Friday, September 30, 2016

Book Talk & Giveaway: IRON CAST by Destiny Soria

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.

Hemopaths - people whose blood gives them the ability to manipulate emotions through music, art or poetry - are hated and feared. While their gifts bring some benefits the very touch of iron puts them in physical pain, which makes riding in cars, passing near gates - or being hit by a billy club - intensely painful.

They're as underground as the nightclubs they work in order to be safe in 1919 Boston, where Ada meets Corinne. They're as unlike as can be; Corinne hiding in plain sight as the daughter of one of Boston's elite families, meanwhile's Ada father is imprisoned and her mother tells her African fairy tales to distract from the realities of America.

But both girls have something invested in the Cast Iron, the club they perform in. When the owner is killed and the other hemopath performers start disappearing one by one, they need to look for answers before they both end up behind the metal bars of a newly built institution specifically for hemopaths, where worse things than imprisonment happen in the basement.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wednesday WOLF

I've got a collection of random information in my brain that makes me an awesome Trivial Pursuit partner, but is completely useless when it comes to real world application. Like say, job applications. I thought I'd share some of this random crap with you in the form of another acronym-ific series. I give you - Word Origins from Left Field - the WOLF. Er... ignore the fact that the "from" doesn't fit.

Are you familiar with blue laws? It's a holdover from the Puritans that still exist "on the books" in some places, although they are rarely enforced. Puritans had very strict rules about what should and shouldn't be done on a Sunday, and so many blue laws came about as a result.

Just FYI - this is why in many states you can't buy liquor on a Sunday.

And while that one is familiar to most of us, in Texas you couldn't purchase washing machines, pots and pans and many other housewares on Sundays until the mid 1980's, presumably to enforce the "no work on Sunday" rule.

But why are they called blue?

The word blue, in the 18th century could be used to mean "rigidly moral" - and it wasn't said nicely. It would be the equivalent of calling a female an "ice queen."

So this made me wonder... is there a connection to blue meant as a disparaging way to comment upon someone's Puritanical manner, and the phrase "swearing a blue streak?"

I looked, but couldn't find any known reference between the two.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Debut Author Heather Smith Meloche On The Submission Process

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

Today's volunteer for putting up with my SHIT is Healther Meloche, who graduated from Michigan State University (MSU) with a degree in English and Telecommunication. At MSU, she wrote and copy edited for newspaper and television, and also mentored with poet Diane Wakoski. After college, she pursued a Master’s in Teaching English as a Second Language through Bowling Green State University (BGSU), and eventually took classes through The Institute of Children’s Literature. Her debut, RIPPLE,  released from Penguin Putnam last week!

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

I knew pretty much zilch. I really trusted my very seasoned agent, Heather Schroder, to know how to go about getting the book out there effectively. 

Did anything about the process surprise you?

My agent sent the book out in rounds. She chose about a half dozen editors she thought would be a good fit for the first round. When none accepted, she regrouped and did it again with a second group. 

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

Heather gave me a brief, verbal list of the houses she was submitting to, but not specific editors. So there wasn’t a chance to research. I’m really glad about that because I’m sure I would have obsessively looked them up online, social media stalked them, Googled them a thousand times. It would have been maddening. And pointless. An editor was either going to accept or not. My Googling them ad nauseam wasn’t going to change that. 

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

The first round took three to four weeks to complete. When that was done, the second round was faster since there were a couple editors interested. They got back within a couple weeks.

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

Trust the book, the time and effort you put into it to give it legs of its own, and your agent. And frankly, move on. Keep writing something else. It will distract you and keep you focused on the idea that, if the novel on sub can’t get sold, you’ve got something else prepping in the queue.

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

When Heather came to me with the news that the first round was not successful, I was frustrated. But my agent is awesome and always positive. She immediately told me she was getting her next set of big guns out and getting ready to fire that second round. Because I knew she was out fighting for me and she was already a fan and an advocate, those sub rejections were a lot easier to deal with than any query rejections. With her by my side, I knew I already had someone in the publishing business who believed in me and my work. 

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?

The feedback I got from editors was much vaguer than a beta reader’s and primarily dealt with them not quite grasping the issue I was writing about. One of RIPPLE’s main themes focuses on an issue that people tend to either click with or not. I actually drafted an author letter with my personal story connected to the issue and sent it to my agent as added fuel for selling if she chose to use it. As far as I know, she never did since the second round ended successfully. But I’ve used that letter now as the basis for other promotional author letters to media outlets who receive my book, so I’m really glad I wrote it!

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

Heather called super excited to tell me a great house and a fantastic editor had chosen RIPPLE. It was a simultaneous, long-distance happy dancing session, for sure!

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

I told my immediate family and closest friends right away, since they’d been on this publishing journey – with all its ups and downs – with me. “See! All Mommy’s moodiness was worth it!” I didn’t share the news with most people until I signed the contract. I know that in this business, until things are written down, filed, on the shelves, they can fall through. So I waited to shout it from the rooftops until all the legalities were in order. Then I shouted like a crazy woman.

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Keeping It Real

Often people ask what release day is like for an author. You have two choices. You can reload your Twitter feed and check your Amazon ranking constantly, or you can pretend like it's any other day and go about your business.

THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES released last Tuesday and I opted for the latter. First things first I went out and walked the yard because we had a decent storm a few days earlier and there were sticks that needed to be picked up. So I went about doing that and discovered a dead crow in the yard. Being a writer, I had a reaction.

Me: There's a dead crow in the yard.
Boyfriend: Do you want me to get it?
Me: I'm more concerned about what this could mean on my release day.
Boyfriend: *stares* Okay, I'll get it.

Then I checked my Twitter feed and Amazon ranking.

Then I did laundry, which has a particular zen to it because I hang my laundry outside to dry. I managed to forget it was a release day for about ten minutes, because nothing smells quite as good as wet laundry and sunshine. And then one of the cats came over to see me and and flopped over for a belly rub, so life was good.

Then I checked my Twitter feed and Amazon ranking.

Next it was time to do dishes, because there's a particular zen to that when you own a dishwasher. I had some mason jars that had herbs stuck to the bottom from the homemade pizza sauce that had been in them so I told the boyfriend we needed to go to town because I needed a scrubby thing on a stick.

Boyfriend: Right now?
Me: Or I could get on my laptop and check my -
Boyfriend: Okay, right now.

So I went "into town" (and yes, that's a phrase we still use out here in the country, all Laura Ingalls Wilder-like) and I got my scrubby on a stick, and Mr. Boyfriend decided he needed to buy some other things at the hardware store, so we went there. I remembered I wanted copper pipe for distilling essential oil out of my juniper bushes, so I distracted myself with a whole wall of copper pipe for about 10 minutes.

Then I pulled out my phone and checked my Twitter feed and Amazon ranking.

And then - amazingly - Paula Abdul was playing on the store music feed and I found out I still know all the words to "Straight Up," which led me down this path of thought about oral history and cadence, and how music and rhythm assist memory. It really is a particular kind of magic that you can hear a song you haven't heard in 25 years and still know every word. Boyfriend was attempting to figure out what size vent pipe he needed for a project while not listening to me sing and so...

I pulled out my phone and checked my Twitter feed and Amazon ranking.

Then we got coffee and I'm one of those people who rejoices at pumpkin spice time and doesn't mind that absolutely everything is pumpkin spiced right now. My road is being resurfaced as a I type this and I think they're using pumpkin spice. I'm thrilled.

I got home and pulled out the laptop. I had some emails from friends who also had books releasing that day, who were taking a break from checking their Twitter feeds and Amazon rankings to email me and ask me about my Twitter feed and Amazon ranking.

This is what release day is like.

It makes you neurotic and I enjoy every second.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Book Talk & Giveaway: THE GRACES by Laure Eve

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.

River's new school has the Graces' - a blue-blooded, old-money, super-attractive group of siblings who attained everything they have through witchcraft. Or so people say. River's heard all the rumors, and she wants to learn from them. But how does the awkward new girl get the attention of Summer, the most popular girl in school, and the twins Fenrin and Thalia?

By slowly, carefully, becoming their friend. The first step is to hide her attraction to Fenrin, because his sisters hate girls who only get close to them to get close to their brother. The next step is to play it cool when she gets invited over to their house - somewhere no one else has been since an ill-fated birthday party the town is still talking about.

The last step is to learn their secrets - and keep them.

The only problem is... River has a few of her own.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) I want the humor of the 2000's and the humor of the 90's to blend into one with the overuse of "That's what your mom said."

2) If you want to turn it into a publishing joke you add, "in space."

3) If you want to make sure the sexual innuendo super clear you add, "last night."

That's what your mom said in space last night.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wednesday WOLF

I've got a collection of random information in my brain that makes me an awesome Trivial Pursuit partner, but is completely useless when it comes to real world application. Like say, job applications. I thought I'd share some of this random crap with you in the form of another acronym-ific series. I give you - Word Origins from Left Field - that's right, the WOLF.

Let's face it, some people are just outlandish. They blog, they tweet, they have tumblrs & a an eponymous website, they make their own book trailers and make vlogs of themselves being idiots, they are brunettes and have the initials MM. God... these people.

In connection with such folks, today I want to talk about the expression over the top.

World War I was kind of awful for a lot of reasons - large scale mechanized warfare, the introduction of chemical weapons, and of course, trench warfare. Barbed wire that lined trenches has become iconic of WWI in a lot of ways, because despite the new technology involved in fighting, some of the most lethal and horrific moments came when soldiers crawled from their trench to fight hand-to-hand with the guys crawling out of the opposite trench.

Anyone who took the fight to this extreme was said to have gone... over the top.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES Release Day!

Finally! Today THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES hits the shelves, a book whose first draft I wrote over 15 years ago. Buy links are below!

First of all, I want to say that everyone always asks me what a release day is like for the author. It's utterly fascinating, I have to tell you. I'm sitting in my pajamas, have researched how to grow mushrooms out of coffee grounds, and need to call insurance to argue about medical bills.

Sexy. As. Hell.



Saturday, September 17, 2016

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.

Nothing ever happens in the town of Stillman Valley, until their secret keeper disappears. Hmmm... it's definitely not a bad hook, because I want to know what a secret keeper does and why a town would have one. But I can also see that it could be a little too confusing and cause the reader to stop reading. Honestly on the fence on that one.

16-year-old Mags is sure her brother, Elliot, will show up in time for dinner. That seems like a weird thing to be sure about. Instead it sounds more like it's an assumed. Like I'm sure that the sun is going to come up tomorrow, but I don't sit around aware of my surety. I just assume it will happen. But when he doesn't, and when the search parties get lazy, Mags gets suspicious. How do they get lazy? Why would it make her suspicious? And (oops, don't start a sentence with and) starts a private investigation of her own. Even if it means this phrase usually is paired up with something... like, I'll eat this whole tub of ice cream, even if it means puking later. So there needs to be more of a connection between one thought and the next teaming up with that bipolar guy from school, AKA 'Creeper', who thinks he's a detective.

As they question friends and spy on neighbors, they discover just who Elliot really was.  This phrase makes Elliot sound somewhat sinister. As the quiet eyes of the town, Maybe Elliot's quietness should be illustrated sooner? Elliot saw and heard things he shouldn't have, and was busy collecting expensive gifts in exchange for his silence. So he's blackmailing, but it still leaves the question of his personality out there. 

But nobody likes their secrets snooped. And (you did it again) even Mags' parents will do anything to keep her out of trouble, are they keeping her out of trouble or protecting themselves? and the garage--whatever it is they're hiding in there.

Now that they're the ones being watched, by who, and how do they know that? Mags and Creeper must expose just how deep the corruption lurks in their small and twisted town, before they, too, disappear.

But what kind of corruption? And who do they think is watching them? You've definitely got what sounds like an interesting story, but overall if you look at it in detail it's actually quite vague, which is the problem. Boy sees things. Blackmails people. Sister goes looking, discovers things. Is in danger now. Has a cooky partner. This could be any number of books. 

What specifically is being covered up? I don't know form the query. It could be environmental irresponsibility, sexual misadventures, animal abuse, corporate issues... literally anything. Details. Details. Details What makes this mystery different from all the others? 

Also - I have no feel whatsoever for Mags personality. Elliot is quiet. Creeper is vaguely creepy and possibly unstable. What is Mags? From this query, I don't know. You also throw in the parents out of left field, which feels awkward and inserted. If she feels like she can't trust anyone, cool. But the parents are present for literally only the words that surround the word "parents."

And what happened to Elliot? He's the impetus and then suddenly it's more about the secrets and exposing them than finding Elliot. He drops out of the query after the discovery of him being the secret keeper - which, btw, that phrase itself made me think not of blackmail and secrets but of "keeper," like someone who is responsible for the well being of the town... it had a bit of a fantasy feel to it. That could be my reading of it, but using that phrase at the beginning made me unsure of genre at the start.

BLACK KEYS is a YA Mystery of 68,000 words. The theme of siblings but how important is the sibling connection? will appeal to readers of Lauren Oliver's Vanishing Girls and Jandy Nelson's The Sky is Everywhere, along with a light investigatory flair for fans of the Midsomer Murders TV series.

Good comp titles, just make sure it's true to what the ms is.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway AFTER THE FALL by Kate Hart

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.

Raychel has always been best friends with Matt. She can walk into his house uninvited - it's way better than hers anyway - even sleep in his room knowing that she's safe there, with him. Even if Matt doesn't always understand her decisions - like applying to a local college because she can't afford anything else - he's always there for her. Sometimes a little too much. He's determined to save her  from herself, even when she's just trying to forget some of the facts of her less-than-privileged life.

His younger brother Andrew has always been just that - Matt's little brother. But lately she's been thinking about sneaking into his bedroom instead... and not to sleep. Whatever she feels for Andrew is something entirely different than what she has with Matt, and it's pretty clear after Andrew punches out a guy taking advantage of her at a party that he feels the same way.

With so much in her life falling apart - her mom, her home, her future, her friendships - Raychel doesn't know what she can hang onto and what is worth letting go. Or if they even have to be mutually exclusive.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Wednesday WOLF

I've got a collection of random information in my brain that makes me an awesome Trivial Pursuit partner, but is completely useless when it comes to real world application. Like say, job applications. I thought I'd share some of this random crap with you in the form of another acronym-ific series. I give you - Word Origins from Left Field - that's right, the WOLF (oh, how clever is she? She made an acronym out of her agency's name!) Er... ignore the fact that the "from" doesn't fit.

You've probably realized by now that I'm a pretty big fan of acronyms. Yes, it's true. I kind of love them. You can make up a hilarious acronym out of nowhere once you've trained your brain to do it, and it's also a great party skill. Or it annoy the crap out of people... kind of depends on the crowd you hand with.

In any case, what does acronym even mean? It's Greek (like a lot of other things we stole from them) and it means "top name." We take the top letter of each word encompassed by the acronym to make the new name.

There are a lot of acronyms you use fairly often, which I'll rip off right here real quick:

  • RSVP: Respondez S'il Vous Plait - French for "please answer"
  • PS: Post Scriptum - something you tag on "after writing"
  • i.e.: "id est" which translates from Latin "that is" 
  • e.g: "exampli gratia" again from Latin "for example"
  • etc: "et cetera" again, more Latin "and the rest of them"
  • AM: Ante Meridiem
  • PM: Post Meridiem

And of course there are about a ton of corporate examples, and if you wander into military territory we're talking about millions of acronyms.

My favorite acronym though is the early Christian usage of ICHTHUS, which is Greek for "fish." The acronym, (again in Greek) stands for "Iesous Christos Theou Huios Soter" meaning "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior." Christians used to identify each other by drawing a fish in the sand at their feet with their toe while talking to another person they suspected might be a Christian. If the other person answered with a fish, they knew the could speak openly.

We still use the fish today. You can see it on any number of cars if you look - and now you know why.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Debut Author Sarah Reida On Navigating Submission Hell

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 volunteer to put up with my SHIT is Sarah S. Reida, whose middle grade fantasy/horror/comedy, MONSTERVILLE: A LISSA BLACK PRODUCTION hits shelves September 20th. Don't miss the Rafflecopter giveaway at the bottom!

In Monsterville, thirteen year-old aspiring filmmaker Lissa Black is devastated when her parents move the family from New York to boring, rural Freeburg, Pennsylvania. Soon Lissa discovers that Freeburg might not be so boring - there’s a twisted version of Candyland called Monsterville in her basement, and a shape-shifting monster in her family’s woods. With her neighbor Adam’s help, Lissa traps the monster - “Blue,” as dubbed by her little sister Haylie - and learns that he’s an escapee from the monsters’ lair of Down Below. While Lissa initially intends to use Blue to create the world’s greatest horror film, her plans change when Haylie is snatched by monsters on Halloween. Lissa and her new crew venture Down Below to stage a rescue—and to face the real Monsterville, which is anything but a game.

Monsterville is a combination of The Boxtrolls, Jumanji, and Candyland, weaving together friendship, family and monsters into a funny fantasy-horror brimming with heart from a great new middle grade voice. The film rights to the novel are represented by Pouya Shahbazian of New Leaf Literary.

Another lucky author whose book got picked up, right? Well, guess again - Sarah has been in the trenches for some time, and she’s happy (well, not happy) to share her experiences with other writers navigating the same gauntlet.

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

Most of my knowledge came from trolling blogs and reading others’ experiences on sites such as Query Tracker (which I highly recommend; that’s a virtual treasure trove for new writers trying to snag an agent). I knew there were better times to sub than others (i.e., summer months like July and August are dead, as are holidays); and I knew wait times would vary and also depended on the relationship of the agent to the editor who was reading. I was also told that there was no such thing as a “normal” pattern in subbing, so that uncertainty was super fun during such a nail-biting time.

Did anything about the process surprise you?

Not so much, because I’d been warned about every experience being different and knew how subjective tastes are.

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

I didn’t, actually. I trusted my agent to know who fit best with my book, so I just let him/her do his thing. I actually wouldn’t recommend such research, because I’m pretty sure it would have driven me even more insane than I already felt. I could just see following an editor on Twitter and reading WAY into everything posted to determine whether they were referring to my book.

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

Ha! There is no average. Some editors will be interested in the book and read right away. Others will go down their queue, or be on vacation. . . It really depends on their schedule, because editors are busy! There are conferences, edits and deadlines, and fires for them to put out. Some editors are eventually written off as non-responders, or they’ll need to be nudged by an agent when enough time has gone by or another offer’s on the table.

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

Red wine! Kidding. . . kind of. Okay, not at all.

But besides that, a positive and constructive distraction is another project. That can be really hard if your mind is occupied, however, but eventually you’ll get over the stress and find something creative you’ll want to do. (To quote my favorite writing movie: “A writer writes, always!”). And honestly, it will give you hope if you don’t sell. Maybe this one isn’t the one that got you your deal, but the one in the works will. Especially since as a writer, the hope and expectation is you grow and improve with each project.

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

Oh, everyone has rejections. Dozens of them. By that time, I was numb to it, since I’d queried three different books before I landed my first agent. I was expecting rejections.

The only way I think you can deal with a rejection is to: 1) keep in mind you were good enough to get an agent to stamp his name on your book; 2) know that this industry is soooo subjective (maddeningly so); and 3) absorb any constructive criticism, if offered.

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

I took any feedback from an editor very seriously. That’s writer gold; these are the folks who know what sells in this industry and how to edit a book to make it sell. If an editor offered criticism, I respected and considered it.

Beta readers are great and I’m fortunate to have several agented or published writers I swap with, but when the readers are someone like your mom or your friend, you have to take the criticism for what it’s worth. Some of those comments can be helpful, like “I didn’t understand this plot point” or “I didn’t understand X’s motivation,” because they’re reacting the same way other readers might, but they’re not editors. Editors trump all. After all, they have the power to get you published!

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

Honestly, I was so tired at that point it barely processed. I was in California for work when my agent called and I asked her to repeat it a few times. I’d been on submission for. . . well, I’m not going to say, but this wasn’t my first or second time at the rodeo. But when you want something so badly, and love doing something so much, you don’t give up.

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

I couldn’t put it on Twitter or my website or announce via social media, but that was fine. I’d waited years - what was another few weeks?

Sarah S. Reida’s MONSTERVILLE can be pre-ordered here and you can take fun movie quizzes and learn about film-making here!

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Monday, September 12, 2016

A Picture Of A Thousand Torments, Or: A Literal Pile of Rejection Letters

I often tell aspiring writers that I started writing queries back when everyone knew what an SASE was (Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope). Those were the days when receiving letters to yourself in your own handwriting made your heart sink... and honestly it still kind of does. I recently went through my box of rejection letters - yes, I had box for them - in order to remind myself of the struggle.


My debut, NOT A DROP TO DRINK was my fifth finished novel. I wrote four books before that, none of them deserving of publication. And that's said without bitterness. I've read the manuscripts I wrote 15 years ago. Or, I tried. I actually DNF'd one of them.

Which one?

Funny you should ask. Check out this rejection letter I received for my upcoming release, THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES... then check out the date on the letter.


That's right, June of 2001.

The novel that is releasing next week was rejected - over and over again - 15 years ago. And with good reason. The first (and subsequent) drafts of that particular manuscript were below subpar. They were, in fact, quite bad. When I decided to revisit the concept with the intention of revising it as a YA novel, I thought I might use sections of it. Maybe a scene or two. Perhaps some dialogue.

Um, no. I even blogged at the time about how bad it was.

There was nothing salvageable about that manuscript. It was poorly written, had a saggy middle and an abrupt end, populated with characters that I cared little for who spoke in awkward, unbelievable dialogue. Is it really that bad? Yes, it really is. If you're curious, check the hashtag #BadFirstNovel on Twitter where I shared snippets back in January of 2015.

You'll see by the handwritten note at the top of the query from 2001 that I did garner a partial request. More than one, actually. But none of them turned into a request for a full, and again, if you check out #BadFirstNovel, you'll see why.

I'm sharing all of this with you not as yet another example of "never give up," but rather, "never stop improving." If I had continued to query for fifteen years but never bothered to improve my craft, I guarantee I would still be receiving rejections.

W.E. Hickson famously said, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again."

I would add to that, "Ask yourself why. And fix it."

Friday, September 9, 2016

Book Talk & Giveaway: IF YOU FIND THIS by Matthew Baker

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.

Nicholas has a brother, and he is a tree. When his mother lost the baby, his parents planted a tree instead and the two have grown together, taller and stronger over the years. But things have changed over those years; his father lost his job, and they may have to sell their house... which means leaving his brother behind.

Nick thinks he knows the way to stop that from happening. His grandfather might be senile but somewhere in his broken mind lies the location to the family heirlooms, priceless treasures that he hid during his bootlegging days. Nick has to help his grandfather recover those memories, with the help of some unlikely friends, and despite being the new target for a group of neighborhood bullies.

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Exclusive: 'The Female of the Species' Book Trailer LIVE on Hypable!



Thank you to Hypable for hosting THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES book trailer today! Head over there to read my interview about rape culture, this book, and how I hope it can help.

Thursday Thoughts

Have you missed these? I still have thoughts.

Thoughts lately...

1) Kickback and pushback mean very different things, but if taken literally the only difference is doing something with your hand or your foot.

2) We call indoor heating heat but we call air conditioning air, not cool. So when we ask someone. "Do you have air? Is the air on?" It's like, yes, everyone has air. No, you can't turn it on or off. Why don't we say, "Turn the cool on" or "Turn the cool down" which would be the appropriate opposite of "turn the heat up."

3) Why is the Philippines spelled with a "Ph" but Filipino spelled with an "F?"

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Wednesday WOLF

I've got a collection of random information in my brain that makes me an awesome Trivial Pursuit partner, but is completely useless when it comes to real world application. Like say, job applications. I thought I'd share some of this random crap with you in the form of another acronym-ific series. I give you - Word Origins from Left Field - that's right, the WOLF. Er... ignore the fact that the "from" doesn't fit.

Is it fair time where you live? It is here - or it was last week. I spent some time volunteering in the dairy association's milkshake stand making the shakes, and I don't think my forearms have been that sticky since the last time I delivered lambs.

In the spirit of fair time, here's a word origin from the world of pigs:

Have you ever earmarked something to call attention to it or single it out? The word derives from an old custom for marking livestock (usually pigs) that involved nicking their ears in certain ways to indicate which pigs belong to who.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Mike Grosso Talks Major Speed Bumps On The Road To Publication

Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Mike Grosso, author of I AM DRUMS, which is his MG debut, releasing TODAY from Clarion Books.  Mike is a musician and a fourth-grade teacher who always keeps a guitar in his classroom. His father gave him his first lesson, and his mom taught him how to keep a steady rhythm. Mike continues to write and record music at his home in Oak Park, Illinois, where he lives with his wife, son, and a drum set he plays much too loud.

You’ve had some major speed bumps along with the milestones to publication. What can you tell us about that?

One of the worst things that can happen to a debut author is not being a debut author anymore. My first thought when Egmont USA closed its doors overnight, orphaning I AM DRUMS, was that the universe was correcting itself. My book deal was a freak accident, so it made sense that it would vanish because I was out of my league in the first place.

I was astounded and grateful when it ended up selling the second time around to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt at auction. My agent and I joked that the second time’s the charm!

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

I’m a pantser who writes occasional notes. I have ideas for how things will play out, but I’m always forcing it when I outline. I spend too much time planning, getting angry, and throwing out ideas before I’ve properly explored them. If I play around with a book’s voice, I usually get a clearer sense of where the plot’s going.

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

It varies quite a bit depending on the toll of the story and the current level of insanity in my teaching and parenting life. The first draft of I AM DRUMS was written in a few months, but I just finished a recent first draft that took a little over a year. And finishing the first draft does not mean you are done. Not by far.

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

I try to work on one thing at a time, but multiple projects are always competing for my full attention. I have a tendency to tackle whatever’s working at a given moment.

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

Multiple ones: Is this a waste of time? (It isn’t) Do I actually remember any of those silly grammar rules? (I did, and still do) Are people going to read this and make fun of me? (Perhaps, but who cares? And people make fun of me anyway.)

I think the big fear, though, the one that almost ruined me, was “Who died and made my words important?” (Nobody did, but I’m going to write anyway because I love it and it’s cheaper than a canvas and art supplies)

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

Four, and for good reason. Three are awful, and the fourth needs a lot of TLC before it can see the light of day.

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

I’ve quit on quite a few short stories when I was trying to write like someone I was not. I’d never quit on a big ms, though, until recently when a great idea wasn’t coming out right. I was 20k words into it when I finally admitted that most of it was garbage and set it aside. I switched to something that wanted to be written instead, and just recently went back to that terribly executed, great idea. It’s working a lot better now!

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

Eddie Schneider is my amazing agent, and I landed him through the traditional query process. He called me a few months after requesting a full ms and gave me some helpful suggestions. I revised and resubmitted and got “The Call” a few months later.

I didn’t know at the time that he would have to sell my book twice when my first publisher disappeared into thin air. In hindsight, agents are amazing advocates, and I’m glad I didn’t attempt this crazy debut author thing on my own.

How long did you query before landing your agent?  

Querying four books without landing an agent taught me to target my queries. I sent out only 23 queries for I AM DRUMS, and I had a good reason for each one. This is drastically reduced from the 100+ I sent out for my awful first book, an unpublished fantasy that should be locked in a box and thrown into Lake Michigan.

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

Always be working on something new. It makes waiting for the next rejection letter a little less terrible. I avoided the dumps by having a new project ready before giving up on the previous one. If you have something new to submit, you will still have hope!

There isn’t a magic word count, genre, or method. The publishing industry has its issues, but agents, editors, and other publishing folks are cool people who love books. They want to fall in love with your writing, but it makes statistical sense that in most cases they won’t. When someone finally does, they will be your first real advocate!

Look ahead to the next query and the next book. Keep honing your craft and sending out your best stuff.

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

Relieved! Egmont USA closed its doors and cancelled I AM DRUMS’s release when I already had ARCs in my hand, so I didn’t think I’d make it to the finish line until I saw the Clarion Books edition available for preorder.

How much input do you have on cover art?

My editor flashed it by me at different stages in development to get my thoughts. It was really cool, because she didn’t contractually have to do that. I’m very happy with the final cover!

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

I did not expect the sheer anxiety of being a debut author. Everything is new and frightening. The process feels surreal and fragile, and the closing of Egmont USA certainly didn’t help.

You can read all the articles about being a debut author and still not know what to expect. Every author’s experience is unique and filled with bizarre questions. You feel lucky to be along for a ride, so you worry about a lot about screwing it up.

How much of your own marketing do you?  

I try to stick to marketing ideas I enjoy doing. I work hard to give excellent school visits that showcase my experience with kids. I wrote and recorded an original soundtrack called “Songs for Sam(antha)” that’s free if you preorder I AM DRUMS. I have a website and blog where I blog anywhere from once a month to every day when I’m doing a special feature.

Worrying about marketing is a great way to panic. That’s not to say it isn’t useful, but I’ve been in three debut author groups and they’ve taught me that writers have little control over how their book sells. 

I’m also on Twitter,  Facebook and Instagram.

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

For fiction it’s most important to keep writing. Building a platform is a great way to distract yourself from the job you’re actually supposed to do.

Agents and editors fall in love with your writing voice, not your marketing plan. You can worry about your platform after you’ve landed a book deal.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

Social media is fun, but plenty of authors sell a ton of books without sending a single tweet. In middle grade, where our readership isn’t as likely to be on social media, it’s more important (and more fun) to use those platforms for connecting with other authors and people who love books.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Get A MADNESS SO DISCREET For $1.99!

Today is Labor Day and you guys get to benefit from my labor: the e-book of A MADNESS SO DISCREET is $1.99 for a limited time!



Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery

Mindy McGinnis, the acclaimed author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust, combines murder, madness, and mystery in a beautifully twisted gothic historical thriller perfect for fans of novels such as Asylum and The Diviners as well as television's True Detective and American Horror Story.

Grace Mae is already familiar with madness when family secrets and the bulge in her belly send her to an insane asylum—but it is in the darkness that she finds a new lease on life. When a visiting doctor interested in criminal psychology recognizes Grace's brilliant mind beneath her rage, he recruits her as his assistant. Continuing to operate under the cloak of madness at crime scenes allows her to gather clues from bystanders who believe her less than human. Now comfortable in an ethical asylum, Grace finds friends—and hope. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who will bring her shaky sanity and the demons in her past dangerously close to the surface.