Tuesday, March 31, 2015

MG Author Laurie McKay On Writing The Second Novel

Welcome to the SNOB - Second Novel Ominipresent 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?

Toady's guest is Laurie McKay, who has a master’s degree is in the discipline most important for writing middle-grade fantasy: Biological Oceanography. Her debut novel THE LAST DRAGON CHARMER #1: VILLAIN KEEPER was released from HarperCollins in February 2015.

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

Yes and no. Since book two is the second in the trilogy, I stayed with my (beloved to me) book one characters. But it was daunting writing a brand new novel. When I compared my book two rough draft to the shiny, edited, copyedited, proofed version of book one, there was a virtual mountain to overcome to get book two to the same place. I just had to keep climbing. Now, book two is close to being finished, and I’m doing it all over again with book three.

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

I’m a flurry of semi-organized chaos when it comes to partitioning my energies. I work on everything at once. It takes a lot of slow starts and pondering and waiting. Usually, at some point, something clicks and I gain some focus, and get better at managing my time. At that point, I scribble down a list. If I check off stuff, it helps. Honestly, people have always told me I’m organized, but it’s a frantic type of organization. And prioritizing helps.

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

All three. Book one just was released in February, so I hope there are some fans, and I hope they’ll want to read the next two books. The great thing about having an agent and an editor is that there are more people to give me feedback on my ideas, and both my editor and agent are supportive. I think it’s important to listen to them.

When it comes to the story, it’s my book and my characters. It’s important to be open to criticism, feedback, and ideas. In the end, though, I have to write a book I’d want to read, and with which I connect. And I really hope that my story will resonate with others. As writers, I think we need to be true to ourselves.

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

The hardest thing about being a professional author with respect to time management is having deadlines! Before I would write regularly, but I could take all the time I needed. If I wanted to take a break one week, no problem. Now, I have to be much more thoughtful. And speedy. In some ways, it’s helped me. Having a time limit, means I can’t do as much staring at an empty page. And, hey, I actually get things done faster now.

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

I started book two before book one was published, but one big difference was that I knew what to expect with editing book two. And I’d worked with my editor – who is wonderful – before. It took away some of the anxiety of revising. Also, I hope my experience with my first book helped me improve my writing overall even before I turned in my early book two draft. I outlined more. I thought more about plot structure and tried to keep book three in mind as I wrote book two. For book three, I plan to have an even better outline.

One thing I learned was that while some of the worries about my debut novel diminished, others didn’t, and some new ones popped up as I wrote my second one. Likewise, the excitement was still there for the second book. There was a great sense of accomplishment writing ‘THE END’, and seeing the cover sketch for book two was as thrilling as seeing the cover sketch for book one!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Want To Read Creepy Short Stories By 13 Awesome YA Authors?

Most writers have a couple of short stories banging around their heads, and no good place to put them. In a lot of ways shorts are harder to write than novels, and difficult to place because publishers don't necessarily want to produce anthologies.

Luckily twelve other awesome YA authors with darker sides have that same problem - little stories with nowhere to go. We've banded together to self-publish AMONG THE SHADOWS: 13 STORIES OF DARKNESS AND LIGHT. We've got a Kickstarter to help cover our costs, so if you feel inclined to give a little, please do. Pledges range from $5 to $500 with rewards for both readers and writers alike.

We've got a gorgeous cover and a great lineup of authors!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Book Talk & Giveaway: SIX MONTHS LATER by Natalie Richards

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.

Average-achiever Chloe falls asleep in study hall on a beautiful spring day, and wakes up to the snow falling outside her classroom window, standardized test scores that have Ivy Leagues fighting over her, and the crush of her life as a boyfriend. But six months have been erased, and she has no idea how her life became perfect.

Her best friend won't talk to her, making it very clear that Chloe has done something unforgivable. The brooding school bad-boy's number has somehow ended up in her phone, and she has the compulsion to call him constantly, even though they've never exchanged more than a few words. A perfect, pretty classmate has suddenly left town, leaving a wake of unanswered questions. Notes Chloe left to herself in pages of books claim there's a connection, but Chloe can't piece it together.

