Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Spotlight: A BLIND EYE by Julie Daines

I've had my eye on this book (haha! but not literally-- my eyes are more green) for quite some time. And the book just released! Not only does it sound fabulous, but the author herself is pretty darn fabulous.

"In my opinion, Julie Daines knocked it out of the park on the first swing with her debut novel, A Blind Eye.

- Karlene Browning,

Some people are born blind. For some, tragedy leaves them blind. And then there are those who simply refuse to see.

February 2013 Covenant Communications
Seventeen-year-old Christian Morris decides the only way to save himself from his father's neglect is to run away from home. On his way out of town, he finds a stowaway hiding in his car—Scarlett, who has been kidnapped from London. Blind since birth, Scarlett has developed a sixth sense: she dreams about someone’s death before it happens. And now, she has dreamed about her own.

Christian’s attempt to leave home turns into a race to save Scarlett from death by scientific experimentation. His growing relationship with the girl helps him to look past his own blindness and confront the truth about his father. But first, he must find the kidnappers before they can get to Scarlett.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Blogs & Websites: The differences, and when to start each

This is a post I've been meaning to write for a very long time. I've heard a lot of questions ranging from "Do I need a website?" "Do I need a blog?" "Do I need both?" to "How are they even different, anyway?" And a ton of others about timing. Now, obviously, there's a lot of different opinions on the matter-- these are mine.

The difference between a website and a blog:

In a nutshell? A blog is aimed toward writers, a website is aimed toward readers. This isn't the case every time, of course, but it's a good rule of thumb. Readers and writers are looking for entirely different content, so it's easier to give them just the content they want if you keep them separate. Readers are looking for extras (think the "special features" you see on a DVD), where writers are looking to get to know you through commiseration, your insight, your sense of humor, your skills, and / or like personalities. Writers know to look for blogs; readers know to look for websites.

What if I don't want to make a website? Can't I just use my blog?

Of course! Some people start off with most of their posts being aimed toward writers, then as they get books coming out, they gradually change their focus to things readers will be interested in. Some people do a combination of both, and have a "For Readers" tab and a "For Writers" tab with content or links to posts that will interest each group. Having a blog is not all that different from having a website that also has a link to your blog, no? The biggest difference is how much flexibility you have for the look and ways to show content.

If I decide to do a website, when should I make it?

My opinion? After you get your book deal (if you're self-publishing, then do it when you decide you're going to go that route). Do you need to make a website before you query? Nope. Agents / editors care how much your manuscript rocks, not about how many publicity things you've already done. This business moves a little slowly--- they know you'll have time to get those kinds of ducks in a row before your book comes out. I've been working on my website, and I can tell you that I have SO much more clear of an idea of what I want as content now than I had back when I was querying. Plus, you won't really know what to include for a lot of your "extras" content before you go through the whole revisions process with your editor. It's a much more efficient use of your time if you wait until you know what you want there.

IMPORTANT: If at all possible, register your domain name now. I'm not kidding. If you ever want to do a website, don't put this off. You can google "Register domain name" to find some places to go, or ask around. I asked around, and got a lot of people highly recommending NameCheap. That's who I went with, and have had a great experience with them. If memory serves, it's less than $10 a year to register your domain name. (And no, you don't have to have a website tied to it anytime soon. I bought mine quite a while ago, and just set it to redirect to my blog until I get my website live.)

Here's why it's important: I don't mean to freak you out-- just to warn you of a possibility that could happen (but definitely doesn't happen all the time or even most of the time). I've heard that there are sketchy people out there who watch Publisher's Marketplace for deals. If they see that Billy Bob Jones got a book deal, they'll go register, then when Billy gets around to buying his domain name, it'll be gone, and sketchy person will help Billy out by offering to sell him the domain name for hundreds of dollars. (A second buyer-beware tip: Don't search to see if your domain name is available until you are ready to buy it. Sometimes hackers can see what you searched for, assume you're going to be back, and then buy it quickly so they can sell it to you when you come back.) No sense whining about it-- just work with it. If you want one, buy it early, and don't search ahead of time.

If you decide to blog (which you totally don't have to do), when should you start?

That's a much harder question to answer, because the answer is different for everyone. And no, you don't HAVE to blog. It's good to have an online social media presence, but choose the one (or two, or three ;)) that you LOVE. Forget doing any that feel like a chore. But instead of talking about the ifs and whens of blogging, let's talk pros and cons.

