Drum Roll, Please…

Oh, wait, just a drum? Let’s bring out the full marching band, because I’m really excited for my fab friend Sara Hantz. She’s got two books coming out soon with Entangled Teen, and today I can show off both covers:

In the Blood by Sara Hantz (Entangled Teen). Harry Styles, is that you?

IN THE BLOOD by Sara Hantz (Entangled Teen).
Harry Styles, is that you?

IN THE BLOOD (out November 6, 2013) is a dark tale about one boy’s struggle for identity. “You’re just like your father” is a phrase Jed Franklin does not want to hear. Why? His father is a monster and the whole world knows it.

Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

For seventeen years Jed Franklin’s life was normal. Then his father was charged with the abuse and murder of four young boys and normal became a nightmare.

His mom’s practically a walking zombie, he’s lost most of his friends, and the press camps out on his lawn. The only things that keep him sane are his little sis; his best friend and dream girl, Summer; and the alcohol he stashes in his room. But after Jed wakes up from a total blackout to discover a local kid has gone missing—a kid he was last seen talking to—he’s forced to face his greatest fear: that he could somehow be responsible.

In a life that’s spiraled out of control, Jed must decide if he chooses his own destiny with Summer by his side or if the violent urges that plagued his father are truly in the blood…

WILL THE REAL ABI SAUNDERS PLEASE STAND UP? by Sara Hantz (Entangled Teen)

WILL THE REAL ABI SAUNDERS
PLEASE STAND UP?
by Sara Hantz
(Entangled Teen)

And Sara shows her versatility with a completely different story in WILL THE REAL ABI SAUNDERS PLEASE STAND UP?

Abi Saunders might be a kickboxing champion, but when it comes to being the center of attention, she’d rather take a roundhouse kick to the solar plexus any day. So when her trainer convinces her to audition to be the stunt double for hot teen starlet Tilly Watson, Abi is shocked—and a little freaked out—when she gets the job.

Being a stunt double is overwhelming, but once the wig and makeup are on, Abi feels like a different person. Tilly Watson, to be exact. And when Tilly’s gorgeous boyfriend, Jon, mistakes Abi for the real star, Abi’s completely smitten. In fact, she’s so in love with her new life, it isn’t long before she doesn’t have time for her old one.

But when the cameras are turned off, will she discover running with the Hollywood A-list isn’t quite the glamorous existence she thought it was?

Sounds fun, right? We’ll all have to wait a little longer for Abi to kickbox her way onto the bookshelves — the book is due out May 6, 2014.

HOWEVER, here’s something to tide you over in the meantime. In celebration of the cover reveals, Sara is giving away a $50 Amazon giftcard! Isn’t she nice? Click on this Rafflecopter link to enter. Good luck!

You can keep tabs on Sara at these places:

Her website

Facebook

Twitter

Sara Hantz

Sara Hantz

Time For My Annual Blog Post!

I’m in L.A. right now, having just attended Romance Writers of America’s annual conference, which this year was held at Disneyland the Anaheim Marriott.

I had two missions. The first — attend as many YA-oriented workshops as possible (and I’ll share some general stuff about the market in a moment). And the second — pitch my latest book to an editor without throwing up. You’ll be glad to know I succeeded at both.

As well as the official business, there was plenty of fun to be had. A cocktail-making workshop run by a renowned mixologist was declared by many as “the best workshop ever”. We were served three vodka cocktails within about thirty minutes. Cocktails have something to do with writing novels — I wish I could tell you exactly what the connection is, but my memory’s a bit foggy on that for some reason.

Several friends were up for RITA and Golden Heart awards. My lovely sparkly agency-mate Pintip Dunn was nominated for Best Unpublished Young Adult Manuscript. Fellow Aussie Fiona Lowe won a RITA for Best Contemporary Single Title Romance — and was the first Carina Press (digital-first imprint) to do so. Another fellow Aussie and all-round fabulous gal, Joanne Lockyer was a GH finalist for Best Regency Historical Romance. Brisbane buddy Christina Brooke was a Regency RITA nominee. Tammy Baumann, who along with Shea Berkley showered me with spicy New Mexican treats, won a Golden Heart. No less than SIX of my Ruby-Slippered Sisters were nominated: Sally Eggert (GH), Elisa Beatty (GH – winner, and also gets my award for most amusing acceptance speech), Liz Bemis (GH – winner!), Kim Law (GH), Elizabeth Essex (RITA), and Darynda Jones (two RITA nominations, one win for Best First Book).

I gathered quite a chunk of intelligence on YA from various workshops run by authors Tera Lynn Childs, Sophie Jordan, Regina Scott, Marissa Doyle, agents Emily Sylvan Kim, Kevan Lyon, Laurie McLean, Lucienne Diver, Pam van Hylckama Vlieg, and editors Alicia Condon and Whitney Ross.

I’ll just run through some general things:

  • Editors and agents indicated they wanted to see more contemporary stories. Stephanie Perkins’s ‘Anna and the French Kiss’, which I adored, is a great example of this.
  • Agent Emily Sylvan Kim says MG/upper MG is hot and it’s a good fit for those who don’t write too dark. Says editors aren’t looking for paranormal right now. They want high-concept, big-world contemporaries.
  • Harlequin is extending their digital-first program to YA books.
  • Romance is a natural fit for YA, however, it’s usually a subplot.
  • Whitney Ross and Kevon Lyon really want to see a well done YA version of Diana Gabaldon’s ‘Outlander’. (Note that Whitney doesn’t take unsolicited submissions, but if you have an agent and you have a YA Outlander ready to go, submit it!)
  • Social media is a plus for unpublished authors. Agent Kevan Lyon reported that editors do ask if a potential author has a web presence. You don’t have to be active on every social media platform — pick what suits you best.
  • YA writers should try to access the teen within. Listen to teens in their natural habitat (ie. Eavesdrop in a non-creepy way next time you’re standing in line at Disneyland, for example.)
  • On writing a YA series/trilogy, Tera and Sophie said the first book in a trilogy will always be the biggest seller. People don’t generally buy the second and third books and not the first. You need a character big enough to sustain the series; high stakes and high pressure.
  • On the subject of dark stories, Marissa Doyle says teens use books to explore books to explore darker themes in a safe way. In other words, living vicariously through books, reading about characters experiencing things they wouldn’t necessarily attempt themselves.
  • Regina Scott writes ‘cheerier’ books but says they’re harder to sell. She also said in YA there are no rules (like happily ever after) as long as the character grows.
  • Voice and theme are important (coming of age, fitting in/belonging). Don’t chase trends.
  • YA editors are very hands-on. Fifteen-page revision letters are the norm, and they’re often followed by more. But they do list every little thing including house style conflicts. Don’t be surprised if you’re asked to make changes in plot, character, POV, though.
  • Releases follow the literary model — one book per year. Minimum of one year to eighteen months between acceptance and publication. It’s common for release dates to change.
  • YA books spend more time on the bookstores shelves (years rather than months), and they’re often re-issued with cover updates. Covers are a big deal for YA readers. They want covers that accurately reflect the book.
  • The YA e-book segment is growing slowly. Teens are hindered by credit card and reader device access, plus they tend to prefer physical books.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Off to San Francisco tomorrow to see Chris Isaak and Duran Duran, and fill up on as much clam chowder with my dad as humanly possible.

Did you learn anything interesting at Nationals this year that you’d like to share?

Kim MacCarron, Pintip Dunn, me in the GH awards aftermath.

Fiona Lowe with her RITA award.

Tammy Baumann with a nice bit of jewellery to add to her collection.

Me hogging Darynda Jones’s RITA award for Best First Book, the brilliant ‘First Grave on the Right’. We were passing it around for good luck.

Dazed and Bruised in New York City

It’s a rainy, stormy morning in NY, where the weather was perfect all throughout the Romance Writers of America national conference until today. No matter. I can catch up on sleep, which I didn’t get much of during the conference. Plus, I’ve got a gigantic bruise penetrating the thickness of my right foot and I have nooooo idea how I got it. I just woke up with it this morning. Did I sleepwalk? Sleepdance? This might hamper my efforts to walk to the Chocolate Bar cafe later. But now’s a perfect time to interpret some of the hieroglyphic notes I took during the conf on YA news. 

Tor Teen

Editor Melissa Frain said she wanted to see a ghost-ship submission. She later amended on Twitter that she also wants a buried treasure book. Aside from those, she’s into character-based stories and books with romantic elements. I also have here a scribble that reads “Trends toward 15-to-17 age group.

Editor Whitney Ross is hanging out for a YA along the lines of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Her YA tastes run similar to Melissa’s. She likes not necessarily a happily-ever-after ending but a hopeful ending, and books that aren’t entirely dark.

Kristen Sevick, editor of A Dog’s Purpose, is not a YA editor per se, but she is horse crazy. (A woman after my own heart!) Loves Black Beauty (but is interested in books from a human perspective rather than a horse’s POV), any stories in which horses feature.

Editor Susan Chang, who was not at the spotlight on Tor Teen, takes care of younger/middle-grade fiction for Tor Starscape.

Tor Teen books to look out for: The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton; Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake; Original Sin by Lisa Desrochers.

Pocket Books

Pocket has a limited YA focus at the moment, but RITA-nominated Jennifer Echols is their YA star.

—-

My agent’s assistant, Beth, very kindly took me on a tour of Writers House lit agency. The building was once owned by the Astors. We went inside a vault the size of my hotel room. It used to house VIPs for the Astors. That is, very important paperwork like deeds and bonds, etc. I was too busy ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the bookshelves filled with Sweet Valley High, Stephenie Meyer, Nora Roberts and Ken Follett titles to take pictures, but you can see some nice shots of the Victorian interior on the agency website.

I didn’t get to all the YA events/workshops this time around, and at one very useful one that I did attend we were asked not to divulge info we learned there. But I will say a number of editors and agents said, submissions-wise, they often don’t know what they’re looking for until they see it. You just have to write a darn good book and if it happens to be a darn good vampire novel, then so be it.

Speaking of darn good books, my dear friend Erica O’Rourke celebrated the release of her debut YA novel, Torn, at the conference. Torn was last year’s Golden Heart-winning book. Erica’s beautiful new website went live, too. If you have one of her bookmarks, the QR code printed on it will lead you to exclusive content and extra scenes hidden on her site.

CONGRATULATIONS to this year’s Golden Heart winner, Suzanne Kaufman Kalb, and the 2011 RITA YA winner, Julie Kagawa, for The Iron King, which was the first book editor Natashya Wilson acquired for the Harlequin Teen line. For the full, stellar list of GH and RITA winners, see RWA’s announcement here.

Okay, the rain’s slowing down and I’m all out of Cheetos, so it’s time to venture out into the City. I ♥ NY!

Erica O'Rourke, me, Kim MacCarron - post awards, post deeeeelicious dessert