Friday, December 17, 2010

So long, farewell - it's been a great three years!!

Tip of the Day: Although the Author2Author blog will be dark for the next two weeks so the holidays can be fully enjoyed, make sure you come back and visit on January 3rd, where the blog will have some exciting new changes and a fun giveaway to kick the new year off right!

It's been THREE years since Tina, Emily, Kate and Deena invited me to be a part of this blog. Can you believe it? At that time, I was looking forward to my debut novel, I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME releasing in January.

Since then, I've published three more novels, with two more coming out next year. I've quit my day job and, for the time being, am making a go at being a full-time author. I don't know how long it will last, but I'm enjoying it while I can.

It's been wonderful sharing the last three years with my friends here at Author2Author and all of YOU! In some ways, it feels like just yesterday when I was looking forward to my debut novel releasing and in other ways, it feels like a lifetime ago. Some things I've learned these past few years:
  • The waiting never stops. There is ALWAYS waiting - waiting for revisions, waiting to see the cover, waiting for the advance check, waiting to hear on a new project, waiting, waiting, waiting. If you can do one thing, figure out how to deal with the endless amount of waiting there is in this business. 
  •  There will always be people who have it better than you. Don't waste time and energy comparing yourself to others, wishing someone else's story could be your story. Trust that you are on the right path for YOU, and that things happen for a reason. It's hard to imagine, but we often become grateful for the disappointments we experience today, even if it's because they make us stronger.
  • Have people you can talk to privately about your frustrations. This is a hard business. Brutal at times. Have friends you can e-mail or call when you want to scream or cry, because most of the time, it's not a good idea to do it on-line for the world to see. And remember to have a life outside of your writing life too. That way, I think it's easier to swallow the disappointment because you have other happy things going on in your life to focus on. As Sara Zarr so eloquently said one time in an interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith, "A book is a wonderful, miraculous thing. But in some sense, it's also just a book."
  • When it comes to social networking, do what you love and what you have time for. I don't think you should do so much that you sacrifice other things, like writing time or family time. After all, there's no real proof that shows social networking makes any significant difference in sales. Do it because you enjoy it and anything beyond that is icing on the cupcake. If it starts to feel like it's too much, it's perfectly okay to step back, evaluate priorities, and make changes as necessary.
And on that note, I want to let you know I have done exactly that, and as a result, this is my last blog post here at Author2Author. With a blog of my own, an agent who asks me to participate from time to time on her blog, and The Contemps blog that I am heavily involved with, I have to figure out how to free up some time because writing books must remain my number one priority. So it is with some sadness that I'm stepping down from the Author2Author blog. 

But before I go, I want to say thank you to Kate, Emily, Deena and Tina for letting me be a part of this blog for the past three years. It's been a WONDERFUL experience, and I'm so glad to have gotten to know you not just as writers, but as people. I consider each of you my friends, and you better stay in touch!!!

As for you, dear blog readers, I'm sure I'll see you around the web. It is a small internet world, after all. Keep reading. Keep writing. Keep believing!!

Signing off and wishing you the happiest of holidays,

Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I Wish You a Yummy Coffee Drink

Tip of the Day: My super cool husband made me a book trailer for The Espressologist! Check it out.

I love this time of year! All of the decorating, shopping, cookie making, AND yummy coffee drinks! I’m going to share a fave around my house: Egg Nog Lattes!

Kristina’s YUMMY Egg Nog Latte

1) Combine ½ cup of egg nog with ¼ cup of milk in a steaming pitcher.

2) Pour the steamed egg nog/milk into a mug.

3) Make two shots of espresso.

4) Pour the shots of espresso into the mug of milk.

5) Stir.

6) Garnish drink with a pinch of nutmeg.

It’s soooooo good! Here’s a picture of one I made my hubby.

You’ve gotta try it!

I hope you and your families have a WONDEFUL holiday! And, keep an eye out for THE ESPRESSOLOGIST. It should be in paperback in stores on January 4th, 2011!

Kristina, Miss See Me on the Shelves

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Revision Version 5.9 Complete (or "Every Day I Wrote the Book*)

*with apologies to Elvis Costello

Tip of the Day: Eat lunch BEFORE baking holiday cookies.

Just in time to prepare for holiday goodness, I finished my revisions on PF and sent the ms off to my agent!

Some of you may recall this post where I figured out how to fix a bunch of stuff with a few "easy" steps.

After that revision, I sent the ms to fresh eyes for another read and received excellent feedback and suggestions from that reader as well. I incorporated those needed changes into the ms, and voila! Done with this round.

Will it be enough? Stay tuned to find out -- and cross your fingers for me. :)

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Best of Em--MG vs. YA

For the next few weeks, I'll be re-posting some old posts, as I take a break during my move, for the holidays, and to recharge.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

MG vs. YA

Tip of the Day: try to enjoy the nice weather, while it lasts!

Most of us at A2A have dabbled in writing both Middle Grade fiction and Young Adult. They seem so similar, but yet so far apart. The reading level for an average 9-year old versus a 13-year old is vastly different, and at the same time much of their interests differ as well.

Trying to write my first MG novel, I've found I'm enjoying discovering the differences between the two writing styles and getting into the head of a younger character.

So far, here's where I've found these two writing styles differ (at least in my own writing):

  • MG has to be a bit speedier. With shorter chapters and a quicker plot. Most 9-year olds get distracted very easily and if you don't keep them constantly entertained they might put the book down. At the same time, 9-year olds tend to have slightly more energy and your characters need to reflect that as well.
  • You can have more fun with strange characters. I think younger readers are more forgiving of the unusual and quirky characters and tend to enjoy them.
  • You're plots can be even more far-fetched. This is the case with YA too (as are all these bullet points), but I think you can go even further and push the limits with MG fiction. The crazier the plot, the more enjoyable and fun the book could be.
  • Friendship is really important at this age.
  • Parents play a bigger role in MG fiction than YA fiction.
  • The romance definitely has to be light if there is one.

