Friday, March 23, 2018

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: HEARTSEEKER by Melinda Beatty

A vibrant fantasy-adventure debut about a girl who can see lies.

You're a Fallow of the Orchard. You're as tough as a green apple in summer . . .

Only Fallow was just six harvests old when she realized that not everyone sees lies. For Only, seeing lies is as beautiful as looking through a kaleidoscope, but telling them is as painful as gnawing on cut glass. Only's family warns her to keep her cunning hidden, but secrets are seldom content to stay secret.

When word of Only's ability makes its way to the King, she's plucked from her home at the orchard and brought to the castle at Bellskeep. There she learns that the kingdom is plagued by traitors, and that her task is to help the King distinguish between friend and foe. But being able to see lies doesn't necessarily mean that others aren't able to disguise their dishonesty with cunnings of their own.

In the duplicitous, power-hungry court, the truth is Only's greatest weapon . . . and her greatest weakness.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Wednesday WOLF

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

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

The living room... we like being in there, right? It's where the TV and microwave burritos get us through slow evenings, a spot to crash with friends, and (in my case) a gathering place for cat and dog hair.

You might think we call it the living room because we do a fair amount of our living there, but there's a... let's call it, a slightly more macabre reason why.

The beginning of the 20th century marked some great strides forward for modern medicine. Germ theory was widely accepted, and simple procedures such as washing hands and the introduction of public health measures drastically reduced death rates. So much so that many people felt that humans were on the verge of eradicating illness.

At that time, the room in the home where guests were received was called the parlor. Generally reserved for public gatherings, it was also used for the purpose of a laying out. At the time, it was still common practice for families to hold a wake in their home, with the deceased laid out in the parlor for family and friends to say their goodbyes before burial.

Due to the rise in public health, and new discoveries in medicine, the Ladies Home Journal boldly suggested renaming the parlor the living room, since we wouldn't be gathering there quite so often after a death.

Then the flu epidemic of 1918 hit...

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Kaitlyn Sage Patterson On Dealing With Submission Anxiety

If there's one thing that many aspiring writers have few clues about, it's the submission process. There are good reasons for that; authors aren't exactly encouraged to talk in detail about our own submission experiences, and - just like agent hunting - everyone's story is different. I managed to cobble together a few non-specific questions that some debut authors have agreed to
answer (bless them). And so I bring you the submission interview series - Submission Hell - It's True. Yes, it's the SHIT.

Today's guest for the SHIT is Kaitlyn Sage Patterson who grew up outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. After completing her M.F.A., she moved to South Korea, where she taught English and started writing her debut novel. THE DIMINISHED will be published by HarlequinTEEN on April 10, 2018, followed by its sequel in 2019.

How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs yourself?

I am, in the deepest part of my soul, a researcher. Before I went on submission for THE DIMINISHED, I tried to learn as much as I could about the process, but honestly, aside from your blog, there’s not much out there! I’m actually on submission again, and it is just as harrowing as the first time!

Did anything about the process surprise you?

I was surprised the first time with how contradictory the feedback was! One editor would love the voice, but find the pacing too slow. Another editor would love the pacing, but not get into the voice. It felt like taste tug of war! This time has been super interesting in that the rejections are universally very complimentary, far more so than with my debut, but no bites yet! *fingers crossed*

Did you research the editors you knew had your ms? Do you recommend doing that?

I did and I don’t! Like I said before, I am fueled by research. I dove DEEP when I was on sub with my debut. I’m talking reading ancient interviews that I pulled from the depths of the internet. I read every applicable entry in Publisher’s Marketplace. I read into every tweet.

And honestly, in all of that research, the only thing I really learned was that I can’t see the future. So as I go through this round of submission I have done some minimal research, but the only thing I’m really looking at is the other books that the editors have acquired to get an idea of their tastes.

What was the average amount of time it took to hear back from editors?

In both cases we’ve gotten responses anywhere from a couple of days to several months! The one thing I hold close is that no response means just that… no response. I know that editors are really good about getting back to agents as soon as they read and make a decision.

