Friday, June 28, 2013

Follow Friday

For all aspiring writers, I'm teaching a blurb writing class starting Monday. It will also be a crash course in plot, and it's the method that got me a 50% full request rate.

Follow Friday is hosted by Alison and Parajunkee.

Q: What is your preferred reading format? Hardcover, eBooks, paperback etc?

This is a hard one. I think I prefer pretty hardbacks, but ebooks are easier to read. I can hold the kindle w/ one hand while chasing ELF with the other, and I can make the font larger if I need to.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Brainstorming Help & A Give Away From Author Catherine Stine

Before we get started, I'm teaching the blurb writing process that got me a 50% full request rate here starting Monday. It will be the last one for a while.

Blurb: “Seventeen year-old Ruby and her little brother Thorn, have only known a life blighted by the extremist Fireseed Cult. The night Ruby is set to be claimed by one of its cruelest and oldest leaders, she makes a bid for freedom. With Thorn in tow, she stumbles into the world beyond, and finds an opportunity for a fresh start in Skull’s Wrath under the guidance of Nevada Pilgrim, a woman who may not be all she seems. Ruby's new life could bring her friendship, love, even fortune, but nothing comes without a price. Is Ruby's talent for elixirs keeping the roof over their heads, or do some of her associates have a more sinister and lucrative interest in them? Life outside a strange cult isn't without its dangers, and the experience leaves Ruby transformed and communing with the Fireseed more closely than she ever would have imagined. Stine delivers a thrilling adventure led by an exciting cast of characters, and the romance is really well handled.”   Availabe at: ebook print

Asking What If?

Brainstorming is one of my favorite things. Especially if I’m lounging on my deck, feet up, gazing at the clouds. I may look like I’m doing nothing, but my mind is literally storming. I explain brainstorming this way. It’s a curious, persistent voice inside you that keeps asking, “What if… what if… what if?”

For Fireseed One, the first of my YA sci-fi novels, I started with the premise that in 2089 the earth was overheated and much of the world became desert so the food source was scarce. And then I brainstormed. If the temp was super-hot, what if the arctic ice all dissipated, and the frozen underwater lakebeds melted, releasing all of the toxic methane now trapped in ice? And what if tropical oceans plants migrated north? You’d have new invasive species choking northern waters, so you’d have to grow fish, but you’d have advanced biotech, and could genetically hybridize fish with grape vines to create fish that wound up on vines in floating factories. To complete brainstorming your novel, you just keep on applying the “What if?” to your characters, your plot, and to every detail of the world.

In Ruby’s Fire, my newly released Fireseed novel, I wanted to have a female lead, Ruby, and I wanted to explore extremist cult life. I also wanted to talk about drug addiction, and what it would take for her to get off drugs. I asked the question what if she was haunted by the fact that in this cult, young girls were pledged to older men when they were very young? And what if the story opened on the night that improper relationship was supposed to be consummated? And what if Ruby was a drug addict, sniffing in her own concoction of Oblivion that she crafted from lizard venom in order to quell those horrid dreams? And what if that very drug that quieted her nightmares, in large quantity, could knock out the man who was about to assault her? What then? That, folks, is how Ruby’s Fire starts.

Will Ruby make it out of the Fireseed cult? Will she ever kick her Oblivion habit? For that, you have to read Ruby’s Fire!

Beth, thanks for letting me guest host. I really enjoyed it.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Show Day 4

I used Grammarly as a grammar check for today's post, because I hate proofreading. Besides, Grammarly had it done in the time it took Beth to eat an Oreo ;).

If you want to know more about show days, you can find it here. Geez, it's hard to believe I started this six week series in March and still haven't managed to finish it. Sorry, guys.

So we've made it through the first 3 weeks of "Show Days," where I attempted to write characters in a situation they wouldn't typically be in and let you guess the scenario. Now we're looking at books that do "showing" right. Today's section is from my friend and former teacher Nova Ren Summa's Imaginary Girls.

"We had no idea--this was before the blue-flashing strobe through the pines; the spotlit glare on water; the skidding over rocks; the grabbing of shoes, any shoes, of clothes, any clothes. Before we went running through the brush and the sharp sticks cut out feet. Before the heart in my chest went pounding, all while wondering, Is this really happening? when it was, most definitely it was. Before all that--all we wanted to do was go swimming."

Aside from being a powerful use of language, it also clearly paints a picture of teens running from the cops.  A less talented writer might have said, "This was before the cops showed up and we went running through the woods."

Monday, June 24, 2013

10 Things I've Learned About Marketing From Author Liz Czukas

Author Liz Czukas is here to show off the cover of her book Ask Again Later coming from Harper Teen in 2014.

"Despite what her name might suggest, Heart has zero interest in complicated romance. So when her brilliant plan to go to prom with a group of friends is disrupted by two surprise invites, Heart knows there's only one drama-free solution: flip a coin.

Heads: The jock. He might spend all night staring at his ex or throw up in the limo, but how bad can her brother's best friend really be?

Tails: The theater geek...with a secret. What could be better than a guy who shares all Heart's interests--even if he wants to share all his feelings?

Heart's simple coin flip has somehow given her the chance to live out both dates. But where her prom night ends up might be the most surprising thing of all..."

1.  It is hard work!  Even as a Big 6 (or is it 5 now? I can't keep track!) author, I have to do my part.  There's a lot to think about, people to deal with, emails to keep up with, social networks to attend to.  People who can juggle this and another full-time job are my heroes!  Do NOT think you can drop your book into the fray at Amazon, wander away, and come back a few days later to discover you're a bestseller.  It doesn't work like that.

2.  A web designer is a beautiful thing.  My website was designed by the amazing Tessa Elwood at ipopcolor (  She not only worked fast and held my hand through every step of the hosting changes, etc., she took even the vaguest suggestions from me and made them better than I expected.  There is simply no way I could have done it on my own!

3.  You need friends!  On-line and face-to-face, there is just no substitute for getting involved with other writers.  Writers are not only readers, they know what you're going through.  Sit, listen.  You never know what tidbit you might soak up.

4.  Swag isn't an easy decision.  People seem really mixed on swag--some love it, some hate it.  I know for me, it's not a priority.  If I love an author, I want their book!  On the other hand, I've seen people go nutso over some innovative stuff at conferences and they're practically throwing elbows to get at it.  Does it equal book sales?  I don't know.  But I think you have to trust your gut.

5.  Start early!  Promoting your book cannot be done in one week before it hits the shelves.  There is a balance to be found between being a spambot for a year, and gently reminding your friends/family/followers that your book is on the way.  Aim for the latter.

6.  Don't be afraid to ask.  I have trouble "imposing" on people.  I don't like to ask for favors.  I would always rather be on the giving end than the receiving.  But that has to change when it comes to promoting your book.  It is okay to ask your writing/blogging/tweeting friends to help boost your signal.  You'd do the same for them, right?

7.  People actually want to read your book.  I know, right?  Despite the fact that I've been trying to claw my way onto bookshelves for years, I still sort of feel like I'm asking people to look at my vacation photos--torture!!  But here's the thing:  I love to read, and so do a lot of people I know.  It's only natural they'd be interested in reading something by someone they know.  Trust me, they're way more excited about your book than your blurry shots of the Grand Canyon.

8.  You don't have to go it alone!  There are plenty of groups out there for authors.  Especially debut authors.  I am a member of OneFourKidLit, and the Class of 2k14.  Both groups are all about helping their members promote together.  It's great to have other minds working on the same issues you're facing.  And fantastic to pool resources when it comes to bigger ticket items.  As soon as you figure out when you're book is coming out, look for people with similar debut dates and see what they're up to!

9.  Think outside the Internet.  It seems like we all focus so much energy on our social media networks when it comes to promotion.  But there are plenty of other outlets.  There are traditional media options, like magazines, newspapers, radio, and television if you've got the right contacts.  For people who write kidlit, like me, there are also school visits, library visits.

10.  Don't be afraid to cut your losses.  Not every promotional effort is going to pay off.  Not every method of promotion is going to speak to you.  For example, I am a terrible blogger.  I don't keep up with it regularly enough to keep readers coming back.  I just don't enjoy it.  I know it works wonderfully for a lot of people and they should absolutely go for it.  But I had to give myself permission to be a terrible blogger.  It's okay that I only put up a post once in a while when the mood strikes, or I actually have something important to share--like my cover.  Could I be forfeiting a few loyal readers who might turn into book buyers?  Sure, I suppose I could be.  But is that handful of sales worth me resenting my blog and cutting into my time that I should be writing another book?  Definitely.  Figure out what works for you and don't waste your time on the rest.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Rules for Disappearing

"She’s been six different people in six different places: Madeline in Ohio, Isabelle in Missouri, Olivia in Kentucky . . . But now that she’s been transplanted to rural Louisiana, she has decided that this fake identity will be her last.

Witness Protection has taken nearly everything from her. But for now, they’ve given her a new name, Megan Rose Jones, and a horrible hair color. For the past eight months, Meg has begged her father to answer one question: What on earth did he do – or see – that landed them in this god-awful mess? Meg has just about had it with all the Suits’ rules — and her dad’s silence. If he won’t help, it’s time she got some answers for herself.

But Meg isn’t counting on Ethan Landry, an adorable Louisiana farm boy who’s too smart for his own good. He knows Meg is hiding something big. And it just might get both of them killed. As they embark on a perilous journey to free her family once and for all, Meg discovers that there’s only one rule that really matters — survival."

This book starts out with the "Suits" waking them up in the middle of the night to relocate the family. There is lots of action. It's set in Louisiana and I love that it was written by a Southern girl or at least someone who has spent some time in the South, because I'm sick of books with cliche stereotypes and fake accents. Also, if the hero weren't a Southern gentlemen something that happens in the resolution could not have happened, which I love.

And Ethan--the hero. He's a perfect Southern gentleman. Now, I think for some the way he always manages to show up at exactly the right time to save the day will be off-putting. (Too convenient of the plot) but for me, I loved it. What's the point in having your own Southern gentleman if he can't happen to show up when you need him? LOL. I loved this book and am looking forward to the next one. But I did deduct a star because while I was enjoying it, it didn't get un-putdownable for me until 60% though.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Romancing The R.A.

"Noelle Buckman is looking forward to making a fresh start in college, one that doesn’t involve immature high school boys. The second she steps on campus for freshman orientation, she can sense the possibilities. Especially when she spots Andy, a resident advisor who’s not just hot but also thoughtful enough to open doors for a girl.

And Andy has his eye on Noelle. Even when her nerves take control and she thinks she comes off as a hillbilly with no direction, Andy can see what she’s really like and he’s more than a little interested.

But orientation is less than two full days and there’s an entire summer between Noelle and Andy. Will her attempt to romance the R.A. be as short-lived as college orientation?"

I really liked this novella! It was cute, short and sweet. It was really funny in places too, almost like a romantic comedy. I don't read much NA because I like to keep things PG-13, but this story was not graphic at all. Noelle was a shy freshman trying to come out of her shell and learning to push boundaries at college. (And boy did she succeed at that). Her friend Julie was one of my favorite parts of the book. Julie said what she thought, and brought in a lot of the humor. Andy, the R.A. was great too. He was a straight shooter, but still managed to be light and carefree. Overall this was a light story. A chick-flick if you will. I deducted a star, because Noelle made a decision that really bothered me. More than that, she had just said she didn't want to be the girl who did that kind of thing then did it. I'd planned to deduct two stars for this, but the ending was SO CUTE it made my heart jump which made it impossible for me to give this book anything less than a 4 star rating. Although, I do wish it had been a full length. There is nothing wrong with it as written, and I'm so behind on everything I'm appreciating novellas right now, but I think I would have liked to see more of these characters and this relationship. The next book in this series is Julie's and I'm kind of looking forward to it, since she was one of my favorite characters.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Free Ebooks For Street Team Members

Hi all! I'm looking for street team members to help with some pre-release marketing before my book A Missing Peace comes out on Sept. 1. I'll give anyone who participates a free ebook  and I'll be doing  a give away for a $10 Amazon gift card for street team members on release day. The blurb of the book is below. So if you think you would enjoy this, please fill out the form under the blurb. Thanks!!!!

Angry seventeen-year-old Iraqi war refugee Mirriam Yohanna hates her new life in Killeen,Texas, where the main attraction is a military base, and army brats like Caleb Miller think it's okay to comment on a girl's looks before he's even met her. 
After Mirriam turns him down in front of everyone, Caleb rises to the challenge of taking her to prom when his friends dare him. As the two start spending time together to work on a government assignment, Mirriam proves to be a good friend to have. When Caleb's leg is crushed in a hit and run, Mirriam is there to pull him out of the street and push him to keep living. She's also able to tell him the shocking truth about his father's death, which she has firsthand information about. Something the other soldiers would never do. That single truth changes both of their lives and strengthens their bond.
Caleb and Mirriam have fallen hard for each other, but when Caleb finds out the truth about his father's death, he is determined to uncover who is at fault. And the truth will have consequences for Mirriam's safety. When her family finds out the two are together, they decide it's time to arrange Mirriam's marriage to a proper Iraqi man. Will Caleb find justice for his family? Will Mirriam find a way to be true to herself?

All Work No Play

It's no secret I'm a law school drop-out. And when I worked in a government legal office being all work and no play was to be expected--or a good thing if unexpected. Settling for second best has always been hard for me. I'm your typical class-A overachiever. (Or at least I want to be, I'm really an underachiever for the type A personality). Translating that same work ethic to my writing has been quite the ride. The year I started writing, I wrote about 300,000 words. Since they say a million words makes you an expert, that was a pretty good first year. When I got my first set of rejections, I rewrote the query and try tried again. 105 plus rejections later, I'd lost my muse. It was six months before I wrote again. But when I did it, I did it good. The next thing I wrote was a short story, "The Fate Of A Marlowe Girl," sound familiar? And the first thing I wrote after that was A Missing Peace. I was thrilled. I was enjoying what I wrote again and getting a good response. What more could I ask for? I'd gained some confidence and created a business plan. I was no longer concerned about the end result. I'd query 15 people and get a response or not. Then I'd self publish.

But I got quite the response. The Other Marlowe Girl tour was busier than expected  and I wrote like a maniac to finish the companion to A Missing Peace timely. I took a short break, rewrote it, did the edits, sent that baby out. And it's with my agent now. Before I sent it to her I was 10,000 words into my next novel, still writing like a maniac. But this time it was being a slow, painful process. For the first time in two years I had to jump ahead and write scenes I hadn't come to yet, because I was stuck where I was. And I have to plow through this book. I'd set a self imposed deadline of July 1 and I need to write two more books before school starts in August. The more books I have out the better chance I can really start to become profitable from my writing, and who knows how much writing time I'll get after school starts?

But my agent told me it's unlikely we could submit my next book next month even though it's shiny and pretty and complete, which took a lot of the pressure off of me for finishing this one by July. And I realized something else--I'm getting back to that dark place. The place that left me unable to write for six months. More importantly two different people loved sections of two different manuscripts that I wrote expecting to have to cut. One was a major event in the a manuscript that hasn't yet been published. I was afraid people would say it was over the top. I took a big chance. The other was a paragraph in the book currently with my editor. I expected it to be parred down to a line. But my editor highlighted the whole paragraph. "Such powerful sentences, Beth." And if I write like it's a business instead of an art these are chances I might not take. Opportunities I'll miss. More important, they were fun for me as a writer. And that's when I realized, I have to slow down. So my new goal is two books this summer, but it might drop again. I just want to write to the best of my ability. That should be the real goal.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Revising to an Editor’s Specifications & A Give Away!!!

First, I need to announce that as of today I'm a M-W-F blogger! Now that that's done, we have an awesome guest post today about approaching the editorial letter.

Anna Sweet, author of The Otherborn, is here today to talk about working with an editor. Take it away, Anna.

Since OTHERBORN is my first published novel, it was also my first experience working with an editor. One I will never forget. Being with a small press has its benefits, and one of them is that the people are very approachable and communication is often swift. At least, that’s the case with my publisher and I’ve heard other writers comment similarly. For me, this translated into an easy back and forth throughout the revision process. It also meant I felt free to ask as many questions as needed, regardless of how silly I might think some of them were. I really cannot be grateful enough that this was the case. When my editor sent her initial letter, I had to read it over several times. I pretty much 
kept it open on my computer for days while I worked my way through the revision process, so I could constantly refresh myself on her exact requests. My editor broke her comments down into two segments, specific issues and global issues. The specifics were little technical things that I needed to fix repeatedly throughout the manuscript. Things like formatting my em dashes correctly. Those were pretty straightforward and easy. It was the global issues that required more thought and interpretation on my part. I guess I was fortunate in that she didn’t have a ton of those for me to look at, but an example of one involved backstory. I had an info dump in an early chapter that needed to be broken 
up. How to do that was left up to me. I approached the problem in two ways. First, I went through and pulled anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary to the story. Second, I inserted dialogue, so that the reflections came in small bits, and the reader was able to stay present with the story through the dialogue. I’ve since revised another manuscript according to my agents’ specifications, and that process was very similar. Some of their requests were even less concrete, and dealt with things like my character’s motivations and how they might impact the reader. It forced me to think beyond the story, and to really dig into how I wanted this book to effect others. I went back through and made mostly small adjustments throughout which fortified my main character and added a strength and depth to her she was lacking before. In both cases, there was a real give and take. I would make changes and adjustments on my own, to the best of my ability, to address their concerns, and then resubmit with an 
“is this enough?” note attached. What really amazed me about both processes, was how much my opinion mattered. There were no hard and fast rules, or at least very few, and there were many times where I was invited to exert my personal preference and opinion. What I loved was the opportunity to discuss my characters with someone else who cared about them as much as I did. And I learned so much from both experiences, my writing has improved every time and I suspect it will continue to do so. I think the important thing, as the author, as the teller of your tale, is to see the revision process as an opportunity to learn and to engage in dialogue that will only benefit your work. Remember too, that you are the expert on this story. Don’t be afraid to diplomatically decline certain changes, but only when the advice has been thoroughly examined first. And as in all things, compromise is possible. It may be that the very best path to your very best book lies somewhere between your editor’s ideas and your own.

"London and her teenage friends live in a reprocessed world.

Confined within Capital City’s concrete walls, London has done the impossible and the illegal. She’s created something New- a song. But her mentor, club owner Pauly, is not impressed. Since the historic Energy Crisis forced everyone behind walls generations ago, the Tycoons have ensured there is truly nothing new allowed under the sun. Pauly warns London to keep her song to herself, if she knows what’s good for her. 
What he doesn’t know is that London is keeping an even bigger secret: she dreams. And she’s not alone. London’s band-mates and friends have begun dreaming as well, seeing themselves in “night pictures” as beings from another world. As Otherborn, they must piece together the story of their astral avatars, the Others, in order to save their world from a dreamless, hopeless future. 
When Pauly is murdered and an Otherborn goes missing, London realizes someone is hunting them down. Escaping along the Outroads, they brave the deserted Houselands with only their dreams to guide them. Can they find their friend before the assassin finds them? Will being Otherborn save their lives, or destroy them?" Available at Amazon.

About the Author
Anna Silver is an author and artist living in the greater Houston area with her family, pets, and overactive imagination. Her art has been featured in the Houston gallery Las Manos Magicas. She studied English Writing & Rhetoric at St. Edward’s University. She's freelanced for private clients and small publications like the Hill Country Current. OTHERBORN is her first published novel. She is represented by Rebecca Podos and Nicole LaBombard of Rees Literary Agency.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Where's Beth

In her writing cave! I'd planned to get caught up on commenting today, but I won't be online until the evening as I need to write like a maniac. (Won't be around on fb/twitter before then either). I know I've been horrible about commenting lately, but I'll see you soon. I promise. And if you're here for the Our Song blog tour please go here.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Our Song Review &Give Away!!!

Before we get started, I'm announcing that I'm now a M-W-F blogger! Okay, now that that's out of the way on to a the review.

First of all, isn't that a beautiful cover? It's like eye candy, it's so good.

"Olive Bell has spent her entire life in the beautiful suburb of Vista Valley, with a picture-perfect home, a loving family, and a seemingly perfect boyfriend. But after a near-fatal car accident, she s haunted by a broken heart and a melody that she cannot place.
Then Olive meets Nick. He s dark, handsome, mysterious … and Olive feels connected to him in a way she can t explain. Is there such a thing as fate? The two embark on a whirlwind romance until Nick makes a troubling confession.
Heartbroken, Olive pieces together what really happened the night of her accident and arrives at a startling revelation. Only by facing the truth can she uncover the mystery behind the song and the power of what it means to love someone."

This book was well written, haunting and somehow enchanting at the same time. What I love is that from the very first page you can tell something big has happened. Nick is a weird guy, and kind of mystery that Olive is determined to figure out--if she can keep her mind off her ex-boyfriend long enough to do it. The ex is a jerk, and I'd love to see someone slap the hell out of him. Although, Nick kind of drove me crazy for a while too. Nick's secret is tragic and when it finally comes out, I think what he's been through is way worse than what Olive has been through. Even with the heavy subject matter the book tackled, it still managed to be a fast paced enjoyable read. (Disclaimer: I use the term fast paced here to mean I never really got bored, but if you're into action scenes you may not agree). One thing really bothered me. Annie. She was this confident girl with her own sense of fashion who didn't care what anyone thought. People gave her hell because she didn't want or need a boyfriend. She was more interested in finding out who she was which is what I think 17 or 18 year old girls should be doing. But it turned out Annie didn't need or want a boyfriend, because Annie wanted a girlfriend. I don't really care that she's gay. But this cool confident chick who didn't need a relationship is replaced instead by a gay girl who is afraid to come out. There are so few strong confident girls in YA that I would have loved to see Annie hold her own, no explanation needed. My only other wish for this book is that it had more romance. At moments, it felt more like a book about self discovery than a romance, which you know is what I live for. All in all, I'd say four stars.

About the Author

Jordanna Fraiberg was born in Montreal, Quebec, and currently lives in L.A., where she settled after receiving degrees from Harvard and Oxford. A former national squash champion and Hollywood film executive, she now divides her time between dreaming up stories and chasing her toddler. She is the author of Our Song andIn Your Room.

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Friday, June 7, 2013

Follow Friday

Follow Friday is hosted by Alison and Parajunkee.

Q: Have you broken up with a series? If so which one and why?

Lots. Morganville Vampires--got repetitive. Beautiful Creatures--going off the deep end. Shade--Aura went for the wrong guy. This one really made me mad. Fallen didn't capture me, same with Hush, Hush. Delirium--didn't capture me and not enough romance. 

Street Teams

I need help from my author friends! It was recommended to me that I have my street team help promote my new book, A Missing Peace. But I don't actually have one! I do think I have some loyal readers from the Marlowe Girls, but that's sweet romance and A Missing Peace is romantic suspense. I'm not sure it will appeal to the same people. Do any of you have a street team? What does a street team do? (My books are all ebook only.

I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Insecure Writer's Support Group

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Boy, do I have insecurities today. My debut for full length fiction and for YA will be released September 1, 2013 by Escape, an imprint of Harlequin. I'm already worried about releasing. Will it sale? What if it doesn't? What's the best way to market it? So many questions.

I'm about to re-send my agent the next book. I sent it after rewriting it, getting a critique, and revising. Then another reader sent me an email that she had notes for me, so I contacted my agent and told her I would re-send. I'm nervous because the first time I hired a freelance editor and this time I can't. But so far my readers have been very positive. And then the second book goes on submission...

I'm writing an unrelated novel right now and for the first time in forever I got hit w/ writer's block. Years--it's been years since this happened. I decided to spend this week reading and try the writing again next week. I want to write 3 books this summer, and I'm not sure it's going to happen. I'm going back to school this fall and keep having random nightmares about failing. I'm sure I won't, but still it's added stress and I'm worried about how much writing and marketing time I'm going to have once school starts.

What about you? What are you insecure about today?