Thursday, April 24, 2014

ELEVATED on sale!

Dude, so it's the last Thursday of April, which means that National Poetry Month is coming to a close. So I thought it would be fun and appropriate to put my verse novel on sale. So from now until the end of April, ELEVATED is on sale for only 99 cents!

I hope you'll consider getting a copy if you haven't yet, and helping to spread the word to anyone who likes YA romance.


About ELEVATED: The last person seventeen-year-old Eleanor Livingston wants to see on the elevator—let alone get stuck with—is her ex-boyfriend Travis, the guy she's been avoiding for five months.

Plagued with the belief that when she speaks the truth, bad things happen, Elly hasn’t told Trav anything. Not why she broke up with him and cut off all contact. Not what happened the day her father returned from his deployment to Afghanistan. And certainly not that she misses him and still thinks about him everyday.

But with nowhere to hide and Travis so close it hurts, Elly’s worried she won’t be able to contain her secrets for long. She’s terrified of finally revealing the truth, because she can’t bear to watch a tragedy befall the boy she still loves.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How to Establish a Great Magic System, Part Four

Okay, onto Part Four today! We're flying through these! I hope that you've found them somewhat useful as you consider writing a fantasy or science fiction novel. (See Part One, Part Two, and/or Part Three.)


Onward and upward to Question 4: How Is Magic Viewed?

  • By society
  • By other magic users
  • By the MC
  • Not only magic, but how are magic users viewed? By the public? Each other?

This is where you establish how the magic is viewed in society. Is it generally accepted? Unaccepted? Laws against using magic, or being a magician? How does the MC view magic and magic users? If s/he is a magic user, how do they feel about their society’s limitations or opinions on magic? How is the magic viewed among magic users? Is that different from society?

How are magic users viewed? Feared? Respected? Abhorred? All this should be established as you’re building your magic system. A lot of this can go toward limiting your magic users and your main character as well. So don’t skip over this step.



I did use Google to aid me in my research. I found three places that provided me with the most insight and useful information: Brandon Sanderson's Laws of Magic (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), WikiHow (don't laugh, it had good stuff!), and The Four Part Land (he has six parts, but they're all linked at the top of this one).

So I read (ahem, maybe I skimmed a little. Some of the posts are long!) up on magic systems. I thought about what *I* liked in a magic system. I thought about the fantasy novels I'd read (because I don't read high-high fantasy like Sanderson or many of the authors/titles they talk about in these posts). I thought about Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, the TV show Merlin, movies like The Prestige, and other -- in my opinion -- accessible references. (Basically I'm saying I was too lazy to take the time to read those high fantasy novels. I reflected on what I was familiar with. And that's a tip I always give when I'm teaching: Use what you know to draw conclusions and create learning for what you don't.)

Monday, April 21, 2014

How To Establish a Great Magic System, Part Three

Okay, so I'm back again, now onto the third question you might consider as you build and establish a magic system. (You can see Part One and Part Two here.) I think it's important to consider all aspects of the system, but if that freaks you out before writing, never fear! I answer some of the questions before writing, some as I'm going, and some after I'm done. So if you're not an outliner, you can still use the questions you need, in the order YOU need them.

Question 3: What is the Purpose of the Magic?

  • Contributes to character motivation?
  • Main element or mysterious?
  • Plot-based?
  • Serves the story?

Maybe this should be question 1, but you need to know the purpose of your magic system. Is it the main element of your book, or something more mysterious, happening behind the scenes? How much does it affect your main character, what they do, their motivations?

The purpose of the magic should be to serve your story. If it’s just some “cool” element and has no real place in the plot, you’ll have a well, not a very good book. The purpose of the magic must be convincing and cohesive to both character development and plot, or it’s just lame. So make the magic integral to both character and plot.

I think any time you can make the elements of world, setting, character, and plot cross -- meaning one impacts the other in a meaningful and uncontrived way -- your novel will feel like it was done deliberately, and readers always want to feel like the author is in control of what's unfolding on the page.

So examining the purpose of the magic can help you develop character motivation, character flaws, character strengths, and determine character growth. The purpose of the magic can (and should!) advance the plot. The purpose of the magic can be tied up in the world/setting. Everything can be intertwined so that when things start going bad, everything starts going bad -- which allows your main character to develop into a hero.




I did use Google to aid me in my research. I found three places that provided me with the most insight and useful information: Brandon Sanderson's Laws of Magic (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), WikiHow (don't laugh, it had good stuff!), and The Four Part Land (he has six parts, but they're all linked at the top of this one).

So I read (ahem, maybe I skimmed a little. Some of the posts are long!) up on magic systems. I thought about what *I* liked in a magic system. I thought about the fantasy novels I'd read (because I don't read high-high fantasy like Sanderson or many of the authors/titles they talk about in these posts). I thought about Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, the TV show Merlin, movies like The Prestige, and other -- in my opinion -- accessible references. (Basically I'm saying I was too lazy to take the time to read those high fantasy novels. I reflected on what I was familiar with. And that's a tip I always give when I'm teaching: Use what you know to draw conclusions and create learning for what you don't.)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

THE SOUND OF LETTING GO by Stasia Ward Kehoe

Okay, so it's Thursday, and I've been spotlighting an amazing verse novel every week this month for National Poetry Month.

