Friday, October 26, 2012

Quotes and Cookies: Sometimes it's a shock

"Success comes to a writer, as a rule, so gradually that it is always something of a shock to him to look back and realize the heights to which he has climbed."

~P. G. Wodehouse

Have you looked back lately to see how far you've come? Does it surprise you? I think it helps to look back! Sometimes it really just feels like you're trudging forward, never making any progress, but when you look back to where you started, you realize that that trudging is actually making a difference! And sometimes you see a really winding path with tons of backtracking.... but that's okay, too, because still-- that starting point is WAY back there. It's kind of cool when you look back to that green writer you used to be, and see the progress.

Makes you want a cookie, doesn't it?

By [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Have a fantastically spooky weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Way We Are: NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo starts in just one week from today! With all the excitement building on so many blogs--- people outlining their books, planning their month--- it feels like Christmas!

And kind of makes me sad I won't be joining in on all the fun. Instead of creating a messy draft, I'll get to be polishing one. (And actually, I really like polishing.) But at least I get to live vicariously through all of you who are! So tell me. Are you planning to do NaNoWriMo this year? Or do you have something else fun (or otherwise) planned for this month?

And since we haven't had a good graphical response to a The Way We Are post on here in FOREVER, let's do one this time, shall we?

All day Wednesday and Thursday, I'll update this graphic with everyone's responses. And.... go!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I've Got a Theory: Character Pantsers

Generally speaking, we are each better at either plot, characters, or setting, right? (Click here to see a fun poll on whether plot, setting, or characters came first.) One of those three tends to come more easily to us. It's the thing that feels most real in the first draft. It's the thing that feels most clear to you as you're writing.

And although we're all somewhere in the middle, we each consider ourselves to be either a plotter or a pantser / discovery writer, right?

Here's where my theory comes into play. You ready?

Discovery writers (a.k.a. pantsers) tend to be strongest at writing characters.

I know that a lot of writers get a character (or characters) in mind, then plop them down somewhere in the middle of a situation and see what they'll do. Who wants to plot that? The fun is seeing how the character(s) react to the situation, and then see where it goes from there. It totally works!

On the other hand, you can't really plop a plot down amongst characters in a setting, and see what the plot does. You can't really plop a setting down amongst characters and a plot, and see what the setting does. Obviously both the plot and the setting is colored by everything and colors everything, but it's not the driving force.

So let's go about proving / disproving my theory, shall we? In the comments, tell me what you're strongest at (plot, setting, or character), and whether you're primarily a plotter or a pantser. (Or use whatever phrase you prefer to call it.) I'll start us out.

I'm a Setting / Plotter.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Quotes and Cookies: Be the bee, not the mosquito

I made a goal this week to write 8,000 words. And all this week, I've been working SO HARD! Seriously-- sunup to sundown, I've been working on writing-related stuff. Guess how many words I've written? 400. Not kidding. There's just been so many things that have come up! Then I came across this gem:

It is not so much how busy you are, but why you are busy. Remember the bee is praised but the mosquito is swatted.

~Mary O'Connor

Of course there are a million things that can make you busy that aren't the most important things. For me this week, the biggest culprit was something SMALL, but very HARD. The defeated perfectionist in me made me procrastinate it so much. Find all those million little things that just had to be done. And I couldn't write, because that other little thing HAD to be done before I could. So call me a mosquito. Do you ever have this problem?

Here. Have a freshly baked cookie. It might distract you from the guilt of not getting the right things done. (Or maybe you're not a defeated perfectionist / mosquito at all. In that case, you can take this as a reward for good behavior.)

By Kevin Lawver (originally posted to Flickr as Cooling Cookies) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Have a fabulous mosquito-free weekend, everyone! I'm off to write 7,600 words.

P.S. Guess what? THROUGH THE BOMB'S BREATH is going to be an audio book!!! It'll be released simultaneously with the hardback. :) :) :) And Random House is keeping it in house, which makes me ridiculously happy. And before you even ask--- I have no idea who is going to be the voice. I am open to guesses, though.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Buzz Business: A guest post by David Farland

I am so excited to have Dave Farland here guest posting today! Dave is one smart man. He does a Daily Kick in the Pants advice email that I've learned a lot from, and today he's here to talk about creating buzz for your book. Take it away, Dave!

A few years ago, a marketing study was done on songs to see how they gained popularity. The researchers chose a few songs—I believe it was about fifteen—that were of equal merit, and small groups of people were asked to select their favorites. It was soon discovered that different groups came up with wildly varying favorites.

The study wasn’t really about songs, of course. It was about buzz. As certain leaders in a group voiced their opinions, others followed. Those who voiced their favorites eloquently, those who were most attractive and persuasive, swayed the crowd. The songs that were most liked and got the highest initial ratings soon soared in popularity.

What does that have to do with the book business? Quite a bit.

For a book to succeed, it needs to sell a lot of copies, and it needs to sell them quickly. The higher the volume of sales and the faster they sell, the more people in the industry talk about the book. In fact, a book that is selling well becomes “newsworthy.” Recently, one book hit sales of a million dollars per week online.

Of course, that generated more interest and more sales. It was talked about on national news channels. The author got a movie deal and went on television, and the book continued to gain momentum until sales became wildly disproportionate to its objective quality.

It happens once or twice every year. I liked the Goosebumps books, for example, but were they really so good that they should have taken up 45 percent of the middle-grade market?

So it’s important to create a good impression. Cover art, for example, is tremendously important. Two books with wildly different covers—one beautiful, one bland—will experience a huge difference in sales. How much is that difference? Some authors who have recently been experimenting found a boost in initial sales of over 150 to 1.

Why such a huge difference? Because the beautiful cover creates an overall impression of quality.

Given this, even though my novel Nightingale has been doing well, winning awards and getting great word of mouth, I recently decided to give it a new cover:

Was the old cover bad? No, it was fine. But this one tested out better with booksellers and audiences, and that was important.

There are a dozen other ways to help boost your buzz. For example, you as an author need to pay close attention to the back copy on your book. Does it excite the reader? Does it make them want to open the book?

What about the blurbs on your cover—quotes from other authors? If you get great quotes, you need to display them proudly (even if you’re the kind of shy person who shuns the limelight).

Elements outside of the book are important, too. I recently had an author preparing to release a book, and he asked, “Should I put up an author page online?” Of course you should! Your author page should also add to your image.

In past articles in my Daily Kicks, my advice column, I’ve talked about marketing to the masses, the use of resonance in marketing, how to compose a first chapter, and so on.

All of these tips are designed to create buzz for your book, to get people talking. Each element reinforces the impression that “This is the total package.” Everything that you do needs to reinforce an image of quality.

You as an author are part of a sales package. Even the way that you dress is important.

Have you ever noticed that if you look at the back of novels by New York Times Bestselling Authors, the authors appear as if they’ve stepped off the covers of a magazine? I’ve known authors who have had hundreds of photos taken just so that they can get the right stance to shave off a few pounds or make that chin look smaller. I’m sure that some of those authors get hair transplants and plastic surgery and wear colored contact lenses in order to get just the right picture. Others retouch their photos. Why am I sure? Because when you see them in person, they often don’t bear much resemblance to their pictures.

Just as important as looks is your demeanor in public. Do you come off as snooty, overbearing, foolish, a sex addict, a drunkard, or unkempt? I’ve known authors who could easily bear such labels.

You can write a wonderful novel, yet kill your career through bad behavior. A few years ago, one mainstream author, a literature professor, as I recall, had a novel that was shortlisted for a number of awards. His publishers sent him on a book tour and set up national publicity on television, but after twenty-four hours of touring, they sent him home. It turned out that he was a complete ass. His awards interest fell through, as did his next book contract.

In most cases, we don’t sabotage our careers through epic fails. Instead, we do it through a succession of minor errors. We dress down for a book signing. We allow an editor to saddle a book with a weak title. We don’t demand a great cover, and so on.
As you create your book package, consider carefully how well each element of the book—from the first page to the last—might help or hinder buzz. Don’t let any element of your package fail.

Then take a look at yourself and consider what things you might want to do to create a strong public image. After all, you don’t want to be a buzz-kill.

~David Farland

David Farland says, “I’m no GQ model, I’m afraid. I was quite handsome for about 15 minutes back
when I was 16, and it has been all downhill since then.”
Grand Prize Winner of the Hollywood Book Festival, placed first in all genres, all categories.

Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Best Young Adult Novel of the Year!

Finalist in the Global Ebook Awards


Some people sing at night to drive back the darkness.  Others sing to summon it. . . .

Bron Jones was abandoned at birth. Thrown into foster care, he was rejected by one family after another, until he met Olivia, a gifted and devoted high-school teacher who recognized him for what he really was--what her people call a "nightingale."

But Bron isn't ready to learn the truth. There are secrets that have been hidden from mankind for hundreds of thousands of years, secrets that should remain hidden. Some things are too dangerous to know.  Bron's secret may be the most dangerous of all.

From Peggy: One of the coolest things about NIGHTINGALE is that the ebook is more than your average ebook! It has "Ground-breaking enhancements for eBooks in HD, including hundreds of original illustrations and animations, author interviews and an original soundtrack by James Guymon." Isn't that incredible?! Click here to go to the listing and sample of the enhanced iPad version of Nightingale.

To learn more about Dave Farland or his book NIGHTINGALE:
Twitter handle @DavidFarland

Monday, October 15, 2012

Book Trailer Reveal: THE CADET OF TILDOR by Alex Lidell

I am so excited to be part of Alex Lidell's trailer reveal today! I got to read THE CADET OF TILDOR not long ago as an ARC, and it was INCREDIBLE! I loved it SO MUCH! I had been dying to read a book like it for a very long time.

Title: The Cadet of Tildor
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin)
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: High fantasy
Expected Release: January 10, 2013

And today, she's releasing her book trailer! She went all out for it. It was filmed in Italy by the Medieval Reenactment Group “Liberi Lusenta.” How awesome is that? I love watching book trailers that have had so much work put into them.

Are you guys dying to see it yet? I know I was!

Trailer reveal organized by: AToMR Tours

Want to meet the cast? Go to:

Want to add THE CADET OF TILDOR to Goodreads? Just click this handy link:

And to top it off, you can also enter this Giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Tamora Pierce meets George R. R. Martin in this smart, political, medieval fantasy-thriller.

There is a new king on the throne of Tildor. Currents of political unrest sweep the country as two warring crime families seek power, angling to exploit the young Crown's inexperience. At the Academy of Tildor, the training ground for elite soldiers, Cadet Renee de Winter struggles to keep up with her male peers. But when her mentor, a notorious commander recalled from active duty to teach at the Academy, is kidnapped to fight in illegal gladiator games, Renee and her best friend Alec find themselves thrust into a world rife with crime, sorting through a maze of political intrigue, and struggling to resolve what they want, what is legal, and what is right.


Alex is a YA fantasy author, a Tamora Pierce addict, a horse rider, and paramedic. The latter two tend to hand in hand a bit more often than one would like. Alex started writing at 2 am.

Alex Lidell| Facebook| Twitter

Friday, October 12, 2012

Quotes and Cookies: Don't be lazy!

I recently read SAVE THE CAT for the first time. Ohmygosh. I wish I would've known about this book 4 1/2 years ago when I first started writing! It is nothing short of brilliant. Blake Snyder's fifteen "beats" are one of those things that once you read them, you think Of course it needs to be that way! It just feels right. If you haven't read it, I'd definitely recommend it. I wrote a synopsis of my book 2 my usual way and sent it to my agent. Then I wrote a synopsis of the same book using the beat sheet to send to my editor, and it's about a billion times better! (Sorry, Sara, for sending you the crap one first.) I'll never write another synopsis (or another book!) without using the beat sheet. So, in honor of my new found love, today's quote comes straight from SAVE THE CAT. It's one of the paragraphs at the end, after he suggests all the things you should do to make your manuscript shine.

If you are having any nagging doubts about [your manuscript], you now know what to do. You have the tools to go back in and fix it. But will you? That's the rub. Here's a tip: When in doubt, do it. Don't be lazy! Don't say "Oh well, no one will notice" because... they will.

You only get the one shot at a first impression. Try to get over the love affair you have with yourself and your work and do what needs to be done. This is what separates the pros from the wannabes--- that nagging voice that says: "It sucks!" And the mature, adult, professional voice that quickly chimes in: "And I know how to fix it!"

~Blake Snyder

So I guess that means we need both the nagging voice and the professional voice to get us through it... And possibly a cookie.

By [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Have a fabulous weekend!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Way We Are: Do you stop reading in the middle?

Not every book is for everyone. I think we all get that. Just because someone else is in love with a book, doesn't mean that you're going to like it even enough to finish it. Sometimes......

you stop in the middle. Because why waste your time when there are so many good books out there that you really DO want to read?

Or maybe you don't.... Because who likes to leave things unfinished? Who likes to not know how it ends?

So that's my question for you-- are you willing to stop reading in the middle, or do you have to see it through to the end? Why?

photo by Tomas Fano on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

As for me, I'm not against stopping in the middle-- I just rarely do. Probably because I rarely pick up a book without first having heard glowing things about it from people whom I know have similar tastes in books as me. Sometimes I PAUSE in the middle... with every intention to eventually finish. (Usually because I have another book to read that's on more of a deadline. Or it's one I've been waiting for.) But I'll admit: I have at least five books at my house right now that I'm technically "in the middle of reading," that have sat there for months. BUT SOMEDAY, I WILL FINISH!

Series, though-- that's another story. I might finish the first book, then have no inkling whatsoever to read the next. My husband though, is "not a quitter!" If he starts a book, he'll stick with it until the series end. Even if that series is a dozen books long. Even if he's not in love with it. I'm not joking.

How about you?

Monday, October 8, 2012

I'm so excited I can hardly stand it!

You know how it is when something happens to someone you care about that is so awesome you think you might explode? Yeah, it's like that. Because you see, my writing bestie / critique partner Jessie Humphries just got an agent!

And not just any agent-- her #1 choice!

It was incredibly inspiring to watch the whole thing transpire over the past few months. Jessie put in so much hard work, listened to so many critiques, tried things to see if they'd work, changed them if they didn't, and worked until her manuscript was so shiny I could practically see it glow from here! (Which is pretty impressive, since we live in different states.)

So head on over to Jessie Humphries... B-Word to congratulate her! The girl definitely deserves it. :)

Photo credit: By AJ (Open clip page), via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, October 5, 2012

Quotes and Cookies: Getting it just right

Have you ever written a scene-- one of those really pivotal ones where it has to be *just* right, because the whole story hinges on it, and you just can't seem to? So you try something different, and it's still not working, so you keep trying something different until you think the frustration just might kill you?

Well, there's this man who's pretty darn brilliant, and he had something to say about those kinds of scenes. (Or possibly he was saying it about something different... but I'll only believe that if he tells me so himself.) Anyway, so this guy says that all of that work-- all of those times that the scene came out wrong-- weren't wasted. All those times existed so that you could find out how to do it just right. So you should quit thinking that you stink, and quit getting down in the dumps, because if you have a more hopeful attitude about it, you'll get it right. Except he said it in a lot fewer words, because he's cool like that. Check it out:

"I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

~Thomas Edison

Grab a cookie and let's raise it in a posthumous salute. Thanks, Edison! *sniff* We love you, man!

By Tamara Manning (orig. posted to Flickr as Shortbread Cookies) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Have a fabulous weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The secret to getting a book deal

Want to know what the secret is to getting a book deal (or to selling lots of copies if you decide to self-publish)? What the number one thing is that you have to have?

A lot of people will tell you it's persistence. I'll agree that you most certainly have to have that! It's a solid #2. Especially when you send out query after query and get rejection after rejection, and you think your book must be a pile of crap. That definitely takes persistence!

But I don't think it's the number one thing. Hands down, I think the number one thing is.... are you ready? It's...

Being teachable

After all, if you persistently do something wrong, that's not going to get you where you need to go, is it? And the only way to make persistence work is if you're teachable every step of the way.

Even when your critique partner tells you something you don't want to hear.
Even when it comes from someone "behind" you on this road we're all traveling.
Even when it's constructive criticism.
Even when you think you have it made.
Even when it comes along with a rejection from an agent / editor.
Even when you're a NYT bestseller.
Even when it means a major overhaul of your manuscript.
Even when it hurts your pride.
Even when it is ohmygosh so. very. hard. Because really, sometimes it just is.
ESPECIALLY when it's so. very. hard.

If you can stay teachable every step of the way, YOU WILL MAKE IT. You will reach your goals. And when you do reach your goals, it'll help you reach the next ones. And the next, and the next....

Monday, October 1, 2012

Interview with the incredible Kimberly Krey!

Guys, I am so excited that Kimberly Krey's EVIE'S KNIGHT just released! I first met Kimberly at conferences, but I really got to know her when we spent three days at the same writing retreat. Kim is not only an amazing person, but she's an AMAZING writer. I've seen the lengths she goes to in order to perfect her manuscripts, and it's awe-inspiring.

And even better, she's here today! Hi, Kim! [holds out plate of cookies] Here, have a couple.  (You guys can have some, too-- I made tons! But careful. They're a little hot still.)
By Shantel Ruiz [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
[Brushes cookie crumbs off fingers] Let's get on with the interview! Hm.... Let's have you be in....  this cool color that matches your cover, and I'll be in this cool color that matches my blog. :)

Okay, to keep it fun, take your age, add 12 (because your book releases in ‘12), divide by the number of kids you have, then add 5 (because that’s how many stars this book should get). Tell us what Evie’s Knight is about in that many words or less.

Wait. Are people going to know how old I am now? Uh-hem. The number’s seventeen, but I’ll do it in twelve. Here goes:

In Evie’s Knight, a young, virtuous romance conjures a truly wicked spell.

I know you are a perfectionist, and getting your craft just right is important to you. Can you tell us some of what you went through to get Evie’s Knight to its brilliantly shiny state?

It’s a grossly long story, so I’ll keep it short. I wrote Evie’s Knight in 2009. I went to my first writer’s meeting the night I received a rejection on my full MS, in which the agent suggested the MS “lacked polish.” Of course, she was right. I immersed myself in the writing world. Joined a critique group, went to conferences, read, read, read, and of course, rewrote and edited Evie’s Knight until I was happy with it. Glad I didn’t put it out there back in 2009; I had a lot to learn.

Someone once told me (or maybe I told them...) that you have a really sultry voice, and don’t even hide behind the pages when you’re reading kissy scenes out loud. Have you ever thought about recording your own audio book?

That makes me laugh and smile and almost blush all at once. The answer – no. I’ve never considered that. I think I’d be a bad actor, honestly. But I do like me some kissy scenes; not gonna lie.

Just for fun, give us some one sentence answers. What do you think about when there is nothing to think about?

Ways to get my kids to do their own laundry.

Ha! Good one! Are you superstitious about anything?

Not really, but I’m petrified of mean dogs and carry mace while I run for that very reason.

Me, too, Kim. Me, too. What is the strangest food you have ever eaten?

I’ve always prided myself on loving every food out there, but when I tried Kimchi I found my limit; it was like eating hot sauce on a dirty, rotten dishrag. Barf!

I've never eaten Kimchi before, but after that description.... let's just say it doesn't sound delicious. Do you know what is, though? THIS COVER!

Don't you love this cover? The cover gods totally smiled down here. (Unlike that ghostly person in the trees who appears to be doing something other than "smiling" down. ;))

Want to know more about Kimberly Krey? Check out these links:

Thanks for coming to hang out with us today, Kim! And huge congrats on the book release.