These are ever changing points and things I'm picking up, but what do you all notice in the differences in MG and YA? With so many cross-over genre books for these age-ranges, there's so many different types of books out there. There's definitely something for everyone to read and write.

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sneaking Around to Write?

Tip of the Day: They say if you wear your pajamas inside out, the next day will be a snow day. Yay no school before Christmas!

So here I am at the day job and I'm blogging. Shhh, don't tell anyone.

It gets quiet here in December, though, as everyone goes on vacation. Other people are reading news on the internet and Christmas shopping online, and I usually use this time to catch up on writers' blogs and message boards. But then I figure, hey, there's no moral difference between that and catching up on critiques, right? And then it's down the slippery slope to actually writing at work.

Of course I've always brought a notebook to meetings. I get invited to some large group meetings where working on a synopsis instead of paying attention to things that don't affect my job is definitely the better use of my time. I feel no guilt there.

I know people who check their emails at work for query responses. Most people would find that acceptable. What about emailing queries and researching agents? Maybe that's strictly a lunchtime activity.

Where do you draw the line? What's okay to do at work and what isn't?

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Christmas miracle - sales numbers easily available!

Tip of the day: Trader Joe's eggnog cookies are delicious - you should try them even if you don't care for eggnog. 

So, if you were on twitter yesterday, you may have heard agents and authors talking about the new deal between BookScan and Amazon. (You can read the article that announced it HERE). If an author participates in the Amazon Author program, he/she can access BookScan sales numbers for books he/she wrote and see sales figures for four weeks time.

Up until now, BookScan numbers were too expensive for most authors to get. Subscribing to BookScan costs thousands and thousands of dollars, from what I understand. Editors have the numbers, but they generally don't give authors those numbers unless they ask. And even then, information is usually handed out with an explanation of what it means for YOUR books and a reminder that BookScan is known for being highly inaccurate. Plus it doesn't include library sales and sales through places like Walmart, Target, etc. Apparently numbers on your statement will vary anywhere from 15-75% from BookScan numbers.

I sort of have mixed feelings about all of this. On the one hand, we get SO little information about how our books are selling. Royalty statements only come out twice a year and they often don't tell the whole story because returns can take a long time to show up. So, it's nice to have something that says - your books are selling, and here's how many in a week.

On the other hand, how many authors are going to know what that particular number means? I mean, pick a number. Is it good or bad? Is 500 copies a week good? 100? 50? 25? I've heard that it takes probably 4,000 - 5,000 books sold to hit the NYT list on any given week, so in that context, 500 doesn't seem that good. But then, I think - 500!? That's pretty good. I'd be happy with that! Other things that come into play - how long has the book been out? How many books were printed in the first place? Is it hardcover or paperback?

And let's say your book is down there in the 25/week range. And you get a stomach ache and go UGH! Now you have a stomach ache, but what can you do about it? Most of us do as much as we can already when it comes to promotion. So how does knowing really help us?

One person on twitter did suggest that when you tried something new promo-wise, or did some signings in a particular week, you could watch your numbers and see if it had an affect on the sales that week and take note.

My guess is that Amazon got tired of the questions - what does the Amazon ranking mean? Can't you give us more information about it? So, somehow they struck a deal with BookScan and here we are. One author on twitter asked, how long before they make us pay for this information? Good point. Give it to us free for a while, suck us in, and then start charging. It'll be interesting to see if that happens.

So... what do you think? Do you like the idea of having access to these numbers or not?

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dating Your Books

Tip of the Day: According to, you look 7 years younger if you have the person taking your photo turn off the flash and instead turn on a lamp in the room. Coolness.

So, they were right, I was wrong. Pop culture references do date your books. I love using them though! But yeah, not a good practice. And I'm going to try to stop right now. My editor has mentioned this to me before and often I get stubborn and want to keep such and such name in the book, thinking nah, this person will always be famous. But then, you know, the next thing hits and they're not famous anymore. Like Snooki. When she hit the Jersey Shore she tanked the career of the kids on The Hills.

"We thought The Hills was going to be like 90210 and we'd have another five to 10 years," Spencer says. "The ratings were consistent. But we never sawJersey Shore coming. Before, TV audiences were fine with seeing us all argue, but now they want you to punch one another in the face and hook up with three different people. Our cast was a bit boring and snoozeworthy in comparison. No wonder we got canceled."

Yeah. I was recently revising a book that I wrote a couple of years ago and guess what? I mention The Hills. Hmm. Instantly makes the book seem old. And Snooki will be on her way out eventually (let's hope) so I wouldn't want to mention her show either. So from now on I'm going to try to make it a rule to only use made-up famous people/shows etc.

Kristina, Miss See Me on the Shelves

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Band Books (or Musical Treats!)

Tip of the Day: Get your snow tires on now if you haven't already. (Um, yeah, note to self.)

Since my manpanion is in a band, I know a lot about being on the girlfriend/audience member side of bandship and have been waiting to channel this into a YA novel. The dank bars, the hardcore groupies, the hot shows, the rank acoustics, the possibilities for settings and characters are endless!

But often when I read novels that TALK about music and songs, I can't get into them. I mean, I can LISTEN TO music, but I don't like listening to someone TALK ABOUT how music sounds.

Does that make sense?

