Wednesday, October 31, 2012

When Disaster Strike! (or Weather Permitting)

Tip of the Day: Give me a shout in the comments if you will be at the YALSA Symposium with me in St. Louis this weekend!

With all of the talk about -- and destruction caused by -- Hurricane Sandy this week, I was thinking about disaster novels, realistic stories based on natural events.

Adding "bad weather" into your novel is a great way to create tension and a non-human foe. It also adds atmosphere and helps to place your story on the map.

If you've had enough of these horrors in real life, I understand. But if you want to read some kidlit with this setting, I recommend the following:

ASHFALL and ASHEN WINTER by Mike Mullin. When the supervalcano errupts, Alex must survive the fallout on his own. Totally gripping and it made me cold just reading about the ashy snow.

TRAPPED by Michael Northrop. During a snow storm, seven teens are stuck in their high school awaiting rescue while the temperature drops and the snow piles up. Creepy and disturbing and a little too close to home for those who live in lake affect snow zones.

HURRICANE by Terry Trueman. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch strikes Honduras and 13-year-old Jose must take care of his house when his father goes missing. This tragic and realistic story reads quickly and shows the vulnerability of island life.

THE WAITING SKY by Lara Zielin. Jane finally leaves her alcoholic mother back home -- but just for the summer because her mom needs her -- and joins her older brother and his team of tornado chasers through tornado alley. While the focus is on the characters rather than the weather, the tornado's power and unpredictability is well drawn.

What are your favorite weather/natural disaster novels?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Breaking all the Writing Rules

Tip of the Day: if you live on the East Coast, hopefully you survived The Big Storm and aren't without power for too long. But on the bright side, maybe you'll get to practice your penmanship when working on your writing.

Everywhere I look today seems to bring more pictures of Hurricane Sandy and the devastation the storm left. These are the days I'm glad I don't live near the coast, but I do hope everyone else is doing alright. Hopefully you were a good Girl Scout or Boy Scout and stocked up on your supplies, so you can stand to be without power (that is if you are even reading this, since chances are if you are without power--you'd have a hard time actually reading blogs :))

Every time a big weather emergency hits, I can't help but think of weather in books and in everyday life.

Weather seems to be a great conversation starter. It's such a cliche to start off a story with "it was a dark and stormy night," but at the same time many of our everyday conversations start out with talking about the weather (Or is that just a Midwest thing? Maybe some of you East Coasters have something far more interesting to talk about...) Whether it's just a regional thing or not, I think talking about the weather is a go-to when you don't really have anything else to say. When all else fails, people talk about the weather because it's something that everyone can relate to.

So even though it's cliche (as with many thing in storytelling--opening with a dream sequence anyone?), it can still be useful:

* If you want to show two characters having an awkward moment...excellent time to have a conversation about the weather.
* If you want to show two characters that don't have a lot in common...why not talk about the weather!
* If you want  to show family members interacting over mundane activities...the weather is a great topic.

So basically, even if it's cliche or overdone, any topic can be discussed if it's effective. Reminding us yet again there really are no rules in novel writing!

Thank goodness, because I'm not really in a rule-following mood lately :)

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Friday, October 26, 2012

Crits & Hurt Feelings

Tip of the Day: Leave reviews for books you buy. They don't have to be long, drawn-out affairs - just a simple, "Loved it!" is good enough.

So I had kind of sad thing happen this week. A writer-friend, someone I trust a lot, asked me to do a crit for her. I happily said yes because I love, love, love editing.

It was a very early version of her story. I wanted to help, so I thought I'd be as brutal as possible. As a critique partner, I felt it was my job not to pull any punches. Because if I lie, and stroke her ego, what good would I be doing? The point of a critique is to make things better, not to pat someone on the head.

Things kind of spiraled out of control. In my attempt to be honest, I came off as harsh. In my attempt to apologize, I came off as sarcastic and mean. In my attempt to back off and explain, I came off as self-deprecating and pitiful.

She misunderstood me. I misunderstood her. Let's just say it wasn't pretty and I had a bad week trying desperately to scramble out of the black hole our friendship had suddenly fallen into.

This is one of the big risks we take in this profession. Writing is filled with emotional pitfalls. Our work is dear to us, as precious as a new baby. Expectations are high, but at the same time it's like balancing on a ball while holding a rod with a dish on top. No one wants that dish to crash to the floor and shatter in a million pieces. Not me, the person telling them how to balance; not the person on the ball, trying desperately to make everything perfect.

I had a talk about it with a guy friend, who is also involved in the arts. It was short, done via text, and very matter-of-fact. He told me this happens everywhere. He told me I shouldn't take it so damn personally. That was about it. Guy logic. Gotta love it. It's very grounding.

So, I put on my man pants, wrote her a simple email explaining that I hadn't mean to be mean, or sarcastic, or pitiful, and nothing I wrote was in anger. I also said I valued our friendship.

