Monday, December 12, 2011

In Brief: Redface Moment

So, while at the store Saturday, I saw a gentleman and his wife talking a bit about Isaacson's Steve Jobs. There's a huge display next to the digital sales desk where I work. I've been enjoying Jobs since acquiring a personally signed copy from Isaacson several weeks ago when he visited the store. So I usually mention to everyone who picks it up that it's a great read, seeing as it's a hefty book and fairly pricey.

I mentioned this to the gentleman and his wife, and he gave me an odd look, and countered, "You should try the book about Jack Kennedy over there. Been on the New York Times Bestseller List for weeks. I wrote it."

And then he and his wife left, leaving me completely tongue-tied at having just unknowingly recommended Isaacson's book to CHRIS MATTHEWS.

Head, meet desk.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Nab a Nook Online

Missed the Black Friday deal for the Nook Simple Touch Cream? B&N is running a promotion with MasterCard today for a free $25 B&N gift card when you buy a nook with your MasterCard. This amounts to a $75 Nook Touch (if that's the one you go for), and has the advantage that you start out life with your nook with $25 in happy book-buying credit.

If you've been thinking about one, today might be the day. Head over to for the full details.

And lest I be too, too biased toward the purveyor of my beer money, the Kindle DX is also on major sale today, $120 off which puts it at a nice, $259. The number one complaint I hear about the nook is that it's too small, even though people like the e-ink. So if you're looking for a larger e-ink display, go nab the DX at it's great price. Kindle DX at

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Blog Rec: BookEnds LLC on Submissions

Every agent tells you, "Don't blog about the submissions process!" Which, frankly, I don't. I think it's kind of odd to talk a lot about fulls and partials and getting your hopes up, and it just intensifies the roller-coasteriness of something that's already pretty roller-coastery.

But that doesn't mean I can't point to someone else's post! :)

Jessica Faust over at BookEnds LLC revisited a post she wrote in 2009, "Submission 101" with some updates on how to handle being on submission. Her advice is almost always wonderful and clear, and this post is no exception. I especially liked her comment on how, as a writer, to handle the increasingly common practice of "no reply means no:"

This is one of those issues that stresses submitting writers out more than anything and, as we learned in Agentfail, causes more than a little anger and frustration. My advice is that if the agency has a “no response means no" policy, note that on your query-tracking sheet and move on the minute the query goes out.
I've been running this practice ever since I got an email saying the agency responds in 6-8 weeks even when it was clear from other data that about 95% of all requests came within six days of the query.  It saves a lot of heartache, and, if someone gets back to me, yay! Happy surprise. So, I was happy to see someone on the other side of the desk validate my intuition.

If you're a writer on sub, wander over there and read. Lots of great advice.

Jessica Faust at BookEnds LLC on Submissions

Monday, November 07, 2011

New Nook Tablet--Will it hold Fire's Feet to the Flames?

The new nook Tablet unveiled.
(Big disclaimer, I am a B&N bookseller. Nevertheless, I continue to be impressed personally by the B&N e-reader lineup simply as a person who is interested in e-reading. So while I think I'm unbiased on this account, use whatever grains of salt you wish.) 

Sure, I'm a shelver, and a stocker, and occasionally even a barista when need arises. But mostly, when I am at work, I am a digital bookseller, that is, a seller of the Barnes & Noble nook. So I've known for awhile that this announcement was dropping today, and the specs of the new device have been hanging around on places like Engadget for a good while.

Nevetheless--this is a pretty exciting device. Move over, Fire. The nook Tablet is on the market at $249, the same price as the existing nook Color, which is going to drop to $199 even as it adds some of the multi-media features like Hulu Plus and Netflix (which up until this point haven't been available on the nook Color, making it less desirable to some who want a table to do all of those things).

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Sunday Contest Drabble

Felt like doing something a little crazy this morning, so I entered Janet Reid's writing contest. The prompt: put 5 words (countdown, truck, fringe, argo, and rens) into a 100-word story. I felt like being really masochistic and using the canonical definitions of "Argo" and "Rens" (the ship the Argonauts sailed on and the New York Renaissance basketball team, respectively), and came up with this. Tanneth is a character in my NaNo novel, and I *think* the narrator is Shane, the same one as the novel--maybe this will find its way into the book!

Go to Janet Reid's blog for the rest of the entries...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

AW Blog Chain October 2011

So I decided to jump out of my hovel and write for the AbsoluteWrite blog chain this month. Maybe make some new friends. Of course, I've managed to sort of screw up posting twice, because you know, I picked a month when I was unpredictably busy, but I'll do better next month. This month's prompt was:
Choose a word from this list of Lovecraftian words or this list of obscure words (or one from both if you're feeling ambitious). Use your chosen word(s) to craft your post. It doesn't have to be Lovecraftian or even horror, but it should be dark, or unsettling, or scary, or Halloweenish in general.

NaNoWriMo is right around the corner, and I wanted to try out my protag's voice a bit (maybe not my protag, actually--I'm not sure if I'm going to write this book or not. Hey, there's still two days to decide, right?) So even though this book won't be fantasy or magical realism at all, I saw the word Necronomicon, and my brain ran off with me. Since I felt I was going to use the concept and not the word, I also worked with antediluvian, for fun. Enjoy, and visit the other entries and blogs of this month's participants at the end of the post.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Strict Pick: STEVE JOBS by Walter Isaacson

About a week ago, someone blogged the following quote from Neil Gaiman on tumblr:

Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that - but you are the only you.

Tarantino - you can criticize everything that Quentin does - but nobody writes Tarantino stuff like Tarantino. He is the best Tarantino writer there is, and that was actually the thing that people responded to - they’re going ‘this is an individual writing with his own point of view’.

There are better writers than me out there, there are smarter writers, there are people who can plot better - there are all those kinds of things, but there’s nobody who can write a Neil Gaiman story like I can.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Strict Pick: TWILIGHT, the Graphic Novel Vol II (and ARC winners!)

[My strict pick is late this week on account of my giving out a project in the course I'm teaching, which I then had to grade. Oy! I had no idea how long that would take me. Thanks for your patience, and back to the usual MO next week.]

So I was originally going to pick this as my strict pick for this week, but then I hemmed and hawed about it. See the thing is, Twilight has one hell of a reputation in the literary circles. People rail on it for being poorly written, too sensationalized, over-rated. But in some ways, it almost reminds me of Simon Cowell's response to Rebecca Black's "Friday:" "Anyone who can create this much controversy in a week, I want to meet."

Plus, honestly, I'm kind of fascinated by the whole thing. And the way they've been spun out into these graphic novels is well worth talking about. So this week's strict pick is the Twilight Graphic Novel, Volume 2. This one I had a chance to read cover to cover before its release, thanks to it arriving in the store two weeks early (and it being a short book). Graphic novel adaptations are fascinating, in my opinion. Until somewhat recently, it was relatively unlikely that a more mainstream book would be adapted into a graphic novel; that was reserved for the space operas and the superheroes. So perhaps a movie would be made, and that would be the extent of any visual representation of an author's words.  

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Strict Pick: Liesl & Po (+ an ARC giveaway)

So I didn't get around to writing this on Tuesday, and here's why: I HAD to finish this book. Some people can write a review after having read only a portion of a title, and honestly, I could have done that. But with this title I wanted to finish. It's that lovely.

Now, I have a bit of a YA reader confession to make. Despite her being all the rage with her twin bestsellers Before I Fall and Delirium, I had yet to read anything by  Oliver when Liesl showed up on the lunchroom table at work. I snatched it up, intending to send it over to my friends at, but then I opened it and read the preface, and decided to keep this one for myself.

Friday, September 30, 2011

In Brief: Nelogism

quer.a.noi.a (n.) 1. That moment shortly before you hit "send" when you turn yourself into a quivering mess, asking "Is this the right agent at this agency?" despite having spent hours or days verifying the same, or look at the opening you've already over-edited and declared complete and realize you used the same word twice in twenty words (and it wasn't an article!), or are otherwise convinced that somehow this agent will not only reject you but also communicate to the wider publishing world that you are a hack.

Symptoms alleviated only upon clicking "Send Mail."