Some examples of YAs with musical contexts that I've enjoyed are:

HARMONIC FEEDBACK (great novel about a girl with Asperger's who is a musician)
THE HALF-LIFE OF PLANETS (dual pov of a girl with a rep and a boy with Asperger's who is a musician)
AUDREY, WAIT (hilarious novel about a girl whose ex writes a hit song about her)
FREEFALL (guy drops out of his bro's band but plays a solid bass)

Others probably love the music talk in these books, but for me I liked the musical ELEMENTS and could relate the characters' musical interests, but I skimmed over the details of the SONGS.

Does that mean I shouldn't write a band book? Or that I should skip the music TALK and just get on with the dynamics, settings, and characters?
Do others have problems "hearing" music when it's talked about in books? Could music "aps" for ebooks create a whole new reading-of-music-based-novels experience?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Best of Em: When to stop querying a project


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

When to stop querying a project

Tip of the Day: Capri Suns aren't just for kids!

So we've gone through all the aspects of querying, except for when to give up. Our mother's all raised us to "never give up," but when it comes to writing I think you have to be smart about this. Most of us have limited time to pursue this dream, because we are also working full-time jobs, raising families, and have other dreams we are chasing.

So just because one book doesn't sell, doesn't mean you have to give up on writing. Or that this book won't eventually sell when the market changes and "puppet-loving girls from Louisiana" become the new "vampires" just when you happen to be shelving your book about a small-town girl from Bonita, LA that makes children's puppets out of Capri Sun juice bags to raise money to pursue her dream as a professional ventriloquist (which we all know is clearly where the YA market is moving).

Don't be afraid to move on if one book isn't working. Take it as a sign to focus your attention on that other book that's screaming "write me."

By no means, does this mean you have to shelve the book completely, but maybe step away from it for a few months, go back to it later, and see if you can pick up on why people were having issues with it.

Next week, I'll try to talk more specifically about how to figure out when is the right time to move on.

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, December 6, 2010

When You Can't Write--What Do You Do?

Tip of the Day: I was touched by this blog post from Tara Kelly on how you only get one debut author experience.

I've been struggling with carpal tunnel problems so I've been trying to lay off the keyboard. Typing, especially with my left hand, has been extremely painful. I haven't been doing much writing.

You know what I discovered? I get very grouchy when I can't write.

It's not like I've never discovered this before. Not writing makes me out of sorts. Writing for me is like work. It's not a hobby; I don't always enjoy it. I'm beginning to think of it like someone who puts aside part of their yard for extensive landscaping. It's work, but it's productive and positive, and everyone needs a productive and positive way to spend some time out of work, or else the day job is all you have. Like my husband pulls moulding off the walls and sands it and stains it and puts it back on. It's not really a hobby. But he feels like a better person for having done it.

So when I don't write, I feel like a worse person. Like a lazy person letting time slip away from me.

I know I could be reading, but I'm in one of those moods where YA seems too young and adult books seem too cliche and generic. I'm out of good nonfiction around the house. So basically I just snap at everyone about how much my hands hurt. Good times.

How do you cope when you can't write?

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, December 3, 2010

Writing and the Crazy Month of December

Tip of the day: Powell's has NEW copies of CHASING BROOKLYN on sale for only $6.98! What a deal! In case you have any teen girls on your shopping list. :)

I think December is a hard month to be a writer. The publishing business pretty much shuts down for the month. The chance of hearing back on a submission now is pretty much slim to none. Everyone is just so busy.

And we, the writers, feel pulled in a million directions, which means the ability to sit down and write and keep the distractions at bay is very, VERY hard.

I also tend to feel really blue with the shorter days and all of the focus on STUFF and SHOP and BUY, BUY, BUY. My checkbook doesn't *want* to buy, thank you very much. But I try to keep up with my exercise, my sleep, my vitamin D, and tell myself this too shall pass.

My plan is to try and finish the draft of this book I've been working on by Sunday. I have a lot of words left to go, so not sure I can do it. But I really want to get it done so it can rest for the month of December and I can get on with my holiday to-do list! If I leave it unfinished, I'm afraid I'll come back and be unable to get back into it. Right now I'm in the groove of writing everyday. I have a pretty good sense of what needs to happen. I just need to get the words written down!

But... I may not finish. And that's okay. One thing I've learned over the years, since I've been doing this a long time now, is this: writing should never trump life. Well, the good part of life anyway. Laundry, absolutely!!!!

Yes, I love writing (most of the time). Yes, I'd love to have more books published. Yes it's important to write regularly. BUT, it's also important to enjoy life. To step away and say, okay, enough work for a while, it's time to do something else. Decorate the house. Spend time with loved ones. Bake cookies. Eat cookies!! Writing may be fun, but it's still work. And as they say, I won't be on my deathbed wishing I'd worked more.

It's time to finish up the work and put it away. It may be a completed draft, but it might not be. And whatever it is will have to be okay. It'll be there come January either way. But the cookies? They'll be long gone.

Happy Holidays!

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Gimme the Cheese!

Tip of the Day: Check out debsaidno's top ten Christmas movies list.

Em and I have a true love of Cheesy Christmas Movies. Every year we talk about them and we get practically giddy whenever there is a new one. Hallmark, ABC Family, Lifetime. The Town Christmas Forgot, The National Tree, Silver Bells, Finding John Christmas. Every weekend in December is a marathon of awesome, predictable, red & green, oooey gooey, slap you upside the head with the lovey dovey goodness. If I didn't have four little ones making me do stuff on Sunday I could literally just sit on the couch and watch them all freaking day. Happy sigh.

