Monday, October 31, 2011

How Hard Can They Make It to Find a Scary Story?

Tip of the Day: Today is the last day to sign up for Rhonda Stapleton Helms's Plotting Workshop. It starts tomorrow. I'm signed up!

Yesterday, I was really in the mood to read a scary novel. I own a Nook reading device. In general, I'm very happy with it. It's great for travelling, it's backlit so I can read while my husband sleeps, and I love the instant gratification thing. Sort of. Because what I don't like about the Nook is the Nook store, which frankly sucks.

I searched Horror*General and Ghost Fiction, both Nook store categories. But all I could find were 99 cent self-published short stories. I didn't want a short story; I wanted a novel. There were no Halloween recommendations on the store and no way to sort by short story vs. novel. The search options are "best matches," which as far as I can tell has absolutely no meaning whatsover; "best sellers," which are all the free downloads of public domain or self-published short stories; and "price." Aha, I thought, I'll sort by price and get to novels that way. Nope. It gives you the lowest price first. After scrolling through 20 pages of short stories, I gave up.

Fortunately the Nook has a web browser. I searched "best scary novels" on Google. Google Books, by the way, is in its unique way as horrible as the Nook Store. You can't search genres of fiction from the Google Books store. Does this make sense to ANYONE? Goodreads and CNN had scary novel recommendations, but they were all books I had already read. (I love scary stories.)

Now, to B&N's credit, they have a Nook blog that is not half bad. Although it's not exactly easy to get to from the Nook store. The blog recommended a list of Halloween novels and pimped them at $2.99 each. I loved that I could download the first chapter for free as a sample. I tried two out, but they were VERY male-centric. In one, I loved the writing, but the only female characters were hookers with hearts of gold. The other belonged to the "gorgeous woman falls in love with fat, nerdy protagonist for no particular reason" genre. I can't remember what that genre is called, but I'm pretty sure it is a genre of its own now.

Finally, I found some recommendations on a message board for horror fans and downloaded THE HOUSE by Bentley Little. It's incredibly creepy and awesome. Teen librarians and teachers, do NOT recommend this one to younger teens. The disturbing images are beyond R-rated; nothing gory, just all out disturbing. So it's awesome and I stayed up too late reading it.

But instant gratification? I could have driven to the bookstore twice and bought a coffee in the time it took me to find this novel. Seriously, B&N Nook Store, you need more customer involvement and WAY better search options.

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What's Your Writing Schedule?

Tip of the Day: Today's my birthday!! Want to get me something? :-) If you've read any of my three books (The Espressologist, My Fake Boyfriend is Better Than Yours, or Just Your Average Princess), could you go review them at Goodreads and/or Amazon?

I'm always curious about the writing schedule of your average author. Maybe it's because I feel like I never have enough time to write. I look forward to two years from now when all of my kids are in school all day I'll have that time to work. But for now my typical schedule is two hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays (when the little guy is in preschool) and then the occasional hour at night or on a weekend that doesn't happen often enough. It's not a whole lot of time. I wondered what other other author's writing schedules looked like.

Aprilynne Pike says she writes from 10am-4pm during the summer months.

Tammi Sauer writes from 9:30am-3pm on school days.

Gena Showalter writes a chapter everyday, 7 days a week. Even if it takes her all day to write it.

Kerri Maniscalco writes 8-14 hours a day, 6-7 days a week. (Wow!)

What's your writing schedule like?

Kristina, Miss Author in Action

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Job is Awarding (or The Printz is Coming!)

Tip of the Day: I just finished watching all of Martha Alderson's Plot Whisperer Tips on YouTube while taking notes. Wow. I know this will help me as I go through my ms one last time in November. Have you watched all 27 parts yet?

Some awesome teens at my local high school are doing a Mock Printz Club and invited me to sit in. I love hearing their thoughts on different titles! Here's their short list. I agree with many of them and have read 8 out of 11. Three of these are my faves of the year (along with RIVAL by Sara Bennett Wealer), and one was a fave of last year (I read the ARC) so I was thrilled to see them on the high schoolers' list!

The teens vote on their faves in January. Which have you read and loved?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dress up time!

Tip of the Day: get your candy ready!

Check out these great writing/literary-related Halloween costume possibilities...

Can you guess who they are?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Creepy Things

Tip of the Day: Tina's on virtual tour with JUST YOUR AVERAGE PRINCESS. Here's the Teen Book Scene schedule to see where she is today and where's she's been.

Today I took my son to the bus stop and nobody was there. Usually there are four boys at his stop. The absence of other boys crunching through the dead leaves was eerie. It would have been like time stood still, except then black clouds moved in from the west, eclipsing the sunlight. If it hadn't been our regular bus driver who pulled up with her usually cheery smile, I would have been afraid to let him on the bus!

It was a reminder that everyday events have the potential to suddenly be creepy. Remember that feeling of walking or bike riding home from a friend's house this time of year? And it's darker that you expected. When did the days get so short? And suddenly you feel like you're being watched. You hear footfalls and rustles, but when you look behind you at the deserted street, all you see is your shadow stretched out from the streetlights and you decide to get home REALLY FAST.

We can create this creepy atmosphere with the five senses: shadows, leaves rustling, growling noises, birds screeching, chills, cold wind, pounding hearts. (Yes, even smell. If you've ever been terrified of the sudden smell of gas or burning, you know what I mean.) But what about other senses, like the sixth sense? That little voice that says, something's wrong here. The feeling of being watched. The activation of some sort of caveman instinct that kicks in our "fight or flight" responses. The things that make you pull into a supermarket parking lot and suddenly decide today is a very bad day for shopping and you don't park your car after all. You go home with the feeling you just had a close call but you'll never know from what.

Scary things don't have to happen in a graveyard. There could be someone right behind you now. Do you see a reflection of something in your monitor?

-- Kate, Miss Getting Ready for Halloween

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Living on the Edge

Tip of the Day: Check out this interesting article in USA Today about a super successful traditional author turned indie author.

I had a great time at the Joliet Author Fair last weekend! It was my first event since my new book, Just Your Average Princess, came out and it was fun getting to sign it. And fun seeing friends and family, and people who've read my other books come back for the third one.

I talked to a lot of teens and parents at the fair and while talking to them today's topic came to me= Edgy Books. I don't get them. I mean, of course I get them as in understand their sometimes very deep topics like rape, incest, drug abuse, bulimia and so on. I get that some teens identify with the characters in the books or they're just interested in learning about people that go through these various issues. What I'm not getting are the books that almost seem to be going for the shock value. The ones that use the F word every other sentence or have the main character have sex three times before the end of chapter one. What is that about? And who is buying these books? I know someone is because the publishers keep buying them and putting them out there. But here's the thing, and I'm not exaggerating, I'd say probably 3 out of every 5 parents/teachers/librarians that I talk to straight up ask me "Is there swearing in your book?" "Is there sex in your book?". They ask these questions in the first minute or two of our conversation. And they always seem relieved when I say no. So obviously this is a concern on most of their minds. If this is the case, why are there still so many overly edgy books? Who's buying them? Is it the teens buying them and their parents just don't know? What's your take on this?

Kristina, Miss Author in Action

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

NaNo-WHAT-Mo? (or Writing & Turkey Month!)

Tip of the Day: I'm sure you've picked up the sweet and hilarious JUST YOUR AVERAGE PRINCESS this week. But have you also tried Lisa's just tasty MG, SPRINKLES AND SECRETS?

Thanks to the bounties of the internets, most writers are now familiar with NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. I participated in it twice, "won" once (reached a 50,000-word draft), and then in the following years I realized I couldn't always get my projects together so that I was ready to start a new novel in November.

Instead, my CPs and I started coming up with November Writing Goals, which could be drafting a 50,000-word novel a la NaNoWriMo, but it could also be something like "Send picture book ms to 10 editors" or "Revise YA novel." Having the support and cheers and commiseration and check-ins of the Helper Monkeys throughout November is what is more important than the goal itself. No matter how "big" or "small," it is something that each of us seriously wants to complete before the end of the year.

This year I am going to complete my "final" revision of my sci-fi light adventure YA told in dual 1st-person POV -- a first for me that I am loving. And because I know this is my November goal already, I am working even harder on my ms through the end of October to up my odds of "winning" my November challenge. :)

Cheating? Maybe. But the ms will be ready by December 1!

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My new favorite thing...

Tip of the Day: if you've been living under a rock like me, you might not have heard about all the commotion the National Book Award nominations have caused this year. If you want an honest recap, check out Libba Bray's blog post. And we can all be reminded once again why Lauren Myracle is so amazingly fabulous and incredibly nice.

This weekend I've finally been brought into the 21st century in terms of editing my books. My new favorite thing...

Two monitors!

Why oh why haven't I gotten these before now? It's already made editing so much easier, and eliminates the time consuming switching between windows. My finger muscles are already thanking me.

For those of us that weren't blessed with fabulous memories, it's nice to have an outline open the same time as the manuscript you are working on. Or two of the same book, for all those pesky little details you have to search for.

And I'm sure I'm about to find a million other uses.

So what piece of writing equipment can't you live without?

--Emily, Miss Excited for Editing

Monday, October 17, 2011

Thoughts on Trees

Tip of the Day: Even for a fiction book, start a bibliography. It's so handy to be able to re-read an article you used to establish your setting months after you first read it.

I grew up on Long Island, so my tree identification skills are limited to scrub pines, maples, and if I'm really stretching my memory cells, oaks. I'm somewhat aware that Christmas trees can have large or small needles, and I could identify holly and birch bark, and that's about that.

Obviously this is not going to cut it if I'm in the head of a main character who grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I can't say "She hid behind a tree and listened to the bird yell at her" without her sounding four years old.

Oh, and birds. I've always owned cats, so birds are usually yelling, as far as I can tell. I can recognize a hawk, a cardinal, a crow, a robin, a heron, and a blue jay by sight, but if I had to pick out a sparrow or a nuthatch from a lineup, he'd get away clean. I'm almost positive they live in my yard, though! Many times I sit in my backyard and observe them chattering away to each other about the cat, and I think to myself, "Yup. That's a bird."

So may I recommend that we all take advantage of this time of year to take a few observational hikes, hopefully with someone who knows nature. This weekend I learned that a hemlock is an evergreen, which I did not know before. I told my daughter and she didn't know either, and I'm afraid that if I tell my husband, he will roll our eyes at both of us, point to a tree from out our window, and say, "That's a hemlock right there!"

I think for my story idea about the Blue Ridge Mountains, I'll look for tree and bird flash cards.

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fun Friday: And the Winner of Just Your Average Princess is...

Congratulations! I'll e-mail you for your address and get the book off to you.

Have a great weekend everyone! And if you're in the Joliet, IL area I'll be signing books at the Joliet Author Fair. Info below.

October 15, 2011 - 11:00am-3:00pm
Joliet Regional Author Fair
Joliet Public Library-Black Road Branch
3395 Black Road
Joliet, IL

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Competition-- It's Genetic


I have three brothers and growing up, I tended to be most competitive with the brother closest to my age (he's a year and a half older). There wasn't any one thing we were competitive about. Anything was fine. We'd try to clean faster than each other, build better snow forts, and skate faster. And if there was ever a time I wasn't clearly winning in a board game well then I'd just quit. He STILL complains about this to this day.

My four kids aren't any better. In fact, they're worse. They compete from the time they wake up until the time they go to bed. Starting with who can get dressed faster. Then it's who's going to get the "special" plate (note: none of them are really more special than the other. The kids will deem one special and then they'll all fight over it), who gets the pink cup, who gets their hair brushed first etc. It never ends. It drives my husband and I nutso.

And if you think it gets better with age, I'll point you to my mom. She has multiple medical problems as does her sister. But let there be a sale on a senior citizen's discount day and there be coupon's in hand and you just better step out of the way or you might be trampled. They'll hunt for the same bargains and one will always come out ahead. Luckily they're both very good at it so no one sister wins all the time.

Does competition run in your family? What is it about family that makes us want to compete so much with each other? Friends don't seem to do it nearly as much.

Remember, comment on any and all posts this week, Monday-Thursday, for a chance to win an autographed copy of JUST YOUR AVERAGE PRINCESS!

Kristina, Miss Author in Action

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Competing Cousins! (or Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better*)

*with apologies to Irving Berlin


Tip of the Day: Looking for a cute town with charm and a Koffee Haus that lets you write at their tables all day for a writing retreat? Try Frankenmuth, MI!

I don't remember too many family "competitions" in my teens, but I do recall being a tween and receiving bags of hand-me-downs from "cooler" older kids, like our cousins or family friends, and my sister and I, who were the same size (she's 17 months older than me) would scramble through the bags, trying to claim the "best" stuff for each of us. If Mom caught wind of the situation, she'd tell us to SHARE all the clothes, but once they were in the dresser drawer and morning came, the race to get the "best" shirt could be on! I specifically remember these two sweatshirts with pandas on them that just SCREAMED cool. :)

My sister may read this and remember it differently, but at the time, having the cool clothes from our older cousins seemed soooo important!

What did you compete for with your relatives as a tween or teen?

Comment on any and all posts this week, Monday-Thursday, for a chance to win a copy of the hilarious and perfect-for-the-pumpkin-patch-season JUST YOUR AVERAGE PRINCESS!

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Growing up with brothers


Tip of the Day: Just Your Average Princess hits stands today! Make sure to check it out.

To celebrate Tina's new book, we are talking about rivalries this week. Growing up I was closer in age to my brother than sister, so most of my rivalries involved him. So needless to say they weren't of the "which one can wear this shirt better" or "you stole my Barbies" variety. Ours usually involved competing for the biggest and baddest snow fort or seeing who can jump off the roof of our house from the highest location.

When it came to Snow Fort Wars, we usually involved my neighbors. Two of my neighbors (both girls) and I would work as one team and my brother was often a team of one. We'd compete to see who had the most elaborate fort. Including the most rooms, the better tunnels in between the rooms, the comfiest snow chairs, and so on. No one ever really judged, it was just an honorary title. Each of us thinking ours was the best (unless the other one did something so cool, we couldn't help but admit how awesome it was--like a snow cubby that kept you warm and required two people to get you in and out of).

In the Jumping off the Roof Contests, these started off simple enough. Growing up in the country, we had a barn that had a low roof. So it pretty much started as a dare: my brother betting me that I wouldn't jump. And when I did, then he thought we should go even higher with the house roof (is it any wonder that I'm slightly afraid of heights now?). The loser was pretty much the one too chicken to jump that day (which I admit was often me--but not every time).

When I think back now, these are probably some of my fondest memories of growing up. You got to love sibling rivalry.

It's probably why I also like to write girl characters that are often tough on the outside, but not so tough on the inside. Because I never wanted my brother to think of me as anything but tough and strong.

And it's why I also love to read books like Tina's Just Your Average Princess where I can pretend I had a girly childhood and experience a different way of life!



Monday, October 10, 2011

Just Your Average Liar

Tip of the Day: JUST YOUR AVERAGE PRINCESS releases tomorrow! Read on to win your autographed copy, and Happy Book Baby Tina!

It's my favorite kind of week here: we're celebrating a new book release. Tina's JUST YOUR AVERAGE PRINCESS, out in stores tomorrow, is a novel about Jamie in constant competition with her cousin Milan. Milan moves to town and takes over Jamie's life, from getting Jamie's family's attention, to trying to steal the guy she has a crush on and even entering the Pumpkin Princess competition that Jamie has planned on competing in since she was a little girl. So we Author2Author authors asked each other: which family member did you compete with as a teen?

Well, I didn't have any sisters or cousins close in age. That was a real bummer in my small Catholic town. EVERYONE I went to school with had brothers and sisters and cousins to watch their backs. Everyone but me. Why, my best friend had cousins in every grade in high school. My other best friend had so many siblings, we could walk to almost any town hot spot and find someone to give us a ride home. So I did what any other reasonable person would do: I lied about having cousins.

It started with my mother's best friend's niece. Mom's best friend had been my day care growing up, so I knew all the family gossip and had attended the parties. I started calling Michelle my cousin when I saw her in the hallways. "Hey, we are like cousins!" she said. There was only one problem with my plan. Michelle actually DID have cousins in our high school. (Remember, everyone but me.) Before I knew it, though, they were calling me cousin. It turned out everyone was just as competitive about having the biggest posse as I was.

My adopted cousins and I took it seriously enough that they only dated my friends and never me. When one of them moved to another town, he drove back for my high school graduation. Thanks, "cousins"! It was an honor just to be allowed to compete in the cousin contest. Only, you know, most people knew they weren't really my cousins, so that part was kind of pathetic. But I made some great cousin-friends along the way.

You probably didn't compete FOR fake family members. But did you compete WITH family members, like Jamie and Milan? All you have to do to win an autographed copy of JUST YOUR AVERAGE PRINCESS is leave a comment today through Thursday! We'll pick the winner on Friday. So tell us about your competitive side and maybe you'll win!

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Thursday, October 6, 2011

JYAP Release Around the Corner!

Tip of the Day: The Espressologist is bargain priced at $3.60 right now! Check it out! Also, My Fake Boyfriend is Better Than Yours was just nominated for a 2012 YALSA Quick Pick! Whoo hoo!

