Tuesday, February 28, 2012

On writing and beef stew

Yesterday, I went into a momma-frenzy.  That's what I call those days where you do piles of laundry, drive the extra mile to get the good meat at Trader Joe's (also some of those awesome dark chocolate peanut butter cups), make orthodontist appointments, pick up drycleaning, vaccuum the hall stairs...all those things that make the house feel organized and the family content and cared for.  Didn't get much writing done but I was feeling all set up for the week ahead and freed of the guilt of not feeding the family right because I cooked up a storm. Including a giant batch of amazing-smelling beef stew which I promised to feed the kids the very next evening.

Except that, after my ridiculously busy wash-drive-cook day, I tumbled into bed, forgetting the stew was cooling on the counter. This morning at 5 AM, I found the pot and had to throw the whole batch away. As my husband will attest, I was irrationally upset by this. (Details omitted because I don't like to curse on my blog.) And, in truth, I do know that violence and hunger and all kinds of horrible things are happening in the world and that my silly forgotten stew is NOT a real problem.

Still, I was pretty sure that this day, which I had carefully planned to alot five hours to writing, was now going to be a total bust due to my mood PLUS the fact that now the kids were likely to get tuna sandwiches for dinner.  I was about to curl up with a huge bowl of the aforementioned peanut butter cups when, suddenly, I decided to get in the car. I drove back to Trader Joe's while dictating a couple of really solid revision ideas into my phone. Resisting the urge to go straight to my computer when I got home, I went back to the stove, browned a fresh batch of meat, diced more carrots, onions and celery, and so on.

Despite being down to 2.5 hours of writing time, I am happy to report that the house smells great again. I look forward to seeing my kids' happy faces when they eat their delicious, promised, perfect-for-cold-nights stew supper.

I just wanted to share this with you before I open my manuscript because, for me, writing is a lot like that stew. Sometimes you dice and saute, write and revise, labor and love, only to be forced to throw it all away.

The trick is to forgive yourself, get back in the car, and start again.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

BOOKANISTAS: Mulling Middle Grade series

Having just sent off a completed manuscript, and in the midst of working on freelance book marketing job, my tbr pile is threatening to crush my bookshelf.  You'd think adding to books to the top, Jenga-style would be bad idea. So, of course, I'm doing it. I've been writing YA for a long time and my writer friends all know how I adore writing kissing scenes.  But I've written a lot of kisses lately and right now I've got an idea that feels more middle grade. As I contemplate developing it into a manuscript, I'm thinking back to middle grade series I've enjoyed, and seeking recommendations from my kids (alas, these are rather boy-book heavy), and making a new pile.  Here's where I'm starting...

THE SHADOW CHILDREN  by Margaret Peterson Haddix
SKULLDUGGERY PLEASANT by Derek Landy & Tom Percival
BETSY & TACY by Maude Hart Lovelace
PERCY JACKSON by Rick Riordan
THE MELENDY QUARTET by Elizabeth Enright
DEAR AMERICA (various authors)

I realize it's a bit of an odd mixture of paranormal and historical (or just old) titles.  Please do share any suggestions you may have to round out my list.

And here's what's on the minds of some of my lovely Bookanista friends...

Christine Fonseca interviews author L.K. Gardner-Griffie

Corinne Jackson announces Change Write Now: Round 2 signups are open
Carolina Valdez Miller adores UNDER THE NEVER SKY - with giveaway
Jen Hayley as a passion for PARTIALS
Debra Driza falls for THE FAULT IN OUR STARS
Jessica Love shares some TIME BETWEEN US cover talk
Tracy Banghart jumps for CATCHING JORDAN
LiLa Roecker is enthralled with THE NIGHT CIRCUS

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Me and my manuscript - or - Metaphors for letting go

Yesterday, I hit the "send" button and off the new ms went to my lovely crew of beta readers. Also, I threw up. I'm actually still kind of nauseous. See, because I'm a perfectionist. And a control freak. Oh, and a massive chicken.

So, anyway, I was thinking about letting go and a few images came to mind

-The first time you release your toddler's hand and see him walk on his own all the while knowing his future is full of tumbles.
- The curtain rises, the music starts and you have to open your mouth and sing even if you're only eighty percent certain you can hit the high note
- Okay, any time you sit in the dentist chair and let him start with the giant needles
- Your pub date: The day on which your book emerges into the world and there's not a single thing you can change anymore (another great day for puking and, yes, I have a weak stomach).

So, how did I ultimately hit send? With a lot of help from some lovely writer friends. And my mom :)

How do you let go? What's your metaphor?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bookanistas: STUNNING SECONDS interview with BETH REVIS

Wow, it's amazing being a debut novelist. But you can only do that once and I've come to realize that if you want to be a career writer, there's a lot to think about after that wild first pub date. So, today I am launching a new blog feature in which I interview YA authors about their NEXT novel.

Please welcome Beth Revis for our innaugural edition of...

1. Tell the story of selling your second novel, A MILLION SUNS. Was it part of your first book deal or a separate project? Do you have the same publisher and/or editor for this book?

It was part of the book deal--I sold ACROSS THE UNIVERSE as a trilogy. Which was really funny, as I'd originally thought of AtU as a stand-alone. I think I was the only person on Earth who had a mini-panic-attack at the thought of selling MORE books!

2. As you prepared to write your second (published) novel, did you worry about making the book similar to (or different from) your first book? Did you think about reviews, book #1’s fans’ expectations, or other factors? Did you have any issues with writers’ block?

Everyone always says that the second book is the hardest--and they ain't lying! What's more, I desperately wanted to avoid the sophomore slump.

With my first draft, I think I tried too much to stick to what worked in ACROSS THE UNIVERSE. I gave myself what I called "Catching-Fire-Syndrome." While I love those books, CATCHING FIRE was my least favorite because I felt it was too close to HUNGER GAMES. Which is *exactly* what I did with my first draft of A MILLION SUNS.

So I rewrote the book. Then, I realized that what I'd originally planned wasn't working--so I rewrote it again. And one more time, just for luck.

I didn't really worry too much with reviews or reader's expectations--mainly because every review or reader expectation was different from the one before. You cannot please everyone. So I didn't bother even trying.

But I'd be lying if I said that I didn't add the Elder-is-pantsless scenes for the girls who think he's hot.

3. What would be your #1 WRITING TIP FOR BOOK 2?
Start working on it AS SOON AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE. I gave myself a "break" after finishing edits on Book 1, which was a huge mistake. One week turned into four, and by the time I started writing, I'd pushed myself into a corner. I had to rush to get it to crit partners, rush to get it done by deadline. I wish I'd started much much sooner.

4. Are you doing the same type of marketing for the second book as you did for the first? Do you feel you’ve found a “comfort zone” for self-marketing? How have you done so?

Well, I try to pay attention to what works and what doesn't work in terms of marketing. I definitely think the classic bookmarks, bookplates, etc., and making them available to readers, works. This year, I'm experimenting with rubber band bracelets. But also working on doing more live experiences, etc.

I've toned down on online interaction in some areas. I think I over-saturated the blogosphere with an overabundance of interviews, so I'm doing less of them this year--especially as I found myself answering the exact same questions over and over again. I'm not doing guest posts as much, either, but that's mostly because they take so much time for me, and I'm simply short on time, this year more than last.

5. What would be your #1 MARKETING TIP FOR BOOK 2?

Weigh your options: for every penny you spend on marketing, ask if it's reasonable to expect that much in return for your investment. Same goes with time--is the marketing endeavor worth your time? I was so excited to be published, that I definitely wanted to do all the things! But some of it, while fun, wasn't worth the expense in either time or money.  That said, some was: don't be afraid to experiment with marketing ideas, but keep track of expense versus pay-off.

6. What’s next for you as a writer? As a, well, human?

As a writer: more words! I'm working on SHADES OF EARTH now, the third book, and I've got an idea I'm super excited about for the next book. But first, finishing SHADES OF EARTH!

As a person? Well, I'm actually taking time out this year for a vacation with my family, so that's exciting! :)

Find Beth around the interwebs at...

And here's some more Bookanista fun!
Christine Fonseca surrenders to THE SECRET OF SPRUCE KNOLL

Corrine Jackson delights in CHOPSTICKS
Jen Hayley gives a shout-out to the classics
Debra Driza celebrates CINDER – with giveaway!
Katy Upperman raves over JELLICOE ROAD
Hilary Wagner is all about LEXAPROS AND CONS – with giveaway
Carolina Valdez Miller talks about the tremendous cover of TEN

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bookanistas: DARK COMPANION by Marta Acosta

Plot without spoilers...Trauma and loss marked Jane Williams' early years and life as a foster child. Then, she receives a scholarship to Birch Grove Academy for Girls--it's her ticket out of poverty and she'd be a fool not to take it. But, perhaps Birch Grove wants Jane to give something in return.

Of literary interest...This is a wonderfully dark, twisty gothic novel that makes reference to its own literary history with quotations from classic gothic works as the entry point for each chapter. The author's exploration of names and nicknames, words and their definitions is used as both an engaging literary device and an element in the unraveling of one of Birch Grove's mysteries.

Finally, just gotta say...I am not a particular fan of gothic or supernatural tales but this book hooked me. At first, I was drawn in by the wonderful literary quotations and the author's obvious deep knowledge of the gothic novel genre. But then, her surprising and different take on the supernatural got its claws into me and I found myself delving into the story. I don't want to give away the plot but the author has a fresh and original take on some popular paranormal beings that'll keep you thinking long after you've read the final chapter.

For more Bookanista scares and delights this week, click along...

Christine Fonseca takes a shine to A MILLION SUNS

Carolina Valdez Miller falls for FRACTURE
Jen Hayley surrenders to THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED
Nikki Katz wonders at THE FAULT IN OUR STARS
Debra Driza is overwhelmed by UNDER THE NEVER SKY
Jessica Love gives a trophy to BEAUTY QUEENS
Shelli Johannes-Wells takes you on a tour of The Reading Room
Tracy Banghart has double-love for THE SILVER PHOENIX and FURY OF THE PHOENIX
Hilary Wagner is in the grips of THE GATHERING STORM

Monday, February 6, 2012

Getting Naked (Metaphorically) on the Blog

Recently, I have been engaged in a very cathartic (and occasionally curse-laden) email string with some awesomely wonderful wish-they-were-my-sisters writer friends in which I have confessed my growing urge to be "more myself" in the cyberverse. And by "myself," I mean, lifting the veil on the often dark writer me and the very cynical book-marketer me. Saying the stuff I usually reserve for rants to the hubs. (I first alluded to this topic online here.)  I even went so far as to write and then deleted a couple of rather earthy blog posts. Several friends admitted that they, too, have drafted very forthright blog entries which they may never post.
While, I am clearly still a chicken-heart in terms of being "me" on the internet, I will say that expectations for today's authors (especially new and debut) are that they will make a strong effort to help promote their work, especially online. You know, get yourself a blog, a twitter, a fb, a tumblr... build yourself an online "persona," maybe a "platform" (yeah--me either), and embark on a blog tour. I, frankly, love the internet (perhaps too much) and so none of this worried me. In fact, I started multiple websites, organized a group author tour, blogged, gave stuff away and on and on.  I learned a ton and wouldn't necesarily change what I did, but impact on sales...?

The thing is, we all know how many books are being published every week and pretty much every author is doing some variation of all this stuff. It's almost become static--elevator music. There's little data to show whether any of this stuff directly moves a significant number of "units" (aka books)--unless you're, er, already in the limelight via television celebrity or significant success in another industry. And everybody's working so hard to create this type of content while NOT WRITING ANY MORE BOOKS!!!

I truly love my writing community and want to build writers up. So my question for all of us is: How does one stand out admist all this virtual white noise? Are snark, cynicism and controversy the only styles that will engender blog hits (that, again, arguably don't sell books anyway)? Will we be reduced to Lindsay Lohans and forced to bare our, er, souls? Should we even try?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Bookanistas: DIES IRAE by Christine Fonseca

I've known Christine for awhile through online writer connections but finally had the pleasure of meeting her in person this past October.  She is an amazing, dynamic and passionate person. I am so excited be part of the whirlwind tour for the release of her novella DIES IRAE--the story of three angels sent to live as teenagers on Earth, where they discover rumblings of demonic activity, romance and an adventure no one ever foresaw. Once you read DIES IRAE, you'll be longing for the publication of the rest of the novels in her Requiem series.

I asked Christine to talk a little bit about her title choices and how music inspired the series.

The series is based on a mass - the natural progression through the judgment and reconciliation process. The four titles are DIES IRAE, LACRIMOSA, LIBERA ME, and REQUIEM. And like the titles (and the mass quotes that go with them) imply, each book deals with that "topic". This whole thing started with my LOVE for Mozart's Requiem. I listened to it non-stop when the original idea for LACRIMOSA started. My agent at the time made me retitle the story. That never sat well. So after I parted with her, shelved the story and then had some doors suddenly open for the book - and a series - I restored the title. Anyways, I researched angel and demon lore from every major spiritual point of view - Christian/Catholic, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Zorastrian, etc. That research embued me with the mythos I wanted for the storyline. The rest came on its own. The titles were specifically picked when I went BACK to my original LACRIMOSA, using an English translation of the DIES IRAE and the Requiem mass - I chose the titles based on the themes each story represented.

So, you need to know more, right?

Coming in March!
School psychologist by day, critically acclaimed YA and nonfiction author by night, Christine Fonseca believes that writing is a great way to explore humanity. Her debut YA Gothic series, The Requiem Series, including DIES IRAE and LACRIMOSA, examines the role of redemption, sacrifice and love. When she’s not writing or spending time with her family, she can be found sipping too many skinny vanilla lattes at her favorite coffee house or playing around on Facebook and Twitter. Catch her daily thoughts about writing and life on her blog.

Christine Fonseca interviews author Denise Grover Swank
Jessi Kirby and Jen Hayley are wowed by WANDERLOVE
Corrine Jackson is mesmerized by MAY B.
Debra Driza is entranced by HEMLOCK
Katy Upperman delves into THE DISENCHANTMENTS
Nikki Katz celebrates CINDER
Tracy Banghart marvels at JULIET IMMORTAL
Jessica Love spotlights SHINE