Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tip of the Day, Librarian Edition: Enjoy my blog posts? Think they mean I'm a good librarian? Think that means my Brighton Memorial Library is the best public library in Monroe County? Vote for BML!

On March 12th, I am presenting book talks on Hot Teen Titles to a bunch of librarians! Anyone who's met me in person knows I can booktalk for hours. I only get 20 minutes, so I better practice my speed-talking!

To prepare a well-rounded presentation and book list, I've been reading a lot of new teen graphic novels and non-fiction. I loved LILY RENEE, ESCAPE ARTIST (graphic novel) and am enjoying THE PREGNANCY PROJECT (non-fiction), but since I usually read teen fiction, I want to make sure I'm not forgetting anything HOT that was released between September 2011 and March 2012.

Does anyone have any recommendations of teen GNs or NF that I must read and include in my presentation?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Vacations are your friend

Tip of the Day: want to get out and do something fun, but don't want to spend a lot of money? Check your city's vacation and visitor's bureau to see if they have "Be a Tourist in your Own Town" days or suggestions. It's amazing what cool stuff you might find that you didn't even know existed in your own town.

So I've been taking a bit of a break from writing, editing, and reading to recharge myself and get ready to do some big editing next month. I'm so excited that I'm going on vacation to Savannah next week that I can hardly think of anything else.

I really need a vacation.

I'm definitely one of those people that needs a change in scenery and environment every now and then to get my creative juices flowing and to recharge. I've taken a few mini trips this past year, but nothing more than a night or two, so I'm excited to get away for an extended stay.

In fact I'm so excited that I've decided to be a dork and give you reasons why vacations are important.

  • It's good for your health. It's true. I found it on the Internet (which means it must be accurate, right :)) But it's been proven that vacations, along with sleep and exercise are "restorative and protective against the ill effects of psychological stress."

Other good points the blog entry mentions include: 
  • Vacations often allow you to pamper yourself and reward yourself for all your hard work. And it gives you time to be treated well and feel important.
  • It offers you freedom to do what you want, when you want.
Other wonderful things about vacations if you are going with family or a significant other, they allow you to:
  •  Reconnect and try something new together, which might give you something to talk about for along time to come.
  • They foster bonding and build beautiful memories.

 Okay, okay. I know these are all common sense and everyone knows vacations are awesome! So I'm definitely preaching to the choir.

But sometimes all of us forget that we need time to step back and relax. Yes, vacations can be work to set up--especially if you are "doer" like me on vacations instead of a "relaxer"-- and they can be stressful at times, but normally it's a good stress and it's worth it in the end.
So if you happen to ever feel guilty about taking a vacation, talk yourself out of it now. It is almost always money well spent!

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, February 27, 2012

Dream Sequences: Yes or No?

Tip of the Day:  It's your absolute last chance to win the Just Your Average Princess giveaway on Tina's blog: She's three followers away from 100 followers.

So what's your opinion on dream sequences in novels? I've never been a big fan. I'm reading a novel now (BREAKAWAY by Michelle Davidson Argyle) where they are quite well done, though. As the main character thinks she gets control of her life, she gets control of her nightmares. The dream scenes are very short and sometimes she uses a line in her character's journal rather than taking us into the dream every time.

When I was in college, I tried to write a fantasy where the main character thought she was having dreams, but they were really out-of-body experiences. As I typed that sentence, I realize it sounds like a better idea than it actually was. Let's just say it was a very common fantasy trope at the time. 

Every once in a while, I'm tempted to use a scene with a character waking up from a nightmare. There are common nightmares: losing your teeth, driving a car from the backseat, walking through school naked, failing an important test you didn't know you were scheduled to take. But I like my nightmares in my novels to be more imaginative. I still only give them a line or two. I don't know how effective it is, but somehow I like my characters to operate in a sleep-deprived condition. I haven't resorted to nightmares with my last novel, probably because the main character never gets a chance to sleep and I have her naturally sleep deprived.

What about your characters? Do they have dreams or nightmares, and if so, do they make it to the pages of your book? As a reader, do you  love them or hate them?