Today's title is THE SOUND OF LETTING GO by Stasia Ward Kehoe. This is Stasia's second verse novel, and the first, AUDITION, is just as compelling and beautiful.

I sort of stumbled onto Stasia's work through a group I used to be involved with, The Bookanistas. We formed several years ago as a support system, and one of the things we did was mail around ARCs for review. Sometimes they were just ARCs we got from publishers, but sometimes they were our own ARCs.

That's how I came upon AUDITION. I read it early in my genre exploration of verse novels, and I loved it. Since then, I've left The Bookanistas, but I didn't forget about Stasia's writing. So when THE SOUND OF LETTING GO came out earlier this year, I couldn't wait to read it.


About THE SOUND OF LETTING GO: For sixteen years, Daisy has been good. A good daughter, helping out with her autistic younger brother uncomplainingly. A good friend, even when her best friend makes her feel like a third wheel. When her parents announce they’re sending her brother to an institution—without consulting her—Daisy’s furious, and decides the best way to be a good sister is to start being bad. She quits jazz band and orchestra, slacks in school, and falls for bad-boy Dave.

But one person won’t let Daisy forget who she used to be: Irish exchange student and brilliant musician Cal. Does she want the bad boy or the prodigy? Should she side with her parents or protect her brother? How do you know when to hold on and when—and how—to let go?

I even blurbed the book. Here's what I said: “Achingly beautiful, The Sound of Letting Go takes readers down a dangerous path while touching the heart and encouraging hope.”

And that's how I feel about it. It is achingly beautiful. It is about hope, about Daisy learning how to stand up for what she believes while still being a sister and a daughter. I loved the struggles she goes through, because they felt real -- and they're struggles that don't stop just because we become adults. So the book felt real to me, even outside of being a YA novel. It felt true to life, true to having to make hard decisions in many different areas of life.

But it was also hopeful. I don't need a perfect ending. I just want to feel like the main character will find their way, whether I see it on the page or not. Because I want to feel hopeful about my own life. I don't know what's going to happen yet, but I want to believe that I can figure it out -- just like Daisy does. And THE SOUND OF LETTING GO does that.

What have you read that has provided you with hope?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How To Establish a Great Magic System, Part Two

So we started exploring how to establish a great magic system earlier this week. (Click here to see it.) I said there why and how I started exploring this topic, as well as citing the Internet resources I used. I won't bore you with those again, but I am going to link the resources again at the end of the post.

But for today, let's dive right into question 2.


Question 2: Where Does the Magic Come From?

  • what powers it?
  • where does the energy come from?
  • do the characters, the setting, or the world contribute to the magic?


I think the best way to form a cohesive book is to tie elements together. They don't operate independently of one another. The magic in your novel should facilitate the character development and plot. The plot should facilitate character development and world-building. The character development should facilitate the magic system and the setting. If you can tie them all together, the individual elements won't feel tacked on or extraneous. Your book will feel well-thought out and cohesive.

So as you're planning and developing your magic system, use it to tie your world elements, your setting, your plot, and your characters all together. One way to do that is here, in Question 2: Where Does the Magic Come From?

The source of the magic, or what’s powering it, can provide conflict if you want it to. Conflict for the plot. Conflict for the main character, either externally or internally. Look for things that have good ties to the nature of your world. The elements, the characters, the setting. How can these contribute to where the magic stems from? Look for things that tie the magic to other setting elements and which make life hard for the practitioners--especially the main character (if they're a magic user).

So now we've examined who can use the magic, and what's powering the magic. Stay tuned for part three, coming next Monday!



I did use Google to aid me in my research. I found three places that provided me with the most insight and useful information: Brandon Sanderson's Laws of Magic (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), WikiHow (don't laugh, it had good stuff!), and The Four Part Land (he has six parts, but they're all linked at the top of this one).

So I read (ahem, maybe I skimmed a little. Some of the posts are long!) up on magic systems. I thought about what *I* liked in a magic system. I thought about the fantasy novels I'd read (because I don't read high-high fantasy like Sanderson or many of the authors/titles they talk about in these posts). I thought about Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, the TV show Merlin, movies like The Prestige, and other -- in my opinion -- accessible references. (Basically I'm saying I was too lazy to take the time to read those high fantasy novels. I reflected on what I was familiar with. And that's a tip I always give when I'm teaching: Use what you know to draw conclusions and create learning for what you don't.)

Monday, April 14, 2014

How To Establish a Great Magic System, Part One

Okay, so a while ago, I was asked to speak at a teen writer's camp at BYU. I love talking to teen writers, so I said yes. A few months pass, and finally I have to give a topic I'm going to teach about. Well, it's a science fiction and fantasy camp, so I decided to go with "How to Establish a Killer Magic System" -- something I'd been studying and learning about myself.

See, I've written a futuristic fantasy that I'm going to self-publish this summer, and I've got a contemporary fantasy I'm hoping my agent can sell in the traditional market. I love fantasy. I read a lot of fantasy. But I always think there's room for improvement in my own craft, and as I've been revising the futuristic fantasy for publication, I realized that I needed to really cement my magic system.

So for myself and for the class, I came up with 10 questions authors can ask themselves as they establish their magic systems. Oh, and this works for technology systems in science fiction novels as well.