All of this lead to a great realization about myself - something I'd been suspecting for quite a long time now - I SUCK at developmental editing. Give me a manuscript with typos and missing commas and grammar issues and I am all over that baby. But taking a story and trying to help someone mold it? Not my forte. It's not a reason to be down on myself. It's simply a truth that not only serves me better as a writer, but also helps me realize where my strengths are when my friends ask me for the help I'm always so happy to give.

Want to know what happened? My friend and I made up. I hope we move on happily and put this behind us like two dudes who just beat the shit out of each other, then went out for a beer.

Moral of the story? Be kind. Be honest. Be true. Be willing, always, to say you are sorry - even if you never meant to offend.

Megg, Miss Enchanted ePubber

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Drowning in Edits

Tip of the Day: Check out the first installment in Isobel Lucas's Hell Bent/Heaven Sent YA serial for FREE. I read it last night and it's good-- I think she's got a hit on her hands.

It's one of those days where I'm buried in line edits and wondering how on earth I'm ever going to get all of this done. So I leave you with this fun editing comic and ask, do you worry about this every time you give your book to someone to edit for you?! I do.

Kristina, Miss Author in Action

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Never Heard of Ya (or Love for the Little Guys)

Tip of the Day: Sick of the presidential debates? Good news for you: They are done! Don't forget to vote in less than two weeks!

After reading Megg's post on how to be a bestseller last week, I thought about all those amazing books that are not bestsellers, probably never will be, but are fabulouso nonetheless and should have a fair shot at fandom.

Since when I do publish my novels, I most likely will not fall into the "1%" of bestsellers, I thought I'd highlight five "lesser knowns" here that I loved, in no particular order:

NOTES FROM AN ACCIDENTAL BAND GEEK by Erin Dionne. Freshman Elsie Wyatt wants to be a Boston Symphony Orchestra French Hornist like her father, but when she misses auditions for a junior orchestra and instead must join the marching band in order to fulfill an ensemble band credit for a prestigious music school, Elsie is out of her league...or has she found a new love? This lower YA took me back to my marching band days in all of its pain and glory. I loved Elsie and watching her overcome her challenges and learn new things. This funny novel is a nice light realistic read with heart. (Puffin, 2011)

FLYING THE DRAGON by Natalie Dias Lorenzi. Hiroshi, his parents, and his kite-making grandfather move from Japan to Virginia when Grandfather gets sick; Hiroshi's cousin Skye lives there and she takes to Grandfather, whom she just met, and his kites as well; but Grandfather gets sicker and the cousins must work together to keep his kites flying. This sweet, beautiful MG novel grew on me more and more with each chapter I read. It is a lovely tale of families and cultures coming together, and how we are all more similar than different. (Charlesbridge, 2012)

D IS FOR DRAMA by Jo Whittemore. Eighth-grader Sunny is sure she'll be cast in a lead of her Arts Academy's musical production of Mary Pops In, but when she's passed over again -- this time because "an Asian Mary Poppins isn't believable" -- Sunny decides to star in a production of her own that soon includes the other overlooked actors, singers, and dancers in her school. Sunny is quippy and funny and I love how she finds solutions to her problems with the help of her friends and family. An adorable tween novel. (Aladdin Mix, 2012)

GUY LANGMAN, CRIME SCENE PROCRASTINATOR by Josh Berk. Convinced by his best friend to join the Forensics Club at school, Guy realizes the real-life applications he learns there may help him learn the truth about his deceased father's past, who broke into his house, and who killed a kid on a fake crime scene scavenger hunt. Guy is hilarious, and JB really nails the voice of a 16yo teen boy. I skimmed over some of the extended banter/jokes between the characters, but overall I laughed out loud and enjoyed the outcome of this pseudo-mystery. (Knopf, 2012)

SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL by Trish Doller. Nineteen-year-old Travis is home on leave after his first year as a Marine in Afghanistan and he feels like he no longer fits in with his nightmares about his best friend who was killed in action and other terrors, but when he runs into a girl he knew in middle school, he wants to fight his demons and find a new normal. The banter between the guy characters was realistic and funny, and the voice reminded me of Jennifer Hubbard's novels which I love. I would've liked to see a bit more of the relationships between Travis and his bro and father, but overall this is a nice upper YA about PTSD with a side of romance and family. (Bloomsbury, 2012)

What under the radar books should I add to my TBR list?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Are you stalling?

Tip of the Day: Not a good idea to fall asleep holding your Nook. Your neck will not thank you in the morning.

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I'm considering doing NaNoWriMo again. This is probably the last thing I should be doing, because I really need to be finishing up revisions on a book and subbing another book.

However, my writing has definitely taken a backseat in my life lately and I feel completely out of practice. Every time I sit down to work on revisions I feel lost and don't have a clue where to start.

My mind is telling me that if I force myself to work on another project and just sit and write and write and write, I should regain some of my writing skills and it will translate over to my other projects.

But I don't know if that's the truth or if I'm just being lured away by other projects, because I don't want to spend the tough time on the one I'm finishing.

The lure of the shiny, new project can be hard to resist! is a dilemma.

While I normally don't recommend moving onto a new project until you are ready, I really think in this case it will help.

