Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Author Kim Rendfeld On Leaving Your Debut Behind & The Ashes of Heaven's Pillar Giveaway

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

Today's guest for the SNOB is Kim Rendfeld, who has a lifelong fascination with fairy tales and legends, which set her on her quest to write The Cross and the Dragon, her debut novel. She grew up in New Jersey and attended Indiana University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English, with a minor in French. In 2007 she joined the marketing and communications team at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She gets paid to agonize over commas and hyphens, along with suggesting ways to improve writing, and thoroughly enjoys it.

Her second novel, The Ashes of Heaven's Pillar is set in the wake of Charlemagne in the year 772. Set against a backdrop of historic events, including the destruction of the Irminsul, it explores faith, friendship, and justice. This companion to Kim Rendfeld’s acclaimed The Cross and the Dragon tells the story of an ordinary family in extraordinary circumstances. You can read the first few chapters of both Kim's books on her site for free!


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

Everyone has their own way to decide on when to start book No. 2. Whenever I finish writing a manuscript, I go through a form of grief, one that can be remedied only by starting on another book. So The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar was the only way I could cope with leaving The Cross and the Dragon behind. Working on another project also took some of the anxiety out the query process. It gave me something else to concentrate on besides all those rejections.

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

It took so long to get Cross and Dragon published that I had gone through three major drafts of Ashes and started on a third manuscript. Still, once my debut was published, I focused on promotion for three months. Then I realized promotion is never really done, and I simply needed to get back to the manuscript.

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

I don’t have a particular audience in mind when I’m writing fiction. I’m mainly focused on telling a good story with characters who are true to their time – the early Middle Ages in this case – but still appealing and relatable to modern readers. Even with book No. 3 (tentatively titled Lady Queen Fastrada), my first priority is the story.

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

I was busy even before publication – a full-time job, a blog, a social media presence, and oh yes, my novel. In addition, I enjoy gardening and do some volunteer work at my local library. So time management feels like a juggling act. Each night and weekend, I must ask myself what gets priority: a blog post, publicity, my work in progress, critique of a friend’s work. In other words, what do I put off for another night? Sometimes the answer is deadline driven. My crutch is my handwritten lists. Note the plural.

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

I wrote most of the second manuscript while I was still unpublished, so the writing process wasn’t that different. However, one thing I got to skip in this go-around was the query process, and that is liberating. Of course, Fireship Press needed to review the finished manuscript before making an offer, but to have a publisher truly interested in your work is a great feeling and a boost in confidence. It allowed me to focus on polishing the manuscript rather than agonizing over a cover letter.

On the publishing and promotion side, there was a four-month wait between sending the finished book to the printer and releasing it for sale. The reason was to allow time to arrange the virtual book tour and other publicity. I am very grateful to Fireship Press for believing in my work to make such an investment. I didn’t mind the wait. In fact, it gave me time to write guest posts, work on novel No. 3, even take a vacation or two to see family.

Enter to win a copy of The Ashes of Heaven's Pillar below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 1, 2014

Mindy McGinnis, Wizard-Librarian- Now With Tear Gas: Or, Lost in Translation- Why You Should Always Double Check Translation Machines

So, the German edition of NOT A DROP TO DRINK is titled BIS ZUM LETZTEN TROPFTEN, which translates as "to the last drop." I love that the German publisher kept my original cover, making it a hazy yellow. Like a good author, I've been trying to find ways to promote the German edition online. One of the easiest ways is to write up my bio in German for the German Amazon site.

Easy. Copy / paste my bio into Google Translate and plop it into my German Author Central page, right? Um... no. Luckily for me, my friend Lenore Applehans warned me that translation machines aren't always accurate, and in fact can completely twist your words. With that in mind, I used one to translate my bio into German, then re-translated it back into English using a different site. I did this with a few sites, hoping to get the most accurate rendition possible.

What I got was not exactly helpful, but definitely humorous.

Original Bio:

Mindy McGinnis is an assistant YA librarian who lives in Ohio and cans her own food. She graduated from Otterbein University magna cum laude with a BA in English Literature and Religion. Mindy has a pond in her back yard but has never shot anyone, as her morals tend to cloud her vision.

The Slightly-Less-Official Version, with Better Details:

Mindy grew up in the woods, and had a deep desire to see if she could
survive out there on her own if the situation ever presented itself. That never happened, and the introduction of the internet has quelled that urge.

She loves being a writer, because it’s the only occupation where you can legitimately stare into space and claim to be working.

Translation #1:

Mindy McGinnis is an assistant YA librarian who lives in Ohio and own food cans. She graduated from Otterbein University magna cum laude with a BA in English Literature and Religion. Mindy has but a pond in her backyard has never shot anyone, as their morals tend to dull their vision.

The slightly-less-official version, with better details:

Mindy grew up in the woods, and had a deep desire to see if they could 
survive out there on their own, if the situation ever presented. That never happened, and the introduction of the Internet has depressed this urge.

She loves being a writer, because it was the only occupation where you can look right into the room and pretend to work.

Translation #2:

Mindy McGinnis is a wizard YA librarian who lives in Ohio and your own food cans. She graduated from Otterbein University magna cum laude with a BA in English literature and religion. Mindy has a pond in your garden but has never shot, as their morals tend to cloud your vision.

The Slightly-Less -official version, with better information:

Mindy grew up in the woods, and had a deep desire to see if they could survive there are on your own if the situation never presented itself. That never happened, and the introduction of the Internet has tear gas, please.

She loves it, a writer, because it’s the only profession, you can do pretty rigid in space and right to work.



Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.

Evlalia welcomes new technology in her life even less than she does people, but when her human servants choose the workhouse over her, a magical servant programmed to obey her every word becomes one Albion fashion she's interested in following. Hmm... I definitely like the hook because the idea here is fun and interesting, but you'll want to rephrase and possibly break up into two sentences. I had to read twice to understand what you were saying and you've also got a "servant" echo in there.

These 'units' are summoned from the Internet and come with unique software: some read or run definitely unsure what use of "read" or "run" is being used here. They are robots and you just mentioned technology so I don't know if we're talking about files, or more human verbs. quicker than a forming thought, others grow their toenails or eyelashes six times faster than normal why would this be a positive trait?. Tace is a rare teleporting unit left handless and on a ventilator by his last user, and days away from being switched off awkward phrasing here. But Evlalia is determined to find him worth saving awk phrasing again - is she determined to "find him" or determined that he is "worth saving?", if only to prove everyone else wrong. He'll be the one getting used to her unsure what this means, and a mute unit should ultimately make her life even quieter than before. Why is he mute? And wouldn't being handless be a detriment to a servant? 

Not everyone is as desperate to forget the past as she is. Units have perfect memories, and not all of them are fully controlled by humans after all. Evlalia never intended to become close to Tace, and certainly not close enough for him to be dragged into her arguments and hurt in her place. She's started seeing him as irreplaceable; but his old user has reappeared, and he always saw their separation as temporary. It's hard enough for Evlalia to ask for help, but now Tace's found other people to listen to. Why would him finding other people to listen to have anything to do with her asking for help? And who would she be asking for help from? 

Evlalia might have to trust more than her words this time. Not sure what this means? Is she a reader / writer? If so that needs to be made clearer, sooner.

THE MATTER THAT YOU READ is a 120,000 word slice of life/urban fantasy novel, set in an alternate Edwardian England. Hmm... in that case I'd say it's actually steampunk. Also, I had no indication in the query that this was Edwardian England. You'll want to do some rephrasing to get that in there before your specs state the fact.

Overall I like your concept, but you need to get more of your MC's personality out there. What do you mean by "her arguments?" It sounds like she's often in some kind of struggle one way or another, but why would that be, if she's antisocial? Also there's quite a few sentences that had to be untangled in order for me to grasp their meaning. Get the awkward phrasing smoothed out and maybe make your hook into two sentences. Other than I think your concept definitely sounds interesting.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Debut Author Jasmine Warga Talks About The Cover For MY HEART & OTHER BLACK HOLES

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 Jasmine Warga, whose debut MY HEART & OTHER BLACK HOLES will be coming from Balzer & Bray on February 10, 2015.



Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.

There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution: a teen boy with the username FrozenRobot (aka Roman) who’s haunted by a family tragedy is looking for a partner. 

Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other’s broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together. Except that Roman may not be so easy to convince.

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

I had no set idea of what I wanted it to look like exactly. I actually felt stressed out for the cover designer because I thought it might be a challenge to graphically capture and represent the story since its dark, but hopefully not unrelentingly so since it has bursts of humor and romance. I was interested (and admittedly nervous!) to see how they’d capture that tension between intense subject matter and irreverent narrative voice.

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

I saw the first possible comp cover design back in February. That design ended up getting pulled though. 

Did you have any input on your cover?

Yes, but I actually loved everything they showed me so my feedback mostly consisted of lots of exclamation points and squeals. Truly, I couldn’t be more impressed and thankful to the design team at B+B/Harper.

How was your cover revealed to you?

My lovely editor Alessandra Balzer emailed it to me.

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

Yes! My friend Kristan Hoffman and the WE HEART YA blog hosted the cover reveal on June 19th. The art director shared a bit of the process behind designing the cover and we shared the jacket flap summary, an excerpt, Nova Ren Suma’s blurb, and gave away an ARC.

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

Only about a week or so because my cover had gone through many changes and we were working to have a version ready for the catalog.

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

Not really since I didn’t have to wait more than two weeks, which didn’t seem too bad. But the more I think about it, I guess the truthful answer is yes since I was so excited to share it with everyone!

What surprised you most about the process?

How much time and care goes into designing every cover and how many people are involved in the process. I think the publisher really wants you to be happy and to give you the best possible cover they can for your book. It was totally evident that the people working on my cover had read the book and I think they did an amazing job graphically representing the tone and feel of the story. It was also interesting to me how much they zeroed in on finding a way to showcase the title and based a large part of the design around that.

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

This is related to what I said above—trust that your publisher and design team want you to be happy with your cover. I was lucky enough that I really liked everything they showed me, but I trust that if I hadn’t, we would’ve worked together to come up with something everyone felt good about. It’s definitely a team effort. If I could do it over again, I would spend less time worrying and stressing about it, and more time enjoying how exciting it is to be seeing a cover.

Monday, August 25, 2014

I Love Getting Mail

When I was a kid I was a huge fan of tearing out the order forms in the back of my paperbacks, hassling my mom until she wrote a check, and then mailing it off and waiting. Yes, I actually didn't mind the waiting. There was a lovely sweet edge to the anticipation of looking out the window everyday at noon on the hot summer days waiting for the mailman to go.

At 35 I'm still doing that, except now it's my own books coming to me. This weekend was a good one - finished copies of IN A HANDFUL OF DUST and BIS ZUM LETZTEN TROPFEN, the German edition of NOT A DROP TO DRINK.

Well played, mailman. Well played.




Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.

Remembering her childhood turned her into a killer. Burying it forever made her a better one. Totally awesome hook. I'm into it. 

Suzy wanders the streets of Hong Kong, her past in tatters, when a beaten woman hiding in an alley bring(s) back memories of an abusive childhood and a sister she failed to protect. She attempts to help, but when the woman is murdered in front of her, Suzy barely escapes with her life. That's when her nightmares return with a vengeance. I'm confused about the sequence of events here - when you say the woman she sees is "beaten" I assume she's already escaped her attacker. But if she is subsequently murdered right in front of Suzy, is it more like she's "being beaten?"

When the prostitution ring responsible tries to eliminate her as a witness, Suzy decides to fight rather than hide. She trolls the city's underbelly, human bait in a tight dress, getting answers with a knee to the groin and a call to the wife. Ha ha - great line. Her role as a prostitute hopefully you mean "role" as in she is pretending to be one, rather than actually fulfilling the position - perhaps it'd be better to rephrase as "act?" isn't doing her nightmares any favors, but that doesn't stop Suzy from discovering the dead woman was a model forced to blackmail a U.S. Senator on a junket. With a million dollars on her head and half of China on her ass, Suzy realizes a secretive organization is using sex to manipulate men in power—and she's going to do whatever it takes to end their abuse of women. Nice - I like the concept and motivation here.

After the Senator's car explodes, she has all the ammunition she needs to travel to America and lure the gang into the claws of an angry CIA. But if Suzy is to survive the coming bloodbath, she must bury her past, forget her fears, and become the nightmare others dread.

BLACK RAIN is a 100,000-word suspense novel set during Hong Kong's monsoon season, where the black rain alert can shut down the city. I love your concept, but I wonder if the word count might be a little heavy. See if you can pare down before submitting. Make sure that the ms is in as good of shape as this query is! Lastly - I'm curious about what role the black rain plays in the plot?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Book Talk & Giveaway: BEING HENRY DAVID by Cal Armistead

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

When your only possession is a worn copy of Walden and you can't remember your past, you make yourself a new one. Hank wakes up in Penn Station to a homeless man trying to steal the one thing he owns - his book. With no idea who he is or why he is there, Hank makes his way to the real Walden Pond, hoping to find clues to his past there.

As memories of his past trickle back he finds himself struggling harder to focus on what little he does know in the present. The few friends he has made have problems of their own. The homeless twins he meets in the city are trying to escape the drug dealer who has them under his thumb, and he only learns their real names while searching for himself in a database of missing children in the local library. And the girl named Haylee who can't quite live down an embarrassment from a year before... but Hank worries that his own past holds something much darker, some thing prevents him from committing to her in the way she'd like.

a Rafflecopter giveaway