Friday, September 28, 2012

Badass Books: This is Not a Test

This month I've been writing rewriting obsessing over my query for my recently finished WIP. During that process, I've been trying to find comp titles/authors for my book. I had a handful, but they all seem to be represented by my top agents. So I wanted to broaden the list in order to have several to choose from for each agent I query. This led me to Courtney Summers, which led me to This is Not a Test.

Summary (From Courtney Summers's website)

It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up.

As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, everyone’s motivations to survive begin to change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life–and death–inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?

Why I read it: Other than falling into my quest for comp titles, I picked this book up because I remember a lot of people reading it earlier this year. They said was a zombie story but it wasn't a zombie story. They were right. I'm so glad I picked it up.

ZOMG Yes: This book ripped into me. It tore through to the deepest parts of my past. It forced me to look at myself, what I'd been through, my relationships, my choices. It cut me open and let all of the things I've had carefully packed away fall out and spill onto my feet. I read it Sunday, and I still haven't put myself back together.

Here's the thing. Sure, this is a zombie book. But like what other people said, it's so much more than a zombie book. It's a story about a teenage girl with a dark past who has to face her own demons, who has to face her own abandonment. It's a story about sisters and betrayal. It's a story about parents who fail at the core of what it means to be a parent. This story struck close to home for me.

Even if you don't have a sister or aren't still in counseling because of your childhood, this is a good book. Summers takes the very question of survival and turns it on its head. This is a zombie apocalypse. The goal is to survive. Not for Sloane. This is a zombie story unlike any I've read before. 

Spoiler: The story starts on the day Sloane plans to kill herself, the same day the zombies arrive. And for the rest of the book--almost until the very end--Sloane tries to find a way to end her own life. But once she has other people depending on her survival, she has to think of them, to find a way to kill herself without putting them in jeopardy. The emotional roller coaster this took me on as a reader was so worth it.

Meh: I'm really not sure there was anything about this book that would qualify as a meh. Some of the characters fit into your zombie apocalypse cookie cutter molds, but only at first glance. There were characters I didn't like--but I wasn't supposed to like them.

Overall, this book is glorious. You must read it. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

RTW: Best of September

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the contributors over at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question. Then readers answer it on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic: What was the best book you read in September?

Here's the thing, I only managed to read two books this month. The first was False Memory by Dan Krokos (review here). The second was This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers (review to come). While I loved False Memory and really recommend you read it, I'm going to have to pick the zombie book as the best read for me this month.

I'll have a lot more reasons as to why I loved this book when I post the review (hopefully) this Friday. I finished the book Sunday, and it's still with me. This book opened me up, broke me, and left me to pick up the pieces--in the best of ways.

What was your favorite book this month?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Social media 101: Platform overview

Last week we talked about goals. And don't get me wrong, I love goals. I can't function without goals. I'm a goal addict. But, let's get to the fun stuff. Here's a quick overview of the most popular platforms I'm most familiar with and why they may or may not make sense for writers.

Facebook (or the "who needs a filter?" platform)

Why? Because people are using it. There are more than 900 million users (as of April 2012). In June, engagement was up to 379 minutes per person per day (that's more than six hours!). Seven out of 10 Americans who went online in April visited Facebook.

Why me? That depends on your goals. If you're looking to engage potential readers, then a Facebook brand page could be a good fit for your book or for you as an author. If you can build the platform, Facebook is a great place to engage readers, provided you have content they're interested in. If they like your page, you're posts appear in their newsfeed. No searching for updates. It's all right there.

Do you do it, Liz? As an author, no. If/when I get a publishing deal, then I may create a Facebook page. But until then, I don't see having great success with Facebook.

Twitter (for those who are funny or secretly wish to be funny)

Why? Again, people are using it, 555 million to be exact. According to TechCrunch, 15% of online adults in the U.S. have used Twitter, with 8% using it daily (as of March 2012), and they're using it for a lot of different reasons (great infographic here). That's a lot less than Facebook, but it's still a lot of people.

Why me? Or, why not Facebook? Because Twitter is different. Unless you're a total creeper, you use Facebook to connect with people you actually know or with brands. On Twitter, there's a much smaller creep factor. You can connect with people without seeming like a stalker. If you're looking to get tied into the writing community, Twitter is a GREAT place to start. Do a quick search for #yalit or "young adult." Find someone you like and see who they follow. Also, YA writers are YA readers (and if not, then they aren't YA writers). So you can connect with readers and writers at the same time.