I did use Google to aid me in my research. I found three places that provided me with the most insight and useful information: Brandon Sanderson's Laws of Magic (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), WikiHow (don't laugh, it had good stuff!), and The Four Part Land (he has six parts, but they're all linked at the top of this one).

So I read (ahem, maybe I skimmed a little. Some of the posts are long!) up on magic systems. I thought about what *I* liked in a magic system. I thought about the fantasy novels I'd read (because I don't read high-high fantasy like Sanderson or many of the authors/titles they talk about in these posts). I thought about Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, the TV show Merlin, movies like The Prestige, and other -- in my opinion -- accessible references. (Basically I'm saying I was too lazy to take the time to read those high fantasy novels. I reflected on what I was familiar with. And that's a tip I always give when I'm teaching: Use what you know to draw conclusions and create learning for what you don't.)

After I'd done a little light Internet reading, I formed my 10 questions. Today, we'll just explore the first.


Question 1: Who Can Use the Magic?


  • the main character?
  • special characters?
  • everyone?
  • the wealthy?
  • a specific gender?
  • only those trained?


You must decide who in your world can use the magic (or who has access to the technology in the world). Only a few people, designated to do so? Is the main character included in this group, or not? Can everyone use it? Only the wealthy? Or the poor? Only men, or women, or children? Only those who are trained? Those who are genetically capable? (Which leads us to another question we’ll get to later.)

But you have to know who can and who can’t use the magic, or who does and who doesn’t have access to the technology, in your world. This will help you establish weaknesses and limitations on the magic--also something we'll discuss in a later question.

So when creating a magic system, the first step is determining who will be able to access that power -- and why. Why them, and not everyone? Why only a select few? The why is important too.

So there's Question 1. I'll be back over the course of the next several weeks exploring all 10 questions, and I hope you'll join me!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME

Okay, so in celebration of National Poetry Month, I thought I'd share with you the very first novel in verse I'd ever read. It was I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME by Lisa Schroeder. I've since read a few more of Lisa's books, and they're all everything a verse novel should be: angsty, precise, vivid, and tense.

Since you have so little room in a verse novel, every word has to count. And Lisa knows how to choose the right words to make them worth their weight in gold.

So let's learn a little bit more about I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME.


Girl meets boy.


Girl loses boy.


Girl gets boy back...


...sort of.


Ava can't see him or touch him, unless she's dreaming. She can't hear his voice, except for the faint whispers in her mind. Most would think she's crazy, but she knows he's here.

Jackson. The boy Ava thought she'd spend the rest of her life with. He's back from the dead, as proof that love truly knows no bounds.

It's got a paranormal slant to it, which in my eyes, makes it that much better. If you're looking for a novel in verse to read as your first introduction to the style, I highly recommend I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME.

What book have you loved that introduced you to a new genre?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Celebrating National Poetry Month!

Okay, so it's April, which means it's National Poetry Month. I know, I know, some of you are madly blogging with the A-Z blogging challenge. My hat goes off to you! I can barely think of anything to blog about these days, though I do have something up my sleeve!

Anyway, since I wrote a novel in verse, I thought I'd spotlight a few books this month that are written in verse that are absolutely wonderful.


Up today is INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN by Thanhha La. It is a brilliant novel that you can read in about 45 minutes. It details the story of Ha as she leaves Saigon and comes to America.

Here's the official blurb: For all the ten years of her life, Ha has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by, and the beauty of her very own papaya tree. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Ha and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope.

This is the moving story of one girl's year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next.


I loved how the story came to life with just a few words. I loved the relationships between Ha and her brothers, as well as her mother. The sparseness of the words allows the emotion to flow freely. I think that's one of my favorite things about verse novels in general. INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN is no exception. It's a beautiful novel about a girl and her family surviving terrible things.

I hope if you're looking for a novel in verse to read this National Poetry Month that you'll try INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN. I don't think you're regret it.

Have you ever read a novel in verse? Which one did you like?

Monday, March 31, 2014

FLESH AND BONE by Lee Strauss

Introducing  Flesh & Bone
(The Minstrel Series #2)

She can’t remember. He can’t forget.

Eva Baumann is invisible. Sebastian Weiss is famous. In a perfect world Eva would be fearless and Sebastian would be guiltless.

It’s not a perfect world.

Another amazing cover by the very talented Steven Novak of Steven Novak Designs!

The Minstrel Series is a collection of contemporary romance novels set in the singer/songwriter world. The books are companion novels, with shared settings and characters, but each is a complete stand-alone story with a HEA (happily ever after) and no cliffhangers!

FLESH & BONE INCLUDES MORE GREAT ORGINAL MUSIC MP3s! The Music for Flesh & Bone is amazing! View it here.

Haven't read #1 Sun & Moon? Get it here:
Barnes and Noble |
Kobo| iTunes | Amazon World

EXCERPT of Flesh & Bone - read to the end and enter to WIN a $20.00 Amazon gift card and songs!

The Scars They See
Gabriele had dared her to do this. “Just walk in, sign your name, and play a song for heaven's sake.” It was easy for her to say. Eva Baumann's sister didn't understand what it was like to be afraid. What it was like to be invisible. Gabriele oozed confidence, tall and lithe like a runway model, lighting up every room she entered. She was pretty, talented, smart.

And not handicapped.

