Cover Reveal! Bellamy and the Brute by Alicia Michaels


Hey everyone!

I know that I’m overdue for a longer post (it will come yet), but right now, I’m thrilled to reveal the gorgeous cover of Alicia Michaels’ latest novel, Bellamy and the Brute! It’s the perfect read for fall, just in time to celebrate Disney’s Beauty and the Beast’s 25th anniversary!

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Why I Revised My Top Writing Habit


 

Hey All!

If you checked in with this blog anytime within the last two years, you’ll probably remember reading about my WIP, “Moorhouse,” as well as my “Painted Veil” serial novella(or maybe not, you probably have better things to meditate on than my on-going writing saga;)) Anyways, on the oft chance that you were wondering how they are going, both are going well. They’re going, anyways. Now I bet you’re thinking, “Okay, Emily, that’s great. But then where are the goods?” Valid question. My answer would be that while both projects are going well, it’s also more that they’re going how they should be.

This year has been a very exciting, weird, emotional one for me, and one I won’t forget any day soon. There’s been good things (university graduation, a temporary research assistant/co-author gig, a children’s literature scholarship, starting an ESL Teacher’s Certificate, acceptance from two graduate schools, accepting one, and the promise of a teaching assistant job once I’m there), bad things (consistent vandalism of our house by neighbourhood twerps, house renos ;, used up all my ferritin stores and was threatened with a blood transfusion if the iron levels didn’t go up (they did)) and some things that I didn’t want to happen, but ended up “okay” (being called for jury duty, making lots of decisions, etc.) Bottom line of all of this, is that after going through a lot and decluttering the old, and saying goodbye to a lot of things, I felt a bit stuck (like “where now?”), and I was ready for something new. So I put both ‘Moorhouse” and “Painted Veil” on hiatus. I’m definitely returning to them, but for now, I decided to work on something else, which happened to come completely out of nowhere. It’s going REALLY well (like 90 pages in less than a month well), and is top secret (for now), but I wanted to share how I had to break my top writing habit to get there.

I was totally promoting the practice of writing out of order, rather than chronologically, a couple of years back with “Moorhouse,” and with good reason. At the time, it worked for me, and yes, it still does. However, it has it’s drawbacks, like any admirable habit. See, the thing with habits, is that they can really work for you, or they can bring out your less admirable traits. For me, writing scenes that I was most passionate about first and worrying about the more boring or tricky ones later helped me to get really vivid emotion and description into some of my scenes, and also accomplish a lot fast. Yay, no writer’s block! But “M.H.” is a very complicated fantasy novel that also has individual histories, family trees, relationship things, etc. So, for someone who loves to edit others’ work, but strongly dislikes going through that process with her own, this book was a painful nightmare to revise in second draft.

Personally, I’m thinking that the reason the idea of writing out of order stopped working is because it’s very short-term gratification. It’s kind of like if you met someone and two minutes later, was convinced that they were the one for you. Maybe you’d kiss in the rain like in some lame Nicholas Sparks-esque movie. And maybe you’d only ever those parts of your life, anything else blocked off; no conversation, no messy bits, no non-perfect moments. That’s what writing out of order was like for me. You get these really good bits here and there, but the in-between can feel very disconnected and shallow, at least for me. By doing this, I got to some of my destinations, but there was no journey, no lessons along the way, less character development (some, but not much). One thing I’ve learnt from reverting back to being a chronological writer, is to let go of perfection and to just write through the hard bits. Some of them are not fun, but half of the deliciousness of writing isn’t just getting to the ending, but learning more about your characters, letting things grow and build, having anticipation of what comes up next. Pride and Prejudice wouldn’t be as fun if Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth actually got together right away, after all…

What about you? What writing habits do you need to break? Let me know in the comments below!

Indie Book Publishing: A Reader’s (and Buyer’s) Perspective


Hey All!
Gosh, is it already July? (!!!) Time flies! It’s honestly been a busy spring, which is why I haven’t spent a lot (read: none) of time on the blog. I’m trying to settle in a read a bit more though, as I find that I honestly function better if I don’t neglect that part of my life. On that note, I thought I’d share some thoughts on a (mildly) controversial topic (controversial for those of us who aren’t hard-core politics buffs, that is): Indie publishing. Some love I, some hate it, I say “I love it…sometimes.”

These days, the meaning of the term “indie publishing” is a bit muddier than it used to be. A lot of people use “self-publishing” interchangeably with “indie publishing” (aka, a term that can be used to denote publishing with a smaller, independent press). For the sake of this post, I’m using the term “indie publishing to denote self publishing. And really, self-publishing has come a long way since the days that it was referred to as “vanity publishing.” Luckily, we live in a society where talent triumphs recognition from the corporate, which is why indie publishing is bigger (and sometimes, better) than ever!

Being a longtime reader, reviewer, and editor of indie fiction, I can definitely vouch for some indie fiction as being some of the best books I’ve ever read, while some of them needed a little…help, shall we say? (just like any other book :)) So, with helpfulness in mind, let’s look at some ways that you can make your indie published book the most appealing it can be for readers.

1. Judge Your Book by it’s Cover: This sounds totally shallow, but it’s true that the better cover you have, the more people will be likely to pick your book up. It’s just a fact. I know, firsthand, that some truly awesome books have truly crappy covers, but it tends to take me a loooong (oooonggg) time to pick them up. If you’re a good designer (and I mean good, not average), consider putting your own cover together so you have full control over it. If not, spend the money and hire a professional cover designer. Just be careful who you get; make sure to check out their portfolio of work, and consider; “Would I buy that, if I were the customer?”

Some things to definitely avoid are washed-out colours, blocked fonts, and anything you’d consider “cheesy” (inspirational fiction that lets you know it’s inspiration by having a massive rainbow on the front; coconut oil-covered couples cavorting on the beach, etc.). Also consider; does the cover reflect what’s actually in the novel? If not, change the cover. And bottom line, simple is better, especially if fancy is coming out as cheesy. For example, did you know that most readers prefer a plain cover or one with a inanimate object than one with cover models? Apparently the reasoning behind this is that it ruins the reader’s own image of the book, and I have to agree. If you must have people, I really love covers with people, but not people’s faces. For example, a focus on a long-sweeping dress and an arm touching an oleander branch (you get the picture), or the back of someone’s head with a really great hairstyle. This gives your cover (and therefore, your book) a mysterious edge that temps the reader without interfering with their imagination.

2. Edit, Edit, Edit: I know, I don’t always like editing either. But it must be done. Just because you can control when you publish your book as an indie author, and just because it’s all very exciting, doesn’t mean you should jump the gun and put it out before it’s ready. Readers are hyper-critical of indie books, and therefore, the writer needs to make sure his/her work is polished. There are numerous writers, even traditionally published ones, whose work I once enjoyed until they started spitting out multiple books a year. Those books tended to feel awkward, less insightful, and just more consumable (in the marketing sense) than when they took the time to properly edit. In other words, choose quality over quantity, and be patient in publishing. Go over your work several times. You’ll also need to hire an editor at some point. This doesn’t have to be expensive; you can even hire a college student or a newcomer to editing. They’ll be cheaper and do a good job in order to prove themselves. But don’t skip this step. Someone who isn’t you needs to look over your stuff before you publish it.

3. Pricing: I know that there is a huge debate over whether indie authors should give there books away for free, or price them lower, or if doing these things devalues their work. To some extent, I don’t think that we, as readers and buyers, should demand free books. They are someone’s hard work and devotion, even if they don’t carry a big five publishing house label. However, as a marketing tactic, I highly recommend pricing appropriately. For example, if you have a first in a series, consider putting it to free (at least for certain periods) in order to hook readers. This always works for me. For example, I got Jenny B. Jones’s “In Between” and Anna Elliot’s “Georgiana Darcy’s Diary” for free on Kobo, and because I loved them so much and saved the money for the first books, I bought the sequels.

In terms of pricing further books, I definitely recommend pricing at $5.00 or less (for ebooks). I’ve probably spent more on impulse buy ebooks than full priced regular books over the years, likely because the are a cheaper buy. I can buy two or three books for the price of one, enjoy reading them quickly, then find my next great read. Plus the format of ebooks makes for an easier impulse buy. In terms of consumer value psychology (made that one up), it’s also good logic to note that whatever you spent on out-of-pocket costs in publishing your book, you still don’t have the same fees and expenses involved in publishing a hardcover, traditionally published book (i.e., you probably didn’t have to pay as many people full salaries in the making of your book). Thus, in terms of production costs, it should probably be a little lower than a traditional book.

4. Multiple Platforms: This is a biggie; make sure that your book is available on multiple platforms (Kindle, Kobo, etc.). There are so many books I’d have loved to have read over the years, but I’m a diehard Kobo reader, so Kindle books just don’t work for me. You’ll get more sales if you have your book on what your readers read on.

5. Trendiness and originality: I tend to read book trends to death (dystopian, princess-themed,reality tv-themed, illness themes, desert island, etc.)when they’re brand new and still somewhat original, and love new takes on the genres, so ebooks are a great way to indulge those whims. It’s not that I feel that ebooks are of a flimsier quality. Rather I think of them as trendy colour Sally Hansen nail polish in comparison to O.P.I. trendy colour nail polishes. Both are of the same quality, both are just as sturdy, both stick with me just as long, but the lower base price of Sally Hansen nail polishes means I might be more likely to take a risk on that zingy shade of lime green or that glow-in-the -dark pink shade. If you have an idea or a new take on an established genre that would be somewhat hard to sell to a traditional publisher, then take a risk with indie publishing. As a reader, I’d be happy to take a risk on you!

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What are some things that make you love indie fiction? What do you want to see more of? What are some of your favourite indie books? let me know in the comments below!

I Finally Know What I Want to do When I Grow Up (plus update)


Hi All,

Oh. My. Gosh. Is it already spring? Time flies! I haven’t been around much, which has sucked, but I’ve also accomplished a fair amount in the time I’ve been gone as well, which-brace yourselves-I’ve got an update on (I promise, I’ll start writing more often so I can stop bombarding you with a novel every time I log in!

Okay, update #1, I graduated! Although I finished my undergraduate coursework in December, my degree was conferred and came in the mail on February 8th. I am now, officially a BA in English with Specialization in Children’s and Young People’s Texts and Cultures, and a minor in Conflict Resolution Studies!!! This is gonna sound weird, but I love my degree so much! Although I’m sure I could have done many other things and been happy, I’m so glad that whenever I went on a different direction, I was always pointed back to the one I needed to be on. It took a lot of work, but it feels so good to be on the path to doing what I love!

Update #2 I’m sort-of, technically, a graduate student (well, I will be as of September)! I was just accepted in a graduate English program at a beautiful university in the Maritimes, and have already been approved to work with an awesome thesis supervisor! I haven’t accepted yet, as I want to see the results from my other applications and make a decision then, but I am still thrilled!

Update #3 (AKA, The Reason I Haven’t Been on Much): This winter has not been like anything I expected it to be. That’s okay. Even though I can be one of the worst stresser-outers on the planet, I can also find the calm in the crisis, and I also like to look on these moments as a learning experience. I just finished the first two of four courses to become a certified ESL teacher, which is great (one of the better unexpected experiences)! However, around the same time as I graduated, I also was called for jury duty selection (which taught me to be careful what you wish for; when I was a kid, I always used to say I wanted to be on a jury). After about a month of not sleeping, I went for my selection date, and, although I wasn’t chosen this time, I have to say it affected me in ways I didn’t really expect. Maybe one day I’ll share more about that, but I do want to take the time to let anyone who hasn’t been part of a jury selection know that it is okay. Do not stress about it. The only thing, is prepare to get emotional, and to never look at crime, or victims, or criminals, or the justice system and its importance in the same way again. Like I said, this is not meant to be a downer post, but just to share from personal experience that sometimes the events in life that we think will be negative will teach us new things about ourselves. Be open to the unexpected.

Update #4 (last one, I promise): I finally know what I want to do when I grow up! Okay, I always knew I wanted to write, and now I also want to do some teaching as well. But I have a new goal: One day, I will contribute to The Guardian Children’s Books blog. Wishful thinking, but, hey, we all need goals and dreams! And if I ever make it, you all heard it here first!

Anyway, I’ll be checking back in soon with a post I’ve been working on for a while (hint: love triangles, writing, and “soulmates,” oh my!)

xx,

Emily

Blog Tour: Dear Diary, E.P. Thompson Here


Dear Diary

Today, I have pleasure of hosting Judith Natelli McLaughlin and her new middle-grade novel, Dear Diary, E.P. Thompson Here, published by BookFish Books! Read on to find out what this adorable book is all about, and to learn about the author and where to find her online. Plus check out my interview with Judith, where she talks about her inspiration for the novel, her favourite (liquid) writing snack, her favourite YA books, and what she’s working on right now! Enjoy!

Back Cover Blurb

Dear Diary,

E. P. Thompson here.

Worst. Year. Ever. First semester in sixth grade, and my best friend Debbie has dropped me because my boobs aren’t big enough. Well, she didn’t say that exactly, but I just know that’s the reason. Then I got paired with Adam Berry, the biggest pencil-protecting geek of the decade, for the never-ending, semester-long math project. And as if that’s not bad enough, Thomas Maxwell, the cutest boy in my grade, only pays attention to me when I’m making a total fool of myself. Ugh.

Weirdest thing of all: it seems Lucas C. Tanner Middle School has a full-on, bona fide thief! Now all the teachers are going crazy and all the students are too, because Mrs. Peule has promised to make this year a living nightmare until the culprit is caught. We have to find out who is ruining sixth grade. Like, now!

Well, at least the criminal activity has taken the focus off my lack of bra ownership. Sigh.

I have to go. I’ll write again soon. Promise.

Emily’s Interview with Judith:

How did you come to write your novel?

I smiled when I read this question because it has an easy answer. I wrote Dear Diary, E.P. Thompson Here for my daughter Katie.

Dear Diary is a middle grade novel. Is there anything that inspired you to write for that age group?

Yes! As I mentioned above I wrote this book for my daughter Katie. It’s true. I even dedicated the book to her. As the story goes, Katie was in the fifth grade at the time, and she was not an avid reader. She found long chapters intimidating, preferring, instead, short and concise entries. She was having trouble finding what she liked to read and so it began. I decided to write a book for my daughter, one that she would enjoy reading. I would tell a story using short and humorous diary entries. I completed the book when Katie was in the sixth grade. She loved it! And what a thrill for me, despite not being published, her English teacher let her do a book report on Dear Diary. That was an exciting moment for this author.

And, as an aside, it became a McLaughlin tradition. I wrote a novel for each of my daughters when they entered the fifth grade. While the books are not about my girls, they are written to suit their particular tastes and dedicated to them.

Favorite Writing Snack?

Being that I am an early morning writer, I would have to say my favorite writing snack is more of a favorite writing beverage. Coffee. And lots of it!

Are you working on anything new right now?

After hearing such positive feedback from Dear Diary, and especially knowing my fans didn’t want to see my book end, I am currently working on its sequel.

What are some of your favorite MG Books? What about YA?

I really enjoy the Dork Diaries series (and I am thrilled to note that Dear Diary is no rip off, as it was originally written long before DD came out!) But, perhaps, my favorite books are the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I read the series, in its entirety, when I was roughly eleven years old. Wilder’s images, and the world she taught be about, remain permanently imbedded in my brain and I am forever grateful for the love of reading and writing they inspired.

YA? The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is categorized as YA and I absolutely loved that novel! While the Holocaust, WWII setting is hauntingly evil, the book was pure joy to read. Even amidst the worst atrocities there is goodness to be found.

What are you reading now?
Right now I am reading two books. One for laughs. It is Food by Jim Gaffigan. The guy is funny and his open discussions about his relationship with food make me laugh out loud. The second book is Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. It is written so beautifully that I find myself re-reading the same sentences just to savor their structure, meaning and beauty.

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Thanks for the interview, Judith!!!!

Judith McLaughlin author pic

About The Author

Judith Natelli McLaughlin grew up reading a solid diet of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, and Shel Silverstein. Her mom was famous for telling her, “You are never alone if you have a book,” and her dad, a lover of words, was always reciting poetry to her.

She went on to write, illustrate, and publish her own poetry book,Poems on Fruits and Odes to Veggies—Where Healthy Eating Starts With a Poem. Her other works include a women’s fiction novel titled This Moment and a soon to be released children’s chapter book, Mackenzie Goode Makes A Mistake—A Big One.

She lives in New Jersey with her husband Brian; her three daughters Katie, Lindsay, and Maggie; and her faithful writing companion, a Westie named Duke.

Find Her Online

GOODREADS
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3456642.Judith_Natelli_McLaughlin

TWITTER
@judynmclaughlin

https://twitter.com/judynmclaughlin

WEBSITE
http://www.judithnatellimclaughlin.com

YOUTUBE
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCf6oQICghcBz-iHg3f6h3gg/videos