Because just as a mind in motion wants to stay in motion, I'm guessing a writer writing wants to stay writing.

So let's hear it, have any of you switched projects and found it's helped with the initial book you were working on?

Success stories would be nice to hear.

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, October 22, 2012

Nanowrimo Prep Time?

Tip of the Day: 9 more days until Halloween!

If you're thinking of participating in National Novel Writing Month, you may be rushing to get ready over the next few days. I found a wonderful resource on outlining recently: the book Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success by K. M. Weiland. The price was right on the Nook and the advice has been great.

For example, I drew a map of my storyworld after I wrote the first two chapters. I can already see how I need to revise my chapters due to the map, adding in railroad tracks and street names, explaining how far characters live from each other, etc.

Other ideas? Write down everything you think you know about this story. At the least, if you have to leave the story for a while, you'll be glad you wrote down what you were obsessing about during the creative process.

If you jump into Nanowrimo, good luck and have a great time!

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, October 19, 2012

How to Sell a Billion Books and Be Queen of the World

Tip of the Day: Tired of political ads? Me too. DVR everything from now through the election and fast-forward through the commercials.

Maybe I'm crazy (which is likely), but I've decided that magic is the deciding factor in best-selling books. Yes, there are marketing techniques that can help and yes, your book better be good, but seriously, look at the bestsellers. What makes them better than you?

Typos Clearly Will Kill a Book's Success

I've seen ebook bestsellers (and, no, I'm not naming names because that's rude) that are riddled with typos. Some are so bad, I wanted to throw my precious iPad against the wall. Some indie authors clearly don't know the difference between your and you're, and they're, there, and their, much less where to place a comma or even a period. Yet sometimes those books hit BIG.

They Appeal to a Wide Audience

Where did the 50 Shades audience come from? Seriously? Where? I know there are a gajillion people who read erotica, but I've seen a lot of them bemoan 50 Shades. I was at my local park district, hanging out while my son was at his gymnastics lessons, and some gnarly old lady was sitting on the couch next to me, reading 50 Shades. Her lips were moving along. I couldn't help but wondering if she was mouthing 'ball cock.' Gross.

The Book is High Concept

How are vampiers in love considered high concept? People acted like they'd never heard of sexy vampires before Twilight came out. Am I the only one who watched The Lost Boys? Could Jason Patric and Jamie Gertz have been any hotter?

I could go on and on, but I'm sick (again, or still, depending on who you ask), so I don't wanna. I'm going to sum up.

You cannot predict a book's success. You could write the most beautiful book in the world and it might languish like a pile of overlooked dog poo in the backyard. No one noticed it, so no one cares. All you can do is continue to write what you love. Publish the books that mean something to you. If your only goal in writing is to be the most famous author in the universe, then you're clearly on the wrong path. Very few authors become mega-famous. It's the luck of the draw.

Let's go back to Twilight for a sec. I'm the first one to admit I loooooved this series. I plowed through the first three books in one week. I am also the first to admit that I threw Breaking Dawn against the wall when I finished it (hardcover, yes, but at least it wasn't my iPad). The ending drove me mad. Soooo glad they're supposedly changing the ending of the movie. ;) But there was something about the books, despite Bella's neediness, and Edward's stalker behavior, and Jacob's love for Renesmee. There are more things I despise about the books than I like. Yet, I Could. Not. Put. Them. Down.

Explain that to me. And when you do, surely we will have discovered the key to selling a billion books and becoming Queen of the World.

So to the 20-or-so people who email, FB, tweet me every week, asking what my secret is, I'm telling you right now that I don't know the secret. If I did, my name would be on the NY Times bestseller list. But I'd bet that even if you asked those authors, they don't know either. They're holding their breath, hoping it doesn't magically dry up. Because, yes, the magic goes both ways. It can propel you and it can tear you down.

Megg, Miss Enchanted ePubber

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Contest Crazy! Tips & Tricks

Tip of the Day: Enter my contests! :-) Links below.

I'm having a contest crazy week with three contests! I thought I'd tell you a little about each one so you can see if contests are something you'd like to do in the future for promoting your books.

My first one is at Free Book Friday. Every Friday they give out books donated by the author. This week I donated three signed copies of The Espressologist and answered interview questions. They also have pages for fiction, non-fiction, and indie books as well so this is a great option no matter what type of books you are publishing. My verdict on this type of contest? DO IT. This is my third time on FreeBookFriday and it's been the best. I can see visible results from their efforts. For one, my twitter followers took a huge jump. Last time I checked I was up by 125 followers this week. And looking at their rafflecopter, there are 6,424 entries with 14 hours to go. Pretty awesome. Definitely worth it.

My second contest is for The Paparazzi Project cover reveal. Here's the cover again:

I love it! :-) For my contest I'm giving away an eARC, swag, and a $25 Amazon gift certificate. This contest is running for a week and so far has 270 entries. Which is pretty awesome for my blog! I don't have as high as traffic as a place like Free Book Friday (which is why it's great to run contests on sites with good traffic!) but you may remember me talking about some of my earlier giveaways where I'd have only 5 entries. This one is going MUCH better. :-)

My third contest starts at midnight tonight. I joined another blog hop. Do you remember how much I loved the last one? Well, this one is a Jane Austin inspired blog hop so if you love books that are Jane Austin inspired, you'll want to check this one out. 79 blogs will be giving away books from 10/19-10/24.

Things I'd suggest you definitely do with your contests? Use rafflecopter. It is really great at keeping track of everything and super easy for your contestants to use. Give something everyone would like if you can (like an Amazon gift certificate). And have people tweet for you as an entry. The more people tweeting for you the better the word gets out. For example, I have people tweeting this as an entry into my cover reveal contest:

THE PAPARAZZI PROJECT Cover Reveal! $25  GC, eARC, & swag!      

Hashtags are your friends. Don't forget to include them too. :-) And I have to add, that everything I'm learning comes from the brilliant Megg Jensen. She's a marketing machine. :-)

Kristina, Miss Author in Action

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Oh the Horror! (or YA Books Not For Halloween Weenies)

Tip of the Day: Did you see Tina's cover reveal from Monday? No?!? Go check it out and then link to her personal blog for a chance to WIN STUFF!!!

Last week I mentioned five recent middle grade novels that are great reads for the creeptastic month of October. As promised, here are five young adult titles that you must check out if you like to have your mind rattled!

1. ASHES and SHADOWS by Ilsa J. Bick. Teens are turned into flesh-eating monsters after an EMP rocks the planet. The first book came out last year, the second just this month, both are action-packed, gory, and startling.

2. THE RAFT by S. A. Bodeen. A plane crash, a raft rescue, an island marooning, and dead bodies grace this novel that makes you hope to never be floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

3. EREBOS by Ursula Poznanski. The creepy overlord character watches the players of Erebos and makes them do real world tasks that may result in death. While at first I was sure this book would be paranormal, it was actually more normal normal, which made it even creepier. A unique, foreign addition to scary YA.

4. THIS IS NOT A TEST by Courtney Summers. An zombie-esque tale about teens trapped in their high school while outside are the living and the undead. What makes this novel stand out are the personal demons each character also faces.

5. THE UNQUIET by Jeannine Garsee. Is Rinn's school haunted by a girl who drowned in the swimming pool, or does she simply need to go back on her bipolar meds? Either way, Rinn is scared and should be.

Which ones have I missed? There have been so many great new releases this month too and I just can't keep up!

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Our World is a Very Speedy Place

Tip of the Day: everyone knows this I know, but don't forget to vote on Nov. 6 (or earlier if you are one of those people that plans ahead)!

Not that I want to get political on this blog, because I don't really think this is the forum for that and I'm  respectful of the fact that many people have different opinions then me. But after watching the debate this evening and then immediately turning to my twitter feed to read people's thoughts, I am once again reminded how fast the world moves now--which affects us tremendously as writers.
I was about 10 minutes behind due to pausing my DVR and by the time I got online there were already over 90,000 likes on the Binder Full of Women Facebook site and lots of sample pictures posted on Tumblr which were Photoshopped at break-neck speeds. Sure people probably started creating these mid-way through. But still. That is FAST. And they have probably already quadrupled by now.

The last question of the night came from a guy named Barry and by the time I got to twitter there were hundreds--if not thousands--of spoofs with the #toughquestionsfrombarry.

As a society we are moving so fast, so it makes sense all of this stuff was available in such a very short period of time. But as writers that makes our job extremely difficult. Most readers don't want to wait a week to read another one of your books--let alone a year. Who has time to actually write an entire book in one week? And write it well. It's impossible.

I guess you could plan them all in advance and then release them closer together. But by the time you'd get around to releasing them the trends will have changed and everything will be different.

During a staff meeting the other day, someone mentioned a statistic that I can't remember exactly, but basically you can't take longer than one or two months to do a complete website redesign. Because if you take longer than that everything will already be outdated. My head just spins thinking about what readers expect now. And what people in general expect in relation to everything revolving around written communication.

And the sad part is I can't even complain, because I'm probably the same way. I'd love to be able to read a book from my favorite author every week. I loved watching the debate and knowing that I could instantly find tons of comments online afterwards. It's just the way it is and it's great. But in the flip, I try to be a bit more lax because doing some of these things I realize the time commitment and can understand people aren't superhuman.

My only hope is that other people are just as lax and don't think books can be created with such speed that blogs, tweets, etc. can be created.

eBooks in general have drastically speed up the publishing process. Megg's post about serials gaining in popularity is yet a further sign of how much publishing is changing in regard to the speed with which books come out. And I'm sure there are even more to come. Probably by the time you are reading this post, there has already been a change in publishing to speed it along even further! 

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, October 15, 2012

Ta-Da! Cover Reveal!

Tip of the Day: Follow Free Book Friday? They give away books every Friday. Kristina Springer's THE ESPRESSOLOGIST is up for grabs this week. Keep reading my post for more ways to win Kristina's books!

Today is the cover reveal day for Kristina's new novel, THE PAPARAZZI PROJECT. This sounds like a modern blend of romance and humor. First take a look at the eye-popping cover.

And here's the contest...

Kristina's running a cover reveal contest at her blog. Hop on over to and you'll be eligible to win an Amazon gift card, ebook ARCs, and swag, swag, swag. 

And here's the blurb...


Livvie Peterson thought taking Interpersonal Communications her junior year would be an easy A. But when the first assignment is given, her world flips upside down.  Here’s the deal: the class is assigned a six-week project and is split into three groups— Paparazzi, Tabloid, and Celebrities. The Paparazzi follow around the Celebrities taking pictures and grabbing any kind of quotes they can. The Celebrities try to navigate being tailed on a daily basis. And the Tabloid receives all the information collected by the Paparazzi and decides what makes the weekly summary report. Sounds harmless…and it’s all just pretend anyway, right?

Livvie is assigned as Paparazzi and when she is matched up with the ├╝ber-cute Chas Montgomery as her Tabloid boss she’s pretty sure things couldn’t get much better. Livvie’s uncanny ability to capture the Celebrities in compromising photos matched with Chas’s skill of exaggerating captions and editing the photos make them an unstoppable team. And the long hours working side by side with Chas aren’t a bad bonus.

Livvie simultaneously launches an anonymous blog, leaking the class’ photos and stories on the Internet. Her rising follower number quickly becomes addicting and she possibly spills too much information online. Once she finds her own celebrity will she be able to give it back? And will Chas be gone before she ever has the chance to find out?

*available in kindle format on December 15th.*

Congratulations, Kristina! Happy Cover Reveal Day.

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ideas are the Easy Part

Tip of the Day: Learn to say 'no.' It's more liberating than you might think.

I have no problem coming up with a new idea. My brain runs at 90mph 24 hours a day. Every choice in life gives me ideas. What if I didn't turn right? What if I added peanut butter instead of cocoa? What if that man stumbled and fell off the sidewalk just as I was driving by?

It's these types of questions that lead to all of my story ideas. When I was a child, my dad actually encouraged this line of questioning. Rare, I know. Most parents are always telling their kids to be quiet. My dad, however, enjoys a good conversation, but most importantly a good debate. It was those moments of encouragement that made me the writer I am today (my mom turned me into a voracious reader, but that's a story for another post).

I'm not afraid to question anything. Tell me something's a fact and I probably won't believe you. Life is too subjective. Facts are irrelevant in the face of human innovation. I take nothing at face value.

So I have dozens of new ideas every day, but here's the kicker when it comes to writing: Which idea is the most intriguing?

It's not an easy question to answer. For the last few years, agents' blogs are screaming, "We want high concept!" It's really, really hard to come up with a story idea that's so new, so captivating, that an agent will jump out of her seat and offer you representation.

I guarantee you, every time you think of something original, chances are, someone's already been there, done that.

Might as well give up? Right? Wrong. Your story is uniquely yours. Yes, it's probably been done before, but maybe the quirks that make you an individual are exactly what the story needed to give it a new life. Look, I love The Walking Dead, but it's not exactly a new idea. It's the way it's presented, the storytelling, the humanity.

So when you're setting out to write a new story, don't be afraid to deal with a topic that's been done before. Infuse it with your point of view. Make everyone forget they've ever seen a zombie, or a vampire, or a fairy before they read your book.

Megg, Miss Enchanted ePubber

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Can I Write This Off?

Tip of the Day: Stay tuned for Monday 10/15 when I reveal the cover for The Paparazzi Project. Lots of contests coming up next week!

I haven't been home for the last week. I've been busily having a great time on a road trip first to visit family that live up on this really cool mountain in West Virginia.

And then for a couple of days in Washington D.C.

And then the day after I got home I was off again, this time with Megg to the Illinois Library Association Conference in Peoria, IL.

And like most writers, I'm always taking mental notes of places, people, situations and thinking about how I can fit them into a book. Take our first night in D.C. We could have driven into D.C. and parked in a parking garage. But someone told us no, take the metro, it's the best way to travel. So we took a shuttle from our hotel, to the metro. Had problems figuring out how to get tickets and whatnot but finally did. And got all 6 of us to the White House in once piece, though we spent about $30 doing it when there was a nice big parking garage with a sign that said $9 all day parking available. :-) 

We walked and walked and walked until we were exhausted. The littlest in our group being 4 and having walked his little legs off. At the end of the night, we realized we were at least a mile either direction away from a metro stop. Crap. We picked a direction (over the Arlington Bridge to the Arlington Cemetery stop) and started walking. We had to stop to sit down three times in that mile because everyone was so tired. When we finally got there we found that the metro stop was closed! There were no signs anywhere saying that this stop would be closed. It was a new thing as of October 1st. And now we were two miles away from the next stop. We were getting really worried as the hotel shuttle driver warned us his last pickup was at 10:45 so we had to call him before then and it was about 9:15-9:30. And we were stuck on an empty road with 4 kids. 

We tried for a half an hour to hail a cab. No one would stop. I guess because there were 6 of us. I finally called the hotel and told them our situation and they gave me a number for a cab company. My husband called and when they said we'd need two cabs he got mad and hung up on them. And I started crying. Our situation was really sucking. By some luck, a taxi driver finally stopped for us and I squished all 4 kids in the backseat with me. We didn't care what it cost, we just wanted to get back to the hotel. Only the driver wouldn't drive us all the way to Alexandria. He said he could drop us off at the airport. We agreed. There was no way we were getting back out of that taxi. So now it's 10 something and we're running through the airport trying to figure out where the metro is. We find it, pay another $20 for tickets and catch a train. And we caught the last shuttle to the hotel too. 

My husband was upset at what a mess it was trying to get back to the hotel but I was cracking up. How crazy was it that we walked to a closed stop, got stuck on the side of the road, caught a ride to the airport just to catch a train, to catch a shuttle? Spending hours on travel and almost $100 just to get from the hotel to the National Mall and back? When we could have drove and spent $9 on parking? 

I've got to use this in a book some day, right? And then I can write it off. :-)

Kristina, Miss Author in Action

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Oh the Horror! (or MG Books Not For Halloween Weenies)

Tip of the Day: Anyone have a tip for me? I'm wondering when the SCBWI 2013 NYC Conference details will be posted?

The Children's Librarian at my library is updating her list of Middle-Grade Scary Stories -- since the last version featured "brand new titles in the Goosebumps series!"

Since it is often harder to find newer titles in this genre (creepy but not too scary for littler ones), I thought I'd highlight some of my favories for this Halloween season.
1. THE KNEEBONE BOY and THE HUMMING ROOM by Ellen Potter. The former is a story of three siblings on their own in London, a mysterious aunt, and a monster boy in the woods. The latter is a story heavily based on THE SECRET GARDEN by Frances Hodgson Burnett with great atmosphere.

2. THE AVIARY by Kathleen O'Dell. Clara discovers that the birds in the old mansion she shares with Mrs. Glendoveer may be more than they first appear.

3. BREATHING ROOM by Marsha Hayles. While this is not a typical scary story, it takes place in a 1940s tuberculosis sanatorium where Evvy hopes to overcome a horrific illness that seems to claim the lives of almost every one who comes in contact with it.

4. SUMMER OF THE GYPSY MOTHS by Sara Pennypacker. Despite the sunny setting, there is a dead body that may or may not be buried in a garden.

5. THE TANGLEWOOD TERROR by Kurtis Scaletta. Green glowing mushrooms begin to overtake Eric's town and may spell its ultimate doom unless he can stop them.

What are some of your favorite recent scary MG novels?

Stay tuned next week for som YAs!

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Season for Writing

Tip of the Day: there's tons of cute fall and Halloween decorating ideas on Pinterest!


It's one of my most favorite times of the year. 
Whether it's because of the beautiful scenery outside with the changing of the leaves...
the fact that there's an entire day in October where it's perfectly acceptable to pretend to be someone else and dress in costume..

it marks the season I was born in...

Or merely because it's the start of a fun, new TV season :) 

Whatever it is, there is something special about fall to me, and for that reason it's become one of my favorite seasons to write about and the season that seems to motivate me to write the most. The amount of free time I have seems to perfectly align with the work that needs done and the writing flows more than any other time of the year. I've also lucked out that NaNoWriMo happens to take place in late fall, so it's always great motivation to keep writing even when I don't officially participate.

For these reason, I'm not only very excited it's fall, but I'm also considering doing NaNoWriMo officially for the first time in three years.

Anyone else participating?

Does anyone else feel like their best writing times revolve around a certain season?

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Reading Slump

Tip of the Day: Congratulations to Christina Farley on her YA sale, and check out her Epic Book Deal Contest for awesome swag!

I'm in a reading slump lately. Let's face it, editing jobs and my critique partners have made me picky about what I read. Now, every October, I like to try out some horror novels. Plus some of my favorite authors have come out with books this fall. So I have a great selection in my To Be Read pile.  Only every time I read one, I get disappointed. Why?

1. The main character can do no wrong. Start with a main character who's as down on his luck as you can imagine and then have good things happen to him. Can't go wrong, right? Yes, if you're me, it can. I'm sorry, real characters make mistakes. I've often said that good things shouldn't happen to characters by chance but bad things are okay to happen by chance. I'm starting to rethink this. Maybe the main character can create one problem during the book please? One unintended consequence? Because "everything he touches turns to gold" is pretty boring.

2. Plot strings that go nowhere. The main character goes to the library to research his haunted house. Ooh, good possible scene. He brings his son. For an unrevealed reason, the son is terrified and wants to go home. His mother picks him up because the main character is so engrossed in the town's history. Now go ahead and piss me off: have him discover nothing and never tell me what scared the son. Really? And I just read that chapter why?

