Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pitch contest with agent Mandy Hubbard

It's competition time! Rockin agent Mandy Hubbard has stopped by YAtopia for a pitch contest. Here's the rules:

  1. Post your two sentence pitch in the comments section of the blog along with:
    • Your name
    • Email
    • Title
    • Genre
    • Word count
    • Link to where you've shared the competition (any social media platform is fine).
  2. Your entry must be YA or MG.
  3. Entries close midnight 5 October.
  4. You must be a YAtopia blog follower.
There is no limit to how many entries you can put in (as long as they're for different MS).

The Prizes: ANYONE who manages to capture Mandy's interest will recieve a full MS request!
Find out more about Mandy as an agent visit her website: or by following her on Twitter @Mandyhubbard. You can also read an interview with Mandy on Down Under Wonderings.

Good Luck!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Banned Books Week - Beyond the Choir

First of all, how come no one told me Banned Books Week started on my birthday this year?! It's one of my favorite Weeks (with a capital W), but it snuck up on me this time around.

Every time someone tries to ban a book in any capacity, the book community rallies and speaks out in support of the book and the author - and that's an amazing thing.

But I feel - a lot of the time - the real damage has already been done. And the beautiful defense of these wonderful, misrepresented books and justified outrage against the major news network that carried the story is akin to the choir all preaching to each other simultaneously - making a lot of noise that no one outside the church hears.

It's one thing when someone publicly speaks out against a book because it contains certain subject matter, leaving room for people to make their own judgements about whether or not they want to read it (or let their children read it).

But what about the times when someone - someone who many people will listen to - completely misrepresents a book? Like when a certain Missouri "educator" tells parents that Speak encourages teens to go to parties, get drunk and have sex. Or when church leadership, in the ultimate display of irony, tries to ban Fahrenheit 451 because they claim it endorses destroying religious texts. Or when a conservative teacher tries to wipe out the incredible messages in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by only talking about the (very accurately-depicted) language and a TEENAGE BOY's internal monologue about masturbation.

The media love these people. There's nothing that sells papers/commercials faster than a scandal and a threat to your children. Thousands of people declaring how YA lit with heavier themes has saved their lives? That doesn't get people to "tune in after this message from our sponsors."

My point is: parents and other decision-makers, listen to these deluded people and will forever think these books are horrible because they will never hear the impassioned (and more accurate) defenses of these life-affirming books. For all the wonderful #yasaves and #gayinya and #speakloudly discussions, most of the people seeing those discussions already support the cause, already think book banners are full of it.

So my question is, how do we reach these people? And on the same scale the book banners do? How do we let the parents and other decision-makers - who may have not read a novel since graduating high school, skim only the first three pages of the newspaper, don't follow any #yasaves fans on twitter, and trust everything the nightly news tells them at face value - know that reading a so-called "dark" book will actually make you or your child a better person? How do we stop preaching to the choir, reach beyond the participation of the congregation, and get our message out to everybody else?


Also, just wanted to throw in a mention that I'm giving away six books on my blog this week, including some by our very own DJ, Leigh and Kelley York! EVEN MORE, my sister and I are giving away two books by Lisa McMann at the YA Rebels.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Giveaways abound!

Sorry for the late post, guys.

Thanks to the dreaded Day Job, my brain's a bit zapped as far as blog topics. Instead, I thought I'd share a few links because--largely thanks to Banned Books Week--there are a ton of great giveaways going on.

Yesterday, Wendy offered up a copy of DELIRIUM and BLOOD RED ROAD...hard covers, no less! (I've been itching to read Blood Red Road, to be honest.

Jolene is giving away a copy of TWENTY BOY SUMMER in honor of Banned Books Week.

From Jenni Merritt, also in honor of BBW, you can win $15 toward the Book Depository!

Sarah Nicolas is celebrating her giving away books. (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SARAH!) Books you could win include our very own DJ's HUNTED, Leigh's CARRIER OF THE MARK, and my own HUSHED. 

Lastly, Jus Accardo is offering a signed ARC copy of her book, TOUCH. This is pretty neat, because the ARC cover is entirely different from the cover that will be on the actual it's sort of like a collector's item? ;)

I've extended my own ARC giveaway of HUSHED for this week, since I'm still getting in entries and want everyone to have a chance. I'll let it run until Friday and announce a winner on Saturday.

Any giveaways y'all want to share?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Weather-Related and Seasonal Reading Giveaway

This time of year makes me hunger for spooky reading. Something dark and dangerous and mysterious. When it comes to YA literature, I definitely get that feeling from a good dystopian novel.
I don't know how the weather's been where you live, but here on the central east coast it's been dreary. Rain, overcast skies, and darkened rooms, even during the day. It's spooky reading weather at its best, with chilly hints of autumn in the air. I'm in the mood to share this feeling. How about a book giveaway?  :)

There are two brand new, hardback, dytopian books up for grabs and I'll choose a winner for each! 

Here's what you need to do:
~ Be a follower of this blog
~ In a comment, tell me which book you'd prefer (if you have a preference)
~ Provide an email address where I can contact you (if you're not comfortable putting your email address online, you can send it to me at
~ Also in your comment, tell us what spooky, dark stories you recommend :)
I'll accept entries for one week. Contest will end at midnight Friday, September 30th. Winner will be chosen at random and announced Sunday, October 2nd.
Thanks everyone!  ~Wendy

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Random Giveaway winner

It's Thursday, so you know what this means?

Winner time!

I'd like to thank everyone who entered and especially those who added My Heart Be Damned to your Goodreads shelves. You guys are amazing.

But without further ado, the winner is...


Hoot, drop me an email at chanelle(@)chanellegray(.)com for your prize. You have 24 hours or I pick another winner.

Thanks again and look out for more contests soon.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

ARC Giveaway & Blogfest News

Interrupting your regular scheduled programing...

Just a quick note to our YAtopia followers, I wanted to share that I'm holding a contest over on my personal blog!

He’s saved her. He’s loved her. He’s killed for her.

Eighteen-year-old Archer couldn’t protect his best friend, Vivian, from what happened when they were kids, so he’s never stopped trying to protect her from everything else. It doesn’t matter that Vivian only uses him when hopping from one toxic relationship to another—Archer is always there, waiting to be noticed.

Then along comes Evan, the only person who’s ever cared about Archer without a single string attached. The harder he falls for Evan, the more Archer sees Vivian for the manipulative hot-mess she really is.

But Viv has her hooks in deep, and when she finds out about the murders Archer’s committed and his relationship with Evan, she threatens to turn him in if she doesn’t get what she wants… And what she wants is Evan’s death, and for Archer to forfeit his last chance at redemption.

HUSHED isn't out until December, but I have an ARC to give away on my blog. (Plus, you get an extra entry for being a follower of YAtopia... ;) )

This contest is only open for a few more days, so hurry over!

ALSO, keep an eye out for the beginning of October! I'll be posting the sign-up and rules for the upcoming DARK YA BLOGFEST. This blogfest is going to be all kinds of awesome. You'll have all of October to sign up, and the blogfest itself will be held in November.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tuesday Twaddle - The Blue Edition

Nope we're not talking naughtiness, we are talking Carrier. You'll have to forgive my little blue indulgence, but you see, there's all sorts of awesome stuff happening for me at the moment, and I just can't help myself going on about it, and writing incredibly long run on's the nature of the beast.

You'll also have to forgive the late posting of this.  That's a big fat oopsie right there. I nearly forgot that it was was my day because...well because it's blue indulgence day.

I got my finished books today! Yes a whole big box of them, and they are gorgeous.  I also got a big box of beautiful bookmarks. *sigh* so much prettiness.  I must make sure some of you guys get your paws on them.

And following the Carrier blue theme of this post, my book trailer was released yesterday to lots of oohing and aahing over it's...blueness and it's dramatic awesomeness.  So I'll allow you absorb the blue beauty of this post.