Memories she can't place start to surface- conversations that never happened and situations that definitely didn't exist. As her life begins to spiral out of control, Chloe has to wonder what price she has to pay to be perfect... and if perfect is what she wants in the first place.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Author Lauren Gibaldi Talks Inspiration

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come to us like a lightning bolt, through the lyrics of a song, or in the fog of a dream. Ask any writer where their stories come from and you’ll get a myriad of answers, and in that vein I created the WHAT (What the Hell Are you Thinking?) interview. Always including in the WHAT is one random question to really dig down into the interviewees mind, and probably supply some illumination into my own as well.

Today's guest is Lauren Gibaldi, whose debut THE NIGHT WE SAID YES will be available from Harper Teen June 16, 2015. Lauren is also a public librarian. She's been, among other things, a magazine editor, high school English teacher, bookseller, and circus aerialist (seriously). She has a BA in Literature and Master’s in Library and Information Studies, both from Florida State University.

Ideas for our books can come from just about anywhere, and sometimes even we can’t pinpoint exactly how or why. Did you have a specific origin point for your book?

Kind of. I wanted to write about a crazy night, that was the original plan. I like the idea of one night that can change everything, and the magic and possibility a night out with friends holds when you’re in high school. It evolved and changed quite a bit, but I like to think the original feel is still there. I do remember I thought of the title while driving on the interstate with my husband…I kind of just blurted it out, and that shaped the whole “saying yes” plot.  

Once the original concept existed, how did you build a plot around it?

I originally had the “then” idea – the one crazy night where the four teens say yes to every idea they have. So I thought about fun things they’d do, crazy places they’d go. But when thinking about it, I kind of wanted to see what would happen next – how the one night changes them and where they would end up one year later. So after writing the first “then” chapter, I went back and wrote a “now” chapter and it stuck. 

Have you ever had the plot firmly in place, only to find it changing as the story moved from your mind to paper?

I had a lot of plotting for it because I had to make sure each “then” chapter line up with a “now” chapter. But I threw a lot of that original plotting away and kind of wrote on the fly, which made it more fun, in a way. So, locations and motives changed and I was okay with that. I also realized that the characters evolved as I went on, so I had to go back and alter voices and such. 

Do story ideas come to you often, or is fresh material hard to come by?

Ideas come to me often…GOOD ideas do not. For instance, while typing this I thought: “You know what would be funny? A vampire retelling of The Great Gatsby.” You know what’s NOT a good idea? A vampire retelling of The Great Gatsby. 

How do you choose which story to write next, if you’ve got more than one percolating?

I’m facing this issue right now! I start writing the first that comes to me and see if it sticks. Sometimes I just don’t like it enough to go past the first chapter. I keep it around, in case I ever want to go back to it, and then start on something else. It’s not necessarily the best idea, but I like giving each possible story a shot. The hardest thing is putting an idea aside when I’m working on a story I’m really into. I’m always worried I’ll forget it. 

Sometimes when I’m cooking ground beef I get distracted by the fact that it definitely looks like a brain. Does that happen to you?

Can’t say it has. BUT NOW THAT’S ALL I’M GOING TO THINK ABOUT. A friend once told me that he feels his brain move every time he drives over a speed bump, and now that’s permanently in my head, too. YOU’RE WELCOME. 

Or, wait, was that a metaphor? 

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Fallacy of Competition

In high school it was who had better clothes, better hair, a cooler car, the hottest boyfriend.

I couldn't wait to exit the rat race, but life is life and people are people. No matter what age, we will compare ourselves to one another. And most of the time we're the ones that come up wanting, by our own estimation.

There a million ways to shortchange yourself as a writer. There's always someone with more marketing dollars, someone who got a better deal, a cover that you covet, a tour you didn't get to go on. We can check our Amazon ratings against someone else, compare shelf-adds on Goodreads -- and that's without mentioning reviews.

