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26. Helping to fight hunger

On Sunday, our little family headed off to the Mid-Atlantic Gleaning Network's warehouse in Brandywine, MD, to volunteer along with our congregation.  It was our annual "gleaning", when we help to pick or pack food for the hungry--food that otherwise would have rotted in fields after the commercial harvest was done.

This year we sorted giant boxes (they'd fit about 20 Little Dudes handily...) of sweet potatoes donated by a farmer in North Carolina, checking for rotten potatoes (very few were found) and putting them in bags. It wasn't tough work and by the time an hour had passed, our group had emptied the four giant boxes. We must have filled at least fifty big (50 pound+) bags. Those bags will head off to food banks and congregations that directly feed people in need.

We weren't even there for two hours, but all three of us left feeling so light and happy. For at least one Sunday morning, we didn't linger over coffee and bagels. We did something that made an active difference for people who aren't lucky enough to dash off to their favorite bakery every time they have a yen for a cinnamon roll.

My point isn't looking for a pat on a back--but maybe this post can inspire someone. I think a lot of people want to volunteer, but feel like their time won't be wanted if they can only give a few hours. Know that you don't have to give tons of time to make a difference. Consider reaching out to a food bank, or a gleaning project, for a few hours this fall. You could help to put food on a hungry family's table.

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27. What makes a writer? Ask my Mom and Dad…

So I know I’ve been posting my fair share of interviews with me, lately, on the CANDOR Facebook fan page and via Twitter… so I thought I’d turn the tables a bit.

I interviewed my Mom and Dad.

Below you will find the unvarnished and revealing words of the brave people who raised me and bought me a TRS-80 so I could write rambling stories about mermaids. And now I know why there are so happy about this book being published: at least I did not become an actress.

Yet.

Kidding… probably. Love you, Mom and Dad.

Q. Some people ask me what sort of trauma I experienced as a child, because I write dark things. Can either of you shed any light of this?
DAD: Trauma, you want trauma? Two incidents stand out. The very first bath and the result was a blood curdling yell. I can still feel it. The second was when the road test did not end in success. The second blood curdling scream of excruciating pain was heard. The crystal in the closet vibrated, the guinea pigs dug deep into the litter and the Westminster Chimes missed the quarter-hour strike.

MOM: I remember a nightmare when you could not be convinced that there wasn’t a squirrel running around your room. Even in the morning, you couldn’t be convinced. Does chicken for dinner every third night count as trauma?

Q. What was your first clue that I might end up being a writer?
MOM: Oh boy – all those stories you wrote and illustrated from the time you could hold a crayon! And you “read” every one of those to us! I also remember a very cute second-grader announcing to me that someday she was going to be a real writer (like Mrs. Ellis, I do believe.)

DAD: When you were published in the BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educations Services) talent review. But then again there was that software review you wrote for a magazine at an early age.

Q. Which one of my varied career ambitions made you most worried for my future?

DAD: Easy, when you wanted to go to BU and enroll in the school of dramatics or performing arts - whichever! All I couple picture was a poor starving young women looking for crusts of bread in the back of Italian restaurants in NYC.

MOM: Without a doubt, your acting/singing ambitions. I will always be grateful to the Boston U interviewer who convinced you that you would need a back-up career! And from that, a communications major was born. WHEW!

Q. How do you think parents can best encourage their children to love reading and writing?

DAD: By reading to them every night. Have books and magazine readily available and let your children see parents reading. Children learn by imitation and if parents don't read, how will children get the message? With all candor it is very important the children get the message. (Pam’s note: Do you see? They promote for me at every turn. Is that love or WHAT?)

MOM: Read, read, read! Parents who read to and with their children are giving them the best gift possible.  Writing follows reading, but not every avid reader enjoys writing (such as your mother). And if you remember, you and I read together until you were in middle school. After that, we read the same books and discussed them.  There is no such thing as reading too much with your children! I also recommend a trip to the bookstore as a great reward for a good report card.

Q. What's the craziest thing you've done to promote your beloved daughter's book?

DAD: I visit Borders on a regular basis and keeping moving CANDOR to the front of the shelf. I also started a thread featuring the book on my BMW motorcycle forum.

MOM: Hmm, I don’t know about “craziest” but I’ve certainly been promoting it to anyone who will listen to me! I’ve sent out e-mails periodically to everyone who has expressed an interest in your writing, and that list of people has grown over the past months. My CURVES buddies know about it, I announced it at the Music Company Orchestra rehearsal Monday night, and I check any bookstore I’m near to see if it’s there and is placed “properly.” Now if you send me a Candor T-shirt . . . who knows what I might do!

