Friday, July 30, 2010

A fun video for Friday

Tip of the Day: If you are in LA at the SCBWI conference this weekend, I hope you'll find me and say hello!

Washington author and readergirlz diva Holly Cupala has a great book that came out recently called TELL ME A SECRET. Okay, I have to admit, I haven't read it yet, but all of my friends have said it's really good, and Holly is so sweet, I'm super excited to read it. My TBR pile is just SO big already and I've been busy revising, but I swear my goal in August is to buy her book and read it.

Anyway - Holly had a fantastic idea to wrap up her virtual tour for her new book. She asked other YA authors to do a short video sharing a secret. Then, she compiled all the secrets and made a fun video out of it. Did I share a secret? You bet I did. What is it? Well, you'll have to watch to find out!

I love how the video turned out, and I thought it'd be fun to share it with you guys today.




~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Line Edits: Book Three

Tip of the Day: Printrunner.com makes awesome and reasonably priced bookmarks. They also have great coupon codes right now until 7/31. Check it out.

It's line edits time for me again! I feel like I need to talk about this since I talked about line edits for my first and second book on here (have we really been running Author2Author that long girls? Wow!). Let's review:

Book One: I cried. Line edits terrified me. They were big and scary and really marked up. I talked about the experience here.

Book Two: I was ecstatic! I danced! Line edits were like a party! It was a year later and I thought I was a pro. You can read about it here.

Book Three: And I'm very content with the whole process. No crying, no dancing, just getting to work. It's very comfortable for me now. I know what I need to do and how to get it done (For example, I have to get up and walk around the house approximately every ten pages or I go crazy. This only happens with line edits. Weird?). This all makes me very happy because I don't feel like a nervous debut author any more. I feel like an experienced author now. Yay!

Kristina, Miss See Me On the Shelves

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Seven Degrees of Separation (or The Seventh Level of Jody Feldman)

Tip of the Day: Have you read Jody Feldman's MG novel THE GOLLYWHOPPER GAMES yet? If you like CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY and toys, you have to check it out!


One day on LiveJournal a few years ago, I read about an upcoming novel called THE GOLLYWHOPPER GAMES and thought the premise sounded fantastic. I friended the author, Jody Feldman, who friended me back. I read TGG and loved it. It was one of my favorite reads of the year. I still recommend it at the library all the time.

At some point in ealy 2009, I read on JF's LJ, or she read on mine, something about Rochester, NY (where I live, while Jody lives in Missouri), and we commented back and forth and she said that she comes up this way to visit her husband's family about once a year and when she came up for the summer, we should get together.

I also learned that my agent at the time worked for Jody's agent's agency. Small world!

So last summer, Jody stopped by my library where she signed our library copy of TGG and I learned that not only was her hubby from Rochester, but specifically from Brighton, the town where I work. Strange!

Last week, Jody was in NY
and she let me know she'd be in Rochester so she squeezed me into her busy schedule. So much fun! Here we are in a lovely pic that Jody's hubby took in the Pittsford B&N (where the wonderful CRM Penny words), snagged from Jody's LJ.

Jody and I chatted for like two hours -- and it felt like 20 minutes! There was nary a drop of dead air between us (though people who have met me in person shouldn't be surprised by this), but it was just so fun to talk about books, writing, what we're working on, etc.

This often happens with my CPs and A2A girls as well -- we start talking and where does the time go?

OH, and THE SEVENTH LEVEL is right up there with TGG -- puzzles, challenges, a secret society...very cool!

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A writer's voice

Tip of the Day: want a good laugh…check some of these slush pile gems.

When I first started writing, many of the books, blogs, and articles I read talked about how important it is to find your voice as a writer. So being the newbie that I was, I really tried to hone my writing voice. After many attempts, things started to get easier when I found a writing style that worked for me.

But after a few years, what happens if your writing voice changes?

Just like our own voices literally change when we hit puberty, as you mature in life your outlook and how you view the world changes. Sometimes things happen that switch your mood. You aren’t always happy or always sad. Your emotions are constantly changing. And as you learn new things, I think your inner voice changes. So I think it’s natural that your writing voice can change as well.

Maybe it’s a sign of the recession or maybe it’s the general trend of darker, supernatural stories, but it seems that a lot of my favorite writers seem to be writing a bit darker than normal. Not as much humor. Their voices haven’t changed completely, but they might be a bit more formal with their writing than in books past and there are a bit more serious undertones in their work.

Has anyone else noticed this? Or is it just me?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I’m all for growing as a writer and challenging yourself. And as a reader, I always like to be surprised by what I’m reading. As long as you keep your endings happy if you always have happy endings, or keep some of your signature voice in your books, I really don’t care.

I just think it’s interesting it seems to be happening more lately.

What about other people? Do you dislike it when one of your favorite authors tries something new and branches out? Maybe tries a historical fiction, which has a very different literary voice than a contemporary? Or writes from a boy perspective, which is going to have a different voice than that from a girl.

