Friday, February 23, 2018

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: TYLER JOHNSON WAS HERE by Jay Coles

When Marvin Johnson's twin, Tyler, goes to a party, Marvin decides to tag along to keep an eye on his brother. But what starts as harmless fun turns into a shooting, followed by a police raid.

The next day, Tyler has gone missing, and it's up to Marvin to find him. But when Tyler is found dead, a video leaked online tells an even more chilling story: Tyler has been shot and killed by a police officer. Terrified as his mother unravels and mourning a brother who is now a hashtag, Marvin must learn what justice and freedom really mean.

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Thursday Thoughts

1) In the movies, spies are always super sexy people that you can't help but stare at. In real life I think this would be very detrimental to their job description.

2) Hunters use duck calls, deer calls, coyotes calls... all kinds of things to make us sound like another species and draw them in. How effed up would it be if there was an animal species that came up with a human call? "Hey Joe, the deer went the other way."

3) I'm constantly amazed at my dog's ability to vomit in a straight line.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Wednesday WOLF

I'm a nerd. I'm in fact such a big nerd that I tend to look up word origins in my spare time because I'm fascinated by our language. The odder the origin, the better. I've got a collection of random information in my brain that makes me an awesome Trivial Pursuit partner, but is completely useless when it comes to real world application. Like say, job applications.

In any case, I thought I'd share some of this random crap with you in the form of the new acronym-ific series. I give you - Word Origins from Left Field - that's right, the WOLF. Er... ignore the fact that the "from" doesn't fit.

Ever knock on wood? It's getting harder and harder to do these days, as most furniture doesn't have a bit of tree in it. Fortunately for me I've got an old house so full of trees I'm able to get crazy and knock on wood with my head, if I feel it's appropriate.

But why do we do that? What's the origin of that phrase and action?

Many ancient cultures believed in nature spirits, and most agree that tree spirits are the bomb. Even Germans (and hey, we're kind of a dark people - ever read the REAL Cinderella?) have a kind tree spirit - the Waldgeist. In moments of fear or trepidation, people would knock on trees to wake up the good spirits for protection or good luck.

So now you know. Next time you're feeling beset, hit the beech.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Author Sara Crawford On Subjective Feedback

If there's one thing that many aspiring writers have few clues about, it's the submission process. There are good reasons for that; authors aren't exactly encouraged to talk in detail about our own submission experiences, and - just like agent hunting - everyone's story is different. I managed to cobble together a few non-specific questions that some debut authors have agreed to
answer (bless them). And so I bring you the submission interview series - Submission Hell - It's True. Yes, it's the SHIT.

Today's guest for the SHIT is Sara Crawford, who graduated in 2008 from Kennesaw State University with a B.A. in English and in 2012 from the University of New Orleans with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing (emphasis in Playwriting). In addition to working as a freelance writer and internet marketer, she is also a creative writing professor in the graduate program at Southern New Hampshire University, teaching online classes. She also loves to talk about books, music, and writing on her YouTube channel. Sara is the author of the young adult titles, WE OWN THE SKY and HURRY UP, WE'RE DREAMING.

How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs yourself?

Pretty much nothing. I knew a lot about querying agents and the process of trying to get a literary agent, but I didn’t really learn anything about the next step in the process. I was too focused on that first step.

Did anything about the process surprise you?

Yes. I had heard that the publishing process was slow, but I don’t think I realized how slow. I didn’t realize that when we first went on submission, it would be a month or two before we heard back from anyone. 

Did you research the editors you knew had your ms? Do you recommend doing that?

I’ve definitely been known to stalk editors I knew had my ms on Twitter. I would not recommend doing that because there’s a tendency to read into everything they tweet. “Oh, they’re enjoying a latte at a new coffee shop in their neighborhood? Clearly, that means they haven’t read my book yet!”

What was the average amount of time it took to hear back from editors?

It varied A LOT, but most editors seemed to respond within two months or so.

What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety?

Work on the next book. If I could do it over again, I would spend much more time writing and less time obsessing over being on submission. I found that when I engrossed myself in the actual act of writing, it was a lot easier to focus on everything I loved about storytelling and not have so much anxiety about publishing. Even when I wasn’t actively writing, reading other books in my genre or craft books was a much better way to spend my time than refreshing my inbox or reading editors’ tweets. 

If you had any rejections, how did you deal with that emotionally? How did this kind of rejection compare to query rejections?

A lot of the rejections I got were with comments like “I like this, but I just don’t love it enough” or “I really enjoy this, but I don’t know how to sell it”. Those hurt a lot more than the rejections with actual criticism of the novel because at least I could understand those. But what can you do about someone just not loving your book enough? Publishing a book traditionally is a difficult process for everyone involved, and so much of landing a book deal depends on finding an editor who loves it enough to go through that process. My agent felt that way about my book from day one so I thought it would be relatively easy to find an editor that would feel the same way. Every time I got one of those rejections, though, it just reminded me that I hadn’t found that person yet. 

I can’t say I was always the best at dealing with it emotionally. There was a lot of chocolate ice cream and listening to The Smiths. These rejections hurt a lot more than query rejections because when I was querying, I knew I was at the beginning of the process. With these rejections, there was a sense of knowing that I was so close but didn’t quite have what they were looking for.

If you got feedback on a rejection, how did you process it? How do you compare processing an editor’s feedback as compared to a beta reader’s?

If there’s one I’ve learned about feedback from all the feedback I’ve gotten over the years from agents, editors, beta readers, critique partners, professors, and fellow students, it’s that all feedback is subjective. It’s easy to tell right away if feedback is going to be helpful or not. Honestly, I don’t think it matters if you’re an editor or a beta reader. I’ve gotten extremely helpful feedback from beta readers before, and I’ve gotten really confusing feedback that didn’t help me at all from editors. I process all feedback the same way. I try to figure out the main issue that the person was having, and then I try to fix it. If the comment is a subjective opinion, I usually try to look beyond what they didn’t like to the underlying issue that needs to be fixed.

When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal?

I actually never got a yes. After being on sub off and on for about three years, I finally decided to stop pursuing traditional publishing with that book and self-publish it. I’m having a great experience being an indie author, but I’d still like to be a hybrid because I think some things I write work better for indie publishing, and some things would work better being traditionally published. My agent and I are about to go on sub again with another novel so I get to do it all over again! This time, I’ll hopefully be too busy writing my next book and marketing my indie books to obsessively check my inbox or stalk editors on Twitter.

Monday, February 19, 2018

New Podcast With Rachele Alpine: Time Management For Busy Writers & How Having A Teacher's Guide Can Crack the School Market

Today’s guest is Rachele Alpine, author of both YA and middle grade titles, as well as being a full-time English teacher, wife and mom. Rachele joined me to talk about the importance of knowing what you want in an agent – and what questions to ask – before you begin querying, how having a teacher guide made for your book can crack the classroom market, as well as time management and how Rachele maximizes every minute in order to be a full time teacher, wife, mother, and writer.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

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.

Flirting with a pretty girl takes another turn when Jake discovers she’s a shackled spirit. Irene was raised in the voodoo faith by her Haitian grandmother, but never expected to become trapped in the spirit world she grew up believing in. When Jake encounters her captor, he is forced into that same spirit world. Your opening here isn't bad, but you've got three echoes of "spirit." I would also caution you to be careful when using such a strong faith element as the backbone for your plot. If you yourself aren't a practitioner of that faith, make sure you've done your research, and get feedback from someone that is a part of that faith.

Irene’s captor, Armand, is a man who captures souls to increase his own power, but still claims to be a benevolent force. Hard to see how someone could still claim to be benevolent in this setup... Jake learns that the girl he’s falling for is fading away because she has been trapped by the sorcerer for too long. Here's some confusion on my part - is Irene existing in both worlds, ours (physically) and her soul in a spirit world? That's what I'm inferring but a slight clarification could be good. Armand has no plans to release Irene and intends to use her soul to help him end humanity’s grief. He aims to do so by capturing Baron Samedi, the voodoo god of death, and releasing the dead themselves. But doing so would ravage both worlds. Both the spiritual and physical worlds? How?

Thanks to Irene’s cunning and know-how, Jake survives the spirit world and several encounters with loa - voodoo gods who preside over everything from love to death. But the spirit world becomes chaotic and unsafe when several of the loa fall under Armand’s control. And as his plan succeeds, Jake and Irene have no choice but to act when the battle being fought in the spirit world makes its way to their home. It sounds like they were already acting, though, and that the battle being fought had already made it's way to their home?

I think what you need here is to clarify on what "ravaging both worlds" actually means, as it sounds like that's actually the biggest obstacle. Clarify what that is and how it impacts both worlds. Also, putting Jake and Irene's "no choice but to act" in the last paragraph makes it sound like they don't take action against Armand until the end, which I doubt is an accurate reflection. Figure out what the largest obstacle in the plot is, clarify whether these characters are present in one world or another (or both simultaneously), and I would also say tease out Armand's role a little bit more. What is his motivation for releasing the dead? Does he not see the "ravaging of both worlds" that would take place? Honestly, a misguided villain rather than an outright nasty one is very intriguing, but get just a touch more in there about why he wants what he wants. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: MONDAY'S NOT COMING by Tiffany D. Jackson

Monday Charles is missing, and only Claudia seems to notice. Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable—more sisters than friends. So when Monday doesn’t turn up for the first day of school, Claudia’s worried. When she doesn’t show for the second day, or second week, Claudia knows that something is wrong. Monday wouldn’t just leave her to endure tests and bullies alone. Not after last year’s rumors and not with her grades on the line. Now Claudia needs her best—and only—friend more than ever. But Monday’s mother refuses to give Claudia a straight answer, and Monday’s sister April is even less help.

As Claudia digs deeper into her friend’s disappearance, she discovers that no one seems to remember the last time they saw Monday. How can a teenage girl just vanish without anyone noticing that she’s gone?

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