Thank you for allowing my moment of blue indulgence, and talk to you in two weeks when... dun dun dun, you can do blue, with your very own copy of Carrier. Aghh!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Angry or unlikable characters

Today I want to talk about unlikable characters. We all know it's important for readers to find something they like... or maybe like isn't the right word, but something that connects them with a character. What I want to talk about today is those characters that are a little harder to like. Characters who are angry or tough and well... not always nice.

One of the first YA books I wrote had a female character like that. Life had dealt her a really bad hand and she was angry about it. Not only angry, but hurting and to deal with that she built a huge wall around herself. Her wall came up in the form of sarcasm, and pushing people away. I let quite a few people read that book and a number of them came back with the same comments, "she is TOO hard" "she is TOO angry". It's a fine line, I think. It's hard to straddle it well. But for me, she was HURT. Yes, she was angry. Yes she was tough. Why can't a girl be angry? LOL. Obviously I wasn't doing my job well enough to make the reader bond with her, but there's a part of me who thinks some of us, myself included, tend to be a little tougher on female characters than male. When it comes to those angry, tough characters, I think girls don't get away with it as easily. *ducks for cover* I don't mean that to sound bad, but I'm pulling from my personal experience in regards to my reading and writing experiences. I think *I* am subconsciously guilty of being tougher on girl characters who are angry sometimes than I am boys. Thoughts?

One example that I'm thinking of as a character that's hard to like is Jade from the show Victorious.

I fully admit to watching too much iCarly and Victorious with my daughter, but I'm curious how people who have seen the show feel about Jade. She's DEFINITELY angry... she's not nice. With her, I'm not sure WHY though. I think that makes the difference. If you understand where the character is coming from, if you know the circumstances that made them the way they are, I think it's easier to be more forgiving.

What are your thoughts on angry or unlikeable characters? Do you feel like you or others are harder on male or female characters?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Review: Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey

Because I loved this book so much and the fact that it inspired me to try writing in present tense, here's my review of Amy Garvey's upcoming YA debut, Cold Kiss. This is one book you do not want to let get lost in the shuffle. Not that it would, though--it's so good it stands out. :-)

When her boyfriend, Danny, is killed in a car accident, Wren can’t imagine living without him. Wild with grief, she uses the untamed powers she’s inherited to bring him back. But the Danny who returns is just a shell of the boy she once loved.
Wren has spent four months keeping Danny hidden, while her life slowly unravels around her. Then Gabriel DeMarnes transfers to her school and somehow, inexplicably, he can sense her secret. Wren finds herself drawn to Gabriel, who is so much more alive than the ghost of the boy she loved. But Wren can’t turn her back on Danny or the choice she made for him—and she realizes she must find a way to make things right, even if it means breaking her own heart. (GoodReads)

I picked up Amy Garvey’s Cold Kiss not only because it sounded good, but also because the back says it’s “perfect for fans of Shiver and Beautiful Creatures”. Well, yeah. We all know how much I love Shiver. Actually, I think I’m more obsessed with it, but that’s beside the point. What is the point, however, is that Ms. Garvey’s YA debut is a beautiful book.

Ms. Garvey’s writing is stunning. She has given Wren a very poetic, funny, and honest voice. Raw, even. The descriptions leave nothing to be desired and have a sort of depth to them, if that makes sense. The dialogue is smooth and fluid, as well. Although Wren is withdrawn from her friends, they are still great members of the cast and help show just how strong friendship can be.

Prior to reading the book, I knew Danny had to be some sort of zombie given the fact that Wren brings him back to life. Zombies tend to freak me out because of the whole flesh-eating thing, but Danny is not freaky. He is a tragically broken person who seems trapped between death and life. I really like how Ms. Garvey has presented both zombies and witches in this. I wouldn’t necessarily consider Danny a zombie nor Wren a witch, though. And I mean that in a good way. They’re both just them, beautifully flawed characters.

