I’ve traded this blog for an entirely new blog as part of my website upgrade. I hope you’ll join me there sometime!
I’ve traded this blog for an entirely new blog as part of my website upgrade. I hope you’ll join me there sometime!
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 (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…
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:
Oh, dear, it’s been some time since I’ve posted a blog. The days just keep getting sucked into a vortex, don’t they?
What’s been happening? Well, in July I went to London and Amsterdam. I made a decision to pack in as much as could into every waking hour because life is simply too short. Had the time of my life, and not just because I finally saw the stage production of my all-time favourite movie, Dirty Dancing. In the Netherlands, I stayed with my sister and family. I soon found that the translation app on my iPhone was embarrassingly inaccurate. I tried SO hard to practise my Dutch “skills” with cheese shop assistants and the like. They, of course, were quick to realise my ineptitude and responded to me in English. One of the many highlights of the Netherlands trip, apart from seeing my family again, was a visit to the Rijksmuseum, which had been closed for a decade or so. There I saw Nicolas Cage. Or someone who looked just like him.
London was spectacular. 30 degrees most days. Who’d have thunk it? Teeming with millions of happy summer-loving people. I found riding the Tube and buses unbearable in the heat, though. (Is there no aircon on London public transport?) Pimm’s was a most effective antidote to the heat. It was better to walk everywhere anyway, up to seven hours a day, surviving on salads from Pret a Manger. I’m convinced I saw Samwell from The Game of Thrones checking out of the Hotel Russell when I was checking in. Also sure I saw Liza Minnelli having a ciggie outside a restaurant in the West End. And I’m 100% positive I saw Hugh Jackman. People were screaming his name after all. He was in town for the Wolverine premiere. By pure luck, I stumbled upon the David Bowie exhibition at the V&A Museum. Seriously could have spent an entire day there. Another highlight was St Paul’s Cathedral. I climbed almost 400 steps to the top. What really took my breath away was the incredible view of London from up there.
Aside from travel, I’ve ventured into low-budget filmmaking. I helped my husband’s band, the Model School, shoot a music clip (below), and also did their band photos. The band last week released their third album, Backwards Down the Highway. Most of the songs were inspired by an Arizona road trip, parts of it recorded in our Sydney home studio and Brendan, the singer’s, car. And the CD was mastered in New York by the guy who did Springsteen’s Born to Run album. It sounds fantastic.
So that’s my latest
brag update. I’ll be back sometime in the future…
When I was in L.A. last year for a writers’ conference, I was really excited to find marble cake stocked in the hotel’s Starbucks pastry cabinet. Marble cake. Bought it. Ate it. Loved it. (And subsequently bought several more slices in various places across California.) I hadn’t eaten marble cake since I was a kid. My mother is more of a savoury cook, but one of the few sweet dishes she used to make was steamed marble cake. There’s a great recipe on the terrific A Swoonful of Sugar blog and it’s very similar to Mum’s recipe. I may try that method one day, but today I opted for the baked version from Taste.com.au. As always, I couldn’t help but tweak the recipe — added an extra egg, substituted cow’s milk with coconut milk, and put in half a cup more cocoa powder. (Next time, I’m putting in even more cocoa!) I omitted the food colouring and the icing. And here’s the result:
By the way, I hit a new height record with this cake: 10 centimetres!
Another childhood fave I’m revisiting is Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, a classic horse book first published in 1877. I bought this leather-bound hardcover edition with my pocket money way back on Saturday, September 15, 1984! (I remember because I wrote that on the flyleaf, along with my full name and address in case it got lost.) Aside from the tear-jerking but ultimately uplifting story, I loved the stunning illustrations by Elaine Keenan. The whole book just reinforced my love of horses, riding and writing. There are numerous editions of Black Beauty now — I’d quite like to clear one of my bookshelves and collect a few of them…
I’m partial to a good cover version, as you’ll find on a guest post I did a while ago at the blog of the very talented and musically inclined Stephanie Kuehnert (‘I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone’ – MTV Books). So I was excited to discover a 2004 release of Duran Duran songs covered by the Vitamin String Quartet. This is most excellent for three reasons. One, it contains some of my favourite DD tunes (like Save a Prayer, Planet Earth; LOVE the intro to Hungry Like the Wolf). Two, I can write and listen at the same time, which is usually difficult because I get distracted by the lyrics if there’s a vocal track. Three, I love me a string quartet.
Downsides? Obviously, they lack Simon Le Bon’s dulcet tones and Nick Rhodes’s delicious synths. And the temptation to sing along is strong because I know every word. But if you’re a DD fan and you’re looking to diversify your writing playlist, you can find The String Quartet Tribute to Duran Duran and its eerily familiar album cover on iTunes.
Other noteworthy cover versions I’m listening to now (with vocals!):
The lovely people at HarperCollins Publishers Australia have put together a collection of ten short stories, all with a cyber-dating theme, in ‘URL Love: From Texting to Twitter, the Hottest Online Love Stories‘. It’s out TODAY! Yay! I’m so excited, because my story, ‘The Tweetest Thing,’ is in the anthology. It’s the first time I’ve been published in fiction. You can purchase the e-book now from Amazon and iBookstore. Plus, there’s a Facebook fan page here. Check out this cute story-behind-the-story by Mel Saward, a fellow contributor to the anthology.
‘The Tweetest Thing’ was inspired by a Duran Duran concert that my boss took me to back in March. Mind you, this work is fictitious and any resemblance to events and real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental!!! From 2pm AEST today at the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood site, I will reveal more about the story and how a simple retweet from DD’s Simon Le Bon turned me into a grinning fool for days on end.
Speaking of Duran Duran, as I often do these days, John Taylor, arguably the world’s most photogenic bass player, has just released his memoir, In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death and Duran Duran. I’m looking forward to finding out all the things about JT and the band that I was once too young to know!
Don’t forget to visit me at the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood blog later today for a lil’ release-day celebration!
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:
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?
Two of the most adorable people I know are celebrating book release fever right now.
Erica O’Rourke won the Golden Heart last year for her dark urban fantasy YA, TORN. Not only did she win a shiny piece of coveted jewellery, she got a fetching fluoro tiara courtesy of her MargaRITA mates AND a book deal. Now Erica is the lead author for Kensington’s brand-new K Teen line and TORN will be out “in the wild,” as she says, on June 28. She’ll be in New York signing at RWA’s literacy charity event on that very day. Go chase her for autograph — I will be! For more about K Teen, check out a statement here from editor Alicia Condon.
I am ‘fairy’ excited about Amanda Ashby‘s latest, FAIRY BAD DAY. In this fun YA, Emma Jones is assigned the less-than-impressive role of fairy slayer. On the career scale, this is apparently a few rungs below ‘dragon slayer’ but it comes with its own fair share of monster-sized problems. Amanda’s light paranormals are a scream (YOU HAD ME AT HALO, THE ZOMBIE QUEEN OF NEWBURY HIGH). Great reads if you’re in the mood to LOL.
Congrats, Amanda and Erica!
You thought this post would be about me bleaching my hair platinum or getting implants, didn’t you? Not yet.
The Bold and the Beautiful’s new opening titles sequence debuted on Australian screens this afternoon, so naturally I’ll use any excuse to talk about the show. My friends don’t call me a “tragic” fan of The Bold and the Beautiful for nothin’. (Don’t snicker. I know many totally sane people from all walks of life who indulge in watching the show daily.) Unlike many of the show’s stars, the opening titles have had just three makeovers in 24 years. Incidentally, the show began on my birthday in 1987, so I was destined to be a Bold tragic. You can see all title sequences, including the latest, here:
At my previous workplace, I got paid to watch Bold–writing closed-captions for the Deaf. One by one, my colleagues, all highly educated, highly discerning people, got hooked on the show. (Okay, maybe not as much as I did, but they had an appreciation for it.) The show is highly, highly, highly educational for romance writers. Over the years, I’ve learnt:
My talented and clever friend AMANDA BRICE is here and we’re pirouetting over the release of her brand-spanking-new YA novel, CODENAME: DANCER. Heroine Dani is centre-stage in a reality TV show but soon finds herself embroiled in a sabotage plot…and she’s the prime suspect. I loved the story’s fast pace, and there’s plenty of fancy dance action to go around. Gemma Halliday says it’s “a must-read for every girl who ever danced — or wanted to!” Amanda very gracefully stepped away from the barre to answer my questions today.
1. Amanda, you’re one of those amazing people I look at and think, “How does she do it?” You’re a mum, a wife, a Ruby-Slippered Sister, a writer, and an attorney in Washington, DC. What’s your secret? And are you going to patent it? 🙂
LOL, I’m not sure I’d describe myself in as glowing terms as you are, but hey, I’ll take it! And now that you mention it, yeah, actually I am pretty busy. I’m tired just reading that list! But I’ve always found that I do best when I’m running around like a crazy girl. It’s when I have a ton of downtime that I get twitchy and don’t quite know what to do with myself.
2. Like your heroine, Dani, you’re a dancer. (See the evidence here, folks!) Apart from providing the backbone for Codename: Dancer, how has ballet enriched your writing life?
Dance has always been a part of my life. It sounds cheesy, but it’s in my blood. I don’t think I could ever not dance. Not only is it a wonderful creative outlet, but it also instilled a sense of discipline and confidence. And being a performer taught me that I could be any different character that I wanted, which helps when I’m trying to really get into the head of my heroine.
3. Dani faces some pretty daunting threats to life and limb. If you could whisper in her ear, what advice would you give to keep Dani on her toes, so to speak?