Eva eyed the graffiti-marred entrance of the Blue Note Pub and watched as other musicians and-patrons strolled into the darkened room. Music pumping from the sound system escaped into the narrow corridor of four-story stone buildings every time the heavy wooden door opened and closed. Eva carefully set down her guitar case and rested her hand over her chest, willing her heartbeat to slow. The muscle pulsed erratically, and her stomach wanted to dry heave.

Eva gripped her cane with white knuckles. She'd learned to master the uneven sidewalks with careful steps, but the cobblestones were still a nemesis, especially in colder months like March. The tip of her cane had to center on a stone, otherwise she could lose her balance and fall. It was necessary to wait for a break in traffic or to continue to the corner for a walk light before daring to cross the street.

She took a deep breath. She could do this. This was just an irrational fear—not real. Nothing bad would happen to her in that room. It was filled with people who loved music as much as she did. It was loud and crowded and dark, and no one would expect her to talk. When they called her name, she'd focus on the small stage, blocking out everyone in the room out until she safely stepped up. Then she'd just close her eyes and pretend she was at the street church playing to the people who came for the soup they provided.

She could do this.

A cold wind blew hair across Eva's face, and she snapped to attention just as the little green man flashed on to indicate it was safe to walk. She lumbered across with a guitar in her left hand and her cane in her right. The weight of her instrument pulled her shoulders forward, her back arching slightly under her winter jacket. She caught her reflection in a store window and frowned. She looked like a crazy, old lady, not a nineteen-year-old girl.

Eva tucked her cane under her left armpit and reached for the door. It swung open sharply, a patron had exited at the same moment, and she was shoved against the wall, nearly losing her balance.

“Excuse me,” the guy said. He held the door open, waiting for her to go in. She wanted to turn around and head straight home, but the guy's eyes stayed on her, waiting. The cold air whooshed inside.

It would be impolite not to pass through. “Thank you,” she said softly. She leaned on her cane and entered. She'd been to the Blue Note before. Gabriele and her British boyfriend Lennon Smith had dragged her out one night, so she knew what to expect. There was a bar to the right and table seating to the left. A poster on the wall read: “If you want to chat with your pals while the band is playing, take your conversation outside.” The air smelled of beer and cigarette smoke clinging to damp wool jackets. At the back of the room was a small stage lit by two lights hanging from the ceiling.

Her stomach churned, and once again she questioned herself. Why had she come? What did she have to prove? Why did she care so much what Gabriele thought? She stared back at the door.

“Hello, ma Cherie. Would you like to sign your name?”

The gruff yet friendly voice stopped Eva before she could leave. She knew the manager, Herr Maurice Leduc, by reputation, but had never spoken to him before. “I don't know,” she answered.

“Well—” His eyes darted to the guitar in her hand. “I just thought since you lugged that thing in with you.” He pushed the sign-up sheet closer.

Eva didn't have the heart to deny the man. She took the pen and scribbled her name.

“Wonderful,” Herr Leduc said with a sincere grin that filled a round face. “I look forward to hearing you play...” he glanced down at his sheet, “Eva Baumann.”

The room consisted of a lot of wood. Tables, chairs, benches and floors—all darkly stained, old wood. Even the ceiling had rough, open wood beams. Eva claimed a nearby empty chair and breathed in and out, long and slow. She was here. She'd done it. Wait until she told Gabriele. Wouldn't she be surprised?

A server arrived, and Eva ordered a cola. The other people who shared the long table gave her sideways glances at her childish drink and cheered each other as they lifted their beer glasses.

Herr Leduc walked on stage and welcomed everyone. He called the first act, a girl with long, golden hair, he introduced as Katja Stoltz.

Eva listened intently impressed with the girl's talent and the way she took over the stage like she owned it. That was what Eva needed to do. Own it.

The girl finished her song, and after much-deserved applause, she joined her friends at a table across the room. A guy in his early twenties with a peacock tattoo along one arm stood to give Katja Stoltz a hug. He had messy, dark brown hair and bristles on his face, like he hadn’t shaven in a few days. He laughed and high-fived her before sitting and draping the peacock around a thin girl with spiky hair.

A shiver ran up Eva's back. She recognized that guy. Last summer, when she was playing guitar for the homeless, many of them had raised their hands to God in praise. The outside metal blinds had been raised, they always were when the church was open, and a group of guys had stopped to watch from across the street. They began to laugh and then threw their arms in the air, mocking the people worshiping inside.

That was the first time Eva had seen that peacock tattoo, and she'd never forget the laughing face of the handsome boy who went with it.

Her short-lived confidence shriveled at the thought of being the guy's next target. Oh, why did she come? She'd leave right now if she thought she could do it without making a scene. The room had filled, and there was no way she could slip out unnoticed with her guitar and her cane.

She sipped her cola and kept her eyes focused on each act as it was called. Every time Herr Leduc stepped to the mic to call a name, Eva’s heart filled with nervous dread and emptied with a flush of relief when she didn't hear hers.

“Sebastian Weiss,” Herr Leduc said.

The guy with the peacock tattoo hooted, shifted out from behind his table and grabbed his guitar.

So that was his name.

He hopped onto the stage and strapped on a guitar with an over-confidence Eva envied. She wanted him to be terrible so that she could add self-delusion to his other obvious traits of conceit and insensitivity, but unfortunately he wasn't. His voice was smooth and strong, and he had great range.