Monday, September 26, 2011

Writing Hack: Launch Your WIP With Your Keyboard (Windows Only)

I'm a pretty big adherent of David Allen's Getting Things Done methodology for productivity, which I've mentioned before. About a year and a half ago, David interviewed Buzz Bruggeman, co-founder of Activewords. Activewords is an add-on to MS Windows that allows you to assign tasks (text substitution, webpage launch, folder navigation, file launch) to a single word. For instance, you could set it so that when you type "blog," hit the trigger (two taps of the spacebar) and it will launch the "new post" page for your blog.

The amazing bit about Activewords is that it works anywhere--it's using your keystrokes, not an input panel. So if I'm right here in my blog and type an activeword and the trigger, the word disappears from my blog and launches the activeword. I can type words straight from my desktop, or any other place where I can't even see the word being typed, and the active word will still trigger.

Why is this a writing hack? Sometimes, the biggest barrier to getting to work is just getting started. Each of my WIPs is saved as WIP_current in my Dropbox (more on that later), and I have an activeword which points to it. So for SONATA, I could just type  "Sonata" wherever I happen to be in my system, hit the spacebar twice and boom! There's my document. 

Some people have estimated that a huge percentage of our time is lost moving from keyboard to mouse to keyboard. The more you can shortcut under your ten fingers, the less resistance you put between yourself and your creative output. So give Activewords a try. It's free for a version which allows you to create up to 30 Activewords, and $50 for an unlimited version. If you try it, come back and tell me what you think.

Friday, September 23, 2011

In Brief: Longterm Pride

I had a project/shelf reset in the Humor section, and had to pull a book by cartoonist Richard Thompson to merchandise on the feature shelf. He was one of the very first authors the house I worked for published in our humor imprint, many years ago.

Seeing the title of that book on the back of this newer title, I couldn't help but feel a little swell of pride that I got to work (however tangentially) on his first book. It's good to remember as I'm out querying with my first book, that this is why editors and agents go with the books they truly love. The feeling of pride in an author you've had the pleasure of publishing lasts for decades, even if you're just the publishers' assistant.

So, I suppose I'll wait for the people who love mine, too.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Strict Pick: EVERYTHING ON IT by Shel Silverstein

Some time ago, when I was old enough to find it hilarious, I heard that Shel Silverstein regularly wrote for Playboy and didn't care much for children. I've confirmed the first, the second remains a mystery, but both make him an intriguing children's poet. I've wondered if it is precisely because he was used to writing the absurd and not particularly invested in writing "for children" that made him such a wonderful writer.

One of my fondest memories of first grade (and yes, I remember first grade very well--I'm odd like that) was my teacher doing a very dramatic, and very drawn-out reading of "Peanut Butter Sandwich." It's one of those formative things as a writer, the kind that you remember dozens of years later because you hear words being used like that and think, "How do I do that?"

Of course, I think it takes someone like Silverstein to be Silverstein. To get the quirky and the touching, and the brilliantly wacky illustrations all in one. 1999 was a sad year, to see a man whose poems I'd memorized gone forever (I've been known to quote "How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes" at people whenever I'm stuck in that "awful, boring chore").

That said, posthumous books usually suck. The way I figure it, if you didn't publish it during your lifetime, it's probably because it wasn't good enough. PIRATE LATITUDES by Crichton is a pretty prime example of this. So I was wary until I set my hands on this one on the SOS cart.

The poetry is just as sharp as always, the drawings every bit as intriguing and absurd. Perhaps this collection might turn out to be even more funny-quirky than usual, because after all the things he did publish, you have to start wondering what was so crazy even he considered it too off-the-wall. I read about a dozen poems in the book while shelving it, and they brought back wonderful memories of reciting and laughing at WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS and A LIGHT IN THE ATTIC.

So tonight, I'm going to curl down with FALLING UP, and then tomorrow, dive into EVERYTHING. You should, too.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Writing Hack: Use an E-Reader to Organize your "To-Read"

I wish I wish I wish I could remember who to credit with this ingenious idea. If I find them, I will of course link back. (And if it's you, please holler!)

I was reading around the net, perhaps an agent blog, perhaps Absolute Write, and came across the most wonderful suggestion for managing your "to-read" list. One of the wonderful things about e-books is that they often have that nice, twenty-page or so sample you can download for free.

When you get a book recommendation, rather than write it down, go ahead and nab the sample. You can put it on a to-read "shelf" (nook) or collection (Kindle, Sony). Then, when you have some time on your hands and money to burn, peruse that collection, and purchase the books you want.

I've been doing this on my Sony ever since I discovered this advice. For me it's even a little more cumbersome than it would be on a nook or Kindle, as I have to download the samples from the web and put them on my reader via USB. Yet still, I find it completely worth the effort. I get recs every single day from blogs, from friends, from goodreads...this is a super way to corral them and work through them in a very disciplined way.

Reading is a huge part of being a writer. Some advice says you should try to read 1,000 pages for every one you write. So, why not let technology handle some of the hassle for you?

Image from:

Friday, September 16, 2011

In Brief: Don't Need a Title Computer

A customer last night turned to me and asked who wrote The Sun Also Rises. It was clear from her expression that she expected me to know this off the top of my head.

I did, and told her she could find it in fiction under H, but she should also check our promo table for summer reading.

Minimum wage jobs are often unfulfilling drudgery, but as a grad student, sometimes you need the dough. I like that I have one that at least requires me to dress nicely and be familiar with Hemingway.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Blog rec: Bookavore

Jennifer Laughran (@literaticat) tipped me via a tweet to a fantastic series being done on organization over on the Bookavore (@bookavore) blog. I'm a longtime adherent of the Getting Things Done / David Allen methodology for productivity and personal organization, and bookavore is diving in to how she's applying some of these principles to her work and life.

I'll come back with a longer blog post once I've read them all, but right now, I'm just going to recommend them as a great read. Head on over there!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Strict Pick: PERFECT by Ellen Hopkins

If there's one thing I remember about my own teenage years, it was the tremendous pressure--not peer pressure, because I was never very good at paying attention to what made me "cool," but pressure to perform, to get into the right college, to be a very particular person.

Ellen Hopkins captures this drive in PERFECT, her latest addition to her ever-growing stable of blank-verse novels. It's about four teens, two girls and two boys, each of whom is struggling to be their own definition of perfect, whether that's being a model, holding up after a brother's suicide attempt, being a baseball superstar, or staying true to yourself.

I admit to having not read Hopkins's CRANK trilogy, nor IMPULSE, which is the companion book to PERFECT. But I picked up an ARC of TRIANGLES, her new adult novel (a review on that will come a little closer to the release date), and was impressed by how engaging the blank verse style actually is. It's possible to identify at once with each of these characters. Even in 20 minutes of perusing this title, I could tell it's one you won't want to put down.

Here's what the publisher has to say about PERFECT:

Everyone has something, someone, somewhere else that they’d rather be. For four high-school seniors, their goals of perfection are just as different as the paths they take to get there. A riveting and startling companion to the bestselling Impulse, Ellen Hopkins’s Perfect exposes the harsh truths about what it takes to grow up—and grow into our own selves. Because everyone wants to be perfect, but when perfection loses its meaning, how far will you go?
For being a terrifyingly engaging and accurate portrayal of teenagerhood, PERFECT is my Strict Pick this week.

Perfect at Powell's
Perfect at Amazon
Perfect at Barnes & Noble 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Writing Hack: Prepping the first 5

Many agents these days want a peep at your first five pages along with the query. But how do you get them formatted quickly so that they won't show up garbled, and will represent you to your very best? This question gets asked on Absolute Write several times a month, and since I just got on the query-go-round (yay!) I thought I'd share my quick tips for getting those pages beautiful, fast.

Many email programs will strip the formatting for you correctly if you just select "plain text" before cutting and pasting your 5 pages into the email. But if you want to be certain, here's how to make sure everything is stripped. 

These steps are for a reformat in Microsoft Word; in most word processors, the steps will be nearly identical, but do consult your help documentation to figure out the nitty-gritty.

Friday, September 09, 2011

In Brief: Write First

Ruth Whitman's words to me were very simple: "Write first." By this she meant, make writing the highest priority in your life. But she also meant those words literally; that is, write before you do anything else in your day. I saw how she translated this maxim into action when we were staying in the same house during a poetry workshop she led. There were eleven miles of beach right out the door of that house that sat on an island off the coast of South Carolina, but Ruth didn't begin her day with a lovely walk on the beach. Nor, for that matter, with any casual conversation with the rest of us. She woke up, made herself some coffee, and retreated to her bedroom, where she spent the next two hours reading and writing. Then she emerged, ready to teach us what she knew about writing poetry. 

--Joan Bolker, Ph.D. Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Strict Pick: BUMBLE-ARDY by Maurice Sendak

Right? I'm recommending a picture book.

I'm young enough that WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE was part of my childhood repertoire, and old enough that I now teach it to my kindergarten reading students. So when I saw BUMBLE ARDY on the SOS cart this week, I had to pick it up and have a look.

And it's lovely, as expected. BUMBLE follows the same sort of trajectory as WILD THINGS, namely, a protagonist with a penchant for getting into trouble. In this case, it's a nine-year-old pig, sent to live with his Aunt, who's never had a birthday party. He invites all sorts of people over, and chaos ensues.

Unlike WILD THINGS, BUMBLE is missing some of those wonderful multi-page sentences that make THINGS such a fun read. However, Sendak retained the "wordless pages," which can be so much fun to sit with a young reader (or not-yet-reader) and let them make up the story. There's also much more rhyme (brine, nine, swine, etc.) which reinforces good early reading, but I thought made it not quite as an interesting read as WILD THINGS.

But of course, the highlight is Sendak's artwork, which is just as brilliant as ever. BUMBLE might not end up quite as enduring a classic as WILD THINGS, but it's definitely worth the gift list. I picked up a copy for each of my nieces.

Bumble-Ardy at Powell's
Bumble-Ardy at Amazon
Bumble-Ardy at Barnes & Noble

Monday, September 05, 2011

Writing Hack: Firewall Your Attention with a Lamp Timer

So I'm a big fan of productivity hacks. One of my biggest banes as a writer (which is one I imagine many of us share) is staying off the internet when I need to be getting work done. I have time set aside for writing every day, but for some reason, clicking the little red "X" on Google Chrome, and keeping it clicked, requires some insane willpower I don't have.

I'm a big fan of the Lifehacker blog,  and there I discovered a nifty little computer program called Freedom. Freedom shuts off your internet for specified periods of time, and in order to get it back before your time is up, you have to completely reboot your computer. This sounds like a great idea. Rebooting is just enough of a hassle to keep me from trying to disable the software. It's $10, which is a small investment to make in the name of writing productivity.

However, I'm also notorious for being frugal (read: cheapskate). So I thought, is there anything I could do for free that would accomplish the same end? And then I remembered my lamp timers.

Yes, a new one will set you back about what Freedom will, so this might be a toss-up if you don't already have one lying around. But as it happened, I had a couple of these from when I lived in a ground floor apartment and it was important to make it look like I was home. They interrupt the power between an outlet and a plug at set intervals, useful for having your house light itself--or for having your internet cut itself off without your help.

I plugged my router into one of these babies, set at 8AM and 10AM (my morning writing hours). And boom! No internet, and to turn it back on, I have to mess with that tangle of wires over in the corner that is entirely not worth the time. It even has an advantage over Freedom: with Freedom, you have to have the willpower to tell Freedom to start running (unless you schedule it to start). With this? My internet is gone, sayonara, adios at 8 everyday. No willpower required.

Who says freedom isn't free?

Friday, September 02, 2011

In Brief: BICHOK*

 Someone once asked Somerset Maugham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration. "I write only when inspiration strikes," he replied. "Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o'clock sharp."

That's a pro.
—Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

*Butt in chair, hands on keyboard.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Strict Pick: THE MEDUSA PLOT (39 Clues) by Gordon Korman

I was introduced to the 39 Clues both from its high-visibility placement in the store, but also from its incredible popularity with the middle-grade-aged readers in my reading classes this summer. I've been fascinated with them for a number of reasons, chief among them the way that these books are designed to make reading a multi-dimensional experience.

One of the things I spend a lot of time thinking about as a writer, and especially a writer with  penchant for turning out male protagonists, is how we get boys to read. Just having a boy MC isn't enough for many, not in these days when books are competing with Wii, texting, PS3 and so many other things that draw in our boys--figuring out a way to make books tap into the "gaming" aspect that is so appealing to boys in this age group

39 Clues fits this bill. With so many authors (and big authors!) working on this project, books end up coming out so frequently that they keep the readers engaged--the aspect of being able to "follow along" was what most of my students most enjoyed. Add to that the interactive missions which tie in to the books and you have a series that's managed to turn reading into exactly the kind of game that will make my nephews put down their Wiimotes.

Here's what the publisher has to say about MEDUSA:
After the mysterious Vespers kidnap Cahills around the globe, they order Amy and Dan to steal a priceless painting in exchange for the hostages. The siblings rush to Italy to execute a heist that rivals the most famous art thefts in history. There's just one problem—the painting they steal is a fake. With the clock ticking, Amy and Dan have to track down the real painting before one of Cahill hostages pays the ultimate price. But Dan and Amy can't stop the Vespers alone. Each book comes with six game cards that unlock an online mission and allow you to join the fight against the Vespers. Are you ready?

39 Clues gets my strict pick this week because it's such an innovative way to deal with the changing nature of the readers of today's kidlit. Enjoy it!

The Medusa Plot at Powell's
The Medusa Plot at Amazon
The Medusa Plot at Barns & Noble

Monday, August 29, 2011

Writing Hack: Develop the Ctrl+S tic

I try hard to do everything I possibly can from my keyboard. A lot of time is wasted when you're constantly moving from keyboard to mouse to keyboard, and if you're writing a difficult passage, taking the time to put your hand on your mouse can break your concentration just enough to pull you out of the writing.

For that reason, one of my favorite writing hacks is what I call the "Ctrl+S tic." I developed it while working in a particularly buggy but useful piece of shareware, Transcriber, which I use for my Linguistics work. Transcriber has a nasty habit of crashing after you've put in several hours' work transcribing an interview. So I got my fingers into the habit of pushing Ctrl+s (save) nearly every time I pause to think. It's pretty easily to train your left hand to run this function, and the shortcut works in almost every application (Mac users, you'll need to pull your pinkie finger in a bit and hit the Apple key, but same idea). The gesture has now become so automatic for me that it's rare that I go more than a few paragraphs without getting a new hard save in.

It's inevitable that you'll have a power surge, or a program crash, or a feline who loves to rub against the power button right when you've just had your stroke of brilliance. Making Ctrl+S an automatic habit means less data lost any time the worst happens.

Friday, August 26, 2011

In Brief: Duh Moment

I frequently check out books from the DC Public Library on my Sony Reader. I went to get some comp titles for SONATA, and was dismayed to find that there were no ebook versions available. Saddened, I started to investigate how much it would cost me to buy the books, in print or e-formats.

And then it dawned on me that the library loans out paper books, too. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

DC Earthquake Aftermath

My earthquake "damage." One of the photos on the box also fell on the floor, knocked over by the books.

I wonder if my renters' insurance has a "toppled stack of ARCs" clause?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Strict Pick: BLOODLINES, by Richelle Mead

Monday nights are my favorite night to work at the store, because that's the night (and afternoon) that we get to break open the boxes labeled STRICT ON SALE. These are the books that everyone (or at least some someones) are waiting for--the ones where the store gets fined if a single copy leaves early. Having always been someone who eagerly waits for the next installment from the authors I love, there's something that never ceases to be magical about being the first to handle their newest release, even if it does mean a slow closing to the store because there's a lot of work we have to do after we lock the door!

So I'm starting a new feature here, where each week, I'll give my pick for the must-read Strict On Sale book that week. If I've gotten my hands on an ARC, you'll get a full review--but some of the time, you'll just have to live with the fact that I'm bound by the SOS rules, too, and I haven't done more than just put the book on its display (which is the case this week).

My Strict Pick this week is BLOODLINES, by Richelle Mead. Now, everybody knows that vampire books are so glutting the market right now it's almost cliche. But in my opinion, there's always room for someone who is tweaking the same-old same-old in a unique and fresh way. BLOODLINES spins off the VAMPIRE ACADEMY universe, and will bring to fore some of the characters who played second-fiddle in the original series.

Here's what the publisher has to say:

When alchemist Sydney is ordered into hiding to protect the life of Moroi princess Jill Dragomir, the last place she expects to be sent is a human private school in Palm Springs, California. But at their new school, the drama is only just beginning.

Populated with new faces as well as familiar ones, Bloodlines explores all the friendship, romance, battles and betrayals that made the #1 New York Times bestselling Vampire Academy series so addictive - this time in a part-vampire, part-human setting where the stakes are even higher and everyone's out for blood.
As a writer and a reader, there's nothing I love more than staying in a good universe I've already grown to love. So for those who've fallen for the VA universe so far (and maybe those that haven't!),  this is the pick for you.

Bloodlines at Powell's
Bloodlines at Amazon
Bloodlines at Barnes & Noble

Monday, July 18, 2011

Judging a Book by Its Cover

I often like things that look lovely in a set. I confess to having all my Harry Potter books (both British and American editions, because I'm strange like that) lined up on a single shelf, so that one can admire the simple perfection in two sets of seven matching spines (and the snitch that serves a a bookend). I love attention to cover design that puts all of an authors' titles in similar covers so that I can find them easily, and I've been known despite my broke-grad-student status to replace books in order to have a matching set.

Last month, we had a little promo table at the store with trade paperback editions of all of the novels of Emily Giffin, in honor of the film release of Something Borrowed. St. Martin's did a lovely re-release of all four backlist titles and the new paperback of Heart of the Matter in honor of the film release, and they have these wonderfully simple covers in coordinating pastels. As a group, they look pretty stunning. The table was at the top of one of the escalators and next to the booksellers' desk, and so I often wandered past it, straightening the copies and making a point to enter a warehouse order any time we run out of one of the titles.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Similar Covers

My epublishing rant of the day--try not to have a cover that looks almost identical to a cover of another book put out by the same house.

Today I got an email notification about a publishing house I follow. The latest book in the lineup, by an author I know from message boards, looks almost identical to a book published by another author six weeks ago. They have similar font and font color for the title, a similar font for the author's name, and both are black covers with a single, drop-shadowed photography element (stock, I'm guessing) about in the center. In both cases, very little about the book is shown by the cover, which is also a problem, but that's an argument for a different day. However, the end result is that the new book looks as if it is perhaps the second in a series to the first book, and I know this not to be the case.

Covers matter. Similar covers mean similar content. When you see a James Patterson novel, it looks like every other James Patterson novel, and there's a reason for that. It screams to the buyer, "Similar book." The same is true of how books in a given genre often look the same, and why you'll find the greatest variety in cover design browsing the "fiction" shelves of the bookstore instead of the "mystery" "romance" "sci fi" shelves.

A good cover designer and an experienced house will know this, and they will make sure this doesn't happen (I can't count how many times we turned down covers because they were too similar to others in our lineup). But with some of the less-experienced e-presses, it may benefit an author to double-check this herself. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

In brief: Book Design

For some reason, graphic design books never seem to put the author's name on the spine of the book. So even if I can see on my scanner that the author's last name is say, "Jenkins," I still have to scan a half-dozen books in order to find the "J"s on the shelf.

One would think that graphic designers, who are all about designing text for function and form, would realize that books often end up on shelves, spines out, in alphabetical order.

Or maybe not.

Last night the air conditioning in the store was broken. I'm pretty sure that shelving graphic design books in 90-degree weather with no AC could be used as an interrogation technique by the DoD.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

In and Out: The reality of bookstore inventory

I frequently pick up ARCs (advance readers' copies) of titles at work, and this one caught my eye some months ago. It's such an interesting premise: a woman recovering from divorce and loss of custody of her children rights herself via finding moving to a house which belonged to Nabokov, finding a manuscript, and opening a male whorehouse (crazy!). And it also caught my eye because the author is also a debut author writing contemporary mainstream.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

On Naming Characters

So during the writers' strike a few years back, I stopped watching most network TV. I simply got out of the habit, and all my watching went by the wayside. But a friend recently alerted me to a storyline on Grey's Anatomy in which I'm very interested. As a result, I've been watching a lot of the show lately, trying to catch up on almost three years of missed episodes, and it has me thinking about character names. Look at some of the names from Grey's Anatomy:


Saturday, May 21, 2011

From Prose to Pulp

The problem with starting a blog is that you're always in the position of asking, what on earth do I know? I figured the answer to that was, "Nothing of consequence." I mean, I can talk your ear off about vowel formant measures, but let's face it, there are about twenty people on earth who are crazy about that, and we see each other at conferences. So I figured, why have an author blog? Everyone has an author blog, and I don't know anything that would be interesting to write and read about.

Except for one niggling thing.

I do know books.

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