Thursday, February 28, 2013

Filling the character well...

When I am writing/revising a novel, I carry my characters around with me all the time. Thoughts they might have, words they might say, pop into my mind at the strangest times. I do a great deal of research, including reading, interviews, and character worksheets. However, there's an evanescent part of character-building that I, for one, cannot quite reach through these methods. For this, I need movement or music. Although I rarely play tunes while actually writing, I find that music brings me to an emotional space that connects facts with feeling. For my current novel, I've been listening to a lot of
Miles Davis
Neon Trees
Ingrid Michaelson
Makem & Clancy
The Civil Wars
The Lumineers

An eclectic mix, I know, but it does what it needs to do: Open my heart and set my characters free.

And, while I'm revising and insufficiently participating in other blogospheric fun, here are a couple of virtual places you might want to visit today:

Bookanistas:  Jessica Love has high praise for ELEANOR & PARK, and Katy Upperman  shines a light on THROUGH THE EVER NIGHT.

VerseDay 2013 continues over at the blog of the amazing Marcie Atkins.

 And away we go into March...!


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: HOW (NOT) TO FIND A BOYFRIEND

Still having fun with BREAKING THE SPINE’s fabulous midweek meme. Here’s this week’s pick…

Why?...A few years ago, I attended a writers' retreat with Allyson Valentine, and had the privilege of hearing her read her work. So I KNOW she is an amazing writer. I also love the premise: When her family moves to a new town, smarty-pants Nora takes the opportunity to remake herself by keeping her intelligence a secret. MUST. READ. ON.

The opening pages of the book are already available to read on AMAZON and I DARE you not to preorder this title once you've had a taste of Valentine's sharp, lively writing style.
What are you waiting for this week?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Back to Business: SNARKY MARKETING

On the curvy, slippery, oft-nauseating road that is marketing your book, you occasionally stand on the precipice of a promotional idea that's a bit edgy. Maybe it's something that reveals some of your cynicism about the business, or your hurt from a perceived criticism or type of rejection.
File such ideas in your SNARKY MARKETING box. Seal the box with DUCT TAPE. Hear me? Not flimsy masking tape. Use the stuff that is also a home remedy for warts.
Possible snark illustration ;)
Let me be clear, snark as in using humor to stand up for what is right, to protest legitimate wrongs, is WAY-OKAY. Some snark to promote a snarky book or way of life (e.g., Fuggirls) can work. But snark in marketing your own books can backfire. Especially if your book is not snarky and you do not want it to be perceived as such.
So, even though this very morning I had an idea of snark-tastic hilarity that I actually think would drive people to my internet presence, I am sticking it into the snark box, albeit rather wistfully. Because even though I enjoy the occasional snark-fest at a cocktail party, my books--those precious, hard-earned published pages--deserve better.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Happy Release Day, Karen Finneyfrock!

So, uh, THE Sherman Alexie said this about Karen's debut YA:

"Karen Finneyfrock is an amazing poet so it is no surprise that her first novel is poetic. It is also hilarious, exciting and as painful as anybody's teenage years. Read it, please."
—Sherman Alexie, National Book Award-Winning author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Really, need I say more? CLICK CLICK CLICK

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: REVENGE OF THE GIRL WITH THE GREAT PERSONALITY by Elizabeth Eulberg

Still having fun with BREAKING THE SPINE’s fabulous midweek meme.  Here’s this week’s pick…

 Why?...Well, for starters, the title of awesome. But seriously, I'm thrilled that Elizabeth Eulberg, author of the delightful TAKE A BOW (among other books) is back to take on BEAUTY and all its complicated meanings. Can’t wait to read this one.

