Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Happy Book Birthday to STITCHING SNOW!

My author R.C.Lewis first described STITCHING SNOW to me as "Snow White in space... if Snow were a cage-fighting tech-head with daddy issues." How could I not want to read that? And now YOU can, too, as STITCHING SNOW officially hits shelves today!

THE QUERY THAT GRABBED ME: Seventeen-year-old Essie can take care of herself. She knows how to stitch up robotic drones so the men in the mining settlement remember she's worth keeping around. She knows how to use her fists to make sure they keep their hands off her. But all her self-preservation skills don't tell her how to deal with Dane, a boy who's depending on her to get his crashed shuttle off the icy ground of her desolate planet and flying again.

Dane's polite, chivalrous, even a little charming, and he gives Essie the kind of attention she's never had. She begins to trust him, which is a new (and terrifying!) feeling for her. But then he discovers her secret. She's a Princess who has been missing for years, and there will be a rich reward for returning her to her kingdom. One betrayal later, he's taking her home whether she likes it or not, to exchange for captives held by Essie's father the King. What Dane doesn't know is Essie wasn't kidnapped all those years ago... she ran away. And bringing her back home just might kill her.

STITCHING SNOW is fast-paced, voicey debut YA that will appeal to both SF fans and "people who don't think they like Science Fiction" - and Essie is a brilliant, tough little sweetheart of a character you won't soon forget.

Buy the book at your local independent bookstore via IndieBound, or at Oblong, Powells, Book Depository, B+N or Amazon, or wherever fine books are sold.

Monday, October 06, 2014

How Similar is TOO Similar in the Great Agent Hunt?

Research agents for even a short while and you're almost sure to come up with two competing bits of wisdom: 

LOOK FOR AGENTS WHO REP THE BOOKS MOST LIKE YOUR OWN!

vs

AGENTS WON'T TAKE ON WORK TOO SIMILAR TO WHAT THEY ALREADY REP.

Guess what? BOTH these contradictory statements are true! ....Yayyy??

Of course you want to pick an agent who does the kind of books you do, and hopefully reps some authors you admire. . . but yep, that agent will likely decline if the books are too similar. I wrote a post way back in 2011 about WHY agents can't take on work that competes with what they already rep. It's all still true, so I won't rehash it here. We know the WHY. But how can you tell if your book falls into this problematic area?

A quick way to decide if your book might be too close to what an agent already reps: If you break your book and the comparable book(s) down into general CATEGORY, TONE and THEME - TWO of these can match. But if all three overlap, it's probably too close.

In other words: 

I could rep two funny picture books ... but not two funny picture books about Ninjas. I could rep two picture books about Ninjas, if one was funny, while the other was non-fiction/factual. I could rep two funny Ninja books... if one was a picture book and one was a middle grade. (That isn't to say that there isn't room IN THE WORLD for multiple funny picture books about Ninjas, btw... just that I personally would feel uncomfortable repping all of them!)

In the case of something like "heartfelt middle grade fiction about girls growing up" - where there are certainly lots of great books that seem to overlap... the differences might be more subtle. I rep both Linda Urban and Kate Messner, for example - two great authors, both sometimes writing in a similar space - but you wouldn't confuse CROOKED KIND OF PERFECT with BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. You just wouldn't. On the surface there are similarities, but there's a difference at the bone. 

So if you're researching an agent who reps what you write... and you've thought about the chart and you see the surface similarities but you still think YOUR difference is different enough... you might as well try querying the agent... why not, right? Nothing to lose. Nobody is going to be mad at you - the worst that can happen is, you get a rejection, and that isn't anything to lose sleep over.

Does this make sense? Helpful, or have I muddied the waters even further?

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

New Releases - A Little Something for Everyone

Life got the best of me in September and I realize I have several books to post about now... so I'll do the new releases all in one to save your eyeballs!

For the Picture Book crowd: 
Mara Rockliff's CHIK CHAK SHABBAT is a wonderfully inclusive picture book about the multi-ethnic residents of an apartment building who, when a neighbor is too sick to cook, improvise a meal cobbling together their own unique traditions to celebrate the true spirit of Shabbat. The book is illustrated by the amazing Kyrsten Brooker and really has the feel of a modern classic already - Candlewick did a great job!

And lest you assume that this is a "niche" book, I have to tell you -- there is so much warmth, humor and heart to be found in these pages, it doesn't matter if you don't know Shabbat from Shinola, you'll get it. :-)

Buy the book: IndieBound - Powells 

For Middle Grade readers:
Kate Messner's WAKE UP MISSING, the edge-of-your-seat science thriller, is now available in paperback!

