Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Celebratory Giveaway From FTWA!

It's summer, and while the dog days are not quite upon us yet, the initial relief of sunshine and warm breezes may have lost their allure as those exact things sometimes heap guilt upon writers when they hole up inside their cave to crank out words.

We want to celebrate an upcoming pub date for one of FTWA's own, S.L. Duncan, whose sophomore novel, THE SALVATION OF GABRIEL ADAM, releases next month. What's that? You haven't read the first one yet? No worries, we're giving away 10 Kindle copies, internationally.

And by the way, those e-readers can go outside, too. ;)




a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Writer's Dreamland: the good, the bad and the ugly

by Cat Woods

A few weeks ago, I received a message in my inbox. It came from an editor I was courting about a chapter book series. I was on my phone at the time, and the message with the first few words popped up on my screen:

What are you, a deaf mute?

A second later, another email popped up from a different editor:

You have an inflated sense of self.

I can't begin to describe the feelings that washed over me. Terror, confusion, anger...I was literally sweating and couldn't force myself to open the email to read the scathing rejections I knew were coming my way.

You see, we writers bust our butts to do things right. We work hard to balance story, plot, character, description and dialogue. We want to woo our agents, editors and public with our wonderful words. What we don't want is a rejection so hurtful we never pick up our pens again.

I rolled over and snuggled closer to Dear Hubby, thankful my nightmare was nothing more than a dream.

Ah, I know what you're thinking. I just cheated you out of a good rejection story. I started my piece with a dream, which is a huge no-no 99.9% of the time. But this dream happened to be real and since it isn't the opening scene of a novel I'm trying to pitch, I thought we could dissect it together, as I'm a huge proponent of believing my dreams.

So, long story short, I am a pretentious deaf-mute. At least according to the monsters trolling my sleep. Or am I?

Instead of letting my dream ruffle my writing feathers, I took the rejections seriously. What about my writing could possibly make me seem like a deaf mute? The answer was actually quite simple. I am a sparse writer in regards to description. I tend to favor the less is more approach and let my readers fill in the details with their own imaginations. (Personally, I feel my dream rejection would have been more solid if it had called me a blind mute, but beggars can't be choosy, and dream editors apparently aren't perfect.)

That said, I had something solid to consider before actually sending my submission out to the editor I want to woo.

That's the good part of dreams. If we stop a second to consider what our subconscious is trying to tell us, we may just learn a thing or two.

The bad part of dreams: dreams are so tempting to use in our writing because we dream every time our heads hit the pillow. Dreams are an integral part of our night life. They help us sort through problems. They lend us support and can be a huge source of inspiration. It is an easy trap to start stories with dreams, solve our MC's problems with dreams or to finish off a plot line with the whole "it was nothing more than a bad dream" solution. Readers tend to hate these devices, and for good reason. They are over-used and seldom done in a way that doesn't feel trite. Often, readers feel cheated out of a good story.

The ugly: dreams can be dream killers. Inflated sense of self. What the heck does that mean? I try to be humble. I don't like to be snobby or snotty or pretentious. And while I know that good intentions don't always work out the way we want them to and that we mere mortals tend to be really bad judges of our own characters, I'm not quite sure how to interpret this dreamy tidbit.

Inflated sense of self.

That really hurts. It rubs raw my self confidence and makes me second guess what I'm doing and why. It makes me want to stuff the submission package I've been laboring over into a huge e-file and leave it there for the cyber monkeys to steal the next time they are being naughty.

Inflated sense of self.

This terrifies me. Does it mean that my writing sucks? Or that my subconscious is begging me to quit planning a series when I'm incapable of following through? I have no idea: I was too busy sweating and trembling and being too much of a baby to open the dreammail and find out.

All I really know is that dreams have an ugly side that has nothing to do with trying to run away from a murderer and not being able to move our legs. They have the uncanny ability to make us second guess ourselves and believe things that may or may not have any truth in them.

As writers, it's ironic that our waking dreams of hitting it big can clash so painfully with our night terrors. Finding the right balance is crucial to our success--and our sanity.

So, dear readers, what writerly dreams have haunted you? How much stock do you put in your dreams, and how do you let them affect your writing? How, if ever, have you used a dream in your writing? What are your pet peeves when reading about dreams in novels?

Curious minds want to know.

Cat Woods loves to dream. In college, she kept a dream journal for her psych class and found that her subconscious is as quirky as her waking self. She also learned that her uncanny ability to change her dreams is called lucid dreaming. She'd been "changing the channel" on her nightmares since she was bit in the foot by a wolf in the second grade, and thought that doing so was normal. Alas, nothing about Cat is normal except her dream to write. For a peek into her whimsical life, you can find her at Word from the Woods or Cat 4 Kids.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Pushing Past the Wall

by Charlee Vale


Writer's Block. There's a whole host of people who claim Writer's Block doesn't exist, others who swear there's a magical block keeping the words from pouring out onto the paper like Shakespeare. But no matter which school of Writer's Block you ascribe to, I don't think there's anyone that can deny that sometimes you're just stuck.

And being stuck? SUCKS.

I'll be perfectly honest, this has been me quite a lot lately. I can come up with a million different reasons for why my writing feels like wallowing in quicksand--and they'd all be right to some degree. I have a difficult job that sometimes saps any creativity I have before I get home. I'm writing a book that goes against my normal writing process. The book is far more complicated than anything I've ever tried. Sometimes I'm tired. Sometimes I just don't feel like it.

But in the end? None of those explanations and excuses matter. What matters is putting in the time. When I sit down and open the document--even the times when I don't write a lot of words--it's still progress. Who knows what kind of future breakthrough that time spent thinking unlocked. Who knows what kind of genius is brewing under the surface while you stew? And sometimes I manage to sit down and get into the groove. Before you know it you've got a couple new chapters under your belt and the world seems bright again.

My point to all this is to say that if you're feeling stuck or blocked or drained or defeated, push past it. This is a wall that can seem higher than we can reach, but we can make it through it when we are determined. I know it's hard, but few things that are good come easily.

Do whatever you need to do. Make a playlist, a Pinterest board, draw a sketch of a character, or write some backstory. But whatever you do, put in the time. The time is the only thing that puts cracks in the wall. Enough cracks and it will come crumbling down.

Charlee Vale is a Young Adult writer, agency intern, photographer, and tea lover living in New York City. You can also find her at her website, and on Twitter, and chipping away at cracks in her wall. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ruts

By Matt Sinclair

I’ve been in a rut lately. Since the year began, a bunch of little things have gone wrong. Car accidents. Promises unfulfilled. Goals unmet. Projects not started or incomplete. Too much time spent on others that should have been nixed. Now, here we are, halfway through 2015, and it seems like I’ve struck out looking. (Perhaps it’s fitting that I’m a Mets fan, but I digress…)

Ruts are worrisome because they’re comfortable. They’re developed over a long time of doing mostly the same thing. As a creature of routine, I like having a sense of what is ahead; it enables me to address problems when they occur. But a rut is different from a routine. For me, recognizing a rut usually means I’m at risk of getting stuck in the mud, and boy those wheels can spin, can’t they?

Doing something completely different seems to work best. The other night my wife was working on a home project. She was invigorated. She felt creative. She couldn’t be stopped. I bet she felt darn good after accomplishing what she set out to do. It certainly looked good.

A part of me was jealous. So I decided to write something different. I like the initial results. Of course, the jury’s out on whether what I create will be worthwhile, but that isn’t the point. The goal is to get out of the rut, to see things from a different perspective, to make progress.


What do you do to get out of a writing rut? Care to share?

Matt Sinclair, a New York City-based journalist and fiction writer, is also president and chief elephant officer of Elephant's Bookshelf Press, which recently published Billy Bobble Makes a Magic Wand by R.S. Mellette and Tales from the Bully Box, a collection of anti-bullying stories edited by Cat Woods. Matt also blogs at the Elephant's Bookshelf and is on Twitter @elephantguy68.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Basic Guide to Tumblr

by Riley Redgate

These days, social media is the fastest way to engage with readers, if that's your sort of thing. Some people, of course, choose to create a veneer of mystery instead, not Tweeting, not Facebooking, nada. But the great thing about social media is that it's so simple! You can do it all while sitting at home, not wearing any pants! I don't know why you're not wearing pants. Better not to ask.

Pants aside: when it comes to various social media platforms, people don't seem to think Tumblr is as simple as Twitter or Facebook. Every time I mention Tumblr to people who don't Tumbl, they react with alarm, bafflement, or a mixture of the two. This makes sense to a degree, since Tumblr culture is, erm, sort of weird. But never fear! I know the place a little too well, since over the last few years, my blog has stumbled its way into 10,000+ followers, and I also spend about 10,000% of my free time on the site. I've made this cheat sheet to explain a few things about Tumblr if you're looking to get started.

But first: why should you, gentle author, care about starting a Tumblr? Well, if you write Young Adult, Middle Grade, or New Adult, here's why: in a recent article, TechTimes says that more than 70 percent of Tumblr's users are age 16 to 34. Moreover, "Tumblr, now the fastest growing social site, has seen an increase in its active users by up to 120 percent within the last six months." Tl;dr -- it's where your target audience is hanging out.

Without further ado, here are the five things you need to know about Tumblr Culture:

5) Keep Up

One thing that can seem intimidating about Tumblr is the pace, which is breakneck. The Dashboard -- home to posts from all the blogs you follow -- is active 24/7 and constantly updating, so things get easily lost in the mix. Tumblr even has a specific function to encourage constant activity: the Queue. You can set your queue to post automatically for you, up to 24 times a day. Compared to hosts like Blogspot, that can seem like an extreme number, but on Tumblr, a steady stream of activity is good.

"Wait!" you might say. "What about the quantity of stuff I will need to generate, if I want to post that often? Am I supposed to sell my soul? Quit my job to make Tumblr posts all day?" No, friend. Although I'm sure Tumblr staff would love for you to do that, you don't have to, because ...

4) To Blog is to Reblog

On most other social media outlets, people focus primarily on their own content -- displaying it, advertising it, etc. But the climate on Tumblr is one of sharing. The site prides itself on being full of not only creators, but creative communities. For instance, you might find fanartists who draw pieces based on a fanfiction writer's work, or people who write 3,000-word essays about a TV character's psychology just to share with others and discuss.

Tumblr is hugely about interplay, which is why -- even on many popular blogs -- you'll find that the percentage of original content is relatively low. Each blog feels something like a miniature aggregate site, a collection of art, writing, opinions, etc. that the blogrunner enjoys. Like a little internet gallery! (For those unfamiliar, reblogging works quite simply: by clicking the "reblog" button, you rehost an original post from somebody else's blog to yours, and thereby share it with all of your followers.)

All this is to say that you don't have to stress about making your own stuff 24/7. The general mood of Tumblr is to stay active by reblogging others' work to support them, and you'll find your kin through common interests. This is best if you ...

3) Learn the Tag System

Some people migrate from Twitter to Tumblr and assume that tags function in essentially the same manner, but this is not the case. On Tumblr, people use tags in several primary ways. Firstly, you can organize your blog through tags. On many blogs, you'll find tag-based Navigation pages -- here's a screenshot of what mine looks like:


... so, whenever I make a post with a horrible pun, I tag it with "GET THEE TO A PUNNERY!" Then, on my Navigation page, when you click the "Get Thee to a Punnery!" link, it can take you to a page that displays every post I've ever made (or reblogged!) that has a horrible pun in it.

The second primary use of tags is to add commentary. On Tumblr--unless you have something vital to contribute to a conversation--it's seen as weird to reblog and add a comment to the post, because the original poster will see it as a response. This might feel counterintuitive, because on most other sites, commenting is seen as the best way to connect. But on Tumblr, people often get concerned that too much text messes with the ~aesthetic~ of the post.

If you do have an opinion but don't want to address it to the author of the original post, what many people do is reblog the post and write it in the tags, like this:


Tags are also gathering spaces. This function is more like the way Twitter uses tags. If you go to the Doctor Who tag, for instance -- http://tumblr.com/tagged/doctor-who -- you can see every post that Who fans have tagged with "doctor who". For smaller fanbases, the tag becomes like a little home base.

Phew! Okay. Tagging is a lot. Moving on ...

2) Do Not Engage with Call-Out Culture.

I waffled on whether to include this. For people just looking to make an author Tumblr and connect with their readers, one would hope it wouldn't be an issue, but you never know.

Tumblr users tend to be impulsive, passionate, opinionated -- and overwhelmingly socially liberal. It's a haven for LGBTQ+ people and intersectional feminist discourse; it has huge communities for the marginalized. And in people's desire to make Tumblr a safe space for social discussion, they often turn to "Call-Out Culture." This is where people present problematic behavior (racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.) and eviscerate it publicly. And for those who are actually famous, public opinion can turn on a dime and give the site a feeling of mob mentality. (See: that recent John Green debacle.)

Mostly, call-out culture is nothing to be afraid of, assuming you're not actually sexist/racist/etc. But it's the internet. Misunderstandings abound. A few months back, one of my joke posts got popular, but -- alas! -- it had a snarkier tone than I usually employ, and a comment arose claiming that I was jeering at young, female writers. (Which would be weird of me, as a young, female writer.) I tried to clarify, but people were already coming to my askbox yelling cursewords at me. So I didn't engage. After making a separate post to clarify the situation, I deleted the original post and turned off my askbox, and things simmered down.

There are far worse things than the overly enthusiastic social justice community. Like, say, the pro-anorexia side of Tumblr, or the shoplifter community. Also, a few years ago, I was mobbed by Men's Rights Activist users, who gave 18-year-old me appalling threats of sexual violence. Same solution: turn off the askbox; don't engage. This too shall pass.

Moving on now to the most important thing:

1) The Golden SocMed Rule: It's Not Really About You

I think this holds true for any social media platform: engaging with an audience should be about the audience first and foremost. A Twitter that consists mostly of a bot posting promos every five seconds is about the most self-defeating thing in the world. People are inherently self-serving, and if what you're posting isn't funny, useful, or in some way pleasing, there's no reason they'll want to connect with you.

Of course, the more famous you are, the less the Golden Rule applies. If you have a giant, rabid fanbase, you can probably talk about yourself all day and night and people will still love you. But for people trying to build buzz through social media, incessant self-promotion doesn't make sense.

Anyway, if you're already famous, all of the above is totally irrelevant. You could probably post just the word "butts" on Tumblr once a day and get a hilariously huge following.

I hope this is helpful! Questions about Tumblr, or about any of the above? Leave them in the comments. Until then, signing off.

Riley Redgate, enthusiast of all things YA, is a senior at Kenyon College represented by Caryn Wiseman. Her debut novel, Seven Ways We Lie, will be released by Abrams/Amulet in Spring 2016. Her site (hosted by Tumblr, no less) is here, and she Tweets here.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Stages of Grief--Um I Mean Marketing (*nervous laugh*)

It is t-minus 6 months and counting.  Another book launch for me.  There will be celebration of course.  Releasing a book into the wild is always an achievement, and an act of faith.  It must be celebrated as such.  It is also a signal to release the demon: the marketing monster.

Most of us who write do not say to ourselves, “Hey I want to be an author so I can market the hell out of my creations.  You know if I could JUST do the marketing, I’d be in heaven.”  No, what most of us say about the promotional aspects of this gig would be patently inappropriate for a blog post.  Yet marketing swiftly becomes our primary focus, our obsession, and the monster hiding under our bed—from six-months out to six-months post-release.  That’s a year of our lives mes amis.
See--this is the book.
And clearly I am a publicity whore

This morning as I sat down at my desk I found myself thinking not (with delicious anticipation) of finishing a draft of my wip (I am within striking distance), but of what I could do or say about my soon-to-release-novel that wouldn’t sound like “buy my book” and wouldn’t make me feel like I was naked on a street corner during rush hour.

And then, out of nowhere Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s stages of grief (which I allegedly learned in a psychology class somewhere in my distant past, but which actually lodged themselves in my brain—as so many things do—only as a result of a piece of popular culture, Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz”) popped into my mind.  In case they are not fresh in your mind, here they are, the big five: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

They are supposed to describe how we’d feel if we lost someone dear to us but frankly I think they do a credible job of explaining the phases of book promotion.  Hear me out.

Denial—Good books sell themselves right? I am with a big five publisher, they will take care of all the publicity and marketing for me.  That’s their job.  Writing is mine.  It’s too early to be thinking about pre-sales/sales/reviews.  If I start this early I will burn out.  Jeez, I am burned out already and I haven’t started.

Anger—F**k this s**t!  I feel like a whore, and not even an expensive one.  I hate having to remind people that books that start their lives with strong pre-orders are printed and distributed in larger quantities, stay on shelves longer, and are displayed more prominently.  The thought of sending notes to people on my xmas-card list reminding them I have a book releasing gives me hives.  I am NOT doing this, do you hear me! Not. Doing. This.

Bargaining—Fine, I will send the post cards.  But surely I don’t need to start thinking about marketing my book until a week or two before release.  After that I swear, I SWEAR I will be all about that novel, but for the next few months I want to be about what I am writing now. Pretty please?

Depression—I am doomed.  This book is doomed.  I can’t even get my own siblings to pre-order.  They just said, “nice postcard.”  Probably, screaming, “did you order the damn book” was not the best response on my part.  I am going to be seated at the kids table for Christmas.  I am not going to be invited to Christmas.  I do not know why I am finishing my wip, because if sales are not good on the new release I will never have another published work.  I wonder if I can be a dog walker?  Too bad my own dog does not even like me.

Acceptance—Marketing, for better or worse, is a large part of what I as an author have to do in modern publishing. This is true whether I am with a major publisher, a small publishers, or I choose to indie publish.  The day of the “recluse who just writes” are past—unless and until I hit super-star status, and then I will buy a castle and let the books sell themselves. So, I will square my shoulders and divide my writing day.  Six months out it will be 75% wip and 25% laying the groundwork for launch. By the time my launch is a month out, that will be flipped.  For the last week before and the first six weeks after launch my wip will be my “treat,” and working on it will replace my other leisure activities.  I will sign books, blog, be present on social media.  I will carry a stash of postcards in my glove compartment and another in my purse.  I will support the efforts of my publicist and my marketing team at every turn and I will come up with ideas and actions to supplement what they do.  I will thank them—often.  I will thank my friends, and remind them that having bought the book they are not obligated to read it.  I will not ask them what they think of it.  I will be merciful.

Oh, and I will NOT forget all this.  I will not make myself go through these damn phases again . . . until I do ;p


Sophie Perinot’s next novel, Médicis Daughter--set at the intrigue-riven, 16th century French Valois court--will be out in December of 2015.  But you can ABSOLUTELY pre-order it now.  DO ITShe does not care if, once it arrives, you use it as toilet paper on your next camping trip.  To find out about Sophie's previous literary endeavors, visit her website, or her FB page.  You can also  follow her on Twitter as @Lit_gal