It's very easy to go down this rabbit hole. A writer can't use any social media without being highly aware of a book other than theirs that is getting a lot of attention.

And that's fine.

As a librarian I can say that there are plenty of reluctant readers that need one particular book to flick the switch in their brain that turns reading from a chore into a joy. It only takes one to change their minds - and if it's not mine, that's okay. The one book that turns them into a reader has done a service. Once the transformation from non-reader to reader takes place, there's always the option that mine might be picked up next.

Writers need to be aware of that when we feel a little stab of jealousy when massive exposure is being doled out - and not always in our direction. The book that's plastered everywhere may not be ours, but it's creating hundreds - possibly thousands - of readers.

And that's a wider potential audience for everyone.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

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.

Caetlin Lovelell and her family are shadow slaying tunnel guardians by night and socialites by day. It might be better to explain first what this means, rather than jumping in with a hook that has to be untangled. They protect their patrons is this the right word to use here? of the supposed city of prosperity awkward phrasing - are you saying it's supposedly prosperous, or supposedly a city? The phrasing right now could go either way, and the sentence structure is overly complicated in trying to get to the underground baddies, Dorme, against the shadeu— creatures lurking underground that live off human flesh.

When there is a sudden change in the behavior of the shadeu, don't need this comma and guardians start to go missing—including Caetlin’s own brother, Caetlin and her sisters will do whatever it takes to find their brother and protect their family from the war brewing in the underground tunnels, even if it means allying with a mysterious— and most likely dangerous—vagrant guard to do it. This whole paragraph is one sentence. There are plenty of good stopping points, definitely use them. 

I don't think you're getting what makes your plot and characters distinctive and new into this query. What is the sudden change in behavior? What kind of war is brewing in the tunnels? Humans versus shadeu? Hasn't that always been the case? Is it a secret that the socialites are warriors? What is Caetlin's personality like? Her brother? Is the guard a main character that needs to be named? And why would a vagrant be a guard in the first place? Get the individuality of your story into the query.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Book Talk & Giveaway: 45 POUNDS (MORE OR LESS) by K.A. Barson

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.

Ann has done all the diets, hit all the pills. But Aunt Jackie's impending wedding might be the kicker she needs to actually stick to it... this time. The latest info-merical promises things she can't believe at prices she can't afford, but Ann's willing to try anything that might push her size 17 down a little closer to mom's perfect size 6.

Shame keeps her hiding the new diet from the family, that and the fact that she knows if her mother encourages her she'll resent it and quit out of spite. Ann's only option to afford the food she hates eating is to get a job. And of course the only place hiring is the pretzel joint. Figures. She gets free refills as an employee. Of course. 

Still, the cutest guy ever works in the same mall and seems to remember her name for some reason, even though the last time he asked her a straightforward question the only answer she came up with was, "I like cheese." The fact that he might pop in to the store on his lunch break makes putting up with  a mean-girl co-worker a little easier... but so do the free refills.

The two and half months before the wedding are whittling away as Ann struggles through dieting and possibly dating. Along the way she learns a few things about friends, her not-so-perfect mother, and how to respect herself... even if she can't wear a bikini in public.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Erin Bowman On the Stunning Cover for VENGEANCE ROAD

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 Erin Bowman, author of the TAKEN series, and the upcoming VENGEANCE ROAD. When not writing, Erin can often be found hiking, geeking out over good typography, and obsessing over all things Harry Potter. She drinks a lot of coffee, buys far too many books, and is not terribly skilled at writing about herself in the third person.

When Kate Thompson’s father is killed by the notorious Red Rose Gang for a mysterious journal that reveals the secret location of a gold mine, the eighteen-year-old disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers and justice. 
What she finds are devious strangers, dust storms, and a pair of brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, she gets closer to the truth about herself and must decide if there's room for love in a heart so full of hate.  
In the spirit of True Grit, the cutthroat days of the Wild West come to life for a new generation.  