So why do we love them so much? I mean really, they are just retelling the same story over and over and over again. How many different ways can rich lonely girl conk her head and wake up in a different life with a family and hate it at first but then love it and whoops, bump her head again and it all goes away and she misses it. A ton of times! Jo from Facts of Life did it in one movie, that baywatch chick (you know, the one who just lost all the weight on one of the reality shows) in another and that redhead from Clueless did in a movie this past weekend. There's no mystery. About two sentences in we all know where the movie is headed. And we love it! And what about all the Christmas Carol retellings? I could watch them all flippin day. Susan Lucci as Scrooge, Frasier, Tori Spelling, Vanessa Williams, heck, I even love it when the muppets do it!

So we have to pinpoint why we love when some movies (and books too) are completely predictable and why we rant and get mad and post nasty stuff online when other movies (and of course again, books) are. Hmmmmm.


Kristina, Miss See Me on the Shelves

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

For YA Publishers: Covers (or Librarians Have It Covered)

Tip of the Day: The next YALSA Symposium is in St. Louis in 2012!

This is my second post on advice for YA publishers based on my experience as a YA librarian inspired by my recent YALSA Symposium attendance. (Click here for the first.)

I have never worked for a YA publishing imprint, so I'm not exactly sure how things go in their marketing/art department meetings, but I HAVE attended many YA Librarian conferences, meetings, chat sessions, etc., and I know we share some very similar frustrations, one of which is The Inaccurate/Unappealing/Unfortunate Book Cover. The ones that no matter how awesome the books are, even if put face out, patrons will not check them out because of the terrible covers.

Some problems with bad covers from the pov of librarians:
1) inaccurate ones can contradict readers advisory interactions (e.g., a skinny cover model when the MC is fat; a strange symbol on a cover that has nothing to do with the story)
2) inaccurate ones can limit audiences (e.g., a white cover model when the MC is Asian)
3) unfortunate ones can make books look old even if they are brand new (e.g. a drawn cover model instead of a photograph when photos are popular now)
4) unappealing ones can make books stagnate on the shelf, no matter how hard they are pushed, which wastes library money when they are eventually weeded for lack of circs (e.g. strange artsy covers that say nothing/confuse readers)

I know that people who do work for YA imprints attend events like ALA -- so why don't they gather some thoughts while there on what covers go out? Or if they do (do they?), why don't they take that advice? Because as much as places like B&N and Borders can have "control" over the cover decisions and are probably often correct in their assessment about what will or will not sell, publishers should not underestimate the power of librarians to spread book love that teens will spread from there.

To end on a note of love, YA librarians like covers that:
1) depict real teens (of all colors, shapes, sizes, and sexes)
2) accurately reflect the tone of the book (and not try to copy another successful book's look if the actual book is nothing like the other one)
3) are simple yet striking (so they catch a teen's attention as they pass by a display)
4) make sense (don't throw an icon on the cover bc "icon covers" happen to be selling well now unless the icon actually makes sense with the book)
5) accurately reflect the characters/setting in the book (and not just pick the first stock photo that B&N will carry if the characters are the opposite appearance of how they are written)

There are so many FABULOUS YA covers out there -- there are not-so-good books with awesome covers that go out all the time just bc of them! -- that I think a better job could be done, and YA librarians would be happy to guide art departments in viewing cover options.

What do others out there think of the power of YA librarians? :)
Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New digs

Tip of the day: Hallmark channel has the best cheesiest Christmas movies around and they have tons of new ones this year. Yay!

Not much to post today, but I wanted to share a picture of the house we are supposed to close on later today.

Can't wait till I can have writing retreats here! And I definitely think there might be a book of my set in a castle in the future.

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, November 29, 2010

Going to the Dogs and Cats in YA

Tip of the Day: Christmas TV listings! Oh, I love how CBS and ABC put The Grinch and Rudolph on at the same time tomorrow. Scrooges!

Writing about animals in Middle Grade is easy*. Ten-year-olds dream about spending Saturday night with a new guinea pig or kitten. Young Adult main characters have busier lives, but that doesn't mean the family pet can't be very important. The family pet may be the only one at home whose opinion your main character still respects. Look for how dogs and cats are used in the novels you read. Here are some ideas:

1. Building sympathy for your main character. Is your MC the only one taking responsibility for Doggie or Kitty? Especially if there's tension at home, showing your MC is capable of great caring casts suspicion on the other members of the family.

2. Dogs as judge of character. Aren't dogs supposed to love good people and sniff out dangerous people? If that sounds too Disney cartoon for you, think of it in terms of a love triangle. If one of your love interests needs a leg up, the approval of the family dog is huge bonus points.

3. Indicating a big change. When a beloved family pet has to be given away because of the main character's changed circumstances, it's a sure sign that very bad things are about to happen.

4. Using the daily dog walk. Does it take your MC past an ex-boyfriend's house, a graveyard, a park where something awful happened? Or does someone else know her route too well?

5. Humor. I'm thinking of adding a ninja attack cat to my tween novel on its next revision. There's a lot of room for creativity here. For example, have your MC suck up to a smelly dog only to find out it isn't owned by her crush after all, but owned by ...

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

* Well, not exactly easy. How about more obvious? Work with me here, people, I'm trying to make an analogy.

Friday, November 26, 2010

When you just HAVE to talk about it

Tip of the day: I'm thrilled that CHASING BROOKLYN made the 2011 Texas Tayshas high school reading list! So many great books on the list - I'm truly honored to have my book amongst them. Thank you Texas librarians!!