Pros to blogging:

True fact: Writers need writing friends, and blogging is a fabulous way to get to know other writers. They comment on your blog, you go back and comment on theirs... repeat... and you get to know each other! I waited a long time to start my blog. I couldn't believe how much more I felt a part of the writing world once I started blogging.

It can help you find critique partners. Since blogging uses more words than other social media, so you get to know people better. And once you get to know them, you can get a good sense of whether or not you'd likely be good critique partners. I wrote a post once about finding critique partners (you can find it here), and so many people mentioned in the comments that they found their critique partners through blogging.

It gives you a great creative outlet with less pressure on what you write, with a hugely wide open field of possibilities to write about.

It improves your writing.

Cons to blogging:

It takes a LOT of time. It takes time to think about / write / find images for each and every post. And if you don't spend much time on your posts, people are less likely to keep coming back.

It also takes a LOT of time to build followers. When you first start blogging, the world doesn't automatically know that you just started a blog and that it rocks. You have to go out and search for other blogs that you love, follow them and comment on them so that they'll wonder about you and follow you back to your blog. It takes time to pay it forward with comments, and to build those relationships with other bloggers. It may be totally and completely worth it, but it does take huge amounts of time.

All the time you spend on blogging is that much less time you have to spend on writing.

Other things to consider: 

If you do decide to blog, it takes a while to find your blogging voice. It's different from your writing voice, and it's different from your talking voice. It's all it's own, and you'll develop it as you blog.

It also takes a while to come up with a plan / focus for your blog. It takes a while to try out things to see if they work, and to adjust accordingly based on the reactions of your blog readers.

So if you want your blog going strong when you query / when your book comes out, don't wait until the month before to start.

If you're already blogging, or you've already made your website, when did you start, and why? Do you wish you'd started at a different time? If you're not a blogger, do you ever plan to be?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Next Big Thing

I think I may be very close to being the last person to jump on The Next Big Thing train. I've successfully dodged it many times before (mostly because questions #4 and #8 and I don't get along), but somehow the ever awesome Tara Tyler talked me into it. (Plus, she gave me permission to fudge #4, which was totally the key to getting me to say yes.) (And if we've both been dodging this (for whatever reason-- I won't judge), and you're also finally ready to give in to the fun and answer the questions next week, let me know, and I'll link to you.)

I'm going to do this for the book that still has a couple rounds of copy edits to go-- SKY JUMPERS book 1.

1. What is the working title of your current or next book? The original working title was GREEN BOMB. Awesome, no? ;) Then when I finally got inspiration for an actual title, it became THROUGH THE BOMB'S BREATH, and stayed that way for 2 1/2 years. Its brand-spankin' new title is SKY JUMPERS.

2. Where did you get the idea for that book? My family and I were flying from Florida to Utah on a day when virtually the entire country was covered in clouds, and I had a window seat. I just kept staring at the wrong side of those clouds, thinking how awesome it would be if I jumped out of that plane and landed in those clouds. (Assuming they'd slow my fall....) I decided I had to write a book where someone did that. Only I made the clouds not actually clouds, but dense air caused by a side-effect from the green bombs. And I made it invisible. And very deadly. And made it cover the earth.

3. What is the genre of the book? Post-apocalypic Adventure. (Which does not mean dystopic. You'll find no uberly-controlling government here. More of a lack of government.)

4. If you could pick actors to play the lead characters in your story, who would you pick? Am I the only one who can't seem to do this? It's impossible! I even really, really tried-- I promise!

5. How would you describe your book in one sentence? It's about a girl who can't invent in a town where it's the most important thing, but when the town is taken hostage, inventing won't save them, but the daring and risk-taking that usually gets her into trouble just might save them all.

6. How will your book be published--submitted through the traditional route to a traditional publisher, or will you be handling it yourself through indie publishing methods? Traditional publisher.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of this book?
Ten months.

8. What other books within your genre are similar to yours?
Um... It turns out that there aren't that many MG Post-Apoc Adventures. When I was querying, I couldn't think of a single book to compare it to! Random House has compared it to The City of Ember.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My daughter really struggled with reading, especially in first and second grade. She is good at SO many things, though! She's especially good at a lot of things that don't show up in school. I was always amazed at how none of that mattered when you were bad at the one thing that mattered most. It made me want to write a character that was amazing in a way that people tended not to see, when she was terrible at the thing they did see.

10. What about your book will pique the reader's interest?
Setting! Okay, so yes-- most of the earth's population was wiped out. So was most of technology. And there are a billion dangers. But I would still go live in my setting ANY DAY. And if I did live there, I'd definitely start every day with a Sky Jump.

