October 2014 Archives

You know you've read

You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page & feel a little as if you have lost a friend.
Paul Sweeney

You do not have

You do not have a story until something goes wrong.
Steven James

Looking for Magic? - A Snicker of Magic

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

Snickerofmagic.jpegA Snicker of Magic (Scholastic Press, 2014) by Natalie Lloyd reminds me a bit of Savvy by Ingrid Law--it think it's Natalie's wonderful use of language. I like the fullness of hope in this story, too.

Felicity Pickle sees and collects words from everywhere, like magic. And magic might just be what she is looking for. She and her little sister Frannie Jo are facing yet another new town and new school. But this time is different--Midnight Gulch is the town where their mother grew up. Maybe they'll get to stay. And, maybe Felicity can undo the curse that sent the magic away all those years ago.

This is author Natalie Lloyd's first book, but according to her blog we can expect more as she's working on revisions... Yea! And you should take a look at her blog just to see pictures of her dog Biscuit.

MG Mystery - Three Times Lucky

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

3timeslucky.jpgThree Times Lucky (Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin, 2012) by Sheila Turnage is a murder mystery that won a Newbery Honor. I love how it opens: "Trouble cruised into Tupelo Landing at exactly seven minutes past noon on Wednesday, the third of June, flashing a gold badge and driving a Chevy Impala the color of dirt." 11-year-old Mo and her best friend Dale don't know it, but they're going to get mixed up good in the trouble that has come to town.

A sequel came out this year, The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, which features Mo and Dale working to solve another mystery in their unusual small town. I haven't read it yet, but am looking forward to it!ghosts.jpg

On her website, author Sheila Turnage has a page for Questions Kids Ask Me AKA Report Homework--it's fun. Plus on her site you can read about her other books.

Not just a Mystery Weekend - Suspect

suspect.jpgSuspect (Peachtree Press, 2010) by Kristin Wolden Nitz is a great read for cozy mystery fans. And if you don't know what that means, read her book and you'll get the idea. Here's the set-up:

17-year-old Jen doesn't want to help her grandmother at her Victorian bed-and-breakfast, but when Dad tells her that Grandma Kay thinks Jen's mother is dead instead of having left her daughter and husband, she agrees to go and keep an idea on her grandmother. Unfortunately, the mystery weekend is focused on this family mystery and Jen finds out some unpleasant truths.

On the author's site, Nitz Bits, Kristin has a Blog Hop post on July 2nd, that gives some background to why she wrote this book and her others. And this post talks about what was blooming the weekend that Suspect was set. I love hearing about this attention to detail.

Dangerous Impersonation - The False Prince

TheFalsePrince.jpgThe False Prince (Scholastic Press, 2012) by Jennifer A. Nielsen has it all: orphans, plots, a lost prince, danger and adventure. Sage, one of the orphans forced to learn how to impersonate the lost prince, begins his story with, "If I had to do it all over again, I would not have chosen this life. Then again, I'm not sure I ever had a choice."

I found the book hard to put down and am thrilled to find out it is the first in a trilogy. The next book is The Runaway King runaway king.jpgand the third is The Shadow Throne. In February 2015, there's supposed to be news on whether or not Paramount will make a movie of The False Prince. I hope it is a yes!shadow throne.jpg

In addition, Author Jennifer A. Nielsen has two series already out and another one where the first book, The Mark of the Thief, is coming in February 2015. Read about her and her books on her website.

Considering Self-Publishing?

Pommes_à_cidre.jpgI've know authors who have done it well and many others who have not. You've heard that a bad apple can spoil a whole barrel--often in the self-publishing realm it's the opposite. Finding the one good apple may be difficult.

The first impression for a self-published book is the cover. If the cover is not professional, it won't matter about the rest of the book. There's a snarky site called LOUSY BOOK COVERS that has a tag line that says "Just because you CAN design your own cover doesn't mean you SHOULD." The site shows what it claims--embarrassingly poor covers.

In the traditional publishing world, Art Directors often go through multiple cover designs for one book before everyone involved (including the marketing department) is happy. I suggest that authors self-publishing get honest opinions on their covers from booksellers, librarians, other authors, illustrators, etc.

When I open a book and see a typo, a misspelling or grammar error on the first page, it makes me doubt the overall quality of the book. Traditional publishers use copy editors as well as editors who work on content. If you want to self-publish, or the new term "indie publish," please consider finding someone who can copy edit your book.

The biggest deal is content. I've found stories/books with these kinds of flaws:

Not Being Realistic
• It couldn't happen like that
• It doesn't make sense
• Where did that skill/ability/tool come from?

Main Character Not In Charge
• She is swayed by the winds of circumstances
• He doesn't make any decisions

Problematic Word Choices
• Overuse of adverbs
• Week adjectives
• Weedy words
• Misplaced modifying clauses
• Passive verbs

• Intricate details of clothing probably don't add much, unless it relates to the plot in a specific way
• Taking forever to get to the point of a scene
• Burying action with description
• Overdone dialogue tags/attributions
• Too many characters

And none of those issues deal with the overall storyline. Traditional editors and freelance editors help with both. If you're self-publishing, you'll probably want to hire a freelance editor.

The other thing I see is people who write books but don't really understand the market. It could be a children's book that either talks down to kids or covers information that children aren't interested. One self-published writer told a friend of mine that she didn't see why a children's book had to be "all about the kids." Um, because that's who your audience is?

Here's an article called "Self-publishing a book: 25 things you need to know" by David Carnoy.

So, say you write a great book, get it edited by a professional editor, get it copy edited, have a great cover, now what? Marketing!

It's not easy. Several sources I saw listed an average of 100-150 books per year in sales for indie authors. Here's one link.

Getting reviews is difficult. The Horn Book editor, Roger Sutton, wrote an article on why: "An open letter to the self-published author feeling dissed." Now he's opened a contest called "A challenge to self-publishers." Deadline is December 15, 2014 and it is only open to printed books.

Self-published authors can pay for a review at Kirkus--that's not paying for a positive review, but paying for the chance to BE reviewed.

Getting into bookstores can be difficult. Here are some helpful articles:
"Getting your self-published book on the shelf (i.e. Bookstore Dating 101)"
"How to get your Self-Published Books into Bookstores"
"How To Sell Your Self-Published Book in Bookstores"

Selling books at conferences may not be allowed by the hosting organization. For SCBWI, a book must have earned PAL status.

Awards can help sales! Did you know there are specific awards administered by the Independent Book Publishers Association for indie published books? Go here to read about the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards. SCBWI has a Spark Award that recognizes excellence in a children's book published through a non-traditional publishing route. James Minter posted an article called "Writing: 50 Book Awards Open to Self-publishers"

I'll end with a link to this article by someone who has done it: "Chris Eboch on Self-Publishing and Middle Grade Novels: Should You or Shouldn't You?"

As often is the case, the above image is courtesy of morguefile.com.

Writing tends to spring

Writing tends to spring from what you know, what you think, what you imagine, and you can build on those by reading and being actively involved in life and remaining curious about things you see, hear, read, etc.
Victoria Sherrow

Writing made me feel

Writing made me feel alive, engaged, complete in a way few other things could. It was impossible to give it up, even during the most discouraging days of my early career.
Karen Hesse

A Boy and an Elephant - Chained

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

CHAINED.jpgChained (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012) by Lynn Kelly is a story about a young boy in India rescuing others. First, it's his mother, then it's a baby elephant.

10-year-old Hastin thought that working at a circus taking care of an elephant would be fun. But he doesn't like the cruel treatment of the Nandita, who has become his best friend. Can he escape his master? Can he help Nandita escape, too?

While doing research for this book, author Lynn Kelly came across some interesting elephant facts, which she shares here. There's also a Chained website that includes deleted scenes and more, such as information about the elephant bell.

This book is a 2013 Crystal Kite winner--the award selected by SCBWI peers.ChainedIndiaFront.png

And here's the cover for the book published in India--just because I like it.

Charming, Literally - Rose

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

rose.jpgRose (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2013) by Holly Webb is book one in a series that first came out in the UK and we're fortunate it made it's way across the pond.

10-year-old Rose is thrilled to be leaving the orphanage to go earn her own living as a maid--it's her dream of an ordinary life. But the master is a magician and the house hums with magic. Rose finds she can understand the master's cat and he can understand her. Next, Rose turns out to be better than the master's apprentice at magic, even though she doesn't want to have any magic. But when girls are missing all over, and when one of them happens to be a friend of hers, Rose will do what she has to do.

Check out all the other books on Holly Webb's site--there are 3 more Rose books and lots of other books. Something else fun on Holly's site is the pictures of her pets. Go here and click on the picture of the cat in the frame on the mantel.

Oh, and I just found this article about Holly's top tips for writing stories set in the past.