One evening this week, my husband came downstairs and said something along the lines of, I just read the saddest article in National Geographic, about how badly women in Afghanistan are treated. (This woman was one of the ones featured in the article.) Estimates are that 90% of women in Afghanistan face some kind of domestic violence. It's bad. Really, really bad. And the details this article gives about the horrible abuse many women face really, really upset him. I think a part of him wanted me to read it so we could talk about it, but another part of him knew if it upset him, it'd REALLY upset me. I haven't read it yet. I might. We'll see.

His reaction got me thinking about why we reach out to someone after we read a book. Some books I turn the last page and it's over, and that's enough. I'm glad I read it (or sometimes not) but it's nothing life changing and I move on to the next thing.

Other times, after I read a book, I *have* to talk about it. Like if I don't, it feels like something may explode inside of me or something.

What *is* that? Because whatever it is, I want my books to have it. I want a reader to close the last page and tweet about it, or e-mail a friend, or look me up on the internet to find out if I have more books.

I actually think the "need to share" can come about from a variety of things. Here's a list I came up with:

1) A surprise ending. Maybe even something really shocking. Something you don't see coming.

2) Something that touches you on a deep, emotional level. It might be something tragic you can't imagine happening, and you watch a character go through hell and back. Not only that, she does it all with a kind of grace you admire and hope you'd have if you were faced with similar circumstances.

3) A book that makes you laugh and laugh.

4) Characters that are so rich, so well-developed, so real with unique likes and dislikes that it feels as if these people are your friends.

5) The author takes you places you've never been in a book before. He/she pushes the envelope and it's risky, but it's done with skill and it totally works.

6) A setting that comes alive for you, and makes you feel as if you've just went on a fantastic vacation.

I'm sure there's more, but that's what I came up with off the top of my head. What would you add to the list?

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful Thursday

Tip of the Day: Don't be a dork and leave your turkey on the steps in your garage all day. Nasty bacteria grows on it and you'll have to throw it out. Boo.

Happy Thanksgiving!! I hope you're planning on having a fun relaxing day today! I heard somewhere this week that 66% of all families have a fight on Thanksgiving day. I'm determined to not be in that 66%! I'm already thinking about the day after. Not the Black Friday shopping (I'm swearing off that this year too) but getting ready for Christmas. I want to get our tree and start the marathon of Hallmark and Family Channel cheesy Christmas movies!

But first, things I'm thankful for right this very second:

My sweet family! Everyone is happy and healthy and silly as ever!

Warm home, food, and income! The economy is seriously depressing and I hate that so many people are struggling. We are donating to as many food drives, toy drives, coat drives etc. as we can.

Writing Goodness: Meg Cabot blurbed my book, I sold German rights to My Fake Boyfriend is Better Than Yours, the Japanese version of The Espressologist just came out, and I started writing a new book!

And finally, our big Disney trip last week went wonderfully! We survived the 20 hour drive there and back and had so so so much fun at all the theme parks. In fact, we are suffering from serious Disney withdrawal and want to go back as soon as possible. Here's just a few shots:

(The castle lit up for Christmas. Isn't it SO pretty? It changed colors too-- blue, pink, green etc. LOVED it!)

(The Osbourne light show at Hollywood Studios. This was AMAZING! Loved the "snow" falling too.)

("Germany" at Epcot. The kids loved all the different countries!)

(The tree of life at Animal Kingdom. So cool and huge!)

What are you all thankful for? Have a wonderful holiday!!

Kristina, Miss See Me on the Shelves

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

For YA Publishers: Bundling (or Librarians Love Read Alikes)

Tip of the Day: Want to know what books are already published that may be like your wip? Ask your local librarian! We're happy to provide read alikes and reader's advisory.

*A post inspired by the YALSA Symposium*

Guess what? Many YA librarians LOVE book lists. We make our own, steal from other libraries, compile from listservs, etc., all in the name of giving our teen readers more of what they like, and making readers advisory transactions quick and smooth -- and with more suggestions for their next library visit.

And we're not snobbish in how these book lists are organized or titled. We love to be "clever!" Zombie Books, Vamps Don't Die, Books with HEART (titles with the word "heart" in them), Make a Splash (water themed), Get A Job (MCs who work), Dead Parent Syndrome (MCs with dead parents), Jewish Themed, Asian Inspired, etc.

So what would be cool is if YA publishers "bundled" some books from their lists together for us. Not just in what is coming out by season, but maybe some backlist books that could be pushed with newer big releases ("Here's our BIG BOOK for the season! Fans of this may like THIS BACK TITLE!" (and the back title may be in paperback so it is affordable for us poor libraries)).

This would also be useful at conferences. If a big display of new releases has the BIG BOOK of the season front and center, they could provide a book list of read alikes from previous seasons to help with collection development which leads to readers advisory once the books are on the shelf.

So many times it seems that publishers jump ship from their "not as successful" books in favor of putting ALL their effort into the current BIG BOOK -- when in reality promoting the "smaller" books as read alikes to the BIG BOOK could help sales all around.

Is there a reason this isn't done?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wanting just to want...

Tip of the Day: hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Yesterday I saw on the news that people are already stationed outside of several Best Buys for Black Friday. A whole five days early! Considering that all the deals are usually kept under lock and key, I find it a little odd that people are already lined up. Because they really don't even know what they are waiting in line for. They could really be wanting a cheap TV, but instead all the appliances are all sale.

Sure some stuff might have been leaked online, but most places probably don't have all there deals listed yet. So what's the point?

The woman interviewed apparently just wanted to be first in line, to say she was first in line. Well...I guess that makes sense.

I know I'm guilty of doing the same thing with my writing. Sometimes its hard to forget what you want to be published for, except that it sure would sound cool to tell people you're a published author. So I guess we'd both be doing it for the thrill of telling others.

