Monday, April 30, 2018

Happy Pub Day!

Tomorrow is the pub day for Rie Neal aka Melody Reed's third book in the Major Eights series, THE MAJOR EIGHTS: THE GOO DISASTER!.  The series has gotten great reviews in PW and Booklist so far and I'm so excited to have Rie here to talk about this next one!  Be sure to go pick up a copy tomorrow!!

Tell us about THE GOO DISASTER!.  What is it about?
First of all, thanks for having me! THE GOO DISASTER! follows 8-year-old Maggie, the band's drummer. Maggie is super excited about the band's upcoming performance at her school's fancy banquet--the girls get to wear sparkly dresses and she'll have a rockin' drum solo! Best of all, Maggie's mom is going to video the performance so her dad can finally see the band while he's off on a military tour. But when Maggie's science grade starts slipping, her mom won't let her play unless she can ace her science fair project. And so far, the project is just a giant mess! Maggie and the band have to find a way to clean things up fast, or they won't get to perform at the banquet after all. 

Now that you've written several of these, do you have a favorite character or a favorite story line?
I really love each character! Jasmine has amazing ideas, and I love helping her nudge the band along--when her ideas work, and when they don't. Scarlet's got spunk and style, but also a really good heart. Maggie is smart and responsible. She loves school and helping out at home, but gets to cut loose with the band. And Becca rocks the guitar, doesn't like dressing up, and loves black. She's tough, practical, and works hard. One thing we wanted to emphasize with the series is that they're four girls who are all pretty different and still work together as a team. In terms of storyline, though, the third book was one of my favorites to write so far, because I'm a science geek at heart!

What has it been like working with your editor and Little Bee on these books?  Do you work with them collaboratively to come up with the ideas for each one?
We do collaborate quite a bit, which has been fun. I've had three different editors assigned to the project at different times, and each of them has brought something special to the series. Little bee owns the concept for these, and hired me to write them, so ultimately, decisions are theirs to make. That being said, they've been very encouraging of creative input from me, which has made writing the books a blast. :) The 'Goo' was my idea; I love doing kitchen science projects with my kids. There's even a recipe for it at the back of the book!

What part of the publication process have you found the most interesting/fun?  What part has been the hardest?
One of my favorite parts is definitely getting to see Emilie Pepin's illustrations. Whenever one of the covers is released, it feels like a magical moment--that all of my hard work has been brought to life! She does a fantastic job representing the characters and I *LOVE* showing off the covers!!! The hardest part is probably the wait between the writing of a book and its release--it was more than a year ago now that I finished my part of THE GOO DISASTER!. But I'm getting used to it. I know that that's pretty typical--even short--in the world of publishing. I'm just excited and want to share the books right away! HA!

What have you had to do to promote your book?  What kind of social media do you think has been the most important in publicizing the series?
Since this is a write-for-hire project, I'm really not expected to do a whole lot to promote the books, which is kind of freeing. At the same time, I'm proud of the books and want to talk about them! I've done one or two bookstore events, and have a few more in the works. (At the next one, we might even have kids make their own 'goo'!) I also have an author website in the works, which will feature the Major Eights. For social media, I've mostly used Facebook and Twitter, but I'm trying to post more on Instagram now, too. Facebook is super helpful when it comes to sharing events, and also for spreading the word amongst family and friends (and friends of friends, etc.). Twitter is great for connecting to the writing community; I love writer Twitter!! 

Have you gotten to meet any of your readers?
Yes!!! Just a few here and there, but I've LOVED meeting these kids. I especially love it when little girls recognize that the main characters look like them and are doing super cool things! Makes my day every time. I love the idea of inspiring girls to reach for the stars like these characters do! 

Do you have any quirks when it comes to your writing process (e.g. do you have to write at night or while wearing lucky socks)?
Haha! I don't have lucky socks, but I have to have coffee! And I usually pop on a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, even if they're not turned on. (Even if I'm home alone and it's quiet!) When figuring out a plot, I often pace around the house. The neighbors probably think I'm nuts. And I've been known to steal my kids' thinking putty ... especially if it's sparkly!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Tip Time

It's Tip Time!

This month I wanted to talk about how you should interact with agents.  Ninety percent of the time, I'm impressed with how professionally and positively authors communicate with my and my colleagues.  But there is that other 10% of the time that makes me sit back and tilt my head in confusion.

I think that 10% stems from the fact that many people (even clients sometimes!) don't fully understand all the work an agent does.  Not only do agents read manuscripts, they also put a lot of time and effort into editing, researching editors, submitting projects, following up, negotiating contracts, monitoring royalties, handling certain sub rights, and so much more!

So when you're talking with an agent, it is important to be sure not to come across as demanding or argumentative.  This obviously doesn't mean you can't stand your ground or have critical conversations or a back-and-forth (although these things are more for clients to do--if you're just querying and get back thoughts you don't agree with, I suggest thinking them over seriously and then taking or leaving them), but it does mean you have to be polite and aware.  If an agent gives you advice or says that they don't think something works, they are talking from a place of knowledge and experience, and it can come off as insulting if you are dismissive or shoot off an email telling them how wrong they are.

I'm also surprised when I reject a submission and don't offer an R&R only to have that author constantly email me asking for specific information and thoughts about how to make the manuscript better.  I understand why this is done, but doing so without an invitation can feel like a bit of an overstep.  If you'd like an agent's thoughts on something, please ask them first!  And don't ask to set up a call or meet in person.  Because of how busy we are, that is much less convenient for most of us than just replying to an email.

Finally, if an agent does invite you to ask questions or is willing to speak, I strongly suggest drafting what you want to talk about so that you can make sure your thoughts are to the point, concise, and clear.  Every so often, I get stream-of-consciousness emails from authors that are so long and confusing, I give up before reading all the way through because it's too hard and I have too much to do.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Query Critique

Query critique time!  For everyone who enters (and those who don't) spread the word so that even if you don't submit a query, you encourage others to read and comment.  Thanks :)

If you're not familiar with how to enter, take a look at my previous post to read the rules.  Good luck!  

Monday, April 9, 2018

Happy Pub Day!

I have another great book publishing tomorrow: Alana Delacroix's MASKED DESIRE, the second book in her Masked Arcana series with Kensington Lyrical!  The series is about supernatural beings living in Toronto, their ruling council, and the mysteries and romances they untangle.

The Caffeinated Reviewer said of the first book in the series: "MASKED POSSESSION is the first novel in the Masked Arcana paranormal romance series by Alana Delacroix. From its brilliant world building to sizzling romance I fell hard. This was my first read by Delacroix, but it won’t be my last."

Here is Alana to tell you all about MASKED DESIRE!

Tell us about the book!

MASKED DESIRE is the story of Michaela Chui, a masquerada, or shapeshifter who takes on human forms, and an extremely sexy exiled fey named Cormac Redoak. When they’re forced to work together to solve the murder of a ruling council member, they end up discovering that they might need each other more than they want to admit.

Was the experience of writing this book (as a contracted sequel) different from writing the first book?  How so?

I was more nervous because there were expectations I hadn’t had to deal with before. I had a deadline, for one. I was also working on the edits and the marketing for my first book (MASKED POSSESSION) at the same time, and thinking about how to set up the final book in the trilogy, MASKED DESIRE. I had to work on my time management as well as the actual writing, making it feel more like another job in addition to my nine-to-five. At the same time, I had an editor who I could go to with questions, and that support was fantastic.

What have you learned about the publishing process (or anything specific about publishing romance) since you've started writing these books?

Absolutely, the steepest learning curve has been the marketing. Even though I work in communications and PR for my day job, marketing in the romance biz is a completely different beast. I’m still wrapping my head around all the different platforms and how to increase my visibility in front of readers. It’s particularly difficult as I don’t even use Facebook in my private life. And I prefer print books to e-books! I now dedicate time each day to working on my book and author marketing. You now can follow me on Twitter, Instagram, subscribe for my monthly newsletter, and like me on Facebook.
Did you feel like you were involved in the various stages your book went through?  What kind of input did you have and do you think that is an experience unique to working with Kensington? 

Good question. My editor involved me in creating the blurbs, asked my thoughts for covers and was open to discussions regarding edits. This was everything I wanted. It was very important to me that the women be shown on my covers, and I’m very pleased that Michaela is on this one looking so very gorgeous. Unfortunately, it’s still not very common to have Asian women as heroines and featured on the covers of romance novels.

What is one of your favorite plot twists? 

Well, I don’t want to reveal any of the twists in MASKED LONGING, so I’ll go more general. My favourite three are:
1.     Surprise! I’m not really dead.
2.     Surprise! I’m a double agent.
3.     Surprise! A steady diet of french fries, cheese and wine are good for you. (This last one has not yet happened.)

Can we expect to see any of the characters from MASKED POSSESSION?

You can. Caro and Eric, the stars of MASKED POSSESSION, are there and still madly in love. Stephen and Estelle make an appearance, and we see a bit of how their relationship has progressed…or not. You’ll read about them in the last in the series, MASKED LONGING.

What is some fun promotion you've done for the book?  Anything upcoming we should be keeping our eyes or ears out for? 

It’s set in Toronto, so I’m planning some great social media posts about the locations they took place. You’ll see Cormac’s tree in High Park, get the recipe for the congee Michaela uses as a weapon, and see the infamous graffiti alley on Queen West where Michaela kicks some ass. We’ll also take a trip up to Manitoulin Island, which was the inspiration for the  masquerada training base.

What can we expect next in the series?
As well as discovering what happens to the Dawning’s attempts to control humanity, with the powerful Yangzei at the helm, you’ll find out if Stephan and Estelle can overcome a huge, and I mean huge, betrayal of trust to find love. And beat the bad guys.

Now fun question!  If these books were turned in to a movie (or movies ::salivates::) who would you cast to play the main characters?

Oh, oh, love this one. Okay.
Michaela Chui – Constance Wu. Can’t wait to see her in Crazy Rich Asians.
Cormac Redoak – Charlie Hunnam. This is on looks only, I’ll be honest, but I’m sure he’s a great actor.
Madden – Javier Bardem. Yep.
Rendell (a fey and Cormac’s nemesis) – Will Yun Lee, but with long hair. He’s got a great attitude that fits Rendell to a T.

Queen Tismelda – Tamara Taylor. She can pull off Tismelda’s cold cruelty—with a hint of insecurity—perfectly.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Happy Pub Day!

Tomorrow is the pub day for Greg Bruno's BLESSING FROM BEIJING: INSIDE CHINA'S SOFT-POWER WAR ON TIBET, which untangles the chains that tie Tibetans to China and examines the political, social, and economic pressures that are threatening to destroy Tibet’s refugee communities

Greg is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, The Guardian, Forbes, and UAE-based The National.  He has spent over a decade living in and writing about China, and is a Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, where his previous work on U.S.-Pakistan relations earned him top honors from the Overseas Press Club and an Emmy nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

His book is chock full of interesting insights and interviews, so be sure to buy a copy!

Tell us about your book and your journey to publication!

“Journey” is certainly the correct word for my publishing adventure; from conception to completion, it took me about a decade to finish Blessings from Beijing. Perhaps the easiest part was the title, which I settled on not long after a conversation I had with the Dalai Lama in October 2009.

The reporting and writing portion of my book began earlier that year, when I read a report by Human Rights Watch about life for Tibetan refugees in Nepal. China was pressuring Nepal’s government to restrict the movements and political freedoms of the country’s 20,000 Tibetan refugees; HRW documented the carrots and sticks that the Chinese government was using to put pressure on Tibetans living in the tiny Himalayan kingdom. And Nepal’s government – weak and squeezed between China and India – was complying.

After a number of reporting visits to Nepal and India, I began shopping my book proposal in late 2012.

Then, in November 2015, after trying – and failing – to find an interested publisher on my own, Carrie secured me a deal with the University Press of New England. Then came the really hard part: finishing the book! I had already done much of the reporting by then, but I still lacked huge chunks of historical context. Unfortunately, after a few months of attempting to fill these holes with no guidance, it became obvious to me that for this non-fiction work to be respected, it would need to be authoritative.

So, in an effort to gain a degree of authority, I went back to school – to study Chinese politics and history. In 2016, I moved my family to London, where I earned an MSc in the comparative anthropology of China at the London School of Economics and Political Science. This amazing experience gave me access to some of the greatest thinkers on contemporary China, and also enabled me to contextualize the reporting I had already done in Tibetan refugee settlements. With my newly-acquired academic knowledge I was able to better contextualize what Tibetans were telling me and understand how Chinese policy and history supported these observations.

During graduate school in London I finished the manuscript and completed what, for me, was a deeply rewarding marriage of journalism and education. 

How did you decide to write about the Tibetan diaspora?

My connection to the Tibetan diaspora began when I was a college student in the 1990s. I attended Skidmore College, a small liberal arts school in upstate New York, which placed a high premium on international study as part of the learning experience. Convinced that I could “do Europe” when I was older – I currently live in Prague, so I suppose I’m making good on that assessment – I took the advice of a good friend and applied to the Tibetan Studies program organized by the School for International Training in Vermont. For six months in the winter and spring of 1997, I lived with and among Tibetans in northern India, Nepal, and Tibet. I was instantly struck by Tibetans’ openness, compassion, but most of all, faith in their political future. During those few months I developed a profound affection for the Tibetan people, but also a long list of questions for and about China.

I returned to the US increasingly passionate about the Tibetan issue, but also deeply moved by how China was guiding the future of a people I now counted as friends. So, for a year after I graduated in 1998, I went to China to teach English and engage directly with Chinese on this topic. I traveled throughout Western China and spoke with many students about their views on issues like Tibet, Taiwan, and Chinese nationalism. As my understanding of these complex issues became more nuanced, my interest in the Tibetan topic deepened. When I decided to pursue this book project, it was largely to satiate my own decades-old questions.

What was the funniest interview you did for the book?  The saddest?

This wasn’t a “fun” topic for me or my subjects, simply because it is so personal. Perhaps a better adjective would be “adventurous.” The award for most adventurous interview I did goes to Pemba Norbu Sherpa, a Nepali farmer and former village chief in Lamabagar, an isolated community of stone-and-timber homes a few hours walk from the Tibetan border deep in the Himalayas. In early 2010, I set out for this small village to learn the fate of 17 Tibetan men, women, and children who had been arrested there a few days earlier by Nepali police. Nepal’s media reported that the Tibetans faced deportation which, if it occurred, would have marked a turning point in Nepal’s treatment of Tibetan refugees.

At the time of my visit, the village was reachable only by foot, and it took me two days to walk there with a small team of translators and porters. A road was being built at the time, and Nepali construction crews were using dynamite to blast huge walls of rock into the valley below. But while modernity was slowing creeping up on Lamabagar, it was a distant way off when I visited.

Pemba’s house was cold and dark during our interview, heated only by a small cow-dung fire. But most memorable was what he told me as I sat in his tiny living room, inquiring about the 17 arrested Tibetans. As I write in Chapter 4, To Kill a Goose, Cut Off its Head, the Chinese at the time were suspected of paying Nepali officials and police to report on Tibetan asylum seekers as they navigated the high-mountain passes out of Tibet. And in no uncertain terms, Pemba told me that many officials – perhaps even including him – were on the receiving end of such bribes. It was a chilling interview conducted on the frontlines of China’s war on Tibetan refugees.

As for the saddest, again, I’d suggest a slightly different adjective – “scariest.” That award is easy, and it goes to Samdup Wangmo, the secretary of a small religiously controversial monastery in South India. During a brief encounter with him in May 2012, this monk told me stone-faced that he prays for the day that the Dalai Lama dies. His reasoning is complex and rooted in a religious rift that has manifested in violent conflict and murder; to Samdup and many others, the Dalai Lama is a source of religious suffering, not peaceful transcendence.

That may be, but the way Samdup dispassionately declared his desire to see a global icon of peace and non-violence drop dead still gives me the chills. Religious scholars told me that Tibetans believe the deity Samdup worships has deadly powers; I believe I saw it emanate in Samdup’s smile that day.

​What was the process like for you after you went on submission (shopping to publishers, dealing with contracts, etc.)? 

Carrie managed most of the logistics once I was on submission and did so brilliantly. My engagement with my publisher was straightforward and painless, as was the contract experience. In other words, this might have been the smoothest part of the whole book-writing process!

After the contract was signed, were there any unexpected aspects of the publishing process that surprised you?

Yes, of course; this being my first book, numerous aspects of the publishing process were (pleasantly) surprising. Perhaps the biggest eye-opener was the editing churn. In newspaper journalism, it’s not very common to receive detailed edits before publication; the onus for fact-checking generally lies with the writer, and editors assume that writers have fact-checked every aspect of their copy. Time simply doesn’t allow for much back and forth.

Book editing is (thankfully!) a much more laborious process. Once my draft manuscript was submitted I spent a few more months going back and forth with the editorial team at UPNE, checking and rechecking the factual details of my story. In a project of this length it’s virtually impossible to catch everything. But, thanks to the keen eyes of my production editor, we were able to prevent a number of errors from finding the final proof. Though I certainly logged more all-nighters than I expected when I signed the contract, in the end, the attention to detail involved in the editing process was a welcome surprise.

What part of the publication process has been the most interesting/fun? What part has been the hardest?

All of it has been interesting, as it was a learning process throughout. But it was also hard producing a book as a career journalist. Writing for newspapers, as I did for years, is usually straightforward: editors need content, and “selling” an idea to a newspaper editor is most often quick. Book publishers, on the other hand, are drowning in ideas, and any new book must demonstrate potential to earn a return on investment. Convincing the publishing world that this book was right was interesting, fun, and maddening – all at the same time.

Anything that new authors can learn from your experiences?

I have two suggestions.

First, buy Michael Larsen’s How to Write a Book Proposal, and read it. Then read it again. This was my literary “Bible” during the early stages of securing an agent, and it helped me craft a book proposal that hooked. As a journalist, I knew instinctively that my book idea was a good one. Not only was it timely; I also had access and insight that allowed me to crack the story is ways others might not. But without Larsen’s guidance on how to sell my idea, I’m certain I’d still be an “aspiring” author, not a published one.

And second, never attempt a first book that you are not 100% passionate about. The publishing process is long, mysterious, and full of rejections (usually without a smile). To persevere, authors must be TOTALLY convinced in the value of their book (if always willing to adjust it). I’m not suggesting that doubt won’t creep in; it will. But passion helps position that doubt positively.

In my case, the passion was personal, because I had lived the story years before I started writing it. This passion carried me through the entire process and help me believe in the book, even when most publishers wouldn’t. I spent more time refining my pitch (six years) than writing the book (four years). In other words, passion fueled my persistence, and I think a similar formula is essential for any first-time author.

What's a fun fact about yourself?

In college I majored in geology, primarily so I could get credit to go camping.