Do you do it, Liz? Yes! I'm active on Twitter. I use it to connect with other writers. I use it to push out links to my blog posts. I Tweet my favorite authors about their books and squee like a fan girl when they respond.

Tumblr (for memetossers)

Why? There are more than 60 million accounts worldwide, which is no where close to Facebook or Twitter. So what's the big deal? People on Tumblr are engaged. It's a more social environment. The tag system is well used and well done.

Why me? This goes back to your goals. Several people last week said they want to connect with other writers. Tumblr is a great way to do this that takes
1). Less time than blogging and
2). Can provide a whole lot of inspiration.

So if either of these fit into your goals, Tumblr is a great place for you. YA Highway has a YA author directory on their page to help you get started with connecting to other writers via Tumblr. Tumblr is also a quick and easy way to share information with your readers, and because it's so social, that news spreads fast. Plus, agencies are starting to use Tumblr, so this is a good way to get connected and stay on top of what's going on with the agencies you might be interested in.

Do you do it, Liz? I am having a love affair with Tumblr. There are so many great quotes, thoughts, posts, photos, and GIFs. I love GIFs.

Pinterest (Tumblr's little sister who ended up being prettier and more loved)

Why? Because Pinterest is taking over the world. Duh. Pinterest is one of the newest social networks, but it's people are spending more time here than on Facebook. The average Pinner spends 405 minutes pinning daily.

Why me? Why are you on social media? Are you connecting with writers? Are you looking for inspiration? Do you want to offer reading suggestions? Then Pinterest is a great fit. Warning: It's also a huge time-suck if you're not careful. YA Highway has started a list of YA writers on Pinterest. You can find that here.

Do you do it, Liz? More for my personal use of social media than for my Liz the YA writer persona. I pin my book reviews, and I have some inspiration boards for writing. Otherwise, no. But there are some great opportunities here especially for writers with upcoming books. Think boards for different characters or factions.

A note on Pinterest: Mashable recently covered a study showing how women prefer Pinterest and young adults prefer Instagram. There could be a whole untapped world on Instagram for us YA authors. 

You'll noticed I didn't include LinkedIn or Google+. I don't think LinkedIn is the right place for a young adult writer looking to connect with readers and writers--unless you want to join professional groups. As far as Google+ goes, I'm yet to buy into this. I know it has some great features, but it's not where I spend my time. Here's a great infographic that compares these two platforms to Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, if you're interested.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Badass Books: False Memory

Although I finished my rewrite (thanks so much to my blogging hiatus and Dose Coffee & Tea), I'm not quite finished. You know--beta readers, revisions, proofreading. It can get a little overwhelming. And with an anxiety disorder (trust me, not a fun thing), it's been an interesting month. My critique partner suggested I take a break. And for me, a break always involves reading. Enter: False Memory.

Summary (from Dan Krokos's website):

Miranda North wakes up alone on a park bench with no memory. In her panic, she releases a mysterious energy that incites pure terror in everyone around her. Except Peter, a boy who isn’t at all surprised by Miranda’s shocking ability.

Left with no choice but to trust this stranger, Miranda discovers she was trained to be a weapon and is part of an elite force of genetically-altered teens who possess flawless combat skills and powers strong enough to destroy a city. But adjusting to her old life isn’t easy—especially with Noah, the boyfriend she can’t remember loving.

Then Miranda uncovers a dark truth that sets her team on the run. Suddenly her past doesn’t seem to matter…when there may not be a future.

Spoilers in white. As always.

Why I read it: I just recently started tumbling (As in tumblr. I tried gymnastics once. Once.), and as a part of this new adventure, I started following New Leaf Literary--since they tumbl things from a lot of my favorite authors (their clients). They posted about an event that included said authors along with Dan Krokos. So then I followed Dan on Twitter (He's hilarious, by the way). And then I bought the book.

ZOMG Yes! Ok first, I forgot that a man wrote this book. The narrator (Miranda) is a teenage girl, and I believed it. Impressive. Also, I absolutely loved Miranda's voice. She had the perfect mix of sarcasm, insecurity, and brilliance. I want to know her. I want to be her friend.  Spoiler: I even want to be Sequel's friend. But not Mrs. North. Or that creepy-ass ageless Miranda who is clearly some sort of alien or god or something.

Also, this book has romance. And it's beautiful. I really felt pulled the way Miranda is pulled. Spoiler: I wanted her to stay with Peter from the beginning, but every time she felt pulled by Noah, I felt pulled, too. Now that's good writing.

The characters are wonderful. Each one feels deep and full and real and beautiful. That makes for a good book.

Meh: I only had one meh about this book, and it's a spoiler. I'm upset about the Rose who died. For some reason, her death felt a little hollow to me. That could be because Miranda didn't have the attachment to this character that she should have, with her memories being gone and all. But still, I'm not satisfied with the death. I'm hoping (and trusting based on how great this first book was) that Dan will flesh that out in the next book.

Overall? I really enjoyed False Memory. If you're looking for an engaging, fast-paced read, pick this one up.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

RTW: "The time has come," the Walrus said, "to talk of many things."

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the contributors over at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question. Then readers answer it on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic: In honor of this month's Bookmobile book, Marissa Meyer's CINDER, name a fable or story you'd like to see a retelling of. If you're feeling creative, come up with a premise of your own!

I've actually been thinking about this a lot lately. With the debut of The Treachery of Beautiful Things (an original fairy tale), I've had fairy tales on the brain. I'd love to see a dark, YA retelling of Alice in Wonderland and maybe Beauty and the Beast. Maybe Beauty and the Beast with a wolf. That'd be cool. I love wolves.

I'll have to give it some more thought before I know what the premise would be. But with both of these, the connection to the original stories would have to be subtle. Cinder does a great job with Cinderella, but because we know the Cinderella story, there are a few predictable "twists." I need mystery! Intrigue! (which Cinder has, but I need more!) 

Maybe that's why I haven't tried a fairy tale retelling.

What fairy tale would you like to see retold or perhaps retell yourself?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Why should I be on social media?

Social media: What's the big deal? There are so many blogs, so many Twitter handles, so many Tumblrs. What difference does it make if I'm not there?

A big one.

Do a quick Google search for: "Should authors use social media?" You know what you'll find? A resounding yes. But here's the thing, it's not enough to use social media. You have to know why. And I can't tell you that. The why is something you must decide for yourself.

What's your goal? Until you answer this question, you really won't know what platforms are right for you. And if you're anything like me, being goal-less will kill you.

I have two goals for my social media presence:
  1. Establish myself as a source of information for young adult readers and writers
  2. Get connected to the young adult writing community
You may have the same goals, or yours might be different. Maybe you're trying to build a platform for your extensive knowledge about Chiweenies. Maybe you don't write at all but you love to read and want to help other readers find the right books. Our maybe you really want to get plugged into a community of Sharpie lovers.

Or perhaps you want to connect with Sharpie-loving Chiweenies.

Once you set a few clear goals for being active in the social media sphere, then everything else will fall into place much more easily. You can create a plan. You can blog according to that plan and not feel overwhelmed.

I mentioned last week that I'm making some changes to my blog. That's because my goals weren't clear, but now that they are, I have three standard blog features that align with those goals (Social Media Mondays, Writing Wednesdays, Friday Reads). I'm not just treading water. I'm here with a purpose.

How about you: What are your goals?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Bad Ass Books: Shadow and Bone

You can't become a good writer unless you read good writing. You just can't. And the idea of isolating yourself from other people's works while writing astounds me. Good writing inspires you. It pushes you. That's why I was reading while working on my re-write this summer.

And glory of all glories, I stumbled upon Shadow and Bone. If you like fantasy and love stories and magic and characters with a wonderful sense of humor, you must read this book.

Summary (from Leigh Bardugo's website):

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near-impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one unlikely refugee. Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life– a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha… and the secrets of her heart.

Seriously, what are you waiting for? Why haven't you read this book?

(As always, spoilers in white)

Why I read it: I had been planning to read Shadow and Bone when I first heard about it back in March. In May, I pre-ordered a signed copy of the book as a part of a contest by Leigh's agent Joanna Stampfel-Volpe. It sat on my bookshelf for a few weeks while I worked my way through my rewrite and finished a few other books (reviews to come!). I finally picked it up in July. I read it in less than 24 hours.

ZOMG Yes! Most of the book fits into this category. I love the voice. I love how strong Alina is. She admits her weaknesses, her fears, her insecurities. And she grows. Boy does she grow. Spoiler: I love the love triangle. I'm on Mal's side 100%, but there's a part of me that still feels for the Darkling, that hopes for redemption. That's good writing, my friends.

Here's a bit of this fabulous writing (a bit that made me laugh out loud):

How would I have said goodbye to Mal anyway? Thanks for being my best friend and making my life bearable. Oh, and sorry I fell in love with you for a while there. Make sure to write!
"What are you smiling at?"
I whirled, peering into the gloom. The Darkling's voice seemed to float out of the shadows. He walked down to the stream, crouching on the bank to splash water on his face and through his dark hair.
"Well?" he asked, looking up at me.
"Myself," I admitted.
"Are you that funny?"
"I'm hilarious.” 
How can you not love Alina after that?

Meh My one meh: I don't really like K's. Silly, I know. But this book has a lot of Eastern European influence especially in the names. So there are a lot of K's.

Bad ass? Absolutely.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

RTW: Scrivener is for lovers

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the contributors over at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question. Then readers answer it on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic: What word processing program do you use to write your manuscript, and can you share one handy trick you've learned in that program that has helped you while you write?

This is easy. I use a quill and parchment. But only a special quill, the kind that draws from my own blood.

Oh wait.

Scrivener, of course! I started using Scrivener last fall when it was introduced for PC, and I've been in love with it ever since. This program has so many wonderful features and makes writing so much easier to manage. My favorite thing Scrivener does is that it allows you to create a separate document for each scene. Revisions have become far more enjoyable.

Scrivener lets you set a word count goal for your writing sessions and shows progress on that goal. I don't know about you, but I'm incredibly goal-driven. Being able to track my 
progress makes it that much easier to accomplish them.

But there's so much more to Scrivener than I could ever do justice in one post. Check it out for yourself here.

What's your word processor of choice?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Changes to the English Badass

If you're here, and you're reading this, most likely you're an author who's blog I follow as well. We're all out here, trying to build a platform, hoping to make relationships, navigating the pre-publishing (unless some of you are post-publishing in which case give me your book titles!) waters.

Why do I blog? At first, I started this blog because everything I read told me to. You want to be published? Great. You need to be on the internet. So I started the English Badass. Check. Give me a gold star.

Wait? Having a blog isn't enough?

gif from Title2Come

This shouldn't have been some sort of big revelation to me. In fact, early on I knew I needed something to differentiate myself, but I didn't know how to do it. How, you ask, did I know this? I get paid to use social media. It's a part of my job.

You don't just start a blog. Well, people do. I did. But that's not how you find success. You need objectives, goals, and content that marries up to those goals.

So you'll start to see a few changes around here. It will be similar to past content: writing, grammar, book reviews, etc. But there will be a little more structure to it, including the new feature: Social Media Mondays. I have a lot of social media knowledge just hanging out in my head, and I'd like to share it.

Why do my thoughts on social media matter? Because I get paid to be there. I write an award-winning blog for the building products industry. So I'm going to share my expertise and tie it to YA writers.

I'll be including a few other features:
  1. RWT (Road Trip Wednesdays)
  2. Friday Reads (where I will recommend books, share my reading lists, or post book reviews)
  3. Miscellaneous content as appropriate/relevant
Happy blogging!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Good news, everyone!

Thirty-five thousand words and a full revision later, I’ve returned to the wonderful world of blogging! I’ve brought with me cookies, confetti, and as promised—book reviews!

I know. I know. I was supposed to be working on my book. I promise I did that. Cross my heart. But I also wrote quite a few blog posts to put in the queue to prevent another hiatus from popping up in the near future.

I was too busy writing reading blogs to write fiction, which is why I got into this whole community in the first place. (For those conspiracy theorists out there, this blog doesn’t count as fiction; it’s simply a physical manifestation of my insanity.)

But I’m back—mostly because I missed all of you terribly (even those of you on Instagram who saw too many photos of my word counts and my pies).