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, February 24, 2012

Do Teens Read eBooks?

Tip of the Day:  Did you hear J.K. Rowling's big news?

Question: What's keeping teens from reading ebooks?

Short answer: Nothing.

There was this really interesting article from Publisher's Weekly about teens and ebooks earlier this week. Read it here.

Based on a survey, teens are "reluctant" to embrace ebooks. Then the articles goes to talk about how agents, editors, and writers disagree. I think that's fantastic! In whole, it's a really exciting article about the future of ebooks for teens. There are some pretty cool apps that can be piggybacked on ebooks and it seems publishers are jumping on that. Luuuuv that idea - planning to do that myself in the future.

Unfortunately, I think there were a couple of odd assumptions made in the article.

Kids can read e-books on laptops or phones, but the e-reader makes it easier. “There still has to be an investment in the actual device before you start buying e-books,” says agent Ginger Clark. Still, with a basic Kindle now selling for just $79 (and machines inevitably getting less expensive) and a growing number of kids getting their parents’ hand-me-downs, more teens are becoming e-reader owners. (Ypulse’s Shreffler predicts a cell-phone–like “two-year window” for the devices.)

100% true. Teens do need a device of some sort to read an ebook. However, I seriously need to argue the idea that $79 for an introductory Kindle is too much. Many teens own a Nintendo DS (over $200, plus games which run anywhere from $9.99 to $59.99) or iPod Touch (again, hundreds of dollars - and they can read ebooks on it!). They have game systems like Wii or XBox or Playstation - all costing hundreds of dollars with equally expensive games.

If parents are willing to shell out cash for those electronics, what makes it seem like a basic Kindle at $79 is too expensive? I'm confused...

  “Teens still find passing a copy back and forth is the easiest way to share,” says Clark at Curtis Brown. With e-books, passing along to others isn’t allowed. 

I suppose that's true ... for ebooks with DRM - digital rights management. Traditional publishers put this limitation on their books so people can't share. That's too bad. Most indies, like me, don't utilize DRM so teens can share as many ebooks as they want. Please, pass my books on, I don't care. I'd love to see traditional pubs strip DRM from their ebooks too. After all, you can't force someone to not share a paperback. Why not let them share an ebook?

 Many teens are slowly realizing they can check out e-books from the public library.

What breaks my heart about this statement, and they go into it a bit in the article, is that libraries are going to be shut out of ebooks from four of the Big Six publishers. I'm a HUGE proponent of libraries. My mom is a library aide. I've worked in libraries. My books circulate in libraries. I think people should have access to ebooks in libraries and I hope they work it out soon. Every librarian I know wants ebooks in circulation. Read more about this travesty here.

I think teens are poised to blow up the ebook market. They want content when they want it. I actually prefer ebooks now to paper, having read on my iPhone, Nook, and computer for a few months. It has to be something pretty special for me to shell out for a hardcover now.

Most of this Publisher's Weekly article is fantastic, just a couple things are wonky (to me), and I really do feel bad that traditionally published authors get such a low royalty rate on their ebooks. As a self-published author, I get a 70% royalty on my Kindle books priced above $2.99. I'm making a pretty good living, even with expenses like covers, swag, formatting, etc, etc, etc.

So, YAY to teens falling for ebooks! It's awesome. YAY to traditional publishing for investing in ebooks. YAY to trad pub for following indie writers' strategies of setting the first book free (my first novel, Anathema, is FREE on Smashwords & the iBookstore and Wattpad) and pricing as low as $2.99. But BOO to trad pub for not giving its talent higher ebook royalties. And BOO to trad pub for denying libraries access to some of their books.

Note: Oh, and it may look like I'm jabbing at Ginger Clark. I'm not. It just happened to be the parts she commented on in the article. I simply have a different viewpoint and opinion. I hear she's a pretty cool chick & a great agent.

Megg, Miss Enchanted ePubber


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dear Publishing Industry, We Need to Talk

Tip of the Day: Check out this list of 20 Favorite Romantic Comedy Actors Under 40.

Dear Publishing Industry,

We need to talk. What's going on with the romantic comedies for teens? Like, where did they go? Have you stopped making them? Please say you haven't stopped making them. You have, haven't you. A quick search on Amazon for the Simon Pulse Romantic Comedy line and I don't see any released past Spring of 2011. What's going on? They're so darn cute and funny. Come on, you guys love them right?

I know we have had this dark thing going on for some time now at the book stores. And it was fine for awhile, but we need some diversity guys. Teens keep asking me what happened to all the light and funny books. I know there still are some but we need more in the mass paperback kinda way. And it's not just you-- they're doing it on TV too. Everything is so dark and dreary. Maybe that's why I keep watching reruns of Gilmore Girls every weekend.

So here's what I'm thinking publishing industry. There's all this back and forth on the Internet everyday about book prices, printed books going away, the rise of ebooks, people not wanting to pay an arm and a leg for books etc. I know you've seen it because I see it on twitter a dozen times a day. So listen, why don't you come up with a super affordable mass paperback line. You know, like in the olden days when I was a teen:

Did I really just say olden days? I swear I'm not that old. But this is my collection from the late 80s/early 90s and back then I paid $2.99 a book. Total deal and I had no problem buying tons as you can see. Sometimes I would buy a book everyday, go home and read it, then get another the next day. Do teens do that now? Doubt it. Who's got the cash for that? I'm not suggesting you price yours at $2.99 but I'm thinking the magic price point should be $4.99. Think about it, $4.99 for a smaller mass paperback and I get to have the book in my hand. I can pass it around to my friends or take it the beach and not worry about it because it's not a $15-$20 hardcover or even a $10 paperback. And let's get real, isn't that what a huge problem in the industry is right now? That we're asking teens to spend $10-$20 on a new book? And yes, they'll do it if it's something that they MUST have right away like Hunger Games. But every book can't be Hunger Games. How often do we hear I'll check that out at the library or I'll wait for the paperback?

Think about it, $4.99. Half the price of a traditionally published eBook or trade paperback, a little more than an indie published eBook. I know what you're saying right now, but look at the ro com line at the top-- people weren't buying enough of those (I'm guessing that's why it went away, right?) but those were $6.99 and up. $6.99, though only $2 more than $4.99, is not quite an impulse buy as $4.99. $4.99 is less than my Starbucks. And don't say the printing will cost too much because Scholastic Book Fairs are able to charge that much for many of their books. I'm sure you could make it happen.

Anyway, just think about it publishing industry. You don't have to get back to me right away. But I do think it could work. We could even call it retro and say we're bringing back the 80s. We all know that works in fashion (hello leg warmers and french rolled jeans, how've you been?).

Kristina, Miss Author in Action

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Reviewing Trends II (or Death By Car)

Tip of the Day, Librarian Edition: The public library is not a day care center. You must stay with/watch/assist your child at all times for their own safety.

Two weeks ago, I talked about the revived trend in YA novels of
characters in mental institutions. Today I'd like to talk about all the poor parents who are killed off in car accidents.

Recent YA novels I've read that include this plot point are:

(Dad is dead)

(Both parents bit the dust)

(Another orphan)

(Mom is actually in a persistant vegetative state after a car accident)

(More bad luck for Mom)

I understand that in order for the main characters to act a certain way, or to live a certain way, or to grow in a certain way, dear old mom and/or dad have to get their head through the windshield. And I understand that about 30,000 people die in motor vehicle accidents per year, so the number of parent deaths in YA novels may actually be statistically correct!

And keep in mind that I actually really enjoyed these books!

But the death-by-car element makes me as a writer think that if I need a dead parent, I should brainstorm a number of ways to off them, something more original that may also challenge my own writing/plotting skills.

Is there a "death by" plot element that you have seen enough of to make you resist using it in your own work?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

And the winner is...

Tip of the Day: get your ball gowns and tuxes out early this year and check out these Oscar predictions.

Welcome to all of our new blog, twitter, and facebook followers. We are glad you stopped by.

I'm pleased to announce the winner of The Awesome Valentine's Makeover Giveaway!

And the winner is...

Erin Shakespear

Congrats Erin, for not only having a cool name, but winning our contest. 

Just email us your mailing address at author2author(DOT)blog(AT)gmail(DOT)com and we'll get your books to you. 

Also, make sure to let us know which Kristina Springer book you'd like and which Megg Jensen eBook you'd enjoy. All the books can be browsed on our sidebar.  And check your email for your giftcard. We'll get it sent once we verify your email.

Thanks to everyone that entered. Make sure to check back. We often hold various contests throughout the year. Until then, just enjoy the blog!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Writing and Cooking

Tip of the Day: We're on Facebook and Twitter! You can also follow me personally on Twitter at @katefall. 

My kids get home from school at 3:30, and my house goes from quiet to pandemonium. They're hungry, they're thirsty, the neighborhood kids follow them home. I used to try to work through this chaos and then, after they settled down with homework or friends, I'd have to get up and make dinner. Finally, I learned. Now I make dinner at 3:30. I'm in the kitchen when they need me and back to work after they've settled down.

To make dinner at 3:30, I cook a lot of soups and casseroles like baked ziti. Chili works great like this, and pasta sauces. I just make the pasta itself closer to dinner time. If I heat up the oven at 3:30, I can make baked potatoes. My husband loves baked potatoes enough to forgive me for eating soup all the time.

This also works great on the weekends. When my kids ask for lunch, I can serve them mac and cheese and start making dinner at the same time.

I know a lot of busy people don't cook much. My mother cooked every night and worked full time (well, I helped once I was old enough), and although I don't really like to cook, I don't like to eat out a lot either. My husband definitely pulls his weight, often cooking a few meals for the week on Sundays. But he doesn't get home from work until 6 or 7 in the evening. So to preserve my writing, editing, and critiquing time, I cook meals that I can make at any time of the day.

Do you have any tricks for balancing your time?(Trust me, Better than Boullion brand stock. With that, I can make soup out of anything.)

 --Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, February 17, 2012

Love & Romance....le sigh....

Tip of the Day: There is still time to enter our Valentine Makeover contest. There are lots of cool prizes so check it out.

 I haven't read a romance novel in years - at least not one that didn't contain some sort of paranormal or fantasy element to it. I'm your not-so-typical girl who loves movies where things blow up, zombies eat people, and love only happens because people are thrust together in insurmountable circumstances that get those hormones surging and the adrenaline racing.

When I met my husband, we bonded over my love of the 80s movie Masters of the Universe (yes, the He-Man movie) and Babylon 5 (yes, I have an undying crush on Bruce Boxleitner, the captain of Babylon 5 and the star of Tron). To me, there's nothing hotter than a guy in uniform - one for space travel. My hubby couldn't believe it. He'd hit gold. Not only did I love typical guy movies (Die Hard happens to be one of my favorite Christmas flicks), but I was also an avid gamer (the video game variety, I've never played D&D).

Some girls might roll their eyes at me. That's okay. I was never one to fit in and gave up trying years ago. But here's the thing - I'm not alone in this world. There are dozens, thousands, possibly millions of girls out there like me who swoon over the fast, dangerous romance. In the medieval-based fantasy worlds I write, characters are often trapped in wars (magical or military). They fight hard. They love hard. There isn't time for a slow buildup because they just might get burned alive (read The Initiate) or magically pushed off a platform, sending them to a quick death by broken neck (read Sleepers).

When the bigger concerns of the world come knocking, it's usually love fast or die frustrated. lol

This was one of the reasons I decided to epub. Many of the agents I spoke with bemoaned my character's ability to fall in love (or in like, or in lust) so quickly. Instead of arguing about genre conventions (wouldn't you fall in love fast if you knew you could die at any moment?), I moved on. If I argued with every person who insisted I'd never be popular, I'd still be standing on the football field in high school, clutching my flag while wearing a marching band uniform, insisting that someday I'd make something of myself while my tormentors would still be, well, mean (thank you Taylor Swift!!!!). Maybe my books aren't typical YA fare. I admit it, they're a weird combination of Twilight and Game of Thrones. Personally, I don't see anything wrong with that.

Love hard. Die hard.

Megg, Miss Enchanted ePubber

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Around the Publishing World This Week

Tip of the Day: There is still time to enter our Valentine Makeover contest. There are lots of cool prizes so check it out. And hey, if you don't win this one, I still have a contest for a signed copy of Just Your Average Princess over on my blog.

Everyone has been talking about things they love this week so I thought I'd talk about some of the fun/interesting publishing related stuff I've seen on the Internet this week.

1) This crazy funny VLOG:

2) This interesting blog post from Rachelle Gardner called, Do You Know What Business You're In? In it she compares the publishing industry to Kodak and how they kept denying the changing times (from printed film to digital) until they were out of business.

3) You know the hilarious Ryan Gosling Love YA web site? Well, it seems Ryan is tweeting now as a lit agent and he's somehow even funnier on twitter with updates like, "Hey Girl, there were chocolates and glitter inside your query envelope. You didn't need to do that. But thanks." Follow him @GoslingLitAgent

4) Anna Reads's Top 10 Most Heartbreaking Young Adult Books list.

5) USA Today's blog post, Why Do We Need Romance Novels? Complete with answers from loads of authors.

6) Karly Kirkpatrick's list of Strong Ladies in YA books on The Indelibles site.

7) Rebecca Besser's and Megan Crewe's individual posts about ways to support your favorite authors for FREE. Both ladies have excellent suggestions.

Did you see anything awesome this week that you want to share?

Kristina, Miss Author in Action

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Love Books? Win Stuff! (or Who Wrote the Book of Love?*)

*with apologies to The Monotones

Tip of the Day: Our Awesome Valentine's Makeover Giveaway is still going strong! Just go to this page and in the “Enter to Win” section type in your email or Facebook login. You get extra points for following our blog, liking our Facebook page, and Tweeting about the contest -- every day!

What a week of LOVE here at A2A! In honor of Valentine's Week, I want to share with you my five favorite YA romances that I read in the past six months. And here they are, in no particular order:

John Green's book is full of smart characters who aren't afraid to be smart and their honesty about their feelings for each other is refreshing.

HAMLET is a super clever, modern take on a classic romance that shows Ophelia's heartbreak and anguish very well.

DITCHED 100 percent delivers on the romantic comedy front, from the missed connections to the prom setting.

RITES & WRONGS is an adorable look at a girl whose anthropological observations may steer her wrong when it comes to love.

LOLA is a fun main character with a quirky style, rocker boyfriend, and sweet boy next door that equals a great romance.

I definitely lack a good romance writer gene, maybe because as a teen I wasn't as smitten as some of my friends with the idea of finding "true love" in high school. I have to work hard to write swoony romance in my novels. What YA romances do you think I should read? What are some of your favorites?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Things I Heart

Tip of the Day: don't forget to sign up for our Awesome Valentine's Makeover Giveaway. It's easy, just go to this page and in the “Enter to Win” section type in your email or Facebook login. You get extra points for following our blog, liking our Facebook page, and Tweeting about the contest! Don’t forget you can tweet about the contest or retweet  ours everyday!

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! 
As a way to share the Valentine Love, I'm going to give you a list of five random things I’m Hearting right now.
Shari's Berries—after a long day at work yesterday I got home and found a package of these awesome chocolate covered strawberries on my porch. Yum yum, I’m in love. Thanks Mom and Dad!  
Gate 1 Travel—as a travel lover this is one of my favorite websites. I've bought a number of trips from them at a very affordable price. Plus, they email Deals of the Week for extra savings and offer trips to the US now.   
Hart of Dixie—a mixture of super cheesiness and just the right amount of romantic tension make this TV show so much fun. With quotes like these from the main character Zoe Hart: "There it is. Rock Bottom. I just played Dixie with my butt. This never happened, you hear me?" what’s not to love? The very Gilmore Girlesc town festivals are a riot too: Planksgiving and a Sweetie Pie dance that feature actual pies. Super cheesy, so of course I Super Heart it.

 Book purses—now I can admire these from afar, but if you happen to be super crafty here’s a tutorial on how to make your own.  So cute!
And of course I love our Makeover Giveaway, so make sure to go enter to win five awesome prizes that I’m sure you will Heart too.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Awesome Valentine's Makeover Giveaway!

Tip of the Day: Chase of the winter blues with a new look and great books!

Check us out everyone. We have a makeover! Thank you so much, Em, for designing our blog's new look. We're rolling out this makeover to celebrate our newest Author2Author member joining us, Megg Jensen. And now we're on Facebook and Twitter. We're kicking off our Valentine's look with a fantastic giveaway. Look at what you can win:

I'm giving away THE LAST EXIT TO NORMAL by Michael Harmon in hardcover. It's a love story between a city boy and a country girl, and also about how that city boy adjusts to his father's new boyfriend.

Emily is giving away a $10 Amazon gift card. Sweet!

Deena is giving away BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES by Laurie Stolarz. Suspense, mystery, and stalkers ... your perfect read for a snug, secure winter night.

Tina is giving away the winner's choice of any one of her titles! That's right, and she'll sign the copy for you, too! Megg is giving away the winner's choice of any of her ebooks. Awesome!

So how do you win? Spread the word about us. All entry methods are optional, and you can get up to 7 entries:

1. Follow our blog
2. Like our Author2Author page on Facebook at
3. You can Tweet about our contest once each day, today through Friday. You get an entry for each Tweet.
Just Tweet something like this: Makeover giveaway from @A2AGirls. Awesome YA swag! Details on their blog. #yalit #YA

The contest ends Friday. Click the "Read More" link below to enter. Good luck, and thanks for your support!

 -- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, February 10, 2012

Editing the Indie Novel, Part 3

Tip of the Day: Find your perfect critique partners through SCBWI or RWA.

So now that you know the different types of editing you need to do to your manuscript as an indie (because traditionally published authors have professional editors through their publishers to make sure, hopefully, all the bases are covered), I'm going to help you find your perfect editing partners.

When I decided to start approaching my writing as a business with an eye to getting published, versus just writing for fun, I joined SCBWI - the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators. It was through this organization that I found my first online critique group. I was thrilled because two of the members had MFAs in Creative Writing.

That was equally exciting and intimidating. Luckily, the members were more than happy to take me under their wing. I didn't submit my material at first. Instead, I sat back and learned how they critiqued. It was totally mind-blowing and I am grateful to each of them for everything they taught me. After a year of critiquing with them on a bi-weekly basis, I felt like I'd learned a lot ... but I was pretty sure there was more to learn. That's when I discovered Becky Levine.

Becky wrote this incredible book, The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide.

You should buy a copy because this book will enhance any critique group situation you encounter. It will make you a better participant and a better critiquer.

Once you're able to locate some critique groups, you want to gather people around you who have different skill sets. Find people who excel in copy edits, people who can spot a hole in a story a mile away, or who can find your writing tics that no one else can see. I can guarantee you that you will not find one perfect critique partner, nor can you be everything to someone else. Make friends and start sharing your work!

Now we can talk a bit about hiring an editor. *cringes* I hate talking about this. I really, really do. Why? Because when I was querying I sent out feelers to three professional editors, people whose names you'd recognize and who are well-respected editors. I sent each of them a sample to edit, so I could get a feel for their style. I purposely filled the document with errors, some subtle, some obvious.

All of the samples came back with a cursory edit. I was crushed. These were the most well-respected editors and the illusion had been broken. I spent seven years as a journalist. Had I ever turned in an article that poorly edited, I can guarantee you I wouldn't have received new assignments.

If you do decide to go the professional editor route, here's what I want you to do:

1. Figure out what kind of edits you need. Not every editor does all kind of edits.
2. Get referrals from friends. Read some of the work they've edited.
3. Send them a sample edit with known mistakes.
4. If you like the way they edited, make sure their style jives with yours. Make sure they understand your voice.
5. If you go ahead with the edit, don't assume their edit was perfect. Go over your manuscript again and again and again.

