Friday, July 31, 2009

the teen scene: hot, new, and introducing…

Earlier this week, the newest YA imprint on the block launched its debut title. After much anticipation, My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent was released from Harlequin Teen. Yes, that’s right. I said Harlequin. But hold on just a second. Maybe you’re thinking…. bodice ripper? Fabio? Swooning lovers? This is the part where I tell you how so very wrong of a perception that is when it comes to this new, exciting imprint from quite possibly one of the best-selling publishers in the world. Yes, the world.

You see, Harlequin has always had its finger on the pulse of what’s new, what’s hot, and what readers want. Through chick lit highs there was Red Dress Ink. With the woman-as-hero influx came Bombshell. No matter the demand, Harlequin has consistently stepped up to bat to give their readers satisfaction. While it has been a long time in development – wanting to do things the right way – we all knew it was only a matter of time before this mega-publisher introduced a program featuring books for the YA market.

What is noteworthy is the crafty marketing behind the imprint. The team behind this new adventure decided to use the Harlequin brand to their advantage, while offering something new, young, and cutting edge that distinguishes it in a class of its own. If you go to the Harlequin website, you won’t see the Teen books splashed all over the main page. However, in targeting the appropriate audience, you will find a devoted website to the new imprint. Oh yes, they have done their research. In fact, an entire Teen Panel website is dedicated to the lengthy research conducted with readers aged 13 to 17. What better way to discover the types of stories teens want to read than by asking them directly?

With the mega-parent Harlequin brand backing them, the new Teen imprint aims to give young adults exactly what they want: a variety of stories about them and the various challenges young people go through and push to overcome. It’s about the kinds of characters teens and tweens can relate to. That doesn’t exclude adults from enjoying the scope of titles coming soon to a bookshelf near you. In fact, as editor Natashya Wilson has discussed all week in her Harlequin Teen blog tour, the authors and stories will likely appeal to a much wider audience than your niece, nephew, and babysitter. Adults are eating up the YA market, too, which is no surprise when you consider the quality of character development, story arcs, and author voices houses like Harlequin are seeking.

Where Harlequin Teen is super smart, is in recognizing a good thing and making it better. Yes, paranormal and fantasy are both hot right now and thus we are introduced to the titles My Soul to Take, Intertwined, and Elphame’s Choice. However, not everyone on the planet (although it may seem so at times) is as addicted to these hot genres as others may be. Which is why Harlequin Teen is keeping their catalog open to offering a variety of genres and styles. The blog tour stop at YA Book Nerd is an exceptional preview for those who want to discover exactly the variety I am talking about. Editor Natashya Wilson shared the many exciting titles coming out over the next year, including a re-issue of Carrie Pilby (quite possibly one of the most moving and funny books I have read, ever) by Caren Lissner, Tagged by Mara Purnhagen, and The Oracle of Dating by Allison van Diepen. Teen readers can also look forward to books based on the ABC Family series GREEK! With a line-up of such diversity, you can see why I think Harlequin Teen is onto something good here.

In writing, and especially in teen fiction, it’s impossible to keep up with the trends. By the time a writer realizes a trend is hot, hot, hot… the trend is already on the downswing. Considering the diversity of the scheduled titles Harlequin Teen is touting for the next year – and beyond – the one thing they are guaranteeing is variety. Whatever those teens in the research panel said must have taken hold with the editorial team behind Harlequin Teen, because we – the readers and the writers – are in for some surprises, bodice-rippers not included. But that’s exactly the kind of fiction-forward thinking that is behind the scenes at this new imprint.

So what about you, dear reader? Are you a fan of Gena Showalter and can’t wait to devour Intertwined? Have you already consumed Rachel Vincent’s My Soul to Take? Are you like me and eager to get your hands on Tagged? Share your thoughts here and be sure to bookmark the Harlequin Teen website and share it with your younger friends. Also, I highly recommend following Harlequin Teen on twitter so you can catch links to the rest of Natashya Wilson’s blog tour.

One last question: if you were a trend-setting YA author (and maybe you are) what are the kinds of stories you hope to see Harlequin Teen publish?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Q&A with author Megan Crane

It’s Q&A day here at the blog and I’m excited to introduce today’s special guest. Megan Crane is an author, instructor, Broadway-dreamer, and soon-to-be covert romance novelist. When it comes down to it, Megan is a hard-working writer who creates real drama with slices of humor and wit, but isn't afraid to ask a tough question or two in her character development. Today she’s answering a few not-so-tough questions, so please join me in welcoming author Megan Crane.

Hi Megan. Can you tell us about Names My Sisters Call Me?
Sure! It's about sisters, and true love, and first love, and how to understand all three--if you can.

Okay. But what’s it really about?
I think it's really about growing up. It's about shedding the skin you were given and choosing the skin you live in. We all play certain roles in our families, our social groups. But are those roles who we are? Did we choose them? Or were they something we inherited without stopping to examine what they might mean?

Tell us about the MySpace profiles you created for your characters.
My publisher actually did this. Aren't they fun? There's even a Facebook quiz you can take to see which of the three sisters you're most like.

How has social media and technology changed the way you connect with readers?
I don't know that these things have changed the way I connect with readers, because my first book came out in 2004 so I feel as if the web or email was always the main way I communicate with readers. But certainly Myspace (back in the day), Facebook, and now Twitter offer a whole lot more ways to connect and interact. It's a lot of fun.

Tell us a bit about your journey as an author.
Long Day's Journey Into Night? I'm just kidding. I'm on another tight deadline at the moment, which makes everything seem a little nutty. I think the most important thing I can say about my journey--or anyone's journey--is to try to remember not to judge it while you're doing it, and part of that is not comparing yourself to others. Only you can write your book. No one else can.

Have you been able to use your experience to teach others?
I like to think so, but you'd have to ask my students! I teach online classes at mediabistro and real life classes at UCLA Extension.

What advice do you have for writers starting out?
Finish the book. Always finish the book. Then worry about the market and everything else--none of which matters until you finish the book. Because nothing teaches you more about writing novels than writing novels.

Is it true you have multiple personalities? What I mean is, what other names do you write under and why?
I started off as Gemini, so the multiple personalities have always been a foregone conclusion. But yes, in addition to the teen books I ghostwrite under various names, I recently became Caitlin Crews. Caitlin is the author of highly emotionally charged romances, which you should start to see next year from Harlequin Presents. And I decided to write under a different name because... why not? Can a feather boa be far behind?

Some have said chick lit is so last year. Others say it’s always going to be around. What are your thoughts?
Apparently the term is like saying Voldemort out loud in a Harry Potter book. I don't think women are tired of reading women's stories just yet. So perhaps some of the conventions will change in the telling of those stories, but I don't think the stories are going anywhere.

What are some of the challenges in writing for more than one audience?
I don't know that it's challenging so much as fun. It's certainly never boring! And all the books are very different, so it always feels new and exciting.

What else can readers expect from you in the near future?
My first Harlequin, Pure Princess, Bartered Bride is coming out in February 2010. In the UK, Names My Sisters Call Me just came out this spring, and I believe Everyone Else's Girl should be out in the spring of 2010. And I have a few more things I can't talk about just yet, that I hope I'll be able to share soon.

How can readers learn more about you and your books?
Everyone should check out my website: From there you can find my journal and all my other online destinations--including Twitter where I waste far too much time.

Thanks, Megan! I appreciate you taking the time to talk about your latest news and upcoming releases.
Thanks so much for having me!


Be sure to visit Megan’s website where she has an active journal, links about Caitlin Crews and to other websites where Megan shares news and events related to her writing.

If you’re enjoying the author Q&A series, you’ll love the month of August. As I’ll be attending lots of events and completing a deadline or two, I have invited an extra batch of writers to participate on the blog, through additional interviews and also a few special guest posts. September will return us to our usual schedule of weekly Q&As, but I couldn’t think of a better way to fill August’s blog schedule than to entertain you with hot authors, new releases and special features.

Until next time, happy reading!

Monday, July 27, 2009

I See Dead People’s Books

There is an interesting (and slightly morbid) project going on at “I See Dead People’s Books” gives readers a chance to virtually peruse the bookshelves of authors who have passed on and left a legacy for us to snoop around their homes and offices. Other famous individuals such as JFK are included for those who cannot limit themselves to scoping out the dusty shelves of novelists and poets.

Why would anyone want to know what stories entertained C.S. Lewis or what George Washington read before bed each night? Because it’s entertaining, educational, and brings us one step closer to recognizing these folks as plain old, regular people. People like you and me who share(d) a love of words and stories.

The project includes both a ‘completed’ catalogue for those libraries considered fully researched and a ‘libraries-in-progress’ section for those whose inventory is still being investigated. Participation is welcome in the discussion boards and there’s an open invitation to submit corrections, facts, and interesting tidbits.

There’s also a nifty feature on the side panel of each author page that lists “books you share” with the legend you are snooping. It cross-references the books listed in the notable person’s library with your own (if you’ve created a list on So, while it’s interesting to notice the books F. Scott Fitzgerald enjoyed, it’s also fun to observe that he and I evidently share no books in common. I do, however, appear to share some tastes with Hemingway, who we learn had copies of Steinbeck’s East of Eden, Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, and Salinger’s Nine Stories. And while I share Crime and Punishment in common with Joyce, I will admit… I have not yet actually read it. I’m sure Joyce did. Or at least pretended he did.

Since this project includes shelves from other notable historical figures, it’s fun to see that perhaps I have more reading tastes in common with Marilyn Monroe. Her collection included Kerouac’s On The Road, Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, and – of course – A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams.

However, this project is not just about scanning book collections of those who have passed on or seeing what you may have in common. There are also autobiographical notes and other notes of interest to observe. Such is the case with Sylvia Plath, where a reader can learn about the author’s life and publications, burial location and estate management, and lists places where the author’s actual personal library has been distributed for public viewing.

This is a great procrastination/time-waster for bookworms and fans of the literati. It’s also a challenge; for those living literary types who like to populate their bookshelves with books that make them look smart (come on, we all know one person like that!), this could create a whole new level of paranoia.

In the end, though, you can’t help but ask yourself: what will your bookshelf look like when you’re gone? What impression will it leave? Will it be an intellectual library like Washington’s? Or will it be a mishmash of genres and interests like George Orwell’s?

Friday, July 24, 2009

books & films: do you genre hop for fun?

Earlier today, Dear Spouse and I were strategizing our line-up for Netflix. We’ve just finished watching Frost/Nixon and The International, with Blindness up on deck, so he suggested we get something lighter next time. I moved Confessions of a Shopaholic to the top of the queue. Both of us have the same habit when it comes to movies and books: we genre hop, leapfrog style.

As a writer, I don’t always have the leisure of switching genres. Yes, I write fiction and poetry, but within those areas my work lines up in similar manners. Regardless of if I am writing for adults or the YA audience, my style is still my style; in poetry, my voice is always my voice. While I never want to be predictable, I don’t stray too far from my roots.

When it comes to reading books and watching movies, however, my tastes vary widely and I enjoy going from one extreme to the next. My husband does this in reading, mostly because he reads about 50-60 books a year. Maybe he’ll read two crime thrillers in a row, but he’ll make a point of picking a satire the next time and then a light drama after that. He does this to ‘keep the genres fresh’ and to not mix up characters or plots, but also to keep from being bored.

I do the same thing with what I read. I’ll go from reading a small press poetry book to a best-selling household name drama to an easy breezy summer read. It allows for the unexpected, keeps things interesting, and usually provides enough variety for my writing brain that when I get back to working on my own material, I feel refreshed.

Of course, there are some who prefer the tried-and-true, whatever that may mean to them. I have heard readers say they only read sci-fi. Or they only read thrillers. Then there are folks who only watch comedies or dramas or spy flicks. We all have our preferences, but I find it interesting when I hear about someone “only” being interested in one finely defined genre. I think there are so many great stories out there – in print and in film – that I would be afraid of missing something if I limited myself from such pleasures.

Yes, in writing I keep to a certain realm within my chosen genres that work with my style and voice, but as an audience member or reader? I want to enjoy it all. And by letting each of them take turns – now a mystery, then a family drama, next a silly comedy – I appreciate each one for its own style and open myself to discovering something new.

What about you? Do you read only certain genres of books? Do you narrow down your movie options to one or two categories? Or do you watch all kinds of films and read books from all areas of the bookstore? If you’re a writer, how does enjoying genres different from your own enhance your own creativity?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

help wanted: social media experiences

This fall, I’ll be presenting at a number of conferences on the topic of social media. Specifically, I will be chatting about the many ways social networking sites (eg. twitter, facebook, shewrites) benefit writers.

As I would like to share real examples of how writers can benefit from interacting with others online, I am asking you to share your experiences with me. Whether you want to keep the names between you and me, or you’re not concerned about anonymity is up to you. I’ll only disclose with workshop attendees what you agree to share.

Moving past the obvious benefits of public profiles, making friends, and using RSS feeds, I am hoping to discover tangible experiences of writers of all stages and all genres. Some of the stories I would love to hear about include the following suggestions:
  • An author develops a working relationship with a freelance editor
  • A publisher discovers and recruits a new voice for their magazine, newspaper, or anthology
  • An author is discovered and contacted by an editor, agent, or other paying market
  • A collaboration is developed through a relationship initiated online
  • A writer is offered an opportunity to speak at a conference or workshop
  • An author’s work published online is acquired by another media outlet/publisher
  • A really interesting friendship is developed that may not have otherwise emerged if it weren’t for social networking
  • Evidence of sales increase or readership linked to specific online activity
  • Your blog caught the attention of an editor, agent, publicist, etc
  • Any number of other positive working relationships and benefits that came about because of using twitter, facebook, myspace, goodreads, shewrites, or any of the other sites

You know the experiences you’ve had. I’d love to hear your personal success stories about how social media has benefited you, improved your readership, or improved your sales/contracts, etc. I don’t need to know all the details, but I would love to be able to share with conference attendees some of the tangible experiences real working writers have benefited from as a result of creating an online presence.

To submit your experience, send an email to

Give as many details as you like, but be sure to let me know anything you want kept between us. As an example, you may have had an experience with a well-known author or a mega publishing house and no
t want to name them by name. That’s fine. You can still share the story without identifying all parties. So long as your story is yours, real, and something that truly benefited you, I want to hear about it. Also please feel free to mention your website and publications if you want me to share that info with workshop attendees, so they can learn more about you – if you want. I’m happy to send people your way, but only if you want to share your links and publications.

Thank you to all who submit an experience or two. If you’ve had the kind of experience I am talking about, you know how valuable social networking can be for an author. Thus, I thank you for allowing me to share such positive examples with others looking for a reason to create an online presence.

Remember to send your experiences to

Until tomorrow, happy reading!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Q&A with author Erica Orloff

As part of the weekly author Q&A series, I am proud to present the multi-published, multi-talented Erica Orloff. I have known Erica for years and am constantly amazed at her talent, creativity, and productivity. I think she’s published something like 20 books now? At any rate, she’s prolific and generous and a gem to chat with. She’s the author of Spanish Disco, The Roofer, Mafia Chic and more… please join me in welcoming author Erica Orloff.

Hi Erica. Can you tell us about Freudian Slip?
Well . . . it's a romantic comedy about angels and demons intervening in the lives of mortals. But it's very quirky. God is a woman, Albert Einstein is an angel . . . and the hero is a raunchy, porn-obsessed radio DJ; the heroine is a woman still grieving her father's death, who has just walked in on her boyfriend cheating on her. Hilarity (hopefully) ensues.

What are some of the difficulties in writing a comedy that deals with death?
I think it's tricky because people can obviously just have a strong initial reaction to the idea of a comedy about something traditionally darker. But right from the outset of this book, readers will know it's quirky and humorous.

How will fans find Freudian Slip different from your recent titles?
It's edgy but in a much quirkier, hopeful, sweet way. It's more of a real romance in that sense. But really? It's still my sense of humor and my characters.

Tell us a bit about your journey as an author.
You know, I started out in chick lit, which is SO tough to sell these days. But I also always wrote some darker fiction. I eventually, because I have four kids, also wanted to venture into YA and middle-grade fiction just to have my own kids share in the process. I think as a writer, I've grown . . . and I still love that I wake up and get to work in my pjs all day.

What have been some of the challenges in your career as a writer? How did you overcome these?
The challenges have at times been those things you never anticipate when you sell your first book. An editor leaving and your book being somewhat orphaned. Personnel changes at publishing houses . . . imprints closing. The market changing. And then recently, the recessionary blues. But . . . I try to keep my head down and keep on writing.

What advice do you have for writers starting out?
I firmly believe in writers' groups. Solid critique partners. That has worked very well for me. I've worked as a book editor myself, and over the years have been asked to read submissions here or there. What I saw VERY CLEARLY is a lot of people think "they're ready" to submit. And they're not. Really take time to learn craft. Network. And recently, I've been thinking a lot about developing your own voice. That's tricky advice, since voice can be elusive, but I also realize now when I don't care for a piece of fiction, it's a lot of times because it's just a "meh" to me. There's nothing absolutely unique about it.

How has social media and technology enabled you to connect with readers?
I've been amazed at how much more I hear from readers now on Facebook, for example, or my blogs. That's been a lot of fun. I think it's important--my editors do, too.

What’s up next for you? What can readers look forward to?
I have the next in my middle grade fantasy series, The Magickeepers, coming out next spring. I have a YA for Penguin coming out after that (called Star-crossed). I am just pulling together proposals for new ideas now.

How can readers learn more about you and your books?
My website is the best place: And for writers, the blog there is a pretty active place with writers offering advice, support, and discussing writing.

Thanks, Erica! I appreciate you taking the time to talk about Freudian Slip and your latest news.


If you enjoyed Erica’s comments, let her know. Leave you questions and comments here, or visit her at her blog.

Also, as a special feature during the month of August, I will have a number of authors posting guest blogs here. Erica happens to be one of them, scheduled for August 24th so mark down that date, as Erica Orloff will be giver her take on “how to be a writer.”

Since this is interview day, I wanted to send out some thanks to Lorna Suzuki who recently interviewed me on her blog at Authors Den. Lorna was very generous and had some great questions for me, so be sure to check it out. Thanks, Lorna!

Don’t forget – there’s a book giveaway coming up in September. I’ll be randomly selecting a name from the group of followers listed on the right, so if you haven’t clicked to follow yet, do it now to be entered for your chance to win a signed copy of one of my titles.

And while I usually post Mon, Weds, and Fri… I’ll be posting a special piece on Thursday, so please check back in to leave your comments for a special project I’m working on. Oooh, the mystery of it all.

Until tomorrow, happy reading!

Monday, July 20, 2009

revved up: racing past rejection

Last month, Dear Spouse took me to a local track as part of my birthday treat (he’s a ‘special’ kind of romantic, but at least he remembers the date). I’ll admit, I am not what most would consider a fan, but I don’t dislike it either. I’ll also admit that watching a race in person is a whole other experience compared to the televised snippets played in the background on a Sunday afternoon. In person, the adrenaline can’t help but spike.

Since I take my camera practically everywhere, of course I took photos of the races. Chance timing allowed me to capture this crash.

Why, though, would I possibly find it interesting to talk about a car race on a blog about writing?

It made me think about how writers can be hard on themselves. Prior to being published, an emerging author will get their hopes high, only to feel so low when a rejection comes back. There’s this constant up-down emotional ride that, honestly, doesn’t end once a publishing contract is signed. Since writers are always putting themselves out there, the ups and downs will always follow.

Then, the published writer can be particularly hard on him or herself, once the first contract is signed, as he or she wonders if a second contract will ever happen. She wonders if she’s a one-book-wonder or if readers hated the first book so much it doesn’t matter if a second book will come along since no one will read it anyway. Or, even if these self-doubts don’t come into play, a reviewer will doubt the writer on her behalf, or the editor will question why a contract was accepted, or… any number of imperfect things will happen.

With so many obstacles in the publishing world, with so many ups and downs, it’s a wonder any writer makes it through a day without giving up. Writers are terrible self-critics. Which brings me back to this car crash…

Is a racecar driver only successful when staying on course? Are crashes not inevitable? Are they not expected? Whether a local racer on a small course or a pro at the Indy 500, accidents happen. Drivers go off-course. So do writers.