What are you waiting for this week?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Back-to-Business Monday: WRITERS WHO DON'T NEED ME

I love being part of the Bookanistas, an awesome writer-blogger collective celebrating the books its members love.  I also love some authors who don’t need me, like Lauren Oliver and John Green, Markus Zusak and Suzanne Collins. Don’t get me wrong. I buy their books. I read their books. I learn from their books. I admire their books. But I don’t often blog about them.
Why? Because they just don’t need me. When I started blogging as “Writer on the Side,” I was an in-the-trenches book marketing gumby with dreams of publishing a novel. Now, I’m an in-the-trenches writer. Not a best-seller. Not a highly-paid speaker. Just someone who can’t go a day without writing down some words, who would do it even if no one ever paid her. My community is largely made up of people like me: Living, breathing, learning writers. Sure, a few of us have hit the jackpot with the fat advances and movie deals but, for the most part, we struggle every day with “will I ever be able to quit the day job” kinds of questions.
This is really an irrelevant picture.
Oh, I could make something up about writers being like princesses & ms's being like frogs
But really, it's just an oldie of the hubs and me.
I did make the costumes, though!
I believe writing is an important act whether or not you’re on the NYT-best-seller list—whether or not you ever become a published writer at all. As a blogger and all around book nerd, my goals continue to be to celebrate the value of the writing process and to help bring to light some of the amazing work that might not be right in the middle of the spotlight.

I’d be lying if I said I never dreamed of sharing the stage with some of those writers who don’t need me. Meanwhile, it is with joy and pride and a kind of writerly faith that I present to you each week, the great work so many writers at all levels (not-yet-published, debuts, stunning sophomore novelists, midlist marvels, and the occasional NYTimesy type) are doing.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Bookanistas: GOING VINTAGE by Lindsey Leavitt

Plot without spoilers...High school junior Mallory discovers her boyfriend has been cheating on her with a cyber-girlfriend. So, inspired by a list of goals dashed off by her grandmother in 1962, she ditches the internet, her cellphone and other modern conveniences and decides to live in what she imagines was the idyllic bygone year in which Grandma's list was written.

Of literary interest...Each chapter of the novel begins with a list, creating an internal examination of the details of the main list which drives the story's plot. From "Possible Ways to Live Dangerously" to "Boys I've Kissed," the funny, poignant and very relatable lists provide a structure to the story as beautifully tailored as Mallory's 1960s-style prom dress! A favorite, excerpted from Chapter 23, list item #2: "Good rule for life...STAY CLOSE TO THE CHEESE." (Read the book and you'll stop here to laugh out loud.)

Finally, just gotta say...The best thing about GOING VINTAGE is the way the author weaves together topical issues and rich relationships (the role of the internet in contemporary friendships and romances, a grandparent's loss of a spouse, a family's financial woes, and an especially charming bond between two sisters) into a novel that is at once brightly funny and wonderfully thought-provoking.

A terrific read for the upcoming prom season, GOING VINTAGE pubs in March. You can pre-order it here.
For more Bookanista book love, click along...

Jessica Love raves about THE REECE MALCOM LIST
Nikki Katz swoons over SCARLET
Katy Upperman  adores JUST ONE DAY

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: BRUISED by Sarah Skilton

I’ve loved this fantastic meme from BREAKING THE SPINE for ages and have finally decided to get my feet wet and talk book lust. This week’s pick…

Why?...First, the awesome tag line:  “She failed to save his life. How will she save her own?”

More importantly, I’ve snuck a peak at the first few pages of the arc and it’s taking all my strength not to pull BRUISED from its slot in my tbr pile and just finish it right now.   Exploring the effects of violence on both perpetrators and victims, Sarah Skilton’s debut novel is timely and topical.

What are you waiting to read...?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Back-to-Business: TYPES OF MARKETING

So, have you taken a few naps, a few walks? Feel ready to dive into marketing your upcoming novel?

Let us begin with a harsh dose of reality:

In general (and there are exceptions), it is very difficult for a non-famous (e.g., not Hilary Duff), not-previously-virtually-establish (e.g., not The Pioneer Wife), writer to use the internet to ACTUALLY MOVE UNITS of his or her novel. Sometimes it's hard to even give the book away. (Show of hands: How many authors have held a contest on their blog/website offering a free signed copy of their book and had LESS THAN 25 entrants? Truth now...).

So, here you are, asked to support your publisher's marketing efforts while you and they know full well that EVERY author these days has a blog, a website, a twitter, a facebook, a pinterest, a tumbler... It's ELEVATOR MUSIC, WHITE NOISE and a TON of work for the author.

