Thursday, April 30, 2015

Book Review: THE STORYSPINNER by Becky Wallace

I usually keep a pretty close eye on what's coming up in YA, but somehow this one slipped right by me! Thankfully other authors and bloggers started spreading the word because THE STORYSPINNER by Becky Wallace is a YA fantasy NOT to be missed!

Here's the description from Goodreads:

Drama and danger abound in this fantasy realm where dukes play a game for the throne, magical warriors race to find the missing heir, and romance blossoms where it is least expected.

In a world where dukes plot their way to the throne, a Performer’s life can get tricky. And in Johanna Von Arlo’s case, it can be fatal. Expelled from her troupe after her father’s death, Johanna is forced to work for the handsome Lord Rafael DeSilva. Too bad they don’t get along. But while Johanna’s father’s death was deemed an accident, the Keepers aren’t so sure.

The Keepers, a race of people with magical abilities, are on a quest to find the princess—the same princess who is supposed to be dead and whose throne the dukes are fighting over. But they aren’t the only ones looking for her. And in the wake of their search, murdered girls keep turning up—girls who look exactly like the princess, and exactly like Johanna.

With dukes, Keepers, and a killer all after the princess, Johanna finds herself caught up in political machinations for the throne, threats on her life, and an unexpected romance that could change everything.

THE STORYSPINNER has everything that makes a book/series an instant favorite for me: fast-paced action, courtly intrigue, tension-filled romance, and a little magic! All set in a renaissance-style fantasy realm.
We meet main character, Johanna who is hard-working, feisty and complex and who I liked instantly. She loves her family more than anything and in the wake of her father’s death, everything she does is for them. Lord Rafael DeSilva – or Rafi – wants to do the right thing by his people even if at times he comes off as stubborn and arrogant, especially around Johanna. And their banter-filled chemistry was perfection. And on the other side of the wall (think Stardust!) is a whole other world full of magic and people known as the Keepers. We follow a group of four Keepers who cross the wall in search of a lost princess and find plenty of danger and mystery along the way.
This book has multiple POV’s from chapter to chapter which is usually a roadblock for me as it can be difficult to track at times and borderline annoying because ultimately there will be something happening with one character/storyline that is so much less interesting and you just want to skip it and get back to the good stuff. I was afraid of this happening in the beginning – jumping around from Johanna to Rafi to the Keepers, etc – but really, Wallace keeps the reader engaged and focused the whole time so that I knew exactly what was happening and I was fully sucked in no matter whose perspective. If you’re like me and multiple (like more than 2) POVs is not your thing, I would strongly nudge you to give it a shot with THE STORYSPINNER.
I don’t know what it is, but some books contain this thing, this element of magic you can’t quite put your finger on that causes you to fall in love with it. Not real magic necessarily, or maybe it is, who knows? But whatever that thing is, THE STORYSPINNER has it. I loved everything about it and when it was over I just wanted to pick it up and read it all over again. That’s when you know it’s a good one!
Check it out and if you love it, tell a friend. Or tell 50. Trust me, authors will thank you.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Last week we established the ugly truth that if you are an author, regardless of how you are published or by whom, you have to do all, or at least a good portion, of your own marketing and promotion. Everyone. No one is exempt.

Today I’ll share with you some of the things you should be doing to promote yourself and your books. Some of these suggestions work better than others. Some of these suggestions work for SOME authors better than for others.

Why not one size fits all? That can’t work because we are individuals with our own personalities and abilities. Authors in general tend to be more introverted. (THERE ARE MANY EXCEPTIONS TO THIS RULE—I’M SPEAKING IN VERY GENERAL TERMS.) We spend our days or our free time in front of a computer or at a typewriter or with pen and paper and write stories. We are alone, or if in a public place we are sitting by ourselves. Wherever we are, we are quietly weaving words into stories we hope people will want to read.

Because so many of us are introverts, the world of social media, where so much of our promotion takes place, can be a daunting, uncomfortable world. You don’t even have to be an introvert for it to be an unsettling place—you could be like me. No one who knows me would ever call me an introvert. BUT, I am a very private person. I hate putting my life out in public. Social media requires a level of intimacy I’m simply uncomfortable with. But I do it. And here’s the disclaimer: I could do it much, much better. So as we go through some of these things I must say, “Do as I say, NOT as I do.”

So, in no particular order, EXCEPT FOR NUMBER ONE, ten ways you can promote yourself and your work:

  1. WRITE THE NEXT BOOK. I’ve heard this so many times and from so many people that it must be true. When you think about it, it makes sense. The more you have out there, the more opportunity for readers to find you. Once they find you they will want to read everything you’ve written. A couple of caveats: they should be within the same genre and using the same author name. Most importantly of all, make sure it is a great book that is well written. If you are self-publishing you MUST pay for professional editing and an effective cover. Nothing turns off readers faster than a poorly edited book. And no, you can’t do it yourself. Your book deserves fresh eyes doing the editing. Ditto on cover art.

  1. NETWORK. Everything else on this list could come under this heading, because all social media is about networking. But here I’m talking more of the face-to-face type. Join writers groups. Attend workshops and conferences where you will not only meet other authors, but will have the opportunity to meet agents and editors. I haven’t done so well on some of the items on this list, but I feel like I’ve given this one a good effort. Best of all, it’s fun. You get to meet new people and make new friends. Win, Win.

  1. BLOG. This can be your own blog, or guest spots on other blogs, but you should be doing some kind of blogging. It is best if your blog is NOT about writing. My alter ego made that mistake. Yes, if you are an expert on the craft then by all means we would all love to read what you have to share with us. But if you are like my alter ego, just a fledgling writer, don’t write about your writing journey. Find something that you are an expert on, or that ties into your book genre. An excellent example is the romance writer Delilah Marvelle. She writes sexy historical romances. Her blog is well-researched, interesting posts on sex through history. If someone is interested in unusual historical sex facts they might also be interested in reading her books. It works, and it’s a fun blog to visit. You should google her after you finish reading this!

  1. FACEBOOK.  If you are a writer, you should have an author page on Facebook. It is a type of business page—you can’t friend people from it, but people can come to your page and LIKE you. You post things about your books, things related to your books, your tour stops if you’re on a physical or cyber tour, etc. Several months ago those people who liked your page would get an alert in their timeline any time you posted something new. Here’s the WARNING: Facebook no longer does that. They will send it to some people’s timelines, but if you want to go to all of the people who have liked you, then you have to pay a fee. This has made a lot of people grumpy.

  1. FACEBOOK GROUPS. Facebook has ‘groups’ where people can go to share information on a given topic. For example, I’m writing a book that takes place in my old hometown so I’ve joined a group for people who want to share memories of that city. There are also groups where authors can promote their books. Cool, huh? I’ve used this several times, and I think it has some limited effect on sales.

  1. TWITTER.  This is one that comes under the ‘take your choice of what works for you’ category. I find Twitter the easiest to use, and if I had more time to devote to it I think I would  a) have more fun using it, and b) be more effective using it. Everyone is on it to some extent—some WAY more than others. It’s very straightforward, but the thing authors need to remember is that this is an opportunity to network, not to just blast the world with pleas to buy your latest book. Networking is where I’d like to improve—but again that takes time and commitment, which have been in short supply lately. IF you use Twitter, make sure to make use of the hashtags, which help your post make its way to people who share a similar interest with you.

  1. TUMBLR, PINTEREST, INSTAGRAM etc.  These are more of the ‘take your choice of what works for you’ category. I don’t use these yet, though I’m investigating adding Tumblr to my list of things I’m not doing well. If you are a YA author you should be using Tumblr and maybe Instagram. YA readers are still on Twitter, but I’ve read that their numbers have decreased as other venues have caught their attention.

  1. WEBSITE.  If you are pre-published and don’t have a blog, then you should certainly have a website where readers can learn about what you’re working on, what interests you, your genre, etc. If you are published you must have a website, regardless of whether or not you have a blog. (The blog can be part of the website.) Make it clear, easily read, easily navigated, and keep it updated. Once your readers or potential readers find you at your .com they should have reasons to want to return.

  1. SEE NUMBER ONE.  This can’t be repeated often enough. Write. Write. Repeat. Write the next book. FINISH it! Get it to your agent or editor. If self-publishing, get that professional editing and cover art. Make it the best book it can be. Then REPEAT.

  1.  WHEN SHOULD I START DOING THESE THINGS YOU’VE OUTLINED, MONICA?  You should be building a presence for yourself the minute you think you might want to write a book. Or better yet, months before you even think to think about writing a book. In other words, the SOONER THE BETTER! Pick one or two things that feel comfortable for you and do them well. Network with other authors, potential readers, people from other countries, even people who you don’t think would ever have any interest in what you write because you never know. One fun thing I’ve enjoyed doing is starting conversations on Twitter with people who like a favorite TV show of mine, or a favorite actor. I use the hashtags for the show or actor and then conversations and cyber friendships get started. One day one of these cyber friends might want to buy your book!

These are just a handful of ideas for author self-promotion. I know there are hundreds of other ways authors promote themselves and their books. We would love to hear what works for you, so if you have a moment please leave a comment. You know, start a conversation and do some networking!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Truth You Don't Want to Hear About Author Self-Promotion

I belong to three different writers’ groups. I’m a bit of a workshop/conference junkie, though I’m cutting back on that for a while. And without exception, there is one question that is always asked at every workshop, group meeting, or conference:

Do authors have to do their own marketing and promotions?

I can answer that, I want to shout out!

YES! The answer is YES!!  I REALLY know that answer at the moment because my alter-ego is busy promoting a new release.

Here are the sub-questions that inevitably follow:

1.     Do you need to do marketing and promotions if you self-publish?

ANSWER: YES. Of course. Your book, no matter how wonderful, enlightening, or ground-breaking it is, will be one of MILLIONS that are out there. How will readers find it if you don’t let them know, in many different ways, that your amazing book exists?

2.     Do you need to do marketing and promotions if you are published by a small press/publisher?

ANSWER: YES. The traditional small presses, which seem to me to often be connected to universities, do not have the budgets to do extensive marketing for their authors. And since the advent of the e-book, there have been many new small publishers to come on the scene. Some are literally here today and gone tomorrow. Others are here for a while, but don’t last. But there are some that have staying power and are publishing excellent books that are well edited and have beautiful, effective covers. BUT, very few, (think of a very, very small number now) offer marketing as part of their contract. So, just like for the self-published, all marketing and promotions are up to you.

3.     Do you need to do marketing and promotions if you are published by a Big Five publisher?

ANSWER: YES. However, the Big Five and their legions of imprints DO have marketing/publicity departments that work for and with you. They have the budgets to get the news of your new book out there. Now gather closer children as I talk about the olden days. Once upon a time, those BIG publishers did ALL of the marketing for a book and its author. Yes, the author may have been expected to do some book tours, but beyond that there was little that was expected of them other than to write the next book. That has changed. Today, all authors regardless of the size of their publishing house are expected to have some kind of online presence. They should be on Twitter and/or Facebook and/or Tumblr and/or have a blog etc. etc., and certainly they must have a web page of their own. All of these venues are for the purpose of connecting the authors to their readers.

Bottom line is that no author is immune to doing at least a part of her/his own marketing and promotions.

Let me share with you an example of what one NYTimes best selling YA author does. This author is published by one of the biggest YA publishers in the industry. She also happens to be multi-talented, and uses all of her talents to help promote her writing. As a fine artist, she might draw gorgeous pictures related to her current release to have made into book covers to use as giveaways at tour stops. She’s been known to decorate electric guitars with intricate designs to raffle off during tours. This author even painted a design on her car to reflect something from the book that was being released at the time. As a composer she writes and performs the music that accompanies the audiobook versions. On top of all this she is an über tweeter, posts regularly and frequently on Tumblr and on a blog, and has a presence on Facebook as well. It’s impressive, daunting, and makes me tired to think about because on top of all of this SHE IS ALWAYS WRITING THE NEXT BESTSELLER! [Note: She also happens to be one of my VERY FAVORITE authors!]

The next question that is invariably asked is When and how should I start my marketing/promotions/social media?

The answer to that question, next week!

(See how I did that? I fixed it so you have to come back to this blog again if you want to find out the answer to that intriguing question! Promotion. Wink Wink.)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: THE 100 & DAY 21 by Kass Morgan

Recently Sarah and I discovered a new T.V. show…you may have heard of it: The 100??


Like us you decided to try it out. Right? Watch one episode, see how it goes and mayyyybe watch episode 2? 

What happened?

You binge watched all of season 1 in two days? Or was that just us? Man it was like CRACK! We just kept watching and watching. 

And then! We find out the show is based on BOOKS! What?

I hustled my booty to my local library and proceeded to directly to the YA section. Desperately seeking The 100. I checked out the first two books in the series and-just like with the show-tore through them!

Here’s a brief synopsis from Good Reads for both books:

In the future, humans live in city-like spaceships orbiting far above Earth's toxic atmosphere. No one knows when, or even if, the long-abandoned planet will be habitable again. But faced with dwindling resources and a growing populace, government leaders know they must reclaim their homeland... before it's too late.

Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents are being sent on a high-stakes mission to recolonize Earth. After a brutal crash landing, the teens arrive on a savagely beautiful planet they've only seen from space. Confronting the dangers of this rugged new world, they struggle to form a tentative community. But they're haunted by their past and uncertain about the future. To survive, they must learn to trust - and even love - again.

And…Day 21:

No one has set foot on Earth in centuries -- until now.

It's been 21 days since the hundred landed on Earth. They're the only humans to set foot on the planet in centuries...or so they thought. Facing an unknown enemy, Wells attempts to keep the group together. Clarke strikes out for Mount Weather, in search of other Colonists, while Bellamy is determined to rescue his sister, no matter the cost. And back on the ship, Glass faces an unthinkable choice between the love of her life and life itself.

In this pulse-pounding sequel to Kass Morgan's
The 100, secrets are revealed, beliefs are challenged, and relationships are tested. And the hundred will struggle to survive the only way they can -- together.

These books were so fun to read! And, in a lot of ways differ from the series but I loved every page. If you haven’t read these books yet I highly recommend!

Also! Just now I got an e-mail from my library and Homecoming (book 3 of the series) is patiently waiting for me at the library! Thank you universe!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Relationship Stages of a Writer and their WIP

We had a critique meeting a little while back and were catching up on where we are with our respective WIP's and it got me thinking about what a long journey it is to write a book. All the ups, downs and sideways feelings we have at any given time. So here you go, a list of the various stages (or maybe just the ones I go through) of the relationship a writer has with their novel along the way.

1.)    Love at first sight

Seemingly out of nowhere, you are blindsided by the tiniest spark of an idea that ignites your creative juices until you think “Holy crap! I might actually have something here.” And you’re so excited you want to share your excitement with everyone you talk to, but you know they won’t get it (unless maybe they are other writers) and besides, you kind of want to keep it all to yourself for just a little while.

2.)    Whirlwind romance

You spend the next days/weeks/months falling in love with your story. Plotting it out, pulling characters out of thin air and getting to know their names, faces and voices. Your fingers itch to be able to sit down and start barfing it out before your brain explodes. You’re convinced that once you do, your fingers will fly across the keyboard. It probably won’t even take you that long to finish the first draft because you love every single thing about it and see it all so clearly in your head.

3.)    The honeymoon

It happened! You are finally ready to start writing and the words are flowing. Characters are coming to life on the page and you’ve got some snappy dialogue. 1k words became 5k became 20k. You are rocking it! You know it’s not perfect, but there will be plenty of time to go back later for fixes and layering. The key is to keep looking forward.

4.)    The honeymoon is over

You’re stuck. You hear the voice of Gandalf the Grey saying “You shall not pass!” And you think, “Yep, you are so right.” You can’t figure out when or where, but you’re sure you’ve taken a wrong turn along the way and now there’s no way out of the mire. So you seek wise council and encouragement from your friends/critique partners. It helps and you push onward.

5.)    7-year itch

It literally feels like you have been writing this novel for seven years. Maybe your eyes are starting to wander. There are shiny new ideas fighting for your attention and what if one of them could be The One, but you’re not free to go after it yet. You’re in a committed relationship, but seriously starting to question that commitment.

6.)    Let’s try counseling

You thought for a second of giving it all up, citing Irreconcilable Differences, but you’re ready to stick with it and put in the work to go deeper, push your characters farther and seek out the problem areas to really work them out. Maybe time to seek professional help (or just the help of others/beta readers). Someone else’s eye could pick up on something you have been too close to see.

7.)    Happily ever after

You made it to the other side! Your WIP became a finished product and you are a better writer and your book is better because of all that work. You just want to cry all the tears knowing that soon it will be time to release it out into the world and you have no idea how it will be received or if it will really ever see the light of day, so you just hug it to yourself and keep it close a little longer. You want others to love it as much as you do, but even if they don’t, it’s got that special place in your heart forever.

The End J