But just like the lady sleeping in her tent outside the Best Buy, I might be wasting my time if I have that attitude. There's really got to be other reasons to write. Maybe you just like the challenge or do it for the love. Whatever it is, this thanksgiving I'm going to try to remember why I write. So I can be thankful for all the opportunities it's given me, even if I've still yet to be published. That way, I can feel like my time hasn't been completely wasted.

Photo from:

Monday, November 22, 2010

My Hands, I Can't Feel My Hands!

Tip of the Day: Since it only rains when I don't bring my umbrella to work, I think you should all pay me to carry my umbrella when you need a sunny day.

So what's with this carpal tunnel syndrome? I'm assuming most of you are writers or at least work around computers a lot. How do I know if I need to do something about the state of my arms?

The right arm has had pain shooting through the elbow towards my fingers for about 2 weeks now. And now my left hand has been asleep for 24 hours.

Normally this would be cause for concern, but it's been busy season at my day job so I just figured when things calmed down at work, this would go away. So I've been treating this by ... well, I haven't been treating it at all, unless you count swallowing ibuprofen with my morning coffee.

Obviously this has been impacting my writing, i.e. giving me another excuse to slack off.

Has anyone tried ace bandanges? Heat treatment, cold treatment? Or do I just need to suck it up and go to the doctor already?

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, November 19, 2010

What makes a good school visit presentation?

Tip of the day: Saturday, December 4th has been declared Take Your Child to a Bookstore day. Here's the post from the woman who had the idea.

Yesterday, I got an exciting e-mail. I've kept in touch with this sweet woman named Jen over the years after I met her when I was a Pampered Chef consultant. She brought her daughter to my launch party for It's Raining Cupcakes and her daughter is just the sweetest thing. Here's a picture of me and her:

Apparently when Cupcakes was spotted at her book fair, she helped to sell many copies! And then, Jen reached out to me and asked if I ever do school visits.

I've done some writing workshops for kids and teens, but as of yet, I haven't done a full day school visit at a school. But it's something I'd love to do more of.

Anyway, yesterday Jen let me know that she decided to go to the PTO and request some money to have me come to her daughter's school, and yesterday they approved the request. So next spring, I will have my very first school visit!

I am excited about this prospect, but also a bit nervous. I told Jen my goal will be to provide entertainment, education and inspiration - all three rolled into my presentation(s).

I'm going to have to figure out 3 different presentations: one for kids K-1, one for kids grades 2-3, and one for kids grades 4-5.  I want them to be interactive in some way. I don't want to just stand and talk at the kids for 30-50 minutes. I want to find some cool props to take along.

I've been scouring the web for information, and once I finish a draft of my WIP, I'll need to get my three presentations ready on Powerpoint or Prezi, and maybe go shopping for some props or costumes or something.

Have you been to any school visits that you thought were fantastic? Or any that were horrible? I'd love tips on what to do and what not to do, if you have any!

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, November 18, 2010

ISLMA Conference

Tip of the Day: I tried Trader Joe's Pumpkin Butter this week and it's actually pretty good! Check it out!

I've been meaning to post about the Illinois School Library Media Association conference I attended a couple of weeks ago. I was invited to be part of their author showcase and it was really cool! Honestly, it was probably one of the smoothest run conferences I've attended yet. Whenever you get 40-50 authors in a room to sign it always seems a little chaotic to me but they had everything set up and organized well before we came in and there was a huge bookstore in the middle of the room so librarians could purchase the book and then easily find the author along the perimeter to sign.

(There I am)

Prior to the showcase I was invited to attend the breakfast where Mary Downing Hahn (former children's librarian, now author) was presented with the 2010 Rebecca Caudill award.

(Mary Downing Hahn)

This is the second time she's received the award. The first time was twenty years ago. I thought the longevity of her career was really inspiring and I loved hearing how she comes up with ideas for her spooky books.

And I have to say, I loved the key note speech by Simone Elkeles!

She is just so funny and witty and you can't not laugh during one of her speeches. I've heard a lot of authors speak and usually the people giving the key note speeches have some incredibly moving story to tell about how their book was inspired by a teen dealing with autism or cancer or suicide, drugs, divorcing parents, death in a family and so on. And I've heard a lot of speeches about books based on some part of history. But this is the first time I've heard a speech about the importance of teen romance! And being that I write teen romance too, I loved it. Yay for Simone representing!

Kristina, Miss See Me on the Shelves

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Falling Leaves (or Down By the Bay)

Tip of the Day: Want to spend time on a crisp Adirondak mountain with a beautiful clear lake? Visit Silver Bay!

I am back from the Falling Leaves Eastern NY SCBWI Novel Revision Retreat and am overflowing with revision ideas and inspiration. Wow. What a fantastic weekend. Not only did I connect with some lovely writers (including a few from Verla Kay's Blueboard), but I enjoyed the sunny weather, peaceful lapping of the lake, and insightful workshops by five kidlit editors.

[We stayed in this cool inn]

I should be working on my revisions, so I'll just quickly post some of the take-aways I gleaned from this weekend:

--Not every book has the same kind of hook or purpose; decide if your book is driven by character, voice, plot, or setting (or a combo of two of these)...

--then ensure that your pitch and synopsis make it clear which part of your novel is the key or hook of your book. (Thanks to the wise Wendy Loggia, Julie Tibbott, and Mary Kate Castellani for approaching these elements in a different way, a way that spoke to me.)

--Aka, don't try to make your book something it's not; let the story and characters speak to you. (Thanks to Kendra Levin for reminding me to take the time to listen to my characters.)

