Monday, December 17, 2012

Happy Holidays!

I'm going to be taking a little blogging break until 2013! I hope you have an enjoyable holiday season! Here's to many great things in the new year.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Taking the Time

Okay, so I've been doing this writing thing for 5 years now. I've been playing the social media game for nearly as long. All of it is starting to wear me to the bone. Perhaps you feel the same. Maybe you don't.

I do know I used to worry about how much time I spent writing. It never seemed to be enough, and at the same time, it was too many hours away from my family. I still constantly see people's word counts and notice them writing for many hours each day, neither of which I can replicate.

I used to work myself into a frenzy about this, thinking that "everyone" must write for hours every day, and if I couldn't, then I would not succeed.

You'll notice I've been saying "I used to."

I don't worry about those things anymore, and if you're worrying about them (or anything remotely close to this), now is a good time to stop. It's almost the new year, and many people set resolutions in their personal lives. I do too, but for the past few years, I've been setting some writing goals as well.

Maybe you'll try it this year, and maybe one of your goals will be this: Take one day off every week. One WHOLE day off. From writing. From social media. From marketing, cover designing, planning, blogging, emailing, all of it.

That's what I've been doing for this past year. Sometimes it's hard to maintain (I admit to checking and sending emails on my day off). Sometimes a deadline comes up and I have to work 7 days a week to meet it.

But more often than not, I don't. It's a choice I was making, and it was wearing me out.

So now I take every Sunday completely off. I lay around in pajamas, and go to church, and watch movies, and play games, and whatever. I do not write. Or edit. Or market. Or tweet. Or get on Facebook.

It is the best day ever.

What do you do to relieve some of the writing stress? Do you have any writing goals for 2013? Could you take an entire day off every week? 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

DESTINED by Ali Cross

Today is a super-special feature for one of my long-time critique partners and friends, Ali Cross. She's released the third and final book in her DESOLATION series -- DESTINED!

I've read it, and it's a fabulous ending to an ever more amazing series. If you haven't checked them out yet, be sure to do that!

Ali is doing some pretty amazing things to celebrate the release of DESTINED. Until December 15, she's offering special prices on all her books (BECOME for only 99 cents, DESOLATE for $1.99, and DESTINED for only $2.99), and having an online signing party

Not only that, but today is release day for DESTINED, and Ali is having a party all month long! She's offering books, Desi-themed swag, and a digital prize package. Be sure to check it out. 

But really, it's not the prizes that are awesome. It's the books. So if you're going to spend any time doing something today, be sure it's ordering and reading Ali's amazing trilogy. 

DESTINED: Amazon/Barnes & Noble

Check out these dedicated websites for fan favorites, news, to order the books, and more!

Monday, December 10, 2012

It's My Birthday!

Well, technically it's tomorrow, but I don't blog on Tuesdays, and I have something awesome planned for Wednesday, and who says I can't celebrate every day this week?

So I'm going to! Starting today! Hope you have a fabulous Monday, and that you're getting all geared up for the holiday season!

You know you want a piece of this Maple Bacon Birthday Cake...

Or this tribute to Elvis, which is a banana cake with peanut butter frosting and candied bacon. Um, yes please!!

Or I'll just take a few dozen of these Bacon Maple Bites.

Now I'm hungry -- AND old! Have a great day!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Writing What You Love

Okay, so as I prepare to finally look beyond my Possession series, I'm faced with every author's greatest nightmare -- which is also our greatest joy -- the blank page.

The possibilities are endless with a blank page. I can create a male main character or a female. Someone people will like, or someone who needs a lot of fixing before we see the goodness within. I can imagine a new world, or use one I'm familiar with.

Today, I just wanted to remind myself -- and all of you out there laboring against the blank page -- that we should be writing what we love. Trends come and go. But good writing and good storytelling always win out.

We should not be searching for "the next big thing." I believe artists of any kind, writers included, should be doing these things:
1. Always seeking to advance their knowledge of their craft
2. Creating what they love to create
3. Helping others along their path

So those are the things I'm preparing to do at the close of this year. I will attend conferences and workshops, continue to be critiqued and edited, and read my brains out to improve my craft.

I will continue to support the authorly community, both online and by buying books.

And I will write what I love to read. I don't really know what it will be yet (fantasy? Contemporary?), but I know that it will be the kind of writing I can be proud of.

Do you write what you love? What is that, exactly?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Bookanista Feature: THE IMMORTALITY EXPERIMENT by Miriam Conde

Man, I haven't done a Bookanista feature for like, ever. But today, I'm featuring Miriam Conde's THE IMMORTALITY EXPERIMENT, and Miriam was kind enough to answer some questions for me!


The Twitter version: tell us about your book in 140 characters or less:
Alex doesn't know about the experiment’s victims. He wants to be a good friend, but helping Dr. Carr ensnares Alex in a perilous situation.

Why e-publishing? Why now?
E-publishing is basically free and I wanted to get my material out there as fast as possible. I would like to publish my books traditionally when I find the right agent.

What’s the one thing you learned about publishing this way that you didn’t anticipate?
I did not realize that marketing would be like a complex puzzle. Each day I try new techniques to reach more people. I am constantly learning which methods work best for me. Solving the puzzle of success is an exciting task.

What else are you working on? Secrets? Inside scoops? Give us the juicy stuff!
I’m working on two different projects. A sequel to The Immortality Experiment will take the characters from the first novel to a new level. I’m writing another sci-fi series starting with “Adessa’s Sphere.” I’ve been posting the story a chapter at a time on my blog, What my readers don’t know yet is that Adessa will lead her people, not just to other planets, but to explore glorious parallel universes. (They know now!) Among the group is an unexpected danger to be revealed at the end of “Adessa’s Sphere.”