I've never claimed my books are perfect. There definitely are advantages to having a traditional publisher and their massive editing machine behind a book (though we've all seen mistakes in trad pubbed books too), but indies can get their books up to par too.

Good luck!!!!

Megg, Miss Enchanted ePubber

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Creating Memorable Characters

Tip of the Day: Check out Literary Agent Kristin Nelson's vlog on the difference between YA and MG.

I've been researching how to create memorable characters and finding snippets of information that I think would be useful to share. 

Easy on the Names

Like from this site the author Lee Masterson says, "The name must not only suit the character, but must also be easy on your intended readers. If you decide the name Xzgytgml is the only name that suits your character, bear in mind that the reader is forced to stop and stumble through the unfamiliar word, which means he is no longer engrossed in your story." And, yeah, this happens to me all the time when I'm reading. I can't get past some of these crazy names and they pull me from the story each time.

Use Tags

Glen C. Strathy says we should use tags to make our characters stand out. "Tags are things which identify a character and set him or her apart from other characters."

"Tags can include physical traits, clothing preferences, hairstyles, habitual mannerisms, facial expressions, speech habits, noises the character makes, or even scents - anything, in fact, that a person interacting with the character would notice about him. The combination of a character's tags should set him or her apart from all other characters in the novel."

This is a problem I've seen in various novels (including my own) where the characters might talk too alike or use the same lingo or have the same ticks. It confuses the reader and might pull them from the story to backtrack and see who is talking.

Show, Don't Tell

Author/Agent Mandy Hubbard wrote a great blog post about creating memorable characters here. In it she talks about how we need to discover a character like pulling back the layers of an onion, a little at a time. " For instance, if your character is shy/awkward, please, please do not have her think, “I do not feel comfortable in crowds. I would like to avoid them. I am a shy person.” Instead, have her wipe her sweaty palms on her jeans. Let her stomach lurch when the teacher calls on her in class."  I ran into something like this just the other day when I was compiling a reading list. I was reading the first few pages of a particular book and the main character said on page two, I have ADD and that means I have a hard time sitting still and paying attention to the teacher and so on. I gave up on the book right there. I knew I wouldn't be able to sit through a whole book with a character just telling me things about himself.

Make Your Characters Three Dimensional

Susan Denard makes a great point that we must not forget about our bad guys in our books. They need to be memorable too. "The key to crafting a good villain is all how 3-dimensional he/she is–the villain isn’t simply bad to be bad. He’s bad for a reason, and readers need to understand what that reason is."

Avoid Cliches

Libba Bray talks about avoiding the typical stock character everyone's seen a million times. "Question assumptions, stereotypes and stock characters. Round characters aren’t black and white. Villains don’t think of themselves as villains. They aren’t all good or all bad."

Know Your Characters Inside and Out

Lucia Zimmitti says, "If your readers don't care about your characters, you're sunk. Readers don't necessarily have to like all of your characters, but they have to care about what happens to your main character, or there's no reason for them to keep reading." And it's the truth. It doesn't matter how awesome your plot is, if the reader doesn't care about your character the book won't be memorable. That's why it's important to work on the backstory of your characters and know as much as possible about them. There are character charts all over the Internet but Lucia has some interesting exercises to try once you're tired of the charts.

Kristina, Miss Author in Action

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Reviewing Trends (or Coping with Mental Problems)

Tip of the Day, Librarian Edition: Please silence your cell phone and remain disconnected from it when inside the library. Nobody wants to hear what you're planning for dinner, what time your son needs to get picked up from hockey practice, or how much you hate your ex.

While reading the February 2012 VOYA, I noticed something in the reviews of realistic fiction: Five of them featured teens in mental hospitals.

I read one prior to seeing this month's VOYA:
TRY NOT TO BREATHE is a lovely YA of friends, family, health, truth, and healing. The main character is already released from the mental hospital when the novel begins, but he has a connection to two friends he made there and flashbacks to his institutionalization.

