Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Kathleen Burkinshaw On Making Swag That Works & A Giveaway!

Most authors will agree that the creative part of the job is where we excel, the business and marketing side, slightly less. It’s lovely when the two can meet in the form of SWAG – Shit We All Generate. I’ve invited some published authors to share with us their secret to swag… little freebies that can sell a book longer after the author is no longer standing in front of a prospective reader. In order to create great swag, you have to be crafty – in more ways than one.

Today's guest for the SWAG is Kathleen Burkinshaw, author of THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM. Kathleen enjoyed a decade long career in HealthCare Management unfortunately cut short by the onset of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). Writing gives her an outlet for her daily struggle with chronic pain. She has carried her mother’s story her whole life and feels privileged to now share it with the world. Writing historical fiction also satisfies her obsessive love of researching anything and everything.

Finding something that represents your book and hasn’t been played out by a million authors before is difficult. What’s your swag?

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Mindy 😊

Bookmarks are not a novel idea (sorry for the pun), but the stunning cover art for The Last Cherry Blossom (Thank you Katy Betz), looks fantastic on my bookmarks. I sent them to my publisher to have at their tables at conferences since they wouldn’t have my ARCs there prior to my pub date. I also printed postcards with the cover, a blurb, info to order book, and my social media info. For my book launch I ordered cherry blossom fans that had the book title on it, also lip gloss with the title on the top-I found these on discounted wedding supplies websites.  In addition to that I bought blossom candy molds that my friend and I used to make pink blossom chocolates. Discounted party supply stores made this affordable.

How much money per piece did your swag cost out of pocket?

The fans were the most expensive($4 each), so I only used it during my NC launch and my New England launch for raffle, or special thank you gifts. The lip gloss was $1 each. The cherry blossom candies were inexpensive (plastic molds were $4 each and the candy melts were $2 a bag which makes a lot), and also a big hit. I also want to share that Shutterfly does freebies every so often and through that I have ordered magnets of my book cover, a notebook, and a tote bag-all for just the price of shipping. It’s been a great way for me to purchase extra SWAG without breaking my budget.




Do you find that swag helps you stand out at an event? 

It depended on the event. My bookmarks and postcards sometimes draws them in at conferences. When I’m presenting at a school, I’ve signed them for students and that has gone over well.

What do you think of big item swag pieces versus cheaper, yet more easily discarded swag like bookmarks?

I think that the larger swag items are great for a giveaway or may attract them to your table for your book, but it’s not something that I can afford to do all the time. However, the postcards can go a long way. When I’m presenting at a conference, I put the time and room of my presentation on the back of my postcard and hand them out. So that way, they may decide to come to my presentation and they have info to order the book. So even if they can’t attend the session, they know about my book. I have increased traffic to my presentations and sold books that way. It also is one of the least expensive items because I designed it myself.

What’s the most clever / best swag by another author?

Pins for a back pack or bag seem to be popular. One YA author had pins related to her book and I loved that.

And the biggest question – do you think swag helps sell books?

Yes, especially when marketing to schools. The postcard for TLCB can be used to send invites to signings, as a thank you, or as an introduction to my book at schools and libraries.

Kathleen has graciously agreed to do a giveaway of a signed copy of THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM as well as a swag pack of bookmarks and magnet. Enter below to win!

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Why The Little Events Can Make A Big Difference

As an author it's hard to balance your time spent writing against your time spent promoting. Most of us get into this business because we like to write, not because we're salespeople and want to sit behind a table trying to hand sell our books.

It's a package deal, so you learn what events work best for you.

I tend to say yes to everything, even things I know probably won't be lucrative. I have reasons for this, and I explain in this month's podcast roundup.



As always, if you find the podcast helpful, rating and reviewing on iTunes is much appreciated!

I'm happy to report that the Go Fund Me to eliminate school lunch fees in my local school district is over halfway to the goal! If you are willing and able, please consider donating to my cause. Hitting our goal will free every student in the district from lunch fees, and enable all to receive hot meals at the beginning of next year.

Friday, May 26, 2017

A Cause Close To My Heart

Whenever people ask me where I'm from in Ohio, I tell them the middle.

That's because you've heard of where I'm from, and if you have it's because you know someone from there, and chances are I know them too. They're probably my cousin.

I love being from a small town. I love where I'm from, and I stay here for that reason. I wrote about rural poverty in THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES and will be revisiting that theme in future books, with good reason. My county is poor, my school district is poor, and many of the families living here are poor.

I've been lucky in my career and am looking for ways to give back. With school lunch fees in the news lately, I decided this would be a good avenue.

