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Love Is In The Air

14 Feb

It’s Valentine’s Day. A day to celebrate luuuuuuuvvvvv.

And so, with that in mind, I got to thinking WHAT makes a great love story? What makes me reread that book, or sometimes NOT reread it because it’s so heartbreaking?

Grabbing at the standard — Pride and Prejudice — let’s start there.

For me, that is Elizabeth’s book. She’s been a source of wonder to me since I was 12. She was brave and witty and loyal and clever. She was everything a young girl wants to be. But, as I grew up, I began to realize that the brilliance of Elizabeth is she is also flawed. Darcy, he took a little more growing-up to do than Elizabeth to gain my love. It took me a few years to understand the wonder that is Darcy. The fact that their love story stands the test of time is more than just a lucky guess – it’s a romance map. Love flourishes when you are willing to better yourself for someone else. Which both characters do. Both recognize their weaknesses and seek to be a better person — not only because of the other person, but for them.

Another constant reread for me is Jane Eyre. I reread it every 2-3 years. And, I’m still always surprised by things in it. That to me is such a sign of a good book — layers that I can’t peel away in one reading. Jane Eyre is the story of a woman who, even offered everything someone of her station could want, does the right thing and risks her own happiness. Later, when offered a chance at a good marriage to a beautiful, successful man…she passes. Because doing the right thing also means answering to your heart. Neither action is easy, both have consequences…but Jane, in the end returns to her hero. Also, as a reader, I always loved that she gives him a little of his own back at the book — she’s become his equal. Another key ingredient to a lasting love story.

When I was younger, I found the first Alanna books (by Tamora Pierce) I ate them all up. Like in 2 days. Who needs sleep! Not only was Alanna literally a girl making it work in a man’s world, she was still a girl. I loved that about her. And, as we followed her growing friendship with Jonathan ever reader knew they’d end up together — Only THEY DIDN’T! Seriously? What? Ohhhhhh…. because, sometimes, the comfortable choice isn’t the right one. Sometimes, love comes in the shape of someone who is your equal in all ways, someone who pushes and challenges you, someone who you can’t help but love.

So, there are some of my key ingredients (not to mention favorite book) to romance. I’d love to hear yours. I’m sure you’re going to surprise me. I love hearing about books that people love and force me to look at in a new way.

For example, my Special Agent Lauren MacLeod (@bostonbookgirl) is hosting a hashtag on twitter today (#mostromanticbooks) about…um, yeah… most romantic books. I’m always surprised at things like Wuthering Heights or Rebecca… but there they are – So, surprise me and tell me your key ingredients and favorite romances!

When The Stars Go Blue ~ Caridad Ferrer

19 Nov

Every once in a while some benevolent being somewhere grants you some special wish you didn’t even know you had. Mine: Get to read WHEN THE STARS GO BLUE by Caridad Ferrer a few months ago. If this post had to end now, it would basically say: IT COMES OUT NEXT TUESDAY, ORDER NOW! RIGHT NOW! WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE? GO ORDER IT!

But, it’s my post so I can keep going ;)

I actually sent her back a totally gushy-gushy email after getting to read it. I just reread the email and the whole book rushed back over me.

You know those books that stay with you, the feelings, certain scenes, certain moments. They don’t happen that frequently. Unfortunately (at least for me), they’re usually of the not-so-great variety. Two books come to mind right away that every so often I just sit thinking “what the heck went wrong there” – Well, STARS is so-very-not that book.

STARS is based on the opera Carmen. Now, I know, some of you just glazed a little there. Opera? It’s like when people say “bible” – but they have one thing in common: High Drama! I mean, big, Big, BIG stakes. There’s love, hate, romance, sex, risk, betrayal, loss, passion, gain – basically, pick an emotion and whoomp, there it is. Opera is a place where things don’t just change for now…but forever.

Caridad tells that story – that Life Changes Forever story.

 

A dancer driven to succeed.

A musical prodigy attempting to escape his past.

The summer they share.

And the moment it all goes wrong.

Dance is Soledad Reyes’s life. About to graduate from Miami’s Biscayne High School for the Performing Arts, she plans on spending her last summer at home teaching in a dance studio, saving money, and eventually auditioning for dance companies. That is, until fate intervenes in the form of fellow student Jonathan Crandall who has what sounds like an outrageous proposition: Forget teaching. Why not spend the summer performing in the intense environment of the competitive drum and bugle corps? The corps is going to be performing Carmen, and the opportunity to portray the character of the sultry gypsy proves too tempting for Soledad to pass up, as well as the opportunity to spend more time with Jonathan, who intrigues her in a way no boy ever has before.

But in an uncanny echo of the story they perform every evening, an unexpected competitor for Soledad’s affections appears: Taz, a member of an all-star Spanish soccer team. One explosive encounter later Soledad finds not only her relationship with Jonathan threatened, but her entire future as a professional dancer.

(glances at emails) – I just remembered why I don’t do reviews. Here’s the problem with writing about this book: You know those stories that are so good that you want to sit down over dinner and tell everyone about it? And then, when someone shows up late (you know who you are) you want to tell them again, but the story is so good no one minds. This is one of those stories.

But, the flip side of that is that, this book is so good… so surprising… that I don’t want to tell you anything. Not a thing. I want you to just trust me and go read it. Do NOT even read the back cover flap, just read the book. Honest.

But, since no one ever does that:

Soledad is an uber-talented dancer. I love how Caridad made her passionate, driven and ambitious without being a B-Word-We-Abuse. Seriously, sometimes when a girl is portrayed as those things, she’s often scarified on the alter of the Nice Girl. As a nice girl chasing a big dream, I have to say how very much I love and respect Soledad. She rocks the house with her dancing, challenges the norms of the drum corp and overcomes … well, read the book. Soledad overcomes what looks like the problem and then another one and then another one and then… Let’s just say, this is not a girl who walks the easy road.

Jonathan. Jonathan, you break my heart. You were exactly the boy a passionate girl would embrace. And did you ever need embracing. And that is all I’m going to say about that. Okay, no it’s not: You’re also cute and hot at the same time. Talented, driven and haunted. (Not a spoiler because we see it pretty darn quickly: Parents who read this book, I’ve worked with ones like Jonathan’s dad. Do not become that parent, do not become the thing that haunts your child.)

There are two lines in STARS that resonated with me so much, that I read just those pages to Vicarious Writing Girl (who is a more a ‘literary fiction’ snob girl, no real genre or YA going on there). You know when a page – a line – tells a truth so beautifully, so absolute, that you can read it to someone who doesn’t know what going on and they are just as struck as you. This whole book is like that, but these two lines… Wow. The drive home lessons we all learn. Lessons I’d forgotten I knew and needed to be reminded of.

 And so, even though my reviewing skills suck, this book does not. Not even close. If I could tell you there was a definite must read and you’d believe me, then consider yourself told.

ETA: WordPress won’t let me insert links. Check out WHEN THE STARS GO BLUE by Caridad Ferrer here: http://caridadferrer.com

Inside A Grass Roots Marketing Campaign with Jeannie Lin

21 Oct

Introduction:

I hesitate to write this post.

I started to write up a bunch of disclaimers: This is my first time, I have no marketing background, there are no sales numbers to correlate with these largely anecdotal findings….

Soon the disclaimers started to outweigh the rest of the post. So I guess I should say, these are just my reflections on what seemed to work and what I might do differently the next time around. I’m doing it to reflect, share info, and hopefully spark some discussion around this nebulous arena we call marketing. This post is in no way suggesting how another newbie author should market. No two marketing campaigns should be alike. 

I am not saying that in a wishy-washy, it depends, blah blah blah, sort of manner. Bria knows I hate that. I’m saying, NO TWO MARKETING CAMPAIGNS SHOULD BE ALIKE. Otherwise, why do people pay publicists and marketing firms?

Oh there’s me making disclaimers again. Basically what I’m trying to say is I’m afraid. I’m afraid people will think I know something or somehow had a huge hand in the success that Butterfly Swords has had in getting buzz on the Internet.  Buzz, by the way, not sales. That’s another thing. I have an entirely different opinion on sales, which I won’t go into here. J

I’m afraid that people will think I’m a know it all or that I’ve been manipulative to readers with marketing strategy.  I’m also afraid talking about the nuts and bolts of marketing will ruin the fantasy. Writing is a business, and I know it. The way I envision my business team (which consists of Jeannie and Jeannie),  is that cold and analytical Marketing Jeannie sits in the basement and studies and comes up with strategies. Writer Jeannie, the friendly, imaginative one, is the persona who actually gets to go out and Twitter and blog and interact with people. Writer Jeannie feels emotional about Butterfly Swords. Writer Jeannie frets over bad reviews and gushes about geeky trivia. She worries about how to write her next story and how to add lushness and sexual tension without getting too purple-prosy.

Cold-hearted Marketing Jeannie cares about the book too. She just tries to separate out the promotion of the book from the writing/emotional ownership of the piece. She’s the business manager. She gives writer Jeannie marching orders.  She is never, NEVER allowed to blog or tweet or interact with readers at signings. She’s paranoid and fretful and perpetually trying to gather data, and she KNOWS these are not traits that sell books.

Writer Jeannie is writing this rambling post which the business team has now decided will be a separate intro, if Bria will post it that way. Marketing Jeannie will be allowed to post once, and once only, because both Jeannies wish someone had told them all this when they started.

Marketing Jeannie is kind of strict and academic. She’s all about business. Please don’t hate her.

(Inserted by Friend Bria: This rocks and is brilliant. All Jeannies need a big high-five)

Inside a Grass Roots Marketing Campaign

Marketing hat on.

I could write a dissertation on my thoughts on marketing and justifications for why I did what I did. But that would get boring for everyone but me very quickly. So I’m going to limit it to the key high points that worked and what I’d rethink if I could do it again.

Two biggest boosts:

1)      The cover. Oh my God, the cover. Not only is it red and eye-catching, it’s exciting and conversation worthy. And it looks like no other romance out there right now. “You’re the one with the beautiful cover,” people say when they meet me. It’s SO good for crossover (which is one of my marketing strategies). Men will read a book with a cover like that. Fantasy/paranormal readers will read it. Asian fiction readers will read it.

It’s an element that I had no control over, other than that this was new for Harlequin and my editor asked for some suggestions and pictures that inspired me. This picture has been my avatar for several years and is the one I sent them.  Other than that, I prayed.

 2)      ARC available through NetGalley. Bound galleys are not printed up for category romances. It’s just not profitable, given the business model. So I was trying to get ARCs to reviewers, some of whom were actually coming to me to request it, but I didn’t have an electronic or paper arc. The author copies wouldn’t be available until the release date was almost here. Being a newbie, I asked my editor what I was supposed to do to get review copies out because I know piracy is an issue. In a stroke of luck, my editor decided to put the ARC on NetGalley due to demand. And because it was on NetGalley, more people requested and reviewed Butterfly Swords. It was a feedback loop. By October, Butterfly Swords had moved up to being the top requested galley from Harlequin. (Disclaimer: they do remove older galleys after release date.)

Those two things helped boost the image and availability of Butterfly Swords more than anything I could have ever done myself. I think they both came from in-house support by my editor. Both were completely out of my hands.  

Which leads to my next part. Sometimes you have to ride the wave. Search for the natural marketing messages surrounding the release. Find out what ripples your book may be causing and amplify it if you can. Butterfly Swords has a limited shelf life. It’s only out for one month in book stores. It doesn’t get the larger print run or the in-house marketing push that single-titles get.

So here’s the grass roots part of marketing BUTTERFLY SWORDS:

1)     Market it like a big book.

I only decided to do this because I felt there were some elements about the book that gave it a BIG BOOK feel. I’m not talking about the writing here. I’m talking about marketing elements. It had some buzz for winning the Golden Heart. It had buzz for being a hard sell. It had buzz for being an Asian historical. The story itself is high concept. It sounds like an epic adventure.

Big books with house backing sell better. Readers hear more about them. People become curious and the momentum builds. I had a little book that I wanted to be treated like a big book. I looked at how HQN was marketing some of their big books. This summer, HQN was pushing Julie Kagawa and there was an internet page they put up to showcase her Iron Fey series. When I enlisted a web designer to make a showcase page for Butterfly Swords, I literally told her, “Make it look like this: http://enterthefaeryworld.com/ironfey/” . I wanted visitors to the page to perhaps believe that I had just as much backing behind me as someone like Kagawa. Did it work? I don’t know: http://www.butterfly-swords.com

I didn’t have a lot of money for ads. I couldn’t afford print and couldn’t do much more online, so I noticed where big name, but relatively new, historical authors like Sherry Thomas, Tessa Dare, and Jennifer Haymore advertised. I decided to  buy ads at All About Romance because there’s a reader community there that’s not filled with writers and aspiring writers. They’re people who just love books. I also chose them because I had been mentioned on their forum two times on threads prior to the marketing campaign. Since the marketing campaign, I’ve been mentioned two more times in reader threads. These were spontaneous. They were not put up by me or friends. Maybe a couple of mentions is no big deal, but the books that get noticed on there are the big publisher backed books. The books headed for bestseller lists or books by long established writers.

2)     Blog Tours

I enlisted a publicity admin assistant (not a publicist, btw) to help me organize blog tours for The Taming of Mei Lin which released in September and Butterfly Swords for October. We were both pretty new at this. I was booked for over 40 interviews and guest blogs. Did traffic increase to my site? Yes. Did everyone seem to know about the book? Yes.  A lot of the guest blogs catered to the same audience in the book blog world, but repetition is not a bad thing in advertising.

Would I do it again? I’d probably scale down considerably. We got a lot of requests and invitations after the initial tour was set and I was a paranoid newbie, so I didn’t turn down anything. I’m very grateful we had so much interest, but the blogs did take a lot of effort. If I could do it again, I’d scale it back down to no more than two appearances a week. More than that and you can’t promote each event as efficiently. They start to collide with one another. The blogosphere gets saturated. In the future, I’d target sites with a larger following and also go cross-genre a little better.

3)     Cross-genre marketing

I only attempted this because I sensed the potential within the storyline. You need to listen to what phrases are being echoed over and over. One of the echo phrases was “I normally don’t read romance, but…” I was hearing this before release and I keep on hearing it now. I knew that Asian historicals were risky in romance. So this would seem to dictate that I had to try to get a non-romance readership or Butterfly Swords would be dead in the water. 

I looked at markets that already existed: RPG gamers, Asian historical fiction, wuxia, martial arts and sword fighting fans. I believe there was crossover potential for paranormal and fantasy readers. Indeed, a bookseller told me she read the book and is pushing it to her paranormal and urban fantasy readers because of the action scenes. 

Not all those markets are as book-bloggy as romance so I had to reach out and find how to reach those markets and members within each community. I did a Warrior Women series on my blog where I featured a stunt woman, a martial artist, and a swords practitioner. I had my mom send the book to several Vietnamese newspapers. I reached out to the DragonCon Silk Road track since they’re enthusiasts of Asian culture and Asian fantasy.

I don’t know the effects of these efforts yet. In retrospect, I don’t feel like I hit these cross-over markets well enough. I’ve only recently targeted gaming and wuxia sites for reviews and the book is almost out of stores already. Thank goodness for online ordering and ebooks!

4)     Social Media

These answers apply specifically to me and my particular style of interaction online as well as my marketing strategy. So don’t take this as general advice for everyone. Someone’s going to look at this and tell me they reach thousands of readers through Facebook and none through Twitter. That wasn’t going to happen with my campaign and my level on online activity. No two marketing strategies should be alike, right?

For each avenue, I put down how much effort I put into it along with my suggestions about it.

Own personal website:  Moderate. Keep it updated. People visiting your website are a little interested in you, which is good. Have stuff there to give them what they want to know, but don’t spend a lot of time trying to get followers there.  Most people on the internet don’t have time to avidly follow their favorite authors. Use it as a central station for promotions and updates and also to have a repository of info for your marketing allies. Bloggers, journalists, and interviewers very often go to my webpage to find info to put in their blogs and articles. Have good content for them to grab. Also link your blog up to Facebook, Amazon, and Goodreads so they’ll automatically update.

Facebook: Minimal. A presence is good and some people use it as their preferred method of communication. I find it good to keep it updated, but I don’t spend a lot of time interacting there. As a result, my network there only consists of a closer inner circle and is pretty small.

Twitter: Moderate. I spend a lot of time on there because personally I like it. But that’s time suck stuff. You do have to invest some time to get the hang of it and garner enough friendlies to help you signal boost. This is authentic interaction you need to do, so if it feels weird and sucks, don’t do it or find another way. The bang for your buck Is actually pretty good because the nature of Twitter allows you to reach people outside your comfortable little circle. One of my marketing strategies was to hit international readers. I think Twitter has helped that more than any other social media.

Goodreads: GOODREADS IS FRICKIN AWESOME!!!  But you do not need to spend your time networking on there to get some leverage. Using the Giveaways will give you some exposure and the effort is minimal. There’s enough of an organic and avid reader base that if you can get traction in other media, you’ll start to see people marking your book to-read on Goodreads and reviewing it. Goodreads users simply LIKE being there. I’m a low-end member. I track my books and sometimes do little reviews. I don’t have much of a friend base and now I’m kind of afraid to. I kind of prefer to use Goodreads to gauge how much notice the book is getting “naturally” from my other methods and I don’t want to mess with that. BEST RETURN ON TIME INVESTMENT—because I’ve pretty much stayed away from interacting on Goodreads, but have still seen some interest based on reviews and giveaways on Goodreads.

Followers and Friends: I am a moderate user on all these media. I don’t expend much effort trolling for followers. Not that there’s a problem with that! I just don’t think I would be good at managing it. Most of the growth has been organic. The only time I’ve done a promotion to get followers is to entice people to subscribe to my newsletter, which is a mechanism for me pushing data out to interested users, not an interactive space. I’ve only done that lightly as it is.

Frankly, I don’t want people following me who are not in some way interested. I’m afraid of boring them. I’m afraid of being overly ignored. I know this is contrary to the “cast a wide net” mentality, but I’d rather have a small number of interested followers than a large number of people who could care less. It’s just my natural comfort zone. This is also one of my marketing strategies. I want depth versus breadth in the reader base. I think Butterfly Swords with its “geek factor” supports this type of small, but loyal following.

5)      Evangelists

People willing to hawk Butterfly Swords on street corners and blog corners. Once again, I have absolutely no control over this. I have more than a couple evangelists who’ve been willing to go to bat for Butterfly Swords. I’m not naming names, because I know I’ll miss some of them. Some are friends and I’ve done the same for them. Many are not. They just saw something in Butterfly Swords that made them want to take it up and support it. Did the promotional push have anything to do with it? Was it a timing thing? Am I just that charming of a person? (tongue firmly in cheek) Or did they read the book and just plain like it? I think about these things a lot, and I just don’t know.

So there’s the marketing story of Butterfly Swords, in a nutshell…and remember this is Marketing Jeannie speaking, so along with being paranoid and calculating, she is also all about SELLING THIS BOOK:

I think the real reason it worked is because Butterfly Swords has some killer marketing messages. On the surface, it’s got many crossover elements that can reach into different genres. The emotional message is compelling. It’s an underdog and a winner, all at once. It took some risks to bring it to market and that’s just plain exciting. On top of all that, it looks GOOD.  The book cover and the marketing campaign are sexy and red and euphoric.

And it’s in bookstores for a limited time only.
Don’t wait. November is too late!
(Sorry, I had to try J)

 First I want to say thanks to Jeannie for one of the best posts ever written in history! THANKS!

And now, I’m sure you want a copy of Butterfly Swords for yourself. I personally guarantee you’ll love it! And to prove that, I’m giving another copy away this week. To win, we’ll stick with the marketing theme:

What’s the most interesting/best/most memorable way you’ve seen a book marketed? Did you buy it? If you did, did it live up to the hype? Let me know and I’ll be picking a random winner on Friday :)

Retracing My Booksteps – Finding the Books of My Youth, and Re-reading Them as an Adult

10 May

Retracing My Booksteps: Finding the Books of My Youth, and Re-reading Them as an Adult

By Rachel Jameson

 Once upon a time, Young Adult novels were my ultimate world. Thankfully, once upon a time has not come to an end; merely it has been encompassed by many other genres, including historical fiction and romance, with YA at the center.            

Growing up, the library was a priceless resource for me. I finished every book in the children’s library early on, and moved into the young adult section a bit before I actually was a young adult. I devoured everything there, and moved on to the adult section. I don’t re-read many books, but it was the YAs that I always came back to.

As I grew up, I had the means to finally own my own books. I started buying new ones mostly, but I’m a very nostalgic person, and I wanted to own my favorite books from my childhood. Sadly, I could only remember small things – a dragon here, a color there, but nothing solid. There was one I wanted to find most of all, but other than the cover having a coral hue to it, and that there were two people and a dog on the cover, I couldn’t remember. I tried looking through different book buying sites, hoping I’d stumble across a cover I recognized.

             It wasn’t until a few summers ago, visiting my hometown, that I got lucky. I stopped in the library, and took a chance that they hadn’t completely changed everything. I spent a full day there, going through the shelves where I remembered the books had been. I found quite a few of the books this way, but I got really lucky with the library’s computer catalog. Using key words like dragon, or travel, etc., it showed me a list of books with descriptions, and covers!

So there I was, in the Children’s library, getting weird looks from the librarians as I sat for hours hunched over the little computer table, in the little child’s chair. They had little pencils and little scraps of paper. I’d write the name of the book, and the call number and then run to the corresponding sections and silently crow when I found the right book.

By the end of the day, I had quite a stack. While I hadn’t found every book, I had traced almost all of my childhood and young-adulthood “booksteps”.

I spent a couple of days searching the net, finding all the books on my stack of little papers. The hardest thing was finding the same covers I had loved years ago – almost all of the books had been re-printed with brand new covers that didn’t have any meaning to me. My finds now have their own special section in my bookshelves.

So the next step of course, was to re-read them. I had a bit of trepidation at first, because that memory you hold of a favorite thing is so strong – what if the reality doesn’t hold up? It’s a terrifying thought.

In fact, I found a great comfort in re-reading the books; I was able to sink right back into them, to that lifetime ago. Some books were perhaps not as intense as I remembered, or perhaps not as defining to me, but then I’m older, and I’ve have experienced things I hadn’t experienced the first time I read the stories. This doesn’t diminish the greatness of the story. It just lends another layer to the experience of the books. Some books, the intensity was over the course of a series, rather than in one book. By reading the subsequent books, I was able to find that deep feeling I’d had years before.

 There is something about YAs, that while so simple, they can be profound. I think with the Romance genre, which is what I write, there is the risk of the audience already knowing who’s going to end up with whom, and the limitation of not being able to go too far outside of the set genre boundaries. With the Young Adult genre, for the most part, the romance is a secondary aspect compared to the adventure, the magic, the mystery, etc. Because of this, a YA writer is able to build a relationship you might not suspect from the outset.

 Take love scenes, just for example. They tend to be far from explicit, teasing the edges of reality, showing you only what needs to be seen to feel the intense love, to feel the passion. It’s very different from what an adult often craves, and yet as an adult, reading and re-reading these scenes, I come away from them almost stunned at the power within them. YA authors often cannot tell all that you could in other mediums, and yet it’s all the stronger for it.  Relationships, whether primary or secondary, develop with small hints here and there until, like the characters, the deepness of the love hits you square on.

These great books have helped me develop into the person and the writer that I am today. I can only hope to strive for that incredible layering and depth, with such subtle wording and actions. I find that when I go to edit my stories, the best trick I can possibly use is to compare my story to a Young Adult novel, and make sure I’m keeping it simple while still layering it just right.

 I hope the tale of my bookstep journey has propelled you to do the same. If you’re actually a young adult, not just in your mind, I hope that this will perhaps give you the forethought to write down your favorite books. Maybe you can even start making your own collection of honored favorites.

As for myself, I will continue to find new YAs by my favorite authors and by new, soon-to-be-favorite authors. Everytime I go to a bookstore, I come home with at least one Romance, one Historical Fiction, and at least two YAs. It’s a sickness, but one I’m happy to live with.

Looking back at my booksteps, and looking across the room to my special shelf, I thought I’d pass on a few of my favorite finds from the journey, in no particular order of preference.

Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine.
Wise Child; and Juniper, by Monica Furlong.
Princess Nevermore, by Dian Curtis Regan.
Gypsy Rizka, by Lloyd Alexander.
The Ancient One, by T.A. Barron.
Matilda Bone; and The Midwife’s Apprentice, by Karen Cushman.
The Moorchild, by Eloise McGraw.
Song of the Magdalene; and Zel; and Spinners, by Donna Jo Napoli.
The On Fortune’s Wheel series by Cynthia Voigt; and the Dicey’s Song series, by Cynthia Voigt.
Sabriel; and Abhorsen; and Lirael, by Garth Nix.
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, by Patricia C. Wrede.
And the one I had most longed to find? The one that all I could remember was the coral colored cover? The Ramsay Scallop, by Frances Temple. Oh, and the dog? Yeah it was on the back cover.

To Contest Or Not To Contest

8 Aug

I live in that mushy writer’s world In Between.

 

I’m no longer such a newbie that I feel my writing is unshowable, but I know I still have some work to do to make that (hopefully) final jump to publication.

 

There seem to be two ways to start making the next jump: A really great mentor (briaquinlan AT aol if you’re interested in filling that role ;) ) OR contest feedback.

 

So, contest feedback it is.

 

Yes, I’ve heard the downside. I’ve heard how people with chips on their shoulders rip into your work, finding flaws that aren’t there, being rules Nazi for rules they don’t understand…sending you a 3page single spaced rewrite of your entire plot b/c you “got it wrong” and then giving you all zeros (I know 2 people THAT happened to…come on) – But the truth is, there are several benefits to contests.

 

  1. Outside opinions
    • I’ve had several people who know me say they can hear my voice as they read the ms. So, that’s…um… not so great. If my ms is standing on the power of KNOWING me, I need to know that. This one, I don’t think it is. I think that the Rom Com voices are just closer to my own than my Fantasy voice. But let’s check that out, shall we?
  2. Judges
    • Let’s be honest, I’m not entering a contest for a final judge I don’t want to get in front of. There’s a contest a friend has been pushing me to enter, but the final YA judge is someone that I feel wouldn’t be a good match for me as The Agent. Obviously I’m not throwing down the cash for that.
  3. Props
    • What can we add to query letters if we don’t have publishing credits yet? How about a very reputable contest win? Yeah. That would be swell.

 

So, then comes the budget. Unemployed writer looking to get stuff in front of editors… Cost? Priceless… or not. Budget has to play a large part in what you can do.

Another reason I’m skipping two contests is because the final judges are agents who have both asked to see whatever I have next. Why pay the money hoping to get in front of agents who have already said to send it to them… I mentioned the budget, right?

 

And so, I’ve narrowed it down to 12. A little more research and I’ll be ready to go. Hopefully something good will come from taking this leap.

 

I’d love to hear your contest experiences. Let me know the good, the bad, the ugly and the “why the heck did I bother”s.

Big Books?

22 Jul

I write Big Books and I write Little Books. In between: Not so much.

 

The issue isn’t with the in between since my genre is YA. The shorter books (50-60K) are actually sitting where they should be for the shelf. But, something interesting happened today that got me thinking. Janet Reid tweeted that she’s been getting a lot of 175Kish books lately (ok, my Big Book doesn’t quite scratch there, so phew!) and she was wondering why.

 

This to me is a simple answer. I read fast. When I’m unemployed I can sometimes whip thru 2 or 3 mass market sized books (@90K) in a day. Yeah, I should be writing, but sometimes you need a break. And those books are great. Sometimes the author slows me down and gives me stuff to really sink into, but typically, at that size, it feels like a small book to me.

 

I want those big books. I want to LIVE in a book for a few days. I want to not be able to finish it because my eyes are burning  to close and when I do fall asleep I want to dream about it. I want the juicy pulpy world that’s so rich you need more than the “normal” size to get it. I want a cast of more than 4. I want to have to pay attention.  Great example is Poison Study by Maria V Snyder - rich world, amazing story, “normal” word count.

 

Which brings me to the next point. Why do we expect every story to be told in about the same word count? Thank God (as usual) for Stephen King. Big Books, Medium Books, Small Books, Short Stories, Novellas… If the man who points the way doesn’t stick to 90k, I think we can pretty much say that not every story is a 90k word count story.

 

And so I wonder, why does every book try to fit in there. No, no need to comment. I do understand cost efficiency. But let’s look at Twilight (I know, I promised we wouldn’t talk more about Twilight, but we’re talking industry here) — One of the reasons people love that book is because they LIVED in it. I think we can all agree that the extra paper and ink paid off. Let’s see who will be the next agent and publisher to take a chance on a Big Book and win big.

Chat Postponed

7 Jul

Sorry for the late notice everyone, but I’m afraid that due to unforeseen circumstances, the Live Blog Chat with Tera Lynn Childs has been postponed….this is only good news! It means you still have time to pick up her Rita Nominated book before the winner is announced this month!

I Am Woman Hear Me…Um, What Exactly Is It I Do?

5 May

A couple weeks ago, based on a writing forum discussion, I posted a Buff V Bella blog post HERE. It’s still getting tons of hits and some votes, but what’s interesting is the strong reactions.

 

The divide blew me away. People saying they WOULD want to be Buffy or Bella. I’m not sure anyone even talked about the girls in between – the more everyday heroine. Step outside a paranormal and there are a ton of witty, strong, powerful female leads.

 

I realize not everyone can be Elizabeth Bennet (so yeah, she’s out of the running), but which female character have you most identified with in your life. Has it changed as you’ve “grown-up”? Has it effected how you view yourself?

 

Why? Because I’m really curious what makes people identify with a character. Is it a good thing to relate that much? Does that make the character “better” than others? Do you identify with their flaws as well? How clearly do you see the connection? OK, now go ask a friend if you’re right?

In our book club years ago, a woman said she was shocked how much a character was like her. She just couldn’t wait to get to book club because she knew everyone would be talking about it. This character was NOTHING like her. It was so far from her that we all thought she was joking at first. But to her, the author had written her kindred spirit in this character.

 

So, no Elizabeth Bennet (which was rated the number one character women relate to) – but who is your soul-mate character?

Luv YA Book Club: HELL WEEK by Rosemary Clement-Moore

21 Apr

As always….

WARNING: This is NOT a review – it’s a Blog Book Club. That means, we’re going to discuss the book – the whole book – yes – even the end – so guess what. There’s going to be spoilers.

SPOILERS PEOPLE!

NO! Seriously. If you read past here, it’s your own darn fault.

OK. Welcome to Luv YA’s Book Club Book Blog – with Rosemary Clement-Moore discussing her second book, Rita Nominated HELL WEEK!

 

BUT FIRST….. Two things.

1) Please remember that the book club is for Hell Week, the SECOND Maggie Quinn book. I’m asking nicely, but I will delete posts that give spoilers to book three. It’s pretty new and too good to ruin for someone who hasn’t gotten a chance to pick it up yet. Also, Rosemary may have to quick step some questions to avoid giving spoilers for book three. Please be kind as she does this.

2) At someone’s request I’m starting an email list strictly for book club if you’re on the list:

  • Email a month in advance announcing the next book
  • Email a 2 weeks in advance as a reminder
  • Email several days before confirming Book Club is good to go
  • That’s it unless I’m looking for Book Club suggestions which probably won’t happen often
  • If you’re interested, email me at briaquinlan@aol.com

 

And here we go!

 

I really cannot tell you how darn excited I am to have Rosemary Clement-Moore here to discuss her book Hell Week (if you haven’t guessed all of that already, now you know) – For you newbies, feel free to read the Book Club post and dive in with a question or two. Rosemary will be with us and answering them live tonight :)

 

Maggie Quinn, Girl Reporter and Butt-Kicker of Evil, should be enjoying all the perks of starting college, like finagling her way onto the staff of the school paper, but –as with most things in Maggie’s life — Yeah. Not so much.

It’s bad enough wondering what’s going on with her MIA almost-boyfriend Justin who spent the summer in Ireland, but after one night, it’s pretty clear that going undercover at Sorority Rush may just sharpen her snark skills to deadly.

When Maggie opens herself up to continuing in the Greek system as a pledge to write exposes for the newspaper, strange things start to happen. Not that that’s anything new. But her normal Sight dreams are getting weird and now she’s having these vision flashes when she touches things. That’s a way to learn way more than you wanted to know. Like about Deidre, the girl who just happened to be looking pretty intense with Justin in Ireland. Yeah, she definitely could have skipped knowing that. But when she comes out and asks him about it, Justin gives it to her straight: He likes her but needs to focus on school.

Ouch.

And so Maggie throws herself into the undercover work, getting sucked into Sorority life. Which means Pledging, Parties and  Some Word That Starts With “P” that means “hot guys who kiss you behind the bar.” Oh yeah, and let’s not forget the most important P: Paranormal.

Maggie discovers there’s more going on in the SAXi house than anyone suspects, and a very clear reason the pledges can’t have sex…does the word succubus mean anything to you?

Well, that put a damper on her reclaiming Justin plans. But, if a girl ever needed inspiration to not become a succubus (um, yeah) he’s definitely the one. So Maggie does what any girl bent on saving the world would do: She breaks into the heart of darkness, finds their secrets and begins the butt-kicking plan-building.

And then the threats begin, because did we mention that her mom has a “P” word of her own? She’s preggers and no one, no matter how powerful the demon she’s summoned, is going to screw with the people Maggie loves.

 

MUST READ. Seriously – I have not done the skim-the-set-up justice :) 

And now onto the pre-chat Q&A with Rosemary Clement-Moore

 

Let’s start with the dreaded, “So, Rosemary, tell us a bit about yourself.” were you a snarker like Maggie? Was writing always your thing? Have you vanquished anything lately?

I’ve always been a storyteller, with a wild imagination. Plus I have very eclectic interests, which made it hard to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. So I became a writer, so I wouldn’t have to pick just one thing to study.

Was I snarky? Only in my head. Outwardly, I was very polite and well mannered. I did theatre and I was surrounded by boisterous, funny people, and I had this quiet, dry sense of humor that I kept to myself. It wasn’t really until college that I came out of my shell. It’s just gotten worse since then.

The only thing I’ve vanquished recently is the dust bunnies from under the couch.

 

Where exactly IS Avalon? Is Bedivere University named for something?

Some people assume it’s in Texas, since I’m from Texas. And it could be. :-) But once you say “Texas” people assume rednecks and cowboy boots and big hair. I wanted to avoid those stereotypes. I wanted Avalon to have that “everywhere” feel, like Middleton in Kim Possible cartoons.

And of course the name is part of that, because Avalon, in mythology, is not part of our world. Bedivere University named from that mythology, by the way. I’ll let the intrepid Googlers figure out the connection. :-)

 

I love Maggie. Even when she accepts things, she fights them kicking and screaming. One of your reviewers said she was kind of a “Veronica Mars fights demons.” How do you see her?

 Maggie comes from the tradition of Nancy Drew — that plucky young heroine whose curiosity and do-gooder-ness is always leading her into danger, but her smarts and resourcefulness get her out of it. I didn’t watch Veronica Mars before I wrote the book(s), but I think she (VM) falls in this category too.

Maggie draws comparisons to Buffy, too, but I think those are more superficial. The both fight evil while cracking wise. But Maggie’s bravado is all to cover her terror. :)

 

Why a reporter? Was it a conscious decision or has it always just been part of who Maggie is?

I knew she’d be a reporter before I knew anything else about her. Think Brenda Starr and Lois Lane. She’s always sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong, always wants to get the whole story… even when she knows she’s not going to like it.

 

Maggie walks a really fine line between belief and disbelief. How do you balance that when writing her?

When I gave Maggie the Sight, I could have given her all the answers. But what fun would that be? It’s too easy. A leap of faith isn’t much of a challenge if you can clearly see the net beneath you. So Maggie questions everything… it’s rooted in her personality, that ‘dogged reporter’ thing. (See! It all plays together!)

Also I feel that her disbelief makes her fictional world (which is rooted in ours) more believable. Because I sure would question all these things if they started happening around me! so that voice in Maggie’s head that says “convince me” is a kind of reader surrogate.

 

I’ll be honest, I thought you were going to break my heart with Justin in Hell Week. Why did he back off at the beginning? And, for college students, their relationship moves fairly slowly — I’m enjoying watching it a lot. What made you decide to keep things physically light in this book?

Ha! My critique partner threatened me with mayhem if I broke Maggie and Justin up. Here’s the deal: Prom Dates From Hell (book 1) left them about to go on their first real date, then there’s a three month gap to the next book. I needed to reset the clock a bit, so we can all watch theri relationship develop. As for Justin’s motivation… Well, he has his own questions he’s asking, and we don’t know everything about him just yet.  (Just a teaser: we find out a lot more in book three.)

As for pace, I wanted to leave myself someplace to go. If Maggie and Justin reach complete physical and emotional intimacy too early, we don’t get a chance to enjoy the journey. The road to love is fun to read about, so why rush it?

And geez, he does get her shirt off. What more do you want?

No, wait. Don’t answer that.

 

And really, is there any better place to jump into our chat time than there *wink*

Book Club Tomorrow Night! Rosemary Clement-Moore

20 Apr

Don’t forget Rosemary Clement-Moore will be joining us tomorrow night at 9pm EST for live chat! It should be amazingly fun :)

Book Club Big Announcement: Rosemary Clement-Moore

15 Apr

I am so darn excited! This was definitely one of those *ask and receive* moments :)

 

I’m sure you’re all aware that next Tuesday evening is Luv YA Book Club and we’re discussing Rosemary Clement-Moore’s Rita Nominated Hell Week. What you didn’t know is that she’ll be joining us for a live blog chat!

 

Did I mention I can’t wait? You have almost an entire week to find and read this book, so turn off the computer and get to it. I promise you’ll have a fun read and a fun Book Club.

 

If you’re curious what it all looks like, check out our last one with Tina Ferraro HERE. We had a ball…I’ll never forget it b/c I was so sick I wasn’t even allowed to drive on the meds I was taking and making absolutely no sense in chat *sigh* Good impression bria. Real good.

 

Join us Tuesday April 21st at 9PM EST to discuss Hell Week by Rosemary Clement-Moore.

Luv YA Book Club: Hell Week by Rosemary Clement-Moore

12 Apr

Just over one week till Luv YA Book Club discusses Rosemary Clement-Moore’s Rita Nominated Hell Week

 

Join us Tuesday April 21st at 9PM EST to discuss it.

 

ETA: Yes, everyone who has mentioned it…It WOULD be great to have Ms. Clement-Moore here with us. It WAS amazing getting to have Tina Ferraro…but, unfortunately, I don’t e-know Rosemary Clement-Moore. If anyone does and coming to Book Club would be up her alley, invite her and let us know :)

Luv YA Book Club: ABCs OF KISSING BOYS

17 Feb

As always….

 

WARNING: This is NOT a review – it’s a Blog Book Club. That means, we’re going to discuss the book – the whole book – yes – even the end – so guess what. There’s going to be spoilers.

 

SPOILERS PEOPLE

 

NO! Seriously. If you read past here, it’s your own darn fault.

 

OK. Welcome to Luv YA’s first Book Club Book Blog – YAY!

Ok, special guest #1 is BuffyPrower visiting from deviantart. com with her plot summary of the first part of the book . Stealing her bio it says: “She’s a sixth grader who is a huge fan of video games and still manages to find time to read a lot.” And I’d like to add, that (may she not kill me and take this out on her mom instead) she’s a mini-diva in training. And that’s a good thing.

 

The thing is, I kinda started reading “The ABCs to Kissing Boys” the same night [as Twilight – I’m still on page 7]. And I’ve been reading it more than Twilight. Seems like my end of the deal isn’t holding up, is it? Guess not. Well, Kissing Boys is actually very good, considering it’s a romance book, that’s saying something coming from me.

 

The ABC’s of Kissing Boys is about a junior high school girl (Parker) who loves soccer. She had gotten put on the JV team at her school instead of the Varsity team. But her school has this sports fair at the start of the year. The booth that gets the most money gets a special parking spot for the coach. So her coach is setting up a kissing booth. And Parker’s plan for Coach Heartless involves the previous Prom King, and hottie, Luke Anderson. But then she needs to pay a small fine. Only just $300. The pair’s plan is to have Luke go up to the $3 kissing booth and offer up $300 to kiss Parker. But the thing is, Park doesn’t know how to kiss. Luke’s advice was to go buy a bunch of Starbursts and cherries. Then unwrap the Starbursts with your tongue, and tie the cherry stems with your tongue as well. But then, how hard can that be? Quiet hard. But it’s what his ex did.

 

On the way home, she meets her neighbor from across the street (Tristan), who her father is so convently competitive with his. But Tristan seems to know a bit about kissing. He went to a camp that summer as a counselor. When the kids went to bed or whatever, the counselors played some games that involved kissing. Lucky for Parker, he teaches her some things about Kissing. And he’s a FRESHMAN. The worst thing ever. Freshman kissing Junior. Or, Junior kissing Freshmen. Yeah… In PUBLIC. But luckily, it’s only the street and he’s at least as tall as her, maybe taller. Exactly 364 days younger, and teaching her how to kiss.. Shame.. He only really gets to teach her the “Caterpillar Kiss”. Basically where you rub eyebrows together.

 

I’m a bit farther than this, but he’s currently giving her private lessons on this stuff, and she’s also having to deal with the first day of school. Her prissy brat ex-friend Chrissandra, the most popular girl in school, saw Parker and Tristan in Park’s mom’s SUV driving from one of their lessons, and automatically figured they were dating. Big mistake! On the first day of school, Chrissandra and her posse decided to give Parker a gift. How thoughtful! Then it’s a pacifier.

 

Here’s what she has to say: Yes everyone, she said PACIFIER. If you haven’t read it, you’ll just have to now, won’t you!

 

Now, on to special guest #2 – is this a great month or what??? And, if you’ve been playing along at home, you know that special guest #2 is none other than TINA FERRARO!!!

 

Tina did the most amazing thing and gave us a little behind the scenes look at ABCs of Kissing Boys. She answered some great questions and I’m sure we’ll stir up some more with our chatter. Oh, and I passed on a few you sent to me…Yeah, I was curious about the younger guy thing too….*bria pleads the fifth*

 

What real city is DeGroot, MN named for?
A few summers ago, my husband, kids and I attended a family reunion in Minnesota.  Afterwards, we drove north and stayed in Duluth. That’s the “real” DeGroot.  I fell in love with the Lake Superior city, with its harbor, bridge, bike paths, downtown area…but altered the name to allow me to “tweak” the specifics to fit my story!

 

Do you ever name your characters after people in your life?
Yes!  Here is an internet exclusive (haha): a number of characters in my books (especially the guys) are named after my kids’ friends. Sometimes on purpose, sometimes not.  For instance, from HOW TO HOOK A HOTTIE, there’s a real Brandon and Mark.  In THE ABC’S OF KISSING BOYS, I used Kyle, Tristan, Luke, Rusty, Keegan and Nick–all after their friends.  And there will be even more in my next book, WHEN BAD FLINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD GIRLS.  It’s definitely fun to tease the guys about being in my books, and I tell them to take a copy to college and use it to meet girls:  “Hey, did you know I’m in a romance novel?”  :)

 

Does the Steam Kiss really work?
I have no idea!  I never got around to fully researching it.  So please, those of you with copies of my book, check out pages 125-126, try it and tell me!

 

Where did you find the Steam Kiss?
I did kissing research on the internet and in a few books, but most of the really good stuff came from kissing websites!

 

What’s the truth behind the Starburst exercises?
Both my niece and my daughter had heard of the urban legend that unwrapping a Starburst with your tongue would make you a better kisser, and passed it along to me.  And my writer’s instinct told me it was a fantastic device to help set the story.  Does it actually work?  Who knows?  Good kissing is subjective, probably has more to do with how attracted you are to your partner than technical skill!

 

Have you ever dated a younger guy?
Yes, the summer I was 24, I had holiday romance with a three-years-younger guy.  I was in Sweden to help organize an international conference, and he was a student I met on a weekend outing.  I was learning Swedish and he used the English words he could remember from school, so our sentences were very tangled with both languages.  We made a lot of mistakes and laughed a lot.  The problem was, once we got over the language problems, we didn’t have all that much to say…so it didn’t end because of the age difference as much as a lack of chemistry!

 

So, who is going to get back to us on this Steamy Kiss thing? :)

 

Getting on to the other questions – one of the things that always impresses me about Tina’s books is how fun they are while dealing with topics that are serious and can feel bigger in that moment. Everything from not making the team to feeling like you may be losing your home….Oh, you haven’t read that one….yeah, go read it!  How did you feel reading the desperate struggle Parker has to maintain her status at school while fighting against her growing relationship with Tristan?

 

One of my writer friends emailed me this past weekend to thank me for suggesting ABCs and introducing her to Tina’s books – she said she couldn’t wait for book club to learn about the woman who could put her  in “total awe of a woman who can communicate that her MC’s parents sleep in separate beds with a single phrase not even related to sleeping” — How did you guys feel about Parker’s view of her parents and the war with Tristan’s dad? I know parents can seem irrational sometimes, did you find yourself groaning along with Parker or laughing at her situation? (perhaps BuffyPrower would like to share some of her “my mom is irrational” moments :) )

 

Parker learns a hard lesson in the end and has one of those “don’t know whatcha got till it’s gone” moments…We all knew it couldn’t end clean and pretty, but what did you think of her recovery?

 

Not all the girls Parker had a tough time with were Mean Girls. Tina’s done a great job at capturing the complexity of girls being friends – were you hoping for redemption for all the girls or did you love hating them?

 

I can’t wait to hear your comments and questions about the book!  As you know, this is Month 2 (yay to everyone who came back) — So, as always here, jump in and share your thoughts and your questions freely – remember (adults :) ) this is a YA blog, so keep your wording YA Friendly!

Luv YA Book Club Reminder: ABCs of Kissing Boys

15 Feb

Don’t forget: THISNweek is Book Club week and I have two very special guests!

 

Of course we should get super excited that Tina Ferraro is giving us an inside peek at the book and the characters. If you haven’t checked out the trailer yet, rush over HERE and take a look-see.  It’s very cool.

So, who are these characters and what the heck is the Steamy Kiss anyway!

 

Also, I WON’T be the person giving the book summary – I have another special guest to do that.

 

Please remember, LYABC has been moved to TUESDAY night at 9pm EST!

Luv YA Book Club Reminder: ABCs of Kissing Boys

11 Feb

Don’t forget: Next week is Book Club week and I have two very special guests!

 

Of course we should get super excited that Tina Ferraro is giving us an inside peek at the book and the characters. If you haven’t checked out the trailer yet, rush over HERE and take a look-see.  It’s very cool.

So, who are these characters and what the heck is the Steamy Kiss anyway!

 

Also, I WON’T be the person giving the book summary – I have another special guest to do that.

 

Please remember, LYABC has been moved to TUESDAY night at 9pm EST!

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