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.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Authors Move In Groups For Our Mental Well Being

The best part about being a writer is meeting other writers.

People ask me all the time what my favorite published experience has been, and this is always my answer. Yes, seeing my name on a book for the first time was awesome, but much like Christmas, the best part about publishing is when it has nothing to do with what you're getting.

This past weekend I had the awesome experience of meeting some really amazing ladies. Joseph-Beth hosted the first of a two-part YA Beach Bash featuring myself, Mindee Arnett (THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR, AVALON), Melissa Landers (ALIENATED), Kristen Simmons (ARTICLE 5), Saundra Mitchell (MISTWALKER), and Julie Kagawa (THE IRON FEY, THE BLOOD OF EDEN).

Authors are a different sort of people. If you are one, or if you've ever met one, this probably isn't news to you. The week before last I had the chance to sign with both Rae Carson (THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS) and Ann Aguirre (RAZORLAND, MORTAL DANGER). During the course of normal conversation I mentioned vomitoriums (as one does) and I didn't have to explain what those are. It's worth nothing that neither one of them blinked, either. I knew I was among my people.

So, meeting other authors is always welcome. It's an expansion of the realization that I'm-Not-So-F'ed-Up-After-All hangover from high school. Or at least, if I am F'ed up, I'm not the only one. Meeting people and maintaining friendships has become more of a driving factor to me when I agree to do events than selling books. Most authors will tell you that when we do a convention, festival, or signing, we do so not because we think we'll be moving copies, but because our friends are going to be there.

I like friends. Friends are good.

Kristen Simmons, Mindee Arnett, Julie Kagawa
Melissa Landers, Saundra Mitchell, Mindy McGinnis


Saturday, August 16, 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.

Fifteen year old Emmett Jaredson will be faced with one choice that will make or break the future of humanity in a crippled future where natural disasters and terrorists take reign. It's a good hook, but I need delivery on why Emmett is the key element.

Emmett wakes up to an earthquake, and the stark reality that his foster parents have been killed in a tsunami. Having a main character wake up as the first action in the novel (which, I don't know if it is or is not) is a faux pas that most agents and editors will tell you to avoid. I'd avoid using it as the beginning of the body of your query as well.

Petrified this means that he's completely unable to move, so it's not a good word to use here since he ends up running to Providence, enraged why is he angry?, and desperate to avoid another foster placement, Emmett runs to the heart of Providence, Rhode Island, in an attempt to use his stolen money stolen from where? to buy a used car hmm... I'm imagining chaos... why isn't he just stealing a car or looting? On the brink of the second earthquake he teams up with Melanie Austins after saving her life in the chaos. Together they struggle to remain alive, surviving through tidal waves, earthquakes, and explosions, but even then Emmett and Melanie don't realize the magnitude of their dilemma until a stranger approaches Emmett and tells him that he would be useful for his cause, and that Emmett should join him. I'm feeling a lot of vagueness here - there's definitely a lot of drama and danger, but I'm not seeing why we should care about Emmett or Melanie. Drama and adventure are great, but they matter for little if we don't care about the people it's happening to.

Shortly after, Emmett discovers the stranger is actually a terrorist attempting to destroy the government, and that he plays a key role in the natural disasters. Emmett will soon be faced with the choice to save his life or fight for the remains of society, but saving his life could mean utter chaos for the world—the fight for what is right could very well be his end. This raises a lot of questions, like how a terrorist organization would cause natural disasters, why would Emmett have anything to offer them (a special power? If so, that needs mentioned) Also, the first para sounded like the entire Earth was in an uproar, but this makes it look like a targeted thing against "the government." Whose government? Is it just the US under attack? What is Melanie's role here? It sounds like she's just a female who needs saved, yet you mention here in the query so she must have a more important role in the plot.

QUIETUS, at 80,300 words, is a Science Fiction Young-Adult Thriller that stands as the first in a planned trilogy. Your word count looks good, but you need to specify why this is science fiction. Also, it's very hard to sell trilogies right now. Work to see if you can make this a standalone with series potential.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Book Talk & Giveaway: BUTTER by Erin Jade Lange

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.

Butter weighs in at 423 pounds. His weight has ballooned to the point that he can't even play his beloved saxophone for long without losing his breath. School is torture, and life is exhausting. One of the only things that he looks forward to is talking to Anna, the pretty blonde cheerleader from school who he chats with online... only she thinks he's an athletic boy from another school, and she wants to meet - soon.

When the lists of the seniors "Most Likely To..." list is compiled for the year, Butter is listed as "Most Likely To Die From A Heart Attack." Butter reacts by creating a website and inviting everyone to come see it go down in real time - if they think that little of him, the least he can do is give them a show. Butter announces that he will eat himself to death on New Year's Eve.

The site get hits. Then comments. Suddenly, Butter is invited to sit with the jocks at school. Girls are talking to him - even Anna, who isn't quite as interesting in real life as she is online. Suddenly invited to parties and riding around with friends, Butter isn't drowning his sorrows in food anymore. In fact, he's losing weight. 20 pounds fall off fairly quickly.

Life isn't quite so unbearable anymore... until Butter realizes that his infamy has been won by promising to kill himself.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Debut Novelist Courtney Alameda Talks Cover Anxiety

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 Courtney Alameda, who holds a B.A. in English Literature with an emphasis in Creative Writing from Brigham Young University, spent seven years working for Barnes & Noble, and currently works as an Adult & Teen Services librarian at the Provo City Library. Her forthcoming novel, SHUTTER (winter 2015, Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan), is a tale spawned in part by Bram Stoker’s DRACULA, in part by her experiences both paranormal and not-so-paranormal, and features a cast of monsters inspired by everything from Japanese folklore to survival horror video games.


Micheline Helsing is a tetrachromat—a girl who sees the auras of the undead in a prismatic spectrum. As one of the last descendants of the Van Helsing lineage, she has trained since childhood to destroy monsters both corporeal and spiritual: the corporeal undead go down by the bullet, the spiritual undead by the lens. With an analog SLR camera as her best weapon, Micheline exorcises ghosts by capturing their spiritual energy on film. She's aided by her crew: Oliver, a techno-whiz and the boy who developed her camera's technology; Jude, who can predict death; and Ryder, the boy Micheline has known and loved forever.

When a routine ghost hunt goes awry, Micheline and the boys are infected with a curse known as a soulchain. As the ghostly chains spread through their bodies, Micheline learns that if she doesn't exorcise her entity in seven days or less, she and her friends will die. Now pursued as a renegade agent by her monster-hunting father, Leonard Helsing, she must track and destroy an entity more powerful than anything she's faced before . . . or die trying.

Lock, stock, and lens, she’s in for one hell of a week.


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

Surprisingly, no! When I heard Rich Deas would be designing the cover, I banished any thoughts of what “could be,” because I knew what “would be” was going to be so much more badass than any of my own ideas. Rich’s work is incredible, and he’s designed some of the most iconic covers in the YA world.

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

I started hearing tidbits about comps going to marketing in January. Since I knew Rich would be doing the design, and both he and my editor, Liz Szabla, are super savvy and über-creative, I didn’t worry. My cover was in the best hands!

Did you have any input on your cover?




How was your cover revealed to you?

I moonlight as a teen librarian, so I was working the reference desk when I got the email from Liz with “cover comp” in the subject line. I gasped, and when the librarian seated next to me asked me what was wrong, I managed to squeak out, “Cover!” to which she replied, “OPEN IT NOW!”

So I did . . . but upon seeing the ghost on the cover, I head-desked. Literally. (Horror projects of any ilk rarely feature the monster on their posters/covers/promotional materials.)

After some flailing, I emailed my agent. Macmillan was incredibly gracious while I threw my prima donna fit over the monster, and even tried designing several new concepts. In the end, no comp quite compared to the screaming, sonic-blue specter, so we compromised: They kept the artwork, and I got a sans-serif font for the title with cool, POLTERGEIST-y details; better placement for my name, and a nod to the novel’s photography elements. When Liz sent me the final, I sat back and thought, “Wow! Okay, I can work with that!”

Months later, I’m very grateful for the ghost on the cover, which I’ve come to think of as the book’s triple dog dare and warning label. It’s unique, beautifully executed, and very fierce, which I hope reflects the book’s contents, too.

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

Yes, and we had a fantastic reveal with Hypable in June, organized by my lovely publicist, Ksenia Winnicki. The reception bowled me over—I couldn’t believe how many people were sharing and retweeting the cover! I spent somewhere between eight and ten hours on social media that day, just watching the cover love unfold and thanking people for their kindness.

So you win, Macmillan—the monster on the cover is AWESOME!

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

Almost a full year; SHUTTER will be released in February 2015, and I saw comps in March of 2014.

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

No! Isn’t it obvious that I have the patience and composure of a Jedi master? (Kidding!) But I didn’t wait long—there was maybe two weeks between my seeing the final cover and the reveal.

What surprised you most about the process?

Definitely the reception on the cover reveal day! I thought a few friends would share the cover around a bit, but the hundreds of tweets and Facebook shares made my head spin. I still want to hug the internet for it all!

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

Just this: Your publisher wants to see your book succeed just as much as you do. You invested your time; they are investing their time and their money. Your publisher’s going to design a cover that they believe in, and hopefully you’ll love it, too!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Bis zum letzten Tropfen Jetzt Erhältlich - Eingeben, um ein signiertes Exemplar zu gewinnen!

BIS ZUM LETZTEN TROPFEN eine post-apokalyptischen Überlebensgeschichte wo Wasser ist fast nicht existent

Eine starke Heldin, eine unbarmherzige Wildnis und eine Geschichte, die einen von der ersten Seite an fesselt! Am 11. August 2014 erscheint Mindy McGinnis' spannende Survivalstory »Bis zum letzten Tropfen« bei Heyne fliegt.

Eingeben, um ein signiertes Exemplar zu gewinnen!




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Saturday, August 9, 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.

All hope is never lost. Not even in Nowhere. Decent hook. I like it. Nice and concise.

Cerulean and Amarillo Saffron are sisters separated by guilt, regret, and a secret the Ardor Laboratory Corporation will go to any lengths to protect. Again, this is a good starter sentence. Their names are a little tongue triply, but if those are their names then that's the case. Only hope can reunite them and save the Lost Children of Nowhere. Now you are getting pretty vague, this is actually a decent sinker to put at the end, but right now I don't know if Nowhere is a real town, a secret location, or even if we're talking about Earth here. Amarillo hasn't seen her baby sister since the day she disappeared from their family home nine years ago. So is Cerulean only 9 years old? Or do you mean just "little" sister? A chance assignment given to her by her boss Boss? So how old is Amarillo that she has a job?, Mayor Naples Orange of Somewhere, proves to Amarillo that there was nothing she could have done all those years ago to protect Cerulean. It also gives the spunky young woman definitely need to say how old she is, or give an indication something else she sorely needs--hope that it is still possible to save her sister, and all the other Lost Children who are trapped in the neighboring city of Nowhere. I definitely think you need to clarify whether this is set on Earth, a future version of Earth, or somewhere else entirely. 

To save the Lost Children, Amarillo has to get inside Nowhere. That is no small feat. No one in Somewhere can remember anyone ever being able to get in or out of their sister city, except maybe Nowhere's mayor, the boogeyman Mayor Blue. If no one has even been there, or gotten in or out, how do they know who the mayor is, or that the children are there? But Amarillo knows she can do it, even if she has to do it alone. Mayor Orange is busy with his pet road project, the Roy G. Biv highway that will connect Somewhere and Nowhere and hopefully spur economic growth. Why would it spur economic growth if no one ever goes in or out? Also there is the issue of the continued hope theft from the emotion recycling plant. This subplot here comes out of nowhere, and firmly lands this in the realm of sci-fi, or at least speculative fiction. At first Amarillo thinks she may be able to turn to Deputy Mayor Scarlet for help, but when she spots him inside Nowhere--on the other side of the seemingly impenetrable force field that seals that city off from the rest of the world--with an armload of stolen emotion actuators, she knows he is up to no good. I feel like there's a lot going on here, and no real indication of what our MC wants - to get into Nowhere and get her sister out? But how does she know she's there, and why is she so certain she can do it? And how does the subplot actually connect with the main plot?

What is Somewhere's deputy mayor doing? Maybe it has something to do with The Outlawz, the elusive gang of saboteurs who have been attacking the road construction from the very beginning. Both Mayor Orange and the Somewhere Times have surmised that The Outlawz are probably a youth gang comprised of Lost Children. No one has any suggestions about what the saboteurs' motives might be, but when Amarillo sees Deputy Scarlet inside Nowhere with the pilfered hope, she gets an idea. What's the idea? Why would hope and the highway be connected? And why would anyone believe that the Outlawz are Lost Children if they think no one can get in or out of Nowhere? And why would lost children want to sabotage the road?

The more Amarillo digs into the problem of the Lost Children, the more she realizes it's not just a Nowhere issue. The histories of Nowhere and Somewhere are inextricably connected, and they are tied to the secret that the Ardor Labs Corporation You mentioned them in the beginning, in connection with the little sister and a secret, but now they come up again in connection with the highway, so this is kind of confusing --the largest employer in Somewhere and the biggest supporter of the Roy G. Biv highway--will do anything to keep buried. Amarillo finds an ally in Somewhere Times reporter Fern Viridian, and together, they--along with Mayor Orange--fight to unravel that secret and free the Lost Children. There are a LOT of names being mentioned in this query. You want to avoid that, especially when they are all different shades of color and potentially confusing. Earlier you said that our MC was going to do this alone, and now she's teaming up with two adults?

What Amarillo doesn't know is that the Lost Children have not been sitting passively by, waiting to be rescued. She should though, shouldn't she? If everyone suspects the Outlawz are Lost Children then it shouldn't be a huge surprise. Led by her intrepid little sister Cerulean and former Outlawz members Azure and Denim, they have been fighting: against the other Outlawz, So there's faction fighting among rebels?  against Deputy Mayor Scarlet, and even against the evil Mayor Blue. When the battle finally unites the forces from Somewhere and the forces from Nowhere, they are ready to stand together and vanquish their foes with their strength and their hope restored. Except, honestly at this point I'm pretty confused about who is friend or foe, and what exactly the point was in the first place. You hint at a big secret that a corporation wants buried, and it has something to do with a road and possibly disappearing children but I'm not entirely sure on that last point. There are WAY too many names being mentioned in this query, it's highly confusing and reads more like a synopsis than a query.

You need to keep your query word count low - around 300 words. Don't name so many characters - stick to your prime movers and focus on the main plot point. Right now you've got a lot going on in this query - so much so that it will lead an agent to wonder if your novel is just as convoluted and confusing.

ROAD TO NOWHERE, a young adult urban fantasy novel, is complete at just over 77,000 words. I'm not sure that it is urban fantasy - UF is typically set in a recognizable place, with magical or SF elements. This seems like it's somewhere else entirely, or at least in the future.