Or is their voice and how their sentences are structured similar enough that you don’t even notice and the voice you enjoy so much still comes through?

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, July 26, 2010

Best of Kate: On Critique Groups...

I think Kate's still on vacation this week so let's have a BEST OF KATE week! Ok, I looked through Kate's past posts and I like this one she wrote on Critique groups. Enjoy!


Crit Groups: Face to Face, or Online, Which is Best?

Friday, July 23, 2010

I'm heading into forbidden waters - advances

Tip of the day: I think this article, featuring author Janet Fitch's 10 rules for writers is really worth reading.

Okay, let's talk about advances.

I'm going to admit a deep, dark secret. Whenever I read a deal from Publisher's Marketplace with those beautiful words "significant deal" my brain screams at me, WHY CAN'T THAT BE YOU???

For those of you who aren't familiar with Publisher's Marketplace "deals" here is how they are defined:

A "nice" deal = $0 - $49,000
A "very nice" deal = $50,000 - $99,000
A "good" deal = $100,000 - $250,000
A "significant" deal = $251,000 - $499,000
A "major" deal = $500,000 and up

I didn't start out writing for the money. But once this writing thing becomes the only way you're bringing in the green stuff, suddenly it becomes a lot more important. And I find myself paying more attention to other people's deals, even though that's putting myself on the fast path to Crazyland.

In theory, I guess it doesn't matter what your advance is, because every author wants his/her books to sell well, and if it sells well, you'll see the money in royalties later. (Years later, however).

And yet, to me, the size of the advance says something. If it's a good one, it says:

~ we LOVE this book and believe in it big time.
~ we value you as an author.
~ we want you and this book to succeed.
~ we plan to put some marketing dollars behind this book.

Among other things.

I understand that with a big advance, there comes pressure and expectations. But there also comes heavy marketing, author tours, a big push to sell to foreign markets, etc. And what author doesn't want those things?

Those of you who haven't sold yet are probably thinking - I don't care what the size of the deal is, I just want a deal.

But here I am, with six books sold over the course of three years, and I find myself thinking about it more and more, and feeling like a failure more and more, which is not a fun place to be.

People will say to me - but how can you feel like a failure? You have multiple books on the shelves. Your first novel is still in print and still selling well two years after it came out! Your publisher continues to buy books from you. How can you see yourself as anything other than a success?

Because at this point, I would make more money as a secretary than I do as an author. So there is the ugly truth.

And yet, I'm not giving up. I'm not going to let my occasional green feelings stop me. I'm not going to let the size of my deals define me. With every new book, there is the potential for big things to happen. Just because I'm in the nice deals now, doesn't mean I have to be there forever. (Dear God, please don't let me be there forever).

Yes, some authors hit the big time the first time out. What we have to remember is that they are the EXCEPTION. If we did a survey of all the young adult novels sold in the past year, my guess is that most deals would be in that "nice deal" range.

How many musical artists look at U2 and think, I wish that were me? I'm guessing a lot. And yet, there is only one Bono. Only one U2. And while I like U2, I'm so very glad there are other groups hanging in there, doing their thing, making pennies compared to U2. Their music brings me and others joy.

Ah, let's think about that word.

Joy.

I don't want to be about deals.

I want to be about JOY!!

So I'm going to do what I've always done. I'm going to keep writing, because my books do bring some people joy. Maybe not a "significant" number of people, but some people nonetheless. And writing, most of the time, brings me joy. And I will remind myself daily that there are more important things in this world than money.

Like pantyhose. If I went to work as a secretary, I'd have to wear pantyhose. Ew! No thank you!

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, July 22, 2010

My New Web Site!!!

Tip of the Day: Have you checked out YA Flash Death Match yet?


I'm so excited to share MY NEW WEB SITE!!




Isn't it the CUTEST thing ever?! Ok, right after my kids. But I don't post pics of my kids online. Except for their legs on the bio page of

MY NEW WEB SITE!!!

You've got to go look, for real! If nothing else to just see the coffee plop into the cup when you first load the home page. And then there's the really awesome pic of me with big hair, a poofy shiny blue dress, and red glasses. You know you want to see that.

Denise Biondo designed it for me. Isn't she amazing? She wanted to create something that reflected me and I told her how I love to do all of my writing at coffee shops and here you go! Don't you just want to crawl into that chair, take a sip of that coffee, nibble that muffin, and start writing? Oh, how I love it, I love, I love it! Yay!

Kristina, Miss See Me on the Shelves

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tip of the Day: Need a book to get you through until MOCKINGJAY comes out next month? Try INCARCERON by Catherine Fisher (my short synopsis and review are here).

I went to a workshop through the Rochester Regional Library Council Monday on The Best New Young Adult Books of 2010. The presenter, Kathleen Odean, was a quick, concise, super well-read woman with a knack for booktalking. She was also a previous chairperson of the Newbery Awards Committee. In short, I loved this workshop!

In long, despite how much I read (a lot), it's impossible to read everything -- and I don't want to read everything. Lots of books aren't my thing: high fantasy, any more werewolf or vampire books, heavy sci-fi.

I also have been inundated with paranormal romance, dead sister/dead best friends, and dystopian works and am losing my mojo for reading those novels though I typically like them.

That doesn't mean there aren't fabulous works in these genres; just that I need someone else, someone I trust, to read them for me then tell me if they are good so I will make a point to read them or at least tell patrons they come highly recommended.

Some books on Ms. Odean's recommended list that I hesitated to pick up on my own but are now on my TBR list are:

This foreign book got good reviews so I bought it for my lib, but upon reading the blurb, it sounded too depressing. After the book talk, I am completely intrigued (though it still sounds depressing).


Not being a fan of CRISS CROSS by LRP, I didn't pick this up despite the author's award-winning name or the cool cover. However, I've learned it's a journey story full of quirky characters so I'll give it a shot.


This book has a character who has Asperger's, so I bought it for the lib, but the cover is dated and turned me off. The book talk, though, turned me back on to the relationship between the two MCs.


Sharon Flake is hugely popular at my lib, but I didn't think I could relate enough to this book to make it worth my time. Ms. Odean said how it was written in different formats and was a quick, powerful book so now I want to try it.


I am not a reader of sports books with very few exceptions (DAIRY QUEEN), so I wouldn't normally read Carl Deuker's novels -- until I learned this book is about a HS journalist solving a football mystery. Can't wait now for its release!

I bought this for my lib bc of the catchy title and cover, but the premise seemed generic -- until the booktalk enhanced its humor which won me over.

I know Lisa posted about SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR last week and how she raved about it so much that she got people to buy it at her book signing. I have to try it now bc of her review, too.

What books have you picked up due to booktalks after not initially being interested in them?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Experimenting isn't just for scientists...

Tip of the Day: check out Kristina's awesome newly-designed Web site.

My anti-science brain has been trying to complete lots of science experiments lately at work. I’ve been attempting to explode Diet Coke, crunching pop bottles, and making giant bubbles.

And you know what I’ve discovered from all this experimenting…that experimenting is a lot of work.

I’ve had more failed attempts than successes. Have you ever tried to blow up a balloon by immersing a bottle in hot water? Yeah…not that exciting. Maybe other people could succeed at this, which is why they published it in my Pop Bottle Science book, but I certainly couldn’t get it to do anything. This might have something to do with the fact I much preferred to talk to cute boys in high school Chemistry classes than actually pay attention (can you blame me?)
But despite all those failed attempts, I’ve also gotten some pretty cool results.

Take this for example, at the start of the day of trying to surround a kid in a bubble.


Well..not that exciting yet...

Then after lots of attempts and tons of suggestions from the “young scientists” of how to hold my hands and different techniques of dipping the hula hoop in the bubble mixture and we got this result.

Much cooler...this experimenting thing might actually having something to it!

But it took about 100 tries and a lot of suggestions before getting the right combination. Which reminds me a lot of writing. Sometimes you never really know what’s going to happen with a book…until you experiment.

Sometimes experimenting with things like flipping chapters around, creating new characters, or changing the plot can seem overwhelming. And you never really know if what you are going to do is going to create any result, let alone a good one. But if you don’t take that leap of faith and begin to experiment more, you might never have cool results, like this, that are just…well, awesome.



And who can’t help but get excited about a giant bubble! Or really, a book that you can't put down.

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, July 19, 2010

Yeah, I Read That on my Phone

Tip of the Day: Check out the new home of MigWriters, my middle grade critique group, and see me as a cartoon!

So I'm stuck in one of those horrible, noisy bounce houses where apparently every kid in town has to hold his seventh birthday party, waiting for my son. I can't chat with Birthday Boy's Mom because she's chasing her even-younger kids around, and I don't know any of the other parents. But I have my new Android phone with me, so I decide to download the Kindle app and check it out.

Wow! Just wow.

Reading was easy. The print didn't seem any smaller than this, but I could change the font size if I liked. The pages were crisp and clear, turning pages was intuitive and natural, and the bookmark feature was great for my son's interruptions for bounce-related boo-boos. Amazon had a large selection ready for the Droid phone, too, and very reasonably priced. For my trial run, I bought a P.G. Wodehouse short story collection for $2. Best two dollars I ever spent. The average book price for a "modern" book ran from about seven to 13 dollars.

Not every book I would want to read was Droid ready, but I think it will become more common. In fact, Barnes and Noble sent me an email today that the B&N download for the Droid is "coming soon!"

I wouldn't sit at home and read my Droid instead of an actual book, but the next time I'm stuck in a bounce house or somewhere similar, believe me, I'll be ready to buy a download.

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, July 16, 2010

The magic of word of mouth

Tip of the day: Iced tea mixed with a little lemonade is a delicious summertime drink!

I read a book recently, SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR by Matthew Quick, that I loved so much, I have been telling everyone I know about it. I even sold a copy to someone at one of my own book signings.

Yesterday I did a one-hour presentation at a children's writers conference, and read from some favorite books to illustrate some examples of voice, character, etc. And when I came to SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR, I couldn't help it. I started gushing about it again. I was like - I just LOVE the vietnam vet who writes haikus. I mean, I LOVE him. And it's not even like he does that much, but him and Amber form such a special relationship... blah, blah, blah. I couldn't stop talking about it!!

But you know what? When I finally did manage to shut up, someone raised their hand and said, "What's the author's name again?" And everyone, I mean, EVERYONE, frantically wrote it down when I shared it again.

I am convinced there is no better kind of promotion than word of mouth.

So what is it that makes people love a book so much they want to tell everyone they know about it?

I think it's a perfect combination of a unique but also familiar story with well-drawn and interesting, admirable characters along with memorable scenes that make us laugh or cry or preferably both.

Think of the book you love so much you tell everyone about it.

Or think of the classic TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, that so many people will say is their all-time favorite book. A unique but somewhat familiar story? Check. Interesting and admirable characters? Atticus is probably one of the most interesting and admirable characters ever written. Not to mention Scout and Jem. Scenes that make us laugh and cry? Check and check.

It has it all.

With each book we write, we should strive for those elements that will make people want to pass the book around and share it with their friends and loved ones. We might not always succeed, but by keeping those elements in mind, and trying to do the impossible, you never know - we might just succeed some day.

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Book Trailer Bonanza

Tip of the Day: Amazon has THE ESPRESSOLOGIST bargain priced at $6.80 right now! Sweet deal!

Book trailers seem to be the thing these days. And I know I should make one (or have one made) but I'm not sure if I'm going to get to it before My Fake Boyfriend is Better Than Yours comes out (8/31/10!! Whoo hoo! Coming up fast!). But I've been researching how to do this and thought I'd share some links in case anyone else wants to make a book trailer.

First I came upon ehow's instructions here. Which are very basic but gives you an idea of what you need to do. Make a storyboard, get public domain pics, find public domain music etc. It doesn't really tell you how to put this all together but that would be up to whatever movie making program you get I gather. Personally, I got stuck just looking through the public domain pics. Wow, that can take forever to find the right pictures to go along with your book! Here is the Suite101 version of how to make your book trailer-- this one has some links to programs that are helpful. And I stumbled upon an author's site where she specifically talks about how to make a trailer using Windows Movie Maker (which, who knew, already comes with windows. One less thing to buy!) Her instructions are more detailed even though kinda hard to read since they are in one long paragraph.

So I'm still debating and deciding whether or not I should give this making a trailer thing a try. I'm considering begging my husband to do it. If it happens I'll post about it of course. The other alternative is to hire someone to make a trailer for you but be prepared to pay the $$$ for it because they can get expensive. Here are a few places that do this:



And if you want to find everything you ever wanted to know about book trailers in one place? Check out this great list of resources from DarcyPattison.com.

Anyone else have book trailer making tips you want to share?

Kristina, Miss See Me on the Shelves

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Outdoor Attraction (or Locked Inside?)

Tip of the Day: Want to laugh? Check out Bravo's Work of Art.



It's July 14th, which means I have 16 days remaining in my self-imposed deadline to complete my WIP. I think I have about 70 pages more to write. That doesn't mean I can't spend time...researching reality TV shows like the one in my WIP by watching Bravo and Food Network, right?



Hmmm...funny, my pages aren't being written while I research!



So I move out to my lovely backyard during the perfect temperature hours after work, sit on the deck with my laptop and write. No distractions out there, right? Nope...not until these guys show up:

How can I not watch them picking their way through the grass and chasing each other at dusk?



When the darkness brings out the mosquitoes, I move inside, to my new writing room. And there is where I actually do get most of my pages written. Maybe it's finally having a writing space of my own. Maybe it's knowing that the writing room is a place to be to write. Whatever the reason, and as much as the deck writing is a nice way to enjoy the summer while writing, the cute woods animals just beckon me to stare.



What focuses you in your writing?



Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Joys of Moving...and Trying to Write

Tip of the Day: if you missed our author interviews last week, make sure to check them out!

This list is for anyone who's ever tried to get work done while moving!

Five reasons why trying to write or edit while in the middle of a move is next to impossible:

Reason 1: Because half your book notes are somewhere in the "Fragile--Toiletries" box and the other half are in "Grandma's Pottery." Or was it the "Fragile--Pottery" box and the "Emily Misc." box?

Reason 2: The only writing utensils and paper you can find to take notes on are sharpie markers and box lids. And you are fairly certain you are going to greatly confuse your family when they try to figure out where the boxes "Switch Chapter 1 and Chapter 2" or "Take out Madison Character--she totally has no depth" are supposed to go in your new home.

Reason 3: Your computer likes to play hide-and-seek under boxes and papers and you start to feel like instead of playing "Where's Waldo" you are in a constant game of "Where's Computer." But you don't have the nifty red-and-white striped shirt guiding you.

Reason 4: Considering your never-ending game of Box Maze and Dodgebox has required more exercise than running several miles, there's not much energy you have left anyway to even move your eyes around the room to figure out "Where's Computer."

Reason 5: And even if you are lucky enough to find your computer, you've been surrounded by so many boxes--enough so that you are starting to wonder if you live inside of a Box Igloo--that the last thing you want to do is sit in front of a box-shaped device to edit or write.



--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, July 12, 2010

Once Upon a Time, There Were ...

Tip of the Day: Check out the lovely new covers on our sidebar!

I recently took a writing course where the very sharp instructor pointed out whenever I used the construction "there were" or "there was." For example, I think my sentence was: "... but there was nobody else he could talk to about this." She challenged me--instead of that empty construction, what could I write instead?

He wished he had someone more reliable to confide in.
Unfortunately, she alone knew his secret.
At least it was safe to talk to her; annoying, but safe.
Man, he needed a better confidant.

"There was" and "there were" are passive clauses. (There, I got all grammar nerd on you and made sure to use "clauses" instead of "phrases.") For years, people told me not to use forms of "to be" if I could avoid it, and I scoffed at them. How stilted would my writing be if I replaced every instance of was or were? "She was trapped forever in the world's most overheated traffic jam." How would substituting "was" in that sentence work better? But now the advice is making more sense.

OK, so what about the classic fairy tale beginning, "Once upon a time, there was a girl named Goldilocks"? That beginning is deliberately vague. What time? What kind of girl? That's hidden information. Sure, I could rewrite Goldilocks. "Last week, a ten-year-old blonde girl with a poor grasp of other people's boundaries wandered through the woods right behind your house." But that's a different story, isn't it? It could just as easily be "In the fifteenth century, a blonde teenager searched the King's forest for food."

So if you're worried there are too many vague phrases in your manuscript ... no, let's start again. Punch up your manuscript by getting rid of "there are."

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, July 9, 2010

A2A Summer Chat: Interview with Andrew Auseon


We're thrilled to have Andrew Auseon here as part of his blog tour to celebrate the release of his new book, FREAK MAGNET. As soon as I read the description, I knew this was my kind of book and I can't wait to read it!

Okay, let's get to it, Welcome Andrew!

A2A: Please describe your book in 140 characters or less.

Andrew: It’s the classic story of boy meets girl, and boy falls in love, except with Superman, pregnancy tests, Morse code, tentacle beasts, terminal illness, and rubber shorts. Was that 140 characters? Was it even close?

(A2A: I think you might have been a little over, but that's okay. We're not as harsh as twitter about that kind of thing).

A2A: There are about a million and one YA books on the shelves these days. You have 30 seconds to convince someone to buy YOURS. What do you say?

Andrew: Ah ha! But how are you going to time me in a written interview, I ask you? (Sorry, I couldn’t help but wonder.)

Nothing is more fun than taking familiar stories and experiences and twisting them into new shapes. And I don’t mean taking Bleak House and adding robots or unicorns. That’s just stupid. Freak Magnet seems familiar on the surface, like a story you’ve read before, but it’s not. One of the overarching themes of the novel is appearances, and how easy it is for us as guarded human beings to mistake first impressions for the genuine article. Freak Magnet is like that. It’s a romantic comedy with a lot of tragedy. It’s a predictable formula with unpredictable twists. What you see is not what you get—not at all—not with the characters, their friends, or their complicated world.

Think When Harry Met Sally as directed by Wes Anderson, or something.

How’d I do?

(A2A: Really well! Just last night on twitter, Editor Alvina Ling said editors are always looking for "books that balance the unique and the familiar)

A2A: This is not your first book. Congratulations on continuing to write books that get published! What has been the biggest surprise about the publishing business?

Andrew: Thanks! Every day I count my blessings. It never ceases to amaze me how fortunate I’ve been when it comes to my writing career. I’m very lucky.

My experience in publishing has been less about a single shock than a series of minor tremors. It is a learning process in which reality gradually replaces the fantasy you always had in the back of your mind. Luckily, I tend to harbor very low expectations, of pretty much everything, including myself, so I am rarely disappointed by how things turn out.

Of course, there were the common wake-up calls, such as having to act as your book’s lone publicist, or working on a manuscript that goes on to be rejected repeatedly until it withers and dies; but those are challenges you’ve faced before, so continuing to deal with them isn’t too difficult. However, I think many people expect those troubles to go away just because you’ve got a spine with your name on it. Not so. It can be a letdown. After all of that work writing, revising, submitting, and then revising again, you’ve suddenly got more work than ever before. And now there are others involved who have invested in your book and its future. There are pressures there you never anticipate. It’s suddenly a massive group effort when it started out as a solo mission.

To actually answer your question, the biggest surprise about publishing was the author-editor relationship. Before having worked with an editor, I was ignorant as to what one really did. Most people have no clue. I constantly get questions from unpublished writers about the role of an editor in the revision process, and I am truthful with them. I say that an editor is the interpreter who explains to you your own intentions. He or she is the person who sees the rough block of stone for the statue it will one day become. Again, my luck has been extraordinary, as I’ve worked with three amazing editors who have pushed me in so many new directions I hardly recognize where I am anymore. All I know is that it’s a better place than where I started.

Oh, and they listen to me when I whine.

A2A: So, on your web site, it says you are also a video game developer. Is that your day job? And if so, can you get my almost 15-YO son a job when he graduates from college? (Just kidding. Kind of) I'm always fascinated to hear how people manage to write around the real life stuff - any tips or secrets you want to share with our readers on how you get everything done?

Yes, my day job is as a video game designer, which I consider another blessing I probably don’t deserve. As a kid, I had two very specific dreams for my future: to publish books and to work in video games. At that time, becoming an author seemed as probable as going on to become a famous movie director and then, to top it all off, legally changing my name to Steven Spielberg. Of course, I was na├»ve and pretty clueless. (I also considered being an archeologist just because I saw The Goonies. And let me tell you, my brother-in-law is an archeologist, and it’s nothing like The Goonies—no counterfeiters, no pirate ships, and no Sloth.)

As for video games, I was never very skilled with technology, so my chances of breaking into that industry seemed bleak at best. There was no definable career path for someone without the necessary computer skills. Today, however, there are academic courses and trade schools for young people who want to develop games. Not just programmers either. Talented and creative kids can get into the business early and go on to become artists, designers, or producers. When I was sitting on my couch in Umbro shorts and a Hypercolor thermochromatic T-shirt playing Phantasy Star, there was no hope for me, a kid who lurched through Algebra with a D+. I won the lottery.

Regarding your son, I’ll see what I can do.

How do I fit it all in? That’s a good question. As the primary breadwinner, a dad of young girls, a (hopefully) attentive husband, and a busy novelist, there isn’t a lot of extra time in my life for leisure. My stack of unread books keeps growing, as does my collection of unopened board games. Despite the intensity of my life, I love it, and I wouldn’t change it. I don’t sleep a lot, and I get up early to write and then work through lunches, and I miss out on a lot of social events I would normally attend. But that’s who I am and what I choose to do. With me, as with so many others, writing is very much a compulsion. It has a frighteningly powerful effect on my state of being; therefore, it’s become a priority in our household. Thank goodness I have an incredible wife and family who understand what I do and why I need to do it. I only hope I’m as supportive and accommodating to them in all their respective interests as they are in mine.

Wow. Look at me getting all serious.

A2A: Plotter or pantser?

I’m definitely a pantser, if I’m deciphering your slang correctly, that is. I almost always start with characters and bash them against each other to see if I can make fire. However, in the last several years I’ve developed a great appreciation for plotting, mostly as a result of my work with filmmakers. Everything is “beats” in Hollywood—emotional beats and action beats—and all the disparate pieces have to fit together at the end. Sure, if you watch movies nowadays you’re probably wondering what I’m talking about since most movies barely seem to lurch to the ending with any semblance of coherence; but yeah, they like their stories well constructed, at least on paper.

Working with the director David O. Russell, with whom I wrote the middle grade science fiction novel Alienated in 2009, was quite an education. We outlined endlessly because he and his scriptwriting partner were working on the screenplay at the same time as I was writing the novel. So we were ceaselessly hammering on outlines and plotting. In a way, I really enjoyed it because whenever I sat down to write chapters of the book, I knew exactly what dots I needed to connect. That can be enormously helpful, especially for someone who enjoys revision more than writing, as I do. My first drafts give me incredible amounts of information about the story I’m trying to tell, but creating them is an agonizing process. I prefer having material to work from, honing what’s there, refining and enhancing. Having a solid plot ahead of time is crucial when you’re writing a certain style of story.

In fact, I enjoyed my time developing Alienated so much that I’m currently writing another middle grade adventure book, and it is heavily plot-driven. Much of the early work has been in laying the structural groundwork and defining characters. I am very interested in being able to do both in my career: to write more character-centric stories such as Freak Magnet that satisfy something deep and meaningful for me on an emotional level; but also to write more exciting, adventure stories that rely on character archetypes, plot twists and visceral action. To be able to do both would be fantastic.

A2A: I've seen readers describe your books as "quirky." How do you feel about that? How would YOU describe your books?

What an interesting question. “Quirky” works for me, because it has a positive connotation, and because it sounds funny. I prefer “quirky” to “edgy.” Over the years, readers and reviewers have gifted me some excellent adjectives. So far the adjectives for Freak Magnet are my favorite, such as “touching,” “charming,” and “pleasurable.” Those are words you want to cuddle. My previous novels have earned a different breed, such as “bizarre,” “grotesque,” and “outrageous.” Those are still good, but they don’t warm you up the same way the others do. No one wants to snuggle up with “twisted.”