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28. New interviews and CANDOR reviews

This being CANDOR’s launch week, lots of reviews, and interviews with me, are rolling hot off the presses. Here’s the latest batch:

INTERVIEWS

REVIEWS

  • “A thrilling debut novel full of suspense, betrayal and forbidden romance..” –Fantastic Book Review
  • “This book couldn’t have ended better…” –The Tainted Poet
  • “Bachorz had me hooked pretty much from page 1…” –Bookshipper
  • A perfect 50 over at The Hiding Spot!
  • “If you are looking for something different…I would definitely suggest this book.” –Pop Culture Junkie
  • “Fans of “Big Brother”-esque novels like “A Brave New World” and “1984” will enjoy this modern take” --The Sentinel Online

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29. What I Did on Launch Day

DSC01748Yesterday was the official release date for CANDOR. My Mom and I toured the bookstores of Maryland, Virginia and DC to track down CANDOR. It was a thrill to see it on the shelf—my name, my story, alongside so many others… like it belongs there, you know? Wow.

Here’s a pic from our stop at DC indie Politics and Prose, where I signed special orders and stock copies too (this is the place to call if you’d like a signed copy). And why yes, I DID dress to match my cover, including matching handbag from my sweet Patron Of The Arts—what of it? Do not mock my girly geeky authorness! This was my day to completely nerd out!

For lunch, we went to 2941 Restaurant for a meal that made me feel like I was a Top Chef judge… the waiters explained the contents of each course and my halibut even had a “foam finish”. You know how it looks weird on TV? Don’t you think, “gee, I don’t know if I would want foam on my food?” Yeah, it looks weird in person too. But then I tasted the food and was totally bowled over. It was cool to celebrate my own art by enjoying the chef’s amazing art. Oh and fellow dessert fans, they bring you these little fresh-made lemon donut holes with the check (certainly they had a lovely French word for them but… high school French was a long time ago…). Still. Warm.

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30. Another reader "Caught with CANDOR"

Librarian and kidlit writer Tina found CANDOR in Altamonte Springs, FL, not so very far from where Candor, FL would be if it were real.... or maybe it is! You be the judge!

Tina, you're entered for the drawing for a $15 gift certif to the indie bookstore of your choice!

Haven't entered yet? You've got plenty of time--but why wait? Join the fun here.

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31. CONTEST! Caught with CANDOR

To celebrate the US release of CANDOR in just one week (9/22), I am hosting a contest.

CANDOR by Pam Bachorz The FIRST person who sends me a picture of themselves (or the victim(s) of their choice) holding a hardcover edition of CANDOR will win a $15 gift certificate from Powell’s or the US indie bookstore of their choice. Also, I’ll send you a signed bookplate.

Everyone else who sends me a pic of themselves with a hardcover edition of CANDOR will be entered in a drawing to win another $15 gift certif to Powell’s or the US indie bookstore of their choice. Plus a signed bookplate.

RULES:

--Send pics to: pbachorz@yahoo.com, JPEG or TIFF attachments only please.

--If you are cool with me posting the pic on my blog (and I hope you will be!), please tell me in your email

--Contest starts 09/15/2009 and ends 10/15/2009.

--Pictures with copies of Advance Reader Copies do NOT count.

--This contest applies to copies of CANDOR purchased online or found in bookstores. If you got a hardcover copy for review, or because you work for/with my publisher, etc, that does NOT count, peeps! Not that you would ever be that sneaky, right?

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32. Read This Book: HATE LIST

So are you looking for some outstanding YA reading? How about a PW starred book: Jennifer Brown’s HATE LIST is a “riveting debut…piercingly real". Wow! What? You don’t have your copy yet? Check out all the details below, then head on over to Indiebound or Amazon. You can also read the first chapter on Jennifer’s website, and check out all the fun stuff going on for her online September debut party.

A bit about the book:

Five months ago, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saves the life of a classmate, but is implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things they hated. The list her boyfriend used to pick his targets.

Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.

Jennifer answered my three fave questions:

--I think teen books can, and should, be read by grown-ups. Tell my grandma Grace why she should read your book.
Because school shootings affect all of us, and because I think we can all learn a thing or two about acceptance.
--What would your 16-year-old self say if she read your book?
"Well, it's not Stephen King..." (I was such a King devotee back then! ...Okay. Still am...)
--I am fascinated by writers' inspirations. Tell me about a real-life setting that found its way into your book.
My husband's office, which is Dr. Hieler's office without a doubt, from the wooden hot air balloon to the chess set to the gumball machine.

And finally, all about Jennifer:

Jennifer Brown is the author of HATE LIST, a YA novel coming out in September 2009. As a two-time winner of The Erma Bombeck Global Humor award and weekly columnist for The Kansas City Star, as well as Saturday Featured Blogger for Mom2MomKC.com, Jennifer spends a lot of time dressing up her dog for laughs and thinking of new ways to works words such as "Puh-lease" and "Ch-yeah!" into sentences. Jennifer grew up in the Kansas City, Missouri area, where she still lives with her husband, three kids, and whole herd of uncooperative pets.

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33. My fingers get to rest

I’ve just finished entering all my handwritten corrections for my next novel. As you might recall, I did an entire edit on paper, using Holly Lisle’s One-Pass Revision method. I am exhausted!

It has taken me seven weeks, exactly, to reach this point, on a manuscript that clocked in at just under 85,000 words. I’m not declaring the revision done yet; as I worked I wrote multiple notes to myself like “deleted Character X in Chapter 18, be sure she doesn’t show up in the first 17 chapters”. Now I need to go back and take care of those things.

So far, the most surprising thing to me has been that, just like CANDOR, I ended up writing an entirely new last “act” of the book. Lots of chapter carnage (12 chapters entirely deleted) and lots of new stuff (11 new chapters added!). But the very last chapter stayed the same. I knew where I wanted to go, but I decided on a simpler and hopefully more dramatic path to the end.

I’m also surprised by how many words I trimmed out, especially since I wasn’t even worrying about word count while I revised. The new draft is almost 15,000 words lighter than when I started—and interestingly enough, just 25 pages longer than CANDOR. I wonder if there’s a natural book length for me, in the end.

Of course, this is nowhere near the end for this book. After I put in the finishing touches, it heads to my agent and then off to my editor. I’m sure I will have just as intense an edit waiting for me once she’s read through it! But I’m excited. I can’t wait to see what this book turns to be like.

And the best part of this schedule? I should be able to bundle this baby off just in time to celebrate the release of CANDOR, just one week from Tuesday! 

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34. Networking: Tasty and Nutritious

Today I went to my first DC Kidlit book club meeting. I loved meeting other people who live and breathe children’s literature as much as me—teachers, librarians, bloggers, and other authors. There is something so nourishing about being around other people in this community. I left feeling revived and I’ve already got the book for next month (Marcelo in the Real World) on reserve at the library for a second read.

One of the people I met today was Pam, of Mother Reader fame, and we chatted about the upcoming Kidlitosphere conference. If you are an author who’s in the DC area, or you’ve got the cash to travel here, you really ought to consider this one. The conference focuses on kidlit blogging and will include sessions for authors who blog—or want to get started. It’s just a day long, and small, so you’ll get a chance to network with everybody. There’s even a spot on the schedule for bloggers to circulate and meet authors. We all know the benefits of networking. So check it out today—I hope to see you there!

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35. Read This Book: THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z.

Today I’m welcoming Kate Messner to my blog to celebrate the release of her novel, THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. I am deeply envious of Kate because she lives in way, way upstate NY amid tall mountains and, soon, incredibly vibrant fall colors. I guess I’ll just have to live vicariously through THE BRILLIANT FALL…you can pick up your own copy at Indiebound or Amazon.

A bit about the book:

fallgianna Gianna Zales has a lot on her plate this fall – a father who drives her to school in the family hearse, a mother who’s turned into the junk food police, a little brother who thinks he’s a member of the paparazzi, and a grandmother who leaves false teeth in the refrigerator. Worst of all, she’s left her 7th grade leaf collection to do at the last minute. It’s a monster project, and Gianna will miss cross-country sectionals if she doesn’t meet the deadline. She’ll need the help of her geeky friend, Zig, and some brilliant ideas of her own to pull it off.

Kate answered my three fave questions:

--I think teen books can, and should, be read by grown-ups. Tell my grandma Grace why she should read your book.
THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. is actually a perfect book for grandparents and kids to read together because it explores those amazing intergenerational relationships as well as the challenges families face when grandparents are getting older.
--What would your 16-year-old self say if she read your book?
Hmm...she'd probably relate an awful lot to Gianna (particularly her habit of misplacing things!)
--I am fascinated by writers' inspirations. Tell me about a real-life setting that found its way into your book.
The Robert Frost Interpretive Trail in Ripton, Vermont is the scene for one of my chapters, when Gianna goes walking with her mother and grandmother to collect leaves for her school project. It's a beautiful, beautiful trail with Frost poems posted along the way, in spots that reflect the theme of each poem.
And Montreal's Jean-Talon Market makes an appearance in the book, too. It's one of my favorite places in the city, a busy, bustling sea of people and colors and smells -- and a perfect place for someone who's having memory issues like Nonna's to get confused.

And finally, all about Kate:

Kate Messner grew up in Medina, New York and graduated from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Communication with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. She worked as a television news producer and reporter in Syracuse, NY and then Burlington, VT, before going back to school to get a teaching degree. These days, Kate is a National Board Certified middle school English teacher. She has helped hundreds of kids work on leaf collection projects and likes sugar maples and catalpa leaves the best. Kate lives on Lake Champlain with her husband and kids and loves spending time in the woods.

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36. Emerging from my revision cocoon

What happens when writers finish a major stage in their novel-in-progress?


