Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New books in the works!

I have TWO new books in the works.  I don't know how many authors write more than one book at the same time, but I'll tell you why I'm doing it. 

First of all, nearly everyone who has read Secrets of a Summer Village has asked for a sequel.  I have been sketching the outline for the sequel since about September 2011, but have been spending most of my book-related work time trying to promote the first book.  Just when I was trying to think of first lines for the new book, I decided that I should probably put that on hold and write a different book.  Why?  Well, for one thing, unless my first book all of a sudden becomes a runaway success (unlikely), I won't be able to query a sequel.  Yes, I am going to try to query my next book rather than directly self-publishing.   I'd also like to have a manuscript to enter into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest for 2013, and a sequel wouldn't work for that, either. 

For quite a while (about two months) I couldn't figure out what on Earth to write about (and I really do want to stick to Earth).  I started to worry that I only had one book in me and that my writing career was over.  But then all of a sudden, a few weeks ago, I had a great idea.  I'm not going to tell you what it was because that's a secret.  What's important is that I have been thinking about this new book day and night, and the idea has morphed and changed and is now almost nothing like the original idea.  I don't really know what the new book is going to end up being about, but my thoughts are brewing, the character is finding her voice, and I am starting to envision the story.  When I write, the characters become real to me.  The hard part is sitting down and writing down the words so that the characters become real to everyone else.

This time around, I am a little more conscious about what needs to go into a novel.  These are my writing guidelines this time around:

  • The main character needs a strong, consistent voice.  This time, I plan to write in the first person.
  • I have to really jump into the story within the first 5000 words.  This is because readers - the general public, agents, and reviewers for contests, need to have a good feeling for the book within the first 5000 words in order to know if they want to read more.  It makes sense.  With book one, I ended up condensing the first 3 chapters into two so that I could get to the point faster.  I think I should have even condensed more. 
  • There has to be a turning point somewhere in the book that involves struggle and some sort of hardship.  This is MY struggle - I love my characters so much that I really don't want them to get hurt.  But they usually have to hurt in order to grow.  
  • The main character has to be between 12 and 17 years old.  I have made a conscious decision to write YA and perhaps middle-grade novels.  At least for now.  Adults can like them, but they have to be accessible to and appropriate for younger readers.  
  • The reader has to learn something new.  Many comments from readers about Secrets had to do with how much they had learned while reading the story.  It is not the main point of my novels to teach readers something new, but I'd like to sneak some cool stuff in there.  It will require a lot more research on my part than if I didn't have this goal, but I think it will make the book more memorable. I'm nerdy that way.
I recently read that maybe, just maybe, the market is getting tired of paranormal romance (don't believe me?  Read this).  The same agent suggests that the next big trend might be geeks in YA.  I am very geeky and would happily create geeky main characters, but I don't know yet whether my new, as-of-yet unnamed main character is geeky.  I don't know her well enough yet to say.

And the other book I'm writing?  It's the sequel.  Just when I had decided that I would put the sequel on hold, a bunch of people asked if I was writing a sequel.  So I'm going to try to write both at the same time.  I'm not sure how I'm going to manage this - maybe I'll alternate weeks.  Maybe I won't even be able to manage it and will have to write them in sequence rather than simultaneously.  But I think that writing the sequel to Secrets will be much easier than writing the new book because I already know the characters.  Writing the new book will be like going to a new school where you don't have any friends yet and you can't find your classroom or your locker.  Or something like that. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

ABNA Expert Reviewer #2

Here is my response to ABNA Expert Reviewer #2.   While he wasn't all negative, he was pretty insulting.  And I say "he" rather than "she" because I really get the feeling that a guy wrote this.  I don't know why.  The few males who have read my book loved it...


ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

Writing is good and solid. The attempt to portray the thinking and logic of an American teenage is quite good. Dialogue flows well and the idea of introducing Turkish culture through the book should be a good hook. 

Thank you.  I get the feeling that you might think that I'm not American... 

What aspect needs the most work?

The beginning sequence at the Izmir airport: The political agenda of the author comes through too easily. did Rachel really lack the intelligence or initiative to pick up a guidebook with pictures? Or to have the confidence in dressing comfortably as opposed to the over dressed, overly made up look of the women at the airport? And where are her parents? no sobbing goodbyes or missing her parents, or being confused by plane transfers for Rachel?
The conversation between her and hannah is good but stretches out a bit too long.
At 17 it seems curious that neither of the girls has a love interest.
Rachel seems a bit too average - not exceptional at schoolwork, not an ambitious girl who is planning for college, not interested in clothes, makeup or researching a place she will be spending a month in. The reader needs to throw their emotions and self into Rachel if she is their way of seeing Turkey. If she seems too ditzy or boring it will be hard to identify with her.

1.  My POLITICAL agenda!!???? I do have opinions about politics and political opinions.  In case you want to know, I started a PhD in political science.  However, in spite of advice to raise politically-charged issues in this book, I very intentionally did NOT do so because there are too many books and movies with political agendas.  So there.
2. Even if Rachel had bought a guidebook with pictures, she wouldn't have truly known what to expect.  
3.  And the confidence to dress comfortably? First of all, Rachel is 17.  She cares what she looks like and cares what people think of her. She wants to fit in.  How dare you insult her intelligence?  It is BECAUSE she is intelligent that she notices that her outfit doesn't seem appropriate for the situation.  Americans who live outside of the United States (as well as people who aren't Americans to begin with) can pick out American travelers in airports worldwide.  It's not because of their American accents.  It's because Americans tend to wear sweatpants or jeans, flip-flops or running shoes, and t-shirts.  And they also typically walk while eating and while holding disposable coffee cups.  Of course not all Americans wear this "uniform," but the ones who do stick out.  
4. Sobbing goodbyes?  Are 17-year-olds about to go on a foreign exchange program for a month all supposed to sob at the airport?  Sorry, I didn't know that.   

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

Interesting. The idea of introducing Turkey though the eyes of a naive but seemingly not too bright american teenager could be a good one if written well.
However, I think the sequence at the airport needs some work to make the girl not seem quite so ignorant of a culture she has seemingly researched online.

Hahahahahaha!!!! Interesting.  Such an ambivalent word. I find it a bit insulting that you say that Rachel's not too bright, given that you've only just met her.  She is not particularly ambitious and doesn't know what she wants out of life, but I imagine that is not unusual for a 17-year-old.  And do you really think you can learn everything you need to know about a culture by researching it online?  Then why bother traveling? 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

ABNA Expert Reviewer #1

  My entry didn't make it into the quarter finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest.  For this round, Amazon's "Expert Reviewers" read the first 3-5000 words of each novel and scored them based on four factors:
a) Overall Strength of Excerpt
b) Prose/Style
c) Plot/Hook
d) Originality of Idea
Each excerpt was given a score of one to five in each of these areas, and the 250 excerpts with the highest scores in each category made it into the quarter finals.  Fortunately, contestants in the second round were able to see the reviews of the expert reviewers.  After reading the reviews, I felt a lot better about not having made it into the quarter finals.  I feel as though part of it is the luck of the draw - whether or not reviewers like the kind of stuff you write.  In this post, I'll respond to the reviewer who liked my excerpt.  In my next post, I'll respond to the reviewer who wasn't very keen on it.  

ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

I really enjoyed the lightness of this excerpt. No crazy science fiction characters to remember, no wild names, no underwater cities-just a well written coming of age story. It reminds me a bit of "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants." And Turkey! I don't know if I have ever read a book aimed at young women set in Turkey, so not only are we getting a fun read, but perhaps there is an educational aspect here as well. I really like books, especially for my teens, that teach us something without preaching, and what better way to do that than with a romance/adventure story like this one!

----->my response:  Thank you!  You totally get what I was trying to write.  I was trying to write a light, enjoyable story from which the reader can also learn something.  And the comparison to The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants?  I make the mental comparison myself, but didn't want to be presumptuous in comparing myself to such a famous series.   

What aspect needs the most work?

As of right now, I like it the way it is! The one issue I have sometimes with stories like this is that the adults are often written almost as after thoughts. The focus is the younger characters, it is a young adult novel after all, but I don't think that means the parents or other adults need to be one dimensional. Giving the adults believable personalities-quirks and all-only makes this MORE realistic. Just because teens live in their own world, or seem to anyways, doesn't mean the adults around them regress to one dimensional beings. Make sure the adults aren't simply there to create dissension or solve problems.

------>my response: I completely understand your concern.  As you said, it's hard to focus on all the characters, but I did actually attempt to make the parents more than one dimensional.  If you'd had the opportunity to read the whole book, your worries would have dissipated. 

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

I enjoyed it! Many young adult novels these days are all about vampires, werewolves, or mythological creatures, but this is just a well written story about a young girl seeking a new experience. Turkey isn't a country that we often think of-I don't think it has the allure of France or the adventure if Italy, but it sounds like a beautiful country, and a coming of age story set in a new locale would be a wonderfully light read for the summer. I truly enjoyed this excerpt.

-----> my response: Wow, thank you!  You understand what I was trying to write!  I think Turkey as a destination does have allure and adventure, but because it's such an unknown, these are just not the first things anyone in the US thinks about when they think of Turkey.  I hope you get the book and read the rest! I think you'll like it.   

Saturday, March 17, 2012

My #1 Fan

My excellent day started out with an e-mail by my self-proclaimed #1 fan.  I do not know her, but she was given the book by a friend of mine.  Her e-mail made my day.  To think that I provided someone I do not even know with so much joy that she would write me the following e-mail gives me the energy and inspiration I need to keep on writing.  Here's the e-mail:

Hello, Ms. Amazing!
I LOVED your book!!!!!!!!!!!!  Its my favorite book by far!
I'm curious to know if you plan to write a sequel?  If you did, I would be the first one in the store, and read it every moment I get-that's how good The Secrets of a Summer Village was.
And also, where did you find inspiration to write this book?!  Were you inspired by one of your boys? Movie? (If it was a movie please tell me the name I must watch it!)  But if this all  just came to you,  then omg that is astonishing.
And even better- If this were a series, I would die and go to heaven!!!  I would save up, go out and buy a designer shelf saying 'The Best Series Ever!!'  No joking there. :)
Well that is all for now..... except for one thing-
If you reply, [omitted for privacy] 
Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope you consider writing a sequel or making it into a series.
You're the best!
Your #1 FAN,
[name omitted for privacy]

Who wouldn't be psyched by such an e-mail?!  Definitely inspires me to keep writing.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

How to write a book

I have lost count how many people have told me that they want to write a book.  I don't know if they just say it because it sounds cool or if they really have ideas about what to write, but it's really not an impossible feat.  Getting people to read it, well that is much harder.  With the insanely expanding self-publishing possibilities, publishing a book isn't even hard.  Here's how to write a book:

1. Come up with an idea.  Think about it a lot.  Think about whether or not you'd want to read it.  If you wouldn't like to read it, you probably wouldn't want to write it, since writing takes much longer.
2. Write the first chapter.  Once you're done, put it away for a few days and then read it again.  Make necessary changes.
3. Share it with someone or with lots of people.  Get feedback. Try not to be defensive.  Think about the feedback and make changes, as necessary.
4. Keep writing and repeating steps 3 and 4.

Writing can be really isolating, but getting feedback is essential to writing a book.  Check out sharing sites such as Movellas, which can help you get feedback from total strangers.  (Strangers will be much more honest and direct about your writing than your family and friends. Just saying).

Friday, March 9, 2012

Win a copy of my book

Have you ever heard of Goodreads?  If not, and if you like to read, I recommend that you visit the site. Once you've registered, you "add" the books you've read to your bookshelf and rate them.  You can also write reviews, if your heart desires.  Goodreads then recommends books you might like based on how you rated the books in your shelf.  You can also see what your friends have read (social networking, sort-of like Facebook for book geeks) and how they liked it.  It's all very social and nerdy at the same time.  The site will let you know if authors you've liked have new books coming out.

A unique feature of Goodreads is that there are giveaways.  Famous authors and virtually unknown authors (like me) alike offer copies of their new books in giveaways.  You can register to win the giveaways and the only thing you have to do if you win a giveaway is read the book and write a review of it on Goodreads.  Of course, they can't make you do it, but if you don't write a review, you probably won't win a book again.

I've joined the bandwagon and offered 500 3 copies of my book to be given away by March 20th, 2012.  500 people have registered to win.  Of course, people like free things, but it really is cheap publicity because many of them have put my book on their "to read" lists.  And maybe the recipients will actually write me reviews.  It's an exciting way to get the word out to people I don't even know.  If you'd like to register to win a copy, you can find the giveaway here:  I don't think the link will work unless you're a member of Goodreads, though.

How exciting to think that 500 people I would otherwise have had no access to have read what my book is about!