Cardington Public Schools- where I graduated from and worked at for 15 years - allows the children to have an alternative lunch (PB & J, juice, fruit or vegetable & a milk) after accruing $25 in charges. Children do not go unfed.

However,  fees do follow the children throughout their school careers, often accumulating into an unsurmountable debt for struggling families.

My community has supported me unfailingly throughout my writing career, so I contacted the school to see if I could assist in paying some of these fees at the end of the year. Another community member had felt similarly, and the fees at the Elementary had already been covered.

This leaves the 5th graders through high schoolers, whose debt was much more than I expected. 

Often when help is offered to schools the money, services or donations go to help the younger children - understandably. However, I'd like to wipe out the lunch debt of the entire district through this campaign.

Currently, 32% of the High Schoolers are on free or reduced lunch, 40% of the Junior High, 47% of the Intermediate, and 49% of the Elementary. 

We can help these families by alleviating  unpaid lunch fees and ensuring that all children receive hot meals at the beginning of next school year.

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: MIDNIGHT AT THE ELECTRIC by Jodi Lynn Anderson

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

Adri has been picked to start a colony on Mars. In the year 2065, the coastal cities of Earth are flooded as the ice caps melt, and much of civilization has moved inland, to Kansas. Adri heads there to be near the headquarters for the colonization project, and to stay with the only living relative she has left, a woman over 100 that she has never met.

Always quiet and reserved, Adri worries that her new relation will misunderstand her as rude, but Lily talks enough for both of them. Though age is catching up with her and she is beginning to forget things, Adri finds a connection with Lily, and with Galapagos, her pet tortoise. Adri also makes a connection with the previous residents, through a package of letters she finds stashed away.

Through them she learns of the Dust Bowl that drove so many from the plains over a hundred years ago, and the friendship of two girls forged during World War I that persisted through personal and global tragedies, as well as the origin of Galapagos, and the strings that tie them all together.

Want to help me with all the mailing costs? I do giveaways at least once week, sometimes more. It can add up. If you feel so inclined as to donate a little to defray my mailing costs, it would be much appreciated! Donating has no impact on your chances of winning.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Janet Ruth Heller On Querying Publishers

Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Janet Ruth Heller. Janet is a poet, literary critic, college professor, essayist, playwright, and fiction writer. She is a past president of the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature, and is currently president of the Michigan College English Association. She has a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago, and has published three books of poetry: Exodus (WordTech Communications, 2014), Folk Concert: Changing Times (Anaphora Literary Press, 2012), and Traffic Stop (Finishing Line Press, 2011).

She is the founding mother and former editor of Primavera, a literary magazine. Primavera has won awards from Chicago Women in Publishing and the Illinois Arts Council and grants from the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines and the National Endowment for the Arts. Primavera was among the first journals to publish work by writers like Louise Erdrich.

Are you a Planner or Pantser?

I usually think about an idea that I have for a story for a while, planning in my head, and then start writing. When I have a decent draft, I take the story to my writers’ group members to get their reactions. Usually, the group wants me to develop the characters and the situation and to add more dialogue. I also think about new aspects for the story. Then, I make revisions and eventually show the revised work to the writers’ group again. Often, the group wants further revisions, so I work on the story more. This process gets repeated many times. When my writers’ group and I are satisfied with the manuscript, I send it out to potential publishers.

How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?

If I count all of the revisions, it takes me at least a year to write a novel, sometimes up to seven years.

Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi-tasker?

I usually have more than one project that I’m working on. I’m usually working on a poetry book, a children’s story, a scholarly article, and my memoir. I also do writing for nonprofit organizations to help them with publicity for events.

Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?

I was lucky because my elementary school teachers gave creative writing assignments and recognized my writing talent. For example, my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Messias, dittoed a poem that I wrote and gave copies to all of the students in my class. I guess that was my first publication. And I have been publishing individual poems, stories, scholarly articles, and essays since the mid-1970s. So I am not fearful when I write.

However, some writing projects are more difficult than others. For my doctoral thesis at the University of Chicago, I wrote a history of the idea that tragic dramas should be read, rather than performed. I had never done a history of ideas project before, so I had to learn how to trace concepts across centuries.

How many trunked books did you have before you were agented?

I do not have an agent. I have found publishers for all of my books myself by doing research about various editors and publishing companies. I have eight children’s story manuscripts that I’m trying to find presses for right now.

Have you ever quit on a manuscript, and how did you know it was time?

I rarely quit writing a manuscript. But I have some unfinished stories that I may return to in the future. Often, I take very short poems and later combine them into a longer, more polished piece.

Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?

