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11/26/14 Ruthless

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Coming August 3rd, 2015

 

RUTHLESS by Michelle Zink (writing as Michelle St. James)

Two years out of college, Angelica Bondesan spends her time working as a barista, keeping in touch with her prodigal brother, and trying to figure out how to bridge the gap with her father, a wealthy real estate developer.

But all of that changes the night she’s kidnapped. Thrown into a windowless room, Angelica is positive there’s been some kind of mistake — until she meets Nico Vitale.

Gorgeous and frightening, Nico became the boss of New York City’s Vitale crime family after the execution style murder of his parents two years earlier. Since then he’s turned the old-school mob into a sleek, modern army of ruthless men who understand that physical violence — while always an option — isn’t the only way to get what you want.

Now Angel is forced to face the truth;

Her father is not the man she believed him to be.

Nico Vitale is dangerous, possibly lethal.

She is falling in love with Nico Vitale.

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08/03/15 Book News , Mob Boss Series , Ruthless # , , , , , , , ,

Ruthless Release Day!

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Please help me spread the word by sharing on social media, adding it to your Goodreads shelf, purchasing the book, and reviewing it if you enjoy it. Many of you have been with me as readers for years, and I’m so excited to finally share Nico and Angel’s story with you!

 

Add Ruthless to your Goodreads shelf

Purchase Ruthless on Amazon

Purchase Ruthless on Barnes and Noble

 

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07/26/15 Life , Mob Boss Series , Reading , Self-Publish , Shadowguard Series , Writing # , , , , , ,

Leaning In to Life and Work

Work_Hard_QuoteMan… it has been a crazy couple of months, you guys.

I came off BEA with a huge work high and rode it all the way into July. In the two months since, I’ve written a whole book, completed a big freelance editing project, completed a smaller freelance editing project, built a pseudonym from the ground up for the Mob Boss series (including new name, domain name, new social media accounts all around, etc.), and developed a new YA concept (with character analysis and synopsis). I’ve absorbed information about self-publishing until I’ve felt like my brain will explode (metadata anyone? covers? blurbs? ISBN #s?), and I’ve connected with lots of awesome new people in the romance genre and in the field of self-publishing. I’ve read like crazy to keep up on things, maintained my household (including the weekly monster grocery shops that seem to go with the territory of having four young people in the house), and spent time with my kids when I can (and when they’re home).

And I’m not going to lie; it hasn’t been easy.

The thing is, I’ve considered self-publishing romance ever since I wrote the Shadowguard novella series (a series of adult romances based on the world in A TEMPTATION OF ANGELS) almost three years ago. I wanted more control over my career, both creatively and financially. I wanted to have the freedom to experiment and to release books as often as I wanted. But there was always a reason why I couldn’t.

I was too busy.

I wanted to focus on my contracted YA work.

I was worried about writing romance under a name most well-known in the YA genre.

I was worried about trying to build a new platform for a pseudonym.

All of which were valid concerns, and none of which have really changed or been resolved.

I’m still to busy to be doing this.

I’d still like to focus on my YA work (I’m not under contract at the moment, but I’d like to be).

It’s probably not a good idea to write adult romance under a name most well known in the YA genre.

It is difficult and time consuming and humbling to start over with a new name.

But you guys… I’m doing it. I’m working constantly. Some things have fallen by the wayside. I’m up until 3am most nights, even when I’m so tired I don’t think I can keep my eyes open. Even when it means I’m only getting four hours of sleep. It’s Sunday morning, and I’m writing this blog post instead of doing something else, and I’ll spend the rest of the day working, too.

Basically, this is me right now.

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But I’m doing it.

I think a lot about Sheryl Sandberg’s advice to lean in, even though it was directed more at women in traditional careers. She’s right; it takes guts to lean in. It takes courage to risk everything over and over again. It takes heart to choose your dream over and over again.

And one thing I’ve learned is that dreams are built not on the big moments, but on the little ones. Every time you work when you want to sleep or play. Every time you push when you want to settle in. Every time you risk when you want to play it safe. Every time you believe when you want to quit. THOSE are the moments that build dreams.

But you MUST have those moments.

Because dreams aren’t built by sleeping. They aren’t built by doing the same thing over and over. They aren’t built by being comfy. And they sure as hell aren’t built by quitting.

You have to WERK, my friends.

And the truth is, even that is no guarantee of success. You may fail. You may have to recalibrate. You may have to change course, take a detour, even take a break. But make no mistake; you will not get what you want if you aren’t willing to work, sometimes for years, often through countless setbacks. But the time will pass anyway. You may as well pass it in pursuit of something you really want.

This seems like a no brainer, but it’s interesting to me how many people I meet who want big things but aren’t willing to do the big work. After awhile, it gets boring hearing people TALK about what they want to accomplish.

Watching people DO is so much more interesting, don’t you think?

And when it comes to writing, doing doesn’t just mean output. It means honing your craft (go back to school if you must), learning from others, reading constantly, experimenting, and writing thousands of words that no one will ever read.

Write now I am WORKING. Because I can’t control a lot of things. Maybe no one will like my work. Maybe I won’t be able to sell it at all. But the one thing I can control is the work. I can make sure I never have to look back and wonder if I didn’t work hard enough, and WHEN I reach my goals (because I will), I can look back and say, when the ugly monster of unworthiness rears its head (for me it always does), “You earned this, baby!”

And I can mean it.

Now stop reading and get to work.

And if you haven’t added Michelle St. James and/or Ruthless to your social media sites, would you consider doing so? I’d love to keep you posted on my progress, and all content on those pages is unique to those accounts (i.e. not repeated on the Michelle Zink profiles).

Michelle St. James Facebook

Michelle St. James Twitter

Michelle St. James Goodreads

Ruthless Goodreads page

<3

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07/22/15 Reading # , , , , , ,

Mini-Review; Hardwired

Hardwired_CoverI recently started reading the Hacker series by Meredith Wild and absolutely love it. Featuring a young, savvy businesswoman seeking funding for her start-up and a sexy, controlling investor, it’s a love story that manages to represent modern women while acknowledging that love still has a hold of us all.

Oh, and lots of SEXY TIMES.

Because that has a hold on us all, too.

Obvi.

😉

Add it to your Goodreads shelf here!

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07/20/15 Ruthless # , , , , , ,

New Goodreads Account

Hi, Friends!

Ruthless has it’s own official Goodreads page, as does Michelle St. James, my adult romance alter ego. Please follow me over there for adult book news and book recommendations.

T-minus twelve days until the release of RUTHLESS. Eeep! SO EXCITED to share Nico and Angel’s story with you.

And for a little inspiration, here’s my #MCM (just under the wire); Joe Mangienello, a real life #ItalianStallion if there ever was one.

😉

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07/08/15 Indie , Life , Mob Boss Series , Reading , Romance , Ruthless , Self-Publish , Writing # , , , , , , , ,

Some Like It Hot

You guys! I’m going to have a new book for you — in less than a month.

:)

And this one is completely different, both because it’s my first full length adult romance (the Shadowguard books were all novellas) and because I’ll be joining the growing list of hybrid authors publishing both traditionally and Indie.  I’ll be going into the details in a later blog post, but the short version is that after six years, seven published novels, six novellas, one TV/book deal that never happened (the book was written, but the TV part was put on hold which also shelved the book), and countless samples, partials, and proposals, I’m anxious to have more control over my career.

Those of you who know me know that I’m prolific, and this will give me the opportunity to publish as much as I want in any genre. All of which means MORE books in MORE genres– starting with RUTHLESS, book one in a three book series.

 

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Two years out of college, Angelica Bondesan spends her time working as a barista, keeping in touch with her prodigal brother, and trying to figure out how to bridge the gap with her father, a wealthy real estate developer.

But all of that changes the night she’s kidnapped. Thrown into a windowless room, Angelica is positive there’s been some kind of mistake — until she meets Nico Vitale.

Gorgeous and frightening, Nico became the boss of New York City’s Vitale crime family after the execution style murder of his parents two years earlier. Since then he’s turned the old-school mob into a sleek, modern army of ruthless men who understand that physical violence — while always an option — isn’t the only way to get what you want.

Now Angel is forced to face the truth;

Her father is not the man she believed him to be.

Nico Vitale is dangerous, possibly lethal.

She is falling in love with Nico Vitale.

 

RUTHLESS will be out August 3rd, and the next two books, FEARLESS and LAWLESS, will be out in September and October respectively. It’s been loads of fun to read and write in a different genre, and I’ve been really impressed with the adult romance I’ve read in the past few months.

Best. Research. Ever.

Although fair warning to those of you who don’t like it HAWT; romance has gotten decidedly more wicked in the past couple of years.

😉

As part of this new chapter (see what I did there?), all of my adult romance will be written under the name Michelle St. James. It will be an open pseudonym, which means everyone will know it’s me, but I hope this will decrease confusion between my adult and YA work. I’ll be keeping the two separate to some degree, although I may occasionally post from the Michelle St. James Facebook page (Like it here to get updates, freebies, etc.) to my personal profile since so many of you follow me there. For now, www.michellestjames.com will forward to this site, and you can also follow the Michelle St. James Twitter profile. The Michelle St. James pages will have content unique to the adult genre including hot guys, adult romance recommendations, and anything else that might not be appropriate for my “mainstream” audience.

You’ve been warned!

:)

I’ve watched a lot of my friends go Indie and have been so appreciative of the information they have so willingly shared. I’m going to try and pay it forward by being as transparent as possible, so stay tuned for updates on my progress (and some angst along the way, there will probably be angst). I’m considering this an evolution in my career, and I’m so excited to share the journey with you guys!

 

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06/24/15 Contests & Giveaway , Lies I Told # , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Beach Read Giveaway!

You guys… It’s summer! The kids are out of school, the sun is (mostly) shining, and I can finally turn off that pesky 6:15am alarm. Not only that, but after years of releasing books in the winter, I finally have a perfect beach read with my name on it.

As many of you know, LIES I TOLD is set in the fictional beach town of Playa Hermosa, California. All of Grace’s lies and deceit — not to mention her love affair with Logan Fairchild, the one boy she’s not supposed to love – are set against the backdrop of crashing waves, surfer boys, and sunshine.

To celebrate the intersection of these two awesome events, I’m giving away TEN awesome prize packs.

You heard that right; TEN!

FullSizeRender-26Each prize pack includes a signed hardcover of LIES I TOLD, a tote bag, a mini-notebook for all your secret summer thoughts, a summer-scented hand cream, raspberry lemonade lip balm, nail polish, tropical candy, peacock pocket mirror, and a LIES I TOLD/PROMISES I MADE bookmark.

As always, there are lots of ways to enter. Some of them you can do once a day and get a point for each one. Others (like leaving a review of the book if you’ve already read it) will gain you up to FIVE points all by themselves. I’m keeping this contest short, ending it on Monday July 6th so you’ll still have plenty of time to make use of your goodies.

Contest open to US mailing addresses only. Pattern on tote bag and notebook, and nail polish color, vary.

HAPPY SUMMER, YOU GUYS!

 

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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06/06/15 Book News , Life , Reading , Uncategorized , Writing # , , , , , , , , , ,

Newsletter – Incoming!

After much deliberation I have decided to join the ranks of newsletter-bearing authors. One of the hardest things about authoring in the modern age is knowing how much to share, how often to share it, and whether people are REALLY interested in hearing it. Here, I’m my own worst enemy, because my assumption is always that people are busy and overloaded with information, and it takes something pretty special to compel them to read something else on their computer.

Do I have stuff to share that’s something special? I’ll let you decide. But I do have stuff to share — about reading, writing, and life.

And sometimes I even have NEWS.

😉

So after taking an informal Facebook poll and confirming that a good number of my readers would like a semi-personal, once-monthly, quick and easy to read account of what’s going on — with my writing and everything else — I decided to give it a whirl. My plan is to include a couple of real life things (recipes, things I’m loving that month, etc.) with a personal snippet and a book recommendation or writing tip. I’m planning to keep it one page, and only put it out once a month.

But the big thing is that I’m going to make as many announcements as possible to newsletter subscribers first. And that includes my next book announcement.

If you’d like to stay in the loop, you can sign up for the newsletter here in under ten seconds. And if you decide to opt out at any time, all you’ll have to do is hit the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of each newsletter.

<3

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06/01/15 Lies I Told , Life , Reading , Writing # , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

BEA Fun!

BEA Fun!

Whew! I’m back from the city and still recovering from the whirlwind of awesomeness that is BEA. In short; books, bloggers, books, authors, books, editors and publicists, and more fun and excitement than I usually get in a whole year (which, now that I think about it, must change).

I kicked off BEA with the EpicReads Blogger Party. This was most memorable because I FINALLY got to meet my editor, the amazing Jennifer Klonsky. It’s such a special thing to speak to someone on the phone and online and think they’re special, and then to meet them in person and realize you were RIGHT. Not only is Jen an incredibly talented editor, but it’s also so obvious that she cares deeply about her authors and their work that it’s easy to feel like you’re in good hands. I also got to meet my tireless publicist, Stephanie Hoover, who deserves extra credit,because she planned the party at the Bourbon Street Grille. And it was SO FUN. There were balloons and a photo booth and tons of amazing food and swag bags and just general all-around awesomeness. Of course, I didn’t get a photo with anyone, because I’m always too wrapped up in the moment to bother taking pictures, but here’s one of me cheesing in the taxi on the way to the party.

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😉

The next day I arrived at the Javitz Center for my signing and was blown away to find people already in line for me at 9am. This might not seem like a big deal, but almost everyone is out late partying at BEA, so I really appreciate that these awesome folks got up early and made their way to the conference center to stand in my line.  


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I saw so many awesome readers, including Rebecca, a former Borders bookseller that I’ve known since Prophecy came out in 2009.


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I had an overflow line, but the people at BEA were nice enough to move me to another table at the end of my signing time, so I was able to keep going until every last book was gone. I was sad to hear later that I’d missed some of my of my favorite readers. Darn it! But these radiant beauties got my last two books.

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After my signing, we made our way to the HarperCollins booth, where I waited through an entire cycle of books to snap this picture of my cover on the digital screen. Because I am patient like that.

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I met lots of new readers and bloggers, and even got little presents from a few, including this cute little bag of goodies from Swoony Boys Podcast (there was candy, too…. but that’s gone now).

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:)

Then I was able to get a picture of Kenneth and Rebekah, who made me laugh, helped spread the word about my signing, and kept me from going insane or becoming dehydrated from lack of water.

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We spent the rest of the day walking the floor, picking up tons of amazing books, including the much-anticipated City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg, Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee, and Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica. I was also able to meet up with dear friends like M.J. Rose, which is always a special treat for a hermit like me.

But of course, I didn’t get a picture!

Later that night I attended the HarperCollins author party. It was basically perfection, and I had a good mix of time spent talking to other people in the industry and time alone, gazing out at the incredible views from Tribeca Rooftop and really appreciating how far I’ve come, and how lucky and grateful I am to still be writing books for a living, and to be living this wonderful, terrifying, exhilarating writing life. I’m glad I had those few moments when I didn’t need anything else. I didn’t need anything MORE. I’m going to try and remember that feeling for all those times when I feel like what I’ve done so far isn’t enough.

Because really, it’s pretty freaking amazing, and whatever else happens in my life, I will always have published these six (soon to be eight) books. I will always have been here. I will always have done this.

Plus, there were mini donuts, warm cookies, and shot glasses of milk.

😉


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After the party I met up with my sidekicks for a proper dinner (there was so much amazing food at the party, but I never eat much at those things because I’m always too busy visiting and taking it all in) in Tribeca. The lighting for pictures was poor, but I actually took one, and let’s be honest, it’s not possible for these two to take a bad picture.

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We left tired but happy. Conferences and workshops are a good reminder of why it’s so important to stay connected to the writing community — and that goes double for people like me. I’m lucky in some ways, because I feel like I can be happy and content in almost any situation. But that can be dangerous, too, because I get stuck in a rut, writing in my isolated barn house, feeling perfectly content until I actually go out and DO SOMETHING. Then I remember that I’m a change junkie, that I LOVE learning and experiencing new things, and I get the itch to do something dramatic.

This trip came at an especially important time. Kenneth and Rebekah just graduated from college and are looking for full time jobs in the city, and Andrew will be going to college in September. Most likely, it will just be Caroline and me in the fall, and she’ll be gone two years later. It was nice to have the reminder that I can still be engaged in grown up life without kids, that I have something to offer and something to gain by being around others. I returned home invigorated about my plans for the next two years (and boy do I have some surprises for you, readers!) and even more determined to begin laying the groundwork for the next phase of my life. I don’t know much about it yet, but I do know it will involve living somewhere else, travel, and lots and lots of writing.

No matter how much fun it is to be out of the routine, it’s always nice to come home. Especially when you’re welcomed by kids who are happy to see you.

And this.

<3

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05/07/15 Contests & Giveaway , Lies I Told , Uncategorized # , , , , ,

Winners All Around!

Well, it’s been exactly a month since LIES I TOLD released and I finally get to announce winners in the release day giveaway, plus one lucky Street Team winner. But first, a huge thank you to everyone who helped me spread the word. My street team especially really went to the mat for me, distributing swag all over their hometowns in places where teens were most likely to see it. I have no idea if this kind of guerrilla effort makes a difference in actual sales, but it sure made me feel amazing to have so much support at what can be a stressful (though exciting!) time.

Promises I Made, the final installment in the LIES duology, will be out in November. Then I have a VERY special surprise for my adult readers later in the year, plus a new YA romance out next summer (details soon). So please stay tuned for more bookish awesomeness, and of course, future giveaways. In the meantime, please continue to spread the word about LIES I TOLD to all your friends, and if you’ve read it and enjoyed it, please leave a review on Amazon/B&N/Goodreads. It really does make a difference!

And now for the big moment…

Out of the 83 Street Team participants, the winner was lucky number 22. And that was TINA JOHNSTON! Tina has won a $100 Visa gift card, a complete set of my signed books, and a few other fun things that I’ll throw in as a surprise.

Congratulations, Tina!

We also have three winners in the release day giveaway.

The first prize winner is Layne Alexandria! Layne wins a $250 Visa gift card or gift card to the bookstore of her choice, Victoria’s Secret bath gel and body lotion, tropical inspired nail polish and candy, grapefruit lip balm, a bookmark, peacock pocket mirror, and an entire library of my signed, currently published books (Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy, A Temptation of Angels, This Wicked Game, and LIES I TOLD).

Second prize goes to Karrie Millheim, who wins a $100 Visa gift card or gift card to the bookstore of her choice, Victoria’s Secret bath gel and body lotion, tropical inspired nail polish and candy, grapefruit lip balm, a bookmark, peacock pocket mirror, and an entire library of my signed, currently published books (Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy, A Temptation of Angels, This Wicked Game, and LIES I TOLD).

And big congrats to our third prize winner, Tracee Baxter. Tracee wins a tropical inspired nail polish and candy, grapefruit lip balm, a bookmark, peacock pocket mirror, an entire library of my signed, currently published books (Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy, A Temptation of Angels, This Wicked Game, and LIES I TOLD) PLUS a signed ARC of PROMISES I MADE, sequel to LIES and the final book in Grace Fontaine’s story (out in November of this year).

Congratulations, all! I’ll be sending an email to make sure you know you won, and also to find out if you’d like Visa gift cards or book store gift cards.

Enjoy it all in good health!

<3

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05/01/15 Uncategorized # , , ,

Reader Questions

This post goes straight to CrazyBookFan from Goodreads who asked the following questions during the Young Writers Series;

What is the key to success to become a writer?

All you have to do to be a writer is to write. But if we’re talking about publication, I don’t think there is any one key. First and foremost, you must be the best writer you can be. That means writing with courage, digging deep to get to the heart of things even when it’s scary or it hurts. It means being willing to take constructive criticism in an effort to grow in your command of craft. It means being willing to write and write and write. Because that really is the only way to get better, and while writing an excellent book is no guarantee of publication, it certainly improves your chances.

How do writers publish their books and how does a book become successful?

For more on this topic, please see How Do I Sell My Book. As for success, that is a complicated combination of luck, timing, craft, and exposure/marketing. But again, you can always improve your odds by writing a great book — and then writing another one.

I think I see a theme developing…

<3

 

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04/29/15 Uncategorized # , , ,

Young Writers Series Week Eight; Rowing Your Own Boat (What To Do If the People Around You Don’t Take You Seriously)

I can hardly believe that we’re at the end of our eight week series. So much has happened! Two months ago, Lies I Told was on deck, and we were still battling sub-zero temperatures here in New York. Now Lies I Told is out to glowing reviews and Spring seems to have sprung at last.

And hopefully, you guys have eight more weeks ofinsight into writing and publishing.

😉

Last week we talked about how to juggle your social life, school, and other activities with writing. You can find links to previous weeks in that post.

The subject of this week’s post — Rowing Your Own Boat — could easily be written for writers of any age. That’s because writers of all ages sometimes have trouble getting support from the people closest to them — especially before they’re published. I think it’s because A) it’s such a solitary pursuit (how can they be sure we’re really writing as opposed to, say, painting our toenails? Or writing love letters to Channing Tatum?), and B) it’s has the kind of stars-in-your-eyes connotation of wanting to be a movie star or a ballerina. Is it possible? Yes. But the truth is, most of us won’t be a movie star or a ballerina.

So when we tell people we’re writers or say we’re “working on my next book”, it can seem a little… quaint, especially to those not initiated in the passion-filled, emotionally draining practice of bringing to life a whole new world, complete with people and everything.

If you’re a young person, this is probably exacerbated by the fact that you’re, well… YOUNG. I mean, you probably did want to be a ballerina or a princess or a firefighter or an astronaut not that long ago, right? And none of THOSE things worked out (this isn’t me talking – it’s your naysayer, whomever he or she may be). Why should this be any different?

I have four kids ages 15 to 22. They’ve had lots of interests and passions over the years, and many of them have gone by the wayside. As a parent, it’s sometimes hard to know what’s going to stick, and I’ve had to remind myself more than once that whether it “sticks” or not, it’s still my job to BELIEVE. As a freelance editor, I’ve also been in the position of reading work that runs the gamut from the barely readable to the extremely promising. In all of those cases, it’s been my job to be encouraging of someone’s dream while being tactfully truthful about how much work they may still have to do, even while acknowledging that some of those writers aren’t going to make it.

And I’ve had my share of naysayers, too. When I left my job as a Director of Marketing for a technology consulting firm to move to a tiny, rural town, hoping to find a better, simpler, more fulfilling life, one of my bosses at the time asked, “What will you do?” I said, “I don’t know. Maybe I’ll write a book.” He laughed and said, “About what?” The disbelief was loud and clear in his voice (I should have said, “Oh, I don’t know, maybe about that time I helped grow a company from $200k to $15 million in four years… 😉 ).  For years while I worked to get published after our move, I would sheepishly tell people who asked that I was a writer, and that I was working on my first, second, third, fourth, or fifth book. But before I was published, people’s eyes kind of glazed over with suspicion.”Hmm-mmm, SURE you are,” they seemed to be thinking. My husband (who is my ex-husband now) listened with barely passing interest when I spoke about my work and never read a single thing I wrote, even when I asked if he’d be willing to do so.

But doubters have always made me work harder. My competitive spirit is motivated by people who think I can’t do something, and to tell the truth, my “I’ll show them” mentality was at least partially responsible for my stubborn determination to keep going. At the same time, I understand how demoralizing it can be to row your boat alone, especially when you’re surrounded by people who only feed your self-doubt.

I wish I could give you a magic potion to make them believe, but we can’t make people believe in us or make them approve of how we spend our time or make them excited about our dreams. Basically, we have NO CONTROL over them.

What you DO have control over is YOU. You can choose to let these people slow you down, doubt yourself, even derail your dream completely. Or you can choose to WORK. Because that’s what it’s going to take. And if somewhere along the way you find that it’s not worth it or that you aren’t having fun anymore, by all means feel free to reconsider. I used to belong to an online writer’s group, and one time someone posted the question, “How do I know when it’s time to give up?” In response someone else wrote, “Go ahead and quit – if you can.” That really stuck with me. We’re not ALL meant to be writers, even if we love reading, even if we enjoy writing the occasional story or poem. I couldn’t have quit writing if I tried. It was literally saving my life in the depths of depression, and it was the thing I most enjoyed doing in my “down” time. I figured if I was going to write no matter what, I might as well keep trying to get my work out there. If writing is a compulsion for you, if it’s something you MUST do, if it’s something you would do for free your whole life through because you love it THAT MUCH, then what else are you going to do with your time that is as meaningful? And if it’s a compulsion, if you MUST do it, does it really matter what anyone else thinks?

All of which is not to say that it’s not disappointing when you don’t get support from friends and family. You’re allowed to be disappointed. It’s how you deal with that disappointment that will define you as a writer. Will you give up? Or will you work to be better? Will you keep trying? Will you keep your head down and keep doing what you must?

While I can’t solve this problem for you, I can give you some tips for dealing with it;

1. Write down the reason you love writing and place it somewhere you’ll see it whenever you have doubts. Whether your note to self reads “I write because I must” or “I write to tell the stories in my head” or “I write because I want to see my name on a book store shelf”, your note will likely remind you how SEPARATE your reasons for writing are from the people around you. When you write because you must, does it change anything that your best friend doesn’t believe you can do it (although I’d counter this might not be the best best friend you can find)? When you write because you have to tell the stories in your head, does it matter that your parents think writing won’t lead to a stable career? When you write because you want to see your name on a book store shelf, does it matter that your sister thinks writing is a waste of time? Your note will remind you that it’s not about them anyway.

2. Read as much as you can. Watch movies. Play great video games. Do anything that inspires you with great story.

3. Seek out support where you can find it. There are lots of wonderful online writing groups, and simply connecting with other writers has a way of keeping up your morale and reminding you that you belong to a timeless, far-flung tribe of storytellers. If you’ve found the right group of people, they will lift you up and give you feedback and cheer you on. If they don’t do these things, find another group. And remember not to give out sensitive personal information online.

4. Start a review blog. Reviewing books online is a great way to stay active in the conversation about books, reading, and writing, and it will also connect you to a larger group of people who are interested in the very same things. If you’re following my other advice, you’re reading regularly anyway. The time you spend writing out a quick review for the books you read may be worth the camaraderie you find in the book blog community.

5. Keep your head down and focus on craft. From the cliques that naturally form in any group (online or otherwise) to buzz about current trends in the marketplace, it’s easy to get distracted by internet noise. But just remember; none of this counts as actual writing, and none of it will make you BETTER. And that’s our goal, right? Because that’s the best shot you have at being published. So when you’re tempted to get involved in drama in your writers group or tempted to be downtrodden by someone’s dire predictions about the publishing marketplace or tempted to change what you’re writing to follow an up and coming trend, remember to keep your eye on the ball. Craft is the ball. Focus on getting BETTER, and everything else will follow.

That concludes our eight week Young Writer’s Series. I’ve had so much fun sharing this information with you, and I hope it’s been helpful. I’ll post a list of all eight topics with links so you can go back and read if you’re just joining us.

Writing has been the one constant in my life. It has seen me through depression and divorce and new beginnings and self doubt. Whatever happens in the “real” world, it is a comfort to know there are infinite worlds into which I can escape. When people talk about retirement, I can only blink. Retirement? From WRITING? What else would I do? What else would I WANT to do? No, I’ll be writing until the day I die. If you feel this way too, you’re probably a writer, and that is something you can carry with you wherever you go, whatever the circumstances of your life.

And the best part of all is that your journey is just beginning.

Make the most of it.

<3

 

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04/22/15 Uncategorized

Young Writers Series Week Seven; Keeping the Balls in the Air (How to Juggle School, Social Life, and Writing)

Wow! We’re almost done with the eight week Young Writers series. That went fast! So far we’ve covered everything from how to get your book published to the value added by agents and editors to self-editing. This week we’re going to focus on the big balancing act that is juggling anything creative with so-called real life. Although I don’t really like that concept, because I don’t know about you, but my writing is as much a part of my real life as anything else.

😉

As a teenager or college student, I know your life is jam packed with school, social outings, after-school activities like sports and clubs, homework, and family. Three of my four kids all have a creative passion (writing, fine art, and filmmaking), and I’ve seen how they struggle to find time for their art while also being a young person in today’s constantly connected world. And while I’d like to give you a magic bullet to solve the problem, I’m afraid it’s not that easy.

The first thing I’ll say is that it’s okay to narrow your field of interest a little. In fact, it’s natural. Kids usually have no idea what their passion is, which is one reason many parents sign up their kids for so many things. We want you to try everything! Because how will you know you love soccer or piano or science if you don’t do those things?

But as you get older and start to get a better feel for who you really are, it’s natural to find yourself gravitating toward some activities while also realizing you don’t enjoy others as much as you used to. Kenneth used to be super into sports. He was an amazing baseball and soccer player (I’ve since realized he’s one of those lucky people who is good at everything he tries), and he played for the town, for his school, and sometimes at the club level. Then when he got older, he tried hip-hop and found he really loved it. That led him to music, which led him to guitar, which led him back to piano (he’d tried it when he was a kid and didn’t like it). When he started composing music and felt that he’d found his true love, he quit sports altogether, because he realized he was spending all his time there wishing he was home playing music. That wasn’t his last stop though. He went on to find a passion for writing (there’s a strong writing gene on our family) and has since completed his first book and is currently working on a screenplay. Music has become something he does just for fun.

Some of his friends at the time would say things like, “Why do you quit everything?” It made Kenneth feel a little insecure, because he’d never thought of it that way. But then we talked and I explained that he quit more things than most of his peers because he TRIED more things than most of his peers, and it just isn’t practical to believe you’ll move into adulthood doing a hundred different things at any given time. The reason you try new things is to have the experience and see if you like them. You are under no obligation to continue if you hate it, especially if there’s something about which you’re more passionate.

Now don’t get your parents mad at me! I’m not saying you should go out and quite everything. I’m just saying if you find there are things you’re doing out of habit instead of because you really enjoy them, it might be time to reconsider (and this is good advice for adults too). Think about the energy you’re spending on things that you don’t enjoy very much, and consider how much progress you might make on something you DO enjoy if you took the time and applied it there. This might require a sit down with your parents, but its been my experience that above all else, most parents want their kids to be happy. If you explain your reasons for wanting to cut back on some of your extracurriculars to devote more time to writing (or anything else), I have a feeling they’ll  understand.

But before you go quite everything; consider this; writing time is more than just writing.

It’s true. Let me explain.

For a long time, I logged my writing hours like I would log hours on any job, pushing myself to write 6-8 hours a day. The truth is, I felt (and still feel) incredibly lucky to be writing for a living, and I never wanted to take that for granted. I was always trying to “prove” I deserved it by writing as much as possible. But after awhile, I realized my writing was becoming less inspired, and a big part of the reason was that I was WRITING more at the expense of LIVING more. And living leads to the experiences and inspiration that make for good writing. I realized when I was out and about, seeing movies with my kids or hiking or reading a newspaper article or even driving somewhere, I was processing all of those experiences and stories and sensations, storing them away for later use. Even when I wasn’t aware I was doing it, snippets of those moments would come back to me when I was sitting at the computer – how the sunset swept the sky orange and pink, the way someone tilted their head when they talked, making it seem like they were always a little confused, the weight of the air on a particularly hot and humid day. And I was getting ideas too! From newspaper articles and books and movies and overheard conversations. In fact, if I logged all of THOSE hours, the ones I came to think of as time spent filling the creative well, I was putting in a good six hours a day at minimum, and usually a lot more. Then I might only write for two hours, but it was an inspired two hours.

😉

All of which leads me to advice that is no less true for its ambiguity. The truth is, we all have to find a way to balance the logistics of daily living with our creative drive. It doesn’t get easier as you get older, it just changes. The one thing that has made all the difference for me is to have a schedule.

My schedule has changed over the years. In the early days, I wrote from 9pm to 1am and sometimes later. This is because I had little kids who needed my attention, and it was the only time I was guaranteed time to write. It meant I was exhausted when I woke up at 6am to get the kids to school, but I learned to go back to bed for a couple extra hours of sleep while they were at school, then stay up late writing again (I work better in the afternoons and evenings, which is why I didn’t just write during the day while the kids were in school). When the kids got older, I blocked off 7pm-9pm during the week, because they were usually doing homework and taking showers anyway, and afternoons were spent running from one after school activity to another. Nowadays, I have two writing blocks; 3pm-5pm (my kids can mostly drive themselves around now) and 7pm-9pm. If something comes up during one of these blocks, I know I have at least two hours left to write on any given day. Everyone who knows me knows that this is sacred time. I don’t answer my phone and don’t schedule appointments during those times if I can avoid it. If you have friends who work at a movie theater or a restaurant, odds are they can’t take calls or check their phone while they’re on the clock. Consider your writing time work time and follow the same rules.

But you may not be able to commit to two hours of writing every day. And that’s okay! Let’s look at how long it would take to write a book if you blocked off different amounts of time (assuming about 750 words an hour and a 70,000 word book);

2 hours per week; About 10 months

2 hours per day, twice a week (say Saturday and Sunday); About 5 months

1 hour per day x 5 days a week; 4-5 months

8 hours per week (say four, two-hour blocks); About 3 months

12 hours per week (say, over Summer); About 2 months

Are you seeing a pattern here? It’s not about HOW MUCH TIME you spend writing. It’s about CONSISTENCY. Even if you only write two hours per week, you WILL STILL HAVE A FINISHED BOOK IN TEN MONTHS. That’s about the length of one school year. Alternatively, if you spend your school year focusing on school and school-related activities and only write in the summer, you can have a book done in eight weeks.

Now you might be thinking, “There’s a big difference between eight weeks and ten months!”

There is. About eight months difference. But the end result is the same; you have a finished book. And that’s assuming you’re writing a novel. If you’re working on poetry or short stories instead, you would have A LOT of finished work during that time. And whatever you do, it will result in more finished work than if you do nothing.

Lastly, take advantage of small amounts of time. For years I wouldn’t bother writing unless I had a good hour or two. When I finally started taking every spare 30-minute block I could find, I was shocked by how much more quickly my word count piled up. Using our formula above, a half hour a day five days a week still puts you at under ten months to finish a whole book. Most of us can find a 30-minute block of time each day — even if it’s that half hour after practice or the half hour between getting home from school and eating dinner or the half hour we spend mindlessly reading Buzzfeed articles. And if you need a little help staying focused, I highly recommend a program called Freedom, which allows you to block social media sites and/or your WIFI connection for set periods of time. You’ll get more done in 30 minutes of focused writing time than in an hour of back and forth between your manuscript and Twitter. I use Freedom almost religiously when I’m drafting, and it’s startling how much more focused I feel, even for thirty minutes, when I KNOW I can’t access the internet.

Let’s recap tips for balancing writing and real life!

Be willing to narrow your field of interest to make more time for writing.

Talk to your parents if you feel you’re over scheduled and need more downtime.

Be willing to sacrifice some of your “empty” downtime, like TV, surfing the internet, social networking, etc.

Be honest about your time wasters and use a program like Freedom if necessary to disconnect from the internet.

Make a schedule that will guarantee you a certain amount of writing time each week.

Attach your writing time to activities that rarely change, say, right before or after dinner.

Take advantage of small blocks of time to chip away at your word count or revisions.

Remember that living and thinking and learning and experiencing all count as filling the creative well. When you absolutely can’t write because of your schedule, don’t feel guilty! Enjoy the moment you are in and trust that it’s all contributing to your bank of experiences – which will only make your writing better your whole life through.

I hope this helps!

It’s hard to believe, but next week is our last week on the Young Writers series. We’ll be talking about Rowing Your Own Boat (What To Do If the People Around You Don’t Take You Seriously). Of course, you can always leave questions in the Comments section and I’ll do my best to answer them.

In the meantime, I hope you’ve all had a chance to pick up LIES I TOLD. I have been totally blown away by the response to this book (see my post about Kirkus’s tweet!), and I’m very excited to share it with you.

<3

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04/20/15 Lies I Told , Life , Writing # , , , , , , , , , ,

Kirkus calls LIES I TOLD a “touching” Thriller!

It’s been such a whirlwind two weeks celebrating the release of LIES I TOLD that I’m just now getting to share this with you guys.

A few months ago I found out Kirkus had given LIES I TOLD a STARRED review. Most of you probably know this is a big deal; Kirkus is notoriously tough on writers, and they have a very, very high bar to star something. I was completely blown away and grateful, because the review really validated all the hard work I’ve done on craft these past couple of years.

Fast forward to release day and THIS pops up in my Twitter feed;

photo-20

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, you’re reading that right. Kirkus actually tweeted about LIES I TOLD, calling it a “touching” thriller and making it clear that it’s an exception to the rule.

So… yeah. I’m just kind of bragging.

😉

And sharing! And reminding you that LIES I TOLD is out now, and I’d love if you’d give it a shot. And if you already HAVE given it a shot and enjoyed it, I’d love it if you’d post a review on Amazon/B&N/Goodreads, because it really helps bring the book up in the search algorithms.

For those of you who have done all these things and more, I continue to be grateful and overwhelmed by your support. I think I have the best readers in the whole world.

<3

 

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04/15/15 Uncategorized , Young Writers Series # , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Young Writers Series Week Six; Agents and Editors (What They Do and Why We Need Them)

Welcome back to the Young Writers series! I seem to be running at least a day late every week, but this week I have a great excuse; LIES I TOLD released last Tuesday!!! I’ve been super busy with interviews and blog tours and promotion. Things are starting to calm down a bit, which is a good thing. I love talking to readers, but my favorite part is still the writing. I’m happy to be back in my office working this week.

Last week on the Young Writers Series we talked about how to sell your book. I took you through the process step by step, from getting an agent to revising to “subbing” to editors. This week we’re getting into the nitty-gritty of agents and editors, namely what they do and why we need them.

Let’s talk about agents first.

If you read last week’s post, How Do I Sell My Book, you know that you really must have an agent if you want to sell to any of the big traditional publishing houses. They just don’t accept unagented manuscripts anymore. And even if your favorite aunt is the CEO at HarperCollins, you’ll STILL want an agent. Here’s why.

There are good agents and there are GREAT agents. A great agent (which I so happen to have, luck me!) will work through edits with you before submission. Not every agent wants to do this, and that’s okay. But very, very few never-before-published authors are going to hit it out of the park on their first try. Even after you’ve edited your book multiple times and hired an outside editor, odds are good that your book will still need some work if you want to put your best foot forward. I saw this firsthand when I tried to sell what was my second finished book. I had a different agent back then, and we did very, very little work on the book before sending it out to editors. Nine months later, it hadn’t sold and I made the decision to find an agent who was more hands-on with editorial feedback. Fast forward to Prophecy of the Sisters and the TEN MONTHS I spent in revisions with my current agent and you get a three-day pre-empt from Little Brown and a deal that was much bigger than anything I had expected. That just wouldn’t have happened if I’d gone out with my first version of the manuscript. It can be maddening to work through revisions on the front end, but it’s almost always worth it.

Once you begin to sub, a great agent will have street cred that will get your manuscript read faster, and they will also be able to negotiate terms that are favorable to you when it comes to royalty rates, bonuses, geographic rights (some books sell World rights, but if you sell World English instead, your agent may be able to sell your book’s subsidiary rights to a foreign market, and that money goes straight to you instead of toward your publisher’s advance). They will have a good handle on the personalities of various editors and what it might be like to work with them, and they will know which publishers are more likely to follow through on marketing promises (something that matters in a big way). They will continue to be a liaison between you and your editor if anything tricky arises, i.e. deadline related issues, marketing problems and questions, payment concerns, etc.

And none of this ends with your agent. Assuming your agent works for an established agency, you will have lots of legal counsel backing you up. In addition, publishers value their relationships with great agencies, and they will work hard to insure that both you AND your agency are happy with the way you’re treated.

Once your book is sold and settled in its new home, a great agent will guide your career and advise you about long-term strategy. The publishing industry is rapidly changing, and timing plays an important role in how well a book is received. I’ve often had two or more ideas in the queue at a time, and it’s been invaluable for me to pitch them all to my agent and get his feedback on which one has the best chance of selling in the current market.  Great agents also have film and TV connections that can be beneficial to you. In addition to writing books that have sold into traditional publishing, I’ve also written for ABC and have worked-for-hire on books with two other publishers. I’ve collaborated with a well-known adult writer on a YA project, something that was made possible because my agent heard the author was looking for a partner, and I’ve written for an app company. Even if you’re not interested in any of these avenues right now, the publishing process can be fickle and SLOW. You won’t always get paid on time, and sometimes you won’t sell a book, even after you’ve been published. Having an agent with widespread connections can gain you off-the-beaten track opportunities that will help pay your bills during the lean times.

In short, the 15% I pay my agent is MORE THAN WORTH IT. I have never begrudged him a cent, because he works incredibly hard for me. He brings game changing expertise and experience to the table, and I have made back that 15% a hundred time over because of his role in my career.

Once your book is sold, the majority of your communication about the project will be directly with your editor. He or she will send you revisions, introduce you to marketing and publicity at the publishing house, and be your main contact for everything related to the book they’ve acquired.

A great editor is one who both understands your vision for the project (hopefully this is a given if they’ve bought your book) and one who will push you to make it the best it can be within that framework. An editor isn’t going to give you all the answers. They’re going to tell you the problems and trust YOU to come up with the answers. This doesn’t mean you can’t run things by them, but you shouldn’t expect them to tell you how to do your job.

Their job is finding potential problems. Yours is to fix them.

A great editor makes all the difference in the finished product of your book, and a great finished product is the best insurance policy you can get in terms of your long term career. A great editor will bring out your manuscript’s potential by guiding you through more revisions with a flexible hand. This matter because once your book has sold, you can expect at least one more round of fairly significant revisions, and maybe more.

Beyond the actual editing, a great editor is someone who LOVES YOUR WORK. He or she believes in you as a writer and wants to see you succeed. They can be your fiercest advocate at the publishing house, fighting for marketing dollars, turning down covers that are less than stellar, and campaigning to buy more of your work. If they really want to keep working with you, they will often engage in a dialog about what they might like to see from you next, giving you a better chance of selling another book to that publishing house.

So as you can see, agents and editors provide a unique set of skills that will help you with both your writing and your long-term career. In my mind, the value they add isn’t even in question, at least not with traditional publishing.

But it’s a two way street. Here are some things you can do to be a good client (to your agent) and employee (to your editor);

1. Keep your communication concise and professional unless and until you know each other well enough to discuss personal matters.

2. Let feedback on your manuscript settle before responding. It’s easy to sound snippy in an email when you’re feeling defensive about your work. And snippy isn’t professional.

3. Be willing to hear your agent and editor out in matters where you might disagree. Remember that they have their area of expertise, and you have yours.

4. Be on time. Try not to take license with the fact that you’re in a creative field. Few employees can get away with being consistently late and plan to keep their job for any length of time. Treat your professional commitments like the promises they are (barring some kind of catastrophe, which does happen now and again) and you will gain the good will of your agent and editor, as well as a reputation for being easy to work with.

5. Never, ever badmouth your agent or editor. If you’re not happy and a friend asks for feedback, you can be honest privately about your experience, but it’s just not professional to badmouth a colleague in ANY business.

6. Know when it’s time to be a team player. Like all businesses, publishing requires that everyone work together. There will be times that you won’t like how things are going. You may be angry about the amount of marketing given to your book (especially if you were promised more), about your cover design, about the amount of conferences (or lack thereof) in which you’re asked to participate. There’s a time to push back on issues like these and others like them and a time to be a team player. Once your editor makes it clear THIS is your cover, for example, there is often NOTHING you can do to change it. You can ask, but if they say something like, “We feel strongly this is the right cover, so we’re going to go out with it and see how it goes,” that means the decision has been made, and the best thing you can do for your career AND your book is plug that book (and its cover) for all you’re worth, be gracious about it, and hope for the best. Being openly angry won’t help you once the decision is made (or before, for that matter, when a calm discussion is in order).

Join me next week for Keeping the Balls in the Air (How to Juggle School, Social Life, and Writing).

And I hope you’ll all pick up a copy of LIES I TOLD! I’ve spent the last couple of years really focusing on craft, and I’ve gotten so many emails and comments and reviews saying this is my best book yet. I’m excited to share it with you guys!

<3

 

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04/09/15 Funny , Lies I Told , Life # , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

LIES WE TOLD Video

I’m so excited to share the video Caroline and I put together to celebrate the launch of LIES I TOLD. This isn’t a book trailer. It’s a compilation of lies told by or to real life people, and their explanation of how the lie changed them and how they moved past it. Some of them are funny, some heartfelt, and one is even shocking, but one thing the video illustrates is something Grace Fonataine in LIES I TOLD knows firsthand; Sometimes the worst lies we tell, are the ones we tell ourselves.

And my lie is in here, too. Yikes!

Enjoy! And you’ll get extra entries on the massive $250 gift card giveaway if you share the link.

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04/07/15 Contests & Giveaway , Uncategorized # , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s LIES I TOLD Release Day!

It’s LIES I TOLD Release Day!

And YOUR chance to win tons of amazing goodies.

😉

This book is so important to me, and while I’m going to do a longer blog post tomorrow about the thematic elements and why I believe Grace is someone everyone can identify with (even if you haven’t been adopted by a “family” of scheming con artists), today I just want to say….

YAY! Yay for me and yay for all of you who have helped and supported me through the years. I’m lucky to feel like I “know” so many of my readers. When I sign into social media, it’s often like entering a giant coffee klatch where everyone is cheering each other on, celebrating the good times and propping each other up during the bad.

Writing has been a lifesaver for me in more ways than one. Aside from being the only source of income for my family (I’m a single mom), it also serves as a distraction from my often persistent inner demons. No matter how depressed or anxious or sad or sacred I get, writing is always there to get me out of my own head. And sometimes, that’s the only cure for what ails me.

Anyway, this is all just to say… thank you. Thank you for buying my books and spreading the word and sharing my posts online and propping me up when the going gets tough. In the coming days, I’ll be posting specific ways you can help this book succeed, this heartfelt book that has FOUR out of FOUR stellar trade reviews, including a star from Kirkus (hint for now; buy it, review it, tell your friends about it).

Now let’s talk swag.

😉

Those of you who have been with me awhile  know that I am (*cough*) kind of famous for giving good swag. And while change is usually a good thing, I kind of want to keep my swag creed, thank you very much.

With that in mind, I’m offering up THREE awesome prizes;

photo-29First Prize; a $250 Visa gift card or gift card to the bookstore of your choice (gift cards are not pictured since I don’t know which one the winner will want), Victoria’s Secret bath gel and body lotion, tropical inspired nail polish and candy, grapefruit lip balm, a bookmark, peacock pocket mirror, and an entire library of my signed, currently published books (Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy, A Temptation of Angels, This Wicked Game, and LIES I TOLD).

Second Prize; a $100 Visa gift card or gift card to the bookstore of your choice, Victoria’s Secret bath gel and body lotion, tropical inspired nail polish and candy, grapefruit lip balm, a bookmark, peacock pocket mirror, and an entire library of my signed, currently published books (Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy, A Temptation of Angels, This Wicked Game, and LIES I TOLD).

Third Prize; Tropical inspired nail polish and candy, grapefruit lip balm, a bookmark, peacock pocket mirror, an entire library of my signed, currently published books (Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy, A Temptation of Angels, This Wicked Game, and LIES I TOLD) PLUS a signed ARC of PROMISES I MADE, sequel to LIES and the final book in Grace Fontaine’s story (out in November of this year).

photo-30You can enter in so many ways, all of them centered around helping me spread the word about LIES I TOLD. You can do simple things like share the link to this giveaway or a link to the LIES WE TOLD video. You can change your Twitter picture to the cover or write a lie on a tiny piece of paper and hide it somewhere, then post the picture with the hashtag (see photo of mine), each  for FIVE entries. You can do some of the things once a day for the duration of the giveaway (earning up to 30 entries if you do them every day), and others will earn you as many as FIVE entries in one shot. Basically, you can do as much or as little as you want! You MUST use #LiesITold on all Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr entries for them to count. You also must be following me on those sites if you post there. Contest runs through May 7th at Midnight EST and is open to residents of the US and Canada. The Lies video mentioned as an entry option will be up later today.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck, you guys! I can’t wait to see all your posts (and keep your eyes out for mine, because I plan to leave some lies around, too…)

<3

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04/06/15 Uncategorized , Writing , Young Writers Series # , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Young Writers Series Week Five; How Do I Sell My Book?

Welcome to this week’s installment of the Young Writer’s series. I missed last week completely! I was so slammed with launch stuff for LIES I TOLD (out tomorrow, you guys! Please pick up a copy!), plus a deadline on another book, that I kept meaning to catch up and just never did. So we’ll call this Week Five and get back on track.

:)

Last week we talked about outside advice; how to make it work for you and how to know if you should take it when offered.

This week we’re talking about the nitty-gritty of selling your book. For most writers, publication is the goal through all the late writing nights, crippling self-doubt, and endless revisions that make up the process of writing. If it’s not, that’s totally okay! There is a lot to be said for doing something just for the joy of it.

But if you want to see your book published, this post is for you.

The sales process in publishing is a lot longer and more involved than most people realize. Some of it is dependent on the type of publishing you choose (see Week Two in this series), but for our purposes here, we’re going to focus on selling your book to large traditional publishers like HarperCollins, RandomHouse, Scholastic, Little Brown, , Simon and Schuster, and Penguin.

First of all, you need a finished manuscript. Yes, finished. Unless you’re writing non-fiction or have published books before in your genre, a partial probably isn’t going to cut it. So before you do anything else, finish your book, revise it, give it to a beta reader or editor, and revise it some more. I know it’s tempting to cut corners on the editing side. You finished a whole book! You want to see it on the shelves of a bookstore! But you won’t usually have a chance to resubmit to an agent or editor once they reject a certain project, so you don’t want to go out with less than your best work. Polish it until you literally can’t go any further with it on your own.

Once you have a complete manuscript, you need to look for an agent. Some people don’t think you need an agent, and while there might be room for discussion in some areas, you DEFINITELY need an agent if you plan to sell to traditional publishing. None of the big publishers accept unaccented manuscripts, and neither do most of the small ones. And that’s just for starters. There are TONS of other reasons, which I’ll save for next week’s topic, Agents and Editors (What They Do and Why We Need Them). For now, let’s operate on the assumption that you trust me on this.

😉

The best way to look for an agent is to find out who represents your favorite books and/or subscribe to the Deal Report at Publisher’s Marketplace (it was $20/month when I sold Prophecy. It might be a bit more now). Through the deal report you can search recent deals in your genre to make sure the agent your interested in has a solid track record of selling books like yours. This is important, because anyone can hang out a shingle and call themselves an agent. You want someone with a proven track record of selling consistently. Have you ever heard the saying, “A bad agent is worse than no agent?” No? Well, you have now, and it’s true. Hold out for someone great. If you query thirty agents with fantastic track records and none of them feel confident that they can sell your book, it might mean the book isn’t ready or the timing isn’t right. Go to work on another project, even if you choose to query less experienced agents. It will keep you sane and will give you something else to sell in the event your first book doesn’t. Plus, I think you’ll be surprised by how much you’ve learned and grown since your last book.

Before querying you’ll need the following (in addition to your finished manuscript);

1. A query letter – this is a one page letter (you can find examples online) explaining why you’re querying this particular agent (they want to know you’ve done your homework and querying them because you genuinely think they’d be a good fit for the project – not just because you’re querying every agent known to man or woman), a brief paragraph or two about your book, and a closing that provides the word count and an offer to send a partial or full. Most agents will request a partial before they request the full manuscript. This could be a ten page partial or a fifty page partial or anything in between. Sometimes they’ll just request a synopsis, which brings me to my next point. But first, here’s my query letter for Prophecy of the Sisters, aka Indigo Sky, and the book that started it all and got me the agent I still have today;

 

June 20, 2007

AGENT NAME
AGENT ADDRESS
CITY, STATE, ZIP CODE

ATTENTION: AGENT NAME

Dear NAME OF AGENT,

I came across your name while researching potential agents for my YA novel. Your interest in fantasy and work with a paranormal edge makes me believe you might be a good fit for my YA Gothic fantasy, INDIGO SKY

It’s 1890 and sixteen-year-old Lia Milthorpe is at war with the person she loves most – her twin sister.

Alice and Lia are orphans reeling from the mysterious death of their father in the forbidden chamber known as the Dark Room. Immediately after his death, Lia begins having dreams in which she travels the skies at will while her body lies sleeping. But the dreams are not nearly as strange as the symbol blooming on her wrist – that of a snake entwined circle known as the Jorgumand.

Lia soon discovers that Sonia, a young psychic, bears nearly the same Mark. When Sonia shares with Lia the biblical tale of the Watchers, they begin a quest to solve a series of riddles found in a primordial book called The Book of Chaos. If Lia cannot solve the puzzle before her sister, she will lose more than her sanity, she will lose her very life – and bring about the apocalypse foretold in mythological legend the world over. Her journey takes her to the shadowy Astral Plane, to the nether reaches of the spirit world, and to the face of evil itself.

INDIGO SKY is complete at 78,000 words. I welcome the opportunity to send it at your request.

Warmest regards,

Michelle Zink

EMAIL ADDRESS

CONTACT PHONE NUMBER

 

Simple, right?

2. A synopsis – I advise having that synopsis prepared, a basic one page synopsis that gives a high level explanation of the events in your book, and a four to five page synopsis that is much more detailed. Don’t be coy here. The agent wants to know what’s really going on in the book and more or less how it ends. I’m giving you guys the goods by also including my one-page Synopsis for Prophecy of the Sisters below;

 

Indigo Sky – Synopsis

Sixteen-year-old Lia Milthorpe’s life is in danger from the person she loves most – her twin sister.

It’s 1890 and Lia and Alice Milthorpe are orphaned twins reeling from the mysterious death of their father and working to cheer their crippled younger brother, Henry. After their father’s sparsely attended funeral, they return two days a week to Wycliffe, a private school for wealthy girls, and attempt to settle into some kind of normalcy.

But Lia’s reality begins to unravel with sensory-rich dreams that occur more and more frequently, bringing with them a winged demon that chases her through the velvet sky of her nightmares. The dreams are followed by the discovery of an unusual mark on the inside of her wrist – that of a serpent devouring its own tail. The strange happenings make Lia long to confide in her sister, but Alice becomes more and more withdrawn, and Lia resolves to find the answers on her own.

But it is only when James discovers an ancient tome entitled “Librum Maleficii et Disordinae”, or “The Book of Chaos”, that Lia begins to understand the timeless battle of which she is a part – the battle between the demonic Lost Souls, fallen angels of the biblical Watchers, and those who try to shield the physical world from their reappearance.

The Prophecy outlined in the Book dictates that the battle continues through a long line of sisters. In each generation one sister is the Guardian, and one the Gate. The Guardian is tasked with shielding the physical world from the reappearance of the Souls. The Gate is the pathway back that will begin the Seven Plagues outlined in the biblical Book of Revelations.

Lia becomes certain she is the Guardian and her sister the Gate. When she discovers that a beautiful young psychic and an outcast from Wycliffe both bear the Mark, the three girls set out to unravel the Prophecy’s riddle and discover how they might guard the world from The Gate. The task is great enough – and is made greater still when Lia discovers the truth hidden in the Prophecy’s riddle.

A truth that will call into question everything she believed she knew about her sister – and herself.

And now there is so much more at stake, for if Lia cannot find before her sister the Keys foretold in the Prophecy, she may lose more than her sanity. She may lose her very life – sacrificing the lives of those she loves most in the process.  Her journey takes her to the shadowy Astral Plane of the Otherworlds, to the nether reaches of the Spirit World, and to the face of evil itself.

 

These are the query and synopsis’s that started my career. I hope they help you, young writers!

Now, once you have agent, that agent should take you through some revisions on your book. Even when we think our books are perfect, they’re rarely ready to sell the first time out the gate, even if you’ve revised with an editor or reader. A good agent has their finger on the marketplace and will know how to tweak your manuscript so it’s in the best position to sell. Once you’re through revisions with your agent, the book goes out “on sub” or on submission. This means your agent is sending it to editors he or she knows that are looking for your type of project. This is excruciatingly painful for the author. You’ve finally done it! You’re book is on sub! It could sell any minute!

Except it probably won’t. Most editors will take at least a month to get back to your agent, and some will take longer. You MIGHT get lucky and be in the very tiny percentage of authors whose books sells at auction (more than one house is bidding on the book at a time) or in a pre-empt (one publisher steps up and offers a lot to keep it from going to auction), but most of the time, the process is much slower and less exciting than that.

Work on something else.

Again, it will keep you sane, and it will give you something else to sell if this book doesn’t. Because yes, that’s right; just because you’re on sub doesn’t mean your book will sell. My second book VERY NEARLY sold, but it just didn’t quite make it. While it was on sub, I wrote the book that would become PROPHECY OF THE SISTERS, and the rest is history.

If your agent receives several rejections, he or she may feel it’s time to throw in the towel and start fresh with a new project. This is super devastating, no way around it. Assuming your agent IS a good one (see above), he or she will probably have submitted to somewhere around ten houses, so if someone hasn’t snapped it up by then, the odds are slim that you’re going to get a sell somewhere else, unless you’re willing to go to much smaller presses (which also have much smaller advances and a lot less to offer in terms of marketing – totally okay if you’re okay with it!). This is when it will be handy to have another project waiting in the wings. Most agents will be happy to look at your next project if your first one didn’t sell, assuming you want to stick it out with them. If you don’t, you start the process over with a different agent.

And that’s the process in a nutshell.

That’s quite a nutshell, eh?

😉

Next Week we’ll be back on track with Week Six; Agents and Editors (What They Do and Why We Need Them).

And please remember that LIES I TOLD releases TOMORROW! Ahhhh! It would mean so much to me if you would consider picking up the book and helping me spread the word online. I’m going to put up a giant giveaway tomorrow with tons of awesome stuff (gift cards! a whole signed MZ library! Victoria’s Secret bath products!), so please come back for a visit.

<3

 

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03/27/15 Lies I Told # , , , , , , ,

A FOURTH Glowing Review for LIES I TOLD

You guys… pinch me. I can’t believe this is real. Yesterday I found out LIES I TOLD has garnered another lovely, gushy review from Publisher’s Weekly. Trade reviewers are tough to please, and I think this might be the first time since the Prophecy series that I’ve had across the board awesome reviews for a book.

Here it is;

Seventeen-year-old Grace endured the foster care system for years until a pair of thieves adopted her, employing Grace and her older brother, Parker, for their cons. Ever since, Grace has spent four months in one place, five months in another, changing her name, personality, and friends in service of her parents’ schemes. Now the family has landed in Playa Hermosa, Calif., gearing up for their greatest con yet—snagging $20 million in gold bars, hidden in the house of a local family. Grace’s job is to get close to handsome Logan Fairchild to find out where they keep the gold, and Zink (the Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy) builds significant tension as Grace begins to fall for her mark and make real friends, throwing her loyalties and decision-making into flux. It’s a gripping, edgy thriller that’s driven as much by the internal conflicts of its sympathetic heroine as by the threats that the con will come crashing down around Grace and her family. A dramatic 11th-hour twist will leave readers eager for more. Ages 13–up. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Apr.)

I worked incredibly hard on this book and spent a lot of time fine-tuning my knowledge of craft. I couldn’t be more pleased that it’s is being received so favorably. If you haven’t preordered yet, would you consider doing so? First week sales (all preorders go to first week sales) are so important to a book’s success, and I would really appreciate it! Plus, if you order from Oblong Books and Music by April 1st, I can sign and personalize your copy, and you’ll get a pretty little peacock pocket mirror as well. If you order from Amazon or B&N, the price is significantly cheaper when you preorder, and they don’t actually bill you until the book ships.

Thanks so much for your support!

<3

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03/26/15 Contests & Giveaway , Lies I Told # , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Blog Tour Stops for LIES I TOLD

Less than two weeks until the launch of LIES I TOLD, and I have so many fun things planned for you guys! Starting with a blog tour chock full of never-before-released excerpts, interviews with moi (don’t lie – you’ve always wanted to know what kind of milkshake LIES I TOLD is and what my favorite song is right now), tons of random things about me and the book (hint; there is one and only one game that I’m addicted to on my phone… 😉 ), playlists, and almost twenty chances to win a LIES I TOLD prize pack.

Please join me in showing some love to the blogs hosting LIES I TOLD;

 

March 22nd   ReadingTeen   http://www.readingteen.net/

March 23rd   Reading Lark   http://readinglark.blogspot.com/

March 28th   MundieMoms   http://mundiemoms.blogspot.com/

March 29th   FictionFare   http://fictionfare.blogspot.com/

March 30th   Stories and Sweeties   http://www.storiesandsweeties.com/

April 1st   The Irish Banana   http://theirishbanana.blogspot.com

April 2nd   Dark Faerie Tales   http://darkfaerietales.com/

April 4th   Page Turners   http://www.pageturnersblog.com/

April 7th   Step Into Fiction   http://www.stepintofiction.com/

April 8th   Chapter by Chapter   http://www.chapter-by-chapter.com/

April 11th   Fictitious Delicious   http://www.fictitiousdelicious.com/

April 13th Neverending Stores Book Blog   http://www.neverendingstoriesbookblog.com/

April 15th   Curling Up with a Good Book   http://curling-up-with-a-good-book.blogspot.com/

April 22nd   Once Upon a Twilight   http://www.onceuponatwilight.com/

April 24th   Such a Novel Idea   http://suchanovelidea.com/

April 27th   NovelNovice   http://novelnovice.com/

April 30th   Me, My Shelf, and I   http://www.memyshelfandi.com

 

All of these bloggers put so much time and effort into hosting me, and I can’t thank them enough for all their support. But I CAN encourage you to pop in and visit them, and to read the LIES I TOLD tour stops along the way.

Nice people, awesome book talk, and secret info. What’s not to like? And who knows? Maybe you’ll win!

😉

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Michelle Zink is the award-winning author of over seven novels. She lives in New York with too many teenagers and too many cats.
Michelle Zink Online
Michelle St. James Online
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Acclaim

"This arresting story takes readers to other planes of existence…"
- Booklist (starred review)


“An intense and captivating story…”
- VOYA (starred review)


“A fresh and engaging cast of characters, a page-turning plot and lyrical prose add up to an accomplished feat of storytelling…”
- The Guardian


“A captivating tragedy…"
- Publishers Weekly


“Zink’s methodical unfolding of events will draw readers in…”
- Kirkus


“Tingly suspense is craftily managed…”
- The Bulletin

Awards
 

 



@MichelleZink
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