Next week, the chain will continue with the amazing Taffy Lovell!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Title change, cover news, and The League

Hi, everyone! I have tons of news that I'm all kinds of happy that I can share!

First off, let's talk title. Mine has officially changed. Remember this post where I announced that the series title is SKY JUMPERS? Well, we've decided that it's such a great name, that we are going to give the first book the same as the series title. So my book is now officially called...


The change came at the eleventh hour, just as the finishing touches are being made to my cover. I am thrilled with having the single name on the cover! I think it's making it look and feel and sound exactly the way it's supposed to be. Exactly right. Not to mention how awesome it looks.

Speaking of the look of my cover, I got to peek at it! Oh my gosh, you guys. It's so awesome, you're going to die. I am in love with it! I canNOT wait to show you. I'll give you a hint: green. An homage to the green bombs of WWIII that wiped out nearly all the earth's population.

But more than giving you a hint, I can finally share with you who this amazing cover illustrator is!

Owen Richardson

He is the third illustrator that Random House hired to create my cover, and as soon as I got word it was him (and then spent forever ogling his portfolio), I knew he was the one. The one who was going to make the perfect cover. When my editor sent his color sketch, I nearly died of happiness. Yep! Definitely the one.

Because, come on. Feast your eyes upon some of the art he's created for book covers.

Isn't he just beyond incredible? You can check out more of his portfolio here: Shannon Associates-- Owen Richardson (And of course, all these images are copyrighted, and shown by permission from the artist.)

Go ahead and just stare for a while. I don't blame you one bit.

Done? Okay, my last bit of news. The League of Extraordinary Writers has asked me to join their ranks! And in case you were wondering, I totally fan-girled when I got the invitation accepted the invitation in a very professional manner. My first post at The League will be my intro post next week.

And since it's Friday--- a day when I normally do a Quotes and Cookies post, I'll leave you with this: a cookie recipe that Owen Richardson sent after seeing my blog. (How thoughtful is that?! It made me tear up. :'o)) This recipe is an original from his famous chef wife, Amy. Enjoy!

Peppered Ginger Cookies
Recipe by Amy Richardson

3/4 cup Sugar, plus additional for coating
3/4 cup Butter, softened
1 large Egg
1/4 cup Molasses
2 cups Flour
2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Powdered Ginger
1/2 tsp. Allspice
1 tsp. Ground Black Pepper
1/3 cup Crystallized Ginger, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter and sugar together, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg and then add molasses. Combine flour and other dry ingredients, then add to the creamed butter and sugar mixture and mix.

Form into 2 inch balls and roll in sugar. Place 2" apart on an un-greased cookie sheet and bake for 12-14 minutes.

Have a fabulous weekend, everyone!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Quotes and Cookies: Have patience already!

Quotes and Cookies today is all about me and what I need. :) Actually, I suspect it's something every single one of us needs-- PATIENCE.

I'm actually a really patient person. I had no problem at all being patient enough to improve my craft while writing several books, not querying them, until I got to the skill level where I knew I had a shot. I didn't send out my first ever query until my manuscript shone and all my ducks were in a row. Querying didn't phase me. Neither did going on submission to editors. In my initial phone call with my editor, she offered me a January 2013 or a September 2013 release date. I had no problem turning down the earlier date, because I knew the later one was better for my book.


Guys, I am really struggling with patience right now. Turns out there are a million things in this industry that try our patience--- some to incredible lengths.

So I guess the point is, it doesn't matter how much patience we have. Things will come along that require more of us than we had. There's not a box we mark if we've got it or not. We will ALWAYS need more. And I suspect that the only way to really get it is to make it through times that really try our patience.


I did find a ton of great quotes on patience, though! Here's a few gems:

"Have patience with all things, But, first of all with yourself."
~Saint Francis de Sales

"How many a man has thrown up his hands at a time when a little more effort, a little more patience would have achieved success."
~Elbert Hubbard

"Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy."

"The two most powerful warriors are patience and time."
~Leo Tolstoy

Here. Let's stare at cookies. I hear it helps.

....Or something like that.

How are you with patience?

Oh, and on a completely unrelated but interesting side note, do you ever wonder how other people come up with character names? Curious about people's processes and resources? I asked the Lucky 13s how they came up with their character names, and got some incredible responses. It's definitely a fascinating read. You can find everyone's answers here: The Lucky 13s: Friday Q and A-- Character Names.

photo credit: kern.justin via photopin cc