I do a lot of research before sending a query to an agent or a publisher. I make sure that the agent or editor is interested in the type of work that I want to send. I look at websites, essays that the person has published about his or her preferences, the list of books that the individual has agented or published, etc. I read newsletters for writers and magazines like The Writer’s Chronicle, The Writer, and Poets & Writers magazine. 

For example, I found out on the listserve for the Michigan chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators that Arbordale Publishing was looking for picture book manuscripts related to science. I sent Arbordale two science-related stories, and one got accepted two weeks later: How the Moon Regained Her Shape (Arbordale, 2006; 4th edition 2014).  

This book about bullying and about the solar system has won four national awards:  a Book Sense Pick in 2006, a Children’s Choices selection for 2007, a Benjamin Franklin Award for 2007, and a Gold Medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards for 2007. In 2009, How the Moon Regained Her Shape was one of five finalists for the Patricia Gallagher Picture Book Award given by the Oregon Reading Association.

How did that feel, the first time you saw your book for sale?

I was very excited to see my revised doctoral thesis, Coleridge, Lamb, Hazlitt, and the Reader of Drama (University of Missouri Press) in print in 1990. However, my books for children have more readers and give me more opportunities to share my work with the public. When my picture book about bullying How the Moon Regained Her Shape came out in 2006, I went to many schools, libraries, bookstores, and conferences to talk about my book and about thwarting bullies. Because I had been badly bullied as a child in elementary school, I found it very healing to help other children understand bullying and to teach them how to stand up to abusive people. Also, I brought How the Moon Regained Her Shape to my family’s holiday gathering and listened as my nieces and nephews passed the book around, each reading a page or two. I love watching children read my books to themselves at my speaking and autographing events: they are reading my words!

How much input do you have on cover art?

I had one bad experience when the publisher, without telling me, put artwork on the cover that I had designated for the middle of the book. The cover illustration looked good, but it did not fit the overall subject matter of the book. After that frustrating situation, I have insisted on approving the cover art for all of my works.

What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?

Because I began my career publishing poems, essays, scholarly books, and articles for adults, I had to learn from Donna German, the editor at Arbordale Publishing, that children’s books have to fit a small range of reading levels. For example, authors write picture books for children in first, second, or third grade. I had to revise some of my sentences in How the Moon Regained Her Shape to shorten them and to use fewer polysyllabic words. Similarly, my middle-grade chapter book The Passover Surprise (Fictive Press, 2015) is written for children in third grade through eighth grade.

How much of your own marketing do you?  

I do a lot of my own marketing. My website is here. I am also active on LinkedIn and Facebook. There are groups for writers and illustrators of books for children on LinkedIn and Facebook.  

I speak at many schools, book fairs, libraries, and bookstores every year.  I also attend many conferences to speak about my books and issues related to my books, such as bullying, multicultural literature, and creative writing.

When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?

I think that writers should build their platforms early in their careers so that people can find out information about each person’s work. Publishers like authors who have their own websites and are comfortable using the social media to publicize their writing. Most publishers expect writers to help with promoting books.

Do you think social media help build your readership?

Yes, I think that social media help to increase the number of people who read my books. Many individuals have seen my posts on LinkedIn, Facebook, or my website and then ask to connect to me. Some of these people are librarians and teachers who may choose to share my books with their libraries and schools. Other readers are parents or grandparents who may purchase my books for their children and grandchildren.

Some authors are already famous actors or artists before they write books, but most writers begin as unknowns. Arbordale Publishing’s Lee German told me that most people need to see information about a book seven times before they purchase that book. Therefore, we unknown authors need to use any legal tool at our disposal to increase our name recognition, explain the concepts in our books, and maximize publicity for our work. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Barbara Claypole White On Writing Through Personal Tragedy

Barbara Claypole White author of The Unfinished Garden, The In Between Hour, The Perfect Son and Echoes of Family joined me to talk about finding inspiration for her fiction in real life, writing through personal tragedy and how to write characters with mental illnesses.



If the blog or podcast have been of any assistance to you in your writing life, I would very much appreciate monetary support so that I can continue to produce them. The crowdfunding site provides award tiers for donors at each level, starting at $1 a month.

Want to support me but don't like the idea of a monthly charge? I understand. You can support me by buying me a coffee in exchange for my content through Ko-Fi or giving a one time donation to me through the PayPal button below.




New episodes will go up every week! Please follow the podcast to be notified of each new episode, or subscribe through iTunes!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: THE HOLLOW GIRL by Hillary Monahan

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

Bethan is meant to follow in the footsteps of her Gran, to be the healer for her band of Romany people. With half of her face covered in a wine scar, Bethan is happy to fulfill that role, knowing that a good marriage would be hard to make. Then she meets Martyn, the farmer's son who sells their wares at the local market while she's selling charm pouches. Martyn doesn't mind her mark, or her Romany blood. He finds Bethan fascinating - and she doesn't mind the attention.

