Thursday, September 30, 2010

11-4 has a certain "je ne sais quoi" to it

It's the day Mozart's Symphony No. 38 was performed for the first time in Austria.
It's the day King Tut's tomb was discovered in Egypt.
It's P. Diddy's birthday.  (Don't blame me.  This last one, apparently, is ubiquitous web-worthy trivia.)

Now, it also happens to be the new date for the book launch party for Song of the Orange Moons!  I spoke to both the bookstore manager and Marius at Trinity Hall, and things are squared away.

So, the new date for the signing/reading at Barnes & Noble at 5 PM, and the party across the street at Trinity Hall with cake and drinks and appetizers at 7 PM, is November 4, 2010.

Please change your dates, and if you couldn't make the old date, maybe you can make the new one.  I'd love to see you there, sign a book, serve you cake, and share a toast to book lovers in Dallas!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Difficult Birth

 This morning I had labor pains.  Writers often compare the act of writing to giving birth one painful line at a time, but I’m done writing that book.  This is after the book has been written.  This is time to sit back and relax, epidural-style, while my novel is gliding its way through the printing process.

I am intrigued by how often I’ve been wrong about things in the whole publication process.  It’s been a good education to be sure. 

Early this morning, I received a call from my publisher. (When your publisher calls before 8:30 AM, it can’t be terrific news.  That’s another thing I learned today.)  The printers have informed her that the hard bound books will not be ready before the 25th of October.  My book launch party is on the 21st.  (Heavy sigh here.)

My eternal optimism awakens.  This could be a good thing.  It will give reviewers more time to review the book.  For those who are curious, most of the big reviewers like Publishers Weekly and Kirkus only review books pre-publication. 

But now I must reschedule the book launch party.  I’m thinking November 4th, but I have to get that date confirmed by the venues.  I sent out all those snazzy invitations (now snazzily misleading), and I need to track down all the people I invited via email.  This is the painful part, the anxious part, where I fret and wring my hands and wonder if anyone will show up on the new date.  (Or worse, if anyone will show up on the old date.)

So here is my suggestion for those who are planning book launch parties soon:
  1. Don’t plan the party until one month before the pub date.
  2. Don’t mail the special order invitations until 3 weeks before the event, just in case the pub date does change.
  3. Keep careful track of everyone you have invited, including emails and phone numbers.  This I have done, thank goodness, so the rest of my day will be sending emails.

This is what my publisher calls “a difficult birth.”  But she also assures me that the baby will be beautiful, and we’ll all go gaga over it soon enough.   Yes, but I’d still like that epidural, please.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The plate, I like it

Suddenly, my plate is looking a little less Oliver Twisty and more Golden Corral All-You-Can-Eat Sunday Buffet.

Last week, in order to stop obsessing over when the galleys would appear in my empty mailbox,  I immersed myself into my novel manuscript-in-progress.  I tried a daring change, eliminating two characters in order to place the main character in a bit more jeopardy, to pick up the pace and raise the stakes, so to speak.  And I like it.  I'd find myself startled by how quickly three or four hours passed, and that I'd actually written more than a couple of pages in one sitting.  And when I wasn't looking, a few pdfs arrived in my email.

So now I'm reading through page after page of honest-to-goodness book-looking print.  Suddenly, my plate is very full.  I don't want to lose the revived energy and momentum on the manuscript-in-progress, so when my concentration on proofreading gets thin, I'll spend a bit of time here and there breathing life into that project, too.

And then there's grading, my other interesting and fulfilling life teaching writing at SMU: I have a fresh batch of papers, full of possibilities, waiting to be graded. My plate overfloweth, and I like it.

Other good news: my dear friend Samantha Mabry called with screaming-good news.  Her YA novel is "sub" status, or ready for submission, according to her agent.  After months of revision and polish, her novel (and it's a fun ride--I read it) will soon be snatched by one very lucky publishing house.  May she bask in the praise of YA readers and enjoy an outrageously generous advance (also well-deserved).

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Thar she blows!

She's out there now.  Public.  Miss Book Trailer, that is:

sit a spell; it's a good 3 minutes.

If you like it, or know someone who might, please forward the link

And now I'll go hide among university students and hope no one posts a reply that says,
"Now, that's not how one does a trailer a 'tall!  Not a 'tall!"

Monday, September 13, 2010

on the adventure called "the book trailer"

The book trailer is almost done.  Please be kind.  Because my more artistic and talented son is off at art college, I put together this trailer myself.

If you don't know what a book trailer is, I'll give the abbreviated version:
  • it's supposed to introduce the public to your book and cause them to immediately order it online (or create enough of an impression that you remember it the next time you're browsing through the bookstore)
  • most of them that I've seen so far are cheesy
  • (mine is now probably one more for the cheese barrel)
  • authors can make the book trailer themselves (i.e., low budget),  but larger publishers often have some hand (financially or creatively) in the book trailers 
  • a how-to blog post on the omnipresent N.B. website, which you can read here if you're interested, but which I did not discover until after I finished my trailer
I've been waiting an hour for the video to render, a process that's going at a snail's pace on my pc laptop.   Before I post it to youtube and as a mobile-friendly video, I need to run the finished product by the mothers of the kiddos in the video, just to get a final go.

Stay tuned.  Constructive criticism is welcome, as long as it is swaddled in a few layers of love.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

on discovering already famous websites and omnipotent agents

Sometimes I come across a website that is so evidently established that I wonder, "How do I not know about this website already?"  And sometimes is occurring more frequently these days.

Today I discovered Beyond the Margins.  It's a great website hosted by a compilation of successful writers in the biz, and its articles offer a range of advice for writers.  Go visit it.  If you're not a writer, you'll want to be!

I also came to the conclusion that this guy named Nathan Bransford is omnipotent.  I mean omnipresent.  Because he is linked to every other writer's page on the internet.  See?  He's even linked to mine.  His is another helpful little site for writers.  Heck, I want to query him, and I'm not even a YA writer.  But I have always had this one book for teens simmering in my head...

Back to the current manuscript. On page 182, and the main characters are about to have their first epiphanies... 

Friday, September 10, 2010

on Insomnia and its benefits for writers

I woke up wide awake at midnight two nights ago.  To be fair, I did crawl into bed at 7:30--it was a rough day.

By 12:20 AM, I decided that I wasn't headed anywhere near unconsciousness, so I got up and tiptoed toward my laptop that was "sleeping" on the living room couch. I jotted down some notes for my composition class in the morning, updated some assignments, then spied the little blue W at the bottom of my screen.

My novel-in-progress. In order to avoid procrastination, I've taken to minimizing my novel manuscript instead of closing it completely.  That way, no matter what thrilling things I'm doing on the computer-- grading, paying bills, shuffling through emails--I have this constant reminder that I could be adding a page or two to the sleeping universe hiding within that little blue W.

All I have to do is click on it, and I'm instantly inside this parallel world.  No searching for the latest version of the manuscript, no scrolling down to the last page or getting side-tracked by a detail on page 142 that could be rewritten for the fourth time. As long as I remember to save in multiple places before I minimize the screen again, this plan is working for me.  I magnify and write. 

I have to say that I was delighted with the benefits of my insomnia: I wrote until 4 AM before tiptoeing back to bed and catching two more hours of sleep.  I've read about other writers' designs to nip procrastination--regimented writing times, majestic oak desks, locking the kids out of the room, and (gasp!) writing at the local coffee shop--but the little blue W is working for me.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

on late night reading

For a poignant, brief dose of great writing, read Melissa Ballard's essay in this issue of Brevity.
It's a powerful reminder of our capacity to touch other people's lives in small but significant ways.
Thanks, Melissa, for your story!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

On blurbs and publi-therapists

On blurbs: I read a post by Allison Winn Scotch on blurbs, particularly about how she (mostly) tends to ignore them when deciding whether or not to buy a book.  Her response makes sense--too much nepotism, etc.--but two things she wrote really illustrate the dilemma of green novelists:
one, that blurbs may be a necessity according the publishers, but it's the book review that really matters, and
two, that debut novelists who need blurbs may find themselves in the "blurber" seat, with writer-friends sending the same plea: "Will you endorse my book/chap-book/[fill-in-the-blank]?"

I'll tackle #1 first.
I have a blurb on my novel by Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler. Yes, I'm bragging, I'm happy about that. I am not a friend of Butler's.  A short story of mine happened to be published in the same magazine as one of his, and I took a chance and emailed him, asking if he'd read and consider endorsing my book.  He did, and said yes. As Allison says, debut novelists in particular need endorsements from established writers.  But I'm beginning to understand (especially a month before publication) that newspaper and online reviews are the essential keys to convincing readers--and lots of them-- to take a chance on reading your book.

I've been in a tizzy-funk for two weeks because I've been waiting for my arcs (my galleys), which are nowhere in sight.  I was to mail the arcs to two (well-known) people in particular whose reviews I respect and admire, and who sent me their addresses "Yes, mail your arc to me at ...," they wrote.  (I'll not jinx myself by naming them here.)  Because I have no book to mail them to read and possibly review, my head's in that tizzy and my heart's in that funk.  Today I called my outside (online) publicist, Crystal, and she offered me some therapeutic words:  you're not the only one going through this.  (She's now my publi-therapist.) Even authors with big publishers are going through last-minute panics and delayed arc dramas.  The biggest hurdle will be the time crunch for book reviewers: will my book be worth squeezing in their already full book lists, and my story be worthy of a review?

As for #2, well, Allison took me by surprise there.  I've taught creative writing before, have judged writing contests, have belonged to writers' groups.  I know lots of writers.  Of course, I adore all my writer-friends, and luckily I have many talented writer-friends: this is not a post with a subliminal message directed at them.  But one can appreciate the dilemma of #2 if one is mailed a mediocre manuscript from, say, a former student or friend, and one must decide how to maintain her dignity, how to decline.  I can't bear the thought of it. My skin is not thick enough yet.  Yes, for blurbs to matter, they have to be rare, bestowed on works that the writer really believes in. I wonder how (and if) Allison deals with declining blurbs for people she knows.

On a final happy note, I saw the first review of Song of the Orange Moons (someone who received an advanced digital copy) online at, and boy, do nice words set a writer's ego aflutter! It's an amazing and humbling feeling.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

On Stars and Glimmer Train and Free Sodas

I've been avoiding blogging over the past few days because I thought perhaps if I didn't blog, then maybe the stars would magically align and I'd arrive home one afternoon and see a huge FedEx box on my doorstep with a jiminy-christmas-stack-full-o-books inside.  Those advanced reader copies I'm eagerly awaiting.  Alas, the stars haven't aligned, and I'm still waiting, with not much to update on my blog except to tell you that waiting on the printer is punishing and particularly painful. A little alliteration there to keep the mood light because I found myself down in the dumps this weekend. Book readings: check. Publicist: check. Launch party: check.  Book itself: to be announced.  That kind of anxiety. 

Until I realized that hey, I have a book being published by a real publisher!  A little delay is nothing to whine about! I keep telling myself this, so you don't have to.  My publisher is giving me updates on the printer-status, so until I hear the magic words that my galleys are ready, I'll refine those letters and gift baskets to the kind people who have agreed to read (and possibly just might) review my novel for the masses.  

So, although my publicist and I are stuck in the Twilight Zone (not that Twilight) I have been making myself useful in other ways.  I'm writing in spurts on my third novel-in-progress (my second novel is under review by the publisher), and I've written an article on the craft of writing for Writer's Ask, a bulletin published by Glimmer Train Stories.

One last update: my under-21 and austere guests who attend the book launch after-party on the 21st of October at Trinity Hall will be served free sodas and tea.  Huzzah, T.H.!