Racecar drivers know accidents happen but they generally get back on course and finish what they started. So does a professional writer. Whether it’s ignoring a form rejection, or soaking in the advice of a personal rejection, it’s up to the writer to get back on course.

When it comes to writing as a career, an author must always keep the end goal in sight. We can’t let the little spinouts or literary fender-benders slow us down. There will always be downs, but with those come the ups that make it all worthwhile.

There’s no such thing as a perfect race when it comes to writing. The finish line always changes; there is always a new goal to reach. It’s not about coming in first. It’s about getting back on course when we stray off path and not letting a bump on the road completely derail us (oops, mixing metaphors!).

Like racers, a writer needs a good support team. Maybe that includes a spouse and some friends or maybe that includes a critique group or workshop retreat. Use your team to help keep you on track and guide you along your course.

Speaking of support, I was just asked to join this year’s Critique Mania, hosted by Whidbey Island Writers Association. For $25, emerging writers can submit a poem or three pages of prose to be personally critiqued by one of the many wonderful authors who have volunteered their time to support this fundraiser for Soundings Review, the Whidbey Island Writers Association magazine. Not only is this a great way to support a top-notch literary community, it’s also a fantastic way for an author to get detailed feedback on a work-in-progress. Details about the 2009 Critique Mania will be updated on the Whidbey website very soon, so I hope you’ll check it out.

Remember, a writer is not unlike a racecar driver. There are bound to be hits and misses and it’s inevitable that a crash will happen to even the most experienced writer. But by keeping focused, dismissing the negatives, and working with the positives, a writer can learn to tame the self-doubts and cross that finishing line each and every time.

What stumbling blocks have you had to overcome in your career? How have you moved past rejection and kept up your momentum? Please feel free to share your own experiences here. We’ve all been there and most of us will be there again. After all, it’s simply a part of being in the race. The important thing is, is that you’re still in it.

Friday, July 17, 2009

coffee: a writer’s best friend

Confession: I drink an embarrassing amount of coffee. I love its taste, aroma, and guaranteed ability to keep me going. There’s not a moment of my life I remember not loving coffee. The thing is, though, I am also a writer. A writer who has recently been working pretty much around the clock and putting sleep way at the bottom of my to-do list. Don’t worry; it’s a phase. History shows I will go through this sleepless storm of writing and editing and marketing and all-crazy-caffeinated-things for a stretch of time and then ‘normal’ life will somehow get back on schedule. Rinse, repeat.

The other day, though, my husband commented on the cycle of coffees I go through when I am in this marathon-like stretch of productivity. In fact, it was he who suggested I blog about it, so thank you Dear Spouse. What he was commenting on was the transition I make with the various beans and blends, depending on what type of work I am doing, for how long, and to what extent I am beginning to show signs of burn-out-syndrome. Perhaps those of you who are self-proclaimed coffee addicts can relate.

Topping off my list of favorites is Kicking Horse Coffee. This little Canadian-company-that-could grew out of the Rockies, addicting innocents like me with their Fair Trade goodness. My two favorites are 454 Horsepower (for those moments when I need a serious gear-shift) and Kick Ass, for when I need a kick in the… well, you get the idea. Both are wonderful dark roasts, possibly too dark for most people I know, but ohhhh so delicious and wonderful.

Now that I am no longer on Canadian soil, it’s not as easy to pick up the black-bagged beans. Plus, economy rules, so usually when I make my ultra-cool trip to Costco (come on, work with me… it’s cool to go to Costco, right?), I grab a 2.5-pound bag of Starbucks French Roast. I am an equal fan of the Italian Roast, only Costco doesn’t carry it in its usual army size option. If I’m really pinching Costco pennies, I’ll even pick up the adequate alternative of Starbucks House Blend packaged as a Kirkland Signature product. Hey, it’s a rough economy. Sometimes we need to make compromises.

Ahh, but you caught me. House Blend and French Roast are on entirely different sides of the roast chart, you say. You are correct. But this is exactly what Dear Spouse was referring to. Yes, I prefer – by far – a super dark roast. But, as I drink… oh… about 15-20 cups of coffee in a 20-hour period (don’t judge!), I concede it is not always the best choice to only consume dark, dark coffee.

Thus, here’s my ritual. In the morning, when I wake up, I enjoy a couple of cups of premium dark roasted coffee. Yum! But, for the majority of the day that follows, I defer to a smoother, milder brew. Yes, that generally increases the caffeine intake, but it also allows me to enjoy the next dozen or so cups of coffee without entirely losing my tastebuds. Perhaps in the late night, I will relax with another dark roast, but throughout the day I have found that variety in beans keeps me fresh. It also keeps the coffee tasting fresh. Each new pot is like that first cup in the morning.

So, what grounds me during my hectic day? Ha. Get it? Grounds? Okay… that was a lame one, I’m sorry.

While in Canada, my choice coffee for the big stretch of the day was President’s Choice West Coast Dark Roast. Yes, I know, it’s a dark roast (technically), but it also has a very smooth bodied taste (in my opinion). Now that I am on US soil, I have fallen in love with Trader Joe’s Smooth & Mellow Blend. This is a very smoooooth cup of coffee, sold in whole bean (just the way I like it), offering a perfect balance of taste, aroma, and addictive elements.

I am also a big fan of picking up locally roasted beans. Usually when perusing a farmers market or passing through a quaint little town while on vacation, I will come across a local roasting company or a mom-and-pop kind of establishment. This is such a great way to discover coffee and add to the pantry.

One of the bag of beans I recently picked up was a French Roast from The Righteous Bean, a Fair Trade coffee company. They have distribution throughout 30 states, but I happened upon it at a little local market. I was very pleased and will definitely buy this delicious bean again.

Another favorite of mine, when I lived in Canada, was a London, Ontario based company called Las Chicas del Cafe, otherwise known as "the coffee chicks." They make a really, really great Dark/Continental Roast that I swear I will stock up on when I pass by there again someday.

As a writer, it’s important to have a complete tool-box to keep me going: Notes on my current projects, a cooperative computer, sticky note reminders, workshops and local events to keep me motivated, online groups to meet new people, and… a well-stocked pantry of various coffee beans. It’s a staple. It’s just as important (no, more so!) as giving myself time and space to think about character development or plotting. I have never had coffee block. Coffee has never rejected me. And coffee always gives me four-star reviews. Now, what writer can do without all that?

So, dear reader, whether you write books or simply enjoy reading them, what’s your favorite coffee (and where can I get it)? Do you have marathon sessions at work or in writing that you turn to coffee for moral support? If you don’t drink coffee, what’s your secret? Go on... spill the beans!

I’d love to continue this discussion, but I’m afraid I have to go make a fresh pot of…

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

interview with author Zoe Winters

As we continue our weekly author Q&A series, I hope you will join me in welcoming today’s guest. Zoe Winters has done what some may consider a risky venture: she’s giving away her first book for free. Yes, free. As a market-savvy writer, however, it’s all a part of her strategy to get readers hooked. Why? Zoe writes paranormal romance that she hopes reaches out and pulls you in, enough so that you’ll stay tuned for the next two installments of her series. But I’ll let her tell you all about her writing...

Hi Zoe. Can you tell us about Kept?
Hey Lori, sure! Kept is a paranormal romance novella about a werecat named Greta who finds out that she was born in her fur instead of in human form. What this means is that she's significantly more magically powerful. And there used to be a ritual to the gods where someone like this was marked for sacrifice on their 28th birth moon (full moon closest to their birthday). The tribe leader plans to sacrifice her and her mother gives her the name and address of a sorcerer named Dayne Wickham who is probably the only person in the city strong enough to protect her.

She can't just leave the city because the city of Cary Town is in the beginning stages of a police state. They have preternatural border patrols which keep preternatural beings like vampires and various shapeshifters from crossing the borders without permission.

Dayne has an unsavory history where he once massacred most of her tribe about thirty years prior (magic users in my verse age very, very slowly), so there is a lot of anxiety about going to him for help. To complicate matters the tribe betrayed him, and so he has to get over his fear that Greta is part 2 of a trap once set by the tribe. There is another complication, but I don't want to give that one away. Gotta read to find out.

What drew you in to writing paranormal romance?
I'd tried writing in several different genres over the years. Children's fantasy, mystery, thriller/action, and nothing really clicked for me. I discovered Buffy The Vampire Slayer (the TV show, not the movie), about a year after it had gone off the air, and I just fell in love. So much so that I started reading fanfic. I'd wanted Spike and Buffy to get together, and here was a fandom where people made this happen. Eventually I got to the point where I wanted to read something "kind of like it" but with different characters. I discovered paranormal romance from there, fell in love with it, and found it clicked with me writing-wise as well.

As Kept is the first in a sequel, can you tell us a bit more about what’s to come?
Yes, Kept is the first in a series. In fact, at this point I'm planning on writing everything in this one 'verse. Where each story (first three are novellas, after that will likely be strictly novels) is a self-contained romance, with a larger background story arc going on where everything sort of connects. I'm currently in edits for the other two novellas in the first print release, to be published with Kept. The second is called Claimed and the third is Mated. They're very thematically similar. Alpha males and situations where the hero and heroine get thrown into a very close living proximity. Claimed is a vampire story involving two minor characters from Kept, and Mated explores a romance between a girl we meet in Claimed who can "sense vampires," and a werewolf.

Then the first full-length novel involves an incubus. So what I'm really doing is introducing some of the different species that inhabit this larger world, so people can slowly start to get a sense of what's what and how it all interconnects while each is a fully contained romance. A hero in one book may be perceived as the villain in another, and vice versa, because so much is based on perspective.

What are some of the challenges you face in writing novella length fiction?
Length. That's the major problem. You can really only follow one story arc. You can't go chasing after secondary characters and so people feel like they aren't getting the full story. I normally write pretty tight anyway, not a lot of sprawling description or anything that slows the story down, but considering the world I'm wanting to write, novellas make it tough. So these first three stories are kind of like little windows or doorways into what I'm creating here, and hopefully it'll give readers enough of a taste that they'll want to follow me as I develop the world further in future full-length novels.

You have an incredible amount of reviews on your website. Tell us about your marketing and promotion strategies as an author.
You know a lot of it has happened really organically. I don't market nearly as much or as well as I should, which is something I intend to change when I release the first print release. (Hopefully late this fall, but that's only tentative.) I had a blog and had built up a little bit of a readership there. Then I made Kept available for free in several different venues and on Kindle for $1 (reduced by Amazon to 80 cents.) The pricing strategy of "free/almost free" I think has helped a lot since Kept so far has only been available in e-formats. It's been a bit of a test-marketing attempt.

What made you decide to give away Kept for free?
Ack, getting ahead of you there. Test marketing mainly. It's an issue of money is really the last thing a completely unknown writer needs to worry about. What you should worry about instead is obscurity and how you'll build reader trust. Well you can't build it by charging $14 or more for a trade paperback when no one has heard of you. And you can swear up and down that most of your Amazon reviews are not friends and family, but strangers who met you through your work (which is true for me), but... people are still wary. They don't really know that's the truth, and if they don't know someone personally who can recommend your work to them, or you aren't a name, they have no reason to trust that you can deliver a story that they'll enjoy.

So by giving away some work free, you can start to build that trust and platform/fan base. I haven't decided 100% yet, but my pricing strategy for the novella trilogy right now looks like it's going to be: free PDF, Kindle version $1.89, Print release around $14-$15. Probably this will be the last totally free thing as far as an e-format available. This is the entry point to the series for people who want to read it in order, they can read the first thing free if they like, and then future work will give about a 3-5 chapter sample. Or however long until we get to such a strong cliffhanger you just have to buy. *Insert evil laughter here.*

Tell us about your current work-in-progress/upcoming projects.
Right now like I said a bit earlier, I'm in edits for the first print release which will combine Kept with two other novellas in the series. I've got a fabulous cover artist that I'm very excited about working with. I've also got the first full-length novel completed except for edits, which will come out after that. But probably not for a year after this release, I want to really make sure my edits/rewrite is strong, because I believe it's a strong novel and don't want to rush releases and risk putting out less than what I can do.

Tell us a bit about your journey as an author.
I started writing around junior high or a little earlier. I wrote some short stories, but even then I mainly focused on trying to write novels. Took me awhile to get there, but I've written 6 novels now (most of them I won't be publishing... they were practice novels I don't think are publishable.) For a long time I considered self-publishing but I shied away from it because there is just so much stigma surrounding that choice. But I'd bought hundreds of dollars worth of books on the topic so I finally just decided to plunge in. I made friends with several wonderful indie authors who helped give me the courage to take that step myself. It's really important to me to maintain creative control and do my own thing for a while without a larger publisher's influence.

So many people want to denigrate self-published work as trash, and a lot of it is, but that's not the full story. There are many indie authors who consider creating their work from start to finish and having control of the full process to be an important creative choice. And publishing your own work doesn't necessarily mean putting out an inferior book. Cover art and editing are available on the free market. I think interior layout is a learnable skill and I did the interior of Kept. (Also did the cover for that one but I acknowledge it's not up to the professional level my cover art for the print release will be because I'm not a cover artist.) It's an author's choice how much they put into the work. And each indie really needs to be judged on the merit of their own work, which is why freebies are so important. NY didn't "vet" me, so I understand a reader needs to feel confident that my work is worth their money.

As a reader, what are some of your favorite books?
I'm a big fan of the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris. I remember reading the first couple of books thinking "This would be great on TV" and now it is. I really enjoy Kresley Cole's work; "A Hunger Like No Other" is one of my favorites by her. Another favorite is a book called: "Nice" by Jen Saks (I think that's how you spell her name), it's about this woman who it's hard for her to break up with men cause she doesn't want to hurt their feelings so she kills them instead. Then she meets up with a contract killer. It's a satire, but it really makes some interesting statements and I love it. It's not a well-known book, but it should be.

What advice do you have for writers starting out?
Well I'm still "starting out" but I'll say read everything you can both in the genre you want to write, and about the business of publishing itself, and figure out what's right for you. The publishing world is changing significantly and I think it's getting even harder and more competitive, so go with your gut. But remember there isn't a lot of money out there for most fiction authors, so if you're doing it for love, there is a way to connect with an audience with or without someone else's permission (i.e. a contract.) And hopefully if you cultivate the fans, the money will follow. I really believe in the "1,000 true fans" model.

How has social media and technology changed the way you connect with readers?
I think social media is tricky because you never really know what's going to annoy someone. It's difficult because on the one hand you want to connect with people, and on the other hand, it's hard to know where the lines are socially. And I think it's something we're still figuring out. But it's definitely important because it makes you accessible, and that accessibility makes it possible to form a grassroots marketing effort and cultivate "true fans."

How can readers learn more about you and your books?
They can right now go to my blog at: It's a temporary website right now and there is a link for the free download of Kept at the top. If they have a Kindle and would like the Kindle version they can of course find me on Amazon. I hope to have my full official site up by the print release date, and it will be at: (right now that redirects to the blog).

Thanks, Zoe! I appreciate you taking the time to talk about your latest news.
Thanks for having me!

If you have any questions for Zoe, please post them below. Of course, you can also visit Zoe at her website where you’ll also be able to download a free copy of Kept.

I’m really enjoying the author Q&A series and I hope you are too. You can always feel free to post comments and questions for the guest authors, as they all love to hear from readers. So don’t be shy. And if you have a specific genre you love or an author you’d like to see featured here, leave a comment below or send me an email with your suggestions.

Next up is the phenomenal author Erica Orloff who has written far too many books to list. So check back for Erica’s Q&A next week!

Until next time, happy reading…

Monday, July 13, 2009

tweet me right

It wasn’t that long ago I started using twitter. In my experience thus far, I have to say – it’s brilliant. Since I have learned a few key ways for making the most out of twitter, I thought I’d share some of my experience with you. Perhaps you’ll see why this social media can be an excellent tool for writers and readers, when used strategically.

Many want to know if it’s possible to make genuine connections and not just succumb to talking about what you ate for lunch. Then there’s the big concern…

When you first join your main concern is whether or not anyone is going to give a crap about what you have to say. What I quickly learned, however, is that it's not what you have to say about yourself, but what you say about others. Think in "pay it forward" style and you'll tweet successfully. It's been said that the only time someone cares about what you have to say is when you're saying something about them. I believe that, especially on twitter.

In my modest experience of sending and receiving tweets, I have observed the most successful posts tend to relate to others and what other news is happening in the land of publishing. Think about it. I consider myself an emerging/somewhat-established author with a humble list of publication credits to my name. Does anyone really need to receive a constant update about today's word count or the fact that my cat just furballed all over my rough draft? Not really.

What people do care about though is gossip. And I don't mean negative gossip (although we have recently seen a demonstration or two of how negative comments can multiply tweets by the nanosecond); I mean useful information. Like what? How about the announcement of an editor moving from one house to another. Or the release of a hot new book release. Then there's the promo for an upcoming author appearance. Being in the book biz, these are things I like to hear about. Plus, the amount of books publishers give away on twitter astonishes me. I’d say I see a giveaway just about every day. Who doesn’t like free books?

What I’ve discovered twitter is most useful for is keeping up with breaking news, hearing about to-the-minute contests and calls for submissions, and finding links to authors and editors I would perhaps not otherwise have connected with. Rather than searching around the Internet when I'm looking for something new and exciting, the exciting news comes to me.

Of course, you ask, how do you receive all this great news? You add yourself as a follower to other people's tweets. But, whoa, slow down. You don't want to follow everyone, do you? Just think of how your email inbox looks on the worst of days. Do you really want to wake up to 2,897 tweets? Not likely. So the trick is to be selective. Follow only those you actually want to hear updates from. You can still read any tweets you want without actually following them. But here's the kicker: When you do see something really cool, something worth sharing... share it!

Retweet the best of the best. By sending an RT@ post, you are not only sharing something others may appreciate, you will likely receive twitter love in return. Someone else is no doubt going to tweet you back or, ideally, become one of your followers. From this method, your own list of followers will grow.

Why do I think that’s so important? Because when you finally do want to share your own fabulous writing news (like the sale of a book, landing an agent, reaching the bestseller list), you will have long ago built up an audience who will all hopefully retweet til their heart's content. And thus the cycle will feed into itself. Doesn't that sound great? To have an audience eager to hear about what you're doing? Then you can tell them all about what you had for lunch!

If I can offer one final bit of wisdom I think we all know, but sometimes forget, it's this: Posting comments online is an open invitation into your world. Meaning, think before you tweet. Just as you wouldn't slam someone in person (I am assuming this much), it's not a great idea for a writer to moan about someone on twitter, or any social medium for that matter. These posts are indefinite and will possibly last longer than your career. Remember that. If you don't want a potential agent, editor, or employer seeing your nasty comments all over the net, back away from the keyboard before it's too late. After all, this is your career we're talking about.

Have I become a twitter master? No. I'm still figuring it out as I go. However, I have learned some of the ins and outs of using this social medium to my advantage. Treat twitter like a controlled substance and it can be one of your best promotional tools. Just remember to use it wisely, with forethought, and with a “pay it forward” mentality. And remember, friends don't let friends drink and twitter.

For writers interested in following people in the biz, High Spot compiled a great list of agents, editors, publishes, and more. Find it here. Tip: You don't need to follow each one that interests you, but you can 'bookmark' their tweets and read them when you have time.

Tip: If you are a reader looking to see what your favorite author is doing in between edits, type his or her name into the search field.

Also, Guy LeCharles Gonzalez recently wrote how writers can use twitter to start building the all-important platform. There’s great tips and discussion there, so check it out.

Agent Rachelle Gardner also has a lively discussion about social networking on her blog and you can see it here, but be sure to also visit this blog post about why Rachelle suggests unpublished authors should focus more time on writing than on social networking.

By the way, the twitter buttons used in this post can be found at They have a great selection.

If you use twitter, don’t forget to visit me here. If you have any great twitter experiences, share them here!

Friday, July 10, 2009

an intro to literary agents

One of an author’s greatest quests during his or her lifetime is finding an agent. But it’s not just about finding an agent to represent your work. It’s about finding an agent who will be your champion, who will not only pitch your work to editors but also talk you up to anyone who will listen. Most importantly an agent can, and should, be an asset to understanding the market better. A good agent will represent your work; a great agent will know where your book will fit best in the land of publishing and help you find a place for it.

Of course, before this wonderful agent of yours can do all these things for you, you need to find one first, right? Some say it’s harder to find an agent than it is to find an editor. There is some truth to this in that an agent must be extremely selective in the clients they take on. One agent can only represent so many clients in a 100% capacity, so it’s in their best interest to really pick and choose. Since each and every author wants an agent who will consider them their number one client (while recognizing they have other authors they feel the same way about, of course), it’s understandable to know that numbers are a big part of the game. It wouldn’t do anyone any good to be underrepresented by an agent. Still, the search for that champion can be daunting.

So, how does one go about finding an agent? What do you send them? How will you know if you will make a good team? And do you really need an agent?

Let’s start with the easy one: How to know if you need an agent. The majority of publishing houses really do prefer to receive submissions through an agent. Unless you have already established a relationship with an editor – either through previous publications or one-on-one sessions at a conference, for example – it’s tough to get an editor’s attention. Assuming you are an emerging author with no prior book publications, you will want to verify with your ideal publisher’s guidelines whether or not they accept unagented submissions.

While the vast majority will not accept ‘slush pile’ submissions, some will at least consider a query. Read the website info for the publishing house you want to submit your work to, and you’ll get an idea of what’s acceptable and what’s not. Of course, if you write in a genre, like romantic suspense or fantasy, you have a better chance of being able to submit on your own. Some publishers allow for at least a query letter, if not a partial. Each publisher has specific guidelines you are advised to research. That way, you’ll know that Avon accepts email queries, Silhouette Nocturne welcomes a query, synopsis, and a three chapter partial through regular mail, and that Samhaim will accept either a partial or a full submission through email only.

Now, if you happen to write mainstream or literary fiction, non-fiction, or in another area that generally requires an agent, you need to focus some energy on finding an agent if you want the best chance of success in seeing your book published.

Which brings us to our next question: How to find an agent. While there are countless market books out there, like the 2009 Guide to Literary Agents, and agent search listings such as Preditors & Editors, you will do a great service to yourself and to your writing career by trying to get more personal.

What I mean by that is, you’ll have a much more effective agent search if you target those agents that a) represent the kind of work you write b) have a history of selling the kind of work you write and c) are, in fact, open to receiving queries. In addition, you will also want to get a feel of an agent’s personality to determine if you think the two of you will be a good team. But how do you discover all of these things? You research.

Researching agents is not hard, especially in this web friendly age. An author can review submission policies and client lists at agency websites like BookEnds, Curtis Brown, or any of the other agencies with a website. And to get to know a specific agent better, all an author has to do is see who is blogging and follow their posts. Agents like Jessica Faust, Nathan Bransford, and Rachelle Gardner post a new discussion almost daily on their blogs. Many of them also use twitter to share news and updates on their clients, the industry, and other tips.

Once you have become familiar with an agent and have determined they are someone you would like to work with then you can confidently query them and let them know why you think you make a good team.

Which leads into this: What you should say when you query an agent. The most important thing, in querying an agent, is to professionally represent you and your writing. Assuming you have spent an enormous amount of time creating the best description of your manuscript possible, you will want to start by introducing yourself and letting the agent know why you are querying them. Maybe you have been following their blog for a year and based on what appeals to them in a submission, you think you’ll do well together. Or maybe you love three books represented by that agent, so you’ll want to say “I love this, this, and this book and thus I am writing to you about my manuscript in the same genre.”

What matters to the agent is that you are capable of presenting yourself as a professional who understands what they represent, knows the market, and can pitch in an enticing way. Some agents like to know about your publication history and others don’t care (unless you’re a NY Times bestseller, in which case I’ve heard it’s always good to mention this). When it comes down to it, an agent wants to know three things in a query: who you are, why you feel the agent is a good match, and a description of the project you want them to read and how it would work with their portfolio.

Yes, this topic is overwhelming and there are many finer points to get into. But this brief overview is meant to only introduce the basics. In time, I’ll get more specific about the author-agent relationship and how to focus in on finding your dream representation. Of course, feel free to ask questions or offer ideas for topics to cover. I’m open to your suggestions.

I also can’t stress enough how valuable it is to read blogs by agents and authors in the know. To help you out, I have listed a few blog links below to help you get started.

Questions you need to ask before signing with an agent

Tips for finding an agent

Your rights as an author

Tips on writing a query letter

Dos and don’ts tips from author Allison Winn Scotch

How to know when you meet the right agent

How to make an agent’s job easier

In the future, I’ll be sharing more tips on how to familiarize yourself with agents and editors. Plus, stay tuned for more Q&As to learn from author success stories.

Until next time… happy reading (and writing)!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

what do you want from me?

It occurs to me that one of the key ways to make this blog successful is to offer you, the reader, the kind of things you want. Imagine that. Writing for an audience!

Of course, this will require market research and to that end I must ask the question: what do you want from me? Or, more specifically, what sort of topics would you like to read about on this blog?

When I started this blog, almost a month ago now, it was with the intention of sharing a number of things: news about authors and writing, the occasional book review, a weekly author or publishing pro interview, and random ramblings of my own works-in-progress. I hope I have thus far been sticking within these parameters but I more so hope that these have been of interest to you. I also want to expand on what I am able to offer through this blog and ensure you keep coming back for more.

Full disclosure? Right now, this blog is averaging about 50 readers a day. That’s not too shabby for a new blog, since I’ve only been at it a few weeks now. I don’t know how that ranks by comparison to other blogs. It really only matters to me that someone, you, are reading this and finding something useful in it. I have noticed that while you don’t always leave comments, I do occasionally get an email with feedback and my stats tracker also tells me the average person sticks around for just under seven minutes. I’m happy with this, but I want to give you more reasons to come back and reasons to post your comments.

So, dear reader, how can I make this blog better for you? What writing related topics would you like to see more of? Do you enjoy the weekly author Q&A? Is there a way to make these spotlights even better? Do you like the industry news, links to other articles and interesting blogs? Would you like to hear more about my own writing journey and process?

I’ll tell you what I’m working on for future posts, but I’d love to hear your thoughts about additional ideas for making this blog interesting and entertaining, and maybe a bit more interactive:

  • I’m continuing to schedule a weekly Q&A with authors (emerging and established) who will share news of their latest releases or works-in-progress and tell us about their path to publication

  • I’m working on adding Q&As with agents, editors, publicists and other publishing pros so we can learn more with a view from the ‘inside’

  • Over time I will sprinkle in my own thoughts on the writing process, path to publication, personal challenges with writing, and other relatable anecdotes

  • Tips on how to make better connections with other writers and readers (and pub people) through social media sites such as twitter, facebook, and writing groups

  • Highlights of interesting organizations, festivals, conferences, and community groups where you can gain something for your writer’s toolbox

  • Book reviews for what I’m reading as well as hot new titles and relevant books for writers
How does that line-up look to you? What other suggestions do you have? Please email me or post your comment below so I can get an idea of what you want to see more of and what new tangents I should run with.

While we’re at it, for the ambitious reader, feel free to tell me how I can improve my quarterly newsletter
. It’s important to me that you look forward to reading the news and events I share with you, so don’t hesitate to make your suggestion.

It’s also my ambition to offer you a new blog post three times a week, one each on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Yes, I recognize today is Thursday… but I felt the need to put out a call for feedback right now so this is a special interruption. How do you feel about new posts three times per week? Is that enough or too much?

Within that schedule, I aim to have a Q&A with an author or publishing person (generally on Wednesday, but it may occasionally vary due to an author’s release date), and two original posts from me on my various aforementioned topics. What do you think of this loose schedule and its proposed contents?

In my opinion, this blog is only a success if I know others are benefiting in some way. With that in mind, I look forward to your comments and suggestions and hope to incorporate your feedback to offer a more reader-friendly experience and keep you coming back for more. Email me at lori @ (no spaces) or post your comments below. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

And be sure to come back for tomorrow’s post.
Topic: an intro to literary agents.

Until next time, happy reading!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Q&A with author Lauren Baratz-Logsted

In 1994, Lauren Baratz-Logsted took a gamble – and it paid off. With her passion for the pen, she set out to focus on her career as a writer. While success didn’t come knocking on her door the very next morning, it didn’t take long for Lauren to make her fiction debut. The Thin Pink Line was released in 2002 and since then Lauren has proven to be prolific with a collection of adult and teen novels to her credit, as well as a great series for children.

I recently chatted with Lauren about her latest release, Crazy Beautiful, and I’m pleased to share the conversation with you here. Please join me in welcoming author Lauren Baratz-Logsted.

Hi Lauren. Can you tell us about Crazy Beautiful?
Lauren: It's a contemporary re-visioning of Beauty & the Beast told in he-said/she-said fashion about a boy with hooks for hands and a gorgeous girl who meet on their first day at a new school.

But what’s it really about?
Lauren: HA! Good question! It's about how the world often reacts to people so much based on physical characteristics alone. And since Lucius is modeled after the Beast, it's about how we are often the authors of our own tragic conditions. Oh, and redemption and forgiveness - it's about that too.

What were some of the challenges in writing in the he-said/she-said style?
Lauren: I wish I could tell you some horror stories, about how hard I had to struggle, but that simply wasn't the case. Lucius Wolfe and Aurora Belle are so distinctly different from one another, it was exciting to create their voices.

What are/were some of your favorite fairy tales?
Lauren: Beauty & the Beast, of course! I also have a fondness for Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Rumpelstiltskin.

You’ve written for teens and for adults. How do you balance your writing life?
Lauren: I balance it by writing pretty much 365 days a year, so when you think about it, my life is kind of unbalanced.

Tell us a bit about your journey as an author.
Lauren: I'd need to write a whole book for that! I left my day job in 1994 to take a chance on myself as a writer. I made my first sale eight years later. That book was The Thin Pink Line, a comedic novel for adults. I've since had four comedic novels published, one Victorian suspense, two YA, one tween, and the first four volumes of The Sisters 8 series for young readers which I created with my YA novelist husband Greg Logsted (Something Happened, Alibi Junior High) and our nine-year-old daughter Jackie. I also edited an anthology of stories called This Is Chick-Lit, and have had several stories and essays published. That all makes it sound easier than it is. It has been a long journey and it goes on being a journey, every day.

What have been some of the challenges in your career as a writer? How did you overcome these?
Lauren: I guess the biggest is that we live in the era of branding. A lot of people - many of them publishing professionals - expect a writer to be one thing: write one kind of book and stick to it. But for me, that'd be like eating the same wonderful menu at every meal until I got sick of it. Even within a genre like YA, it's tough to pigeonhole my stuff: Angel's Choice and Crazy Beautiful are serious, Secrets of My Suburban Life is comedic, and I have two different books coming out next year that are set in the Victorian era, one a coming-of-age story while the other is more suspense/mystery. So how did I overcome the industry's desire to pigeonhole? I'm bullheaded! I just barreled my way through!

You’ve been at this business for some time. How do you explain your staying power?
Lauren: I believe in myself. Please don't take that as cockiness, because it's not. It's just that I believe in my ability to come up with ideas that appeal to others and further believe in my ability to execute those ideas in such a way that enough people get some sort of enjoyment. It helps to flat-out love what you're doing, which I do.

How would you say the industry has changed since you debuted with The Thin Pink Line?
Lauren: The rise of social media. Every year we become more connected to everyone else. This can be a wonderful thing for authors because there are so many new ways to promote our work without relying strictly on in-house publicists. It can also be a problem, though, for authors who talk without thinking first.

How has social media and technology enabled you to connect with readers?
Lauren: Being interviewed here, for one! And sometimes serendipitous things happen, particularly through Twitter right now. There's been a lot of pre-pub buzz for Crazy Beautiful - more so than for any other book I've written - and nearly all of it can be traced back to Twitter. It also helped that Mashable named me one of 100+ authors worth following on Twitter, an honor they gave out to writers not based on book sales, but rather for writers who do more than simply promote-promote-promote on there, endlessly talking about me-me-me.

What advice do you have for writers starting out?
Lauren: I say the same thing every time: 1) read, read, read - read everything you can get your hands on, in and out of your area of interest, and recognize you can learn just as much if not more from a lousy book as you can from a good book; and 2) always remember, the only person who can ever really take you out of the game is you.

What’s up next for you? What can readers look forward to?
Lauren: Well, you already know about Crazy Beautiful, which is due out September 7. And due to your strong journalistic skills, you even wormed out of me what it's really about! In terms of 2010, I have four books coming out:

The Education of Bet (spring, from Houghton Mifflin), a YA novel set in the Victorian era about a 16-year-old girl who impersonates a boy in order to get a proper education.

The Twin's Daughter (fall, Bloomsbury), a YA suspense novel set in the Victorian era about a teen whose life is irrevocably changed when she discovers her society mother has an identical twin who grew up in the poorhouse.

Marcia's Madness and Petal's Problems (April and Sept, respectively, Houghton Mifflin), Books 5 & 6 in The Sisters 8 series for young readers.

How can readers learn more about you and your books?
Lauren: Just go to!

Thanks, Lauren! I appreciate you taking the time to talk about Crazy Beautiful and your latest news.
Lauren: Thank you so much, Lori, for having me!


Be sure to visit Lauren’s site to learn even more about her journey as an author. You can also pre-order Crazy Beautiful here.

And don’t forget, there are more amazing authors on the Q&A schedule. You don’t want to miss authors like Erica Orloff, Kyra Davis, or Daphne Uviller do you? Then don’t forget to “follow this blog” (on the menu to the right) and you’ll also be entered in the contest for a signed copy of one of my books! By following this blog, you'll be able to stay up to date with what's happening, what guests are coming up, book reviews and so much more.

Until next time… happy reading!