But when Silas - the chieftain's son - sees their flirtation, he's angry. Accustomed to having whatever wants, Silas has decided he wants Bethan - mostly because she's not interested. Silas and his friends attack Bethan and Martyn, raping her and beating Martyn nearly to death. When her Gran finds her, she has Bethan pull Martyn's last breath from his body and hold it in her own, explaining that there is a way to save him - and revenge herself - but it will mean setting aside their green magic for something much darker.

Broken and bruised, Bethan agrees, and sets out on a journey to avenge herself, and save the boy she loves.

Want to help me with all the mailing costs? I do giveaways at least once week, sometimes more. It can add up. If you feel so inclined as to donate a little to defray my mailing costs, it would be much appreciated! Donating has no impact on your chances of winning.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wednesday WOLF

I'm a nerd. In fact, I'm such a big nerd that I tend to look up word origins in my spare time because I'm fascinated by our language. The odder the origin, the better. I've got a collection of random information in my brain that makes me an awesome Trivial Pursuit partner, but is completely useless when it comes to real world application. Like say, job applications.

In any case, I thought I'd share some of this random crap with you in the form of the new acronym-ific series. I give you - Word Origins from Left Field - that's right, the WOLF! Er... ignore the fact that the "from" doesn't fit.

Ever wonder where that yummy old pile of crumbly, the Snickerdoodle, got its whimsical name? As with most word origins, there are a few different answers, so pick the one you like best. I'm going with the German one, because the mother country still has its hooks in my heart, and because it makes the most sense.

The Joy of Cooking attributes the cookie to Germany, suggesting that the name is a corruption of the German word schneckennudeln, a type of cinnamon dusted sweet roll.

Because of the holiday connections involved with the snickerdoodle, some think that the name originated from the Dutch language contraction of "Saint Nicholas."

My thoughts?

They taste good.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Kate Watson On Handling An Austen Retelling

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come to us like a lightning bolt, through the lyrics of a song, or in the fog of a dream. Ask any writer where their stories come from and you’ll get a myriad of answers, and in that vein I created the WHAT (What the Hell Are you Thinking?) interview. Always including in the WHAT is one random question to really dig down into the interviewees mind, and probably supply some illumination into my own as well.

Today's guest for the WHAT is Kate Watson  is a young adult writer, wife, mother of two, and the tenth of thirteen children. Originally from Canada, she attended college in the States and holds a BA in Philosophy. Seeking Mansfield (Flux) is her first novel, with a companion to follow. She is also a contributor to Eric Smith’s WELCOME HOME adoption anthology (along with Mindy!) coming fall of 2017 from Flux.

You can find Kate on her site, Facebook & Twitter.

Ideas for our books can come from just about anywhere, and sometimes even we can’t pinpoint exactly how or why. Did you have a specific origin point for your book?

I’m a Jane Austen fanatic, and a few years ago, I was rereading Mansfield Park and thinking about how it doesn’t translate to the modern era like Austen’s other works do. The main character, Fanny Price, doesn’t make a lot of sense to modern readers (not to mention the whole cousins in love thing, which is pretty tough to get over in any era, because ew). So as I was rereading the book, I kept wondering how it could be updated to resonate with a 21st Century audience. SEEKING MANSFIELD is my attempt to modernize this much-overlooked classic.

Also, full disclosure: Henry Crawford is one of my favorite Austen men. There’s a distinct possibility that I simply wanted to write (modern) Henry Crawford fan fiction.

Once the original concept existed, how did you build a plot around it?

Retelling anything is tricky, because you get one camp of readers wanting the story to follow the original, and you get another camp wanting something fresh. So before I wrote the plot, I knew I needed to understand my characters, independent of their Austen correlatives. I spent a lot of time researching them and getting to know them. After that, I figured out how my story needed to end, and I outlined some major plot points that I thought would get me there. I wrote the first draft of SEEKING MANFIELD with Mansfield Park right beside me for direction. But after that first draft was done, I closed the original and edited and made copious changes based on my characters and their individual arcs.

Have you ever had the plot firmly in place, only to find it changing as the story moved from your mind to paper?

I can’t say I ever have a plot firmly in place. I’m a destination writer—I always know how the story will end (and I’ve yet to be surprised by an ending). But I rarely know how it will happen, even though I create decent outlines in advance of any project. I love doing research, and it’s often in the course of researching something that I realize the story needs to take a different direction than expected, because that research helps me uncover more about my characters. I’m incapable of forcing a plot on my characters. They really run the show. 

Do story ideas come to you often, or is fresh material hard to come by?

Ideas come to me pretty often, sometimes when I’m doing something productive, like reading, but frequently when I’m occupied with mundane tasks, like showering or doing dishes (it should be noted that I never get ideas while folding laundry, because folding laundry is evil and inherently uninspiring). Recently, I even had a dream that ended up being a surprisingly fleshed out, John Green-esque novel. My dreams are typically absolute nonsense, like Freddy Kruger living in my closet, but he’s like a nice Freddy Kruger and he cries when I tell him to leave me alone so I can sleep, and stuff (not kidding on that one, btw). But this idea was solid enough that I actually wrote it down. We’ll see if it makes it into the rotation someday.

How do you choose which story to write next, if you’ve got more than one percolating?

Anytime I get an idea, I jot everything down that comes to me about it, and then I return to whatever else I’m working on at the time. My mind ruminates on those ideas in the background until there’s sort of a survival-of-the-fittest/fight club moment and one wins out. It’s all very violent, and sometimes I feel bad for those poor ideas that got bludgeoned and left for ruin in my brain. But that’s evolution, you know?

Writing can be completely exhausting. Like riding in a car, there’s no reason why but it totally drains me physically. I usually take a nap if I’ve been writing for more than an hour. Do you have to recharge after a writing session? 

Writing is all about momentum for me. If I haven’t written for a while, it’s really hard to get back in the habit. But if I’m in author-mode, writing acts like a jolt of caffeine. When I’m on a roll, I’ll find that I start writing at 9 PM and can easily go till 1 AM without batting an eye. In those instances, I have a hard time shutting my brain off because I’m so eager to live in the story.

Monday, May 15, 2017

New Podcast Ep & Where I'll Be This Week! (Also $1.99 E-Book!)

Lots going on this week! First off, there is a new episode of the Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire podcast available. This week's guest is Alyssa Palombo, historical fiction author of The Violinist of Venice and The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence. Alyssa joined me to talk about querying a novel that wasn't ready yet, immersing herself in the time period of her characters, the shifting standards of beauty from age to age, and how to balance blogging and writing fiction.



I have two appearances this week. Tuesday, May 16th @ 6PM I will be at the Barberton Public Library to discuss Blood, Brains & Lobotomies. By that I mean I'll be discussing A Madness So Discreet. Learn about how doctors treated brain injuries in the 1890’s and the different aspects of care for the mentally ill – for better or for worse. Also included is a brief history of The Athens Lunatic Asylum, the setting for the novel.



I will also be at the Strongsville Branch of the Cuyahoga County Library on Wednesday May 17 @ 7 PM, where I'll be discussing the many different threads and inspirations that came together to become Given to the Sea, my first fantasy.

And - the e-book of A Madness So Discreet is still only $1.99!




Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.    

Warrior, wizard, slave: no matter how powerful Andre Hawthorne becomes, he knows only death can set him free. Not a bad hook, but the last part of the sentence feels like it's shading the first three words as ascending levels of power, but I feel like the last noun cancels that out? He is the property of Mara Tsaryov, the ruthless Witch of Shadowfall, named for the Lithuanian forest where she was born. Mara bought Andre as a child, bonded him to her with magic, trained him to guard and protect her—and now that he’s grown into a charismatic young man, Mara has fallen in love with him. So he's a slave in the sense that he's her servant and unable to unbond from her because of magic? Also, is Mara ageless or is she a cougar? But in 1790, an aristocrat of New Russia would never permit herself to fall in love with a black slave, a living piece of her property who doesn’t even desire her. Mara despises her feelings, and she longs to kill Andre to rid herself of her shame. Interesting. I think you can get these ideas across in less words though. Look for easy cuts, or different phrasing.

But this particular slave is too useful for Mara to kill, and her political schemes would be impossible without Andre’s skills. His magic protects her chateaux in the Carpathians, Mara’s favorite home and the seat of her power. Frustrated with Andre’s indifference, Mara decides to enhance her physical appearance, and dress to inspire his lust, in order to regain control of herself, and of him.

So when a gifted seamstress in Kiev loses her husband, and must sell herself into slavery to keep her family safe, Mara is only too happy to acquire this slave. A Mongolian witch raised by Cossacks, Sienna Katyev will never be as powerful as Mara—but Sienna has her own kind of indomitable strength. As she works alongside Andre inside Mara’s chateaux, the two become friends, and then lovers. If Mara knew how they felt, she would kill Sienna, so Andre begins using his magic to free her. The more secrets Andre must keep from Mara, the more perilous freeing Sienna becomes, as political intrigue and love bring Andre toward a violent confrontation he knows he can’t win.

The Shadowfall Witch (100,000 words) will appeal to fans of historical fantasy such as Juliet Marillier’s Heart’s Blood and Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.

This is actually quite good, just overly wordy. You also mention multiple times a political intrigue that sounds like it supplies a lot of the pacing (just guessing) but I have no idea what that might be. Right now it reads like a magical realism historical romance, which, while that's really cool, you need to hint more about what exactly that is, without lengthening the query by much. I made some slash throughs above as examples of where you can cut wording and still maintain your meaning. Look for similar places in the query, make the cuts, then get the political angle in there with a sentence or two.

Your word count raises questions about length. While your genre allows for such a hefty WC, the fact that there are multiple examples of unnecessary wording in your query, I have to wonder if the same is true of the manuscript. Read through it with this in mind to trim down that WC.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: WHEN I AM THROUGH WITH YOU by Stephanie Kuehn

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

Ben Gibson has always been pretty sure that he doesn't deserve his girlfriend, Rose. When she goes away for six weeks to Lima, he worries that things will be different between them - and they are, but Ben doesn't think it's anything they can't get through. 

Then a school hiking trip goes terribly wrong. Strangers show up in their campsite, a student brings along a gun, and one of Ben's blinding migraines takes over. Someone ends up dead, and someone else killed them - Ben knows all about it, and now that everything is over, all he has is time. 

So he'll tell you exactly what happened.

Want to help me with all the mailing costs? I do giveaways at least once week, sometimes more. It can add up. If you feel so inclined as to donate a little to defray my mailing costs, it would be much appreciated! Donating has no impact on your chances of winning.


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Thursday, May 11, 2017

E-book of A MADNESS SO DISCREET $1.99 Today!

I just noticed this on Amazon - the Kindle version of A MADNESS SO DISCREET is $1.99 today!


Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery

Mindy McGinnis, the acclaimed author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust, combines murder, madness, and mystery in a beautifully twisted gothic historical thriller perfect for fans of novels such as Asylum and The Diviners as well as television's True Detective and American Horror Story.

Grace Mae is already familiar with madness when family secrets and the bulge in her belly send her to an insane asylum—but it is in the darkness that she finds a new lease on life. When a visiting doctor interested in criminal psychology recognizes Grace's brilliant mind beneath her rage, he recruits her as his assistant. Continuing to operate under the cloak of madness at crime scenes allows her to gather clues from bystanders who believe her less than human. Now comfortable in an ethical asylum, Grace finds friends—and hope. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who will bring her shaky sanity and the demons in her past dangerously close to the surface.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Rosalyn Eves On Writing Smarter For Book Two & A Double Giveaway!

Published authors face a new set of pressures, whether you’re under contract or trying to snag another deal, you’re a professional now, with the pressures of a published novelist compounded with the still-present nagging self-doubt of the noobie. How to deal? With this in mind I created the SNOB (Second Novel Omnipresent Blues). Today's guest for the SNOB is Rosalyn Eves, author of the well-received fantasy BLOOD ROSE REBELLION.

Is it hard to leave behind the first novel and focus on the second?

In my case, the second book is a continuation of the first, since Blood Rose Rebellion sold as a trilogy. But that brings with it its own set of challenges! It took me a while to figure out why book two was so hard to write—essentially, book 2 in a trilogy is the mucky middle. The WHOLE book is the middle. The challenge for me was to figure out a way to give the book its own arc, with some kind of resolution, while still leaving things open-ended enough for book three.

It was nice to come back to a familiar world, at least—most of the character development and world-building work happened with the first book. 

At what point do you start diverting your energies from promoting your debut and writing / polishing / editing your second?

I’m still trying to figure this out! Mostly my priorities are driven by deadlines. When I have edits due on book two, it takes priority. As soon as my edits are in, I shift my focus to catching up on the promotional stuff I need to do (like writing this post!). The harder thing right now is to find time to draft book three—editing book two and promoting are absorbing a lot of time. 

Your first book landed an agent and an editor, and hopefully some fans. Who are you writing the second one for? Them, or yourself?

The first book I definitely wrote for myself, but the second book was in many ways harder to write because of all the different possible audiences. I’d been warned that writing a book under contract was hard, but I still wasn’t prepared for how difficult it was. For the first little while, every time I sat down to draft, a voice in my head asked: is this worth the money your publisher wants to pay you for it? And of course, being a first draft, it never was. 

I’m also writing with readers in mind: what kinds of things have readers responded positively to in the first book? How can I include more of the same while also telling a different story? But I have to be careful how much I do this—I tend to want to make everyone happy, and it’s impossible for any one story to do that. Sometimes even good reviews can mess with my head, as when a reader says they hope to see more of something in the next book, and then I start asking myself: do I have enough of that element? Should there be more? I have to balance the needs of my audience against the needs of the story—what choices serve the story best?

Is there a new balance of time management to address once you’re a professional author? 

As I said above, I’m still trying to figure the balance out. Interacting with readers and doing book promotion are still pretty new to me, and it’s tempting sometimes to sink all my time into those, especially when the writing is hard and I’m looking to procrastinate. (And interacting with readers is much more fun than slogging through a draft.) I think for me it’s important to set boundaries on myself and my time—to say I have x amount of time for promoting today and stick to that, or none of the writing gets done. 

What did you do differently the second time around, with the perspective of a published author?

I think I’ve been writing smarter. I hit a snag about 75K into book two that I could not resolve. Instead of just plowing through and thinking, “I’ll fix this in revisions,” I took some time away from the story and replotted it. I think having a more structure as I wrote meant that I didn’t waste as much time following plot bunnies—and it gave me more time for revising before submitting to my editor, who was impressed with how polished it was for a first draft—until I told her it wasn’t actually a first draft.

One thing that I’m finding a lot of authors struggle with in the second book is having to turn in a fairly rough draft. When the editor buys the first book, it’s been polished and revised multiple times. But with books under contract, particularly second books in a series, there often isn’t the time for that kind of revision and polish. It’s hard to get over the gap between what the first book looked like when the editor saw it and what the second book looks like. I know editors are used to it, but a big part of me cringed when I hit send on my draft (but I also didn’t want to waste time polishing it if my editor hated it and wanted me to rewrite it—which has happened to several authors I know).

Rosalyn is super generous, and is offering to giveaway not only a copy of BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, but also GIVEN TO THE SEA! Enter below - winners can be from anywhere that Book Depository will ship to!


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Monday, May 8, 2017

Reddit AMA & New Podcast Episode!

Hey followers - lots going on today!

I am on Reddit all day today doing an AMA (ask me anything). Feel free to pop in and... ask me anything. I will answer. It could get interesting.

And there's a new podcast episode up with fellow Ohio author, YALSA Top Ten Teen nominee, and all around funny guy Kurt Dinan. We talk about querying, short stories, writing humor, as well as unlikely poisonous substances and our porn names.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Sunday Surprise! Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: THAT THING WE CALL A HEART by Sheba Karim

I usually don't post on Sunday's, but I've been tearing through the ARC pile lately - all to your benefit. My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

Shabnam thinks she might be falling in love, and the only person she wants to tell about it is her best friend, Farah. The problem is, they haven't spoken in awhile. Shabnam always tried not to stand out too much in their mostly white private school, but when Farah came back from a visit to family on the coast wearing a headscarf, their friendship began to cool. It hit a wall - hard - when one of the cool kids asked Farah if she had a bomb in her backpack... and Shabnam didn't stand up for her.

But that was in the past, and Shabnam would like to patch things up with Farah. Even if she can't understand how a feminist could wear a headscarf, she can still respect Farah's choice to wear it as part of her Muslim identity... can't she? But when Farah isn't as impressed with Shabnam's white boyfriend as she had hoped, Shabnam has to struggle with whether the concerns Farah has about him are legitimate, or just another roadblock in their friendship.


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Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.

Fearing Micah’s fanatic mother will convince him homosexulity is a sin, Charlie declines his acceptance to MIT and takes a job he got through his father’s military connections. There's some confusion here in that I don't know if the concern is that the mother will influence Micah or Charlie. Also, why would the mother be connected to an acceptance at MIT for Charlie? Micah plans to move in with Charlie as soon as he turns 18, but after months of not seeing or hearing from Charlie, he begins to fall for his mother’s doctrine.

Instead of developing technology for a government contractor, Charlie finds himself cut off from the outside world, using his inventions to kill. He tries to resist “The Boss,” but is tortured until he complies. Eventually, he manages to escape and find Micah.

Together, the two boys head for New York City, where they disappear among the millions of people and Wi-Fi signals already living there. Finally away from his parents influence, Micah is free to make his own decisions about what his faith is and who he loves while Charlie attempts to secure his freedom. What does this mean? Freedom from what or who? Is he still in danger? And why? They need to take down Charlie’s former employer, Why do they need to? but as homeless teens with no supportive family, they have very few resources to work with.

Complete at 52,000 words, Like Birds Under the City Sky is a young adult novel that blends elements of literary fiction with cyberpunk thriller. It appeals to readers who enjoy Valiant, Wire Walker, and Agents of Shield.

I was the second place winner of Women on Writing’s Winter 2016 Flash Fiction Contest. My short fiction was published in Helios Quarterly, Secrets of the Goat People, The Centropic Oracle, Dark Magic: Witches, Hackers and Robots, Youth Imagination and Spaceports & Spidersilk.

Great bio.

I think the biggest stumbling block for you here is going to be the meshing of these two disparate forms - coming of age and techno thriller. It feels like a jolt going from the identity issues in the first para, to tech and torture in the second. You need a smoother transition from one to the next. I would suggest talking more about Charlie's tech interest in the first para (why MIT? for example). It's not a bad query, it's just bumpy because of inherent genre issues.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: THE GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO VICE & VIRTUE by Mackenzie Lee

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

Henry Montague has never exactly had a hard life. The eldest son of landed gentry, his future has always been set, and cozy. Even though he may not want that for himself, it's still there for the taking - as is everything else. With good looks, money, and connections, Monty has gone whatever he wants - with whoever he wants - for most of his life. But when a romantic relationship with another boy at Eton gets him tossed out, and severely beaten by his father, Monty learns that his life of drinking and debauchery maybe at an end.

With a brand new little brother, and the possibility of an heir that isn't an embarrassment, Monty's father is ready to call him quits. Ready to embark on their European tour with his best friend, Percy, Monty thinks it's his last hurrah - all the fun he can squeeze into a few months before Percy goes to law school and Monty accepts his place in the family. But his father has other ideas - this trip is instead going to be Monty's chance to prove he can grow up and behave - or else not bother coming home at all.

With a chaperone and his studious younger sister along for the ride, Monty knows not only will there not be any fun, but there also will be no chance for him to reveal to Percy what his true feelings are. Choked with art, recitations, museums, and lectures, Monty has just about had enough until one night at Versailles when a young noblewoman sneaks him into a room for some fun - until the room's owner shows up. Fleeing France in the hopes of getting out head of his reputation, Percy forgets that he nicked a trinket from the room in Versailles for fun - until their carriage is halted, their driver killed, and only quick thinking on his sister's part saves their lives, leading the three teens on a mad dash through Europe while the try to figure out the importance of the box, and a few things about themselves.

Want to help me with all the mailing costs? I do giveaways at least once week, sometimes more. It can add up. If you feel so inclined as to donate a little to defray my mailing costs, it would be much appreciated! Donating has no impact on your chances of winning.


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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) Do kangaroos put anything besides babies in their pouches?

2) One day will the hang signal for "roll your window down" change because now we have power windows?

3) Do you still call a cat's eyeteeth "canines?" Shouldn't they be "felines?"

Monday, May 1, 2017

THIS DARKNESS MINE ARC Giveaway & Some Writing Advice

So, I have a few ARCs of THIS DARKNESS MINE lying around, and since I've already read it I thought maybe I should give one to somebody else. Enter to win below, but first ready about the new podcast that just went up!

Last week I blogged about character movement in writing, and had a lot of hits on that post. I decided to go into a little more detail abut writing character movement - what works, and what doesn't - in this week's podcast. Check it out below!




Sasha Stone knows her place—first-chair clarinet, top of her class, and at the side of her oxford-wearing boyfriend. She’s worked her entire life to ensure that her path to Oberlin Conservatory as a star musician is perfectly paved.

But suddenly there’s a fork in the road, in the shape of Isaac Harver. Her body shifts toward him when he walks by, her skin misses his touch even though she’s never known it, and she relishes the smell of him—smoke, beer, and trouble—all the things she’s avoided to get where she is. Even worse, every time he’s near Sasha, her heart stops, literally. Why does he know her so well—too well—and she doesn’t know him at all?

Sasha discovers that her by-the-book life began by ending another’s: the twin sister she absorbed in the womb. But that doesn’t explain the gaps of missing time in her practice schedule or the memories she has of things she certainly never did with Isaac. As Sasha loses her much-cherished control, her life—and heart—become more entangled with Isaac. Armed with the knowledge that her heart might not be hers alone, Sasha must decide what she’s willing to do—and who she’s willing to hurt—to take it back.

Edgar Award–winning author Mindy McGinnis delivers a dark and gripping psychological thriller about a girl at war with herself, and what it really means to be good or bad.



Want to help me with all the mailing costs? I do giveaways at least once week, sometimes more. It can add up. If you feel so inclined as to donate a little to defray my mailing costs, it would be much appreciated! Donating has no impact on your chances of winning.


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