It's a crazy week for me as I'm getting ready to leave for a writing retreat (YAY!) and trying to fill out a million interviews in preparation for the release of JUST YOUR AVERAGE PRINCESS on Tuesday! So excited! So today I'll just post a summary of the book and I hope that you'll check it out-- it's a perfect read for the fall!

Jamie Edwards has loved everything about growing up on a pumpkin patch, but ever since her cousin Milan Woods arrived, things have really stunk. Jamie can’t imagine it was easy for Milan to leave her life back in Los Angeles and move to Average, Illinois, population one thousand. But it’s kind of hard to feel sorry for her since (a) Milan’s drop-dead gorgeous; (b) she’s the daughter of two of Hollywood’s hottest film stars; (c) she’s captured the attention of everyone in town, including Danny, Jamie’s crush since forever; and (d) she’s about to steal the title of Pumpkin Princess right out from underneath Jamie!

Available 10/11/11 from Indiebound, Amazon, and B&N.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My First E-Book Experience (or What the AUDIENCE Wants)

Tip of the Day: If you are in the Rochester, NY area during Teen Read Week (Oct. 16-22), stop by one of Linda Sue Park's presentations. She's our library system's Greater Rochester Teen Read feature author with her amazing book, A LONG WALK TO WATER.

My husband purchased a used iPad before our trip to Europe. While it ended up having many handy uses while overseas, one of his primary reasons for wanting it was so he could download George R. R. Martin's A DANCE WITH DRAGONS and read it on the Kindle Ap since lugging the 1020 page hardcover version he'd started seemed very impractical. Intrigued by the option of reading an ebook on the plane, I downloaded two self-pubbed YA ebooks before we left.

Since I'd already committed to reading a library book I'd brought with me, it wasn't until the flight home that I broke into the ebooks. And I was so disappointed! The series were very popular on Amazon, had great reader reviews, gorgeous cover art, intriguing premises, and tons of sales -- but the writing was very unpolished to the point of distraction for me.

Let me clarify: the books were NOT bad; they just felt like they needed another revision and polish before they were ready to be read by the masses. For example, one book had very stilted and unrealistic dialog in order to fill the reader in on things that were obvious to the characters; and the other (written in 1st person) had the main character constantly asking herself questions to make sure the reader understood that something strange was going on in the fantasy world instead of showing the reader that it was not the norm (I caught this one because I am also guilty of it). I didn't finish reading either book because I found myself editing them as I read instead of enjoying them.

BUT -- does it matter what I think? Obviously I am not the target audience. Teens are.

Or am I as a YA Librarian and YA writer?

The books are selling well, and it helps when some of them are offered free for a limited time, or for under $3 per book. But if the teen readers who post glowing reviews are really enjoying the books and keep buying them, who cares what I think, right?

I think for self-pubbed ebooks to get the same shots at professional reviews and library collections as traditionally published novels, self-pubbers should hire professional editors and/or copy editors. They need to make sure their books shine for every one who picks them up, not just teens or kids who may not be spoiled like I am, surrounded by well-crafted and edited novels at my day job.

Or am I wrong? Is speed in getting a YA e-series out more important than editing them to beauty?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Celebrate good times, come on!

Tip of the Day: never apologize for celebrating or taking time for yourself!

Doing a little happy dance for finishing something this morning that I’ve been working on for awhile!

To celebrate, I’m taking a break for a few days and getting a treat (preferably a chocolate one) for dessert this evening.

With all the rejection in this business, I think celebrating the small victories are one of the most important things you can do to keep your sanity.

Because writing a book is hard!

Very hard.

Not to mention going back and spending months and months revising it.

And for accomplishing that alone we should be celebrating with champagne and trips around the world.

So kudos to all you writers out there!

How do you celebrate? A day off? A treat? A massage? Or maybe a night out by yourself?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Chapter Counter

Tip of the Day: Do you know about growth disorders? Read this MigWriters post for Growth Disorder Awareness Day and win free books--plus $1 for every comment will be donated until October 7.

When do you know how many chapters are going to be in your novel?

Some people outline each chapter before they start writing. Some people don't know how many chapters they'll have until they type "The End." I'm somewhere in between. Usually after I pass the halfway point of the first draft, I can map out how many more scenes I need and guess how long each scene will be. It's not 100% foolproof, and I've certainly had to go back while revising to insert "Chapter 3A". But after I'm half done with the first draft, I can make an educated guess as to chapter count (and a less educated, but somewhat accurate word count).

So today it's time for a poll. When do you estimate how many chapters will be in your book?

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages