Monday, July 31, 2017

What I Learned at Yale

I got a great suggestion via Twitter to share what I learned when I was at the Yale Writers Conference in mid-June.  Sorry this is coming so late, but there has been a lot going on this summer!  First off, I have to say, this was probably the most impressive conference I have ever been to (not a surprise).  I was so bowled over by the quality of the writing that I saw in pitch sessions and the detailed questions asked during the panel.  There were a few questions in particular I thought would be really helpful to share with you!

What is more important: voice or plot?

One attendee asked which of these things was more important.  The answer is that both are essential to crafting an excellent manuscript!  However, in terms of what you can work on improving with your agent and editor, it is MUCH easier to fix problems with plot than problems with voice.  Voice is something (to a certain extent) that can't be taught.  In my opinion, it's also harder for agents to pin down.  I can easily tell where a plot is weak and think of suggestions to fix it, but if the voice isn't quite right, it is harder for me to advise an author on how to change that.

As a side note, when I was listening to pitches at the conference, there was one pitch that I wasn't fully excited about plot-wise, but when she read me her opening paragraph, the voice was so incredible that I immediately changed my mind!

How important is genre distinction?

Another thing that came up is the important of getting your genre right when querying.  This is something that we thought was not essential.  You don't want to be wildly off the mark and call yourself book club when you are literary, but if you're worrying about the distinctions between literary and women's fiction, you don't need to panic when querying.  It is something, however to discuss with your agent once you have one, since the way you decide to brand the novel will determine what kind of editors will look at it.

How important is having your writing published in literary magazines, etc. and how often do you find authors this way?

This is such an interesting question and one I had an awful answer to.  Having your writing published in journals or online can be a great way to build an audience and your platform (my author Nicole Trilivas first had her work appear on Wattpad and was a Marian Keyes contest winner), although is not essential for fiction writers to do this.  I have personally reached out to self-published authors, such as my author (and NYT bestseller!) Suzy Quinn, but it's something that I only do once in a blue moon.  

So if you're planning on submitting your work to magazines or publish it on online, keep in mind that you'll most likely still have to do the legwork when it comes to finding an agent.  We're a pretty busy group and even though it's the smart thing to do, many of us don't have time to scour these places to look for new clients.  

There were some other standard questions about agenting and our role in the publishing process that I won't share, but I hope these were interesting and helpful to read about!  If you have any questions about the conference or questions in general, let me know in the comments section with hashtag #IHAVEAQUESTION!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Cat Birthday

Ivan and Nori are 1-year-old!! I can’t believe we’ve had these little guys for under a year—it feels like they have been a part of our family forever.  Because I love my kittens, this week, I have made a cat timeline photo collage for all of you.  Enjoy! 😺😺

Monday, July 17, 2017

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!  

ALSO, please be aware: because I have two books publishing in August, the Query Critique winner will not be announced for about a month!  Thanks, everyone!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Happy Pub Day!

Tomorrow is the pub day of the third book in Shana Figueroa's Valentine Shepherd seriesRECKONING.  I just love this quirky, kick-ass romance—and if you've read the other two books, you know just how crazy awesome these books are!  I'm so happy to have Shana here to talk to us about this book and you all should be sure to pre-order your copy today!!

Tell us a bit about this book and its relationship to the first two books in the series.

This is the third book in the Valentine Shepherd series starring Val and Max—the same couple from the first two books, which I know is rare for a romance series. The first two books focused on the initial relationship between Val and Max, and how they overcame both internal and external obstacles to grow as people and be able to love one another. The third book jumps ahead five years to find the couple settled into marital bliss with two children. The story explores how they’ve changed, and what happens when their bond is tested to its limit.

What is one of your favorite plot twists in the book?
Many characters in this series have motivations they hold close to the chest, so there are oodles of plot twists throughout the story as various plans unfold. So many to choose from! However, my favorite is the one on the very last page of the book, where you learn that one initially despicable character is more noble than he seems.

How has it been writing about these characters for three books?  Are you ready to move on to something new or would you be happy to continue the series?

I’ve loved creating characters that are so complicated! I enjoy writing in the gray zone where nobody’s totally good or totally evil, and I’ll continue to do that with each book I write. Though I’ve loved every second creating the Valentine Shepherd universe, I’m ready to move on to something new.

In fact, I’m almost done with the first draft of a totally new novel, a science fiction YA(ish) story about two battled-hardened soldiers from the future who are thrown back in time into their teenaged bodies in our present day. As they try to figure out what’s going on—and grapple with their growing attraction to each other—they begin receiving orders to kill. Should they obey like the good soldiers they’re supposed to be, or resist and risk destroying the future?

What are some of your favorite romance novels?  Were any of them an inspiration when writing this series?

One of my favorite romance stories is Traveling Light by Carole Matthews. In it, a British woman hooks up with an American guy while she’s on a trip through Asia a few weeks before her wedding. It has a beautiful one-paragraph description of when they first make love in a monastery, which is an example of masterful writing achieving what pages of explanation could not. I adore the idea of finding love on an exotic road trip with someone you just click with—which is basically what happens in VENGEANCE—and cheered when the heroine finally called off her wedding.

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)?

I have this habit where I twirl my hair a lot when I’m thinking. My mom says it makes me look crazy, so I try not to do it in public. It’s just so soft!

Anything you want your readers to know?
  • I’ve got a bunch of amazing deals going on right now!
  • Sign up for my newsletter, and receive a FREE e-copy of VENGEANCE!
  • Write an honest review of one of the books in the Valentine Shepherd Series, e-mail me ( a link to the review, and receive an e-copy of the NEXT BOOK IN THE SERIES for free!
  • Pre-order RECKONING, e-mail me ( the receipt, and receive an e-copy of both VENGEANCE and RETRIBUTION for free!
  • From now until the release of RECKONING on July 11, I’ll be giving away goodies and posting exclusive content with chapter previews and “character portraits” on my website!
o   Each Friday leading up to RECKONING’s release, I’ll give away a $10 Amazon gift card to a random person who comments on any of the previous week’s blog content (hateful trolls and spambots excluded)
o   Join me for a RECKONING Release Party on Facebook on July 11th, where I’ll give away even more books, including signed hard copies!

Also, check out my upcoming Blog Tour! Here’s my schedule of “appearances:”

Monday, July 3, 2017

Happy Pub Day!

Tomorrow is the pub day for Brianna DuMont's WEIRD BUT TRUE KNOW-IT-ALL: US PRESIDENTS!  Brianna also write another quirky nonfiction kids' series for Sky Pony, called The Changed History series.  The School Library Journal said of the series, "Prepare to be disillusioned as independent historian DuMont debunks many of history’s legends...[Her] lively, breezy style often descends to the snarky and sarcastic and may spark a healthy skepticism about textbook history. DuMont lists sources for each chapter, most of which are reliable, even excellent."  

With all this in mind, I'm super excited to have Brianna talk to us about her project with National Geographic!

First off, tell us about this project!

National Geographic Kids approached me to write a book about the U.S. Presidents because of my unique approach to history—humor! It was a spin-off of their popular Weird But True series, which is all about the weird, fun facts of the world. We wanted to cover every president with a short bio, big pictures (as Nat Geo is known for), and a scattering of weird but true facts to break up the text. Informative but funny!

What was researching this book like?  What was the funniest discovery you made? 

I fell even more in love with American history thanks to this project. I dug into so many biographies and even read Ulysses S. Grant’s autobiography, which is considered one of the finest presidential autobiographies. We also had the White House historian look over the book! How cool!

Did you know: Benjamin Harrison was the first president to have electricity in the White House but was so scared of it that he had the staff turn on and off the lights?

(I’m *super* fun at parties.)

Was it different to write a book that you were brought on to do, rather than create your own project?

Before I started PRESIDENTS, I thought it would be different. But I tend to throw myself fully into any project and especially research—my favorite part. That’s the only way to produce a good book; you have to really love what you’re writing so I treated this book baby like any other book baby concept I come up with myself.

Which president is your favorite?  Did it change after writing this book?

I’d always appreciated super intelligent Pres. Garfield before writing this book—he could write ancient Greek with one hand and Latin with the other at the same time—but I came to appreciate Herbert Hoover after. A rags-to-riches story, Hoover was a self-made man that got his start in engineering. He became a dedicated humanitarian during WWI, instituted the original meatless Mondays and wheatless Wednesdays to help with food shortage, and secretly spoke Mandarin with his wife during boring state dinners. Unfortunately, some of his bad rep is justifiable. As president, he saw the economic woes as a small recession, but it wasn’t. It was the Great Depression.

How do you feel nonfiction for kids differs from nonfiction for adults, besides hiding more salacious facts?

It can be more lighthearted. You’re right that adult nonfiction doesn’t shy away from the scandalous, but it can sometimes feel like that’s what it mainly focuses on for the shock factor. Kids’ nonfiction can’t rely on that, so we rely on things like humor.

What are you working on now?  

A middle-grade fantasy adventure story about estranged twins unleashing ancient Mesopotamian gods. I love mythology and quests!

What's a fun fact about yourself?

I can read three variations of Ancient Greek. I am so confused about modern Greek. 

And Happy Fourth of July!