Although the romance in the book held my attention, what I liked most while reading is the way Ms. Garvey has included the themes of loss and love, and what it means to deal with both. At times, Cold Kiss read as a contemporary novel in the vain of Gayle Forman’s If I Stay. The balance between the paranormal aspect and the realism is wonderfully crafted.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Cold Kiss. The ending felt a tad rushed, but it ended on a sweet note. Nonetheless, it’s a beautifully written and told story that I know many will love. Wren, Danny, and Gabriel—a boy I’m sure many will swoon over—all tugged at my heartstrings and I can’t wait for other readers to be swept away by their story.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Getting connections

I've often heard that in the publishing industry who you know can take you a long way. I've read many interviews where the writer's friend, who happened to be a writer or worked in the biz, had read their MS and passed it onto an agent. I've even read one where a debut author was commissioned to write a story by a friend of her mother's. Not a bad way to become a published author with a guaranteed publishing deal. There are lots of stories like this, and I'm not saying it's not a legitimate way as I might end up with a story like that. What I want to look at today is how do you get to be a story like that.

If you aren't one of those lucky people who was born into a family of publishing royalty then the key is to network. So here's some tips on how to network without being one of those creepy leechers who lurk at the back of conferences waiting to pounce on a passing editor or agent (I've seen it, and the look of fear and exasperation that it wasn't me doing the major stalking, I only do minor stalking):

Oh yes she did!
  1. Join your local writers centre. I actually live in a publishing waste land, but when I was in my state's capital I went in and joined up in person. I got chatting to one of the ladies who worked there, who also happens to be one of Australia's leading speculative fiction short story writers. We kept in touch, I interviewed her on my blog, she interviewed me on her blog and now she's taken me on as her mentor. The interaction was genuine and I gave. The only thing I asked for was occasionally an opinion and some advice on who she would recommend as someone for me to hire to help edit my work. And that's when she offered herself.
  2. Join a critique group or writers group. This is something I haven't done personally, mainly due to family time constraints, but I have visited the local writer's group and made a good connection there. I'm hoping that they will help me get a local writer's conference off the ground. But I've heard many stories of how published authors where in critique groups together.
  3. Join an online writers community. I wouldn't be a part of this blog if I hadn't joined inkpop. It's where I met my fellow YAtopians Wendy, Leigh and Kelley V. It's also where I met Jeyn Roberts, who's debut novel DARK INSIDE hits the stands soon, Kate Grace, who I interviewed in my last post on YAtopia and a whole bunch of other writing friends who offer to do critiques and reviews.
  4. Enter competitions and short story submissions. My first published piece,GROWTH came through a submission to The Australian Literary Review for the anthology BASICS OF LIFE. I also was a runner-up with KARMA for Aus Lit's YA short story competition. Since then, I have received two invitations to write short stories for anthologies. It's a slow start, but it's a start and it's still my stories published and on book shelves.
  5. Go to conferences. Conferences are a great place to meet other writers and you also can get the opportunity to pitch to agents and editors. I met some great people at the CYA Conference in 2010 and I'm hoping to go again in 2012. I also did get the opportunity to pitch to an editor, which scored a MS request.
  6. Have a strong presence on social media. Twitter, blogs, Tumblr, Google + and Facebook yourself. Even Pottermore if you can. Be nice, polite, funny if you've got the right humour bone and connect with as many editors, agents and writers as you can. Just remember two things: not all publishing professional want you to friend them on Facebook (so check out their friend list to give you an idea of how open they are to friends requests) and that social media is an open forum, so be mindful of how you behave.  Stalking social media profiles in a non-creepy way is good. I've scored a request through a Twitter call for pitches. You can see what trends are expected and get an up-to-date knowledge on what agents are looking for, what conferences they're going to and even their querying status.
  7. Go to book launches. You can often get to ask a few polite questions, especially if you're getting them to sign a book you've just bought. But don't thrust a manuscript in their face. Book launches often have a variety of publishing industry peeps at them, so use the opportunity well.
Stop posting negatives and post positives!
So here's a list of things not to do:
  1. Accost agents, editors and writers in the toilets.
  2. Turn up at places of work uninvited - it scares them. There's a query process, use it.
  3. Harass agents and editors on social media, good way to ensure your query gets deleted without even being read.
  4. Follow them around at conferences. It's creepy and they might call security on you.
  5. Ignore submission guidelines. Whether it's a competition, query or a story submission, follow the guidelines. It's the top pet peeve for publishing peeps.
Let's add to the list, what are some other writer no-nos (feel free to include examples...without naming the guilty party)?

And for those of you who are at the querying stage, Mandy Hubbard from D4EO Literary is hosting a two sentence pitch contest here in two weeks. You can read her interview on my personal blog.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Are You Hiding in Plain Sight?

I know I talk about social media for authors a lot, but I saw a few things over the past few weeks that had me really scratching my head. I mean, authors with a HUGE online presence who made the simplest of mistakes. They're so obvious, you might think I'm being ridiculous, but I've seen all of these at least once - so maybe double check your online presence?

1. Your full name isn't readily available on your website/blog/YouTube. This is probably the most ridiculous one, but I've seen it twice in the past few weeks. Imagine this scenario: You write a wonderful blog post. Someone you would like to recognize your name (agent? editor? Hugh Jackman?) reads it and loves it. They look up to the top of the page for your name - and it's not there.

I KNOW y'all are laughing thinking you'd never make this mistake, right? But go check. Just to be sure. If you don't do it for yourself, do it for me - or Hugh Jackman.

Look closer

2. This one is a little less obvious. I, like many people, use Google Reader to read blogs. I've seen at least three blogs, where the name of the blog and writer aren't visible in the Reader window. It frustrates me. I don't want to have to click through every time to figure out who you are so I end up just not reading your posts, or at the very least, not commenting on them.

A lot of people read blogs via Google Reader. Even if you don't, go to the link and subscribe to yourself. Check to make sure your name/your blog's name shows up at the top of each post.

I honestly don't know how to fix this, but if yours is invisible, I urge you to figure it out.

3. I know a lot of people like to use cutesy usernames on Twitter (or in forums) like @YAWriterGirl or something. You think it's OK because your real name is on your profile, right? Here's something I didn't realize until I started using Tweetdeck: Unlike, a lot of twitter apps don't show your name next to your username.

Sure, if someone is really interested in you, they can click to look at your profile - but you're missing out on those repeated impressions that result in name recall.

And if you're not convinced it's important for your name to be out there in the Twitterverse, I should mention that four agents and several more authors have mentioned to me they recognize my name from Twitter. When you send an agent a query or when an editor gets your manuscript in her inbox, don't you want her to instantly recognize your name? I mean, you don't sign your queries "@YAWriterGirl," do you?


Don't make it hard for people to see your name. As an author, your name is your brand. You don't see Coca-Cola hiding their name under a few clicks, do you?

No. Because it's a dumb idea.

Harsh? Maybe... but tough love seems to work really well on writers. And I love you guys. :-)

So double check. Just in case.

Do it for Hugh Jackman.


Also, I just wanted to let y'all know I started vlogging solo, in addition to my YA Rebels weekly gig. My last vlog is about "Tired Plots In YA." I'd love to hear what you think over on my YouTube channel!

Monday, September 12, 2011

He's sooooo hot...or not.

I read an interesting Tweet and a few blog posts to go with it regarding characters and their looks—particularly the appearance of male love interests in YA. Rarely do I see a male love interest described as anything other than gorgeous.
A tip for writers: Don't tell me he's gorgeous every other line.
This drives me nuts, because often my idea of 'hot' differs greatly from that of others.
Maggie Stiefvater did a great job of this in her SHIVER series. Of course Grace thought Sam was attractive, but Sam was never really described as being drop-dead gorgeous. In fact, he was skinny and had a kind of emo-kid look about him. And yet there was something about Sam that makes him far more gorgeous to me than most other male love interests I've read about, and it more has to do with his personality and Grace's reactions to him.
The real trick is to let the reader in on what he looks like (but, please, please don't spend every other page going on about it), and show us how the character observing is responding to that. Hell, maybe her love interest is hot to all the other girls at school, but your MC really isn't attracted to him at first because he isn't her type.
Attraction really can be a purely emotional thing. One of the most fun parts I had in writing HUSHED was watching, as the story unfolded, how my MC's perception of the person he (initially) loved transformed from the first page to the last as his eyes opened to the person she really was.
Someone you love will be more attractive than anyone else when he's sweet and fun and makes you feel like the luckiest person alive, and the hottest boy on campus won't be so appealing when you think the way he laughs is obnoxious and he likes shoving kids into lockers.  
Though this makes me curious, who're some of your favorite YA love interests (be them male or female), and why?

Also, also...edited to say: my first ARCs for HUSHED are now out in the wild!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Congratulations Chanelle!

I interrupt your regularly scheduled blogging to bring you this important update:

Our very own Chanelle Gray has sold her novel, My Heart Be Damned, to be published, tentatively, in the Fall of 2012 by kNight Romance.


Here is the PM announcement:

Chanelle Gray's MY HEART BE DAMNED, about a young woman trapped in a supernatural grudge who must, against her will, hunt Damned souls on earth while keeping her friends, passing math, and fighting a growing attraction to a mysterious boy who may be the only one who can help her… or the only one who can kill her, to Tracey Mitchell at kNight Romance romance, by Victoria Marini at Gelfman Schneider.

Head on over to Chanelle's blog and congratulate her! You can also add her book to your Goodreads shelf!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The post where I give something away...

Okay, I'll admit, I didn't have a blog post in mind for today. But...this works in your favour because I'm lazy and laziness equals free books!

This isn't in celebration of anything and you're not going to need to jump over hoops...much haha. But yes, some lucky reader is going to get a book out of this random post.

Not only are you in for the chance to win a KINDLE! but you now can get a book to put on it (or a hardcopy. Totally your choice). And here's how...

I want to know what 2012 debut book you are most looking forward to reading and why. That's it. That's all you have to do to enter. There are of course, a few rules.

1) You must be a follower of this blog.
2) You must comment to this blog post with your answer and your email addy.
3) Answers need to be in before 21st September to be announced 22nd.
4) If you follow my personal blog, I'll put you in the drawing twice.
5) You can choose any book.
6) Open internationally to anyone Book Depo delivers to!
7) Good luck :D


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tuesday Twaddle been stolen by Leigh Fallon's Blog

I'm kind of pushing my Tuesday Twaddle to the side today in favor of an epic comp I'm running on my blog, celebrating the four week countdown to the release of Carrier of the Mark. Well... Yatopians deserve a chance to win too.  Here are all the details.  You can click this link to go directly to the comp page. Good luck!


Pre-Order Carrier Comp! Win a Kindle!

Well good golly gosh, here we are on the 6th of September and exactly four weeks to the release of CARRIER OF THE MARK. Repeat after me…
I am freaking out right now.  There is so much going to be happening this month. There will be blog tours, character chats, photos, photos, and more photos, announcements, giveaways, and lots and lots of prizes.  Yay!
My first announcement is… It’s epic comp! Win a Kindle. Yes. I’m giving one away and loads other seriously cool stuff.  Check it out.

To win the Kindle:
1. Pre-order / buy Carrier of the Mark anywhere. (There's a list below to help you).
2. Send your proof of purchase, a copy/photo of your receipt or confirmation email, to
Winner will be picked at random and notified on the 7th of October via email.  All books and E-Books eligible.  Open to US & CA Only. (Don't worry Europe, I'll have one for you guys too and Internationally if you guys scream loud enough)

Due incessant screaming this comp is now opening INTERNATIONALLY!
If you tweet this comp link, include the hashtag #COTMKindlecomp, and I'll enter you in to win a Carrier of the Mark Swag Bag full of awesome loot. There will be one winner every Friday for 4 weeks!. The more you tweet, the more you enter. Woot!
Oh and I'll accept Facebook links too for Swagbag entries, just be sure message the CarrieroftheMark FB page so I can enter you.  Good luck!
You can have access to the comp details at any time by clicking the comp button over in the side bar on the right.
Go, have fun, and most of all...Good luck!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Labor Day

Have a great day!

My favorite way to relax is reading. What's yours? Are you reading anything good right now? I'm reading the sixth book in the Outlander series. They're epic! Long books, long series (adult), but I'm devouring them!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Author vs. Blogger

So, I have a little bit of a dilemma. Nothing major, but I want to get all of your opinions.

Many of you knew me before Hunted, before I had a book deal. Back then, I was simply "DJ's Life in Fiction", a somewhat nerdy book blogger who liked (and still does) to freak out over Twilight. As a reviewer, I've always aimed to provide well-written reviews that show what I love about a book and, if necessary, what I didn't care for. I've tried to keep my reviews balanced, and hopefully I've succeeded.

But along came my book deal and, consequently, more thoughts on the future of my publishing journey. Being a book blogger poses a slight problem, though. Many agents are wary of book bloggers wanting to be their client because they don't want to represent someone who bashed another client's book. This is completely understandable. What if that blogger never posted anything bad about one of their client's books, though? What if they've maintained a positive presence in the blogosphere? (I'm not saying that I've done those, but hopefully I have, lol)

So, my question is, what do you all think? Should I stop reviewing books in order to make my chances of getting an agent higher? Do you like it when authors post about a great book they recently read?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A new boutique publisher: A Bit of Grace (Part 1)

Today I'm talking with the YA writer that took a bold step (before J.K.Rowling too I will add) and parted ways with her agent to set up her own publishing firm. I met Kate Grace on the YA writer's community inkpop  and remember being just a tad jealous with she signed with rock star agent Bree Ogden. I've watch her journey curiously through social media and my journalistic instincts for the better of me and I convinced her to share her story with us.

Sharon: So Kate, tell us a bit about your journey that lead you to where you are now.

Kate: I've always been an avid reader and writer in my personal life. Through very difficult times while growing up and as an adult, writing was always what I turned to for release. Writing was for me while other forms of expression and storytelling I did outwardly such as painting, photography and theater. After college (Columbia College in Chicago) I gravitated to editing and writing for magazines and blogs, then a few years later when on to grad school for Journalism at Columbia University in NYC. After school I ended up in advertising as a way to make due and went back to my theater (specifically comedy) roots as a form of creative expression... I fell into it while working my way through The Artist's Way. I got really involved in the improv comedy scene in NYC.

In 2008 I got really sick and was hospitalized. After being released I didn't have the same energy as before and living in NYC was difficult (and depressing) because I couldn't physically be involved in anything beyond just going to work and going home. I was on medical leave for awhile, but even walking down the street was difficult... so I turned to writing again, but journals even got old. I started playing around writing scenes about my two nieces, putting them in fictional scenarios. The experience turned a light on for me. I started to apply storytelling and discovery techniques I had learned in improv performance to writing and suddenly a novel was being born in 2009. After edits and rewrites I started to research the query process for agents and landed myself the wonderful and amazing Bree Ogden at Martin Literary Management. She educated me on the industry and became an amazing friend as well. But in early 2011 I was starting to learn enough about the current state of traditional publishing to realize I wouldn't ever really be happy in that process. After much thought and discussion with Bree, I asked her to withdraw Burden of the Soul from submission to publishers and I started the process of founding A Bit of Grace LLC, a boutique publisher in its very early stages.

Kate's debut novel
is out now
Sharon: Your debut novel 'Burden of the Soul' is out now. Tell us a bit about the story and how you came up with the concept?

Kate: The story follows 17-year-old Clara, a completely average teen on all accounts, coming to terms with her role in a battle of Good vs. Evil. She's half of the oldest soul caught in the middle of a transcendental war being played out in our physical world. She loses family, she loses her touch on reality and through this battles with love, loss, and the truth that the potential for Good and Evil exists in every person, in equal measures. She starts to doubt herself and those around her while learning about all the diverse facets of love and the desperate measures it can sometimes drive us to, because even love has its dark side. It's a difficult and conflicted journey she's on, torn between a great love and the other half of her soul being used as a weapon against her.

It's difficult to say where the concept came from exactly. When I started writing Burden of the Soul I didn't know where it was going. I've read a number of quotes from authors about their main characters, that if they had known what their main character had in mind at the start they probably wouldn't have started writing. I feel that way a bit about Clara, particularly now knowing more about where her journey is going. I applied the same methods taught in improvisational theater to the writing process... honesty and trust, letting go and allowing your subconscious to take over. In so doing I feel like Clara and a number of other characters took over to tell their story. Looking back now after some distance from that #amwriting mental space I can see how parts of myself came out. Different memories such as the darkroom scene. Different dreams I've had while growing up including the stone room, a place my dreams took me during difficult times growing up. In a way now, I see a lot of myself in Clara and Aunt Grace. As if the teen I was is somehow reconciling itself or communicating with the adult I'm becoming every day.

It's a fascinating thing when you let go and just allow your subconscious to take over.

Sharon: You did something a lot of writers would find unbelievable, you were signed by an awesome agent, but parted ways while your novel was under submission. Share with us what lead you to that hard decision?

Kate: It was a hard decision. One of the most difficult I've ever had to make for one simple reason – Bree Ogden is the most amazing literary agent and advocate any writer could dream of having. She wasn't just an agent... I call her the Wonder Woman of Artistic Expression. I have never witnessed someone work so hard and so passionately for others. However the more informed I became about traditional publishing the more I realized the dream I had of being "published" needed to be revised for the sake of what would actually make me happy and fulfilled. I work within the digital world at the day job and am fascinated and excited by the infinite sandbox it provides us to play in. Beyond that, I've never been only a writer. I've been an editor and artist and love the challenge of publishing. It took time, but I finally realized that if I was ever going to experience a balance that would make me truly happy, I would have to be involved in every aspect of Burden of the Soul.

That may be different for other works I have in progress, but for this series in particular it doesn't matter to me if it ever ends up on a bookstore shelf as long as it's out in the world. The decision was made all the more difficult because of how absolutely supportive Bree Ogden was and continues to be. She believes passionately in Burden of the Soul and its characters. Beyond that, she truly cared for my own happiness in a way that is rare, if not completely unheard of, in the world of business. Both she and Sharlene Martin respected my decision and have been a great support every step of the way.

Sharon: So people might class what you've done as self publishing, which is becoming a more and more acceptable trend, but tell us about A Bit of Grace and what you plan on doing in the future with the company?

In one respect it can be considered self publishing as I am the acting publisher of A Bit of Grace LLC, however more than anything it reflects the blossoming trend of boutique publishers popping up. You can see a number of examples of this including some literary agencies that are venturing into publishing works on their own. The growth of the digital plane within the literary arts has diversified the market in a wondrous way. On the road to being published and on submission to agents or publishers you will hear rejections based on the market, which is completely valid. An agent or editor may love your work, but may also know that it's not a good business investment for them working on the large scale they do based on what is happening in the market. They could also just not like it, but that's a whole other thing. The digital realm and boutique publishing has the flexibility to maneuver within the market in a way big publishers can't, just as big publishers have a strength you won't find in boutique publishers. It's just a matter of what will make you happy and what route your story calls for.

So we formed A Bit of Grace LLC, which is a boutique publisher in its VERY early stages. We've structured this in a way that involves the author more and creates the literary arts team (cover photo, cover design, marketing, etc.) around the work rather than fitting the work to the team. Beyond that, A Bit of Grace refers to the "angel's share," as we call it. A portion of the A Bit of Grace LLC earnings will always go straight to organizations working to better the lives of young adults through empowerment, opportunities and education. Burden of the Soul, book 1, specifically benefits Alternatives for Girls, a homeless shelter for female teens in Detroit. it's an organization close to my heart that absolutely stuns me. They demonstrate the amazing potential that can be found in each young woman no matter the hurdles she has to climb. They empower and work in prevention and outreach for young women, helping them to find the strength they had in them all along.

Read Part II of the interview on my personal blog, including what will be happening with submissions.

You can find Burden of the Soul for sale online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iTunes. You can find Kate on Twitter, Goodreads, A Bit of Grace Blog and Facebook.