On Friday afternoon, I finished my hand-written and new chapter revisions for my YA work in progress. I still have to ENTER all those revisions in the computer now, but that is the very least of the job. I am coasting downhill and I can see the finish line up ahead. 


So now I am emerging from my cocoon. All those things I had to let go, and set aside, are clamoring for my attention. I got my first haircut since April, and had about 6 inches chopped off my hair. Today Little Dude gets a haircut (thankfully, we hadn't waited since April for that). Then yesterday I spent an entire hour weeding our backyard's planting beds (whew! crazy way to celebrate, I know). Then we made a family expedition to Larriland Farm in Woodbine, MD (which, as an aside, I highly recommend for any DC or Baltimore folks who are looking to pick apples,  peaches, tomatoes... you name it, they've got it. And in October they let you actually wander into the huge pumpkin patch and cut your own pumpkin off the vine.).  Our little family of three picked 21 pounds of apples, 24 pounds of peaches and 10 pounds of tomatoes. Yes, 55 pounds of produce. Then we picked up 12 ears of corn just for the heck of it.  And a cute little French melon. And a luscious-smelling cantaloupe. And a bunch of blackberries. Plus two snowcones but at least those have already been consumed!


Which leads to my next non-writerly project: what to do with these masses of apples, peaches and tomatoes. Apples will store for months, so we just fired up the mini-fridge in the basement and stuffed them in there. But what to do with all the peaches and tomatoes?


For a few insane hours, I contemplated canning them (mind you, we have no canning equipment) but then my father reminded me of the hazy steamy August nights of my childhood. I remember my mother canning countless jars of tomatoes and tomato sauce, and helping her push tomatoes through the food mill. "Do you like that new paint job in your kitchen?" he warned. "Then skip the canning." 


So, here's plan B:


--Nathalie Dupree's peach cobbler tonight


--Grilled chicken with peach salsa for dinner


--Peach muffins for breakfast (yes, by tomorrow at noon we will all be tinted orange)


--Nachos with fresh-made tomato salsa for Monday lunch


--Homemade spaghetti sauce for Tuesday's dinner


--An entirely different homemade tomato sauce for dinner later in the week


--Corn salad (bonus, it uses tomatoes AND corn, double whammy!)


If all else fails, we can do anonymous midnight drops of produce on friends and neighbors' porches... hey, they should just feel lucky it's not zucchini (shudder... another childhood memory)...

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37. CANDOR: Bound, Bodacious and Bright

IMG_9737I just got my FIRST bound copy of CANDOR! It looks beautiful. The cover totally pops with the orange colors, even orangier than my hair! I still can’t believe that’s my name there on the orange bar—and all my words, right inside those covers. But my picture is in the back flap, so it must be real, right?

As a huge ANNE OF GREEN GABLES fan, I always dreamed of the day I’d get the bound copy of my book. Would I be like Anne—grabbing a wad of tissues, then curling up the read the entire thing cover-to-cover? Nope! Who has time for such things? I’ve got promotional work to do for CANDOR and then there’s the next one, due very very soon. So I petted the book, called it pretty, then headed off to push forward on revisions.

Official release date is 9/22—three weeks from tomorrow—but keep your eyes peeled, as books often hit the shelves a few days before release. I’ll be hosting a “CANDOR In the Wild” contest in two weeks or so; every person who sends me a pic of CANDOR at a bookstore will be entered. So keep an eye on this space for the official rules, soon.

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38. What I read while I write

I know some writers who don’t read any fiction while they write. One told me that when he’s writing, he can’t focus on any words except his own story. Another told me she worries that she’ll start using the voice of the book she’s writing, instead of her own.

But I find I read even more when I’m writing—especially now that I’m revising. I gather the books to me like armor, or maybe teddy bears, snatching bits while I brush my teeth or dry my hair. Everything in the house goes to seed while I’m in the middle of intense revisions, and that includes books propped open, scattered here and there, in any old place.

Tonight I realized that there’s a particular trend in what I’m reading: I’ve been choosing the books written by friends. I don’t think that’s an accident. Having their words near me is the next best thing to sitting in the same room while we work. I can hear their voices in their work, and it’s both comforting and inspiring. When I get tired, sometimes I’ll take a break and read another chapter—and find that I am galvanized, as if I stopped to grab a cup of coffee with my friend.

So, writing friends scattered far and wide, thank you for giving me fuel to push forward on my intense revision schedule. When you wrote your stories, you never imagined this particular reader finding this kind of meaning in your books!