I tend to deal with characters who are outsiders, people who don’t fit in, not even with the other outsiders. If there is a theme that runs through all of my work it’s probably “hope,” or “family.” Everyone wants to be part of a unit, to have an identity. One thing I am proud of in my books is that I am able to give characters who feel estranged for whatever reason a place to be accepted, where they can break free from their afflictions, most of which are self-inflicted.

Both Charlie and Gloria, the protagonists of Freak Magnet, have loving, healthy families, yet they have gone into emotional exile and drawn away from the very parents and siblings who wish to comfort them. What they need is a safe place, somewhere where the pressures of family melt away and they can be who they really wish to be without the troubles of sick mothers, dead brothers, and every other worry of the world. Surprisingly, they find this refuge in each other. That’s what the book is about. It’s a story about hope, about not giving up even when the world seems to coming apart and you’re terrified of what tomorrow might bring.

So yeah, “hopeful,” that’s a word I like. I’d make a beanbag chair out of that.

A2A: Favorite kind of cupcake?

I have a strange obsession with black bottom cupcakes. If I see one, I must have it, large or small, mostly cheese or mostly chocolate. For some reason my wife had a lot of trouble accepting the fact that there are human beings who like the taste of chocolate with certain cheeses. To prove how dedicated I was to this idea, I made a sandwich out of a slab of white cheddar and two chocolate cookies. It did not end well for anyone.

Thanks so much for hosting me on Author2Author. It’s been such a pleasure to help launch Summer Reads Week. Enjoy your summer!

A2A: Thanks for being here, and I can't wait to read your latest "charming" read!!

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career


Thursday, July 8, 2010

A2A Summer Chat: Interview with Jessica Leader

Today Jessica Leader, author of NICE AND MEAN, is visiting us. Jessica's book came out just last month and totally caught my eye. The description on Amazon says, "Nice and Mean by Jessica Leader is a hilarious story about two girls--one nice, one mean-- facing off in their middle school video elective." I'm always looking for a good funny book! And it's on the Summer Indie next List!



Our interview:

A2A: We have a lot of authors who read this site and are interested in the publishing process. Can you tell me what you found to be the best and worst (or hardest) part in the process for you?


JESSICA: The best part so far: sharing Nice and Mean in schools and bookstores and connecting with readers, especially actual twelve-year-olds, not just people who think like them. (I count myself proudly in the latter category, but you know—more savvy to connect with real ones.) I’ve loved hearing what kids remember about the book and talking with them about their own writing. A twelve-year-old boy writing a play about kids foiling a plot to turn the US back into a monarchy? How cool is that?


The hardest parts of the process have been the waiting and the wondering. Before the contract: will I ever publish anything? What’s it going to take—I mean, what’s it gonna take, man? After the contract, wondering: How will the book do? Am I doing everything I can to help it reach its audience? What else should I do? Okay, now what else should I do? At worst, the worrying slows me down from finishing the next book, which is exactly what you don’t want to happen. (Don’t worry, though, Agent E. I’m on it.)


A2A: What's your best piece of advice to a novice writer trying to write his or her first book?


JESSICA: I’d join a critique group, either in person or online. Critique groups give you regular deadlines, regular feedback, a chance to analyze others’ writing, and colleagues who care about writing as much as you do. You may encounter personality quirks, as writers are a funky bunch, but I do think the benefits outweigh the annoyances.


A2A: What's your best piece of advice to a writer trying to get his or her first book published?


JESSICA: Be kind to yourself. Writing is hard! You are doing something fun, but it is so packed with frustration. However, not everybody has the courage and dedication to pursue their artistic goals, and even by trying to get a book published, you are doing something amazing. Keep revising, keep submitting, and you may be able to get an offer.


In addition—though this is a little less kind than the above—if you’re lucky enough to get feedback from professionals, take it seriously. I have seen many writers succumb to the balm, “Everything’s subjective—she just doesn’t like what I’m trying to do,” but many readers will read across genre and style if the writing’s really good. The professional in question may not have had the time to phrase the feedback in a way that makes sense to your story, and interpreting may be tough. But most of the time, when I hear about writer-friends’ feedback from professionals, the feedback resonates with what I know of the story. If it doesn’t make sense to you now, put the manuscript aside for a few months, read it over, and see if you understand the suggestions.


A2A: Is there anything that you've learned since your book was published that you wished someone would have told you before?


JESSICA: I’ve been lucky to get some great advice throughout the process, both from Tenners (2010 Debut Novelists) and fellow grads from the Vermont College MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. I’ll pass on the meaty bits, though, which include, “Don’t worry so much!” “Everyone runs her own race!” “Focus on the second book, not the publicity” and “Do what you love.”


I am sure that by the time this interview comes out, I will read all this and think, “Wow, that’s great advice!”


A2A: Your book has been out for just a couple of weeks now. How has it felt to see it out in stores? How did you celebrate the release?