Have you always wanted to be a writer?
No. I wanted to be about a million different things before I finally decided that writing suited me best. I always liked writing in school. I even wrote a book nine years ago that collected dust for a long time. That book eventually evolved into “Adessa’s Sphere.”

What made you decide to go that “extra step” and seek publication?
I had told myself I would never self-publish. Then I read about Amanda Hocking, author of the Trylle Trilogy. Apparently she had posted excerpts from her stories on her blog, kind of the way I’m posting my stories. Reading about her success inspired me to put myself out there in the e-book world.

Quick! You’ve been chosen to be a contestant on Survivor. What luxury item do you take?
A blank notebook with a pen/pencil attached.

Tell us something about yourself we don’t know.
I want to be an astronaut! (Wow, this freaks me the heck out. You know there's NO AIR in space, right??)

And the most important of all: bacon or chocolate?
CHOCOLATE! :-D (Boo! But we still like you.)


I hope you'll check out THE IMMORTALITY EXPERIMENT. I read it, and it was a great blend of thriller and science fiction that even the science-phobic (me) can understand. Miriam did a great job with it!

Oh, and be sure to check out what books the other Bookanistas are talking about this week:

What's on your holiday reading list?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Inspirational Message: Be Coachable

Wow, we had a great beginning to December with the YA Scavenger Hunt! Thanks to everyone who participated. I will email all the winners of the Possession paperback today.

Today, I wanted to talk a little bit about being coachable. I recently spoke to a class of 6th graders, which I think is a pivotal time in a young person's life.

I first talked about Michael Phelps. He didn't just show up at the pool one day and win 8 Olympic gold medals. He's been swimming and training for years. And years. And years.

And I ask: Do you think he achieved such greatness by himself?

I don't. Behind every great thing we see, there's a support system. I've watched enough 30 in 30's to know. (Don't watch this? It's an ESPN feature that I find highly inspirational. I love sports documentaries! My favorite one is about Tom Brady.)

Michael Phelps has a coach. Someone who tells him what he's doing wrong, what he needs to do to get better. Because in swimming, you can lose by 1/100 of a second. And a good coach can tell you how to turn at the wall faster, or dive into the pool faster. And that 1/100 of a second can mean gold or no medal at all.

I think writers can learn a lot from athletes. They are coached to the extreme. They're told ALL THE THINGS they're doing wrong and they're asked to get better, and better, and better.

Writers need to be coachable.

I teach elementary school children, so no one over the age of 12. They are coachable. I can train them to do exactly what I want them to do, and with a few exceptions, they actually feel bad if they make a mistake. Children are coachable, because they don't know everything, whether they know it or not.

Teens are, for the most part, uncoachable, because they think they know everything.

I hope we can be more like the little child, and not like the teenager. It's hard. We don't want anyone telling us what to do, because it makes us feel like a failure. But it doesn't have to be that way.

We need to surround ourselves with people we trust to coach us in our writing. If you can do that, you're destined to have a golden experience.

Do you have writing coaches? How's that working out for you?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

YA Scavenger Hunt - Red Team Style!

Yes, it's that time again! I'm thrilled to be participating in the YA Scavenger Hunt again, after taking a break from the last one.

I am part of the RED TEAM scavenger hunt. Be sure to check out all the authors on this loop, because we have some wicked-amazing secret content up for a limited time only! Get out there and find something related to SURRENDER!

You can also follow along on the Blue Team hunt, and you can go here for all the hunt information and see all the books up for grabs!

Not only that, but the YA Scavenger Hunt is the best contest there is. You can win a plethora of books--one from every participating author! A plethora, I say! So be sure to collect the letters for the Red Team at each blog, including mine!

Today, I'm hosting the lovely Gina Damico! She wrote SCORCH, which is the second book in the Croak series.

ABOUT SCORCH: Sixteen-year-old Lex Bartleby is a teenage grim reaper with the bizarre ability to Damn souls. That makes her pretty scary, even to fellow Grims. But now Lex is a pariah in Croak, the little town she calls home. To escape the townspeople’s wrath, she and her friends embark on a wild road trip to DeMyse. Though this sparkling desert oasis is full of luxuries and amusements, it feels like a prison to Lex. Her best chance at escape would be to stop all the senseless violence that she caused—but how can she do that from DeMyse, where the Grims seem mysteriously oblivious to the bloodshed?

Buy here!

Gina's secret content is a deleted scene from SCORCH. Read it below!
SCORCH deleted scene Winter YASH

ABOUT GINA: Gina Damico grew up under four feet of snow in Syracuse, New York. She has worked as a tour guide, transcriptionist, theater house manager, scenic artist, movie extra, office troll, retail monkey, yarn hawker and breadmonger. She lives outside Boston with her husband, two cats, one dog, and a closet full of black hoodies.

Visit Gina's blog here.


As if that weren't enough, I'm giving away some goodies myself! These giveaways can only be entered here on my blog, by filling out the Rafflecopter widget below.
The giveaway ends at the same time the YA Scavenger Hunt does -- on Sunday, December 2 at Noon Pacific.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Oh! And you'll need this number to enter the Red Team Scavenger Hunt prize package extravaganza. All you do is collect all the numbers from all the blogs on the Red Team, and add them up! (You can use a calculator, so no worries!)

The secret number is 11.



What's one new book you've learned about on this YA Scavenger Hunt?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Show & Tell with Jessica Bell

Dude, that rhymes! I swear I didn't do that on purpose. But today, I'm hosting a friend of mine, Jessica Bell, as she talks about her new novella, SHOW, DON'T TELL. It's a pocket-guide, and everyone who writes needs it in their back pocket.

Jessica's here to talk about her new book, so let's leave her to it!


Click to add me to Goodreads!
When I first started writing, the SHOW, DON'T TELL rule was something I often tried to ignore. "What do they know?" I thought. They don't write the kinds of stories I write. And take a look at all the telling in Great Expectations, in Pride & Prejudice, in Wuthering Heights!

But it didn't take long for me to realize that literature has evolved. And continues to evolve. Nowadays, readers want to be a part of the stories they read, not spectators. So who are we to rob them of this experience? Let's give them what they want.

When you show, rather than tell, this is exactly what you give them. An experience. Through Show & Tell in a Nutshell, I will help you accomplish this.

I wrote this book because when I started out I didn't understand the concept very well. I craved real examples. "How can you not see what's happening when I'm telling you it's happening?" I thought. Every writing craft book and blog would explain what it meant, but rarely would I see an actual example that showed me a transition from telling to showing that clearly demonstrated the difference. There still aren't any resources out there that focus only on this very important writing skill. Of course, there are writing craft books that include it, but the issue is more often than not bogged down with technical jargon, and other aspects of the craft that take away from its importance. I believe this book will allow an aspiring writer to block out all the "rules" and focus on this one thing that will teach them how to give their writing the colour it deserves.

Of course, you can't show everything. Sometimes you need to tell in order to move the necessary, but not so important, moments of your story forward. So when someone suggests you to "show" something, you need to evaluate whether this moment in your story deserves such undivided attention. It's something you will learn with practice.

How did you respond to the SHOW, DON'T TELL rule when you first started writing? If you are a beginner, have you completely understood the difference? If so, what brought about your AHA moment?

She's a genius, right? I mean, what a focused little guide -- a gem! -- to have in your writing repertoire.

Purchase the paperback:

Purchase the e-book:

About Jessica Bell:

An Australian-native contemporary fiction author and poet, who also makes a living as an editor and writer for global ELT publishers (English Language Teaching), such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, Macmillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.

She is the Co-Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and co-hosts the Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop on the Greek Isle of Ithaca, with Chuck Sambuchino of Writer’s Digest.

For more information about Jessica, please visit: 





Monday, November 26, 2012

Letting Things Slide

Okay, so here we are, in this crazy-blender world of publishing. There are a lot of ups, and quite a few downs too.

But if there's any lesson I've learned it's this: Sometimes you've got to let things slide.

What you imagined about your cover? Might not come true.

What you've been hoping for in terms of sales? Might not come true.

Deadlines? Might come and go without word. You might not be able to meet yours, because of whatever whatever.

Sometimes what we want to happen doesn't line up with what is actually happening. We can feel frustrated, overwhelmed, and even angry. We forget the good that we've enjoyed about publishing. The feel of typing (or writing) new words on a blank page, of bringing a character to life. 

Sometimes, the stress of publishing is just too much. And that's a definite time to let things slide. I've been on this roller coaster for a few years now, and here's what I do during the sliding times.

  • Read my favorite books. Or a new book.
  • Play Bakery/City/Restaurant/Farm Story. Oh, come on. You know you love seeing your T-bone steaks come out perfectly.
  • Record too many episodes of whatever is on HGTV.
  • Eat pepperoni -- plain. (Don't knock it until you've consumed a pouch of this stuff. It is powerful, and will change your life.)
  • Download some new music.
  • Try a new challenge -- right now, I'm trying to do a 30 ideas in 30 days challenge my friend, Dustin Hansen, inspired.
  • Go to a live concert/performance.
  • Plan meals (gasp!)

It's good to let the publishing angst slide off your back every once in a while. Otherwise, I think we'd all be shaking and muttering under our breath, and nobody wants to see that.

What do you do when you need a break from publishing?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Bad Hair Day!

Okay, so I can't believe I'm posting this today, when I'm not going to post the rest of this Thanksgiving week, and that means THIS POST will be up forever! But I am.

One of my author friends, Carrie Harris, just released her second book! I know what a big deal the second book is, and even more, I'm halfway through BAD HAIR DAY and you simply must read it! (Buy here!)

Carrie's having a contest to spread the celebration across the Interwebz, and it's super-easy to participate. All you have to do is post a picture of yourself having a BAD HAIR DAY. (Oh, and LINK HERE.)


Yes, that's an 80s mullet. With fish. You're welcome.

For more about Carrie's books, including BAD YETI -- a hilarious short story set in the world of BAD HAIR DAY, go here.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Oh, How I Miss You

Dude, you know it! Today I'm participating in the Oh How I Miss You Blogfest, hosted by Alex, Matt, and Andrew.

This blogfest is all about the appreciation for the bloggers we love.

Do you have a couple blogger buddies who aren’t posting as often? Those who’ve pulled back and seem absent from the blogging world? Do you have blogger buddies you are grateful they are still around and would miss if they vanished? Now is your chance to show your appreciation and spotlight them!

For me, I haven't been reading as many blogs as I used to. Well, scratch that. I have been reading, but on my Kindle where I have a hard time commenting.

Today, we're supposed to honor those we've missed, and those we would miss should they stop blogging.

I Miss...
Lisa and Laura Roecker -- they are some of the funnest ladies in the world, and I love their books and their fashion commentary.

I Would Miss...
Peggy Eddleman -- she writes amazingly positive and upbeat blog posts, and her Facebook statuses are awesome. If she stopped blogging, I might die.

Erin Summerill -- not only is she a fabulous photographer, but she's just so dang funny! When I want to be funny, I study the works of Erin. No lie.

Miriam Forster -- and not only because I read her book, CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS, and now I stalk her... Well, okay, that's why. 

Beth Revis -- she is amazing and awesome and even listens to me rant sometimes. Plus, she's really smart. So I like reading her blog and feeling smart by osmosis.

Who would you miss if they stopped blogging? Who has taken a step back, and you miss them? Now's your chance to let them know!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Why We Don't Compare Ourselves

Okay, so it's no secret that authors are some of the most conflicted people on the planet. Oh, come on. Admit it to yourself. You have issues. Or maybe that's just me... Ha!

But if you spend any time on blogs, or twitter, or Facebook, you're going to see statuses and things that might twist the knife of jealousy, frustration, anger, or [insert negative emotion of choice here].

Sometimes we ask ourselves "Why can't AAA AMAZING NEWS happen for me?" Or "What are they doing that I'm not?" Or "#*!(%^!*!"

Those are dangerous sometimes. Those questions should not be asked, because the answer is always the same.

You don't live Awesome Person B's life, and they don't live yours.

The focus should be on yourself; this is one time to be completely selfish. It's a time to own your process, own your schedule, own your own life.

Maybe you have a family that needs dinner every night, and Person With Twenty-Nine Book Deals doesn't. Maybe you have a day job that sucks the life right out of your body. Maybe you can write fast, or maybe you write slow.

It doesn't matter. The focus should not be on what everyone else is doing in comparison to you. It should be about what you're doing to get better, grow more, take that next step in publishing.

So, today, that's what I'm focusing on. I'm happy for those who seem to be doing everything I want to do, don't get me wrong. But I'm not comparing.

Have you ever fallen into this dangerous comparison trap? Why do you think it's best to avoid it?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Building a World, Part Three: Social Classes

Okay, so continuing my series on building a world, we're here today to talk about social classes. You can see the posts on government and textiles here.

I think no matter what world you're building, whether that be a science fiction world on this planet or another one, or a fantasy world, there are social classes. Your main character falls into one of them, and there's usually some jostling between these classes as the story progresses.

Whenever I'm thinking of what kind of social classes I'd like in my books, I think of the movie In Time. Yeah, it has Justin Timberlake, which isn't as bad as you might think. *wink*

It wasn't my favorite movie ever, but it set up the social classes really well. There's part of the movie where Justin Timberlake -- Salas -- moves up the social ladder, so to speak. And it's very literal, as he passes through the different "time zones" of the world.

I love thinking about that part of In Time, and it helps me build my social classes in a way that makes sense to A) the plot, B) the main character, and C) the government I've already established.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • What class is my main character in now? 
  • How did they get there?
  • How can they advance? Is that even possible? What would have to happen? (In the movie In Time, Salas only advances through the time zones because someone died -- oh, and he's been accused of causing that death. So yeah.) 
  • What are the advantages of each social class? The disadvantages? 
  • Why would someone want to be in a position of power in this world? 
  • Why would they want to remain in their lower class? 
  • What are the consequences associated with moving classes? (Loss of family connections, loss of friendships, loss of freedoms, etc.) 

I find social classes fascinating, because you don't have to be writing speculative fiction to find them. You probably have them at your office, in your schools, or down the street in your own neighborhoods.

That's why the social classes in your novel need to be well developed -- because they have the power to truly resonate with readers.

What questions do you ask yourself about social classes when building your story world? 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Social Media Advice?

Dude, I can't seem to get these social media posts up on Wednesdays! Maybe I'll just have to adjust my schedule or something.

Anyway, today I'm looking for advice from you. If you were talking to someone who's new to the blogging world, new to the wide arena of publishing and looking to do something online, new to writing even, what would be your biggest piece of social media advice?

I want to hear what people see as the most important thing to do, or the most important thing NOT to do. 

So what do you think? What would you tell someone who was just dipping their toes in the social media waters?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thankful For My Readers!

Okay, so as I was out reading blogs last month, I stumbled across this blogfest happening. Now, I normally don't do a lot of blogfests for various reasons, but this one struck me as something important.

It's the Thankful For My Readers blogfest. You can find the details -- and sign up -- here on Vikki's blog.

The idea is to thank the people who read your work. CPs, beta readers, blog readers, or novel readers. Oh, and you're supposed to do it in a unique way.

So I thought and thought about what I'd do. Vlog? Requires makeup. Letter? How could I address that to everyone?

And then it struck me.

I've been revising a novel in verse. So why not verse? You can say a lot in just a few words.

So my free verse thank you:

To those who read this blog
Every time I post,
And comment in ways
That add to the conversation.

Thank you
For allowing me to read your words,
Be inspired by you,
Get to know you,
Buy your books.

Thank you
To those who read my
Before-published words,
Before they're ready,
Before they shine.

Thank you
For helping,

Thank you
To those who read my books,
Email me,
Post on Facebook,
Tell their friends.

Thank you
For leaving reviews,
Coming to signings,
Inviting to conferences,
Showing enthusiasm.

Thank you.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Building A World, Part Two: Textiles, Building Materials, and Food

Okay, so we're back today discussing how to build a world from the blank page up. It's not an easy thing to do, that's for sure. Last week, we talked about government and rules. I think that's one of the major points of world-building, because it can lend itself to the plot/conflict so well.

But it's the details that make your readers salivate over your world. Today, we're going to talk a bit about some details that can make your world more round, more rich, more real.

Textiles: This is the fabrics of your world. It might seem insignificant, but I've found that what people wear, what they have in their homes on the ceilings/walls/floors/furniture, and what they're surrounded with is a detail you should not ignore.

Clothing can give a good idea of setting. It can provide plot points and conflict. So what is this world clothed in? Are colors important? If so, which ones are the most important? Why? What can you do with the textiles of the world to make it unique, powerful, meaningful?

That's what you're doing here by paying particular attention to the textiles.

Building Materials: This is what the buildings/structures of your world are made of. I've read many a book where the attention to detail is so seamlessly woven in, it makes the world that much more real and enjoyable.

I mean, Hogwarts, anyone?

In fantasy and science fiction, we want a setting that transports us from the ordinary. You can paint the picture of what the world is like, how it's different from ours, and what the main character has to deal with by giving us a good description of what the structures are constructed of. Not every palace is made of marble, just like not every castle is made of stone. So what is your world made of?

Foods: I think this is my favorite part, but mostly because I love food. Some of my favorite books have a vein of food interlaced in them. (Read THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS -- this book made me realize that I liked fantasy worlds that have unique foods.)

What are your characters eating? How is this contributing to the world you've imagined? Because it should. I think sometimes we fall into the traps of "traditional" foods for fantasy and science fiction, but we don't have to. We can stretch our imaginations and come up with menus and foods that make our world unique, and rich, and full.

I'll freely admit that I don't think of these things during the first draft. I'm just trying to get the plot figured out and the character developed. But on the second, third, and fourth passes, I'm really paying attention to making my world more three-dimensional and alive. And I do it with textiles, buildings, and foods.

What do you do to breathe more life into your world? Do you have to pay particular attention to these things, or do they come naturally to you as you write? 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Social Media and (Self-Imposed) Guidelines

Okay, so you might have noticed that I've added a little structure to my blogging. This is mostly because I've been spewing stuff out here on the blogosphere for like, 5 years now (okay, maybe not that long. Maybe only 4), and while there's a neverending supply of things to talk about, even I run dry.

Or maybe I'm addicted to schedules and routines. It's a toss up.

But I've been doing a sort of "writing how-to" series thing on Mondays, and I thought it might be fun to talk social media on Wednesdays. I sort of missed it this week due to the craziness of Halloween, so I'm putting it up today.

I think I'll start with how I view social media, and the guidelines I've come up with for myself.

So I actively participate in 3 social media outlets that I use to promote myself and my books:
1. This blog
2. Twitter
3. Facebook

I do talk about personal things on all 3 of those, but if I wasn't a writer and didn't have books, I most likely would not have accounts at any of those places. I am also on Pinterest, but I don't use that for promotional purposes, but only to find ways to clean my jetted tub.

So I view my social media outlets as a way I can spread the word about book deals, reviews, cover reveals, what I'm working on, etc. My social media outlets give me a safe place to talk about myself and my work, as well as provide a place where I can keep up with others, their interests, and their books. That's how I view social media.

I do not sit and think about what to post on twitter or Facebook. If something occurs to me naturally, I post it. I want these two places to be very organic, almost spontaneous, because that's how I use them. I do, however, think about my blog posts, and plan them in advance.

My guidelines for myself regarding social media are pretty simple:
1. Talk about more than my books.
2. Rule of 5: For every one thing I post about my books, I try to post at least 5 non-book things, or talk about someone else's book before I post about me again.
3. Be willing to RT for others, read for others, blog for others.
4. Engage. I try to respond to blog comments, visit blogs, respond to @-messages, FB messages/posts, etc. It's a conversation, and I try to engage in it. 
5. Be positive and genuine. Feeling down? I just stay offline. Heart not in it? Stay offline.

So there you go! That's how I view my social media outlets, and the guidelines I have for myself about them. I think next week, I'll talk about Facebook, and what I do there social media wise.

Do you have something social media related you'd like me to discuss? Do you have guidelines for yourself for the different social media outlets? How do you view them?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

You Know What November Means...

Right? Or maybe not, since I'm not actually participating in National Novel Writing Month this month. I just don't have it in me to pen another novel right now.

That said, I have pretty much done nothing but put words to paper for most of 2012. Nearly everything I've written this year is in first draft form, thus...

I'm going to be participating with a fabulous group of people in a National Novel REVISION month.

That's right. And today, we're posting our goals for the next 30 days. Now *gulp* these are probably super-lofty, and I reserve the right to bail, er, change this as the month rolls by.

But for now, as of November 1, here's what I'm planning to revise into perfection:
1. ABANDON. Uhhh, that's right. That novel that's coming out in just 8 short months? Haven't edited it yet -- but I will! It is going to be SO AWESOME you guys (*cries*), and I'm totally going to win all the prizes in the virtual prize bucket.

2. YA contemporary in verse. Yes, I've finished the book, and I've actually run it through my critique group. But for some reason, I'm just not feeling like it's quite there yet. So I'm going to work on this bad boy as part of NaNoRevMo.

3. YA fantasy. Oh, boy. This one is a doozy. I have some major notes on this book, and I've made an initial pass through this monster (let's just say the word count on this mother is ginormous), but it still needs some TLC.

And the scary part? My husband is reading the beginning. It's the first thing he's reading with the purpose of critiquing. Saying I'm scared wouldn't even be in the same ballpark of what I actually feel (and he reads my blog regularly, so I'm sure we'll have a convo about it at some point today).

So there you go! My revision goals for NaNoRevMo.

Are you participating in NaNo? Have other goals? Want to revise with us? Let's do this thing!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Building A World, Part One: Government

Okay, so my trilogy blog posts are done. I was sort of at a loss as to what I might tackle next, because I really like discussing "how-to" things in writing, and so I turned to something I constantly have to do: building a world.

This could be a fantasy world, a futuristic/science fiction world, or even a contemporary world. All books have settings, and even in something as familiar as high school, there's a hierarchy to how things work.

So today we're going to discuss a main component of any world: government.

You must establish the role of government in your world. Some questions to consider:

  • Who makes the laws?
  • Who enforces them?
  • What are the punishments if the rules are broken?
  • What kinds of rules/laws are there?
  • How did these laws come about?
  • How does one rise to a position of power? (See why this applies to high school? Ha!)
  • How does one lose their position of power?
  • Does the MC agree with the government? Fear it? Want to change it? Live under its protection willingly? 

And then we get to the real meat of your story. Because usually, the MC isn't just going along willingly with Those In Charge (TIC). They might be trying to subvert the government without drawing any attention to themselves (example: MATCHED by Ally Condie). In essence, they're hiding. Learning what TIC are really like, what their world is really like.

Which, sidenote: This is why YA fiction is such a great place to anchor stories like this. Because adolescents -- and uh, a lot of adults too -- are figuring out what their world is really like.

So once you've got a pretty good idea of how the government came to be, who's in charge of the government, how it runs, and how your MC views it, you're ready to consider these questions:

  • How far will TIC go to maintain their way of rule?
  • How far will the MC go to change the way their world is governed?
  • Is it even possible to change the entire government in my story?
  • Does it need to be changed? Or can resolution be found while the government is still intact?
  • What does my MC need to enact change? (In ERAGON, he needed the dragon.)
  • Who does my MC need at his side to thwart TIC? (In CATCHING FIRE, Katniss had people on her side she didn't even know about.)
  • What does the MC envision the "new world" to be like? 
  • Who might run the new government?
  • Why might life be better being run in a different way? How might it be worse? 

And once you know all that, I believe you can write a world that A) makes sense, and B) can house a character and a plot.

We're going to continue our discussion of building a world next week, possibly with the subject of textiles, fabrics, and foods.

Have you built a world in your writing? Do you spend time answering these questions about government? What else would you add to the list?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Social Media Hangover?

Okay, so dude, there is so much going on on the social media channels. Day, night, morning, all the time!

I read a great post by Creepy Query Girl a couple of weeks ago, and if you haven't read it, you should.

Basically I agree with her assessment that there's just an overload of promotional things out there. Way more than there used to be three years ago, when the roads to publication were few and harder to step onto.

Now, I feel like I'm constantly inundated with requests to host people on my blog, read their books, or help promote their books. Not only that, but I'm still promoting my own books. With hundreds of thousands of books being published each year, how can one navigate the myriad of Rafflecopter giveaways, blog contests, and/or twitter chats (just to name a few)?

I'll tell you, it's not easy.

I find myself tuning out contests more an more. I glaze over tweets that read the same. I'm constantly trying to find my voice among a thousand other shouting authors.

It's a lot like this, actually...

Do twitter chats, rafflecopters, and blog contests still work? Sure. But I don't think they have the same impact now that they used to.

So what's an author to do during this social media hangover?



For the love, someone just tell me!

That's the problem: If I knew, so would everyone else, and that would be flooded too.

I know, I know, you're saying, "Dude, Elana, this is depressing. Give me some hope!" 

Well, here it is. Yes, the social media scene is flooded with giveaways and book blog tours, but there is something different about you and your books.



Don't be afraid to be yourself. Don't be afraid to think outside the box. 

Come up with a new way for people to enter a blog tour contest. 

Try to find a blog tour topic that anyone can participate in, whether they've read your book or not. 

Establish relationships with people online. 

Think through what you can do that no one else seems to be doing. 

Brainstorm with people, because two (or twenty) heads is always better than one. 

What do you think? Are you hung over from all the social media things going on? What ideas do you have to make your books stand out? 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Just Three More Days!

To enter to win an amazing book or ARC in my Review Drive for Possession or Surrender.

If you need full details, click here. (To enter, click here.)

Basically, if you leave a review for Possession or Surrender, you can enter to win cool books. And who doesn't want cool books??

Enter to win these signed books:

These are all ARCs -- advanced reader copies -- of books that aren't out yet!

CRASH by Lisa McMann, coming January 8, 2013

THEN YOU WERE GONE by Lauren Strasnick, coming  January 8, 2013

THE PROGRAM by Suzanne Young, coming  April 30, 2013

TEETH by Hannah Moskowitz, coming January 1, 2013

WITCH WORLD by Christopher Pike, coming November 13, 2012

THE GATHERING DARK by Christine Johnson, coming  February 12, 2013

THE MURMURINGS by Carly Anne West, coming March 5, 2013

AND if that weren't enough, I'm giving away a prize package of books to one lucky winner who helps spread the word about this Review Drive. These books aren't signed, but they are AWESOME! All hardcover unless noted:
1. IN HONOR by Jessi Kirby
2. GLIMPSE by Carol Lynch Williams (paperback)
3. SEE YOU AT HARRY'S by Jo Knowles
5. FURY by Elizabeth Miles

You can enter that here -- it takes a tweet or a blog post!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here's where you can leave reviews:
Possession on Amazon
Possession on Goodreads
Surrender on Amazon (I'd really like to get to 50!)
Surrender on Goodreads

Contest ends on Friday, October 26. Go forth and enter!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Writing a Trilogy, Part Three: Book Three

Okay, so you're back for part three! This is Book Three. (You can see my posts about writing a trilogy, part one and part two.)

So Book Three, in my experience, is The War. Plain and simple. You've set up what's wrong with the world/MC in Book One. You've explored what they're going to do to fix the world/themselves in Book Two. And now it's time to DO IT.

It's the end conflict, and everything has to come to a head by the end of the book.

Think of the trilogies (or series) you've read. I'm thinking of The Hunger Games, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, and Harry Potter.

Think about what happens in the last book. Basically, your main character overcomes all their shortcomings, figures out the mysteries, solves the puzzles, and prevails over the villain.

Sounds easy, right?


Sure, it sounds easy. But it's really hard to actually do.

Here are a few things that will hopefully help you along your way.

I like to think of Book Three as Act Three in the three-act story structure model. And Act Three is my favorite part of any novel to write.

You get to have that Dark Night of the Soul moment we talked about at the end of Book Two. You can continue that a bit into Book Three, but really, Book Three is all about the Finale.

Now, if you've read Blake Snyder's SAVE THE CAT, you know he completely glazed over the Finale. What you need is the third book in that trilogy (no lie! There are THREE OF THEM!). It's called SAVE THE CAT STRIKES BACK.

And not only does it have a lot of great info about story structure, but it gives you a five-point finale.

This is exactly what Book Three is. The five-point finale for your series.

Let's examine a little bit here.

1. Gathering the Team: Main characters don't solve problems on their own. They have a team.

In MOCKINGJAY, Katniss have a team of people she's running with as they storm toward President Snow. So your job as the author is to first completely decimate your MC's team, and then gather them up again.

2. Once the team is gathered, they Execute the Plan. They have a plan, and they execute it. There should be an element of "this will never work" to their plan. I like to think of the movie Independence Day when I'm writing this part of my book/series.

Have you seen that movie? The part where Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith are like, "We're going to take this 50-year-old space ship up into outer space, fly into the mother ship, dock with it, download a virus, and fly out of there. Easy peasy lemon squeezy."

I actually scoffed in the theater when I saw it. I was like, "This is crazy! It will never work!"

And guess what? That's the point. It doesn't work.

Because of...

3. The High Tower Surprise. This is the part of the story where the plan that was being executed in Step 2 goes to pot. Things go wrong, the MC was over optimistic, and hey! The bad guys knew we were coming all along.

It looks like all is lost again, but... is it?!

This is where you have to show that growth in your MC. This is where they take who they were in Book One, combine it with what they learned in Book Two, and create a brand-new person that prevails in Book Three.

Because Act Three (and thus Book Three) is all about synthesis. Word math moment:
Who they were before + What they learned = New person who will overcome

This allows the MC to Dig Down Deep. They're forced to do so because A) there's no back-up plan, B) no one on their team has a solution, and C) they have nothing either. Thus, they have to Dig Down Deep to really strip away everything they thought they knew, and take that leap of faith into the great unknown. 

It's when Harry goes into the forest -- alone -- to face Voldemort, and ultimately his death.

Which paves the way for the Execution of the New Plan. And guess what, folks? This one works. It works, because the MC has let go of what they once were. They've searched the deepest parts of themselves, and took a step into the unknown. It works, because the person the MC has become is exactly who was needed all along to overthrow the villain. They weren't that person at the beginning, or the middle, but by the end?

Yeah, they're that person.

And that's what Book Three is about. Synthesizing your MC into the person they need to be to execute the plan that will work.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Writing Lessons from LOST

Okay, so I've been on a bit of an extended writing break. During this time, I've been finding my feet as I start school again, figure out how to make dinner every night and get the kidlets where they need to go, and...watching Lost.

All 6 seasons. All 120 episodes. In like, 3 weeks. Maybe 4.

Now, I'm not saying it's good or bad, but I did liken some things from it to writing. See, even when I'm not writing, I'm still thinking about writing.

And what I learned from Lost is that a character's backstory can make them a rounder, richer person. Their past can explain their present behavior. Their experience can make them into a hero.

I liked that part about Lost. I liked seeing the backstory of the individual characters. It makes me like them more, empathize with them, and helps me understand their choices in the present.

It's something we can do with our characters too. I've realized that I need to fully form the background of my characters in a more meaningful and complete way than I have before.

So there you go. Writing lessons from Lost.

Have you ever had a writing brainwave from something non-writing related? 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pinterest and Why I Love It

So I've recently become addicted to Pinterest. When it first came out, I was leery. I couldn't understand how to use it as an author. I signed up, but never logged in, and just--didn't--get--it.

Then about two months ago, I had a realization.

Pinterest isn't a tool for authors.


I have another life outside of publishing. It's a good life too, where I make dinner and paint pumpkins and stuff.

Picture proof. All ideas from Pinterest!

And that's what Pinterest is for! Suddenly, I've become addicted. And it has nothing to do with promoting my books, online interaction with fans, or anything writing related. Sure, it can be used for those purposes, but it wasn't designed as such.

So we shouldn't be trying to use it as such. And once I realized that, I fell in love with Pinterest.

Do you use Pinterest? Come follow me, and I'll follow you back so I can see what awesomeness you're doing in your real life!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Writing a Trilogy, Part Two: Book Two

Okay, so last week we started our exploration of writing a trilogy. I'm back today to talk about the second part of the trilogy: Book Two.

I think Book Two is the hardest. Let's just get that out in the open up front. The author has the challenge of living up to Book One, and the characters aren't new. The world isn't new. The problems aren't new.

We got to see all of those things in the first book, so Book Two usually suffers from Little Sister Syndrome. In fact, in my exploration of trilogies, I read many (MANY) a second book that I felt was exactly like the first. I felt like I'd read the same book twice.

So that's a huge challenge we need to overcome in Book Two. I think there are some "easy" ways to do this. You can write a companion novel. A spin-off. Narrate from a different character's POV. Things like that. But no matter what, Book Two is part of the trilogy, and needs to contribute to the overall story/plot arc of the series.

So what do we need to do in Book Two?

To me, Book Two is the Now We Know What's Wrong With Our World, and This is What We're Going to do to Fix It book.

Applying this to the character, it's the I Know What's Wrong With Myself, and I'm Going to Try to Change novel.

This follows nicely with Book One, which was the This is What's Wrong With My World/Character.

That's the next step in the trilogy. Now that the MC knows, what are they going to do to fix/change things? That's the essence of Book Two.

Of course, Book Two needs it's own plot too. It's own set of problems. It's own main conflict. And this is often where authors fall into the trap of writing another Book One.

So don't do that. Instead, think of these things as you're devising the plot for Book Two. Think of Book Two as the second part of the trilogy. Think of it's role in advancing the series enough to get to Book Three--which is The War. If you don't advance us far enough, Book Three will suffer. If you try to rewrite Book One, Book Two suffers.

So here's how to make Book Two do exactly what it needs to do:
1. Focus on the end. You're driving this crazy train, and you have a specific destination: Book Three. If you know where you need to be for The War to begin, you know what needs to be accomplished in Book Two. And knowing that is more than half the battle.

2. Stretch the main character. They overcame some things to solve the main conflict in Book One. But they still have Things That Need Fixing, and we can continue to stretch and grow them in the plot of Book Two. During this stretching, make sure that more things get fixed.

3. Get to the heart of the overall main conflict. Think of Book Two as the middle act in the three-act trilogy. Act Two--according to Blake Snyder and his beats--takes up half the book. Act One (Book One) is just the beginning. Act Three (Book Three) is just how it ends. But Book Two is the entire middle.

Which might be another reason it's so hard to write.

But in Act Two (Book Two), there are several things to address that will help you find the heart of the series and move toward Book Three.

The Series Midpoint: This is a defining moment for the series. It's when consequences are suddenly made clear for the series. And it happens in Book Two--usually about halfway through. It's where the main character knows exactly what they're up against, and even how far the antagonist will go to achieve their diabolical ends.

I like to think of Harry Potter. Book 4 this time--which is the midpoint of the HP series. Book 4 is full of awesomeness. The Tri-Wizard Cup. But during all this, we realize how far Voldemort will go to achieve his desires. He will kill and kidnap. He will send in spies. He will do whatever it takes.

And Harry realizes it too, right there in the graveyard after watching Cedric die, and being transported from the maze with the portkey.

This leads us to two more important things that are important to the series that happen in Book Two.

The All is Lost Moment, and the Dark Night of the Soul.

The main character should experience a profound All is Lost moment for the series. To me, this is when Harry's blood no longer is a protection to him. It's exactly when Voldemort presses his finger to Harry's scar.

The Dark Night of the Soul is the darkness before the dawn. We can usually disguise the Dark Night of the Soul as the climax of Book Two. It's all wrapped up like this:

All is Lost moment for the series
Climax of Book Two
Dark Night of the Soul period for the series

This is where the main character--though they may have just overcome the main conflict in this story--realizes that they have a heckuva long way to go to beat the bad guys. It's where they have no solutions to orchestrate that defeat, and they're clinging to their safe and trusted places for refuge until the sun rises.

This is usually how Book Two ends. There's a glimmer of hope on the horizon, but we can't see it yet--and neither can they. 

So there you go! Long-winded, but a bit of a map for how to navigate the landmines of Book Two in a trilogy. 

What do you think? Read some Book Two's that are just a repeat of Book One? Read some great ones? What's essential material for Book Two?

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Wisdom of Justin Bieber

No, really. Go with me on this for just a minute. So my seven-year-old daughter really likes Justin Bieber. I've bought her books about him from the book orders. Seriously. I've listened to two songs by him, and okay. They're songs.

Then I heard his new song, "As Long As You Love Me." I downloaded it, put it on the iPod, listened to it in the car. Etc. Etc.

I'm mindlessly listening one day, not really thinking about much, and I hear these words:

But the grass ain't always greener on the other side,
It's green where you water it
So I know we got issues baby true, true, true,
But I'd rather work on this with you

And oh my heck, you guys! It's so, so true--for publishing too.

I think we often think that we'll be happier if we're doing something else. If we can get an agent, or a different publisher, or a better book deal, or the marketing support, or whatever.

But it's just not true. The grass isn't greener somewhere else. It's greenest where we water it.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

More Review Drive Prizes!

Okay, so the Review Drive for Possession and Surrender is in full swing! Thanks to those of you who have entered. (If you need full details, click here.) ((To enter, click here.))

Basically, if you leave a review for Possession or Surrender, you can enter to win cool books. And who doesn't want cool books??

So far, we've got these signed books:

And over the last few days, I've been announcing several ARCs on the Facebook page. So all of these are now up for grabs too -- simply for leaving a review for Possession or Surrender!

CRASH by Lisa McMann, coming January 8, 2013

THEN YOU WERE GONE by Lauren Strasnick, coming  January 8, 2013

THE PROGRAM by Suzanne Young, coming  April 30, 2013

TEETH by Hannah Moskowitz, coming January 1, 2013

WITCH WORLD by Christopher Pike, coming November 13, 2012

THE GATHERING DARK by Christine Johnson, coming  February 12, 2013

THE MURMURINGS by Carly Anne West, coming March 5, 2013

AND if that weren't enough, I'm giving away a prize package of books to one lucky winner who helps spread the word about this Review Drive. These books aren't signed, but they are AWESOME! All hardcover unless noted:
1. IN HONOR by Jessi Kirby
2. GLIMPSE by Carol Lynch Williams (paperback)
3. SEE YOU AT HARRY'S by Jo Knowles
5. FURY by Elizabeth Miles

You can enter that here -- it takes a tweet or a blog post!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here's where you can leave reviews:
Possession on Amazon
Possession on Goodreads
Surrender on Amazon (I'd really like to get to 50!)
Surrender on Goodreads

See Elana's recent blog posts

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