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39. Dazzling Debs: FAIRY TALE

My fourth and last visitor for Dazzling Debs week is Cyn Balog. Her debut YA title FAIRY TALE recently released and sounds like a rip-roaring fairy story… which I love. Join me in buying it today—or head to her next signing if you are in NJ or PA (details on her website).

fairy A bit about FAIRY TALE:

Morgan Sparks and Cam Browne are a match made in heaven. They've been best friends since birth, they tell each other everything, and oh yeah- they're totally hot for each other. But a week before their joint Sweet Sixteen bash, everything changes. Cam's awkward cousin Pip comes to stay, and Morgan is stunned when her formerly perfect boyfriend seems to be drifting away. When Morgan demands answers, she's shocked to discover the source of Cam's distance isn't another girl- it's another world. Pip claims that Cam is a fairy. No, seriously. A fairy. And now his people want Cam to return to their world and take his rightful place as Fairy King.

Determined to keep Cam with her, Morgan plots to fool the fairies. But as Cam continues to change, she has to decide once and for all if he really is her destiny, and if their "perfect" love can weather an uncertain future.

Cyn answered my three fave questions:

--I think teen books can, and should, be read by grown-ups. Tell my grandma Grace why she should read your book.
Because it's something people of every age can relate to, at its core... a sweet, tender romance.
--What would your 16-year-old self say if she read your book?
Yeeha! Because I wrote the book that I know I would have wanted to read when I was 16!
--I am fascinated by writers' inspirations. Tell me about a real-life setting that found its way into your book.
Well, I set it in Edison, NJ, where I grew up. And I haven't been there in years, so it's kind of like, the 1990 version of Edison. My sister read the book and was like, "Hey, did you know that diner closed?" and a bunch of other things that had changed. Oh well... creative license.

Thanks, Pam!

And finally, all about Cyn:

Cyn Balog is a normal, everyday Jersey Girl who always believed magical things can happen to us when we least expect them. She's also the Race & Event Manager for several national fitness magazines. She lives outside Allentown, Pennsylvania with her husband and young daughter. Both are 100% human, or so she thinks. FAIRY TALE is her first novel.

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40. Pictoral proof: making my manuscript bleed

revisionsWondering how many changes I’m making to my WIP during my “paper edit” process? Here’s a pic of a particularly revised page—it has many siblings that look just like it. Of course then there are the pages with much less ink: they have big X’s through the entire page! A few have survived relatively unscathed. I imagine them burrowing into the pile of marked pages muttering “don’t come back to find me, don’t come back to find me…”

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41. Revision Progress

I’ve been ripping into my revisions (literally—I made so many changes to one page this morning that the pen went right through the paper). So far I’m about a quarter of a way through my book. Since my goal is to finish doing my “paper edits” (marking changes on paper) by Labor Day, I’ve still got quite a ways to go (approx 60K words).

Ambitious schedule? Well, sure. But I find that my revisions hang together a lot better if I do them in a burst. If I take a day off here, and there, then when I return to the page I find I’ve lost some threads.

I’ve been using Holly Lisle’s One-Pass Revision method, but I will be breaking her rule of never revising on the computer, since the last quarter of the novel will require me to write several new chapters. But I will stick to paper for making changes to existing text/chapters. I find that it keeps me focused, and it’s very helpful to have such graphic representation of what I changed (I tend to loop back a chapter or too sometimes while I revise, and make more changes). I also like looking back on those marked-up pages… I feel so industrious. Surely is must be good—I edited the heck out of it, right? :)

In addition to Holly’s method, I have put my story wire to use. As I was writing, I had made notes about changes I wanted to make (such as combining characters, or scenes to add, or larger problems with the story). So, once the draft was done, I took down the index cards that I was using to track my plot. Then each change note was transferred to an index card, and I’ve hung them up in rough chronological order. It really helps to reduce my stress while I revise: maybe it’s just me but I’m always worried that I’m forgetting to make a critical change when I revise. This way I can stroll by the story wire and see what’s on deck for the area around where I’m revising. You can bet I’ll make a lot more changes than what’s on the wire… but at least I’ll be sure not to lose any of the notes from my drafting process, too.

Finally, I whipped out my spreadsheet that has a very brief summary of each chapter (no more than 8 words per chapter) and used that to juggle my chapters. I knew my second act had the right stuff in it, but it was not happening in the right order. Now that spreadsheet is printed and hanging at eye level by my desk. I can easily check it while I’m revising and shuffle chapters. Again, far less stress!

Here’s hoping all this organization and seeming sanity carries me through to Labor Day! That, and cupcakes. Devil’s Food please…

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42. Dazzling Debs: SECRETS OF TRUTH & BEAUTY

To kick off Dazzling Debs week, I’m welcoming fellow cupcake lover and debut author Megan Frazer to my blog. We are celebrating the release of her book SECRETS OF TRUTH & BEAUTY, which garnered a starred review in Publishers Weekly. Be sure to check out the contest she’s got going on her blog to win a copy of her book AND another one!  But of course, I’m sure Megan wouldn’t mind if you bought a copy of your very own

secrets A bit about SECRETS OF TRUTH & BEAUTY:

When Dara Cohen was little, she was crowned Little Miss Maine. That was then. Now Dara's seventeen and she's not so little anymore. That's just one of her many problems. Another is that her control-freak mom won't get off her case about anything. Yet the one that hurts the most is the family secret: Dara has an older sister her parents tried to erase from their lives.

Megan answered my three fave questions:

--I think teen books can, and should, be read by grown-ups. Tell my grandma Grace why she should read your book.
When I was a teen I would scour adult books looking for teen characters, so I imagine your grandma might be looking for an old character in YA books, and Secrets of Truth & Beauty has one: Belinda. Although she doesn't talk. And not like I'm calling your grandma old. I'm sure she is very lively and spry. Just like Belinda is, even with the whole no-talking thing.
--What would your 16-year-old self say if she read your book?
As noted above, I was always looking in books for teen characters I could relate to, and now I have grown up and written a character that my teenage self could appreciate. So, I imagine she would like it very much. Although as a teen I was convinced that all the good guys were gay or taken, so I would have bemoaned that Owen would not have been interested in me.
--I am fascinated by writers' inspirations. Tell me about a real-life setting that found its way into your book.
The main settings are imagined, but I do have some shout outs to real places, especially in Portland, Maine. I also mention my friend's family horse farm (www.farmheritage.com if you happen to be in need of a horse). It's not a place, but I think this gets to the spirit of your question: I was pregnant for much of the revision process, and I totally craved Whole Foods cupcakes. So, when I needed to add a scene of Dara going to Whole Foods, you can bet those cupcakes made an appearance. And every time I worked on it, it just made the craving worse, so I'd have to go out and get them. Man those cupcakes are good.

And finally, all about Megan:

Megan Frazer studied English literature and creative writing at Columbia University. She lives with her husband and baby in Maine, where she is a high school librarian. She loves cheese and cooking, and both of these make their way into Secrets of Truth & Beauty. She was not, however, ever in a beauty pageant.

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43. It’s dazzling debs week

This week I’ll be featuring four dazzling Debutantes on my blog: Mandy Hubbard, Cynthea Liu, Megan Frazer and Cyn Balog. Each of these authors has a book that has just released, or will be available in the next few weeks.

The Debutantes are a great group of authors whose first YA or MG books are releasing in 2009. I’m a member and it’s made me a huge believer in the power of online support groups. We do some co-marketing, yes, but even more valuable is the moral and mental support we offer each other while we make that last run down the road to publication. If you have a YA/MG debut releasing in 2010, I highly recommend that you check out our sister group, The Tenners. (The Debutantes are now closed for membership).

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44. Read this book: TWENTY BOY SUMMER

Today I’m happy to welcome Sarah Ockler, author of debut TWENTY BOY SUMMER, to my blog. Sarah is not just a fellow Debutante—she is the brains behind our blog tour operation. She also has been running some awesome contests to celebrate the launch of TWENTY BOY SUMMER.

If you’re looking for a book that has both romance and depth, this is one to check out. You can even read an excerpt here. Then buy it today!

A bit about TWENTY BOY SUMMER:

twentyboy While on vacation in California, sixteen-year-old best girlfriends Anna and Frankie conspire to find a boy for Anna’s first summer romance, but Anna harbors a painful secret that threatens their lighthearted plan and their friendship.

TWENTY BOY SUMMER is a debut YA novel that explores what it truly means to love someone, what it means to grieve, and ultimately, how to make the most of every single moment this world has to offer.

Sarah answered my three fave questions:

I think teen books can, and should, be read by grown-ups. Tell my grandma Grace why she should read your book.
Grandma Grace, being a Grandma and all, has probably experienced her share of love and loss. Twenty Boy Summer will bring her back to those bittersweet days of of intense love, changing friendships, letting go, and discovering new hope. Plus, there are some super cute boys in this story, sure to make Granny blush in the best kind of way. ;-)

What would your 16-year-old self say if she read your book?
She'd probably say, "I love this story. I want to go to Zanzibar Bay, too, where I can be someone else entirely, where no one knows my history... only my self-invented potential."
I am fascinated by writers' inspirations. Tell me about a real-life setting that found its way into your book.
The setting of Zanzibar Bay is a fictitious compilation of lots of summer places, but the one that I thought of most during the writing was Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where I took a few summer trips with my best friend's family back in high school. I still remember the feel of the sand on my feet as the waves rushed over them, the smells of the cocoa butter suntan lotion and the saltwater, the neon shops along the strip, and of course, the cute surfer boys. Oh, the sunsets were kinda cool, too. ;-)

Thanks for hosting me, Pam!

And finally, all about Sarah:

Sarah Ockler wrote and illustrated her first book at age six—an adaptation of Steven Spielberg's E.T. Still recovering from her own adolescence, Sarah now writes for young adults. After several years of wandering between New York City and Denver, she and her husband Alex now live in Upstate New York with lots of books and an ever-expanding collection of sea glass. Twenty Boy Summer is Sarah's first novel. Visit her online at www.sarahockler.com.

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45. When the wheels start to come off

There are times when a writer knows they’re headed down the wrong road, as they’re drafting a story. But you can’t easily make a u-turn. You’ve built too many hooks and leads into it. Besides, there are all those nicely finished chapters behind you, with the finish line right up ahead. Yet, that finish line is in the wrong county. Maybe even the wrong state. But… it’s a finish line.

Writers, what do you do? Do you keep barreling down the road, trusting that your story will hold together enough to cross the finish line? Sure, you might be missing three wheels, a rear-view mirror and your bumper… but you crossed. You can fix up that old lemon after the race is done.

Or, do you stop right there, take apart the whole car, and make it into the airplane that it should have been all along? (Of course there’s always the risk you’ll pull your plot to pieces, then sit there in the hot desert sun and say  “hmm, wonder what the heck I should do with all this scrap metal now?”)

Right now I’m opting for the barrel-towards-the-finish line method, on my project. Ask me in a few months if it was the right choice. But with just 8 chapters to go, give or take, it’s a gamble of only a few weeks’ time. Seems to me that I’ll find good stuff in those last chapters, even if they’re wrapping up a plot that I know needs major work.

So I’m off to coax my jalopy along for another few pages. Now, where’d I put my road map? And why is half of it always blank?

And most importantly… how much farther before I can stop for an ice cream cone?

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46. Pencils down, your time is up

One of the greatest challenges of writing is knowing when you’re done.

We all fear turning in the manuscript too early: getting rejected, and for things that maybe could have been fixed, had we not rushed to finish. We’ve wasted our chances with the editors or agents who saw it and came away less than impressed.

But there’s the flip side, too: who among us hasn’t spent far, far too long on a manuscript? “I can’t submit this! It needs a major rewrite!” we cry, spending months or even years polishing something that probably should have been submitted long ago—or shelved. It’s so easy to forget that we have a host of novels inside us, waiting to get out. And the line is getting pretty frustrated while they wait for the slow, slow novel in front of them to get the heck out of the way.

Here’s what some of the writing books on my reference shelf have to say about when to put your pencils, and keyboards, down:

“If you feel very close to having finished, and you cannot go any further, than you may want to risk [submitting]. But it really is a risk.” –Susan Bell, The Artful Edit

“You get a bunch of the octopus’s arms neatly tucked under the covers…but two arms are still flailing around…if you also know that there is simply no more steam in the pressure cooker and that it’s the very best you can do for now—well? I think this means you are done.” –Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

“I guarantee you that as long as you’re willing to keep piddling around with the same manuscript, you’ll find ways to make it different. You don’t want to make it different. You just want to make it as good as it can possibly be, and then get it out the door.” –Holly Lisle’s website

And Robert Ray (The Weekend Novelist) doesn’t given any answers, merely a cautionary tale about F. Scott Fitzgerald. His follow-up to The Great Gatsby, Tender is the Night, took nine years to write and revise. When it was done, he released a rewrite of it. According to Robert Ray, it wasn’t even any better.

In summary? Revise. You can’t skip that. But listen to your inner voice, and your body. If you get that itchy feeling that it’s done… if you know somebody could maybe do better, but you can’t… then I say it’s probably time to release that baby into the wide world and start on the next project.

Though it sure wouldn’t hurt to hand it to a critique partner first…

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47. Come to DC kidlit drinks night

Coming to town for RWA or live in the metro DC area? Come to the DC kidlit drinks night on Weds July 15 at 6 PM. We'll meet at Murphy's of DC across from the Marriott Woodley Park (site of RWA). 2609 24th St NW. Head for the patio. Please spread the word!

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48. CANDOR book trailer

And here's the book trailer for your viewing pleasure! I will post soon about how I made it, where I found the photos and where I found the music.

Hope you enjoy it!



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49. CANDOR book trailer contest

To celebrate the posting of my brand-new book trailer for CANDOR, I am hosting a Spread the Message contest! 

Here are the prizes:

 

  • Two lucky winners will each receive a signed advanced reader copy of CANDOR
  • Two lucky winners will each receive a signed hardcover copy of CANDOR, as soon as they are available
  • One lucky winner will receive a $20 iTunes gift certificate (maybe they will make their OWN hidden Messages in music...)
  • One lucky winner will receive a t-shirt of their choice from my CANDOR t-shirt store (shipping only available to US, Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico)

 

Here are the rules:

  1. Watch the trailer
  2. Post a link to the trailer or embed the trailer online (here's the YouTube link). . You get a new entry in the contest every time you post at a different place. Some spots you can post: your blog, Twitter, Facebook, LJ, Myspace... wherever you like! If you tweet about it, please use the hashtag #candor.
  3. Comment back here telling me where you linked it. Please include a link to each post to save my sanity!

 

Contest closes at 8 PM ET on Saturday, July 25. I will post the winners here and on my website, in the news section.

Thanks for Spreading the Message about CANDOR! 

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50. Making a professional book trailer on a budget

This past weekend, I released my new CANDOR book trailer. Just over a minute long, it uses still photos, fancy transitions, text, and music to hopefully hook the viewer on my book. It does NOT contain any video! And the whole thing cost me less than one hundred bucks ($69.90, to be precise).

I love book trailers. It’s fascinating to see how an author, or their publisher, manages to distill their book’s subject and make it visually interesting. It’s like flap copy in motion.

There are some very nice trailers out there that use actors and are mostly made of of video (two of my recent favorites are FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH by Carrie Ryan and Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies by Erin Dionne). But don’t fear—if you don’t have actors, professional video cameras and a budget (or gifted film student) to do something like that, you can cook up a professional trailer at home.

Here’s how I did it.

SCRIPT: I drafted a brief script. Then I sent it to my agent, Elana Roth, to review and give me feedback. Elana was my sounding board throughout the video creation process, which was very helpful. Remember to keep your words to a minimum. You’re not making a book report, you’re making a marketing piece that leaves people wanting more. And keep the script flexible: I changed mine (mostly removing words, but also adding in some “subliminal Messages”) as I assembled the trailer.

IMAGES: Next, I split the script into chunks and looked for photos to match each chunk. Photo research is something I have professional experience in, so listen close, friends: be sure to use photos that you have the right to use. Just because you found it on Google Images doesn’t mean it’s kosher to include in your trailers! No author wants to violate another creative person’s rights, right?

To keep your image costs down, you could either shoot your own photos, ask a friend to handle it, or to assure a professional look (and save a lot of time) try the low-cost microstock sites. These sites sell royalty-free photos (which is what you want… authors on low-cost budgets will usually want to steer away from more costly and complicated “rights managed” photos).

I used Dreamstime and spent a total of $49.95 on my photos (I purchased the “small” size, since it’s for web use and it’s cheaper!). That money bought me the right to use the photos anywhere, for as long as I want, except for things like t-shirts and billboards. You could also try Shutterstock, iStockphoto, Fotolia or StockXpert, among many others.

If you use photos with people in them, make sure they are model released (the data on the site should tell you).

One more photo tip (can you tell I’m a photo geek?): you can download “comps” of photos from all these sites and use them to make a draft of your video without paying a penny. They will be watermarked and you can’t post the video with the comps in them. But it’s a great way to play with photo options and not have to pay $ until you know you definitely want to include that photo in your trailer.

ASSEMBLY: I used iMovie 9 on my husband’s Mac laptop. I had never made a video or used software like this before, and at first I was very truly frustrated. But after about a half hour of looking at documentation and watching their intro videos, I knew enough to get started, and learned as I worked.

Two things I particularly loved about iMovie: first, the “Ken Burns” effect. This is named after documentarian Ken Burns, who has a penchant for “animating” photos by zooming in and out, or sliding left to right, etc. This makes the photos almost feel like video, or at least a lot less boring. Of course you want to be subtle or you’ll end up with seasick viewers. Other video editing software offer similar “Ken Burns” options, I believe.

I also loved iMovie’s options for adding text to my trailer. I was able to easily put text on top of photos or create transition slides, like my embedded subliminal Messages that flash for 10 frames and then are gone.

MUSIC: I saved this part for last, waiting until I’d composed the text and images, since I figured I needed to know the video pretty well before I added music to it. Unlike images, I have zero experience in finding music! So I just googled “royalty free music” and a boatload of sites came up. You can search them by keyword, or browse by mood (“creepy”, “edgy”, “triumphant”, etc). This was the toughest part for me; I found so many pieces that would be laughably wrong for the trailer. I finally found the music (“Distorted Fragments” by Bjorn Lynne) for my trailer on Shockwave-Sound.com. Again I was able to grab sample music and integrate this into my “draft” trailer so I could see if it would work before paying for it. I also liked that I could select different lengths of the song at this site—I knew my video was clocking in at around 60 seconds so that was the length I looked for. Total cost: $19.95.

TOTAL INVESTMENT: Like I said above, my cash layout was $69.90. It would have been more if I didn’t have iMovie already. Time spent? Probably somewhere between 10 and 15 hours, and I also “outsourced” final fiddling (transitions and fonts) to my husband, who spent maybe 2 hours on that. But besides the time spent swearing at my iMovie incompetence, those were 10-15 really fun hours.

I’ll also spend a little more to promote the trailer, as I’m running a “Spread the Message'” giveaway to encourage folks to post links and embed it in their blogs.

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