--Also write the first page of the novel in a way that enhances what your book is driven by. (Thanks to Noa Wheeler for the opening session on beginnings.)

What was so cool was how each of these sessions related to the others despite their independent development. They also tied into the 20 page editor crit I received, and the AWESOME peer crit time. I seriously LOVE my chapter one now, thanks to the focus I was able to put on it this weekend.

And here's some more Silver Bay pics for good measure:

If you have a chance to attend a Falling Leaves retreat, I highly recommend it. My advice for attendees: Go in with an open mind, focus on one manuscript all weekend, listen and absorb without constantly taking notes, accept what is offered instead of getting hung up on what you *think* you want before you're there, connect with other writers and listen to their stories and advice. Oh, and remember to thank the organizer. Thank you, Nancy and company! :)

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Library conference: the good bits

Tip of the day: warm apple cider is great on a cold morning!

All day today I will be in Indianapolis at a library conference (it must be the season for conferences--check Deena's posts for more great info). Most of my sessions are geared toward marketing. But there will be some authors speaking and general book talk.

Since typing a full blog entry on my phone seems like an unproductive use of time, I thought it might be fun to update the blog throughout the day (when I get a second) with twitter-like comments I think might be of interest.

8 am: Will Manley: (retired librarian and columnist for "American Libraries" and "Booklist"): funny reference questions: "need a book on inventions that haven't been invented yet" and "need a murder mystery where no murder takes place."

10am: "the accidental marketer" -- understand your audience, otherwise you can do all the promotion you want with no success. Because without a good product it's pointless.

11am: "community partnerships"-- find what you have to offer a business before approaching them with an idea.

2pm: most popular ya book the presenter had read recently was "I am Number four"

3pm: letterboxing is apparently fun!

Not too many author tips. But tomorrow Avi, Richard Peck and a few other authors are speaking. So I'll wait to give you the good stuff when I don't have to type on my phone :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Write, Submit, Repeat

Tip of the Day: Check out this great blog post excerpted from Claudia Suzanne called Plot Your Novel in 15 Minutes or Less.

Last week I told you all that I volunteered at the fabulous Rochester Children's Book Festival. What I didn't tell you was that Bruce Coville was there. Bruce Coville was my mentor at Chautauqua back in 2007 and I run into him from time to time because we are both Upstate New Yorkers, but apparently I still feel odd calling him just Bruce.

Anyway, he asked me what I had out for submission. I was like, uh, nothing. You know, I write almost every day, I stammered. He stared at me. I had stuff out for submission earlier this year, I stuttered. Okay! I admit it! I have nothing out there! Nothing in the mail, snail or electronic. Yikes. So he flicked me in the arm.

So. This was a good reminder. I'm supposed to write stuff and then send it out. I don't like sending stuff out. It gets rejected. This makes me unhappy. Also, after a few rejections, I figure out how to fix the story. But by then I am immersed in a different project and lack the enthusiasm to stop my new project and go back and fix the old one. So I don't send it back out. I'll get around to that next revision "someday soon."

Do I wait until I have a chance to really fix it? Or do I send it out anyway, hoping someone will like it as it stands? If I do that, will I burn through all the promising editors and agents before I get that necessary revision done?

-- Kate, Miss Nothing in the Mail

Friday, November 12, 2010

Journey from Idea to Book

Tip of the Day: Thanksgiving is just 13 days away. I don't want to know how many days until Christmas, because it's not enough. I should start shopping now!!

On Monday, I finished line edits on my upcoming middle grade novel, SPRINKLES AND SECRETS. This is a companion novel to IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES, and will be released 9/2011.

This book has had quite the journey, and I thought it'd be interesting to share that journey today.

Back in February or March, I decided to pitch a sequel to Aladdin, the publisher of IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES. I wrote 5 chapters and a proposal. But, in April, my agent received word that my editor thought we would be better going with a companion novel, rather than a sequel. I think the reasoning is that with a companion, new readers can pick up the book and jump right in, without having read the first one. There is a connection, but the book can easily stand on its own. My editor suggested a book told from Sophie's point of view. Sophie is Isabel's best friend (Isabel is the main character in CUPCAKES).

I was a bit disappointed at first. I liked the idea I had for the sequel (although, now, all of these months later, do you know I can't even remember what I had planned). And I had no idea what I could possibly do for a plot in a book with Sophie as the main character. I mean, without a plot, you don't really have a book!

So, I whined to my friends, including my buddies here at Author2Author, trying to figure out what a story about Sophie might entail. In CUPCAKES, we learned that Sophie is a real go-getter. She loves to sing and act and her dream is to be an actress someday. Deena suggested - what if she has the chance to be in a commercial? And that got the wheels spinning. I made some connections from the first book to create some conflict - and a new book idea was born. (Thank you DEENA!!!)

I wrote another five chapters and we sent it to my editor. She didn't love them, but thought the book had the potential, so they made an offer. I couldn't stop worrying about whether they might not like the whole book though. And I *really* wanted to make this idea work. So I sat down and fast-drafted the rest of the novel in a matter of days, after I briefly outlined the whole book. That was key - knowing what each chapter was going to be about (in a very general way).

When I got my editorial letter, there were some major changes I needed to make. The beginning just wasn't working. I had to find a way to show the kind of person Sophie is and get readers up-to-speed on what happened in CUPCAKES, if they hadn't read that book. But it needed to be fun and interesting, so people who had read CUPCAKES wouldn't be bored. I don't think I've ever had to change a beginning of a book before - I seem to have more trouble with endings. With this revision, I also needed to eliminate one sub-plot entirely and make a minor character more of a major one, and bring out a sub-plot with him. I decided the best thing to do was open a brand new document and start writing.

I was able to use probably 50% of the existing manuscript, but I added another 50% that was entirely new. Did this make me regret writing the entire novel like I'd done? No. I think having an entire novel to work with allowed my editor to really figure out what she liked and what she didn't like, so she could give me some good editorial direction.

So much of what we do is rewriting. We worry we won't be able to come up with new scenes, new sub-plots, new characters, and yet, we do! And often, they're better than we ever imagined they would be.

I love how this book turned out, and my editor does too. The journey had a lot of twists and turns, but I never let myself doubt that I couldn't get where we needed to go. I've gotten a lot of notes from readers of IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES who want another book about Isabel and Sophie. And I just kept thinking - I have to make this work for them.

And it feels so good to have made it to the finish line!!!

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Tip of the Day: Check out Meg Cabot's Fiction Club.

I haven't been able to write in weeks. Does that ever happen to you? It's like my family life takes over and things are crazy and I just can't find any time to sit down and write. And I really need to! I'm supposed to be revising one book. I need to work on brainstorming new ideas. I started a book months ago, which I love, and I'm only like three chaps in so I really need to get back to writing it. But I'm so freaking distracted! I can't remember the last time I went into the coffee shop to write. So sad.

Maybe you can help me with one of my issues. My two-year old, my darling sweet two-year old, has gone loco. He's pummeling people with toys (balls, toy trucks, really anything he can) every chance he gets. The day care (he's only in there while I work out for an hour) is about to toss him. He's given my daughters bloody lips. And this weekend, we went for our Christmas pictures and the poor photographer was jumping around the room dodging the boxes and ornaments he was pulling off the tree and whipping at her head. I've discussed this with him repeatedly but he's two and, well, not paying any attention to what I say. SIGH. Any ideas? Is duct tape out of the question? I'm kidding. I promise I won't duct tape him. But I've got to do something!

Kristina, Miss See me on the Shelves

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New Mexico, New Friends (or YALSA Rocks!)

Tip of the Day: Be nice to your local librarian. Remember that her day does NOT comprise of sitting around reading. :-p

OK, as much as my return to the reality of my job has been a bit hectic after being away for 5 days, I can't really complain bc the YALSA Symposium in Albuquerque that I attended was FANTASTIC!

In the next few weeks, I'll be posting specific thoughts about the publishing industry that I gleaned while in NM, but today I just want to do a quick conference wrap-up with pics.

Three other lovely MCLS YA Librarians went to NM and our first night we of course had to hit up some Mexican food.

Friday was the pre-conference and the afternoon session on "Fat Lit" was especially entertaining for me bc a former Brighton High School student (the school down the block from my library) was there! If you haven't read Allen Zadoff's award-winning and hilarious YA novel, FOOD, GIRLS, AND OTHER THINGS I CAN'T HAVE, you must for laugh-out-loud goodness.

Megan Frazier was on this panel as well, and I really enjoyed her book THE SECRETS OF TRUTH AND BEAUTY.

Friday night was the "social" where I met Selene Castrovilla in person! We've been online friends since her novel SAVED BY THE MUSIC came out last year. And of course, Terry Trueman needed to butt into the pic so we let him. (Have you read his Printz Honor STUCK IN NEUTRAL yet? It is hauntingly brilliant.) If you have the chance to hear Terry speak, you must attend. Funny and real.

Both authors will be at the Rochester Teen Book Fest in May 2011!

Saturday was another full day of panels, including one that was highly relevant to my library, on diversity vs. commercial appeal of YA novels. Malinda Lo, Cynthea Liu, Neesha Meminger, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, and Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez did an excellent job of showing the difficulties in getting multicultural stories into the hands of YAs. It was great to see these authors in person!

Next I attended a panel of YA editors who discussed the process and challenges of publishing books in translation. My pic came out pretty bad, but the knowledgable speakers were Kaylan Adair, editor of Winter’s End (Candlewick); Francoise Bui, editor of A Faraway Island (Delacorte); Diane Landolf, editor of The Century: Ring of Fire (Random House); and Susan Van Metre, editor of Fell and Tiger Moon (Abrams).

The final panel of the day was on poetry and novels in verse. Five poets talked about their processes and read from their works. It was great to hear them recite their own work. Margarita Engle, Pat Mora, Jen Bryant, Ann Burg, and April Halprin Wayland did an excellent job talking about this format that is popular with teens (will novels-in-verse ever be popular with adults?).

That night was the author happy hour where I picked up some awesome books, including an ARC of the March 2011 historical novel, BETWEEN SHADES OF GREY by Ruta Sepetys, who was on the panel the next morning about Historical Fiction. Her book is about the mass murders of Lithuanians under Stalin in the 1940s. Wow. Powerful, scary stuff, and so well written. She presented with Christina Gonzalez, whose RED UMBRELLA was a fantastic novel as well.

The final keynote speakers talked about censorship and book banning: the funny Lauren Myracle, and the tear-inducing Ellen Hopkins. For as many times as EH has been to the Rochester TBF, I've never had the chance to hear her speak. Sunday afternoon was my time, and wow, when she read some of the emails she gets from teens after they read her books? Just wow. I'm so glad she's been able to take her difficult life (re: her daughter's drug addiction, which spawned CRANK) and turn it into something that can help these kids. I'm proud of both of these authors for standing up for their books in the face of fear and opposition.

Overall: WOW. Amazing weekend, amazing presenters, amazing organization by YALSA. If I had more time, I'd go into extra details and add pics of all the books I walked away with, but I have to get working on my materials for the Falling Leaves Conference that I leave for on Friday!

Were any of you readers at the Symposium?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing