Friday, September 30, 2011

Breaking down the Last Rite cover, and the musical inspiration behind the book.

So, yay! I had a blast reading all your cover comments on Twitter and all my blogger friends' blogs yesterday! For those of you who may have been under a rock, here's the Last Rite cover!

So, Frannie. She looks like she's getting ready to kick some butt, doesn't she? Because she is. What's that in her hand, you ask. Hmm... Guess you'll just have to read and find out. *insert evil laugh* And, what does it mean that Gabe and Luc look ready to rip each other's heads off? means that Gabe and Luc are ready to rip each other's heads off. There's tension, and some not so nice words, and actual punches thrown. But the cover alludes not only to the friction between Luc and Gabe, but the overarching struggle between good and evil. This is where it all comes to a head. This is where the final battle takes place.

I know that's a little sketchy, but you know I really want you to buy the book when it comes out in May, so that's all I can tell you without spoiling. But I can throw you a few bones that will give you a definite flavor for the novel. First, if you've read Personal Demons and Original Sin, you know all of my Personal Demons novels open with a Dante quote from Purgatorio, the middle section of his Divine Comedy. Here's the quote from Last Rite:

Here, one must leave behind all hesitation; here, every cowardice must meet its death.
Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio

And if you've been hanging out here for a while you also know that music is a huge influence on my writing. Each novel has an overarching musical theme. Here's the song that shaped Last Rite:

That is Disturbed: one of my obsession bands. Go buy this song!

If you're dying to get your hands on a galley, remember there are nine chances to win one up on these blogs:
Mundie Moms
The Naughty Book Kitties
Books Over Boys
Call Me Crazy
Book Chic Club
A Good Addiction
Harmony's Radiant Reads
Bloggers [Heart] Books

And, my contest is not only for a Last Rite galley, but signed copies of Personal Demons and Original Sin, plus an iPod shuffle loaded with the song above and all the rest of the playlist for the trilogy! Enter all of them for your best chance, because this is it. There will only be one or two more galley giveaways before May.

Good luck!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Last Rite COVER! ...And Last Rite Galley GIVEAWAY!!

Today is a Last Rite blitz! I have something shiny and new. It's very pretty. *stares absently*


So? You want to see it?

Sure you do.

Here it is...

Bwahahahaaaaa!!! I'm going to make you go looking for it. And while you're looking for it, you CAN WIN ONE OF NINE GALLEYS OF LAST RITE! Yes, I'm more than a little excited! But, here's the deal. The fabulous bloggers helping me with the reveal have nine of my precious galleys. There won't be many more until release in May. So these are nine of the only chances you'll have to win a Last Rite galley.


Right here on my blog RIGHT NOW you can enter to win a signed set of all three books in the Personal Demons trilogy AND a iPod shuffle with the ENTIRE PERSONAL DEMONS TRILOGY PLAYLIST!!!! I have to tell you, I love these songs. There's music by Breaking Benjamin, Disturbed, Incubus, Three Days Grace, The Fray...all my favorite bands!

Ohh! My screen is sparkling with the shiny thing. ;p

*stares some more*


You want to know where can you find this shiny thing? of these bloggers have (or will sometime today) post the Last Rite cover. Each of them have their own contests for Last Rite galleys, so don't forget to enter while you're there. Also, while you're there, look for clues in their posts (a word or words that stand out somehow) and collect those words. Unscramble them into a Last Rite related phrase and enter it in the form below for your chance to win a signed set of Personal Demons books and the iPod!

Mundie Moms
The Naughty Book Kitties
Books Over Boys
Call Me Crazy
Book Chic Club
A Good Addiction
Harmony's Radiant Reads
Bloggers [Heart] Books

That's ten different contests including mine! Ten chances to win a Last Rite galley! Enter below by noon (PDT) on Friday, October 14th! (my daughter's birthday :p) Good luck!!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Desperate times call for desperate measures? (aka: Advice for aspiring writers, Part 5)

I've spent the last few weeks divulging all my publishing secrets and giving away a slew of first chapter and query critiques to get you all on your way. But there's something else I think needs to be said.

I remember how excruciating it was to have manuscripts out with agents. Here's me waiting. And here's me waiting some more. I was so excited when I got "the call," as evidenced here, here, and here. It was only two years ago, but things were different then. There were some basic questions I needed to ask the agents who offered rep: What was her submission plan for my book? What sort of revisions would she want? What was the agency's commission structure? Did the agency sign the author, or the project? What were the terms of the agency agreement?

What I didn't have to ask is if the agency was involved in self-e-publishing.

Here's the thing. Another literary agency has announced they're opening an e-publishing arm to "assist their clients who wish to self publish." This is the largest agency I'm aware of that has taken this step. It makes me sad.

I get that things are changing in the publishing world. They're changing faster than many people anticipated. But the one thing that should never change is that the purpose of a literary agent is to advocate for his/her client (which is the author, in case I lost you). The harsh reality is that not every novel will sell to a traditional publisher, and self-publishing is becoming a more viable option as that market expands. If a agent has exhausted all traditional avenues and a project hasn't sold, whether to self-publish or not is a personal decision that an author needs to make in consultation with his/her agent.

But, here's the rub.

If my agent's agency has a self-publishing arm, where they stand to make at least the same 15% commission (which is the standard commission most agents charge when they sell your project to a traditional publisher, and which seems to be what they're charging to self-publish your project in their self-publishing arm) then, when my agent comes to me and says, "We gave it the old college try and it just didn't sell. I think you should consider our self-publishing option," how do I know he/she actually gave my project 100%? How do I know he/she tried his/her hardest to sell it to a traditional publisher? They stand to make money either way, so why knock themselves out? It all comes down to how much you trust your agent, but, knowing myself, I'd always wonder.

The bigger problem is that there will always be issues that need to be resolved between an author and his/her publisher, whether it be a traditional publisher, or a self-e-publisher. Most of these issues are things a new author could never anticipate. Some are small and some are major. What's supposed to happen is that an author takes the issue to his/her agent, who acts as an intermediary between the author and the editor. You are paying your agent 15% of everything you make to be your advocate, and that is money well spent. But what happens if your agent is also your publisher? When your agent is the one you have an issue with, who's going to advocate for you? No one, that's who.

As a published author, I find this disturbing and alarming. As an aspiring writer, I'd find it downright terrifying.

So, a word of caution: To get an offer of representation is like hitting the jackpot for most aspiring writers. It's easy to get all, "SQUEE!" and "OMG! I'M GONNA BE THE NEXT STEPHENIE MEYER!" But don't get so excited that you forget to ask that perspective agent what happens if your book doesn't sell. And if, in the end, you decide to go the self publishing route, your agent's going to take their 15% either way, so I'd encourage you to seek out a publisher unaffiliated with your agent or his/her agency to avoid a serious conflict of interest. If they arm-twist you into staying in-house, I'd question whether they have your best interest at heart. You need your agent to be your agent and nothing else (except maybe your friend).

'Nuff said.

Good luck and happy writing!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Query and First Chapter Critique WINNER!! Again!!

So, today is the big day! It's my two year agent signing anniversary!

For the last month, I've been having a Anniversary Bash, including divulging all my publishing secrets and helping a few of you along the path. Today is the fourth week I'm giving away a query and first chapter critique, and the luck winner is...

Julie Murphy!!

Congrats! I will email you soon! =)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Last query and first chapter critique up for grabs!

Here it is--the last of four query and first chapter critiques to celebrate my two year agent signing anniversary.

I've divulged all my publishing secrets, and now you're ready to go, so if you'd like some feedback from yours truly on your query and first chapter, just fill out the form below by Friday, 9/23 at noon PDT. The first three critiques have already been claimed, so this is your last chance! Remember that this critique is fully transferable and never expires until I do. You can enter for yourself or a friend. And, remember, previous entries do not carry over, so please re-enter.

Good luck and happy writing! =)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

TV and me: a true story.

It's confession day on the blog, so here goes: I haven't watched TV in years.

Okay, that's a little bit of a lie. I watch sports sometimes. Football and baseball, mostly. But, I've never seen an episode of Buffy, or True Blood, or The Vampire Diaries. Never.

My "no TV" policy started fifteen years ago and it stemmed from me realizing how much of my life I squandered in front of the boob tube. I would come home from work and watch TV until bedtime. That was my day. Work and TV. People would ask if I'd read some book that they liked and I'd say that I hadn't had time. But then I realized I'd had plenty of time, I'd just chosen to spend it vegetating on the couch in a TV stupor. So I went cold turkey. I just stopped watching. Our TV is still on in the evenings because my husband is still a TV addict, but I tune it out and write. I can tell you very little about the shows he watches.

The reason I bring this up here is because my amazing critique partner, Andrea Cremer (who, btw, is a genius) told me that my high school football playing man-whore in my new manuscript was missing the "Tim Riggins factor." So, of course, I had to google Tim Riggins.
He's a high school football playing man-whore on a series that just ended, Friday Night Lights. Whereas it's a series that, at least partially, is about football, and also had an actor (Kyle Chandler) who I'd loved in a series he was in before I stopped watching TV (Homefront), Friday Night Lights had always been a show I thought I might like when I saw the promos.

I'm in that waiting place. I'm waiting on copyedits for Last Rite among other things, so I'm just tweaking and tinkering in a few manuscripts. I have some TV time. We have Netflix. Netflix streams Friday Night Lights. Because I'd apparently written a Tim Riggins-esque character, I had to check it out. I am addicted. In three days, I'm almost through season 1, and now I'm sorry I only found this series after it had been cancelled. I don't drink, or smoke, or do anything illegal or elicit (well...except drive too fast), but I obsess over characters in books and movies. I'm finding out I also obsess over characters in TV shows. My addictive tendencies seem to be limited to fictional people. I don't know if this is good or bad.

So, I hope I can get through the rest of FNL before I'm not waiting anymore, and maybe I'll move onto Buffy. Netflix doesn't stream The Vampire Diaries or True Blood, unfortunately, so I'm not sure I'll get to those. =(

Friday, September 16, 2011

Plethora of contest winners! I had two contests that ended today. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to enter over the last few days! =)

I have compiled results and plugged them into the randomizer, and I have WINNERS! So, winner of the Birthday Bash for a signed set of PD and OS is...

Ellen Elizabeth

And, the winner of the third of four first chapter and query critiques in my Agent Signing Anniversary Bash is...

Leah Miller

Congrats to both of you! I will email you soon!!!

And...if you didn't win, another query and first chapter critique will be up for grabs next week! =)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Happy Birthday Polish Personal Demons (and Polish cover)...oh and also, US Personal Demons!

It's a double Personal Demons birthday celebration! I think I need to give some stuff away! Who wants a signed set of Personal Demons and Original Sin? If you do, just comment below by Friday 9/16 at noon (PDT). Leave a way to find you (email or Twitter handle). You can also earn and extra entry for Tweeting or Facebooking a link to this contest.

What, exactly, are we celebrating? One year ago today, my first book baby was born. Since then, Personal Demons has released in several other countries, and, this week, a new sister has joined the flock. My Polish publisher released Demony: Pokusa (Demons: Temptation) on Monday.'s the cover:

So, what do you think?

This is very exciting to me! I discovered I share a Polish publisher with Stephenie Meyer. I think this makes us BFFs. ;p

I also found out this summer that Personal Demons went to a second printing here in the U.S. I'm sending out a huge thanks to all of you who bought and read Personal Demons and Original Sin here and in all the various languages it's been translated into! You guys rock!

And, if you'd like me to read something you wrote, don't forget that I'm also celebrating my two year agent signing anniversary next week. That means you have a chance to win a query and first chapter critique! Enter by Friday!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Third query and first chapter critique up for grabs!

Holy cannoli! It's almost the middle of September already. That means it's been a year tomorrow that Personal Demons hit shelves. And next week is my two year agent signing anniversary, so to celebrate, I'm giving away four first chapter and query critiques! The first two were already claimed by Lori M. Lee and Amber M, but there are two more still up for grabs. And RIGHT NOW is your chance to win one!

Remember that these critiques are fully transferable and NEVER expire until I do. To enter, all you have to do is fill out the form below by Friday 9/16 at noon (PDT). If you've entered the previous two contests, please reenter. Entries do not carry over.

So, here we go, and GOOD LUCK!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Second query and first chapter critique WINNER!

Hey folks. Sorry I didn't get this posted Friday afternoon. A tough day ended with a trip to the emergency room with my daughter, who tore all the ligaments on the outside of her ankle in volleyball and is now out for the season. =(

So, better late than never. Thanks for the enthusiastic response to these giveaways! So many of you entered that I think we broke the randomizer. But...we have a winner! Please remember that if it's not you, you'll have another chance to enter starting tomorrow, so don't forget to check back.

The winner of the second of four first chapter and query critiques is...

Amber M!!!

Congrats! I will be emailing you soon =)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11: The Gift

Everyone remembers where they were ten years ago. We'd moved from Boston to California a few years earlier so, being on the west coast, I woke up to the horror. We knew people who worked in the World Trade Center, but, thankfully, the only thing we lost in the attacks was a birthday gift. My daughter's birthday is September 16th and my mother-in-law had mailed her birthday gift from Cape Cod on the 10th. It never arrived, and the post office confirmed that it would have been trucked up to Logan Airport (Boston) the evening of the 10th and put on the first commercial jet heading to California in the morning.

I can't even watch the video of the planes crashing into the towers and the towers falling. I still get that cold finger up my spine when I think about it. My heart goes out to everyone who lost someone that horrible day. In addition to all the brave first responders and the loved ones we lost, some of us lost our sense of security.

But then, something amazing happened. We all took comfort in each other. We band together with our neighbors and became stronger as individuals and a nation. In all the horror, that was the gift. In our, "me first" society, people seemed to remember that it's not all about "me." For a short time, all the selfish seemed to run out of people and compassion replaced it.

So, on this tenth anniversary of one of the worst days in our nation's history, I hope we can all remember what it felt like to care about others more than ourselves. If we can find a little of that in ourselves everyday, we can change the world.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The fine art of waiting. AND, your second chance for a first chapter and query critique!

I ended my last post in my advice for aspiring writers series by telling you that waiting is the hardest part. But waiting is a huge part of publishing. You write a book. You query it. You wait. You get an agent. Your agent submits your manuscript to editors. You wait. An editor buys your book. You wait for your ed letter. You do your revisions. You wait for your copyedits. You do your copyedits. You wait for your ARCs. Then you wait another six months for your book. That's like eighteen months to two years of waiting just to get one book on the shelves. But then, guess what? You get to wait some more. If your book sold in a multiple book deal, everything but the agent bit applies with each new book. And then, if you write something new, it goes through the same submission process, and you get to wait some more to see if your editor wants your next project.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining, per se. The waiting is a necessary evil. There is a reason the process is slow, and that's because it takes time to get it right. Agents want to know they're taking on projects they can be passionate about and that have a good potential for placement with an editor. They work their butts off and only get paid when they sell something, so they're going to take their time and be uber-careful about what they take on. In addition, they're super busy with their existing clients: reading new manuscripts and their numerous revisions; meeting with editors and pitching their latest projects, submitting manuscripts to editors and following up. Likewise, editors have their existing projects, and then stacks of reading for potential new projects. Once your book is in the pipeline, there are revisions, copyedits, pass pages. There's cover art and typography. Then there's the fact that Sales meetings, both in-house and with booksellers, happen months before the book is scheduled to hit shelves. You want time for your book to build buzz before it's released so by the time it's on shelves, someone other than your mother has heard of it.

But, it's hard. To me, it's the hardest part. I'm an instant gratification type person. I don't do well with waiting. I need to know RIGHT NOW OR OMG I'LL DIE if my editor was okay with my sequel, or if my crit partner thinks my plot holds together, or if my agent thinks my shiny new idea has potential. But, in the words of the Rolling Stones, you can't always get what you want. So, while I'm waiting, I'm blathering on to you about all my publishing secrets, book piracy and, yes, waiting.

I'm also reading a lot. And, if you want me to read something YOU wrote, here's your chance! The second of four first chapter and query critiques celebrating my two year agent signing is officially up for grabs. The critique never expires (until I do), and it is fully transferable, so enter for yourself or a friend! All you have to do to enter is fill out the form below. Link this contest on Twitter or Facebook to earn bonus entries. =)

Go ahead! You know you want to! And you might actually WIN and feel like this:

Enter by noon (PDT) on Friday, September 9th. The winner will be chosen by the randomizer and posted here after noon. Good luck!!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Aye aye matey! Is book piracy a good thing or a bad thing?

Here's my pirate. For those of you who have followed the blog for awhile, you know he's also my muse.



*drools some more*

What...? The post...

Oh, yeah. Sorry.

Okay, so book piracy. I saw an interesting discussion on one of the many “shared file” websites out there last week, and it got me thinking. (Always dangerous, I know.) The comment thread was about “sharing” books, and as I read through, I saw it had been initiated by someone who stated he/she wanted an open discussion to try to find a “solution” where authors would be happy to have their work uploaded onto the site and not keep asking to have illegal uploads taken down.

The discussion soon deteriorated into users trashing authors who had the gall to come on to the site with an "attitude" and state that the uploads were illegal, and tantamount to stealing. The upshot was that the users would never buy those authors’ books now because they were “greedy.” I contend that the fact they are regular users of a free file-sharing site means they probably wouldn’t have bought those authors’ books anyway, but what do I know…

So, in summary, these were the primary talking points I was able to glean from the discussion:

On the authors’ side—
1)      It is illegal to upload copyrighted material without permission.
2)      There are many legal means by which to get free books or sample books before you buy them. Amazon, Barnes & Noble and many publishers often have first chapters or several chapters available to read for free. And borrowing books, either from the library or a friend, has always been legal.
3)      Most publishers will look to sales numbers when deciding whether to buy an author’s next project. Many of your favorite authors might never get another book published because of sales lost to piracy.
4)      Stealing intellectual property is no different than walking into someone’s home and stealing physical property.

On the pirates’ side—
1)      Authors are discovered by thousands of readers who never would have heard of them otherwise through piracy, so authors should be thankful. (this seems to be the most popular argument)
2)      It is the author’s fault that material they choose to put on the internet gets stolen. If they don’t want their books stolen they should stick to paper copies.
3)      Authors are greedy for expecting to get paid for every book. Some people can’t afford books.
4)      Writing isn’t a real job and authors shouldn't get paid to do it.
5)      A reader shouldn’t have to pay for a book they don’t know if they’re going to like or not.
6)      In the internet age, everything on on-line will be free. It’s just a matter of time.
7)      If an author’s sales numbers aren’t good enough for their publisher to want to buy more books [despite piracy], then they’re probably not very good writers.
8)      Piracy has always been here, and it isn’t going away. Get used to it.

I’m an author whose books show up regularly on these sites, so I’m not objective, but I’d wager if a person can afford a $500 computer and internet service by which to illegally download books, they can probably afford a book or two. My policy is to send the links I find to my editor, who sends them on to the Legal department. Legal is then supposed to contact the site and have the uploads taken down. Because, it is illegal. No one on the pirate sites disputes that. These sites provide links to software to remove the DRM from legally purchased books so they can be uploaded and read by everyone for free, which everyone knows is illegal.

And, I do believe that these sites detract from my sales, which I also believe does impact my chances of selling another book to my publisher. Does that mean I'm not a very good writer? I don't know. Maybe. But it also means I might not be able to continue writing. So this is very personal to me. All that said, is it possible there are readers who "discovered" me on file-sharing sites? Yes. Have a few of them maybe bought my books? It's possible.

The thing you need to understand about me for any of this to make sense is that I’m the kind of person who feels guilty about enjoying free library books, and that's perfectly legal. If I find something I love in the library, I’ll go buy the book. Usually two, one for me and one to give away here on the blog. I want to support the author and I know buying their book is the way I can most effectively do that. (Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE to get the nice emails too!)

So, I’m curious how y’all feel about it. Do you agree that piracy is stealing? If so, how wrong is it, really? Going 30 MPH in a 25 speed zone wrong? Or, breaking into someone’s house and taking their stuff wrong? Have you ever downloaded a pirated book? Did you have any qualms about it, or is it just part of how things are now in the internet age? Do you agree that authors benefit from having their books illegally uploaded onto file-sharing websites? Have you ever found an author this way and then gone out and bought their books?

Whew, that's a lot of questions. But I really want to know what the rest of the world thinks about this.

And, for those of you who are looking to someday be lucky enough to have your books pirated too, tomorrow I will be posting the second giveaway for a query and first chapter critique. Stop in for your chance to win!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Query and First Chapter Critique WINNER!!

A huge thanks to everyone who stopped by to read my advice for aspiring writers and enter for a query and first chapter critique. Remember, if you didn't win, there will be three more chances. Each week between now and September 23rd, I'll post a new drawing! The critique never expires (until I do) and is fully transferable, so don't be afraid to enter =)

So...the moment you're all waiting for.

The winner of the first of four query and first chapter critiques is...

Lori M. Lee

Congrats! I will be emailing you soon =)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

One of the funnest parts of being published...

Yes, I know funnest isn't a word, but I'm too excited to care :p

These just came on the boat from Germany today =) This is fun! #justsayin' There are words inside that I wrote, but can't read:

Squee! :p

Don't forget your last day to enter for a query and first chapter critique by yours truly ends tomorrow at noon. (PST) If you haven't entered yet, get over there. It never expires (unless I do) and it's fully transferable, so you have nothing to lose =)