What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety?

Ugh. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them! I tend to do a lot of reading, both beta reading and catching up on my TBR. I know people say that you should write, but I find it difficult to really get words down when I’m so focused on something else. It is, however, a good time to do that kind of staring at the wall, thinking really hard work of figuring out a story that’s been brewing for a while.

If you had any rejections, how did you deal with that emotionally? How did this kind of rejection compare to query rejections?

Here’s the thing for me with submission rejections. I don’t want to work with someone who isn’t DEEPLY, MADLY in love with the books that I write. So the passes, for me, just feel like stepping stones to the person who will say yes.

It’s different, too, from query rejections, because I already have someone on my side who believes in the book. That’s really huge for me. I know that even if the book isn’t right for *that* editor, it doesn’t suck, you know?

If you got feedback on a rejection, how did you process it? How do you compare processing an editor’s feedback as compared to a beta reader’s?

Like I said, with THE DIMINISHED, the feedback was ALL OVER THE PLACE. As each pass came in, I assessed how I felt about it. Was there a kernel of truth? Something I could work on?

Truth be told, the way I process feedback doesn’t changed based on who is giving the feedback. I trust my beta readers, I trust that editors have good taste, and I know that every book is not right for every person. So I try to think about how or if each piece of feedback would change or shape the vision I have for my book for the better.

When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal?

Oh goodness, I was totally over the moon. I work in fundraising for non-profits in my day job, and I was in a meeting with the chair of my board of directors, my boss, and my boss’s boss the day I got the call. I knew I’d gone to acquisitions, so I had my phone with me, which I normally wouldn’t do, and, because of the combination of nerves and trying to get ready for this big meeting, I’d forgotten to turn my ringer off. So as I was presenting our Year to Date Budget, my phone started blaring “Formation” by BeyoncĂ©. It was really hard to say, “I’m so sorry. I need to take this,” with a straight face, but I grabbed my phone and ran out of the room before anyone could say anything.

When I eventually finished giddily screaming with my agent on the phone, I went back to the meeting and after about 30 seconds of congratulations, I resumed my presentation. #reallife

Did you have to wait a period of time before sharing your big news, because of details being ironed out? Was that difficult?

I did, but thankfully not for long! It was SUCH a whirlwind time for me. My boyfriend and I bought a house in October, I signed with my agent in November, my boyfriend and I got engaged in late November, I went on submission in February, got the news about the sale in early April, and signed the contract the day before my wedding at the end of April. So at my wedding, when people were asking me about my book, all I could do was smile! It was intense!! I was so relieved to finally be able to tell people when we made the announcement in May.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Secret Hijinks, What I'm Up To, A New Podcast Episode & A Panda Update

I have been on the move so much lately that my dog jumped in my lap while I was still in the car last week when I got home. He misses his mommy :)

Where have I been? What I have I been doing?

My most recent trip is actually hush-hush, as I'm co-authoring a project in development with SerialBox, a publisher that produces serialized audio and e-book downloads. I'm excited to be doing something different, and I just returned from a writing summit for the series I'll be working on. I can't say much, but I'll share this tweet...

I'm home now and currently working on getting the podcast wrapped up for the month of March, and scheduling my interviews for the month of April. Today's episode features MG author Liesl Shurtliff, and we cover such topics as writing a four-book series, always asking "but why?" and the transition from writing has a hobby to a career.

What else am I up to? Honestly - lots. GIVEN TO THE EARTH releases April 11th, I've got a ton of appearances coming up, and to be brutal - I need a shower.

I came home to Mr. Panda needing his mommy, too. He jumped into my lap and refused to relinquish it, which I'm fine with. I ended up sitting on the couch longer than necessary, but no one refuses cancer cat cuddles.

Panda is doing well! He received his second round of chemo and it appears that his tumor is shrinking. He is eating and gaining weight back. Fingers crossed for my alpha male!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Saturday Slash

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

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

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

Twenty-four-year-old Emma likes to play it safe. She prides herself on her good judgment. But one bad decision has led to another since the day in the garden when her eyes wandered from her small son, Jonah, and she survived by being pulled from the muddy pond that killed him. Slightly confusing wording here, as she took her eyes from her son, yet she somehow also ended up in the pond... so she would have dove in after him, thus having seen him again. Now all Emma wants is to feel like herself again, but she can’t quite get there. Thinking that a change of scene might help, her husband Nathaniel entrusts her to deposit their harvest bonus money and take a weekend away with her sister, Jo. In another bad move, Emma arrives at the bank after closing.

When Brooks Davis, a grifter just up from Texas who’d been hired by Nathaniel as a field hand, shows up in the hotel bar where they are staying, Emma is caught off guard. Brooks is the one who saved her life that day with Jonah. Emma is drawn to him. I'd combine some of this information from two choppy sentence into the two previous She overdrinks not a word? and ends up back in her room with Brooks. But before anything can happen between them, she passes out. In the morning Emma discovers that he has taken off with the money.

Emma has no choice but to tell Nathaniel what happened. Nathaniel chases Brooks to South Dakota and returns with the money. When the sheriff shows up with news that Brooks has been found dead, torched in a tee-pee outside of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, Emma confronts Nathaniel. Nathaniel is vague at first but later spills his version of the story. Emma must decide if she believes her husband and what the consequences are for her life if she doesn’t.

So - it seems odd that the biggest part of fixing the problems her mistakes have caused (losing the money) is fixed by her husband? It seems like there's a lot of action that your main character is missing out on by not being present - or at least involved peripherally - in such a pivotal moment. While I know you're just looking for a query critique, and not a plot breakdown, this is a red flag for me.

Also, I admittedly don't know much about women's fiction, but it feels like the plot goes from tragic (dead toddler), to kind of madcap zany (series of mistakes, including a bedroom mishap), to a murder mystery. The tone of the query feels uneven, which will make an agent wonder if the ms suffers from the same. Make sure that the tone of the query accurately represents the manuscript itself.

Friday, March 16, 2018


This is Noah Oakman → sixteen, Bowie believer, concise historian, disillusioned swimmer, son, brother, friend.

Then Noah → gets hypnotized.

Now Noah → sees changes: his mother has a scar on her face that wasn’t there before; his old dog, who once walked with a limp, is suddenly lithe; his best friend, a lifelong DC Comics disciple, now rotates in the Marvel universe. Subtle behaviors, bits of history, plans for the future—everything in Noah’s world has been rewritten. Everything except his Strange Fascinations . . .

A stunning surrealist portrait, The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik is a story about all the ways we hurt our friends without knowing it, and all the ways they stick around to save us.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Author Sheryl Scarborough On Writing for TV vs. Novels

Today's guest  for the SAT is Sheryl Scarborough, an award-winning writer for children’s television, is the author of To Catch A Killer and To Right The Wrongs, a YA mystery series with Tor Teen. The appearance of a habitual Peeping Tom at her home when she was twelve, sparked an obsession with forensics. After each visit, Sheryl diligently photographed his footprints and collected the candy wrappers he left behind. Unfortunately, he was never caught. But the desire to use evidence to solve a great mystery was sparked inside Scarborough all the same. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and lives with her husband and writer-cats in Washington state, across the river from Portland, OR.

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

I am a “plotter.” Twenty years writing children’s TV made me so strong on plot that I almost can’t enjoy a book or movie with a weak, no-where plot. This is not to say a pantster can’t succeed with a strong plot, they definitely can. But, they will most likely spend more time in the rewriting process. 

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

I have written a first draft in 10 weeks. That book simply poured out of me. Going back to that manuscript now, two years later, I see the flaws. And I will easily put in another 10 weeks fixing them. I know we’re all goal-oriented – tick, tock, write, finish, wash, rinse, repeat – but I don’t really think our writing can be quantified in time. It’s all about when it is a book? 

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

Demands often dictate multi-tasking and my brain simply LOVES to think about the exact thing I’m NOT working on at the moment. But generally, I love to stay with one project until it’s complete. 

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

Only the first time? How about this…when I started writing for children’s television, I was on staff at an animation studio. On staff meant that I was expected (required) to write a certain number of scripts. We were paid a weekly salary, plus script bonuses. But the weekly salary was charged against the budget for script fees, similar to how an advance is charged against actual sales. I would be super enthusiastic about my latest assignment until I got home…and started thinking it through. That’s when the panic would set in and I would become convinced I couldn’t write this script as assigned. It wasn’t for me. I couldn’t get my head around the concept. And I would start coming up with ideas for how I could off-load this assignment and… um, still keep my job! In the course of that creative cluster, a miracle would happen and I would come up with the approach to writing the script. (Hallalullah!) The scary part, as I look back on it now, is that this fear cycle thing lasted for THREE YEARS! And, the reason this incident is so fresh in my mind is because I went through it all over again as I faced writing the sequel to To Catch A Killer. 

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

I have no trunked books prior to To Catch A Killer. But that was because I was absolutely relentless in believing in it and trying to sell it. I do have two trunked books since I sold TCAK…though I’m reworking one now. 

Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?

I have quit on many a story, but once an idea makes it to manuscript stage it’s pretty much go-time. That means I’ve thought it through and picked it apart enough that I’m pretty sure I can make it happen. There are only two reasons I would abandon a manuscript: 1. If I no longer cared about the story or 2. If I decided I couldn’t execute the idea. 

Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them? 

My agent is the fabulous Jessica Regal at Foundry + Media. Our hook up was somewhat non-traditional. I had signed on to Foundry with a different agent, who had been in publishing for a long time, but was new to agenting. She and I hit it off and she began submitting my book. Half way through the submission process, she received an offer she couldn’t refuse from her previous employer. It was great and fortunate news for her…devastating for me! I was in the middle of submission with some rejections! One of the partners at Foundry reached out to me and asked me not to panic. She knew they were bringing Jessica on board and she sent my MS to her. Jessica liked the concept enough to take it on even though there were rejections and we’ve been a formidable team ever since. 

How long did you query before landing your agent?  

My query process took almost a year – I had a list of 20 agents I was interested in and I queried nearly all of them before landing at Foundry. BUT… the actual first offer came from a face-to-face meeting at a conference. 

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

Don’t give up. Just keep sending your work out. If you get the same comment 10 times, then go back and look at your writing with a more critical eye. Maybe you are missing something. Also, believe in yourself that you can do it. 

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

To see my name on a book…on the shelf…in a bookstore? It is indescribable. Surreal. And the best feeling ever. 

How much input do you have on cover art?

My editor asked for my thoughts on the cover, but what I ended up with wasn’t anything like I described or anticipated. But… I LOVE my covers. I think they do an excellent job of selling the books. I’m perfectly happy to let my publisher do what it does best. 

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

I don’t know that it was that much of a surprise, but the most important things I’ve learned is that this writing game is not a sprint. It’s a marathon! Pace is super important. Whenever I get flustered about what I need to be doing to further my career, I use my calming voice to tell myself that all I really need to do is write the next book. And to write it well. That’s all. 

How much of your own marketing do you?  

I have the complete social media collection and I’m just about as savvy and befuddled as everybody else. I use it, but try not to overdo it. First of all, I don’t have time to spend all day on social media and still get books written. 

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

If at any point in your writing career you think you have a platform…start building. The only way it could hurt is if you accidentally stick your foot in your mouth and post something unpopularly controversial. If you’ve got something to say and a group to say it to, I say go for it! 

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

I think it can’t hurt, for sure. I know that my publisher did a lot of social media for my first book and my cover was everywhere. I’m sure that tremendously helped the sales. 

Enter below to win a tracker bookmark - never lose your book again!

It’s an electronic bookmark that can be tracked from an app on your phone. Once the book is safely on your shelf, you can clip it to something else, like a purse or backpack.

Instructions and demo video

a Rafflecopter giveaway