Friday, September 4, 2015

Book Talk & Giveaway: PERFECT RUIN by Lauren DeStefano

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.

Internment is almost perfect - a floating city where violence is virtually unknown, and you can grow up to be anything you want to be. Except, Morgan knows that madness lurks in their city in the sky. Her brother was a Jumper - the only way to escape Internment - and being so close to the Edge drove him crazy. Morgan has questions about the perfection of their lives, but isn't curious enough to ask them openly. She has her betrothed and her friends - everything to keep her life steady and normal.

But then the first murder in a generation occurs, a boy who supposedly killed his betrothed. But Morgan recognizes the victim's little sister - a fellow Jumper who attends recovery meetings. Then she crosses paths with the supposed killer one night while out on her solitary walks, and he strikes her as anything but a madman on the loose, which is how the media is portraying him.

Cracks are forming in her perfect world, and Morgan has to decide whether she wants to remain willfully ignorant, or answer the curiosity that has always pulled her toward the Edge.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Melanie Crowder On Being Both A Planner & A Pantser

Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Melanie Crowder, who has received many honors for her debut novel, PARCHED, including Bank Street’s Best Books of the Year, a Junior Library Guild selection, a Silver Medal in the Parents’ Choice Awards, and a starred review from the Bulletin.

Her second book, AUDACITY, has received three starred reviews and is an Editor’s Choice at BookBrowse and a Top Pick from BookPage. Her third novel, A NEARER MOON, releases September 8 from Atheneum Books / S&S.

Melanie holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. When she isn’t writing, Melanie can be found teaching, reading, daydreaming or exploring the beautiful state of Colorado where she lives with her family.

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

Both! 

I usually begin by writing really short drafts without much pre-planning to find the voice and tone for a new book. Then I step back and give it a read. I make a million notes and chart out the plot and character arcs—where I want the book to go thematically and structurally. Finally, I use all that planning to dig back in and write a much thicker, much stronger second draft. 

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

I have no idea, to be honest! Maybe 3 months to get to that second draft? Another month or two to before I’ll show it to my editor? Six months or more in revisions with my editor? So I suppose that’s about a year to D&A. Good to know—thanks for asking! 

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

I like to keep my focus in one place, mostly. That sort of single-minded attention means my mind is working on the story all the time—while I’m sleeping, or driving, or out on a walk. But there are always gaps in my revision schedule where, if I don’t turn to something new, then I wouldn’t be writing at all. Or, like what happened last week: I’m in the middle of revisions for one book when the first pass comes through for a different book and I have no choice but to switch gears. Sometimes it’s a little jarring to jump between different manuscripts, especially since the different projects are so different in tone and style, but that’s the job, and I love it! 

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

When I first started, I had no idea how little I understood about how to write a book. So I didn’t really have any fears then—I didn’t know any better! 

I definitely feel it now, though. There are always fears and insecurities that can get in the way of the creative process. The trick is to acknowledge them and then put them behind you. 

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

I worked on 4 books before I found my agent and editor: 2 before my MFA, and 2 during. I think of them as learning books—I doubt I’ll ever go back to them, and I’m so glad I had the time to work through those stories and improve before my work went out there into the world. SO glad!

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

Only during my MFA program. When I got to the point with a manuscript where I had learned all I needed to, then I moved on and started fresh with a story that would be stronger from the very first word because of all I had learned on the previous one. 

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

I work with Ammi-Joan Paquette. We found each other through an unusual process in that I was already connected with my editor and the book was already on its way to acquisitions when I signed with her. 

How long did you query before landing your agent? 

I think it was about six months of obsessive email checking before I got that YES. So glad that’s behind me! 

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

What they say really is true—keep writing. Send your manuscript out and start working on something else. If you’re willing to stick with it and push yourself to constantly improve your craft, it’s not so much if you will get an agent, but when. Hang in there!

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

There’s nothing like it. Just today, I saw a librarian featuring Audacity on a morning TV show, and I got that same thrill. That’s my name on the cover. It’s an awesome feeling! 

How much input do you have on cover art?

Virtually none. I see the publishing process as a partnership and I’m happy to let other members of the team make the decisions they are best qualified to make. I do the writing, they do the rest, and together we make great books! 

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

I think just the sheer number of books published in a single year. And good ones, too! Something like 750 books for children & young adults receive starred reviews in a single year. That’s amazing! I’m seriously behind in my reading.

How much of your own marketing do you?  

I have a website, I tweet, and I also just started using Instagram—it’s fun! 

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

I think it depends. Do you enjoy learning about the industry through social media posts? Then do that. Do you enjoy learning about writing craft through blog posts? Then do that. Do you like engaging with current issues on Twitter? Then do that. Would you rather be writing? Then do that. Just grab your domain name for now and call it good. 

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

I’m on the fence about that, to be honest. I think the most important thing to do as a writer is to write, so that’s where I put my energy. I could blog every day or tweet all the time and it wouldn’t be half as effective in reaching readers as the enthusiastic posts they see from other readers who just have to tell everyone how much they loved my book. That’s genuine, and it’s meaningful both to me, and to potential readers.

Saturday, August 29, 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.

The Whale Dreamer is about Kelley you want to avoid making a statement like this, and put more finesse into getting the hook front and center. It's the equivalent of a high schooler's report starting with "My paper is going to be about..." a young girl who is called to by the whales to surface something they have been protecting since the beginning of time…the dream of the future. This is interesting, but pretty vague. 

Morgaine, an elder blue whale, recognized you want to write the entire query in present tense that Kelley held a unique key to the universe, so on Kelley’s ninth birthday, Morgaine took her life. But when Kelley was resuscitated and began her second life, she discovered that she had become a passerby— a vortex that animals on their way to becoming extinct must pass through. That's definitely interesting. Kelley’s home was taken over with apparitions of wild animals ranging from frogs to lions, and while this was thrilling to Kelley, it was terrifying for her parents and sister. I'm intrigued but I don't understand why there are apparitions.

And then the whales started calling to Kelley "started" makes it sound like this is first contact, or the beginning of something, but this is the next phase, they showed up in her dreams , whenever she touched water, and even became visible in her school parking lot. How is this compelling when there are already apparitions taking over the house? Feels like a step backwards from tension rather than forward. The whales called because they wanted Kelley to join them in the ocean; but didn't she already? Wasn't it necessary for her to be in the water in the first place in order for Morgaine to kill her? because while on land she is a doorway to death, why would she be a doorway to death on land? in the ocean Kelley is the key to life in the universe. Why would this change if she's in the water? With the help of a gaggle of scientists how does she met them? Why would they help her? , Kelley convinces her parents to let her enter the world of the ocean so she can save the whales and is initiated into the whale counsel and told her true purpose... not to save the whales, but life as we know it. And then in walks fifteen year old May, another passerby, who has been studying and learning the true craft of how to keep all of the wisdom and intelligence of the animals on earth before they are lost forever.

While it's an interesting concept, the query is quite vague on how the magic system actually works here. You need to show that your world building can hold up for the duration of a novel.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Book Talk & Giveaway: LANDRY PARK by Bethany Hagen

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.

Madeline Landry's fate has always been set. She will inherit Landry Park, passed on for generations since her ancestor developed supposedly safe, portable nuclear energy charges. To do her duty to her name, the gentry lifestyle, and the estate she loves, she needs to marry well - and behave.

Though Madeline's heart is tied to the land she loves, she feels an equally strong pull to attend university. Her domineering father will have nothing of it, and Madeline finds herself following the same routine - balls, parties, and looking down her nose at the working class.

But after she witnesses David Dana - supposedly the most gentrified of the gentry, and a boy she finds intolerable - help a working class girl who falls while carrying her nuclear charge, Madeline is forced to see both David and workers in a different light. Suddenly aware of the devastation her lavish lifestyle causes others - and the possibility that the famous Landry nuclear charges are not as safe as everyone says - Madeline's eyes are open to a new world... and the possibility that hers doesn't have to follow the path that has been set for her.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

New Interview Series - The SWAG (Shit We All Generate)

Today writers have to be more than just writers - love it or hate it, we are marketers as well. Most authors will agree that the creative part of the job is where we excel, the business and marketing side, slightly less. It’s lovely when the two can meet in the form of SWAG – Shit We All Generate. I’ve invited some published authors to share with us their secret to swag… little freebies that can sell a book longer after the author is no longer standing in front of a prospective reader. In order to create great swag, you have to be crafty – in more ways than one.

Today's guest for the SWAG is Demitria Lunetta, author of IN THE AFTER and IN THE END, both available now from HarperTeen, as well as the upcoming BAD BLOOD, coming in 2017 from Delacorte. Demitria is also an editor and contributing author to AMONG THE SHADOWS a dark YA anthology, available for pre-order now.

To help kickoff the SWAG, Demitiria is offering up a signed copy of IN THE AFTER, as well as her own (you guessed it) swag such as bookmarks, stickers and even a T-Shirt (size Ladies small)! I'm including a signed copy of NOT A DROP TO DRINK, and swag from various authors that I have lying around my house, including Kelly Fiore and RC Lewis. Want to see how other authors do it? Here's a chance at a grab bag of swag!

Finding something that represents your book and hasn’t been played out by a million authors before is difficult. What’s your swag?

Of course I have the standard bookmarks, stickers, and bookplates, but I also have notebooks, t-shirts, and tote bags.

How much money per piece did your swag cost out of pocket?

Bookmarks, stickers, and bookplates are pretty cheap…they’re only about five or six cents each (when you buy bulk.) The notebooks are a bit more expensive. I bought mini-pads and stuck a sticker on them…altogether those ended up being about 40 cents each. Shirts and totes are way more expensive, at about $12 a pop!

Do you find that swag helps you stand out at an event? Does your swag draw people to your table at an event or conference?

Definitely! People love free stuff, even bookmarks! Add a couple of notebooks and people are all about the swag. ☺ It also gives you the chance to engage with people as they’re grabbing your swag.

What do you think of big item swag pieces versus cheaper, yet more easily discarded swag like bookmarks?

Bookmarks are invaluable. Even though they’re cheap, they’re actually quite useful, and I’m not sure they’re so easily discarded. I’m always happy to get a bookmark and I have a drawer of them for easy use. The bigger ticket items are useful too, but it’s not always feasible to have loads of them. For the t-shirts I made sure they were soft and cute, so people would actually want to wear them. The totes I’ve only given out at my launch parties and I’ve actually seen people using them at other events, so they were definitely worth the hefty price tag.

What’s the most clever / best swag you've seen by another author?

Candy is always good! It gets people over to your table. I also already mentioned that I’m a sucker for bookmarks, so any unique bookmark will catch my attention, like something with an interesting charm dangling off the string, or even something shiny. I guess I have the attention span of a small child. ☺

Do you think swag helps sell books?

I think swag indirectly helps sell books. It acts as a reminder. It also gets your cover out there…the more exposure your book has the more people will buy it.


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Monday, August 24, 2015

Extra Content For IN A HANDFUL OF DUST Paperbacks & Giveaway!

I got my author copies of the paperback of IN A HANDFUL OF DUST over the weekend. There's nothing like a big box on your front porch sealed in tape that says NEW RELEASES, let me tell you. But I don't need 25 copies of my own book, either, so I thought I'd give away a few.

What does the paperback have to offer that the hardcover doesn't? 

Extra content! There's an essay from me about the research that went into DUST (more than you think - polio, dehydration and horse hooves, oh my!), a little about what went into writing a 2500+ mile road trip on foot (and keeping it interesting for the reader - not easy, mind you), as well as an original short story about Mother, titled To My Mother

There's also a sneak peak at A MADNESS SO DISCREET, so if you're getting antsy for that, this can tide you over.

The paperback of IN A HANDFUL OF DUST releases on September 8th - and is available for pre-order now (you know, in case you don't win.)


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Saturday, August 22, 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.

A job assignment in Italy is just what Mike needs to advance his career and bring passion back to his marriage. What kind of job is this? What does Mike do for a living? His wife is the only woman in Atlanta not flirting with him, and what better place for romance than the Tuscan countryside? His hopes shatter when his Italian partner definitely need to know what the job is that he has a partner falls ill what impact does this have on the plot? and his family so he has kids? does nothing but fight. After his wife and daughter head home How long did they stay in Italy? And how does he feel about this?,  a stunning Tuscan beauty captures the attention of everyone on the train. Mike thinks the goddess will remain a fantasy – until she introduces herself as his new assistant. She promises romantic adventure, if Mike can forget the cost.

You definitely need to have genre information in here, as well as word count, etc. Right now I don't know if this is romance, erotica, or a do-the-right-thing tale. You've got brevity here, but almost to an extreme. You've got 300 words to play with, and room to do some expanding.