3. Male privilege. In the end, all that mattered was the relationship between the father and son. Never mind that the daughter risked her life to save her father, or that the mother was the main driver of the plot throughout the book. Make sure the epilogue tight-focuses on Dad and Son. Who cares what really happened to female characters anyway? I'm tempted to blame this on J.K. Rowling but the trope is way older than Harry Potter. Do we really need most books that come out for the adult market to center on the father/son relationship? No wonder it's so hard to find a movie with a woman actor in a decent role anymore. (Yes, I know The Walking Dead will eventually go down this path too. It is horror's fallback plot. Just give me another season to enjoy it first, okay?)

4. Can you imagine the luck? Seriously, stop having good things happen to main characters for no reason. Or to quote Phillip J. Fry's book: "I am the greetest! Now I am leaving Earth for no raisin!" Like, can you believe that incredibly poor man your main character helped just happened to be a high financier lying low? And the next poor person your main character helps is an aristocrat down on her luck. You'd think there was nobody in the slums but the rich and famous in disguise. You don't want me to mentally compare your book to Phillip J. Fry's. 

5. World rulers less world savvy than me. I'm not a military strategist. I'm not a politician. I'm not an international businessperson. But when your main character's opponent is one of those things, I expect them to understand the world they live in. If I feel like a blind person wouldn't have fallen for the feint and split the army, but the opponent's arrogance leads him into the obvious trap ... how did the person get to be in charge again? Oh, right, for the main character's convenience. Every time you read this in an alternative history book, you should have to do a shot. Two shots if the antagonist acts stupidly despite his advisors' dire warnings.

Actually, you have to do a shot for all these things:
1. Main character's loser friend turns out to be rich/powerful/important but hid it for flimsy reasons.
2. Main character hasn't done or said anything less than perfect by page 100.
3. End of book pushes aside female characters or kills them off.
4. Rich, variegated plot degenerates into father/son fawning relationship.
5. Valuable information falls into the main character's hands through no effort on his or her part.
6. Antagonist doesn't understand the basics of his important job and acts through arrogance.
7. Antagonist ignores his or her trusted advisors, leading to his or her defeat.
8. You close the book wondering if you skipped a chapter because you still don't know what happened to X (the library visit, the history professor, you fill in the blank).

Feel free to add to the shot list. Just don't blame me if you get drunk on horror novels this October.

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, October 5, 2012

My Son is a Prisoner

Tip of the Day: Shop for Halloween costumes now before they're picked over!!!!

From Target:
My kids have two days off of school this week, so I took them shopping for Halloween costumes. My 10-year-old daughter gravitated toward the skanky teen vampire costumes (luckily I was able to steer her toward something less-slutty than the others), but my 6-year-old son had a really tough time choosing.

First it was a ninja (he takes tae kwon do), then a Power Ranger (he loves the show), and finally he zeroed in on a hotdog (he loves food). None of them spoke to his blackened Halloween heart.

Frustrated, we left the big Halloween store and headed to Target ... where he decided to be a prisoner. Of all things, a PRISONER! But it was cheap, so I said, "Okay!" lol

When we got home, I was still a bit flummoxed over his choice. He's never been in trouble at school, and he delights in telling me who was bad every single day. He's a little rough with his sister, but I'm pretty sure that's just normal sibling stuff.

So why a prisoner?

Probably for the same reason I dress up every day, slap on a pen name, and write a book. It's an escape. I'm relatively shy. I don't enjoy crowds. Public recognition isn't even on my list of lifetime goals. Yet, here I am, throwing myself out into the world as this vivacious author.

Writing gives me the same fantastic escape that my kids experience every Halloween. Even though I haven't dressed up in years and really hate trick-or-treating (I prefer to stay home and hand out the candy), I encourage my kids to give it all they've got. Why not? Kids are so regimented these days. It's rare for us to spend a day at home doing nothing. Sports and activities get in the way.

I hope when they grow up, they remember how it feels to put on a mask, or a painted face, and present themselves to the world as something that's the opposite of what they are. It might give them courage in a stressful work situation or help them fake it until they make it.

Have a great weekend!!!!

Megg, Miss Enchanted ePubber

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Books and Relationships

Tip of the Day: If you're a book blogger and you want signed bookmarks of my next book, THE PAPARAZZI PROJECT, for giveaways, e-mail me at Kristina at

You know how we're always comparing the book business to relationships? How publishing a book is like giving birth to a baby. Or breaking up with your agent is like divorcing your husband or breaking up with a boyfriend. Well, I thought of a new one this week.

I've been trying to make myself work on one book, a book that I do like a lot but is not the one I'm currently infatuated with. I've been making myself work on it for months because it's the book that will do better in the current publishing industry. The one that would fit a wider audience. And it's been going reallllllllllly slowly. Mostly because it's not the book I want to be working with. Take book number two. I really love book number two. I'm excited about it. Pages come out quickly because I know where it's going. I'm thinking about it all the time. Even though it's not the "right book" for the market, I love it. I'm always writing myself little notes for when I can get back to working on it.  And in the mean time, I keep pushing myself to concentrate on book number one. The right book.