WAKE UP MISSING is about a group of kids from different parts of the country and different walks of life. In fact, they have only one thing in common - they are all hospitalized in an elite institution for brain science after having experienced head trauma. When the kids realize that something VERY sinister is going on at the so-called "research" facility, they must run for their lives -- making their escape through the dangerous Florida Everglades. This is one seriously EXCITING read - and it's especially good for any kid interested in science/medicine.

"Kate Messner combines a fascinating concept with page-turning suspense . . .  Reading this book is like a wild roller-coaster ride through the Florida swamps." —Margaret Peterson Haddix, author of The Missing and the Shadow Children series

Buy the book: IndieBound - Powells  

For the YA fans:
I wrote about Gwenda Bond's GIRL ON A WIRE  last month so I won't belabour the point, but I will say, if you think a mystery-magic-romance mashup sounds great and/or you appreciate the dazzling world of the Circus... you will probably love this book.

"The circus and its theatrical characters provide a fresh, vibrant backdrop as Bond impressively describes a range of circus performances, while threading enticing slivers of magic and romance into her story. It's a fascinating and enjoyable foray into circus life as seen through the eyes of an ambitious and talented performer."  -- PW

"The mystery is tense and nerve-wracking, and the acrobatics are gorgeously hair-raising." -- Kirkus

"With a thrilling mystery, a hint of magic, and a touch of romance, "Girl on a Wire" takes readers into the fascinating world of circus performers." -- SLJ

Buy the book: IndieBound - Powells

Monday, September 01, 2014

GIRL ON A WIRE Early Bird Special

Anyone who tells you magic isn’t real doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Just like anyone who tells you falling is like flying has never done either.

If you've spoken to me anytime in the past, oh, two-years-ish, you might have heard me gush about  GIRL ON A WIRE from the talented Gwenda Bond. And... its October release date is almost here! In fact...   

*drumroll* ... 

YOU CAN READ IT TODAY!

Yes I know it ISN'T October yet! This is a September surprise. GIRL ON A WIRE is a Kindle First pick. Which means, if you're an Amazon Prime member you can read GIRL ON A WIRE for free (FREE) (zero dollars!) right now. If you aren't, you can read it for $1.99 (which, let's face it, is ALMOST FREE). This deal will be going on the whole month of September. Yesssssss.

GIRL ON A WIRE is the story of Jules Maroni, the extreme high-wire walker and teen daughter of circus royalty. When somebody starts planting jinxy magical items on her costumes, it's unclear if the culprit just trying to scare her... or actually kill her. And is it all just old superstition, or could there be real magic at play? Jules teams up with the son of a rival family to solve the mystery, and sparks fly. (So yeah, it's basically Daredevil Juliet and Trapeze Romeo Solve Possibly Magical Crimes. Yessss.)

Get your e-copy today, a month before everyone else! And if you want to win a new Kindle Paperwhite, check out Gwenda's contest!


Monday, August 11, 2014

Middle Grade Webinar 8/14

By popular demand (really!), I'm revisiting my Writers Digest class, WRITING AND SELLING MIDDLE GRADE FICTION. Last time I taught this webinar we had 100+ participants and it was really fun, and I hope interesting and inspiring for attendees! Here's what you need to know:

* The live webinar will be held Thursday 8/14 at 1pm Eastern. BUT! If you can't attend live, NO PROBLEM - everyone who has signed up ahead of time will get the webinar on-demand, and have access to all program materials for a year

* Everyone who has signed up ahead of time will get a critique of EITHER the first 500 words of their finished/WIP middle grade OR their query. Your choice.

* EVERY question will be answered, either during the presentation or in writing afterward -- if you can't attend and ask during the live presentation, you may simply send in your question to WD, and I will get to all of them.

This class is probably most useful for:

* Folks who are either ready-to-query or who are in the query trenches but haven't yet hooked an agent (or perhaps, have gotten rejections but don't know why!)

* Those just starting their Middle Grade writing journey (or perhaps don't even know where to start!)

* Published or unpublished writers in other categories who are considering transitioning into Middle Grade.

You can sign up for the Webinar with critique anytime until 8/14. Check out the Writers Digest website for more info or to register.

And if you have ANY questions about this class, please ask here or on Twitter!


Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Story Structure from South Park

This has been ALL over social media in the past couple days, but it is really smart plotting advice from Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of "South Park" and "Book of Mormon." Like... REALLY smart and simple advice, not just for film but also very much applicable to children's book writers. Take two minutes and watch!

If you've ever gotten a critique that your picture book "read like a series of lists" or "was more like a vignette/series of vignettes" . . .  or perhaps your novel was "too episodic" . . .  THIS is what those critiquers probably meant, and how to fix it.

http://www.theafw.com/blog/south-park-writers-share-their-writing-rule-1/#.

What do you think?

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Infinite Repeat = More Micah!

OK so it might be weird to have a crush on a fictional teenager but... MICAH, though. Micah is the ultimate Badboy-with-a-Heart-of-Gold from THE ART OF LAINEY. He's a mohawk'ed, punk-rock-listening dude with a troubled past who also btw is super caring and kind and a huge fan of fancy baking and would love to make and feed you a scrumptious triple-chocolate-mocha-mousse-delight. I'm just saying. #yum

INFINITE REPEAT is a novella by Paula Stokes that gives us Micah-fans what we have wanted -- a story told from his POV that gives readers a glimpse into his backstory. It takes place entirely before THE ART OF LAINEY -- in other words, you don't need to read one to read the other. So if you haven't met Micah yet, here's a great chance to do so.

Obviously I love Micah and want to read about him just doing anything pretty much... but my favorite thing about INFINITE REPEAT is the relationship between Micah and his little sister Tris, who was one of the unexpected minor-character stars in the original book. Tris and Micah are such a compelling duo, and I totally platonic-ship them. I could read their conversations and banter all day. And I love how they are constantly both pushing each other and protecting each other. LOVE LOVE SIBLING LOVE!

Anyway, listen, enough out of me. I want you to get to know Micah. INFINITE REPEAT is $1.99 and can be found wherever e-books are sold. More about the book and all buy links on the Epic Reads site.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Spamvertisements Are Not Your Friend

What the heck are spamvertisements? They are that thing where a totally random "marketing guru" or "social media creative" - or just intrepid author with boundary issues - starts spamming people they don't know with advertisements about their or their poor client's latest book/project. The people being spammed AT are people who are big in that specific field (like in the case of books, they would be agents and editors) -- or just generally famous, like obviously Neil Gaiman, Veronica Roth, Stephen Fry, etc. -- or are huge "professional readers", popular bloggers and the like. If you look at their timeline it will probably look something like this:



Yeah. 

Don't do that.

I don't mind if my friends text me or call me up on the phone. . . or even if somebody I don't know well emails me to tell me something important. I don't even mind ads, when I run across them in the wild. However, I mind VERY MUCH if telemarketers call me specifically and interrupt dinner. You get the distinction?

BUT I WAS TOLD I HAD TO GO ON SOCIAL MEDIA AND PROMOTE MY BOOK!!!

Social Media of all kinds, including/especially Twitter, is all about. . . well, being SOCIAL. It's about connecting with people on a human level - not about YOUR BOOK YOUR BOOK YOUR BOOK - but about, like, how your dog caught an opossum or you are worried because your fire alarm seems to be haunted by poltergeists, or you need to find the best Chinese restaurant in rural New York. When, in the course of talking about mundane things, you also mention YOUR BOOK, it doesn't come across as sleazy - just as a part of your life, which it is. People are significantly (like scientifically 100000%) more likely to want to support you if you come across as a genuine, cool human being who also writes books, rather than a spam-machine-robot.

When you start a twitter account from scratch, it's almost like you are standing alone on an overturned apple crate in the park and speaking into a home-made paper megaphone. You have no audience yet -- you are just a lone soul standing around talking to the air. If you're lucky, you have a few real life friends that will start hanging around you. If you're entertaining, you'll get a few more, and they'll stick around. Soon you've got a nice little crowd going. Awesome! You get off the crate and start interacting. Now it's not you being a nutbar and talking to the clouds - it's you engaging with your group, having real conversations, cracking jokes, sharing ideas about things ranging from celebrity-silly to philosophically important - and occasionally one of you whips out the old paper-megaphone again to talk about a pet project or something, and nobody really minds, because hey, you all know where each other are coming from. Wheee!

If, instead, you use your crate as a platform from which to throw garbage at people . . . well they are REALLY UNLIKELY to want to stick around for that. If you start targeting people specifically -- that means you @mention their names and barrage them with advertising even though you don't know them -- they are likely to report you for spam and your platform will get taken away altogether. 

And it should go without saying - don't HIRE somebody to do this on your behalf, either. It's a waste of your money, and it will give you a black eye with the potential readers and bigmouths you probably want to impress.