Saturday, December 24, 2016

Year End Blog Round Up - Top 10 Posts From 2016!

Time for the year in review for Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire!

I'll be bringing you new content in 2017 - possibly including a podcast, depending on how good the audio is of me sitting alone in my closet with the door closed and recording phone calls with other authors. Fingers crossed.

In the meantime - what did you care about in 2016?

Apparently, books, my personal safety, and my uterus.

1. THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES Arc Giveaway
2. GIVEN TO THE SEA Cover Reveal & ARC Giveaway
3. DOWN WITH THE SHINE by Kate Karyus Quinn Safe Wishing PSA
4. Book Talk & Giveaway: THIS SAVAGE SONG by Victoria Schwab
5. I Menstruate & It's Not A Big Deal
6. Writing Lessons In The Form Of Stitches
7. In Which I Become A Full Time Writer
8. How It's Different For Women
9. A Picture of A Thousand Torments: Or, A Literal Pile of Rejection Letters
10. Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: THREE DARK CROWNS by Kendare Blake

Monday, December 19, 2016

Go On, Patronize Me

But in a nice way.

Loyal blog followers will know that I recently became a full time writer. I have two books releasing in 2017 - GIVEN TO THE SEA, a fantasy, in April, and THIS DARKNESS MINE, a contemporary thriller in the fall. The same holds true for 2018 - the sequel to SEA releasing in the spring, followed by a released in the fall.

Up until this past August I had been working full time in a library as well as being a full time writer, but it was time to let something go. That something was the full time job, and with it went things like insurance.

I've got what I need - food, shelter, and clothing - but keeping up with insurance is going to get tricker in the new year... and even more so in the following year if things continue on their current course.

So, I made the decision to start a Patreon page. The idea is that fans become patrons - regular supporters of their chosen artists - and in return the artist supplies them with something personal, a token of their thanks.

You can support me for as little as $1 a month, or you can get crazy and give me $200 a month. The higher tiers have things like signed, early printings of my hardcovers, and even signed ARCs mailed to you (when available) if you're feeling super generous.

My support tiers are named after the cats, details below!

The Sparrow
$1 or more per month 
Official patron status. This means you'll get access to my patron-only feed with weekly musings about writing, reading and the creative life AND pictures of the lowest maintenance cat in the world... Sparrow.

The Norton
$5 or more per month 
Previous tier + access to monthly update video where I'll answer any questions you have about my books, upcoming work, or publishing, industry, & craft questions AND pictures of the sleek tabby with all the answers, Norton.

The Alicia
$10 or more per month 
Previous tiers + monthly flash fiction (stories under 2k words) or micro fiction (300 words or less) AND pictures of Alicia, the cat who disappears in a flash for months at a time, then reappears exuding nonchalance.

The Samhain
$15 or more per month 
Previous tiers + monthly mailing (US only) of signed swag - bookmarks, postcards, bookplates, personalized postcards from cities when I'm touring - AND pictures of Samhain, the little fluff ball that leaves her calling card everywhere she's been.

The Minnow
$20 or more per month  
Previous tiers + monthly mailings (US only) of signed, previously published anthologies that I have short stories in. Once those are exhausted I will publish new, previously unreleased shorts for the Minnow Tier. Read my shorts AND get pictures of Minnow, my favorite runt.

The Panda
$50 or more per month 
Previous tiers + a monthly Google Hangout with me and other members at this level. Quantity limited to keep chats from being overwhelming! Get social AND get pics of Panda, the friendliest cat I know.

The Ginger
$100 or more per month 
Previous tiers + a signed hardcover of each of my novels, coming to you in monthly mailings (US only) for previously released novels, plus early, signed first printings for each new novel as they are released. AND pictures of Ginger, the red hot tabby who knows she's got it.

The Samuel Wilderness
$200 or more per month 
Previous tiers + signed ARC (Advanced Readers Copies) mailings (US only) when I have them AND pictures of Samuel Wilderness, the Maine Coon who has it all, but won't refuse anything.

Rewards will begin January of 2017!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Book Talk & Giveaway: PRISONER OF NIGHT & FOG by Anne Blankman

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.

Gretchen knows that Munich isn't the safest place in 1930, but because of her social connections, she doesn't know the half of it. Her father lost his life protecting Hitler during the National Socialist Party uprising, and "Uncle Dolf" has looked out for her and her brother ever since. When she stops her brother from beating up an elderly Jewish man on the street in order to protect the image of the National Socialists, her brother only sneers at her, knowing full well what they actually stand for.

But Gretchen has grown up under the Nazi wing, and Hitler has been nothing but kind to her. She's always dismissed the ugly rumors about Uncle Dolf and their party, until she meets Daniel, a young Jewish reporter who tells her he thinks that her father wasn't exactly a willing sacrifice to save Hitler... that he may have been murdered by that very man instead.

As her attraction to Daniel grows and her brother's sadism increases, Gretchen begins her own investigation into her father's death. With her enemies becoming friends and her friends becoming enemies, Gretchen's life is about to turn upside down.

Want to help me with all the mailing costs? I do giveaways at least once week, sometimes more. It can add up. If you feel so inclined as to donate a little to defray my mailing costs, it would be much appreciated! Donating has no impact on your chances on winning.



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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) If you watched Westworld, I kept expecting the new narrative to involve velociraptors. The Maze is not for you. It's for the T-Rex.

2) I hate it when people ask me to explain the story behind my email address. It's named after my cat who is dead now so it's a bummer of a story.

3) I also hate it when people ask me where Mork is. They think they are very clever. Of course now he's dead too so I usually point that out and their joke falls quite flat.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Wednesday WOLF

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. I thought I'd share some of this random crap with you in the form of another 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.

Despite a general uproar about the degradation of our language, I don't know anyone who doesn't use text speak - whether typing or verbally. Although I still refuse to LOL or OMG I am very guilty of the b/c, the w/ and the b/f. For example, I can't do anything w/ you Friday b/c I'll be w/ the b/f.

But did you know that people were using something eerily resembling text speak as early as the 19th century? It seems that the East Coast was the place to say "SP" if you wanted to indicate that something was small potatoes, or even "TBFTB" to say someone was too big for their britches.

This might seem hard to believe, but take into consideration the oft-used worldwide expression "OK." That lovely bit of speech originated in Boston in 1839, as a stand-in for saying something was all-correct. So shouldn't it be "AC?" Maybe, but just like how today's business like to misspell words for attention (think Kwik-E-Mart), those Bostonians felt like pushing the enveloped a little and saying "OK" instead.

OK may have faded into obscurity, but it got a boost from Martin Van Buren when he ran for re-election in 1840. Van Buren, a native of Kinderhook, NY, was often referred to as "Old Kinderhook." He adopted the abbreviated version of his nickname to indicate that he was all-correct.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Olivia Cole, Author of THE PANTHER IN THE HIVE, On Writing Fearlessly

Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Olivia Cole, author of PANTHER IN THE HIVE, which as released in 2014. Olivia is a published poet and nonfiction writer who has been a storyteller since birth.

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

I’m a Planner who often goes off-plan halfway through said plan. That said, I don’t plan extensively. I like to know where I’m going and will sketch out an idea of what the path looks like, but if I feel the story is leading me in another direction midway through, I have no problem letting my pants lead me.

How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?

The longest it’s taken me is a 13 months. I wrote a young adult novel in 3.5 months earlier this year. It really depends on how inspired I am, if I’m simultaneously revising another project, and how much patience my husband has at the time.

Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?

I multi-task. This didn’t used to be the case: I could only do one project at a time to avoid the risk of letting the voice of one influence another. For whatever reason, I’m able to compartmentalize a little more successfully now.

Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?

Not that I can think of. Writing has always been the place where I feel most fearless.

How many trunked books did you have before you were agented?

Not exactly trunked, but one. Two, if you count that book’s sequel, which I was working on when I found my agent. By the time I was agented, though, I had decided to self-publish that series and I’m very glad I made that decision. I am Gollum about the Tasha Trilogy.

Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?

Sort of. I started a manuscript and got 70 pages in when I realized the story I had set out to tell had completely transformed ¬– for the better, I would say. So I scrapped it all and started over: same character, very different story. I can’t imagine doing that five years ago: “but 70 pages!” I can hear myself whining. 70 pages is nothing if it means doing the story justice.

Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?  

Regina Brooks of Serendipity is my agent, and while I met her at BEA in 2012 or 2013, she wasn’t interested in my first project (Book 1 in the trilogy I mentioned above). It wasn’t until 2015 when I won her agency’s Discovery Contest that we connected again. She believed the book that I submitted was publishable, and so she offered me representation from there. 

How long did you query before landing your agent? 

I started querying in 2012 when I was still seeking representation for Panther in the Hive. I sent out maybe 30 queries over the next two years. I wasn’t very good at it. 

Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?

This I can’t help you with. I will say that I think some people’s skills (and story) lend themselves well to querying. This was not true for me. If you’re stuck in query hell, I highly recommend getting out of the hobbit hole and going to conferences/events to meet agents and other writers. I met another agent at the Midwest Writers Workshop who probably would have become My Agent if Regina hadn’t offered representation first. I’ve had great conversations with agents at other conferences as well. Querying isn’t for everyone.

How much input do you have on cover art?

So far HarperCollins has been very good about asking for ideas and recommendations from me. I’ve been lucky in the fact that my editor and I have very similar tastes in what we appreciate in covers, so while it does feel like a dialogue, I also trust them to make good decisions. 

What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?

How chill everything is! I am a deadline-oriented writer, so perhaps this would be different if I had trouble getting things in on time, but the flow of things is very relaxed. This is also because publishing is a grand machine in which things are planned far, far in advance. It feels almost like dealing with the Oracle in the Matrix: everything is pre-determined as far as pacing, so avoid black cats and keep moving forward.

How much of your own marketing do you?  

Since we’re pre-publication, I’m currently doing my own marketing, but that will change when we get closer to launch. And that’s if you can call what I do now “marketing.” I tweet religiously as @RantingOwl, and while I once blogged religiously, I’ve cooled off to focus on my fiction.

When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?

I would say you should be working before. Like it or not, publishers are interested in what kind of following you have and it can help them envision an audience for your work.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

Yes. So many of my readers come from Twitter. People will like what I tweet about X topic, and then reply saying, “I saw you’re an author: where can I get your book?” While this doesn’t happen every day, it definitely happens. In any case, the function of social networking—online and offline—is mixing with strangers and discussing your life, your work, etc. Twitter is just that: some of those strangers will be intrigued and buy my books. Some will stick around to see if they care enough to do so later. Either way, it’s fun. (Sometimes.)

Monday, December 12, 2016

Portrait Of The Author At Seven

Last week I told you about an experience I had as a budding author in junior high, and how my life came full circle in November as I returned to Atlanta to participate in the NCTE conference - the same organization that gave me one of my first writing awards at the age of fourteen. This week, fellow author and Edgar-nominee Matthew Baker (IF YOU FIND THIS) is hosting my earliest piece of writing to achieve recognition.

My 2nd grade teacher was one of my favorites - in fact, she's still substituting at the school and spotted a typo in IN A HANDFUL OF DUST, which made me just put my head down on my desk as if it was lights out / time out.

She was a big supporter of creativity and one of the things that we did in her class year-round was write our own books. We gave them "hardcovers" of cardboard and choose our cover design from a box of Contac paper... and then (unbelievably) we were given a needle and thread to bind them. During any free time if you felt like writing a book you were encouraged to do it, and I have a plastic container in the attic full of stories by young Mindy.

My teacher spotted me writing whenever I could, so she told me to pick what I thought was my best book and she would enter it into the Young Authors Competition.

I can't say for sure whether it was a contest, a conference, or a workshop. All I know is that I made it. So one Saturday I got up early, went somewhere (I don't know where), and spent the day with a bunch of other kids whose work had been chosen. I met either Byrd Baylor or Peter Parnell (I can't remember which one it was, I just remember this book), and someone had brought a bunch of desert animals for us to touch.

At one point we were put into groups and asked to share our books with one another. This is the moment that has remained clear to me right up to the present day. Each kid read their book out loud, and I thought every single one of them was better than mine. I remember my confidence slipping away as their talent outshone my own. I could tell you to this day what every one of their books was about.

Because I thought they were better writers than I was.

That still happens. Constantly. The curse of being both a writer and a reader is that you can hardly call reading a pleasure activity any longer. If you read something that you think is poorly done yet has sold many more copies than your own work, you have to wonder what they are doing right that you aren't. If you read something truly amazing you are transported as a reader, but the writer side of you plummets into a darkness because you don't think you will ever be as good as they are.

However, I think both experiences are humbling - and being humbled is a good thing for anyone. It makes you try harder, do better, work longer, push forward. If I ever believe that I am the best then I will stop improving, and I will have failed my readers.

I think about that Young Authors gathering quite often, and sometimes I wonder where those other kids in my group ended up. Not because I want proof that I was, indeed, better than them and have made a career out of writing, but because they were good, and I'd like to see what they are doing with their craft now. Because I guarantee you they still write.

My story LISSSSSSS (the trademark sound my fictitious pet dragon makes), is up on Matthew's site today, complete with my original artwork.

Oh, and yeah - the other kids had better illustrations, too.

Saturday, December 10, 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.

Twelve-year-old Juniper knows what she saw. A yellow toad hopped into her kitchen, croaked up a purple bubble, and poisoned Dad. The only one crazy enough to believe her is Grandpa. I already like this.

Everyone else thinks Dad had a seizure, but he isn’t waking up and the doctors are talking about surgery. My fact-based is already saying "coma" instead of "isn't waking up" and wants to know what kind of surgery could possibly be helpful, but this is MG, and since a 12 y/o wouldn't think this way, it might be OK, I do think the sentence can be cut after "isn't waking up" though. The rest is not relevant to the query. Grandpa wants to take Juniper to the hospital to say goodbye just in case, only once he gets her in the car for flow I'd change this to something more like, "on the busy highway", he misses the exit. Instead they travel to Agartha, the city at the center of Earth, and home of the blasted toads. Grandpa is sure they can find a cure. Why would he think this? And also, it makes me wonder if he took this side trip on purpose?

When they get there, Juniper isn’t sure of anything. Grandpa is infamous Ah, so he's been there? Need to extrapolate, the city of Agartha is dying, and the natives want her to save it. Oh and apparently she’s got powers: she can bend the air, manipulate any living plant, and heal minor injuries. This is weird, but cool, and also useless because she doesn’t know how to summon any of them.

The natives want her to travel to a pond with waters that can heal anything comma including Dad’s poison. Technically it's healing Dad, not his poison.  Of course the pond is far away, surrounded by savage animals, and cave-ins are happening all the time. Cave-ins? Is it underground? The natives also reveal that Grandpa is responsible for the destruction of Agartha and ultimately Earth. That's a leap -- like Agartha holds up Earth, or Earth's survival is dependent upon Agartha's? Grandpa assures her he had good intentions. Whatever. Now she has to clean up his mess, except her powers are wonky at best, she doesn’t know who to trust, and when she requests soldiers for help, they send her one inexperienced teenage boy. Older than her? Also an Earthling? They might as well be asking her to steal the moon.

FOLLOW THE YELLOW SICK TOAD is a middle grade fantasy novel complete at 50,000 words.
Thank you for your time and consideration.

This is definitely cute and sounds like fun, but I think you need to explain a little more about how Grandpa is responsible for the destruction, and why Juniper would have powers. Also, the title makes me think this is a play on The Wizard of Oz somehow, but I'm not seeing that in the query. Overall I think the idea could definitely work, but the query needs some clarity - you're close!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: ROSEBLOOD by A.G. Howard

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.

Rune always knew that she had a powerful voice... but she didn't realize it was deadly until she nearly kills a boy at a party. Running from her guilt and an illness that makes her unable to avoid singing an aria once it's stuck in her head, Rune's mother sends her to her aunt, the administrator of an operatic boarding school in Paris.

Hoping that her aunt will be able to help her with the stage fright that leaves her faint after singing - and maybe teach her to to control her impulsive bursts of song - Rune enters Roseblood Academy only to feel as if she is constantly shadowed, and not just by the overly friendly opera house cat. She sees a half-masked man in mirrors, and hears a violin every night playing the song her father was right before he died.

When roses in the long abandoned garden go from wilting to full at her touch, and the animals in the surrounding woods seem to be speaking in voices that don't belong to them, Rune knows there is something quite wrong at Roseblood... and possibly with her, too.

Want to help me with all the mailing costs? I do giveaways at least once week, sometimes more. It can add up. If you feel so inclined as to donate a little to defray my mailing costs, it would be much appreciated! Donating has no impact on your chances on winning.


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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Wednesday WOLF

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. I thought I'd share some of this random crap with you in the form of another 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.

Since I'm returning to the gym this week after a month of traveling, I thought I'd dig up some figures of speech that have their roots in sports.

Boxing started out as a prize-fighting at European fairs with no officials. The rules were pretty simple - if you were knocked down or had to be dragged out of the ring due to being unconscious... you lost. Hence a nasty scuffle is called a knock-down drag-out.

Boxing has given us a lot of fun terms, another one being that (once they decided to start using an official of some sort) the presiding person began the fight by dropping their hat to the ground, which told the fighters it was time to start swinging. These days when something unpleasant comes about quickly, it happened at the drop of a hat.

I've actually heard that term used more often in reference to someone losing their temper - "He gets mad at the drop of a hat." And that makes perfect sense, doesn't it?

What about our lovely American past time? I found something interesting I wanted to share that I personally suffer from - the lovely malady called a charley horse. Anyone who suffers from these muscle spasms in the legs knows that they hurt like a @#)*3@#$ and kind of leave you wanting to cry in a puddle and possibly pee yourself. But why the heck is a muscle spasm called a charley horse? No one is really sure, but there are a couple of ideas, both originating with baseball.

Pitcher Charley "Old Hoss" Radbourne suffered from these paralyzing leg cramps. He played for the Buffalo Bisons (1880), Providence Grays (1881–1885), Boston Beaneaters (1886–1889), Boston Reds (1890), and Cincinnati Reds (1891). Post MLB Radbourne lost an eye in a hunting accident and then died of syphilis, so it's safe to say that leg cramps were the least of his concerns.

For some reason I like this story better: In the 1890's the White Sox of Chicago used a horse named Charley to draw the grass rollers across the field. He suffered from a limp, so the fans called any player afflicted with the spasm (which causes you to limp afterwards) a "Charley Horse."

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Middle Grade Author Virginia Zimmerman Shares 5 Tips For Conquering Query Hell

Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Virginia Zimmerman, author of THE ROSEMARY SPELL. As a child Virginia enjoyed writing and talking to friends about books, so she decided to grow up into a person who could do those things all the time. She eventually became an English professor at Bucknell University. Most of the classes she teaches are about British literature of the nineteenth century or children’s fiction from the nineteenth century to today.

Don't miss the giveaway below!

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

I am definitely a planner, though I’ve discovered in recent years that sometimes I do my best work when circumstances force me out of my comfort zone and into pantster position. That said, I can only pants (is that a verb?) if a plan is out there somewhere, like a safety net.

How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?

Kids always ask this question when I do school visits, and it’s really hard to answer. What counts as starting? Is it when I have the first glimmer of an idea? When I have the plot outlined? When I first put words on the page? And what counts as finishing? Completing a draft? Sending the manuscript to my agent? Holding the published book in my hand? 

If the process begins when I have an idea and ends when the book is published, then the process takes me several years. If we’re only talking about actual writing time, I can sometimes write a full draft in just a month or so, but then it needs a lot of work. From first draft to final revision, I’d say it takes about a year.

Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi-tasker?

I work on multiple projects at a time, but they are in very different stages. For instance, right now, I have three projects in process: I am revising a nearly-finished manuscript for my agent, and I am also making notes and brainstorming plot ideas for a new book; as soon as I send the manuscript off, I will start revising a different book that is drafted. My preference is to have two projects going at once—one at a writing stage and one in the idea stage. Three is a bit much!

Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?

The first time I sat down to write, I didn’t take myself seriously, so it wasn’t scary at all. By the time I realized I was actually writing a real book, I was already in the middle of doing it. What was more frightening was sitting down to write my second book. I was terrified that I only had one book in me. It was a great relief to discover second, third, and fourth books, each clambering to get out onto the page.

Did you trunk any projects before you were agented?

I got my first agent with my first book, which ended up getting published in Barcelona, Spain. La Finestra del Temps (Cruïlla 2012)—in English, A Window in Time--is set in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, so it was particularly well-suited for the market there. However, that book and its sequel have not yet found an American home. They are trunked… for now.

Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?

I have never quit a manuscript, but I have completely rewritten, scrapping plot lines and characters. The book I’m finishing now was originally from a different character’s point of view. I wrote the whole book and thought it was finished. All my beta readers, including my 11-year-old son, said, “Don’t you think this other person should be the main character?” I knew they were right, so I opened a blank document and started over.

Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them? 

My agent is Bridget Smith of Dunham Literary. I signed with her recently after rising up from the slush pile via the traditional query process. My first agent was George Nicholson who passed away in 2015. I found my way to him through the alumni network of my undergrad institution, Carleton College. In a recent blog post, I described my agent story in detail. 

How long did you query before landing your agent? 

To get my first agent, I queried about a year. My second took only six months. The first time, I sent out queries in batches of five. As soon as I received a rejection, I sent out a replacement query. In a weird way, this made rejections feel like good news because I got to send out another query, so rejection was immediately replaced with hope. 

Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?

1. Keep writing. If you’re just waiting to hear back, then the process really is hellish, but if you keep moving forward, then querying becomes just an annoying buzz in the background.

2. Take solace in reading about how many rejections were received by people whose work you admire. 

3. Don’t try to read between the lines of rejections. Chances are the language is boiler plate. 

4. Don’t stalk agents on Twitter and try to figure out if their tweets are secretly about you, but do read #MSWL to know which agents may be especially interested in your work.

5. Understand that time in publishing moves at a glacial pace. Chances are you will wait and wait and wait over and over again throughout the process. You will wait for responses from agents. You will wait for responses from editors. And even when there is a contract and everything is all done, you will wait months and months for the book to actually come out. You just have to make peace with this pace. But, this doesn’t mean YOU should move at a glacial pace. See #1 above: Keep writing!

How did it feel, the first time you saw your book for sale?

It was amazing! I felt really silly taking pictures of my book for sale at my local bookstore, but I did it anyway. Sometimes friends in faraway places send me pictures of my book in stores, and it always gives me joy to know the book is out there.

At the same time, there’s something unsettling about the book being out in the world. It means it doesn’t really belong to me anymore. It belongs to its readers, who find in it things I never noticed and make it their own. At my book launch, I likened the experience to pushing a bird out of the nest. The book flies off and makes its own way.

How much input do you have on cover art?

Absolutely none, but Clarion did a brilliant job with the cover of The Rosemary Spell. It’s like a magic spell that makes people want to pick up the book. I couldn’t be happier with it.

What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?

I was surprised that it was difficult to get my second agent. I thought that with a book out, a book that was well-received and has sold well, it would be easy to find a new agent. Instead, I basically started from scratch. In a way, I am grateful for the process since it led me to Bridget. If I had just signed on with the friend of a friend, I’m not sure I’d be so pleased with the match.

How much of your own marketing do you?

I have a blog on my website where I also post interviews and general information for my readers. I also have an author Facebook page, and I’m on Twitter and Instagram. I try to post pretty regularly, but I’m not nearly as prolific in the world of social media as many authors are.

I’ve gotten the most visibility from articles I’ve written for web sites that get a lot of traffic. I had a piece on mentor texts in Writer’s Digest, and I wrote an op-ed for Fox News Online about the value of re-reading. A lot of people read these and then became interested in The Rosemary Spell.

When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?

I didn’t build my platform until I had my first agent. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer here. Some people get energy from the conversations they have on social media, so it’s worth the effort. For other people, maintaining these various accounts is draining. I put as much into social media as I can, and I don’t feel any pressure to do more.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

My books are middle grade, and those readers aren’t really on Twitter or Facebook much. I think social media is more useful for building relationships with other authors and with teachers and librarians. For a children’s author, those relationships are really important, and I am happy to invest time and energy into keeping up conversations with those folks. 

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And lastly, I put a lot of work into the blog. If you think I deserve a coffee, I'll drink it.

Monday, December 5, 2016

In Which My Life Comes Full Circle

The summer before I started high school I participated in the ELCA's (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) Lutheran Youth Gathering. This was in 1994, and the location for the "2 Be Alive" themed gathering that lasted for an entire week was Atlanta, Georgia. There were 30,000 of us there, with many of the events taking place at the Georgia World Congress Center. It was my first time flying on a plane, my first time in a big city, the first time I ever drank New Coke.

The following fall I entered 8th grade and my English teacher asked me if I wanted to try my hand at writing a short story for the NCTE (National Council of English Teachers) Promising Young Writers Program. I said sure and wrote about Thanksgiving from the point of view of a carrot - which you can read in its entirety here. That short received a superior writing certificate, making it the only thing I was going to win with my writing for a very, very long time.

Both of these things occurred in 1994, when I was 14 years old.

I returned to Atlanta - and the Georgia World Congress Center - last month at the age of 37 to be a guest author and panelist at ALAN/NCTE.

In the intervening years I've flown on a ton of planes and been in a lot of cities - I've even won a few more writing awards (though I've avoided New Coke.) Being back in the Georgia World Congress Center and seeing the NCTE logo everywhere (I still have my letter of recognition, that logo stamped upon my psyche as proof that yes I CAN do this), really threw me back to being fourteen.

Most writers will tell you that we never really feel like we've made it. There's always an event you weren't invited to, a distinction you haven't received, a sales goal you haven't met. I'm happy to walk up to just about anyone and introduce myself (ask Maggie Stiefvater) but that doesn't mean I don't get starstruck, or worry that after I say, "Hi, I'm Mindy McGinnis," they will blankly say, "Who?"

I think that humility is good, personally. If I ever think I'm the best in the room it means that I'm no longer improving. And I'll be the first to tell you that awards, sales, and contracts don't shush that little voice in your head when you sit down to write that says, "This time you're going to fail."

But this past November in Atlanta I felt pretty good about who I was, and how I got there.

Which means it's time for a new challenge.

Saturday, December 3, 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.

Seventeen-year-old Emile Dodgson is in an asylum with only a vague memory of who he had been before and no knowledge of why he is there. If you read this aloud the little word phrases "is in an" and "who he had been" can get a little tripped up. I would advise rephrasing every so slightly, such as Seventeen-year-old asylum resident Emile has no memory of who he is, or why he is there. Otherwise this is a good hook, just be aware of those little connectors that make your brain have to parse as your read With the help of his doctor, Emile tries to patch together the memories he does possess. As these fragmented memories begin to come back, Emile wonders if he truly does want to remember his disturbing past. Highlighting in yellow some echoes - you've got three in one para here. Not necessarily a huge red flag, but it might make the agent wonder if the ms is littered with such problems. It's a nit-pick, but that's what I'm here for.

Two years earlier, Emile looks forward to leaving school and beginning his apprenticeship with his father, a hatter in the late 1860s Oxford. When Emile meets Alice Smalls, the daughter of a prominent watch maker, he feels his life is clicking into place with a precision he’d never dared to dream for. You've got some great imagery at work here - "clicking into place" alongside the watch mention, for example. However, this is slightly confusing as it seems these events precede your hook. I'm assuming that this story is what the doctor pieces together from his memories, and that your story isn't told linearly, instead alternation between his sessions and the past, correct?

Soon, Emile notices the same symptoms in himself that plagued his father and claimed the life of his grandfather. He can’t always explain the disturbing images he sees or sounds he hears. He hopes his love for Alice will be enough to protect him from going insane, but as Emile spirals further into madness his behavior becomes more and more unsettling to those who care for him.

Drawing imagery from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, this standalone book tells the real story of the Mad Hatter’s descent into madness. ALICE AND THE HATTER is a 70,400 word young adult historical fiction told in alternating chapters between Emile and Alice. Wait! Alice has a POV? That needs mentioned as more than an aside down here. It should get half of the query, if it gets half of the book.

I’m a youth services librarian with over ten years of experience working with teens. (Nice, this was pretty much my bio when I was querying too - it helps!)

Overall, this is pretty damn great. The actual writing here is good and the premise is awesome, but the execution makes me curious about the setup of the text. Is it merely bookended with Emile already in the asylum (a la THE GREEN MILE) or do his chapters go back and forth between the present and the past? Needs to be clear within the query. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: CARVE THE MARK by Veronica Roth

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.

In their world everyone is tapped into the current, a force that gives each person a unique gift. Cyra's is to cause pain - both to herself and others - something that her brother, Ryzek, the cruel ruler of Shotet, revels in. Though she knows and respects the culture of every planet in their system, she is known throughout the universe as someone to be feared.

Akos is from Thuve, a peace loving nation where his mother is much respected as one of the great oracles. Though his currentgift seems odd - he can cancel other people's gifts - it's extremely useful to Cyra, to take away her daily pain and torture. Also, one of the Oracle's children will be the next oracle, and Ryzek would rather take that power for himself using his currentgift, than rely on someone else to tell him the future.

Kidnapped for these abilities, Akos is installed as Cyra's companion. He's ready to hate her, and she him. They're both very surprised when something blooms between them instead.

Want to help me with all the mailing costs? I do giveaways at least once week, sometimes more. It can add up. If you feel so inclined as to donate a little to defray my mailing costs, it would be much appreciated! Donating has no impact on your chances on winning.







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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately come to your from a bout with insomnia...

1) When I can't sleep I have the double-edged guilt of looking at the clock and thinking, "I'm not going to get up at a decent hour at this point" to thinking, "I might as well get up now because it's practically morning and then I'm an early riser."

2) If I fall asleep with my ear bent over even for a few minutes, the agony will last forever.

3) When I do mange to grab a few minutes sleep on these nights, I usually get extremely odd visuals. Last time it was a human-sized Furrby who was a much-in-demand court recorder because he could multitask and do one machine with each foot.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wednesday WOLF

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. I thought I'd share some of this random crap with you in the form of another 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.

Everybody likes a little privacy sometimes, right? People figured out a long time ago that putting high posts on each end of your bed and hanging curtains from them served as a protection from draft, and also kept the overly-inquisitive at bay. A lot of the conversations that went on behind these sheets were of a private nature- be they emotional exchanges, family secrets, or just good old gossip. If you wanted to keep something on the down low, you told you listener it was between you, me, and the bedpost.

But that one's kinda obvious isn't it? You want something a little less so? OK, I can do that.

A long while ago it was fashionable for men to wear removable shirt cuffs. Barkeeps used to keep a patron's running tab written on their cuff for safekeeping, then erase it when the drinker paid up for the evening, taking it off the cuff. Interesting, but what the hell does that have to do with anything? Well, when you're speaking off the cuff, it means that you're not referencing any written material.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Thing I Hate Most About Breast Cancer Is...

... that my friend Demitria Lunetta was diagnosed last month, at the age of 35.

Demitria is the author of IN THE AFTER, IN THE END and the upcoming BAD BLOOD, as well as a contributor, editor, and project spearhead of the anthology AMONG THE SHADOWS.

If you are able to help with the cost of Demitria's medical bills that would be fantastic. If you are not, there are non-monetary ways to help through social media shares.


Saturday, November 19, 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.

Rowena Andalynn expected her homecoming to be joyous after a childhood spent as a diplomatic hostage to a neighboring country. This first sentence doesn't necessarily set this up as a fantasy. It's not until the second one and the inclusion of "court" that we get that feeling. She endured a treacherous court by honing her skills in violence and cunning. Survival forced her to ignore what she was born to be - a Wishkeeper, one who dispenses wishes granted by the Divine. Lots of good info here, but I'm not sure that it's a hook. I think you need to get the idea of being a diplomatic hostage and violence and cunning into one sentence for the hook.

Now she's allowed home awkward phrasing to assume her holy birthright. In the land of Boldenwhite, Wishkeepers channel Divine will to grant three wishes a year. Trained in wisdom, Wishkeepers are icons of grace for believers. Not sure there's anything in the underlined sentence that is necessary to the query.

But when her official return is marred by a disastrous first Wish that dooms not only her Order, but that of the government she serves, Rowena realizes that being a Wishkeeper does not mean unending blessings. And when Wishkeepers start dying, Rowena discovers that an enemy is rising...an enemy called Scian March. A product of Boldenwhite’s notorious prison, Scian has spent all her seventeen years planning revenge and revolution. The name actually sounds like an organization, so when I first saw it I didn't process it as a character.

In the battle over Boldenwhite’s future, Rowena battles on two fronts - against Scian’s bloodthirsty allies - and with everything she thought she believed. which was? The calling that defines her may become the trap used to kill her world, how so? if Rowena doesn’t win The Wishkeeper’s War. is it on her alone?

For the most part this is a good job of getting plot, world building, and conflict into a tight space - not easy with high fantasy. However, some elemental aspects are missing. Rowena battling against "everything she thought she believed" is, I think, a callback to her realizing that "being a Wishkeeper does not mean unending blessings," but it's not explicitly clear. If Rowena has had no training in her gift because of her upbringing and is therefore somewhat naive about it, that might be something to clarify. 

Also, clarification on what precisely is at stake would be good - how are the Wishkeepers gifts being used against them? Does Rowena have any allies herself? You mention that Scian does, but it seems to be on Rowena alone to win the war, which seems a bit odd given that she hasn't lived in Boldenwhite for most of her life. Some more details about Scian would be good too - why was she in prison in the first place? Does she have some dark power? Clarify some key points, pep up that hook sentence, and I think you're ready to take this query out.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Book Talk & Giveaway: THE ROMANTICS by Leah Konen

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.

Love doesn't always get it right. When Gael's parents announce a split and his own girlfriend breaks up with him, Love realizes maybe she hasn't been keeping a good enough eye on either situation. Love can fix this though. She's got a good idea what Gael needs - the girl who's been tutoring his little sister.

But sometimes the girl you see everyday isn't the one that gets your attention, and a chance meet-cute with a manic pixie dream girl has Gael's head spinning. Love knows she's not the right one, but somehow Cara has all the hallmarks of every rom-com Gael's ever seen... even if he'd rather watch a good horror flick.

Armed with the knowledge that things have gone horribly off track (and a bag of tricks) Love sets out to make things right for Gael.

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Thursday Thoughts

This weeks thoughts brought to you by my personal grooming regime -

1) If you pee in the warm shower it smells like popcorn. I do not understand.

2) I probably overwax my eyebrows, but I lived through the 80s and I don't want to go back to that place.

3) Flossing makes me feel super clean. I wonder where else it can be applied.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Traci Chee NYT Bestselling Author of THE READER, On Whittling Down The Word Count

Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Traci Chee, author of the NYT bestselling YA fantasy THE READER. An all-around word geek, she loves book arts and art books, poetry and paper crafts, though she also dabbles at piano playing, egg painting, and hosting potluck game nights for family and friends. She studied literature and creative writing at UC Santa Cruz and earned a master of arts degree from San Francisco State University. Traci grew up in a small town with more cows than people, and now feels most at home in the mountains, scaling switchbacks and happening upon hidden highland lakes. She lives in California with her fast-fast dog.

Don't forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom for some sweet swag from Traci!

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

I’m a natural pantser—I love the discovery of writing, luxuriating in a detail, chasing down a surprising development, or finding out what’s going to happen at the same time as my characters. (It all gets cleaned up and smoothed in revision, after all.) But I’m always looking for new ways to improve, and I’m trying to learn some plotting techniques to help me become a better writer.

How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?

The only two novels I’ve ever finished are The Reader and its sequel. I worked on The Reader for 18 months before I signed with my agent, but I worked on its sequel for only 6 before I turned it in to my editor! That draft was rough. But at least I got to the end!

Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?

I wish I could work on more than one project at a time, and hopefully that will change in the future, but for now, it’s all I can do to inhabit (or to be inhabited by?) one story, one world at a time!

Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?

I think I wrote my first story (about a dragon and a princess) when I was seven or eight, and I definitely had no fear then. But I really sat down to give myself a shot at being an author when I was twenty-eight, and by that time I’d learned to fear all sorts of things (derision, shame, financial ruin, etc.).

However, I also had this stubborn belief that I could learn to do almost anything if I worked hard enough. And I knew that at that point, just me at my desk with my computer, the only way to fail was to quit.

How many trunked books did you have before you were agented?

I was really lucky to sign with an agent with the first novel I ever completed, but there was over a decade of creative writing courses, workshops, short stories, and half-written manuscripts behind it!

Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?

I have this one short story that I really love the idea of. (It’s about a girl with a brother made of metal who talks to God. Or about a boy who talks to God. The details kept changing.) I rewrote it at least seventeen times, and while it’s readable, none of those revisions ever got it right. There was no spark to it. No resonance. No shine. That’s something you learn to spot the more you read, I think, as you find the novels or stories or poems that really sing to you. And as much as I loved the idea of that story, I could not figure out how to fix it. So I’ve left it behind—at least for now, until I gain some more insight or skill that will help me tear it apart and build it back up again.

Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?  

I finished revising The Reader in the spring of 2014. It was 121,000 words long, and I thought, That’s a little long, but the writing is solid so that’s okay right?

Spoiler: No, it is not okay.

I started querying, and as rejection after rejection after rejection rolled in, I realized that The Reader was not ready, not ready at all. So I stopped sending out new queries and resolved to cut 21,000 words from the manuscript before trying again.

By mid-summer I’d gotten it down to 114,000, and through the awesome kidlit community on Twitter (more on that later), I discovered that Pitch Wars was coming up. (For those who aren’t familiar, Pitch Wars is this incredible online contest run by the inimitable Brenda Drake. Thousands of writers submit their manuscripts to mentors, publishing pros like agented authors and editors, who pick one “mentee” to work with. Then for two months, they hack, slash, revise, rebuild, and otherwise improve the mentee’s manuscript for the agent round, when Brenda enlists a parade of excellent literary agents to check out everyone’s pitches and first pages and make requests.) I’d heard amazing things about this contest, so I cut another 7,000 words by the submission deadline and entered.

And I got in! The phenomenal talent that is Renée Ahdieh, author of The Wrath and the Dawn and The Rose and the Dagger, picked me for her mentee, and she helped me cut another 10,000 words, sharpen The Reader’s hooks, and polish my prose to a high shine. A week after the agent round, I had a handful of offers, and one of them was from agent/warrior, Barbara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency, by whom I’m now represented.

Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?

Try to keep your creative spark. I’m fairly confident when it comes to craft, but all those rejections were demoralizing. I doubted my work, my passion, myself. I couldn’t write. Really, it was all I could do not to sit there, full of dread, refreshing my inbox. Who would reject me next? How quickly? What else could I do wrong?

So I decided to get my spark back. And what better way than to summon up my arts-and-craftiness and make some rejection book art? It didn’t change my rejections (only a brutal look at my manuscript and months of revision did that), but it helped me to believe in myself again. You can check out the results of that little project here!

How did that feel, the first time you saw your book for sale?

I haven’t actually seen The Reader in stores in person yet, but someone just tweeted me a photo of it on the shelves at a Barnes & Noble in Southern California, and it really struck me, for the first time, that my book is going to be out there. In the world. My words, read by strangers. It is thrilling and humbling and nerve-wracking all at once!

How much input do you have on cover art?

I was very fortunate in that I’ve gotten a peek at a ton of the cover design process, from bouncing around ideas with my editor to checking out the initial sketches to seeing variations on what became the final. I did give some feedback here and there, but that beautiful cover is absolutely due to the brilliance of art director Deborah Kaplan, designer Kristin Smith, and illustrator Yohey Horishita. Truly, the best thing has been learning about the process and watching such extraordinary talents at work!

What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?

You know what’s weird? I am such a Type-A personality—I love making plans and organizing schedules and ensuring that everything goes off without a hitch—but I’ve learned over the course of this year, there’s so much that’s beyond my control when it comes to my book (sales, publicity, marketing, to name a few), that the less I know, the better I can focus on the one thing that I really do control: my words. I think in part this is because if I knew all the things that were happening I’d be able to do nothing but stand there wringing my hands, alternately fretting and screaming at my own impotence. The other part is that I’m really lucky to have an extraordinary team in my agent, editor, and publisher, who I can absolutely trust are working behind the scenes doing the making and organizing and ensuring so I can just write.

How much of your own marketing do you?  

I’m fortunate in that I get to leave most of the marketing to my publisher, but I do try to stay active on social media. I have a website (it’s also a Tumblr), Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, which are platforms I enjoy using anyway, so that makes it easy to check in consistently and keep updated with what’s going on. I also have a newsletter that goes out once a month (ish) so readers can get news, bonus content, and exclusive giveaways delivered right to their inbox!

When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?

For me, I think in general “platform” is less important than “making friends and staying updated with the community.” That was definitely true before I got an agent, when I used Twitter to learn more about Pitch Wars, what agents were looking for (especially via #mswl), and watch what was happening in the online kidlit community. I didn’t set up my website or Facebook page until after I had a book deal, and I didn’t discover Pinterest until my edits on The Reader were almost finished, but again, I participate in these platforms because they’re fun and interesting and educational. Probably your most essential online presence is your website, which you should keep updated, but everything else? I’d say do what you like and leave the rest!

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

I hope so! I spend quite a lot of time on it anyway, haha. I haven’t found a way to really measure the impact my social media presence has on book sales, so for the time being I think I’ll just keep doing what’s fun and save the work work for writing!


Monday, November 14, 2016

Where I'll Be This Week...

Lots going on for me this coming week and weekend!

If you're in Central Ohio come out to my alma mater, Otterbein, to see me tomorrow night! Reading, selling, signing Q&A. Also cookies, I've been told.



Then on Saturday, November 19th I will be at the Miami Book Fair!





Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Gail Nall On Finding Inspiration In Your Obsessions

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come to us like a lightning bolt, through the lyrics of a song, or in the fog of a dream. Ask any writer where their stories come from and you’ll get a myriad of answers, and in that vein I created the WHAT (What the Hell Are you Thinking?) interview. Always including in the WHAT is one random question to really dig down into the interviewees mind, and probably supply some illumination into my own as well.

Today's guest for the WHAT is Gail Nall, who lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her family and more cats than necessary. She once drove a Zamboni, has camped in the snow in June, and almost got trampled in Paris. Gail is the author of the middle grade novel, BREAKING THE ICE and the author of the young adult novel, EXIT STAGE LEFT. Another middle grade novel, OUT OF TUNE, releases TODAY from Aladdin/S&S!

Be sure to scroll down for the giveaway!



Ideas for our books can come from just about anywhere, and sometimes even we can’t pinpoint exactly how or why. Did you have a specific origin point for your book?

I did! I have a tiny (huge) obsession with reading travel blogs, and I kept running into blogs from families who lived on the road. As in, they sold everything and moved into an RV. With kids. And pets. I was fascinated, and I knew it was something I had to write about. As a parent, I totally get the motivation behind a decision like this, but as a twelve-year-old, I would've been horrified. And a horrified twelve-year-old always makes a great book.

Once the original concept existed, how did you build a plot around it?

Once I knew I was stuffing a family into an RV to travel the country, I needed a reason for Maya, my main character, to desperately want to get back home. This reason changed entirely from the first draft to the published version, which meant a lot of rewriting to turn Maya into an aspiring country singer who wants to audition for a reality singing show. Then I had to figure out all of the crazy stuff she was going to do to try to get back home and the obstacles that were going to stand in her way. And – the most fun for me – I had to decide where her family was traveling.

Have you ever had the plot firmly in place, only to find it changing as the story moved from your mind to paper?

Oh yeah, definitely! I rewrote the second half of this book twice before even showing it to my agent because I didn't like how the plot changed as I wrote it. The first version had Maya and company getting lost in the mountains instead of taking a long a bike ride. In my head, it was really light and funny, but as I wrote it, it got more serious (not enough food, wild animals, etc). So I ended up with a second half that didn't match the first half at all. Hello, rewriting!

Do story ideas come to you often, or is fresh material hard to come by?

I keep an ideas file on my computer, but usually I have anywhere from one to three ideas sitting in the back of my brain, demanding to be written. Of the three taking up space in my head right now, one came from a co-worker's unique experience (day jobs are great for inspiration!), one came from something I love to do, and one was inspired by a song.

How do you choose which story to write next, if you’ve got more than one percolating?

This is the hardest part. I write both MG and YA (and last winter, I even tossed a chapter book into the mix to keep things interesting), so it depends on which one I'm in the mood to write. But once I choose, I don't let myself work on another project, unless the other project is already in the publication process and needs attention rightthissecond. Once I decide MG or YA, I pick the project that appeals to me the most at the moment – the one I can see myself excited to get up and write at 5 a.m.

I recently got stitches in my arm and was taking mental notes the entire time about how I felt before, during, and after the process of being badly injured. Do you have any major life events that you chronicled mentally to mine for possible writing purposes later?

Ha, yes! I had a great scene in OUT OF TUNE with slugs attaching themselves to a frozen towel. That came from a real life experience when my washing machine died (while filled with sopping wet towels, of course). Let's just say I had no idea that many slugs lived in my backyard, and I had to Google “how to remove slugs from frozen towels.” (Spoiler alert: Google was unhelpful.) I ended up cutting that scene, but it still lives on my computer, hoping to fit into another book some day.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Help Warm My Cold, Black Heart (Plus An E-Book Sale!)

So, most of you have realized by now that my books usually don't end in a wedding or with babies. (Actually, I do have an upcoming book that ends in a wedding. But, being me, there's a twist). In any case, I've been doing a lot of school and library visits, and the most common question I've been getting is, "What's wrong with you?"

Weird thing is, I don't have an answer.

My parents are nice people. I like my sister. I grew up on a farm. I had pets that lived long, happy lives. So basically, I don't know.

But - I do hate being cold. It's a thing with me. And my local library could really use a new furnace. It's a very small rural community, and funding is always in short supply. So, if you'd like to help give towards their $10,000 goal, that would be really awesome.

Also, I write there sometimes. Maybe if I'm not cold one day I might write a book with a happy ending...



And, in cool news - the E-book version of NOT A DROP TO DRINK is currently $1.99! I have no idea how long this will last, so make a grab with that two bucks burning a hole in your pocket.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Debut Author Tara Sim On Finding Your Community Online

Today's guest for the SAT is Tara Sim, author of TIMEKEEPER coming Nov. 8 from SkyPony Press. When she’s not writing about mischievous boys in clock towers, Tara spends her time drinking tea, wrangling cats, and occasionally singing opera.

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

A mix of both, actually. I’ve found that the best method for me is making a bare bones outline—an idea for the opening, middle, and most important, the ending—and then I’ll fill it in with details as I’m drafting. A lot of the time I’ll discover things as I write, which I’ll incorporate into the outline somehow. It usually all comes together by the end.

How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?

I’m a pretty fast drafter. My fastest book took two weeks, and one time I wrote 300k in two months. I’d say my average time is two months to do a first draft, although my current WIP is taking much longer because of all the detail and research that needs to go into it.

Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?

I prefer doing one project at a time. Now that I have a series being published, however, I’m learning how to multitask projects better. One month I’ll be revising one book, the next month I’ll be revising another, and the next month I’ll be drafting yet another. Sometimes it helps to jump between projects so that you don’t get burned out.

Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?

I’ve been writing all my life, so it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment I sat down and wrote with intention. I do remember sitting down and writing a scene that would eventually become my first finished novel—thankfully unpublished—and there was no fear, just fun. It’s a little different now that there are pressures and deadlines and an audience to think of. Sometimes I have to remind myself about the fun I felt back then, and try to write just for myself. Excitement for what you’re writing will usually surpass fear, in my experience.

How many trunked books did you have before you were agented?

Nine. I had an epic fantasy trilogy I wrote in my teens, two standalone fantasy novels I wrote in college, and a high fantasy series written before I wrote Timekeeper, which is my tenth book and the one that got me an agent/book deal. I didn’t seriously query any of my previous books—the series before Timekeeper only went to five agents—but all of them were integral in learning how to write and what I wanted to write.

Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?

I’ve started and stopped a few projects, yes. A couple of them I’m still interested in and may go back to, but ultimately, I knew they weren’t right because I just wasn’t excited enough. When writing a book feels only like work, it might be time to step back and reevaluate if it’s something you want to stick with. You should be excited about the work on some level. That’s how heart gets on the page.

Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them? 

My agent is Laura Crockett of Triada US. I had just done Pitch Wars that year, which really strengthened my manuscript. A few of the Pitch Wars agents had the book, so I continued to query and heard that Laura was interested in the Victorian era. I queried her the traditional way, was asked for a partial, and got an email a few days later asking for the whole book. Shortly after, she called to offer me representation.

How long did you query before landing your agent?  

I queried for about seven months, but one or two of those months were dedicated to Pitch Wars. I sent just a little over 40 queries total. Since Timekeeper is a very specific type of book, I had to research agents like crazy to figure out who exactly to send those queries to.

Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?

KEEP GOING. I definitely hit a point where it felt like the end of the road, and then I got my offer. In those seven months I was querying, I heavily revised the book twice, so if you have a new idea or a way to make it stronger, take the time to do so. Oh, and find your people! I can’t tell you how helpful it is to have a community of writers who’ll listen to your woes and sympathize.

How did that feel, the first time you saw your book for sale?

My first book won’t be out in the world until November 1, so I can’t say! However, the first time I saw the ARCs was surreal. My story, printed and bound like a real book! It was pretty cool.

How much input do you have on cover art?

A lot of authors don’t get asked or don’t have any input, but I was lucky in that my editor wanted to make sure I was happy with my cover. The first one I saw was lovely, but ultimately not right for the story, so I asked for a slightly different approach. The result is the cover I have right now, which I love! So it never hurts to ask.

What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?

How much time and energy it takes. I was warned that I wouldn’t have much time to write for myself once I got a book deal, and I didn’t believe it. Now I believe it.

How much of your own marketing do you? 

 I do the majority of my own marketing. In this past year I’ve set up a website, newsletter, swag, giveaways, character reveals, and submitted proposals/been accepted and/or invited to book conventions and festivals.

When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?

I think that before you get an agent, you should focus primarily on finding your community. The more people you befriend, the better. That way, when you get an agent/book deal, you’ll already have people interested in you and your brand and your book. From there, expand. Get a website. Promote yourself. Promote others. Reach out and find your readers.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

Absolutely. I’ve met so many amazing book bloggers, librarians, teachers, and booksellers on Twitter alone! Book bloggers in particular keep stunning me with their level of dedication and creativity. This is going back to the idea of community. Be a good member of the community, and they’ll help you spread the word about your book. Hosting giveaways and book teasers and the like on social media really boosts your presence too. Also, it’s just fun!