You know what this is just like? Guys! Take Guy #1-- this great guy that maybe my Mom picked out. A friend's son. Everyone is telling me to go with Guy #1. He's so perfect, he's stable, he's so "right" for me. Everyone thinks we're great together. But, I'm not feeling the chemistry. I'm making myself go out with him and sit through endless conversations about his fantasy football league. The Guy I'm really digging? Guy #2? He's totally wrong for me. No one can picture us together. We're total opposites. My mother would freak out. And I want him.

So yeah, I just came to this realization this past week and decided to chuck it all. Forget about what other people think, what's "right" for me. I'm going with Guy #2! I mean, Book #2. :-) And it feels good to be back on track.

Kristina, Miss Author in Action

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ready Writer One! (or Alex Awards: The ALA's New Adult?)

Tip of the Day: Three of the Author2Author Misses have birthdays within the month! Wish Emily and Kristina a great year of writing! (Oh, and I'm number three. :))

I was thinking about Kristina's post from last Thursday on the New Adult genre and how I see an audience for these books at my library -- among my own staff.

There are a lot of young-twenty-somethings working part-time at the library, either college grads deciding what to do for careers, grad students finishing their programs with the hopes of soon finding full-time jobs, or those who are content to work multiple part-time jobs because they fit into their lifestyles. These young men and women are often single, dating, breaking out of long-term relationships, starting new serious relationships, or figuring out if they ever want to get married/have families.

In other words, they are way beyond relating to high school drama, but not yet relating to the world of careers, marriage, children, aged parents, home owning, etc. And I know they often want to find entertaining fiction to read that they can relate to.

I will definitely recommend some of the ebooks that are becoming popular in this genre, but also ironically, one of the most fitting books I've seen fit the bill in a while is a futuristic sci-fi: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.


Did I shout it loud enough?


It is funny, witty, has great 80s pop culture references, a virtual reality world, a treasure hunt, puzzles to solve, and a character who ages from high school to his young twenties, trying to figure out what to do with his life/who to trust.

It made the 2011 Alex Award List (ALA's list of books published for adults that will appeal to teens), which is what made me pick it up, and I have recommended it to many readers who have all loved it too -- teen boys, "new adult" guys, adult librarian women, my 35-year-old husband, and my 29-year-old brother -- which is to say that eeven if a book is pubbed as "new adult," it will find a wider audience.

So, two things to take away from this post: 1) try your hand at reading and writing a new adult if the urge strikes, despite what the market may say, and 2) read READY PLAYER ONE before it comes out as a movie. You won't be disappointed.

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

If you could turn back time...

Tip of the Day: if you want a good laugh, read your old blog entries!

Somehow last night I got to reading old blog messages from some of my previous blogs, and after reading each entry the only thing I could think was how niave I was.

Picture from:
At that time I thought publishing would be as simple as writing a book, getting an agent, and then magically having my books on shelves. My head was still in tact, so it's not like I thought it wouldn't be hard work or anything. But I never imagined it would be more than six years later and I still haven't made much progress. I've had a lot of close calls and lots of great feedback, but no books on the shelves.

In that six years I've lived in three states, four different locations, and had six different jobs. The only constant has been trying to be the best writer I can be and trying to get published. And to some extent I've succeeded. I'm a much better writer. My characters are more developed and my storylines are more complete. But I still don't have much to show for it.

And that stinks. Plus, it's a huge reminder that not everything works out exactly like you plan.

I think all new writers have a bit of youthful nature in them, no matter how old they are when they start seeking publication. They think they can conquer the world and make a difference, and they love to dream big.

In fact, they remind me a lot of teenagers.

But that niavity and drive is one of the main reasons why I love writing for teenagers. Everything at that age is a new discovery and teens have such passion to make their dreams become realities.

That's also probably why if I could somehow turn back time and talk to my New Writer self, the only thing I would tell myself is to never give up and keep dreaming. Because all of that discovery, making mistacts, and learning new things has made this journey to publication very exciting. Sure I've felt like pulling my hair out on many occasions, but all good stories have to include a bit of drama and some good hair pulling!

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, October 1, 2012

Mental Mondays

Tip of the Day: Cybils nominations start today! Nominate your favorite books for a Cybil award here.

I don't really mind Mondays so much. I have a yoga class Monday night I never miss. It's very mind-clearing and a great way to start the week. The instructor likes to tell us that Monday is our day to start over. Every week, we get a chance to start over and wipe away what worried us last week. This week could be different. It all depends on our intentions.

So Mondays aren't that bad. I get my laundry done over the weekend so I have clean clothes. The kids are willing to wake up and go to school (as opposed to later in the week when they're overtired and dragging their feet). I do my blog post so I think about writing. This is a new week in my writing world. I could accomplish tons this week for all I know.

Sunday is a day to rest. Monday is a day to get in gear and make things happen.

So take a deep breath this Monday, pat yourself on the back for everything you got done last week, and resolve to do something you really want to do this week. See, Mondays aren't so bad.

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages