Friday, May 22, 2015

Book Talk: SNOW LIKE ASHES by Sara Raasch & ICE LIKE FIRE ARC 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.

Meira's people - the Winterians - have been enslaved since she was a child. She lives in a world where each kingdom is trapped in a perpetual season, her own people of Winter distinctive because of their white hair. But there are only eight of them living free, a small band including the disinherited King, her best friend, Mather.

The rest of their people are servants and slaves, their magic lost when their ancient locket was stolen from them in the fall of Winter. Now, scouts think they know where it is, and Meira has a chance to finally participate in the resurgence of her people - even if it means endangering the only eight of them that still live free.

Enter to win an ARC of the sequel ICE LIKE FIRE!

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Lobotomy Lesson & How I Met My Historical Boyfriend

I researched for an entire year before writing a word of A MADNESS SO DISCREET. There was so much I needed to learn - how insane asylums were run in the late 19th century, how criminal profiling operated at the same time (both the accuracy and the inaccuracies), not to mention the dress, food, transportation, and speech patterns of the time. It was kind of exhausting.

Luckily for me, a lot of the research was also wildly interesting - that is, if you're a sick twist like me. I already made a vlog about different kinds of treatment that I learned about while writing MADNESS. Today I'm focusing on one in particular, and how researching it brought me to the realization that my historical boyfriend is someone I wasn't expecting.


Saturday, May 16, 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.

Sixteen-year-old Leah Woodlake gets sweaty palms and her stomach flips whenever she sees her classmate, Olivia. At first, she tries to tell herself that the bubbly feeling in her body is nerves. Olivia is a confident, pretty math whiz, so of course she'd make Leah nervous. Not sure how that translates into making someone nervous? Jealous, maybe. But when Leah notices how Olivia smells like strawberries and wonders how soft her lips are, Leah realizes her feelings are something she is too afraid to name. Doing so would surely upset her conservative father and just thinking about being gay terrifies Leah.

The only person Leah can turn to is her sister, twenty-seven-year-old Brooke. Leah doesn't have any friends? Or are they all of the same conservative cloth as her father? Leah is hesitant to turn to her repeated phrase at first, considering Brooke’s history of drug use when things get stressful. Yet, Brooke showers Leah with the support she needs to admit her feelings to Olivia. Brooke talks to Dad on Leah’s behalf, but the conversation backfires. Dad admits he blames Brooke for Mom’s death years ago This feels like a curve ball - how would Brooke be responsible for their mother's death? and refuses to accept Leah’s sexuality. The guilt over Mom’s death and failing to help Leah sends Brooke voraciously back to her pills. I feel like the character focus is shifting here - we start out with a hook that features Leah, a teenager questioning her sexuality, and now we're looking at Brooke, and adult with a pill problem. 

Brooke struggles to keep herself together, if only for Leah’s sake. However, there is no more hiding the truth when Leah and Olivia So are they a couple? make a surprise trip to Brooke's apartment, and find Brooke unconscious on the bathroom floor. Leah must stand up for the sister she admires and the girl she loves, or lose them both. The focus shifted again here - this para started out focused on Brooke then shifted back to Leah. 

All The Signs We Missed is Young Adult Contemporary at 71,000 words. It is told from Leah and Brooke’s point of view. I have been published in several literary magazines, including Moon Magazine, ALiteration, Mauvaise Graine, Beyond Imagination, FiftyWordStories and more. Thank you for your time and consideration. Good bio!

I'm not sure if you'll be able to sell a YA title with a split POV where one of the characters is twenty-seven years old. You can definitely try, but I can see it being a turn off for agents.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Book Talk & Giveaway: DOON by Carey Corp & Lorie Langdon

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.

Veronica hasn't had an easy life, but it hasn't been enough for her to go crazy... she doesn't think. But how else can she explain the voice she keeps hearing, a boy with a Scottish brogue asking her to come to him? She's seen him too - in the school parking lot, around town - all kinds of places where a good looking guy in a kilt really doesn't belong.

So when her best friend MacKenna offers to take her along to Scotland to investigate the cottage she inherited from her grandmother, Veronica jumps at the chance. There she learns about the legend of the bridge of Doon, a mysterious portal that supposedly opens up once every hundred years, admitting those who hear the call into the kingdom of Doon.

When a heavy fog turns them around one night the girls end up crossing the bridge, and find themselves in a world they don't belong in - except, maybe the do. The older prince is the boy Veronica has been seeing, and the younger brother has eyes only for MacKenna. But the fairy tale world has a dark side too - one with witches and curses, and a prophecy that seems to point to the friends being the ones who will bring about the end of the kingdom.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Author Karen Ann Hopkins On Balancing Promotion & Writing

Welcome to the SNOB - Second Novel Ominipresent 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. How to deal?

Today's guest is Karen Ann Hopkins. Karen resides in northern Kentucky with her family on a farm that boasts a menagerie of horses, goats, peacocks, chickens, ducks, rabbits, dogs and cats. Karen's main job is home schooling the kids, but she finds time to give riding lessons, coach a youth equestrian drill team, and of course, write. She was inspired to create her first book, TEMPTATION, by the Amish community she lived in. The experiential knowledge she gained through her interactions with her neighbors drove her to create the story of the star-crossed lovers, Rose and Noah.

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

Thank you for having me! I’m so happy to be here today. I’ve written three second books, two third books, and one fourth book in a series. I guess you can say I’m kind of an old hat at it now. To answer your question, no, writing the second book was always very exciting for me. With each of my series, I ended the first book on a bit of cliff hanger, with a definite lead into the next book. So I was already thinking about the second installment. It’s actually the third book that really gets me. By that point, you have expectations from your readers. And sometimes it’s difficult to write your own story without taking into account how your fans will react. Also, by the time the third book rolls around, the deadlines seem to be tighter, and your writing may be a little forced in places.

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

That’s a great question. It’s a never ending game of writing, editing, and promoting. I wasn’t very savvy about self-promoting when I wrote TEMPTATION and BELONGING, and it affected my sales. By the time I began FOREVER, I’d finally figured out that I needed to set aside a block of time each day, usually two hours, to promote my books. When I changed my mindset about how important the promotion part of being an author is, I saw immediate results in sales and my fan base grew exponentially.

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

When I wrote BELONGING, I was still very much writing for myself and the story itself. I had so many ideas swirling around in my head about what was going to happen to Rose and Noah. He was Amish. She wasn’t. There were so many aspects of the relationship creating turmoil and so many issues to sort out. I guess you can say that I was a little over stimulated in the creative process for that book. FOREVER was the third book in their story and the one that was going to sort everything out.  I was half way through FOREVER before I even decided how to wrap up Rose and Noah’s love affair. And with that book, I was definitely thinking about how my fans would react, what they wanted, and what was really best for the story and characters. It’s much easier to write the beginning of a story than the closure of one, in my opinion. When I began book four in the series, RACHEL'S DECEPTION, which will release on May 19th of this year, it was like going home for me.  Fresh story lines and new faces mixed in with much loved characters and an amazing setting, taking the series to higher heights than I ever imagined. And in this case, I had more fun writing RACHEL'S DECEPTION than I did any of the previous books.

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

Unfortunately, there’s a lot less time to work with nowadays. I have three series going simultaneously at this point, and it seems that the more books I write, the harder it gets to manage my time. But I won’t complain though. It’s far better to be too busy than the alternative.

What did you do differently post-debut, with the perspective of a published author?

As I said above, I didn’t catch on to the expectations of self-promoting until I reached the third book in the TEMPTATION series. I really wish I’d taken more time to promote TEMPTATION and the ongoing series straight from the beginning. I’ve managed to make up for that time lost, but it was a real uphill battle. My advice to other writers, is to realize that being an author is as much about promotion as it is about writing. It’s imperative to block that time off in your schedule, and just do it.  It will make a huge difference in your career.

I love to connect with readers and I’d be happy to answer questions about the Amish way of life or writing in general. Please contact me at my website or you can message me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Happy Reading!

Monday, May 11, 2015

A MADNESS SO DISCREET Goodreads Giveaway & A Few Reasons You Might Be Crazy

My lovely publisher, HarperCollins, has posted 10 copies of A MADNESS SO DISCREET for giveaway on Goodreads! Definitely check that out if you're interested.

Likewise, I discovered a list of reasons for incarceration in an insane asylum from the log books of the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane, spanning the years 1864 to 1889. It's easy to see that you didn't necessarily have to be truly insane in order to be whisked away. In a lot of cases, an insane asylum was a convenient location for inconvenient people.

See if you spot yourself in here.


Saturday, May 9, 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.

When Violet Gloom and her brokenhearted dad pack everything up and move to the dreary town of Downcast, she’s pretty sure that she’s left the happiness of her old life behind in the dust. Sightly mixed metaphors here with "dreary" and "dust," plus the hook is a little long in the tooth - but it's not bad. But when she finds a ghost lurking in her new house, she discovers a secret: Downcast is cursed. The "but" here implies that the sentence will be at odds with what came before, however leaving the happiness of her old life behind and finding out the town she moved to is cursed aren't disagreeing with each other. Three hundred years before, a young witch cursed Downcast to eternal sadness and eventual doom, why? and now on the anniversary of the curse, that doom is nigh. Violet has just three days to get the ghosts to the Great Beyond What does this mean and how would she do that? and stop the curse, or she, her dad and the entire populace of Downcast will be destroyed by ghosts-gone-bad, otherwise known as shadows.

With the help of Henry Fair-Weather (a boy who’s allergic to magic) how does that impact the plot and what is his role? and her cat Dusk how does she fit in? , Violet sets out to break the curse how? , find a home thought she had a new one?, defeat an evil ghost-obsessed inventor this sounds like an important plot point that we need to hear more about in the body and cure her family’s sadness. VIOLET GLOOM AND THE CURSE OF DOWNCAST is complete at 48,000 words.

Right now this reads like any other haunted house / town story. We've got a hero whose responsibility it is to save her home / family / town, with a (possible love interest?) boy. But I have don't know how she would do this, and I only have tiny hints about why this story is different from all the others. I feel like the inventor could be the answer to that, but I know nothing about him. And what about the cat? How is it helping? Can it talk? You need to elaborate on your cast of supporting characters, and you also need to clarify your age range here. I'm assuming by the word count that it's an MG, but you don't specifically say that.