JESSICA: It’s unbelievable! I seem to be in a cycle of gasping and squeaking. Last week when this happened, a man thought his dog had stepped on me, but really, I had seen Nice and Mean on the shelf by the cash register.


I celebrated the release of Nice and Mean by arranging bookstore readings in a few cities where I know people from all parts of my life. I was touched that so many of them came out to see me, and I was equally thrilled to find parents and kids I’d never met in the rows of chairs as well.


A2A: What are you currently working on?


JESSICA: A young-adult novel. On Halloween night, our narrator is plagued by memories of an accident on a summer wilderness trip and tries to retell the story by sunrise to exorcise the ghosts.


Thanks for having me, Author 2 Author! I hope your readers find this information useful.


A2A: Thanks Jessica!! Good luck with your book!



Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Interview with Eric Luper (or A Love Manifesto)

Tip of the day: If you haven't read Eric Luper's 2009 novel BUG BOY, check it out!

Today's interview is with Eric Luper, the author of this summer's release, SETH BAUMGARTNER'S LOVE MANIFESTO. Welcome Eric!

1. Congrats on the release of SETH BAUMGARTNER'S LOVE MANIFESTO! Lisa Schroeder has been singing its praises and I can't wait to get my hands on it. What was the spark for the idea of this novel? And is it as lol-funny as the blurb makes it sound?
The idea for this book struck me when I was 17 years old when a friend of mine asked me, “What would you do if you found out your father was cheating on your mother?” My first response was that I would blackmail him for a car and an increase on my allowance, but it’s a really tough question to answer. Knowing something like that undermines a lifetime of trust and your actions could seriously affect the future of your family. The idea stuck with me for many years and ‘pop!’ out came Seth and his Love Manifesto.

2. BUG BOY was one of my fave reads of 2009! It took place in such an interesting time and setting, one that I knew very little about, and you made it feel very real. In order to write such convincing jockey scenes, did you ever (a) wear a rubber suit to sweat out extra weight? (b) race a horse? (c) muck out a stall? If not, how did you research these events to write about them so convincingly?

I’ll answer your questions in order:

a) I never wore a rubber suit to sweat off weight but I did see how much weight I could drop in 48 hours with intense exercise and starvation/dehydration. I will admit that I did not last the full time, but I did manage to unhealthily shed 7 pounds.

b) I rode on the Thoroughbred race horse simulator at the National Museum of Racing in Saratoga. It was there that I developed a vast respect for what jockeys do. It’s really hard to stay perched on your toes in those irons with the horse galloping. You can see all about it here (along with the mineral baths and a few other research sites): http://eluper.livejournal.com/10913.html

c) I have never mucked out a stall. However, I have watched other people do it and I’m not envious of it.

3. I see you lived in Seneca Falls, NY, near my home of Rochester, NY. What were you doing in the Falls? Will any of your books take place in or around Rochester?

I lived in Seneca Falls when I was going to chiropractic school. In fact, I still am a practicing chiropractor when I’m not being a writer! So far, I have no plans to set a book in or around Rochester, but if you read BUG BOY closely, you’ll remember that Jack is originally from the Finger Lakes.

4. You are slated to speak at the 2010 Rutger's One-On-One Plus Conference in October -- very cool! Was your first novel sale, BIG SLICK (2007), a result of attending a Rutgers One-On-One Conference?

I’ve had a very strange relationship with the Rutgers 1-on-1 Conference. I submitted my first piece for critique, a chapter from Big Slick, but by the time the conference happened I had sold the book to Wes Adams at FSG. The same thing happened the next year when I sold Bug Boy. The third time I went, I spoke with a few editors about my first chapter of Seth Baumgartner’s Love Manifesto, but ultimately sold the novel elsewhere. However, I did connect with my agent, Linda Pratt of Sheldon Fogelman Agency, there and have met so many great people through my experiences at Rutgers. I highly recommend this conference.

5. What are you working on next? And after that?

Currently, I’m putting the finishing touches on a middle-grade humorous novel called Jeremy Bender vs. the Cupcake Cadets. It’s my first published middle-grade novel and I really love this one. It’s slated for release in Spring 2011 with Balzer + Bray (an imprint of HarperCollins).

Following that, it’s time to begin writing my fifth. I’m giving thought to writing a contemporary fantasy… something set in modern-day with links to ancient magic and mythology. Ironically, it’s the genre I started with back in 1999, but gave it up when I was having such trouble placing my novel. That one is still collecting dust on my hard drive. I plan to start from scratch and let that one be.

6. What book are you looking forward to reading this summer (that is written by an author you don't personally know)? Any other books that you've already read that you would recommend to A2A readers for summer reading?

I just got back from BEA so I have tons of books on my pile. But here are a few I’m really looking forward to:

The Candymakers by Wendy Mass

Fat Vampire by Adam Rex

Mindblind by Jennifer Roy

Rose Sees Red by Cecil Castellucci

And a few that I’ve recently read that I would recommend:

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith

Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty

Thanks so much for your time, Eric!

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing