Monday, July 24, 2017

This Week In My World & 23 Signed Books Giveaway!

I started a new jigsaw puzzle.

Honestly, there are actually a lot of really exciting things going on in my world but... I can't necessarily talk about them right now. I'll have news for you when I'm able to share!

And seriously, I did start a new jigsaw puzzle.

I've started to use Tumblr as a dream journal. People are always asking me what it's like inside my head. I always say it's the soundtrack to Beetlejuice in there, but if you'd like more insight, follow my Tumblr.

There's a new podcast episode for you to listen to. It's the roundup episode for the month of July, as well as an explanation of H.R. 1695 - the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act. If you're a writer, you should probably be aware of what it is, why it's happening, and what it means for you. As always, if you find the podcast or this blog helpful, please consider becoming a supporter.

The podcast will be taking a break for the month of August, but there are 21 episodes with writers from all walks and genres - YA, MG, memoir, historical, adult - there's an ep for you.



In the meantime, definitely checkout this humongous giveaway. Win a signed GIVEN TO THE SEA and A MADNESS SO DISCREET plus 21 other books!



And, because I have a few ARCs of THIS DARKNESS MINE that landed in my lap recently, I suppose I will do a giveaway. 



Want to help me with 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 of winning.

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Book Talk & Giveaway: HOW TO DISAPPEAR by Sharon Huss Roat

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.

Vicky Decker has perfected the art of hiding in plain sight, quietly navigating the halls of her high school undetected except by her best (and only) friend, Jenna. But when Jenna moves away, Vicky’s isolation becomes unbearable.

So she decides to invent a social life by Photoshopping herself into other people’s pictures, posting them on Instagram under the screen name Vicurious. Instantly, she begins to get followers, so she adds herself to more photos from all over the world with all types of people. And as Vicurious’s online followers multiply, Vicky realizes she can make a whole life for herself without ever leaving her bedroom. But the more followers she finds online, the clearer it becomes that there are a lot of people out there who feel like her— #alone and #ignored in real life.

To help them, and herself, Vicky must find the courage to face her fear of being “seen,” because only then can she stop living vicariously and truly bring the magic of Vicurious to life.

Want to help me with 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 of winning.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

PitchWars! What To Know About Me As A Mentor


Yes, it's true. I'm going to be co-mentoring again this year with Kate Karyus Quinn for PitchWars!

What is PitchWars? For those who don't know, check out this post on Brenda Drake's site. It's got all the info you need.

If you're interested in having me for a mentor, there are some things you need to be aware of. First off, I'm not here to make you feel good about yourself. You have friends for that, and probably a mom too. I'm a tough love mentor. I believe that my job is to make you better, and compliments don't make you improve. Criticism does. And I've got that in spades.

I will say nice things to you when you deserve them.

But for every kind word there will be three to five points that I think need work, and I won't hesitate to point them out. Be ready for that. Be cool with it. Embrace the monster that is having me for a mentor.

What am I looking for?

Kate and I both write dark, edgy YA. We also both write across genres, so neither one of us is looking or any specific genre to mentor. We want that ever-elusive element called voice. We're okay with sex. We're okay with violence. We're okay with language. However, none of those things can exist only for shock value. Do it well, do it right, and we'll notice you.

However, any eroticism of rape is completely off the table.

Kate and I will also be offering query and first page critiques to those who apply for us as mentors, but are not chosen. These will be posted on our blogs, so you must be okay with the criticism being out there, online, if you agree to the query and first page critique.

And THERE'S MORE -- if you'd like a first 500 word critique from me, I'm happy to do that. Comment on this blog post and I'll randomly choose a winner one week from this post going live. Be sure to leave your email address in the comment so that I can get a hold of you if you win.

A great way to learn more about Kate and I as writers and people is to listen to the debut episode of my podcast, Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire. Kate was my first guest, and you can easily garner a lot about us from listening in. The podcast is for aspiring and established writers, so if you like that first episode, keep on listening. It's free, and you can learn a lot.



And WHAT ELSE?! I am doing a giveaway below for an ARC of my October release, THIS DARKNESS MINE. Enter to win, and be sure to check out ALL of the #PitchWars Mentors below!

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Jennifer Fenn On Finding Inspiration In Real Life

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 Jennifer Fenn, author of FLIGHT RISK. She is a graduate of Lycoming College and Rosemont College's MFA program.

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?

My book was inspired by a true story, that of Colton Harris Moore, aka “The Barefoot Bandit.” When I first became aware of Harris Moore’s story in 2010, he was still on the run from law enforcement after stealing several planes. I was fascinated by this story immediately. While I knew what he was doing was dangerous and illegal, a large part of me did not want to see him caught. I’m a mom, a former teacher and a law-abiding citizen, so I was very interested in exploring what about Harris Moore made me so sympathetic toward him. I first wrote a fictional piece inspired by his story in the form of a flash fiction piece. A year or so later, I was teaching “Maniac Magee” in my 7th grade classroom. The rhyme Jerry Spinelli created about his main character on the first page of that book gave a new layer of meaning to the story I already had percolating in my mind: how are legends and folk heroes created in our media-saturated society? Both the appeal of the anti-hero and that question drove the creation of my novel “Flight Risk.”  

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

I’m a “pantser,” but I nearly always write my endings first, and that was the case with “Flight Risk.” I had a particular image, that of a giant, “lollipop” moon as seen from the pilot’s seat of a stolen plane. I knew I wanted to end with that and wrote it first. I also knew I wanted to work with multiple points of view, so I began writing scenes in several different voices. Basically, if there’s a scene I’m pumped to write, I write it, no matter where it exists in the story chronologically. Then I have to work to connect my scenes to create a coherent structure.  

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

Yes, particularly as someone who rarely outlines. I find that to be the most satisfying, magical part of writing—when suddenly I’m typing a scene that I didn’t know was coming!!  

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

Story ideas come to me often enough, but unless I can envision an ending, I rarely pursue them further. As I’ve said, I don’t outline, but I need a destination on the map!  

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

Usually, one story starts to interest me more than another. Another thing I always do is ‘soundtrack’ my stories. Creating a playlist to go with a work in progress helps me determine the story’s mood and really inspires me. If a playlist starts to emerge for a particular idea, that’s become, for me, a sign that it could be a keeper.  

I always, always, always empty my bladder before I start writing. Nothing stops short a burst creativity like a burst of urine. Do you have any “musts” before you sit down to write? 

As the mother of a small child, I’ve learned to not be as choosey about the conditions under which I write. I’ve written with my newborn daughter napping on top of me, in the car on family vacations, and recently knocked out 19 pages in a Target café. Flexibility has become a part of my style!

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Thing Or Two In My Life

Last week I stayed in a dome in the middle of nowhere that had been built in preparation for the fallout of Y2K (which didn't happen, but they still got a pretty cool second home out of the deal). Staying there with no cell service, no wi-fi, and no TV was a good experience. I recommend being unplugged to anyone that might need a mental reset.

I'm back in the land of the busy this week, and wanted to keep everyone up to date on what's going on with me.

I got advance copies of GIVEN TO THE EARTH! They are gorgeous... and I'll be sharing a sneak peek of the cover for anyone who supports me on Patreon on the $5 dollar level this month.

At that level you get a monthly update video in which I'll share what's been up with me lately, and know in advance what ARCs I'll be giving away on the blog (I've got some really awesome ones lined up for August), and also who my upcoming podcast guests will be. You can also feel free to ask me any questions that you might like to have answered - about publishing, writing, my books, or whatever you'd like - and I'll answer them in the video.


In other news, I will be appearing at the WizardWorld ComicCon in Columbus August 4-6. I have two panels and will be selling and signing GIVEN TO THE SEA at the con all three days. I don't know where my table is, but if you're there and curious shoot me a tweet and I should know once I'm on the floor where my table will be located.


Last week I was the guest on the podcast About The Author with Kristen Flowers from 96.5 KOIT out in the Bay area. I talked about my publishing journey, the research methods I used while writing A MADNESS SO DISCREET, and a little bit about my writing process. 



My own podcast, Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire, was featured on Podbean last week. I've got lots of new followers, and if it's led you here to the blog - awesome! Today's ep features guest Jody Casella, author of the YA novel THIN SPACE, and regional director of the Central/Southern Ohio chapter of SCBWI. Jody joined me to talk about MFA’s, querying as an already published writer, the benefits of joining SCBWI - the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators - and how attending book festivals geared for readers can also be beneficial to writers.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

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.

Everyone wants to control the most powerful magical being alive. Too bad she's escaped her universe, Coronam, and spent the past eight years pretending to be human. Until she's caught. Hmm... I feel like I need to know who caught her, and why?

Now, sixteen year old Selena Bennet is living in her former palace once again, this time as a prisoner. Her only chance of getting out: convincing her captors they've found the wrong girl. To do that, she must pretend her memory's been erased – something that could only happen to a human. I think I need to know why she left in the first place, and why it's so important to have her back. Also, is the memory erasing thing a common tact used by the citizens / soldiers of Coronam? It seems like an odd plan otherwise. 

Back in Coronam, Selena learns a lot has changed since she was still the princess. She's spent the last eight years trying to disassociate herself with the homeland that now hates her, but what she discovers may no longer make going back an option. Selena is the only one strong enough to start another war, and it might just be time to fight. Again, we need to know her motivation for leaving, and why they hate her now. Also, I'm not sure I'd put so much emphasis on the plan being try to convince people she's the wrong person, if she then has to turn around and convince people to follow her into a war. Seems like really shaky logic, and a very abrupt change of heart, which will make agents wonder if the text suffers because of the flip-flop.

Coronam's Lost is a YA fantasy completed at 92,000 words, and is available upon request. It will appeal to lovers of strong, female characters, political and moral issues, as well as readers who enjoyed Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, The Young Elites by Marie Lu and Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. I've attended creative writing classes, and am a member of SCBWI.

So you say it has these things - strong female characters, political and moral issues - but I don't see them in the query. I see a girl who ran away from responsibility (why?) then flip-flops on what she wants (stay or go?) and a war against... ? and for... ? I have no idea. Get those things in the query.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Book Talk & Giveaway: THESE THINGS I'VE DONE by Rebecca Phillips

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.

Dara's first day back at her old school after a year away is nerve wracking - and not because she doesn't know what to wear. Everyone believes she killed her best friend, Aubrey - and over a boy, of all things. When Aubrey fell (or was she pushed?) in front of a truck, she died instantly, leaving Dara with the consequences.

A year living with her aunt and uncle and receiving therapy has helped clear her head. Returning to her old school to graduate is something she feels she has to do. But that means coming face to face with all of her old friends, as well as the person who has the most cause to hate her - Ethan, Aubrey's little brother.

But Ethan - of all people - actually defends her from the taunts in the hallway, though she doesn't recognize him at first. The skinny kid she knew has grown into something else, someone she might even be attracted to - if that didn't mean one more, final, betrayal of her best friend.

Want to help me with 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 of winning.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Melanie Crowder On Writing For Yourself

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 for the SNOB is Melanie Crowder, author of many books for young readers including PARCHED, A NEARER MOON, and her newest, AN UNINTERRUPTED VIEW OF THE SKY

Is it hard to leave behind the first YA and focus on the second?

The hardest thing was getting out of the form and voice of my first YA. In Audacity, my protagonist was such a force, and by the time I had finished revisions, the verse novel form was like second nature to me. But I had no interest in writing the same book, only with different characters in a different situation, so I really had to yank myself out of that first book so I could give An Uninterrupted View of the Sky the space to be its own story.

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

Really early on. There are two philosophies here—one where you devote months and sometimes years to promoting one book, banking on the first’s success to propel the second into even greater success, and another where you launch the one (of course doing every last thing your publicist asks of you) and then let go, freeing up the creative space for something new.

I chose the second. I’m happiest when I’m working on that next book, so that’s where I put my energy.

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

My stories are for my readers, but I write for me. It’s become a huge part of who I am. When I have a productive writing day, I feel good about myself and my place in the world. When I don’t I’m a little like a runner who takes a day off and then feels sluggish as a result. There is nothing else that fills me up like writing does. So yes, I write for me.

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

Absolutely. Correspondence with editors, publicists, and the school and library team. Social media. Bookkeeping and taxes. School visits. Award acceptance speeches to write and banquets to attend. Conferences keynotes to deliver and book festivals to gear up for.

All of this takes energy, and it takes time. (Of course, some of it is much more fun than other parts. Yes, taxes, I’m looking at you.)

I have found that scheduling myself to prioritize writing time is essential. I try to stay off email and social media until the late morning, after I’ve had time to work on my story. If I’m traveling, I try to plan for a day of reading when I get home to replenish my energy and inspiration.

I don’t have the luxury of writing a book and setting it aside for months to simmer anymore like I did before I was published. My deadlines won’t allow for it. So that means I need to be disciplined with my time and I also need to take care of my creative energy. If I let myself become too depleted, my stories will suffer. And no amount of writing “business” is worth that.

What did you do differently the second time around, with the perspective of a published author?

I think the biggest difference was that my editor and I were familiar with one another this time around. Audacity’s success set a really high bar for An Uninterrupted View of the Sky, but it also gave us a great foundation to build upon.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Lots Going On!

There is a lot going on in my life online right now, which of course means it's the perfect time for me to disappear to a hideaway in the woods with no internet connection.

First off, don't miss the newest podcast episode featuring Middle Grade author and playwright Tara Dairman. Tara talks about how to use social media when your target audience may not necessarily be online, and how writing plays influences her fiction, as well as the value of contests when you're in the query trenches.



What else is going on with me?

GIVEN TO THE SEA has been released on audio book! With performances by Monika Felice Smith, Robbie Daymond, Alex McKenna, and Sunil Malhotra, it's a winner. If you're looking for something to do over the next eleven hours or so, give it a listen.

If you want to read a physical book instead and think that getting books before their publication date is cool, check out this giveaway of THIS DARKNESS MINE on Goodreads.

And lastly, if you follow me on Instagram you'll notice that I've been doing an Instagram challenge for #Pitchwars on there. Writing advice, pictures of cats, more about me... who knows what all is going to end up on there.


Friday, July 7, 2017

BookTalk & ARC Giveaway: A LINE IN THE DARK by Malinda Lo

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.

Jess and Angie are best friends, and even though Jess has long harbored romantic feelings for Angie, she manages to keep it a secret. But her feelings are bubbling out, finding expression in her artwork, especially the series of comics she works on that Angie is a fan of.

When Angie meets Margot, a girl from a neighboring private school, sparks fly - but some are from Jess. Angie and Margot instantly hit it off, but Jess struggles with anger, and more than a little jealousy. When a friend from Jess' art program tells her an alarming story about Margot and her cohorts, Jess worries that warning Angie will only make her look spiteful.

With tension in their friendship seeping into her artwork, Angie has a hard time avoiding her feelings. Margot is unbearable, Angie is changing, and everything seems to be going wrong. When Angie invites Jess along to one of Margot's parties, personalities explode, tempers escalate, and a line is crossed that leaves someone dead.

Want to help me with 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 of winning.

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Monday, July 3, 2017

June Podcast Roundup & A Quick Copyright Lesson

I know a few things about copyright, some of it coming from my research training, and a big chunk learned over 15 years working as a librarian. It's a highly complicated - and often contentious - subject. However, I'm always amazed at how little authors know about it. I thought I'd use the podcast to help illuminate a little... and if you'd like to know more, I'm happy to continue with the topic next month.


Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.

Fifteen-year-old Prince Kyan has been preparing to be Creftenbaugh's next king for as long as he can remember. But so has his quick-tempered identical twin brother, Sayled. With the coronation ceremony quickly approaching and confusion over who was the first-born prince, King Rowden announces a series of five trials that? will determine the next ruler. Each prince will compete using nine criminals from the prisons, leading them as a general would his troops.

Kyan knows he’s studied harder than his twin and is determined to prove he’s the better prince to keep Creftenbaugh peaceful and prosperous. Unfortunately, his memorized facts and figures are useless for training his prisoners. He struggles to keep the peace and make them work together, even after he offers their freedom if they win. Very good. I think you might want to add here what Sayled's training has been. Is her more military minded? Do these trails favor him over Kyan? We also need to know more about what these trials are like, even if they are vastly different from one another. Are these troops facing each other in battle? Solving puzzle like traps? Fighting dragons? Use this opportunity to get more genre-feel into the query. This is fantasy, sure. But is it high fantasy? Are there creatures? Is there magic?

One of Kyan’s prisoners, thirteen-year-old Enna, is desperate to return to her orphaned younger sister and sees an opportunity to help the prince. She shares information about the other prisoners with Kyan, which he then uses to gain their loyalties. Maybe a touch more detail here. Typically sharing information sounds like sabotage, not something that leads to gaining loyalties. It might even help to give more of an overall view of what the relationship here is like. Does Enna help Kyan learn how to relate to his troops, bringing them together as one? Something like that might be more helpful than going into detail about information?

After Kyan win(s) the first two trials, he can practically feel the crown on his head. But when a notorious gambler blackmails Enna with her sister’s life to ensure long-shot Sayled is Sayled the long-shot b/c Kyan won the first two? Or was he always? is the next king, her focus turns from winning the trials to sabotaging them.

Told in alternating points-of-view between the boy trying to win the crown and the girl who would do anything to stop him, PRINCES AND PAWNS is a 70,000-word upper-middle-grade fantasy. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Honestly, this looks pretty good. There's a lot of green type up there, but it's mostly for guidance. I think you need to blend the two paras that deal with Enna together, which will give the query a more focused look, and also illustrates the change in her character and goals over the course of a small amount of type, which is ideal for a query. There are a couple of echoes in the first para that I highlighted, and I think we need a feel for what the trials are like, which will in turn illustrate your world. Other than that I think you're in good shape.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Book Talk & Giveaway: THE YELLOW ENVELOPE by Kim Dinan

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.

Kim Dinan had a nice house, a car, a great job, and all the trappings of the American Dream by her mid-twenties... but she also had a nagging sense that she was missing out on something bigger. The feeling grew, and unhappiness seeped in. Finally, Kim realized she not only wanted to - she needed to - travel. Her husband agreed, and the two of them sold everything they owned to travel the world for three years.

Kim's memoir talks about her experience in other countries, the need that sent her out of her comfort zone and into unfamiliar territory, and how writing along the way helped her sort out her feelings about modern life, society, and on a more personal level - her marriage.

I had the chance to talk with Kim on the Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire podcast. Listen in to learn more about Kim and her world travels, and how they culminated in a memoir.



Want to help me with 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 of winning.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tabitha Lord, Winner of Writer's Digest 2016 Grand Prize for Self-Published Fiction, on Finding Inspiration

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 Tabitha Lord, whose debut novel, HORIZON, won the Writer’s Digest Grand Prize for Self-Published fiction in 2016, and was named finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the Indie Excellence Awards. The sequel, INFINITY, was released in June 2017. Tabitha also has short fiction published and soon-to-be published through World Weaver Press, Kristell Ink, and Sci-Fi Saturday Night.

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’ve always been a big sci-fi fan, so when I started writing fiction I knew it would be sci-fi, at least to start. When I’m in a creative, imaginative place, my mind generally goes straight to sci-fi! For me, this genre is also a place to consider serious, meaningful issues in a different context, slightly removed from the real world. 

With the Horizon series, I had two distinct parts of a story floating in my head. The first was the crash sequence at the start of book 1. It was more basic at the time of its inception – just a young man who crash-lands on a planet, and a young woman, in some kind of trouble, who saves his life. 

The second part was more complex. I was playing with the idea of what would happen if one segment of an already small, isolated population evolved differently, either naturally or by design, from the other. What if some had gifts that enabled them to imagine a different kind of future for themselves and their world? What if they were empathic and could sense each other’s emotions and thoughts? What if some of them could heal with their mind? How would the unchanged people feel about their neighbors? Then I thought, what if the young woman who saves the pilot is one of those gifted people? It created such an interesting premise I knew I had to find a way to make the whole thing into a story.

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

I was so excited when the two ideas I mentioned earlier coalesced that I just dove into writing. Pretty quickly, though, the concept grew beyond a standalone novel, and I knew that if I didn’t get my thoughts organized, I could really lose my way. I took a brief time-out from drafting and roughly outlined all three books. I knew, at the very least, where each book had to begin and end. The outline became the framework for each book, around which I filled in the details and let the creativity flow. 

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

That’s a great question, and the answer is yes and no! I’ve read several great blogs about the difference between “story” and “plot”, and although I know a good bit about writing craft, it wasn’t until I came upon the simplest definition of the two that something shifted in my process. Story is the “what” and plot is the “how." Many plotlines can tell the same story.

I’ve definitely made major changes to my manuscripts - from the outline to the first draft and from the first draft to the final edition. This used to feel very disconcerting to me, especially during developmental edits, when entire scenes would get tossed or reimagined. But when I embraced the idea that the plot could change in service to the story, I settled down a bit. I want the best telling of my story, and I’m willing to rework the plot until I get there. So, I’ve had ideas firmly in mind that changed as I wrote or edited, but my overall story concept remained intact and served as the driving force for the book.

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

It’s funny because the stumbling block that prevented me from writing fiction for years was this notion that I didn’t have any good ideas, or that even if I had the seed of an idea, I wouldn’t be able to turn it into a whole story. Once I started writing, both notions completely disappeared. It was like the dam burst! But what I really think happens is that being creative inspires more creativity. The activity of writing inspires more writing. 

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

Right now I’m writing a series, so although I do have other ideas percolating, I’ve committed to finishing this project. In between writing the full-length novels, I’ll often write short stories. They create the same satisfying feeling of completing a story arc, but in a fraction of the time, and they give me a chance to explore other ideas. But when I know I’ve hit on an idea that wants to be a novel, I’ll take the time to outline it, and then I’ll save it and tell it to wait its turn!  

2016 was not an easy year. Do you draw any inspiration from the world around you, or do you use writing as pure escapism?

I recently read a quote attributed to Albert Camus that said, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” I have to say, that feels like an awful lot of pressure! My goal with writing is, first and foremost, to tell a good story. But I believe that most writers have a theme they tackle, or some issue they wrestle with, through their writing. With the Horizon series, I’m definitely exploring the idea of what it means to be a hero. What quality of character compels a person to risk their life for an ideal, or for a stranger? Who takes a stand? Who fights? Who turns a bling eye? I think these are questions for all ages, as relevant now as they ever were in human history. I’m inspired by today’s world to keep asking those questions. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

New Podcast With Jessica Strawser, Editor of Writer's Digest

Summer is officially here, and I am outside as much as possible. I just turned in a manuscript on June 1, submitted a proposal for something new last week, and now I'm turning my efforts towards mulching... and also maybe dipping my toes into some non-fiction.

I have a ton - and I mean that, they're weighable - of appearances scheduled in the fall and will be updating my site soon with all of those venues. I tend to keep my summer light, but that doesn't mean the podcast and blog go dark.

Today's episode features Jessica Strawser, editor of Writer’s Digest, and author of ALMOST MISSED YOU, which was named to the March 2017 Barnes & Noble Best New Fiction List. Jessica joins host Mindy McGinnis to talk about how her career in journalism led to a position at Writers Digest, and how that informs her fiction writing, as well as her novel, ALMOST MISSED YOU, which deals with miscommunication in relationships, the all-encompassing love of motherhood, and the question of if we truly know our significant other.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Book Talk: THE GALLERY OF UNFINISHED GIRLS by Lauren Karcz

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.

Mercedes Moreno is supposed to do something great with her art... if only she could remember how to create it. Last year she won awards, this year nothing is happening. With her abuela in a coma in Puerto Rico and her mom gone to be by her side, Mercedes finds herself at home with her younger sister, who has suddenly developed a musical talent that borders on genius, all because of a gifted piano that appeared in their front lawn one morning.

With her sister blossoming and her own gifts dying on the vine, Mercedes finds inspiration when Lilia, her mysterious new neighbor, invites her to the Red Mangrove Estate. In Lilia's studio, Mercedes and other artists find creativity without having to search for it. Each room could house a painter, a sculptor, a band, or even a bartender, but the catch is that nothing you create inside of the Estate can leave. Any canvases that slip outside the door suddenly become blank.

As she worries over her grandmother's health, her mom's absence, the new turn of her sister's life, and the secret love she harbors for her best friend, Mercedes must find a way to bring her art to life outside the walls of the estate.
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 of winning.

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Monday, June 19, 2017

What I'm Up To This Week

Today on the podcast, Tiffany McDaniel, author THE SUMMER THAT MELTED EVERYTHING joins me to talk about eleven years of rejection, making sure that human emotion and characters trump the setting, being a female author who prefers to write dark themes, and the cons of using technology in your manuscript.



On Tuesday, June 20th I will be at the Mentor Public Library, where I will be talking about the true story of mental health care in the 1890s and the history of the Athens Lunatic Asylum, the setting for A MADNESS SO DISCREET.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Book Talk & Giveaway: THE ART OF STARVING by Sam J. Miller

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

When Matt's sister Maya runs away, he's convinced that Tariq and his friends did something terrible to her. He knows that Maya called Tariq the night she split, but has no idea why. Anger swells in Matt - anger at Maya for leaving, his mom for letting her, at Tariq for whatever he did, and at himself. It's hard to hate Tariq when he's gorgeous, which makes Matt hate himself even more.

The only thing Matt can control in his life is what he eats - or how little. With a dwindling calorie count - and sometimes days passing with no food - Matt makes a discovery. Food is slowing him down, dumbing his senses. When he doesn't eat, Matt finds he develops super powers. He knows when people carry secrets, can hear conversations across their collapsing town, and can even suspend time if he tries hard enough.

But his plan to get close to Tariq only to destroy him soon backfires, as Tariq's own secret is something Matt could have never guessed. With his body wasting away, his heart falling hard for Tariq, his mother slipping further into alcoholism and his sister nowhere to be found, Matt keeps pushing himself harder while eating less.

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 of winning.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Elle Cosimano & The Inspiration for THE SUFFERING TREE

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 Elle Cosimano, whose debut, Nearly Gone, was a 2015 Edgar Award finalist and winner of the International Thriller Award. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Horror Writers Association, and Sisters In Crime. She was selected for the 2012 Nevada SCBWI Agented & Published Authors’ Mentorship Program, where she worked under the guidance of Ellen Hopkins.

Her newest release, The Suffering Tree, is available today!

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?

Back in September of 2010, I chaperoned my youngest son’s kindergarten field trip to a local apple orchard. I had just finished drafting my very first book. This was a few months before I’d found an agent and knew I would have a career as an author, but my mind must have been hungry, already searching for that next potential story. As the school bus rattled down a winding country road, I caught a glimpse of an old, private cemetery in the middle of a grassy field. It was little more than a small ring of leaning headstones under a dying tree.

The image struck me hard and the memory of it stayed with me for days. The fields along that stretch of road were lush with soybeans and corn, almost ready for harvest. The trees surrounding those fields were dense and high and emerald green everywhere you looked. But that field . . . Under that tree was a circle of weeds and dying grass. It was as if nothing wanted to live near those headstones. The tree itself looked like it had died a long time ago. The bark had already mostly peeled away and the branches were bleached white by the sun. I started wondering what had sucked all the life from that tree and the ground around those graves. I started wondering who was buried there.

A few days later, I drove back to the field with my camera. I walked through the cemetery, trying to read the names and dates on the stones. They were old and worn thin, covered in moss. Some had heaved up and others leaned as if they’d fall over. The tree and that ring of fallow ground, felt so grossly out of place in that sunny, green field. And all those questions—who lived here before, who died here, who lived here now and did they also feel out of place somehow—became the seed for the rest of the story.


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

I always start with character. Going into it, I knew I was telling two stories—the story of the person who was buried under the tree, and the story of the person who lived on this farm now. So I started by creating those people (their lives, their circumstances, the struggle that brought their stories together) first. I had to figure out who each of the characters were, and how they both ended up here, in this cemetery, on this farm, in the same moment in time. 

I started with Nathaniel Bishop, kidnapped as a child from the streets of England in the 1690s and sold illegally into a seven-year indenture into the Maryland tobacco colonies to the unscrupulous and violent owner of a tobacco plantation. From there, I had to figure out how he died, what his connection was to that tree, and what reason would he have for coming back from the grave.

Then came my present day story. Who would find Nathaniel when he emerged? Why was she there? What connected their backstories? What was their shared objective? What did they most yearn for and why? And that’s where Tori Burns’ story was born—a modern day high school student struggling with depression and self-harm and the death of a parent, and her ensuing move to a strange farm and the mysterious inheritance of a home and cemetery there.

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

I think my plots are always a moving target. I know my beginning and I usually have a hazy destination in mind for the end. But the middles are often a mystery to me, and I have to write my way through them. Often more than once. Sometimes more than twice. Revision is usually where I uncover the truth in my stories. The theme and the threads all seem to make themselves known at the end of that first draft, and come together as I begin to tinker with it.

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

I always have at least three of four unexplored story ideas floating around my mind. A moment, a picture, a conversation, or a place will inspire an idea that becomes the seed. It grows into a scene in my mind, and eventually an idea for a story. And each one nags at me until I start hashing it out and start putting it down on paper.

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

It’s usually the one that’s nagging the loudest. Once I clearly hear the character’s voice in my head, and picture at least one scene that sets the mood and the tone of the story, I’m off and running on that one, and the others have to sit quiet for a while.

2016 was not an easy year. Do you draw any inspiration from the world around you, or do you use writing as pure escapism?

This book was mostly written before 2016 began, but I do think there are some relevant themes and ideas running through it, namely the corrosive effects of hidden prejudices and latent bigotries, everyday racism and sexism that goes unnoticed or unchecked. How fear and greed can make us want to demonize others, twist the facts or bury the truth about ourselves when it doesn’t suit our own ends. And how the damage can rise up and haunt us over generations, until we’re finally forced to confront our ugliest fears and dredge up our deepest secrets.

I guess you could say I write for escapism. Because I love making up and telling tales. But my stories are alive and my characters are real to me. They breathe and they bleed, and there’s a whisper of our own world blowing through all of them.

Monday, June 12, 2017

I Worked All Day... And Didn't Write A Word

Last week I tweeted this:

Quite a few authors seconded me on that - and then it happened again this past Friday. I was up at a decent hour (for a self-employed person) and spent the entire day working, yet didn't write a word on a WIP. How's that possible?

I'll break it down.

9-10 AM: Exchanged texts with a writer whose book I'm blurbing about talking points of her novel and what kind of wording worked best to get those across in a small snippet.

10-12 PM: Answered emails. Yes, honestly, for two hours. I was on a trip with very little internet access (but many, many ticks) from Monday-Wednesday and had a buildup of emails that needed answering. Even without that influx, I do generally spend roughly two hours on emails every day.

On this particular day I needed to listen to audio snippets from three different actresses for the audiobook version of THIS DARKNESS MINE to choose who I liked best for the narrator, answer emails from both the agent and the editor about marketing things coming up, confer with the coordinator for my event that evening to make sure necessary tech was in place, answer questions about a different event concerning best time / date options, and fill out questionnaires about yet another event concerning tech, content, and what books I would like to have available for sale at said event. I also fielded and sent emails with upcoming podcast guests, looking to find good times for us to get together to record our sessions.

12-1 PM: Read and critiqued a project pitch for a fellow author, then conferred with her over text about whether it not it represented the manuscript well. (It did, because this is RC Lewis we're talking about, and the woman knows how to write a pitch.)

1-2 PM: Finished writing up notes for a manuscript critique of a Middle Grade I had read for an aspiring writer. (If you're interested, click here). Emailed editorial letter and line edits to the author.

2-4 PM: Wrote a proposal for a manuscript of my own, sent it off to trusty RC Lewis who read, reviewed, and sent back to me with her nitty-nit-picks which keep my work so clean in the first place. (I don't know how to use a semi-colon, basically). Sent proposal off to the agent, realized I desperately needed to put on pants and head to an event.

4-7 PM: Drove to an event, did my thing, met with some awesome teens and had a great talk at a library, sold some books, signed some books, drove home - I did also eat at this point, you'll notice I hadn't done that yet - and upon getting home checked in on email once again in order to follow up on all the conversations that resulted as part of those earlier emails.

7-8 PM: Uploaded artwork and ordered swag for THIS DARKNESS MINE bookmarks and postcards, then dealt with formatting issues when they came back and needed adjustments. Said bad words. Re-uploaded.

8-11 PM: Read a book! Yes, it's part of what I consider work - with a healthy dose of pleasure, as well, of course. I've got ARCs piled on the nightstand that need to be read, some for blurb purposes, some for being featured here on the blog, as well as for giveaways. I also read the novels of my upcoming podcast guests, so that I can have informed, intelligent conversations with them about their work and process.

That's an entire day of work, and very little writing. This is the life of a writer - and so little of what we do is writing.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: ULTIMATE SACRIFICE by S.E. Green

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.

Vickie's small town life has always been predictable... until the little neighbor girl turns up slaughtered in the woods, with evidence of a Satanic ritual surrounding the crime scene. Suddenly Vickie's family - her older brother's relationships, her younger brother's anger outbursts, and the fact that she babysat the victim - is of interest to the entire country.

With reporters camped on the road and her life under a microscope, Vickie works to clear her family's name, but begins to learn things she isn't sure she wants to know, such as how close her father was to the dead girl's mom, and some of the extracurricular activities that her parents' circle of friends participated in when they were teens themselves.

As her supposedly normal family unravels before her eyes, Vickie begins to realize that the people she knows best may not be who she thought they were.

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 of winning.

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

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.

Ever heard someone say they had to run the gauntlet? Most people know what this means, but not perhaps the origin of the word. And for those of you who don't know what it means, I'll enlighten you.

During the Thirty Years War (1618- 1648) the English army adopted a punishment they observed their German counterparts employing. The offending soldier stripped to the waist and ran between two lines of their fellow solders, each of whom was holding a whip or a lash, and they beat their buddy on the back as he passed. Number of run throughs and number of knots in the lashes depended upon the severity of the soldier's crime.

Sound rough? Well, we're German. However, the German army claimed to have picked it up from the Swedish, where it was known as gatloppe, literally translated as "the running of the lane."

So think about that next time you're in a really nice development whose streets are all called "Insert Relaxing Word Here - Lane."

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Alexandra Ott On Continuing to Write While On Submission

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 Alexandra Ott, author of RULES FOR THIEVES, from Aladdin (Simon and Schuster). She graduated from the University of Tulsa with a BA in English and is currently an editorial intern at Entangled Publishing.  In her spare time, she plays the flute, eats a lot of chocolate, and reads just about everything. She lives in Oklahoma with her tiny canine overlord.

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

I had a basic understanding of the process; at the time, I’d been interning at a publishing company for about 6 months, so I knew a little about what acquisition is like on the editor’s side of things. But it was a completely different experience to actually go on sub myself!

Did anything about the process surprise you?

I was actually surprised by how quickly the process went! I knew that it could take a year or more, so I tried to prepare myself for a long wait. I didn’t even consider the possibility that we might get an offer after only a few months, but we did!

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

I did look up a few of the editors at first, but I stopped pretty quickly. Imagining those editors reading my manuscript made me too nervous. Personally, I found it less nerve-wracking to try and focus on other things.

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

It really varied, but I think the majority of the responses came in around the two month mark. Since we received an offer relatively quickly, my agent had to nudge quite a few of the editors we hadn’t heard from yet; I don’t know how long it would have taken otherwise.

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

Work on the next project, if you can. I ended up finishing a draft of a novel that’s very different from the one on sub, which helped me to focus on something else. I also highly recommend leaning on your critique partners for support!

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

For the most part, I found it much easier than querying. I asked my agent not to share the actual rejection emails with me, which helped a lot. There was one rejection in particular that was very disappointing, but I didn’t have much time to get too discouraged, because we received an offer soon afterward. :)

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

It was so surreal. My agent emailed the offer to me right away. I wasn’t expecting an offer to pop up in my inbox, but it was a great surprise! At first I didn’t believe it was real.

Did you have to wait a period of time before sharing your big news, because of details being ironed out? Was that difficult?

Yes, I had to wait several months while the contract was negotiated before the deal was announced. At the time it felt agonizing, because I didn’t know how long the wait was going to be and I was so excited to share the news! But in hindsight, it could have been a much, much longer wait; I was incredibly lucky to have both the submission process and the contract negotiation go quickly. :)

Monday, June 5, 2017

Why I Push My Backlist

As an author you quickly learn that a big part of your job is marketing. Once you are published you are no longer just a writer - you're a promoter, marketer, social media director, and even a traveling salesman. Many of us aren't well-suited for standing behind a table and hand-selling our books at events, but it's a skill you must learn if you plan on doing many events.

Hand-selling becomes easier as your backlist deepens. When I was a debut author with one title on my table - and, only in hardback for the first year - I might sell 7 or 8 copies at an event... and that was a good event. If post-apocalyptic survival wasn't your bag, I didn't have anything else to offer you.

This remained true for my second release, IN A HANDFUL OF DUST, as it was a companion novel to NOT A DROP TO DRINK. However, now that DRINK was out in paperback, readers were more likely to take a chance on a $10 paperback and a writer they weren't familiar with, rather than shelling over $18 for a hardcover just out of curiosity.

It gets easier.

Now I've got a table of titles. I can push DRINK & DUST to readers as young as 13, because they don't have the content that my newer titles do. I've also go that extra tag-on to add that DRINK has been optioned for a film - which never fails to drawn interest.

I snag older readers - and many, many adults, with A MADNESS SO DISCREET. Do you like mysteries? Historicals? Serial killers? Asylums? I've got all four right here, with a gorgeous cover that makes for an easy sell. And if I'm in Ohio I always add that it's set in Athens, home of Ohio University.

No matter where I am, THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES continues to be my best seller, even though it's only available in hardback at the moment. Teachers, librarians, booksellers, reviewers and bloggers have already done the work for me. I have readers arrive at my table knowing what they want already. And if you're not familiar with it I'll tell you it's a rape revenge vigilante justice story... so it's either right up your alley or it's not.

If you're a fantasy reader I've got GIVEN TO THE SEA fresh off the press, its eye-catching cover stopping many people who would normally pass on by. In my experience as a librarian, you either are or are not a fantasy reader, so I don't have to push that one too hard. I simply say if you like fantasy, check this out, place it in their hands with the back cover facing up so they can read the summary - they're either going to jump or not.

With this array - and more to come - I'm easily moving 50 to 60 copies at events now. Yes, it helps that I have established readers and a fan base now, but at many of my recent events I was out of state, and my returning fans tend to be Midwesterners. When I've got a reader new to my work in front of me, they often ask what's the best one to start with, and I invariably hand them NOT A DROP TO DRINK.

It's a good introduction to me - sparse, brutal, and honest. But it's also got the least amount of objectionable content, so I can hand it to a reader unfamiliar with my stuff as a way to dip their toe in the water. DRINK released in 2013, and continues to sell for me. When I'm asked which titles I want stocked at events (most cap your table at 5 books, some at 3), I always make sure DRINK is listed. It's a reliable stand by, a safe book to hand to a younger reader or a parent or grandparent looking for a gift.

And of course, it's my debut. The fact that it continues to find new readers makes me happy, and it's out there doing its job - introducing people to me.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

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.  

Please consider representing my speculative thriller, Song of the Forest. Complete at 88,000 words, it appeals to fans of Kat Richardson, Kelly Armstrong, and Charlaine Harris. Cool comps, but sometimes using big names can backfire because a lot of other queries may be using them too - as long as it's accurate, that's great. Just be sure it is.

Serial killer Karl Marsburg held gifted later on in the query it becomes clear that by gifted you mean something other than that she's good at her job. It changes he nature of the genre, so I'd make it clear earlier that you mean psychic abilities. NYPD detective Ellen Pijiw captive for three days. He tortured her and told her his plans for future crimes that he wanted to commit with her by his side. He had planned to keep her permanently – to make her into his companion, so he could use her mind reading abilities to attain more victims, but she was rescued by her friends in the NYPD before he finished "changing" her into a monster like him.

Three years later, Elle is finally starting to win a long battle with depression and PTSD. She’s returned to her small hometown in the middle of Maine where she works as a reporter for her uncle’s small newspaper. She is in love with her best friend, Deputy Camille Desjardins, but is afraid of being anything more than friends that because of what Marsburg did to her. What do you mean by this, specifically? Because she's afraid maybe he actually did change her in a fundamental way, or is this still a PTSD issue?

When the children of women who are Marsburg’s “type” the women are the type or the children are the type? start disappearing from The County, not caps the sheriff calls on Elle to use her abilities to find them the missing people. As she finds herself working side by side with Cam, it becomes difficult to deny her feelings for him. Okay, I totally thought Camille was a chick. The problem is, every touch carries the threat of a flash back. Marsburg’s return not only offers Elle a chance at revenge, but an opportunity to heal wounds that never closed.

Elle’s disabilities are partially based off my own experience with depression and social anxiety. Her struggle with PTSD was drawn from research and my experience with a minor case of PTSD caused by a car accident. I was the second place winner of Women on Writing’s Winter 2016 Flash Fiction Contest. My speculative, short fiction has been published in Secrets of the Goat People, Helios Quarterly,  Dark Magic: Witches, Hackers and Robots, and Theme of Absence.

Nice, good bio. Overall, this is strong. I would say that we need to know more about what Elle's specific abilities are, and how she is using them to aide in the investigation. Also, does she feel that Marsbrug is targeting her, or is it simply a case of him popping up in the same place as she is?

Friday, June 2, 2017

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: US KIDS KNOW by JJ Strong

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.

Brielle and Ray know that Cullen Hickson is trouble, but that doesn't mean they can say no to him. Brielle is suspicious that Cullen might have orchestrated the car crash that made her finally notice him, but now that he's in front of her she can't make herself look away. Cullen is different from her other friends, and makes her feel alive in ways they can't.

Ray feels it, too. Cullen makes it possible for him to do things he never thought he would - like committing some small-time crimes that slowly escalate as his need to push the edge grows. Ray's looking for God, and the only time he feels close to understanding anything is with Cullen.

Cullen, meanwhile, finds himself fulfilling the role the siblings have cast him in - even if it isn't who he truly is. The three of them push and pull each other through life changing - and ultimately deadly - scenarios.

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 of winning.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Kathleen Burkinshaw On Making Swag That Works & A Giveaway!

Most authors will agree that the creative part of the job is where we excel, the business and marketing side, slightly less. It’s lovely when the two can meet in the form of SWAG – Shit We All Generate. I’ve invited some published authors to share with us their secret to swag… little freebies that can sell a book longer after the author is no longer standing in front of a prospective reader. In order to create great swag, you have to be crafty – in more ways than one.

Today's guest for the SWAG is Kathleen Burkinshaw, author of THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM. Kathleen enjoyed a decade long career in HealthCare Management unfortunately cut short by the onset of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). Writing gives her an outlet for her daily struggle with chronic pain. She has carried her mother’s story her whole life and feels privileged to now share it with the world. Writing historical fiction also satisfies her obsessive love of researching anything and everything.

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

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Mindy 😊

Bookmarks are not a novel idea (sorry for the pun), but the stunning cover art for The Last Cherry Blossom (Thank you Katy Betz), looks fantastic on my bookmarks. I sent them to my publisher to have at their tables at conferences since they wouldn’t have my ARCs there prior to my pub date. I also printed postcards with the cover, a blurb, info to order book, and my social media info. For my book launch I ordered cherry blossom fans that had the book title on it, also lip gloss with the title on the top-I found these on discounted wedding supplies websites.  In addition to that I bought blossom candy molds that my friend and I used to make pink blossom chocolates. Discounted party supply stores made this affordable.

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

The fans were the most expensive($4 each), so I only used it during my NC launch and my New England launch for raffle, or special thank you gifts. The lip gloss was $1 each. The cherry blossom candies were inexpensive (plastic molds were $4 each and the candy melts were $2 a bag which makes a lot), and also a big hit. I also want to share that Shutterfly does freebies every so often and through that I have ordered magnets of my book cover, a notebook, and a tote bag-all for just the price of shipping. It’s been a great way for me to purchase extra SWAG without breaking my budget.




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

It depended on the event. My bookmarks and postcards sometimes draws them in at conferences. When I’m presenting at a school, I’ve signed them for students and that has gone over well.

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

I think that the larger swag items are great for a giveaway or may attract them to your table for your book, but it’s not something that I can afford to do all the time. However, the postcards can go a long way. When I’m presenting at a conference, I put the time and room of my presentation on the back of my postcard and hand them out. So that way, they may decide to come to my presentation and they have info to order the book. So even if they can’t attend the session, they know about my book. I have increased traffic to my presentations and sold books that way. It also is one of the least expensive items because I designed it myself.

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

Pins for a back pack or bag seem to be popular. One YA author had pins related to her book and I loved that.

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

Yes, especially when marketing to schools. The postcard for TLCB can be used to send invites to signings, as a thank you, or as an introduction to my book at schools and libraries.

Kathleen has graciously agreed to do a giveaway of a signed copy of THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM as well as a swag pack of bookmarks and magnet. Enter below to win!

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