What's an author, especially one with kids, a job, a house full of dust, etc., to do?

UNDERSTAND that just because a marketing effort doesn't move units doesn't mean it isn't valuable. Generating buzz for your book, helping potential readers understand what is beyond the cover, and connecting with independent booksellers and genre-specific bloggers are all things you CAN AND SHOULD DO. While you don't have the power to get books sold, you can have some impact on the way your book is perceived in the marketplace.

So, stop despairing and do two things:

1. Create a time budget: A realistic and honest schedule of the number of hours (and when they occur) that you can reasonably dedicate to marketing.

2. Write a top-5 or top-10 list of things you want readers and reviewers to say about your book. (e.g., Do you want them to call it a "great romance" or a "coming-of-age story"? What book would you like them to compare it to (if you liked FAMOUS NOVEL, you'll love YOUR BOOK).

Just do those two things. Then, wine is nice. Or tea.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Bookanistas: OUT OF THE EASY by Ruta Sepetys

With apologies for the brief review, I've been battling the flu. Please don't mistake brevity for lack of enthusiasm for this lovely novel!

Plot without spoilers: In the bawdy French Quarter of 1950s New Orleans, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine's, a prostitute's daughter, struggles to live a straight-and-narrow life as bookstore clerk, avoid the dangerous cast of characters with whom her mother gets involved and find a way to go to college in New England.

Of literary interest: This book has some fantastic secondary characters that Sepetys uses to create parallel explorations of the themes of family secrets and why we protect them.

Finally, just gotta say: This novel is an elegant and powerful love letter to New Orleans, to the beauty of books, and to determined girls with limited means and limitless dreams.

Here's what some other Bookanistas are buzzing about this week...

Katy Upperman  praises THE TRAGEDY PAPER
Debra Driza wonders at WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
Jessica Love thinks THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY is terrific
Stasia Ward Kehoe delves into OUT OF THE EASY

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: THE DIFFERENT GIRL

I’ve loved this fantastic meme from BREAKING THE SPINE for ages and have finally decided to get my feet wet and talk book lust.  This week’s pick…

Why?...Can I say it’s because I just love the cover? Or because I admire the author, Gordon Dahlquist, as a playwright? Or because I’ve started it already (snagged an arc) and am breaking just briefly to write this WOW post before returning to page 143? Bye now!

What are you waiting to read...?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Back-to-Business: SWITCHING GEARS

The manuscript has been sent to the editor who has, in return, started the "marketing conversation."
Arghhhh!!!! (I just love pirate words)

I don't feel ready to step away from my characters and consider how to sell them. I'm kind of a basket case. Besides napping, what I most want to do is to move on to that sexy new idea that's been tickling the back of my brain as I reread my current ms for the fiftieth time.  But this is a business and I want to do right by my book. So, how to switch gears?

Here are a few tips. Some I've learned through hard experience and others authors have shared with me.

1. Write an "ABOUT THIS BOOK" page as if your editor had asked you to do so. This can be a great way to help you get a handle on what the most meaningful, scary and important elements of the novel are TO YOU and thus create a starting point for a marketing program that feels genuine and organic.

2. Make a list of bloggers who loved your first book. Not a long list. A short one of readers who truly connected with the material, your writing style, etc. Next to each name and web link, write one thing you would want to tell them about your new manuscript.

3. Visit an online bookstore and find ten book covers whose styles seems right for your novel. Use pencil, computer program, whatever to mock up your dream cover. This will help you realize what you feel is the visual iconography of your book.

4. Ask yourself, if you could do ONE PROMOTIONAL PROJECT to support your novel (not something you'd ask your publisher to pay for or something crazy impossible like sending the manuscript to Beyonce), what would it be? This answer could take some time to find.

5. Put all the results of exercises 1-4 in a drawer.

6. Take a nap.

7. Walk your dog, or your kid, or yourself around the block.

8. Repeat steps 6 & 7 for a few days.

9. More next Monday.