She also happened to notice the flex in his biceps that poked out of the short sleeves of his dark T-shirt and how his jeans fit nicely on slender hips.

He finished his song and fisted the air like he just won a boxing match. The audience went crazy. Eva couldn't help but join in the applause. Something about Sebastian was electric. His aura and competence, his popularity—she couldn't peel her eyes off him. His arm returned to its position around the girl beside him who hadn't smiled once. Such a contrast to Sebastian who couldn't stop smiling. He seemed quite taken by the pixie girl and kissed her excitedly on the cheek.

“Eva Baumann.”

What? Eva had been so busy watching the table of cool people, she hadn't been paying attention.

Herr Leduc's accented German bellowed again. “Eva Baumann.”

Eva's heart stopped. Then raced. Her hands broke out into a sweat, and she blinked back the tears welling up behind her eyes, which were opened far too wide. Her head prickled hotly, and she swallowed hard. She could sense the attention of the room, necks craning, everyone searching, waiting for the next act to stand.

Herr Leduc stared at her, and all she could do was shake her head. He gave her a gracious nod and called the next name.

A girl with short, dark hair bounced out of her seat, and within seconds Eva was forgotten. She took advantage of the swirl of commotion that occurred between acts, grabbing her guitar and cane, and limped to the entrance.

It was a terrible mistake to come, she thought as she hobbled down the crusty street. She kept her head bowed low against the cold, and gripped her guitar case and her cane. If she'd had a third hand, she'd swipe at the bitter tear that slid down her cheek.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What Is Enough For Me

Okay, so I've been doing a lot of thinking and working, and working and thinking about publishing. I always seem to, and I always seem to find some new light or think of something in a new way. I guess I shouldn't be surprised by this anymore, but I still am!

So I have traditionally published a series with Simon & Schuster. I enjoyed the experience, and I like working with an agent to sell my books to bigger publishers. I am hoping for future sales in this market. In fact, I just turned in a novel last week that I hope is "the one!"

Additionally, I have begun a journey into self-publishing. I have enjoyed it too. There are things I can do with my self-published titles that I can't with my S&S titles. Marketing, playing with price, and buying ads are the biggest things I've noticed so far.

I've also been networking and hob-nobbing with some Indie authors. They are fun people, and very determined and hard-working. I've also noticed--and it's all coming from ME, not THEM--this need to constantly be selling my books.

I've felt this pressure since self-publishing. Not from other authors, but in general. I've realized that I don't like it.

Selling books is not why I write books. I have no grand illusions of making a million dollars. I don't write to make money. I don't want that to be the focus of my writing.

But I've struggled with this, because the amount of money you make nearly determines your success or worth in almost any field, publishing included.

This thought of writing because I love it, and publishing because, for me, it's a needed process that comes with writing has been re-iterated this past weekend. I want to share my work with readers--hopefully readers that will love the stories I write as much as I do.


To me, that is the purpose and goal of my writing. It's also why I publish. I've been having a hard time identifying what would be "enough" for me. More money? I already knew I wasn't writing for money. But what is it? What drives me to write and publish? What is enough?

I think I've identified at least one piece of this perplexing puzzle. The reader connection. See, I got a review from The Deseret News, which is one of the big newspapers in Salt Lake City. The reviewer loved ELEVATED. She connected to it. She got out of it what I got out of it. She read and loved what I wrote and loved.

She said, in part: "It is easy to flow from the first word to the last without ever putting down the book. Johnson shows outstanding talent in this form, and her words are beautiful, important and deeply felt." (You can read the whole review here.)

It was a magical moment. It's like the reader and the author experiencing, breathing, and existing in the same space for the time it takes to read the book.

And that, I realized, is enough for me.

What do you think would be enough for you?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Secrets of a Self-Publisher

Okay, I feel like Anne Burrell or something. You know her show on Food Network, Secrets of a Restaurant Chef? Or maybe I'm the only one who watches copious amounts of Food Network and HGTV...

Ahem.

So I recently self-published a book. It was a very interesting experience for me, already having gone through the traditional publishing process for numerous works. There are a plethora of differences between the two processes, and there are a multitude of similarities too. 


I think the biggest difference is the speed. Traditional publishing seems to take a long time, but the author has to handle very few of the details. You don't have to make (or contract for) a cover; you don't have to pay for editing (in fact, you get paid to do the editing!); you don't have to choose a release date; you don't have to worry about formatting the ebooks, or figuring out how to put them up on the retail sites. You basically get to write and edit -- and the business stuff is left to the publisher.

This can be both good and bad. I, personally, had a pretty good experience. I know others who have had a less fun experience. 

I also have had a good experience learning all of the above things about self-publishing. It is a steep learning curve, don't get me wrong, but I enjoy learning the technical aspects of formatting, and I already know quite a bit of HTML. 

I think the secret to self-publishing is understanding that it's not easier, it's not better, it's not worse, and it's not exclusive. 

Let me explain:

Self-publishing is not easy: It takes a lot of work to get a book into publishable state. Anyone who's ever written a book knows this. Self-publishers should spend as much time editing and proofreading their books as they do writing them. Things happen in formatting that might mess things up. 

For example, I am terrible at design. I can't decorate my house. I don't see balance or white space, or understand composition in visual art. Any cover I make is sure to be a disaster. I understand and admit this weakness -- and I think sometimes self-publishers refuse to admit any weaknesses.  

So I hired a professional to create my cover. 

I personally believe that authors grow and improve through professional editing. I have worked with 3 different professional editors through Simon & Schuster, and I have worked with 2 editorial, professional agents. I worked with a new editor for ELEVATED. I have learned something new from every single professional agent or editor I've worked with. 

Secret: If you're a self-publisher and you skip the "professional editing" stage, you're making a huge mistake. 

And editing isn't the only thing you should do. After you do a content edit (or 2 or 3!), you need a copy editor. And after that, you need a proofreader. You cannot be the copy editor or proofreader. It is my opinion that you must hire these things out, or at least ask beta readers to do them for you. 


This is the process of traditional publishing, and self-publishers should embrace the same level of quality in their work. 

For ELEVATED, I hired a professional copyeditor, and I farmed out proofreading to betas. There were still mistakes, even after multiple readers. (I will never name a character Honesty again! Different story for a different day.)

Self-publishing is not better or worse than other methods of publishing: I know there's still a stigma out there about it, and I wish it would go away. I have read a lot of books in my life, self-published, small press published, and "Big 5" published. Some of them I absolutely loved. Some I couldn't finish. Some I finished, but I didn't like. Some of the most popular books out there I did not like, because reading is so subjective.

I recently listened to an editor speak, and she said that she doesn't want to read the "self-publishing slush pile" and that traditional publishing allows readers to be able to avoid that slush pile too. 

I think she's totally wrong. ALL books go into a reader's slush pile. Most readers don't understand the difference between big or small publishers, or the many imprints at those publishers, or Indie publishers. 

They see a book with a cover and back cover copy. ALL books should strive to have the best cover possible, and the most professional cover copy possible. If a book looks good, fits a genre a reader likes, and sounds interesting, a reader doesn't care where it's coming from. 

Secret: ALL books are in one giant slush pile, hoping to be noticed above the one sitting on the shelf next to it. At least for readers. 

So it's my opinion that self-publishing isn't better or worse than any other form of publishing. For me, I used self-publishing as a way to continue to further my craft, as well as achieve a sense of forward momentum in my career -- a drawback of the traditional market (again, in my opinion). 

Self-publishing is not exclusive: Anyone can do it! The real question is whether you're ready or not. I'm of the opinion that everything that a traditional publisher does, a self-publisher should endeavor to replicate. That means hiring professionals to do things by being honest with yourself about your skill set.

After that, I think we should focus on buying, reading, and talking about books we think we'll like, both as authors and readers. Publishing is not as exclusive as it used to be, and I actually think that is a very good thing. 

Secret: There are tools for readers to use to gauge whether they'll like a book or not, and the publisher is only one very small piece of that. 

What do you think? Am I way off-base? Or somewhat rational?

Friday, March 7, 2014

KILLING RUBY ROSE Gets A Cover!!

Dude, I'm so excited today! One of my good friends, Jessie Humphries, gets to reveal her cover today! Her debut YA novel is called KILLING RUBY ROSE, and it's coming out from Amazon Children's Publishing/Skyscape in May.

And the cover is finally ready to be released! I've seen it through several versions, and it is KILLER (see what I did there?)! I've also read the book, and believe me when I say you're going to love it.

Let's first see what KILLING RUBY ROSE is about: In sunny southern California, Ruby Rose is known for her killer looks and her killer SAT scores. But ever since her dad, an LAPD SWAT sergeant, died six months ago, she’s also got a few killer secrets.

To cope with her father’s death, Ruby has been trying to stay focused on school (the top spot in her class is on the line) and spending time with friends (her Jimmy Choos and Mahnolo Blahniks are nothing if not loyal), but after months of therapy and more than a few months of pathetic parenting by her mom, District Attorney Jane Rose, Ruby decides to pick up where her dad left off and starts going after the bad guys herself.

But when Ruby ends up killing a murderer in defense of another, she discovers that she’s gone from being the huntress to the hunted. There’s a sick mastermind at play, and he has Ruby in his sights. Ruby must discover who’s using her to implement twisted justice before she ends up changing Valentino red for prison orange.

With a gun named Smith, a talent for martial arts, and a boyfriend with eyes to die for, Ruby is ready to face the worst. And if a girl’s forced to kill, won’t the guilt sit more easily in a pair of Prada peep-toe pumps?

See what I mean? You definitely want to pre-order the book and add it to your Goodreads list NOW.

And here's the beautiful cover!



Isn't she fabulous! I absolutely love the sunsetty colors, and the sort of puppetty girl, and the large font, and the two R's at the bottom for the series. I think it's a slam dunk in every sense!

To celebrate the reveal of the KILLING RUBY ROSE cover, Jessie is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card. Enter in the Rafflecopter below.

About Jessie Humphries: Jessie Humphries was born and raised in Las Vegas, NV. She received a BA from San Diego State University, where she cultivated her love of the beach, then lived in France, where she cultivated her weakness for shoes, and finally earned a law degree from UNLV, where she cultivated her interest in justice. After practicing law for several years she began writing, and, appropriately, her debut novel Killing Ruby Rose is a thriller about vigilante justice set in sunny southern California with a shoe-obsessed protagonist. Jessie currently writes and practices law in Las Vegas, where she lives with her husband and children.

Find her online:
Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube | Goodreads | Tumblr

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What do you think of the cover??

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

GCC: Fast Fiction by Denise Jaden

Rather than doing a traditional interview-filled blog tour, Denise Jaden is celebrating the release of her new nonfiction writing book, FAST FICTION, by dropping tips about writing quickly at every stop of her blog tour, and offering some awesome prizes for commenting on any of these posts (including this one!)

The more you drop by and comment, the more chances you have to win these great prizes:

Denise's Fast Fiction Tip: Pare down ideas, themes, and settings to easy-glimpse sentences.

Fast Fiction, The Twitter Version: Fast Fiction in 3 parts: A guide to brainstorming and plotting a loose outline, daily inspirations to keep you writing, and revision tips.

I love coming up with The Twitter Version of any book, because part of what I do in Fast Fiction is continually try to encourage to pare down ideas and themes and settings and characters into easy-glimpse sentences. Part of evaluating at a book’s commercial potential is looking at the one-sentence “pitch” or logline, and seeing how strong and compelling that is.

Don't know where to start with this? Try coming up with an adjective to describe your main character, and an obstacle which he or she will be up against. How will your main character overcome that obstacle, and more importantly, how will that change him or her? Now try to fit that information all into one sentence.

The Prizes:


  • Compliments of New World Library: They will be giving away A BOX of copies of FAST FICTION by Denise Jaden and GET IT DONE by Sam Bennett (US and Canada only):


  • Compliments of Denise Jaden, TWO BOXES of great fiction (US Only). Details on Denise's blog.


  • Audiobook copies of NEVER ENOUGH by Denise Jaden!


  • A critique of your first five pages, compliments of Denise's agent, Michelle Humphrey from The Martha Kaplan Agency!



  • All you have to do is enter the rafflecopter for a chance to win (at the bottom of this post, I've included links to all of the other blogs where you can comment for more chances to win).

    About Fast Fiction:

    Writers flock to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) each November because it provides a procrastination-busting deadline. But only a fraction of the participants meet their goal. Denise Jaden was part of that fraction, writing first drafts of her two published young adult novels during NaNoWriMo. In Fast Fiction, she shows other writers how to do what she did, step-by-step, writer to writer. Her process starts with a prep period for thinking through plot, theme, characters, and setting. Then Jaden provides day-by-day coaching for the thirty-day drafting period. Finally, her revision tips help writers turn merely workable drafts into compelling and publishable novels.

    A portion of publisher proceeds will be donated to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

    Praise for Fast Fiction:

    “Fast Fiction is filled with stellar advice, solid-gold tips, and doable, practical exercises for all writers who want to draft a complete novel.” — Melissa Walker, author of Violet on the Runway

    “Being a ‘pantser’ I have always resisted outlining, but I have to say that Fast Fiction changed my mind! Denise Jaden takes what I find to be a scary process (outlining) and makes it into an easy and, dare I say, enjoyable one. Fast Fiction is a hands-on book that asks the right questions to get your mind and your story flowing. I know I’ll be using Fast Fiction over and over again. Highly recommended for fiction writers! — Janet Gurtler, author of RITA Award finalist I’m Not Her

    “Fast Fiction is full of strategies and insights that will inspire and motivate writers of every experience level — and best of all, it provides them with a solid plan to quickly complete the first draft of their next novel.” — Mindi Scott, author of Freefall

    “Fast Fiction provides writers with the perfect mix of practical guidance and the kick in the pants they need to finish that draft. This book is a must-have for writers of all levels.” — Eileen Cook, author of The Almost Truth

    Practical and down-to-earth, Denise Jaden’s Fast Fiction makes a one-month draft seem doable, even for beginners, any month of the year.” — Jennifer Echols, author of Endless Summer and Playing Dirty

    “One of the greatest challenges any writer faces is getting a great idea out of one’s brain and onto the page. Fast Fiction breaks that process down into concrete, manageable steps, each accompanied by Denise Jaden’s sage advice and enthusiastic encouragement. And anything that helps streamline the drafting process is a-okay by me! Fast Fiction is a great addition to any writer’s toolbox — I’ve got it in mine!” — Catherine Knutsson, author of Shadows Cast by Stars

    “Forget the fact that this resource is directed at those wanting to complete a fast draft — if you’re out to get your novel done, period, Jaden’s Fast Fiction will be the kick in the butt that gets you there, from story plan to ‘The End’. . . and beyond.” — Judith Graves, author of the Skinned series for young adults

    Where you can find Fast Fiction:

    New World Library  |  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  IndieBound  |  GoodReads


    Help an author out:

    Can't get a copy of FAST FICTION right now? I wonder if you'd consider helping out in other ways. I'd really appreciate any way that you can help!

    • Ask your library or bookstore to bring in FAST FICTION
    • Leave a review on Amazon (the more books are reviewed on Amazon, the more they will show up as suggestions for readers).
    • Mention FAST FICTION on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, or pin a link to Amazon on Pinterest

    Blog Tour Stops:

    Comment on any of the following blog posts celebrating Fast Fiction's release to be entered to win prizes galore!

    (All Fast Fiction blog posts should be live by March 9th, or sooner. Contest will be open until March 15th. Stop by Denise's blog for updated links.)

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Monday, March 3, 2014

    Interview with Author Bethany Wiggins

    Okay, so I am so excited to have my good friend and amazing author, Bethany Wiggins, on the blog today! I've known Bethany for what feels like forever, and I've read a lot of her work. I loved STUNG, and I'm super-excited that CURED -- the sequel -- will be out tomorrow!

    Bethany was awesome enough to answer some questions for me, but first, let's look at CURED. (Isn't that cover Ah-may-zing??! Answer: yes!)

    About CURED: Now that Fiona Tarsis and her twin brother, Jonah, are no longer beasts, they set out to find their mother, with the help of Bowen and a former neighbor, Jacqui. Heading for a safe settlement rumored to be in Wyoming, they plan to spread the cure along the way--until they are attacked by raiders.

    Luckily, they find a new ally in Kevin, who saves them and leads them to safety in his underground shelter. But the more they get to know Kevin, the more they suspect he has ties to the raiders. He also seems to know too many details about Jacqui and her family — details that could endanger them all. For the raiders will do anything they can to destroy the cure that would bring an end to their way of life.

    So let's get to the good stuff!

    1. So CURED is the second book. Tell us what we need to remember from STUNG to be ready to read.
    Fiona wakes up with four years of her memory erased, her brother a beast, her father dead, and her mother missing. She has been given the bee-flu vaccine but isn't a beast like everyone else who has been vaccinated (remember the previously mentioned brother?). Why? Because a cure has been found, and Fiona is proof of the cure. Now that cure needs to be spread.

    2. The idea of the extinction of bees and the repercussions that causes is fascinating to me. How did you come up with this idea? Did you have to do a lot of research?
    Believe it or not, STUNG was primarily inspired by a horrible nightmare I had, about waking up in my childhood home and finding everything abandoned, and then being chased out a window by an insane beast who used to be someone I loved. That nightmare is chapter one! (Shut up! What a cool inspiration!)

    Other parts of STUNG were inspired by the frenzy in the United States to get the flu vaccine when the swine flu was going around and the bees dying off (colony collapse). I didn't have to do a lot of research since the bee science in my book is mostly fiction (thank goodness), but I did have to do some. I mostly researched things like human behavior in the aftermath of a natural disaster (which is where the Raiders come from) and how things are pollinated.

    3. When did you write CURED? What's one scene that you can still remember drafting for the first time?
    I started writing CURED two and a half years ago, and finished a year and a half ago. The scene that sticks in my memory is the one where Jacqui and Jonah are being held prisoner by the Raiders, and Jacqui finally understands that true beauty is on the inside. Here's a quote:

    He drops his head and laughs a hoarse, whispered laugh, possibly the first laughter that has come out of him in four years. "I know I'm hideously ugly. You don't have to pretend I'm not."

    My heart aches at his words. I know how it feels to look at yourself and see nothing beautiful there. And then I think about how Jonah held the beast child for hours while we waited for the cure to start working, and how he spoke so gently to me when the raiders caught me and Bowen was furious. He is good and kind and meek. That is real beauty.

    4. Is CURED the end of this series? Tell us all about everything!
    As of now, it is the end. I wrapped everything up so that the readers will finish it and have a satisfied, warm, happy, pensive, thoughtful feeling. But I would love to do a book three with these characters in this world sometime in the future. There is always room for more! (I hope there is more to the story!)

    5. CURED is your third published book. Give us a glimpse of your writing and publishing journey that led you here.
    The only reason I started writing is because my sister thought it would be fun to write a book, and she wanted someone else to write one at the same time. So she dared me to do it. I started writing and was shocked at how much I liked it. I wrote and edited a lot of manuscripts--as in thousands and thousands of pages--before I finally got good enough to get an agent (Marlene Stringer) and a publisher. Cured is the tenth or eleventh book I wrote.

    6. When you're looking to decompress by reading, what book do you reach for?
    Well, honestly, "The Book of Mormon." At the end of every day I am pretty much too tired to do any major reading, so I always read a page or two of my scriptures before I go to sleep. Decompression=achieved.

    7. If you could be a contestant on Survivor, what's the one item you'd take with you?
    Water purifier.

    8. A guilty pleasure?
    Massage! (Oh, I don't get enough of these as I would like either!)

    9. Bacon or chocolate?
    Chocolate (Boo! Hisssss... *wink*)

    About Bethany: BETHANY WIGGINS is the author of Stung and Shifting. She started writing on a dare and dove headfirst into the world of writerly madness. She lives in the desert with her husband, four quirky kids, and two very fluffy cats.


    AND -- you can enter to win a hardcover of CURED by Bethany Wiggins, right here, right now! Just use the Rafflecopter below.

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Friday, February 28, 2014

    New Releases! BLOOD CROWN and SHATTERED VEIL

    Okay, so I love books. I think this is obvious -- I love reading them and I love writing them, and I even just love looking at them.

    So where there are new Shiny Things to read and look at, I get excited. And you should too, because there are two new amazing books out there!


    BLOOD CROWN by Ali Cross




    SHATTERED VEIL by Tracy E. Banghart


    Be sure to enter their amazing giveaway by tonight too.
    a Rafflecopter giveaway


    I have already purchased both books, and I can't wait to read them! I hope you'll pick them up too, and then we can DISH about books! Oh my heck -- another thing about books I love! That we can talk about them over lunch. I really like lunch too.

    What new books are you reading?