Monday, May 2, 2016

A MADNESS SO DISCREET Wins the Edgar & Also I Put On Makeup & A Dress

This past week I was at the Edgar Allan Poe awards in NYC, which was an amazing experience. So many talented published and aspiring authors in one room kind of made my head spin. The champagne may have contributed to that.

Wednesday night I had a panel at Books of Wonder, along with the other 10 nominees in the categories of Middle Grade and Young Adult. My librarian ears were perking as the others read from their books, and I made a few purchases on the plane home as a result. I also managed to get a whopper of a migraine right in the middle of the panel, so if you were there and saw me constantly massaging the back of my own head, it's not because I have an itchy scalp.

The boyfriend and I walked back to the hotel from BoW, while I stifled a deep urge to vomit. He told me to just do it on the street. "We're in NYC," he reminded me. "Nobody will really care. If you did it at home it would be a story for years."

He's not exaggerating. I hit a skunk with my car when I was 17 and the car smelled for weeks afterward and it still comes up in conversation occasionally... and that was 20 years ago.

I felt better the next day - thank goodness. I had my hair and face done, accidentally walked through a movie shoot (that doesn't happen at home), and ate a tuna melt that put all other tuna melts to shame. And... it was time to go.

I had to take a quick shot of the dress and shoes because I had no idea how to answer anyone who asked me about my dress other thank to say, "it's black." That is the true extent of my fashion sensibilities.

And this is my face.

And then I ended up in a room with lots and lots of famous, talented people, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, which was completely unexpected. I found my awesome editor, Ben Rosenthal, and my equally awesome agent-lady Adriann Ranta, using Kareem as a reference point in the room. Then we all ate dinner and the boyfriend shared his story about a guy in front of Grand Central Station who had decided he just didn't like my boyfriend. Seriously I have no idea what that was about. He called him a scumbag, and then remembered him when we walked past later and said, "Hey, I called you a scumbag earlier."

I told boyfriend to be flattered that apparently he stands out in a sea of New Yorkers.

And then, long story short, I won the Edgar. Kind of crazy. The lovely and talented Lyndsey Faye read my name out of the envelope and I went into a little bit of shock and touched my nose for a few seconds (this is how I center myself) before getting up. So basically I came to New York and touched parts of my own skull at major public events.

This is Edgar, and my awesome editor Mr. Ben Rosenthal. Also my boyfriend's uneaten cheesecake. You can see my wine glass is empty.

Here is a picture of me not touching my nose or the back of my head, along with Edgar and my awesome, lovely, agent, Adriann Ranta.

And, because I think it's important to destroy any mystique I may have garnered, here is a picture of me in my element at home, courtesy of the boyfriend.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Book Talk & Giveaway: DOWN WITH THE SHINE by Kate Karyus Quinn & Giveaway!

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

Lennie has always been the kind of girl to attract trouble, so when her best friend Dylan is murdered she knows their connection had something to do with her death. But six months pass without anything worse than muttered whispered from her classmates, and dark looks from the townspeople. Graduation means leaving it all behind, and Lennie means to do exactly that - but first she'd like to clear the air. She knows taking some of her uncles' top-notch moonshine to the coolest party will earn her points- so she does exactly that.

The shine grants her entry, and her family's odd toast - required before any and all shots go down - draws attention, until Lennie has shared the love across the whole party, not knowing she just damned everyone. Lennie's family makes moonshine that grants wishes when drunk alongside the odd toast she's heard her whole life - and she just delivered wish fulfillment to a whole house full of blasted teenagers.

The guy that wanted balls of steel is getting a lesson in literalism. The kid that wanted to be able to fly has wings, and nobody can leave the party because their host said she wanted their night to never end. But Lennie has to set things straight - because her own wish to have her friend Dylan back safe in her own bed could have been fulfilled... and since all the other wishes have gone horribly wrong, she can't imagine what magic has done with hers.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

DOWN WITH THE SHINE Author Kate Karyus Quinn On Swag That Works & Giveaway!

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 Kate Karyus Quinn, an avid reader and menthol chapstick addict. She has lived in California and Tennessee, but recently made the move back to her hometown of Buffalo, New York, with her husband and two children in tow. She promised them wonderful people, amazing food, and weather that would... build character. She is also the author of ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE and (DON'T YOU) FORGET ABOUT ME both from HarperTeen.

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

Hahahaha. I have done so much swag. DOWN WITH THE SHINE (available today!) is my third book (well I'm also part of the AMONG THE SHADOWS anthology so technically DWTS is my fourth) and I've tried a variety of things with all of them

I was definitely most enthusiastic with my debut, ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE. I started with the classic bookmark... and then kind of built from there. Listerine breath strips play a part in that book so I bought those and printed out teeny tiny stickers with my book cover on them to attach to the back. I also made stickers that I stuck onto little notebooks. Postcards, sell sheets, and bookplates were other easy printables. (pic: ALP postcard front final,  sell sheet, book plate).

I DIY'd all of that stuff too. Because I am cheap. Also because I am not always good at planning ahead, so I'll realize I need something and instead of finding someone to do it and waiting for whatever their turnaround time is, I just sit down at my computer and do it. Myself. I do not have a graphic design background, so there was a steep learning curve. I also do not have Photoshop, nor do I have any interest in learning how to use Photoshop. So instead (to this day!) I make due with a program I bought called Serif PagePlus X5. It's really meant for making newsletters, but so far it's done okay for my purposes.

The last thing I did for ALP was buy some iron-ons (they sell them at Office Max) and put them on t-shirts and canvas bags.

With my second book, (DON'T YOU) FORGET ABOUT ME, I calmed down a little. I made more bookmarks (of course) - ones that featured ALP on one side and DYFAM on the other. I also made a mixtape, which was kind of silly and fun and really a very very limited edition type of swag.

My big buy though were buttons, which again I designed myself and then had made by The buttons were a really popular item at all the events I brought them to, but I quickly found out that A. They were heavy to travel with and B. They were also a bit pricey.

And that brings us to DOWN WITH THE SHINE. Again I began with bookmarks.

After those were taken care of I wanted something special to celebrate the cover reveal. Since a mason jar full of moonshine is at the front and center of my cover, I thought it would be fun to do something with that. After an afternoon spent wandering around JoAnn Fabrics, I finally decided to etch my title onto a glass mason jar mug. Wow. Of all my crackheaded DIY projects, this one was definitely the most crackheaded of all. Etching glass is no joke, because the stuff you use to do it can burn through your skin. So I had to buy gloves and painters tape and stickers (to make the title) and honestly the whole thing turned out to be a lot more work than I'd first anticipated. Also, shipping heavy glass mugs is pricey. On the bright side they did turn out well. Regardless, despite still having a nearly full jar of etching cream, I doubt this is a project I'll be doing again.

I decided to return to simpler, cheaper swag and so for my next piece of DWTS swag I made collectible stickers. I made them using apps on my phone (These apps were free when I downloaded them but are probably not free now. Every week there is a free app of the week at the Apple store and I always make sure to check it out and usually download it to give it a try. They vary from games to productivity apps to photo editing apps. If you are cheap like me definitely make checking the Apple store a weekly appointment.) The apps I used were WordSwag and then Brushstroke to put a sorta fuzzy just painted filter over them. I bought the stickers through since they allow you to print multiple designs through one order (I also used them for my business cards and they make really nice ones of those too). I am really happy with how the stickers turned out, but I haven't yet brought them to an event so I'm not yet sure how popular they'll be.

My most recent adventures in swag was putting together a big box of swag to send to RT (which sadly I was not able to also attend) for an event called: You're Never Too Old For YA. I wanted to do something fun so I bundled together a DWTS bookmark, sticker, and then disposable straws (that I bought on Amazon) along with a tag on them (made by ordering cheap business cards through VistaPrint, cutting them in half, and then cutting slits in them to put them over the straws... which at 200 pieces was actually quite a tedious bit of work) that read: Take a Sip. Make a Wish.

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

I have no idea. By DIY'ing everything I haven't had to pay for design but printing materials can still add up. The buttons were probably my priciest item per piece (I had to pay not just for the actual buttons but also the artwork I used to make the buttons which I found on, which is why I haven't done them again.

Of course, the time I spend designing or ironing things on or etching glasses while trying to keep my skin from being burned away by corrosive chemicals is time that I'm not spending writing... or with my family. So there's a cost there too even if it's not in $$$.

Do you find that swag helps you stand out at an event? 

Umm... yes and no. It kinda gives me something to do when someone comes to my table at an event. I can be like, "Hey, take a bookmark/sticker/button." It almost works like an icebreaker, which if you're an introvert sitting at a table trying to sell books to strangers then that can be a really good tool to have in your arsenal. It also makes me feel like I'm being a good table hostess. And all people like free stuff so it can be a draw - I definitely saw that the most with the buttons... but it's nothing like the sample stampede you'll see at Costco on an average Saturday afternoon.

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

Eh, everything is easily discarded. I've tossed free t-shirts - or only used them for car washing day. Even nicer, pricier items can be seen as junk by someone who doesn't want/need them. I try to find the balance between swag that is relatively cheap but also kinda fun and original. With the buttons I wanted something that was more than just the book cover - something you might want to pin on your purse or jean jacket. Same with the DWTS stickers - I wanted them to be something you might stick to your notebook or locker... instead of the trash can. In the end, though, I think a lot of swag - no matter how nice - gets tossed.

What’s the most clever / best swag by another author?

Well I thought it was clever when Mindy McGinnis put stickers on bottled water for NOT A DROP TO DRINK. I think collectibles are really cool too and that seems to be a thing that's becoming more popular among authors.

And the biggest question – do you think swag helps sell books?

Oh, hmmm... I'd say, no, not really. But also yes. I mean, I'd be pretty dumb to have spent time and money on all this swag if I didn't believe it was doing something. But I don't think swag directly leads to sales. I do, however, think it helps raise awareness. It puts your book title or cover in front of eyeballs that might not have seen it otherwise and eventually that person might be craving something new to read and they'll remember your book... all because you handed them a free bookmark one time.

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Monday, April 25, 2016

DOWN WITH THE SHINE Safe Wishing PSA & Signed Giveaway! (Plus FEMALE OF THE SPECIES ARC Giveaway & A Bag of Cheetos)

Tomorrow Kate Karyus Quinn's new book with HarperTeen, DOWN WITH THE SHINE releases. Kate is a friend of mine, but she's also one of my favorite authors, and I also got to read an early copy of her newest. Here's a quick summary of what it's about:

There's a reason they say "be careful what you wish for." Just ask the girl who wished to be thinner and ended up smaller than Thumbelina, or the boy who asked for "balls of steel" and got them-literally. And never wish for your party to go on forever. Not unless you want your guests to be struck down by debilitating pain if they try to leave.

These are things Lennie only learns when it's too late-after she brings some of her uncles' moonshine to a party and toasts to dozens of wishes, including a big wish of her own: to bring back her best friend, Dylan, who was abducted and murdered six months ago.

Lennie didn't mean to cause so much chaos. She always thought her uncles' moonshine toast was just a tradition. And when they talked about carrying on their "important family legacy," she thought they meant good old-fashioned bootlegging.

As it turns out, they meant granting wishes. And Lennie has just granted more in one night than her uncles would grant in a year.

Now she has to find a way to undo the damage. But once granted, a wish can't be unmade... 

Because this book is about wishes and the many many many ways in which they can go wrong, I wanted to put together some helpful public service announcements - or PSA's - to help other people out there make sure they're wishing safely. Today, I'm revealing all three of them. 

The first one is here on my blog, the other two can be found on Brenda Drake's blog and Kate Karyus Quinn's blog. With each reveal is a separate giveaway to go with each trailer where you can win books and fun swag. 

And so without further ado, here it is - PSA #3

And here is giveaway #3 to go with PSA #3. Don't forget to visit both Brenda's and Kate's blog to see the other PSA's and enter the other giveaways!

Enter below to win a signed hardcover of DOWN WITH THE SHINE from Kate, a signed ARC of THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES from Mindy -- and Kate is throwing in a bag of Cheetos too.

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Saturday, April 23, 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.

Wolf, a teenage soldier of Māori descent, struggles with his asexual identity as he fights to protect the Empire from the Rebels. Their forces are growing stronger, fuelled by every wrongful death at the hands of the Emperor. They have to be stopped, before everything Wolf has ever known is destroyed. A few things - this sounds like high fantasy or sci-fi, but you have a descendant of a real-life tribe mentioned here. I'm not sure that's the best approach. Also, while the asexual identity is a good character trait to mention in the query, it has nothing to do with anything else going on in this hook.

Once a scamp on the streets, and now a star soldier in the Army, Wolf is still as alone as ever. Loyalty to the Empire is crucial, and so he must stand by as all troublemakers are executed, despite his growing misgivings about the Empire's methods. Questioning orders is not an option. This would almost make a better hook - your intro paragraph is rather generic. It could be the lead in to just about any "rise against the power" SF/F tale. Consider blending this with Rebel mentions in first para to create your hook, and leave LGBT mentions for title, word count para at the end.

After discovering a traitor amongst his fellow soldiers, kill the comma here and watching his friend die in a Rebel ambush, Wolf can't tell who to trust. One by one, lies, secrets, and betrayals are unveiled. He starts to suspect Pablo, a Training Instructor, of working with the Rebels, but when Wolf reports his suspicions, attention is drawn to him and his sympathy for the scamps. As even his own mind turns against him what does this mean?, Wolf struggles to cope with the responsibility the Emperor has given him.

The Emperor has a plan to defeat the Rebels. Wolf is forced to make a decision between listening to his conscience and losing everything he's worked for, or agreeing to set a trap for the Rebels, using his own people as bait. This could be their one chance to win the war. But Wolf is no longer sure about what he's fighting for. Again, I'm not seeing the asexuality coming into play at any point in the plot. Don't just use it in the hook as an attempt to draw in an agent unless it's truly important to the plot.

THE EMPIRE is a young adult dystopian novel of 85,000 words featuring a diverse LGBT+ cast. It's a stand-alone book with series potential. The mention here of LBGT is great - I would stick with this as your mention of character traits because it puts it out there without making it seem like a focus, which makes me think is a better representation of the book itself. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Book Talk & Giveaway: AWAKE by Natasha Preston

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.

Scarlett can't remember anything from before she was four years old and her family lost their home in a fire. She's put her lost memories behind her, until a car accident forces them to the surface, along with a name of a little girl that she knows is a real person - not a memory of her favorite doll, as her parents keep telling her. Determined to discover the truth with the support of her new boyfriend, Noah, Scarlett starts seeing a hypnotist.

Noah doesn't like the outside world. Leaving behind the commune to help bring Scarlett back into the fold so that she can fulfill her destiny isn't easy for him. But as he starts to actually fall for her instead of just pretending to, he has to question the commune's goal - which will end in her death.

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Where I'll Be This Week, Spotted in Shanghai, And 5 Reasons To Read Not A Drop To Drink

This week I will be at the Upper Arlington Public Library on Thursday, April 21 from 7-8:30 PM along with other featured authors who will be at the Ohioana Book Festival.

Followed by the Ohioana Book Festival which is on Saturday, April 23 at the Sheraton Columbus Hotel. For a list of participating authors who will be at the event, click here.

I also want to share with you this photo that fellow Ohio author Margaret Peterson Haddix sent to me from China! She is currently in Shanghai on a book tour and spotted students from the Shanghai America School reading NOT A DROP TO DRINK! So exciting to see my book in the hands of students overseas.

Lastly, I must share this fantastic BookTuber video from Trina of Between Chapters, who is one of my biggest fans. She put together a great video of 5 Reasons to Read Not A Drop To Drink.