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

Western movies and literature seem to have a very passionate but narrow audience, so while I knew I wanted the VENGEANCE ROAD cover to immediately feel like 1877 Arizona, I also wanted something fresh and relevant to today’s YA landscape. No author wants a cover so fitting of their genre that it scares off readers who are hesitant to pick up that kind of story.

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

We started discussing cover art in the fall of 2014. So maybe about a year before pub.

Did you have any input on your cover?

I had tons of input, and I am so, so grateful because this isn’t always the case in publishing. Early on, I was asked what I might like to see on the cover, which resulted in big email exchanges and a few shared pinterest boards between myself and my editor. Once the design team at HMH came up with some preliminary concepts, I was allowed to weigh in on those. I think I saw about ten different directions for the cover, but I loved a highly typographic one best, which included some western-y illustrations framing the title. I told my editor it was hands-down my favorite, and luckily they were feeling the same way internally.

After HMH hired an illustrator to finalize the artwork, I got to weigh in again. There were a few different color palette options to choose between (I again stated my favorite, and it again aligned with HMH’s top pick), and I also requested a couple minor tweaks to the pistols to make sure they were historically accurate and better matched the model my main character carries in the book.

How was your cover revealed to you?

Via email, and I might have dropped an F-bomb when I saw it. In a good way. Because SERIOUSLY. This is the most gorgeous cover I have ever seen and I still can’t believe its the face of my book.

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

Yup. I first shared the cover over on Publishing Crawl.

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

A few months, I think? Or maybe just a couple weeks…  I had a baby recently and the last four months have been a giant blur.

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

Yes. Soooo hard. I wanted to share it immediately, because SHINY.

What surprised you most about the process?

How unique my cover ended up being. I can honestly say that I don’t think there is a single cover like it on YA shelves right now.

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

Whether you are involved every step of the way or end up as more of a spectator in the process (I’ve been both, and have loved my covers in either instance), remember that your publisher is the expert. They know what the market looks like and what gets people to pick up a book. And ultimately, that’s what you want. You can’t get sales if no one picks the thing up!

I’ve found that being flexible, open-minded, and polite is the best route to take when approaching cover designs. (It’s also good publishing advise in general). If for some reason you don’t dig your cover, call/email your agent before you shoot off a massive list of change requests to your editor. Your agent can help you formulate a plan to address your concerns.

Monday, March 16, 2015


It won't be out until October 6, but my ARCs of A MADNESS SO DISCREET came in the mail the other day... so I thought I'd give one away.

Grace Mae knows madness.

She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.

When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.

In this beautifully twisted historical thriller, Mindy McGinnis, acclaimed author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust, explores the fine line between sanity and insanity, good and evil—and the madness that exists in all of us.

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Book Talk & Giveaway: THIN SPACE by Jody Casella

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 like 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.

Marshall is the twin who lived, the one who walked away from the car accident that took his brother. Guilt follows him constantly, and the only escape he hopes for is finding a thin space - a place where someone has died, leaving the barriers between this world and the next a little thinner. It's a place you can pass through, but only if your feet are in contact with the ground.

This is why Marshall doesn't wear shoes, anywhere. He's not willing to miss an opportunity to find his brother again. But when his bed-ridden neighbor dies he knows he's got a chance... until a new family moves in, with a girl his age who he quickly befriends in order to get in the house. But once he starts making connections with the world of the living, it makes him question his dedication to the world of the dead.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Debut Author Sandra Waugh On Inspiration

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come to us like a lightning bolt, through the lyrics of a song, or in the fog of a dream. Ask any writer where their stories come from and you’ll get a myriad of answers, and in that vein I created the WHAT (What the Hell Are you Thinking?) interview. Always including in the WHAT is one random question to really dig down into the interviewees mind, and probably supply some illumination into my own as well.

Today's guest is Sandra Waugh, author of LARK RISING. Sandra grew up in an old house full of crowded bookshelves, in walking distance of an old library that allowed her to drag home a sack of six books at a time. It goes without saying, then, that she fell in love with the old house in Litchfield County, CT, because of its many bookshelves, and she lives there now with her husband, two sons, and a dog who snores. Loudly.

Ideas for our books can come from just about anywhere, and sometimes even we can’t pinpoint exactly how or why.  Did you have a specific origin point for your book?

A hawk alighted on my porch railing, prompting the first pages. I’d been toying for a while with an idea sparked by a walk through a marsh near our home—a girl’s journey—but the who and why were intangible threads. When the hawk visited, a friend called it auspicious and somewhere soon after that I sat down and started writing. I had no idea where it would go but Lark was suddenly there, shy and timid and burdened with her gift. (The marsh, on the other hand, waited for Book 2.)

Once the original concept existed how did you build a plot around it?

The rest of the story evolved while mowing the lawn. We have a large field bordered by woods, which I mow with a small, walk-behind mower.  This is insanely effort-ful, as the guys at the True Value hardware store enjoy reminding me when I bring the mower for repairs. But I like it—I watch all the life going on around the property and listen to the stories in my head.  So: I would say that plant and creature showed me the way into this fantasy—my own backyard inspiring Lark’s gardens, her fence, Dark Wood, ghisane, hawk, fox and hare. LARK RISING is a lot about Nature—both its fragility and its tenacity.

Have you ever had the plot firmly in place only to find it changing as the story moved from your mind to paper?

Since I am a ‘seat of the pants’ or ‘free’ writer I can’t say I’ve ever had a plot firmly in place, more like a beginning, end and a few points, or beats I want to hit. How I get there is fairly fluid and of course the challenge. Characters change, though. Some who I determined as hugely important recede and some who I assumed extraneous suddenly become integral to the plot.  I find that amazing.  I’d heard authors talk of characters wresting control of the work, and it’s true—they really do take on a life of their own.

Do story ideas come to you often, or is fresh material hard to come by?

Material exists everywhere. A gum wrapper spied in a gutter can be the beginning of an incredible story.  There is a beautiful scene in Out of Africa where (Meryl Streep as) Isak Dinesen is challenged to weave a story from nothing—she can, of course, and enraptures her dinner companions. Moments or images or phrases pop into my head, leading to a thread of a story. And then I sort of wait… let more threads filter in… and start to weave.

How do you choose which story to write next, if you’ve got more than one percolating?

The one that keeps coming back to haunt me is the one I have to take on. It’s not always the one that I ‘should’ be working on.

If you spill candle wax on something, should you try to clean it, or is this a cut your losses type of situation?

This is a trick question, right?

I had a photographer boyfriend once who assisted at a shoot where some priceless antique table was being used for the set—one of those ‘on pain of death do you let anything happen to it’ events. And then, gasp, candle wax accidentally dripped on the table. Panic set in, a myriad of helpers went to work with all kinds of cleaners and solutions to remove it, which only succeeded in marring the poor table. Honestly, if they’d just waited a few moments for the wax to harden, they could have pried it off with a fingernail. So, my answer is:  I wouldn’t cut my losses with something akin to candle wax. Patience is huge. Sometimes you are writing something that turns hideous. Put it away, let it simmer, or forget about it for a while. When you return you may realize there’s just a tiny bit of scraping to do to reveal its original beauty.

Monday, March 9, 2015

How To Do A School Visit Without Psychologically Damaging Yourself

The thing about being an author is that most of us are a little off in one way or another. Maybe we talk too loud, or too quietly. Maybe our hair isn't quite right, or even if we do get it perfect then you can bet our mascara is screwed up -- and that's probably because the only tube we own expired five years ago but we're a frugal people and it's still half full. And this is us as adults. Functioning ones who carry full time jobs on top of writing.

Imagine us as teens, and you get an even more awkward picture. A lot of us were the girl in the library, the quiet guy who was nice but it wasn't quite enough to get him out of the Friend Zone. Or we made awkward jokes that most people didn't get, and inundated the few close friends we had with enough pop culture references until at least one person laughed (that last line might be a little too close to home).

So when you take that person - one who has acquired a least a little more self-confidence through the process of getting published and achieving their life goal - and you put them in front of a room full of high schoolers... they should be fine, right? I mean, they made it. They're cool now.

Except in our own heads, we're none of those things.

We're still the kid who didn't have the right clothes because we couldn't be bothered to care (then or now), or whose chin was always breaking out because we rest our face in our hands when we're thinking - and we think a lot.

This is why a lot of authors have a knee-jerk aversion reaction to doing school visits. It's like pulling us off the ladder that we've tried so hard to climb, asking us to willingly put ourselves back into high school and - even worse - be the center of attention.

A lot of the advice I've seen about doing school visits has to do with reminding yourself that you're an adult now. That you can walk through the halls without having to worry about fitting in or if you look perfect. And before I continue - don't get me wrong, I never look perfect. That takes a team of professionals.

But I don't walk into high schools and remind myself I'm an adult (except for the one I work at, because, you know, continuing employment is good). When I do a school visit I wear jeans and a t-shirt, I look around and wonder what it's like to be a student there. I peg the cool kids in the hallway, the quiet ones and the angry ones, the resentful ones that don't want to be here - and they definitely don't want to have a goddamn assembly with an adult talking down to them.

And just like with writing I know that there's a sliver of exactly who they are inside of me. Every character I write - even the heinous ones that you despise - have a little bit of me in them. And if I take that and apply it to the real world that means there are 400 seats in the auditorium filled by versions of me - the quiet, the angry, the confident, the lovestruck, the bitter, the anxious and the self-assured.

And I know exactly how to talk to myself. I do it all the time.

I'm a writer.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Book Talk & Giveaway: CANARY by Rachele Alpine

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 like 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.

Kate Franklin has lost everything. Her mother passed away, her once involved father is emotionally distant, and her brother has enlisted in the Army. When her dad is offered a coaching position at Beacon Prep - home of the best basketball team in the state - she hopes it can be a clean start for all of them.

Instead she finds herself surrounded by a new crowd, the kind of people she might not have necessarily hung out with at her old school. Being the coach's daughter brings with it a certain amount of influence - along with a basketball player boyfriend she can't help but fall hard for, even if she's unsure about his motives for dating her.

With her socially outcast brother coasting through his senior year toward enlistment, Kate finds herself caught up in the machinations of the cool crowd - people her brother definitely doesn't fit in with. When she's sexually assaulted at a party by the star of the team, everyone - including her boyfriend - just tells her to keep her mouth shut.

Speaking up will destroy her friendships, ruin her father's career, and tear down a town hero. Keeping quiet will only destroy herself.

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) Anytime the internet challenges me to prove I'm not a robot it causes some anxiety. I don't think I am, but what if that's how I find out?

2) I'm pretty sure my center of balance is located somewhere in my bra.

3) The muscles in my eye have been jumping a lot lately. It makes me wonder if I'm shorting out.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Amy McNulty On Getting Through Submission

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 Amy McNulty, author of Nobody’s Goddess (Book One in The Never Veil Series), coming April 21st, 2015 from Month9Books.

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

As much as I could possibly find out! I usually feel better about things I have little control over when I exert at least some level of control, and keeping informed was about the only thing I could do at that point. I scoured the Internet for any author submission experiences and that’s actually how I found this blog. (This SHIT series is easily the most informative on the web!)

We’re told to be careful about saying we’re on submission because an editor might like your manuscript a year into the process, google you and discover some tweet or blog post from long before about you starting submissions. Then she realizes a.) she was far from your first choice and b.) lots of other editors have probably said no to you at that point, so maybe the book isn’t as hot a property as she thought. So it’s hard to find out much about submissions until an author has been through it all, and even then, the author can’t exactly air all of the details. Still, I had a general idea.

Did anything about the process surprise you?

I guess the need for secrecy did. Obviously, I know authors can’t share details while editors are considering the manuscript and contracts are pending, but it really hadn’t occurred to me that an editor who might be interested could be discouraged from buying your manuscript because she discovered you’d started submissions long before she read it. There are so many factors that need to come together to get an offer, and that’s about the only thing the author has any control over. (Besides writing a great book and finding a good agent, of course!)

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

I wanted to know what imprints my agent was contacting and which ones requested it, but I didn’t feel the need to know names at that stage. (I would just spend too much time researching those editor’s deals if I did.) My agent did share some of the names when we heard back with positive comments or got rejections. With the ones who seemed hopeful, I sure did research their names, looked at what they bought and how often they bought titles, and found interviews with them. (Like after I got an R&R, I found an interview with that editor saying she rarely offered that, and an R&R meant she was really interested, so I got my hopes up!)

It helped me feel a little more involved, but at the same time, it made it harder when the eventual rejections came in, so if you can handle that, sure, do some research. Your time is better spent working on the next manuscript, of course. (But be honest, it’s harder to write when you’re distracted with the thought of an email maybe appearing in your inbox that might change your life—or send you back to square one.)

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

My agent managed to get some really fast replies, in my opinion! I’d say on average, we heard back within two to three weeks. (The outright rejections came in quickest.) I probably waited no longer than two to three months for any response, other than ones who wound up being no-responders.

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

I know I’m supposed to say write the next manuscript and I do believe that. Sometimes it’s really hard to write in that frame of mind, though. So if you’re not going to be writing, get away from your email inbox as much as you can and have fun! Distract yourself with hobbies and friends.

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

Maybe it’s just because you passed the first hurtle, but I found that editor rejections were often more detailed than query rejections, which was nice. They were almost unilaterally complimentary and kind, pointing out what they liked as well as what didn’t work for them, so that really cushioned the blow. The worst were the rejections that came after an R&R or after at least after expressing some interest or saying they were getting second reads. I got a couple of those right before I went to an ALA con (as a member of the public, not a librarian), about a year into the submission process and after a couple of major rewrites. I found myself surrounded with books and authors who’d accomplished my dream and I almost started to cry before remembering the fact that I was there as a reader, and I was there to cheer other authors on. I eventually did start focusing on my next project, thinking I might have to shelve my first one, and that’s when we finally got an offer!

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?

We got a lot of feedback, but there was almost nothing that was the same from one editor to the next except one thing that a few editors mentioned—the one thing I refused to budge on. (Eventually I made the inclusion less jarring thanks to my editors’ help, but part of the reason I went with Month9Books is because they got the manuscript and didn’t think an integral part of my novel needed to be replaced with something else.)

As for the rest, I chalked it up to individual tastes. I think when I got feedback from my beta readers, I was more apt to change things, especially when it came to clarification. However, when I started getting feedback from many people and what they liked and didn’t like clashed with each other’s opinions, I felt like there was no way to satisfy them all, so I had to just go with my gut. Between that, my agent’s guidance and doing our own big revision after the R&R failed, I think we got the manuscript to a good place. (It’s since been through a few more revisions post-offer, of course!)

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

I was at the airport with my boyfriend on my way to NYC to visit my boyfriend’s family when I checked my email and my agent told me Georgia McBride of Month9Books shared it with her team and there was positive feedback and she anticipated an offer was forthcoming. That wasn’t quite the same thing as an offer—and by then, I’d been close before and I was worried something would fall through (even though this was the owner of the imprint saying this, who wouldn’t have to get approval from higher-ups!)—but I almost felt like I left my body. I was euphoric all day, and it helped me not have to deal with my usual travel anxiety. I saw my agent during that trip and we discussed the idea of going with Month9Books, and when Georgia officially offered a few weeks later (another email moment, once I was back home with my feet on the ground), we accepted!

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

Yes! It was really hard! We finalized the contract and made the official announcement a little over three months after the offer, four months after that first “anticipating an offer” moment. Oh, boy, was it hard to keep quiet! Of course, I told my loved ones I could tell in person, but I had to settle for rewarding myself with an extra cookie after dinner while I kept quiet.