Honestly, I’d tell her to butt out and stop snooping! Sure, she only gets involved because strange things are happening all around her, but it’s her nosiness that escalates the situation. But of course, we wouldn’t have a story if she listened, would we? Like any self-respecting humorous mystery/romantic comedy/chick lit YA author, I like to torture my heroines. LOL.
4. What was the most challenging aspect of writing the book?
This was the first YA I ever wrote, so I wasn’t certain whether I could do it. I was more than twice Dani’s age! But I guess I never grew up, because it turned out that I was able to channel my inner teen pretty effectively. I ended up writing the first draft in just 6 weeks….but then it was time for the revision stage. And um, it took longer than just 6 weeks. LOL
5. Codename: Dancer was a Golden Heart finalist in 2009. Tell us about its journey to publication.
After I finaled in 2009, my former agent shopped Codename: Dancer widely, and we actually had a lot of positive feedback from editors. They loved the premise, loved the writing, loved the characters, loved the voice. It even made it to the final acquisitions meetings at a couple of publishing houses. Sounds great, right? Only problem was that marketing didn’t know how to characterize it. The YA imprints all said it was Middle Grade, but the Middle Grade imprints all said it was YA. And since traditionally published books can only be shelved in one place in a bookstore, ultimately they passed.
In reality, it’s kind of both. I consider it “Younger YA” and I think there’s a whole segment of kids out there in the roughly 11-14-year-old age group who aren’t being served by the current classifications. They’re ready for something meatier and hipper than MG, which they consider to be too babyish for them. (And let’s face it. It is.) But they’re not quite ready for the more mature emotional themes of, say, Twilight.
So I decided to take a chance and do it on my own. The publishing houses deemed this a niche book, but I can afford to market it to a niche readership. That’s the beauty of indie-publishing. In a virtual bookstore, I can cross-shelve it and I’m not tied to what bookstore buyers say.
6. Who should consider indie/self-publishing, and what do authors need to be aware of when striking out on their own?
I think if you have a niche book, indie-publishing is perfect for you. Or anything out-of-the-box. I do love NY, and I hope to have a traditional contract one day, but sometimes the definitions are a little too rigid. And I can understand their reluctance to take a chance, because that’s their risk on the line if a book doesn’t sell out its advance.
But I don’t think you should simply bang out a book and put it up on Kindle. Ultimately it’s your professional reputation at risk, so just like a traditionally-published book, you must put forward the absolute best product possible. And that’s the problem. The best thing about self-publishing is that anyone can do it. The worst thing about self-publishing is that anyone can do it.
I hope I don’t sound elitist, but unfortunately, there are a lot of self-published books out there that never should have been published. It’s not that they’re not good books, or their authors aren’t good writers — they’re just not ready. But there are also a lot of really excellent self-published books, and the revolution of the last year has shown that it’s a viable career choice.
So I guess my advice is that if you’ve gotten excellent feedback on your manuscript (and not from your mom!) and you think that NY is not quite right for it for whatever reason, then indie-publishing might be for you. But please do yourself a favor and give it as close to a traditionally-published experience as is possible.
Invest in a professional cover. Hire an editor (or at least utilize multiple critique partners and beta readers…as well as a qualified proofreader). Teach yourself formatting or hire a freelancer. Set a “launch date” and build up buzz ahead of time by giving away copies in contests and undergoing a blog tour. Send it to published authors in your genre for a cover quote. And send it to reviewers. Call on your networks. Were you in a sorority in college? Ask them to feature your book in their alumni magazine. Is there a particular hobby or activity featured in your book? Contact the various magazines or organizations for that activity and ask if they would help you promote. You never know unless you ask!
But remember that for every Amanda Hocking or Victorine Lieske, there are hundreds or even thousands of indies who will struggle. And it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Even the indies who have hit the NY Times list in the recent months started off selling just a handful of copies. On average, it takes 6 months or more for a self-published author to find a readership.
7. What projects do you have waiting in the wings?
I’m working hard on a Codename sequel, which I’m calling Pointe of No Return. I hope to release this one in late fall, probably November. I already have the cover, and I love it just as much as the first one. I heart my cover artist so much! (Shout out to the uber-talented Amy Lynch of Pens & Needles.)
I’m also writing a cozy mystery featuring a very pregnant heroine. (This one’s aimed at adults, not teens.) I’m having a lot of fun writing it and it’s cracking me up. (Hopefully other people will find it as funny as I do.) My goal is to hit up NY with this book. We shall see!
Amanda, I have no doubt NY is yours for the taking! Thanks so much for performing today’s blog pas de deux with moi.
Amanda is generously giving away an e-copy of her debut book, Codename: Dancer. For your chance to win, leave a comment and tell us what your favourite dance movie is. Amanda’s also happy to answer any questions you might have — she promises not to charge by the hour. The winner will be announced on the auspicious date of Friday, May 13.