The other four VOYA reviewed novels contain characters visiting their friends in mental hospitals, girls recovering from OCD, etc. Different approaches with a similar theme.

As a teen, I loved GO ASK ALICE and other books that explored mental health issues, especially since I liked to diagnose myself with hypochondria, OCD, and whatever else was in the news. I'm sure teens today think about the same things.
But do we need five new titles with this theme? Maybe we do. Or is the mental hospital setting just another avenue for the dark, realistic contemporary YA novel that sells today? Is it a "trend," or is the market just ready for these novels to simultaneously hit the shelves? Is this simply the progression from all of the books with MCs seeing shrinks a couple years ago?

Some other patterns I noticed in VOYA were:
--teens getting ready to graduate from HS who have plans for their studies/futures (often involving the arts), but a death/break-up/parental decision throws them off course and they don't know what to do with their lives.
--not much realistic historical fiction at all (there is more in the fantasy/sci-fi/horror section)

What patterns are you noticing on the shelves? And do you find the themes "worthy?"

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I want you...and your voice!

Tip of the Day: just wishing a very Happy Birthday to my husband today!

Voice is everything in your writing. It helps brand you as an author and helps your books come to life.

What would it be like if all of Sarah Dessen's books were written in Meg Cabot's voice?

They both use humor and focus on romance. But they have a very different voice. Cabot loves the funny one-liners and fast paced books, whereas Dessen focuses on secondary characters with quirky personalities to deliver her humor and her books usually move at a much slower pace so you get to enjoy the depth of the characters and marvel at her amazing writing ability even more.

If these authors stood on a stage and read their works to a backward facing audience--much like the contestants on The Voice--you’d be able to spot the differences in their books immediately. Yes, they are both awesome storytellers. But both have their own unique literary voice that is easy to tell from the moment you crack open the book and read page one.

And even though I love them both, I know several people that are Sarah Dessen fans that can't stand to read a Meg Cabot book (shock and horror, I know!).

So if someone doesn't get your voice, don’t get upset. Just like with writers, there are also a lot of singers on The Voice that half of the judges don't get. While the other half think they are brilliant.

But if you aren't unique and stay true to your own voice, then chances are pretty good you won't get noticed at all.

And who doesn't want at least one person to turn around in a chair that says "I Want You" on it?

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, February 6, 2012

Wait, What's Dystopian Again?

Tip of the Day: I have an article about story in the Winter Rhemalda Opus. Check it out at

There are so many dystopians on the market these days, the word is losing its meaning. Check out this Goodreads list named Dystopia! It's kind enough to provide a definition: "no singular catastrophe may have occurred but things have somehow still slipped into a horrid state of paranoia and oppression."

I like that definition a lot. Unfortunately both history and modern politics provide us with ample states where paranoia and oppression rule. So when looking at a dystopian, the question is how does this compare to Stalin's Siberia or modern-day North Korea? A shortage of consumer goods and rampant disease do not a dystopian make. Hunger and pestilence are humankind's eternal companions. We keep them at bay for only short periods of time throughout history. In other words, a dystopian requires more. It's a heck of a lot easier to research history than to create an entire world.

Looking at the list, we see people arguing over what novels are really dystopian. Catch-22 is on the list. Nonsensical power structure that leads people who follow the rules to death? Check. Rules that bring about extreme paranoia and oppression? Check. And yet isn't it historical fiction? It's a novel about a specific place and time in history. 

The Adoration of Jenna Fox is on the list too, and I'd like to protest that. It takes place in the future, and horrible things happen to some specific characters. But in general, society seems to be a kinder place with great advances in medicine and education. Look, bad things have to happen to your main characters or nobody would read your story. But that doesn't make it dystopian.

Here's a tough one: Watership Down. Dystopia? I don't know! Horrible things happen to several societies of rabbits. Each society has a particularly awful way of dealing with life's harshness. There is a way out, but it comes with a huge price attached. The stakes are life and death. Of course, it's about rabbits in a field in England. What do you think? Dystopian or not?

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages