in this collection, but so do love, yearning, hope, and humor. In the end, the apocalypse offers a path to new beginnings, even if it takes a course through death, despair, and destruction to find them. The Fall features my one-act play, "Disconnect." It is available in print and download.

My story "Anesthetic" appears in SUMMER'S DOUBLE EDGE, which examines relationships in transition, perhaps at an end. Indeed, not all relationships are meant to last. The second in the two-book summer anthology from Elephant's Bookshelf Press, Summer's Double Edge contains some of the collection's darker tales. Readers of horror as well as romance will find stories that appeal to them, as will those who enjoy a dash of humor or who keep a box of tissues nearby to wipe away a tear. Available in print and download.




a Rafflecopter giveaway



Saturday, April 19, 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 Celine dies in a plane crash, instead of going to heaven or hell, she becomes a character in a novel. This is a great concept, I love it. In the new world around her, I think we can assume the new world is around her - I'd strike the phrasing immortals gather energy from the environment to gain prolonged life. Devils suck the life out of mortals in exchange for power. And as the daughter of those two antagonistic races, Celine finds herself having to cover up her devil ancestry in her immortal school. She can live with all that, if she hadn’t read the novel. Oh, interesting. So she's actually living in a novel she's read before?

The novel is about how the protagonist Yinn becomes a powerful immortal. And Celine’s role as the rival of the protagonist is to contrast her failure with the protagonist’s success. But her failure in the novel means her death. This time, for good.

Her crush Erik, who also journeyed into this world, did he die too? tells her she should become a devil to change her fate. But her immortal mentor So is Yinn her mentor? The wording is a little confusing here would never approve of devils; he only slays them. When her doomsday comes closer, Celine must choose to embrace the devils or use what she knows to overturn the plot—and possibly the whole world in the process.

BOOK OF IMMORTALS: THE DISCIPLE is a complete 110,000-words fantasy novel with sequel potential.

This sounds fun. I like the idea that the protag already knows her fate. I don't have a lot of tips to offer you, other than perhaps explaining why / how Erik ended up in the novel as well. Overall this look good, my only trip-up would be the word count. Any debut author should try to aim for an under 100k word count. Fantasy gets a little leniency because of the world building, but 110k is still high. Try to trim down before you query widely.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Book Talk: (DON'T YOU) FORGET ABOUT ME by Kate Karyus Quinn & Giveaway!

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.

Gardnerville is a paradise, a place where the sick will be healed and the healthy can live forever. But everything has a price, and whatever magic allows Gardnerville to work its miracles also has a dark side. Every fourth year, the town's teens are at risk for exhibiting erratic and often violent behaviors.

As a Gardner and a descendant of the founding father of the town, Skylar knows more about the past than she wants to. The last fourth year saw her older sister Piper leading sixteen of her classmates to the suspension bridge where they willingly threw themselves into watery graves below. Memories of Piper from before that fourth year are too painful for Skylar, so she indulges daily in Forget-Me-Nots, little purple pills designed to wipe clean short-term memories.

To forget is all Skylar wants, but there is a weight of responsibility on her that she can't seem to shake. In her lucid moments she records herself on her mom's old cassette tapes, reminding the next day's Skylar what she must do in order to break the cycle of violence that Gardner feeds itself on.

Kate is a fellow Class of 2k13 member, and I also happen to think she's a pretty great writer and person. To help celebrate each other's new books in 2014, we're each writing about and giving away each other's ARCs. So, here on my blog you have a chance to enter to win an advance copy of (DON'T YOU) FORGET ABOUT ME, and over on her blog you can enter to win an ARC of IN A HANDFUL OF DUST. Pretty cool, right?

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Thursday, April 17, 2014

NOT A DROP TO DRINK Chosen As A Choose To Read Ohio Title

I'm proud to announce that NOT A DROP TO DRINK has been chosen as a Choose To Read Ohio title!

Choose to Read Ohio (CTRO) encourages libraries, schools, families, book clubs, and others to build communities of readers and an appreciation of Ohio authors, illustrators, and literature. Selected books are suitable for use in classrooms, libraries, bookstores, by book discussion groups, by families, and by other groups in various community settings. The CTRO booklist is developed by an advisory committee representing schools, libraries, and literary organizations, with input from 50 additional teachers, librarians, and other book lovers.




Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Debut MG Author Gayle Rosengren Takes The SAT

Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Gayle Rosengren, author of WHAT THE MOON SAID, a historical MG novel set during the Great Depression. Gayle writes full-time in her home just outside of Madison, Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband, Don, and slightly neurotic rescue dog, Fiona. Gayle is living her dream, writing books she hopes will make the same difference in children's lives as her favorite books and authors made in hers.

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

I'm a planner. I don't like to write even my first sentence until I have a good idea what my last one will be. It's not that I rigidly cling to the vision I have in place when I begin a new manuscript. If I come up with something better as I'm going along--as I often do-- I'm delighted to go with it. But I won't begin without a destination and a plan in mind for getting there. It's too easy to get lost somewhere in the deep dark woods of the middle and never find the right path out into the sunlight again.

Although I don't outline per se, I do block out chapters with a sentence or two describing what should take place. I find this to be the most efficient way to keep the action moving and the plot from stalling. Again, if better ideas evolve as I'm writing, I welcome them most happily, but chapter-blocking keeps me focused on the primary plot points. And knowing where I'm going enables me to see the most natural ways to get from "here to there" often several chapters in advance.

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

In an ideal world, the first draft takes an average of three months. At this point I run it past my critique group to get their input. Then I go through it a second time, editing with their comments and suggestions in mind. During this same pass, I also do a lot of line editing. The first time I'm too eager to get the story down to worry overmuch about how pretty it is. The second draft is my opportunity to make it smooth and shiny. It may take a month or more. At this point, I send it to my editor, and when she sends me her thoughts and suggestions, I revisit the manuscript with them in mind. This is usually where it goes from pretty to downright gorgeous and will end up ready to send to copyediting. These three drafts usually total approximately nine months of work: In. An. Ideal. World. When everything goes well.  Some books are more of a struggle than others, though. Those can take years instead of months, requiring much hair-pulling and entire rewrites not once but twice or three times. Argh! Just like every child, every manuscript is different.

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

At first I worked on one project at a time, but I've learned to be a multi-tasker-extraordinaire. While one book is being considered by my editor, I'm busy working on a new one or reviewing copyedits on a previous one. Time is precious. If I'm not writing manuscripts, I'm preparing presentations for school and library visits, I'm doing online interviews or scheduling appearances at book fairs and literary events, or updating my website. Being a writer is a multi-faceted profession these days, so being able to multi-task is more and more important.

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

I have always been writing--since back in elementary school--so writing is as natural as breathing to me. Nothing scary about that. Much scarier to think of NOT writing.  

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

I'm not agented.  I'm one of a rare and dying breed who connected with her editor at a conference.  And I don't really have a trunk. On the contrary; because I write relatively quickly and hate doing submissions, I have a few manuscripts that have not yet been seen by editorial eyes. I refer to them as my arsenal.

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

I've taken breaks on a few manuscripts, but I've never completely quit on one. Some of my breaks have been years long, but I never count any manuscript "out" because it's always about something I felt passionately about, and if the manuscript didn't work, it was probably because somehow my writing hadn't done the idea justice. These manuscripts simmer on the back burner of my mind like a stew that just needs time and seasoning and occasional gentle stirring for the juices to blend. Eventually I'll either lose my passion for a story or serve it up. 

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

I'm still not over the giddiness I feel when I see or hold my book. It was a long-held dream that finally came true. It may sound corny, but I think I will savor the joy of it forever.

How much input do you have on cover art?

Not much, really. I was asked for some ideas of what I thought the farmhouse should look like, but that was about it. The artwork was finished when I saw it for the first time. And I was so delighted by it that all I could do was hyperventilate and say "Ohmygosh, ohmygosh, it's beautiful!  I love it!"  --

Does that count as input?

I have absolute faith in the Putnam/Penguin art team. They gave What the Moon Said the most exquisite cover without any help from me, and I'm sure they'll do the same for my next book. 

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

I had no idea how much of my writing time would need to be diverted to social networking and marketing. At first this was disconcerting, but now that I'm seeing the positive results, I'm glad I'm doing it. I think with a first book especially you must give it all you've got; that's the best way to ensure that there's a second book. Obviously there is a point when a writer has to ease back on the throttle to give the majority of her time and energy back to writing. But in the beginning, the more you can do to promote your book, the better.

How much of your own marketing do you? 

I do a lot of my own marketing, but lately I'm finding that the more I do, the more help I'm receiving from others. It's so sweet and so very much appreciated!  I might send out a tweet about an appearance I'll be doing and several of my "people" from blogs and SCBWI and my debut groups and bookstores forward my tweet to other book people.  I post a photo from  a recent appearance on my Facebook page and the same thing happens.  I've said it before (although The Beatles said it first!)  but it's worth repeating: In book marketing as in so many things in life, we "get by with a little help from our friends".  

I have a site, a Facebook, and a Twitter. I do not have a blog of my own, although I have nothing but admiration for those writers who can maintain one in addition to their manuscript-writing. I'd be burnt out in a matter of a few weeks! 
 
When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?

I didn't worry about building platform until after I had an offer for my book. Then I set up a website--very rudimentary at first, containing only the most basic information about myself and my book on a very pretty home page. Then I added to it gradually over the next year until publication and continue to add to it now.

After the website was begun, I joined two debut children's authors' groups: Class of 2K14, which has a maximum of 20 members, requires an initial payment of dues, and is focused on marketing; and OneFourKidLit, which is more of a support and information-sharing group. Both have websites that promote all the members' books and both have proven invaluable. I highly recommend joining both groups if you can.

I have long been a member of SCBWI, and it is another awesome source of support and information and is a super advisory group on marketing.  If you're not already a member, join at once!    

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

Absolutely. Readers need to know about your book before they can read it. Sure, most young readers will just stumble on an MG novel in their public or school library, but the librarian needs to hear about it so she'll place that book order. And even if she sees it in a journal with good reviews, her funds are limited. Whether she chooses your book or another one may come down to which one she heard good things about in an online blog or literary chatter on Twitter. 

The truth is there is no accurate way to measure what "works" and what doesn't when it comes to social networking, but getting your title out there in a positive way certainly can't hurt.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Here, Have Some Books

I'm continuing to clean off the bookshelves!

If you'd like to break from reading YA for a little bit, or simply crave some good old-fashioned darkity-darkness, enter to win some thrillers I've picked up that need good homes.

Titles you can win are:

ALEX by Pierre Lemaitre
THE ANDALUCIAN FRIEND by Alexander Soderberg
INDISCRETION by Charles Dubow

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Saturday, April 12, 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.

Twenty-four-year-old Norm Run-of-the-Mill Stevens has always lived in the shadow of his brother, Heroic Man. Unlike Norm, the intrepid superhero possesses the full spectrum of superhuman powers—super strength, super speed, super sexual prowess, flight, even a superhumanly muscular ass, which has become an icon of the city. And he uses them all to fight crime on a daily basis, much to the city’s admiration. You definitely have my attention. And it's not just because of the ass icon.

But Norm is incredibly bright, phrasing here leaves a little to be desired after that awesome hook and has finally completed the blueprints for a far superior electrical power grid for the city that would save it billions of dollars a year and propel him into the limelight. Kind of a lengthy sentence here, I'd hack off the end. It's assumed. Not to mention finally gain him the respect of his parents. If the parents aren't a major plot point, I'd not bother mentioning here. Feels like a tack-on and messes with your rhythm. Problem is, his mailroom boss at Electrifirm refuses to show the blueprints to the C.E.O., C.E. Olsen, I think dashes here instead of commas? claiming a kid Norm’s age couldn’t possibly have come up with something so brilliant.

Out of pity for Norm’s misfortune, Heroic Man presents the blueprints to Olsen, giving Norm his well-deserved credit. But Olsen, out to boost his own reputation, claims in front of the whole city that Heroic Man stole the new grid plans from Electrifirm. I don't understand how smearing a much-loved superhero would boost Olsen's reputation? He asks Norm, who (whom?) he presents as the rightful creator, to confirm his story on the spot, and Norm is left with a tough choice: Refuse to go along with Olsen’s story and continue to live in his brother’s shadow, or stab his brother in the back and gain the respect and reverence he always dreamed of. Fairly long punctuation-filled sentence here. Definitely re-work these.

I think you've got a great, humorous thing going on here... but I'm not seeing a novel-length plot. Right now your query is focused on one scene - the moment where Norm decides what he's going to say in front of the (city? nation? world? CEO?) In order for there to be an entire novel here, the agent needs to know where this goes. Does he stand behind his superhero brother? I'm guessing not or else there'd be nothing left to say. So is there fallout? What's the real crux of the novel?

Right now you're basing your query on one scene, but it sounds like this is the point where the novel actually begins - not what it's necessarily about. Make sure you're pitching the focus of the book, not just a tease as or a what-happens-next scenario. The agent isn't invested enough in your characters after two paras to care. Show them you've got a novel length material here, and your voice can carry it.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Book Talk: ALL OUR YESTERDAYS by Cristin Terrill

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.

Em holds the key to the future and it's written in her own handwriting. A cryptic note sent from a past version of herself lets her know what she must do in the present in order to prevent mass chaos - but it may mean sacrificing the one thing in her past that she wants to hold onto.

Marina leads a coddled life, but it means nothing to her without her childhood friend James. Even though he sees her as nothing more than that, she's dedicated to making him realize her true feelings. She has never understood why James puts up with the bedraggled Finn tagging on their heels all the time, getting in the way of her opportune moment to declare herself.

But Finn is there for James when their world falls apart one fateful night, and Marina begins to see the his value. It may be too late though. As attacks on James' life continue, Marina and Finn band together to protect their mutual friend from two teens who always seem to know what their next move is.

Em fights for her freedom in the future, eluding the dark and sinister Doctor in order to complete her mission. But her path is set to collide with Marina's - and their mutually exclusive goals will challenge them to question what they each value most.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Cover Reveal Conversation With MG Author Carmella Van Vleet

I love talking to debut authors. Our experiences are so similar, yet so very different, that every one of us has a new story to share. Everyone says that the moment you get your cover it really hits you - you're an author. The cover is your story - and you - packaged for the world. So the process of the cover reveal can be slightly panic inducing. Does it fit your story? Is it what you hoped? Will it sell? With this in mind I put together the CRAP (Cover Reveal Anxiety Phase) Interview.

Today's guest is my fellow Ohioan Carmella Van Vleet, here to talk about the cover for Eliza Bing Is (Not) A Big, Fat Quitter in which a preteen girl struggling with ADHD must stick with a summer taekwondo class to prove that shes dedicated enough to pursue her true passion: cake decorating. Available from Holiday House now.


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

Sometimes I use clip art to create my own covers, but for this particular book, I didn’t. I was reasonably open to just about anything. The only thing I was really concerned about was it being too girly. Especially since I’d written it so teachers could read it out loud without alienating half of their class. The other thing I was concerned about was a having “cake” cover. (There’s a cake decorating aspect to the story.) Not that there’s anything wrong with cake or baking covers. But I was really hoping the publisher would focus on the martial arts aspect.

Well, shoot. Apparently I DID have some pre-conceived ideas about what I wanted after all!

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

 ELIZA BING IS (NOT) A BIG, FAT QUITTER wasn’t coming out until February, but I was attending a book event in November (with some of my other titles). I wanted to be able to print out some bookmarks or at least have some kind of sign about the upcoming title, so I contacted my publisher and started bugging them. (Nicely, of course.) As it turned out, the art was just about ready so I didn’t have to wait long. The publisher sent me a file so I could see it and use it.

Did you have any input on your cover?

Nope. None at all. I tried to get it into my contract that I could see and approve it, but it didn’t work out. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust my publisher to do a good job. (Because, frankly, they do this all the time and know what they’re doing.) But as a 3rd degree black belt writing about a girl taking up taekwondo, I wanted to make sure any uniform on the cover was accurate. Many people think a dobok (taekwondo uniform) and a gi (a karate uniform) are the same thing. Dobok collars are different, too, based on the person’s rank.

Thankfully that wasn’t an issue. And even if it had been, I’m confident my publisher would have been open to my input. They don’t want a mistake any more than I do.

How was your cover revealed to you?

My editor sent me an email with the cover attached. Her note said, “Here it is! Smashing (no pun intended), isn’t it?”

I told it was and to please let the artist know how thrilled I was with it. I think it has a “Ramona” feel to it, which I love because the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary were the first books I remember reading on my own.

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

After the editor sent to me, I asked if she had any problem with me sharing it on my website and all that. She didn’t, so I posted it and began sharing it pretty much immediately. I didn’t have any big “cover real” or special promotional event. I know other publishing houses and authors like to do that, but *shrug* I’ve never done that.

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

I had no idea what it would look like before my editor sent me the file with my cover. But it was four months before the actual release date that I got to see it and share it.

What surprised you most about the process?

This is my 17th book and what surprised me the most about the process is how scary it (still) is while you’re waiting to see your cover for the first time! We invest so much in the writing and we know - right or wrong - how important covers are in attracting readers and selling books. The whole process is nerve-racking. I didn’t know just how anxious I’d been feeling until I saw it and like it. There was this big feeling of relief. I’m not going to lie to you, a couple of my books have covers I really don’t like. (And no, I won’t tell you which ones.) It can affect how excited you are about the project.

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

First, try not to invest too much energy in what you think the cover should or will look like. Most of the time, it’s something that’s completely out of your hands anyway.

Second, I know you know your book better than anyone else in the world, but your publisher has likely been selling books for a long time. Trust them to know what they’re doing.

And finally, take some time to process the cover once you do see it. You’ll have a gut reaction and that’s fine. If you love it, congratulations! Go celebrate. But if you hate it, wait and get other people’s feedback before you go complaining to your publisher. Sometimes it just takes a few days to grow on you or for you to appreciate what the artist did. I know several authors who’ve had legitimate concerns about their covers. And in each case, they were able to calmly articulate those concerns to their publisher and have the cover changed - even first time authors. So no panicking allowed!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Blog Tour - The Writing Process

I was invited by AB Westrick, a fellow Lucky 13 member and author of BROTHERHOOD which was a JLG Selection as well as winner of the National Council for the Social Studies Notable Trade Book Award. The Writing Process blog tour focuses on the writing process of authors as we pitch the same four questions around the loop, garnering diverse answers.

1) What am I working on?

I'm currently working on two different projects which are very different from one another. The first is a Gothic historical set in an asylum, the second a contemporary thriller. Both are YA titles.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

In everything I write, no matter how fantastical, I ask myself - OK if this actually happened in real life, how is it going to go down? What would real people say and do in this situation? You can have lofty ideals and heroic actions in mind, but reality isn't a pretty place- the reality in my novels often less so. I like to explore what the everyday life of real people would be like in fantastical situations.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I write widely, as my published works are post-apoc survival tales, and - as you can can see by my WIPs - I have a wandering mind. I write the stories that come into my head, and don't question the inspiration.

4) How does your writing process work?

I am an extreme pantster. I often don't even know what is going to happen in the next scene. I let it develop as I write it, allowing the characters to determine their own actions, and often their fates. I find it to be a very organic process when I'm not exercising complete control.

Next week's guest's for The Writing Process will be:

Liz Coley (PRETTY GIRL-13) - Liz Coley writes fiction for teens and the teen in you. Her debut novel Pretty Girl-13 has been sold in twelve translations on five continents and lists with ALA's 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults and 2014 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers. Her short work appears in several anthologies. Originally a California girl, Liz lives in Cincinnati with her husband and teenaged daughter, while the first two fledglings attend college and graduate school on the west coast. Liz sings in a church choir and plays on a club tennis team to keep her grounded and sane.

Bethany Crandell (SUMMER ON THE SHORT BUS) - Bethany lives in San Diego with her husband, two kiddos, (one of whom is differently-abled) and a chocolate lab who has no regard for personal space. She thinks that laughter is the best medicine, that avocados make the world go round, and that Jake Ryan is going to show up at her door any minute now….

Kate Karyus Quinn (ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE) - Kate is first and foremost an avid reader and unapologetic booknerd. Although, she mostly reads YA and romance, she often samples different genres in her constant search for the next great read.

Saturday, April 5, 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 Cybelle Ziegler arrives to her home destroyed and painted in blood, her perfect summer takes an unexpected sharp turn to Hell. This is a good hook but the way the sentence opens it sounds like the house is painted in blood... or is Cybelle? Possible confusion there. When you say a house is destroyed I think of a pile of rubble, which is hard to paint.

Her father, the Duke of the Western Regions of Lux, is suddenly might be a personal thing, but I hate the word "suddenly." Also, everything following this implies that his disappearance was in fact sudden so you don't need it gone. Missing. Wiped off the face of the earth as if he’d never existed. When the clock tick tick ticks this is different, but a bit grating as it messes up your beat here within the query - but again this could be a personal opinion on by with a week but no word, no news or message, the King orders Cybelle and four others to form a covert team in search of the Duke. Okay, how is Cybelle the appropriate choice for this? Just because she's his daughter? Does she have any training? Right now I have no idea of her character traits.

Desperate to end her family’s suffering and her own, Cybelle agrees. The next thing she knows she’s on a plane Hmm.. OK up until now I definitely had a high fantasy feeling for this, with Dukes and Kings and Western Regions. Now there's a plane. You're going to want to make your genre clear from the outset, following an ancient, magical map to scavenge not sure about the word choice here the one man she can’t imagine the world without. Accompanying the chaos is Zane, the arrogant, infuriating boy with whom Cybelle shares a dark past, darker than the secrets cloaking her father’s disappearance, and she can’t seem to keep her mind off of him, her thoughts wandering to him even when she should be thinking about bringing her father home safely. This is a long, wandering sentence. Read it aloud without pauses and you'll be out of breath. Also this dark past thing is a pure tease. I think we need to know more about why it's dark.

In a race against the indefinite timer of her father’s life what does this even mean? Has his life been threatened? All we know is that he's disappeared, Cybelle ventures through the unknown crevices of the magical realms, endeavoring deep into the darkness, where she is met with deceiving faeries and murdering werewolves. Manipulating vampires and wicked warlocks. I know what you're going for here, but this isn't a complete sentence. Death. Heartbreak. Assassination.

How far will Cybelle go to bring her father home?

But suddenly there’s more at stake than bringing her Daddy home or keeping her heart intact. There’s something brewing in a hidden world of darkness, evil lurking in the shadows of the magical realm Cybelle was raised in. There is a creature threatening everything Cybelle has ever known, a creature who she believes has her father—and may be coming for her next. I think we needed to have some kind of indication that father is being held hostage before she's sent to rescue him. All we knew prior to hopping on a plane was that he was gone, and the map somehow will help her find him. 

CHAOS UNRAVELING is my completed 105,000 word YA fantasy. It is the first novel I have written and will most certainly not be the last. Word count is a tad high. Fantasy gets some leg room on word count for world building, but I'd try to get it under 100k.

Right now we don't have a very clear idea of our main character. She wants to save her father, and that's great, but what kind of abilities or talents does she have that makes this even a plausibility? There's a lot of plot talk here, but no character building beyond the love/hate boy with a tangled past relationship that we see too often. What makes yours different? I also feel like the plot is a bit twisty - is the goal to save father, and then it evolves into saving the world? And why is father so special in the first place that the King is sending people to save him? Just because he's a Duke? Or is there something to this dark secret involving his disappearance? A query isn't a place to tease- there are a lot of references to darkness and secrets here, but an agent needs to know what specifically makes your dark secret better than the 100 other queries she got today involving dark secrets.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Book Talk: FAULT LINE by Christa Desir & Giveaway

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.

When Ani moves to town Ben is fascinated by her. She doesn't play games like other girls. She's an honest straightforward girl who refuses to go to the movies for a date because then she can't talk to him. Days walking at the zoo or looking at strangers and guessing where they'll be in ten years has Ben deeply in love for the first time in his life.

Then everything changes. A party that Ben misses and Ani goes to alone ends in a panicked phone call from a mutual friend. Ben arrives at the ER to find Ani with a rape counselor and no memory of what happened at the party... even though someone left something behind for her to remember them by.

Humiliated and in pain, Ani refuses to talk to the counselor or tell her mother about what happened. Baggy sweatshirts take the place of her normal clothing and Ani recedes into herself, only to re-emerge suddenly in much tighter clothes and with sexual demands on Ben that make him uncomfortable. The rape counselor assures Ben that victims sometimes need to reassert their control over their own bodies after an attack, but Ben can't ignore the fact that he's not the only boy Ani is paying attention to.

As Ani reels out of control and Ben finds himself searching for answers from anyone that might be able to help, he still refuses to acknowledge that maybe the only person who can help Ani is herself.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately revolve around simplicity -

1) I live in an old house. The house I lived in before this one was also an old house. The thing about old houses is that they don't have closets. The reason why is because people only had a few pairs of clothes. Do you know how freaking attractive that sounds to me?

2) I will have to clean out my kitchen cupboards this spring because they're full of food that I never got around to eating. How ridiculous is that?

3) Ancient cultures used to bury people with all of their personal belongings. If we practiced that now we'd each have our own memorial landfill.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

MG Author Polly Holyoke On Second Novels

Welcome to another of my fabulous acronym-based interviews. The second novel is no easy feat, and with that in mind I put together a series of questions for debuts who are tackling the second obstacle in their career path. I call it the SNOB - Second Novel Omnipresent Blues. Whether you’re under contract or trying to snag another deal, you’re a professional now, with the pressures of a published novelist compounded with the still-present nagging self-doubt of the noobie. How to deal?

Today's guest is Polly Holyoke, author of The Neptune Project. When she isn’t writing, Polly loves reading, camping, skiing, scuba diving and hiking in the desert (where she quite stupidly got herself bitten by a rattlesnake). She lives with three rescue dogs, two spoiled cats and a nice husband who is tolerant about the piles of books all over their house.

Her fantastic debut, The Neptune Project, has been nominated to reading lists in both Maryland and Texas. It releases in paperback - today!

Is it hard to leave behind the first novel and focus on the second?

I didn’t have problems with this issue as The Neptune Challenge is a sequel to my first book, The Neptune Project. I had the plot for the sequel all planned out before I submitted the first book in the series, so it was fun and easy to dive back into the story (so to speak)!

At what point do you start diverting your energies from promoting your debut and writing / polishing / editing your second?

Ah, now this was harder for me. I was overwhelmed by how much promotion all my fellow debut authors seemed to be doing through social media. I had to learn how to use much of that media from scratch, and that was very time consuming. If they are serious about selling and promoting their work, I think writers should be building their social media platforms before they start submitting their manuscript. If I’d been more familiar with that side of promotion, I could have focused on writing my sequel earlier. I did make my deadline, but it was tight, and that was partly because I was so distracted by trying to promote the first book. 

Your first book landed an agent and an editor, and hopefully some fans. Who are you writing the second one for? Them, or yourself?

I still write the story I would have loved to read when I was twelve or thirteen. That approach seems to working for me because I keep running into enthusiastic fans that age who hug my book and announce that they’ve read The Neptune Project five or six times already. 

Is there a new balance of time management to address once you’re a professional author? 

Absolutely, but I still haven’t found the proper balance. One could spend an infinite amount of time on promotion. Now The Neptune Project has made the Texas and Maryland state reading lists, I’m also getting lots of requests for school visits. I love teaching and presenting at schools, but I’m finding it’s really hard to get much writing done on school visit days. I’m also a mom and a wife, and making sure I do those jobs well along with producing new work and promoting the old is one tricky business.

What did you do differently the second time around, with the perspective of a published author?

For so long I’ve wanted to be a published author, but during much of my debut year, I was way too stressed about the small stuff. A few months ago, I put a post-it note on my computer that says, “Enjoy the ride,” and that’s exactly what I’m doing these days!