Sunday, April 28, 2013

Your Book is HOW Long??

Earlier this month,Ryan blogged about the importance of writing from the heart, and I couldn’t agree more.   For me, personally, I have to feel that tingle of excitement when I think about my characters or sit down to write.  Does it happen every single time? Well, no.  But overall? Heck, yeah. I couldn’t imagine writing something that didn’t capture my imagination. 

HOWEVER, I want to provide an addendum to that advice.  If your goal is to be a writer, it is always enough to write what is in your heart. If you strive to be a traditionally published writer, you also need to be mindful of the market. This is not to say follow trends, because with the long lead times in publishing, what’s hot today might well be old news by the time you have a polished manuscript.  However, as a serious writer with a publishing goal it pays to be aware of certain unwritten “rules”. The closer you are to the beginning of your writing career, the more mindful you should probably be.

I’m blogging about word counts this month because I’ve begun taking on freelance editing work and have had several clients recently who’ve asked for help with queries and/or full edits on manuscripts that are very, very long. Too long, in my opinion (as in, way over 100k).

Words are free, so why does it matter if your story runs long? After all, that just means there’s more of it to love, right? Wrong. Words are free, but paper isn’t and printing isn’t and book design isn’t and copy edits aren’t and shipping isn’t and the time required to edit your book isn’t and these are all things that become more expensive with longer books. However, the bigger (pun intended) issue is shelf space.  Imagine you are a buyer for an independent bookstore with a small children’s section (or even a buyer for Barnes & Noble, which also has this spacing concern). You only have the shelf room to order a limited number of YA books.  Do you order two different books to allow your customer greater options or do you reserve that same amount of shelf space for only one book by a debut author without a built-in fan base? Seems like an easy choice and publishers know it.

You will often see, as authors gain in popularity, the size of their books increase (Which is why Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is 257,154 words versus Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone at 77,508) but this is far more the exception than the norm for debut authors. And there are exceptions, of course. However, given the difficulty of getting published, why make it that much more of an uphill battle for your manuscript?

So, what are those norms:

Picture book (fiction): 300-900 words  (Example: Emeraldilicious 840 words)

Chapter Books: 5,000-15,000 words  (Clementine 12,706 words, Ivy and Bean 7,828 words)

Middle Grade: 15,000-60,000, with rare longer exceptions for fantasy (The One and Only Ivan 26,263 words, Out of My Mind 56,872 words)

Young Adult: 50,000-90,000 with books at high end of that range generally being fantasy (The Fault in Our Stars 65,752 The Selection 80,248)

**I pulled most of the example books from this week’s NYT bestseller list for children’s books.  A great resource for researching word counts of published books is the website AR BookFinder.  

Have you hit any roadblocks with your word counts? Are you a rule follower or a rule breaker?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Guestopia: Kevin Sharp

We're pleased to welcome Kevin Sharp to this month's Guestopia!

Kevin Sharp is a New Mexico native who currently lives in Northern California, where he teaches high school English. He is the author of numerous screenplays and two award-winning short stories. While he has technically grown up, Kevin has yet to outgrow Looney Tunes, The Price is Right, fantasy novels, or comic books. Deep down, he still thinks that working with apes would be the best job in the world. 

The Films Of Youth
By Kevin Sharp

I wrote After Dakota as sort of a tribute to the classic teen movies of the 1980s, by filmmakers like John Hughes and Cameron Crowe. The films that really meant something to us back then were the ones less concerned with big jokes, or big parties, or showing as much nudity as possible (not that my friends and I objected to that last one, mind you). No, the ones that really mattered were the ones about people and about life.

In that tradition, here are ten teen movies I recommend – from the ‘80s and beyond – that share some of the same spiritual DNA as my novel. 

1. Adventureland (2009)

Because of watching fireworks while listening to Crowded House, and not wanting to be anywhere else in the world. 

2. Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982)

Because while it’s (justifiably) famous for Sean Penn’s Spicoli and Phoebe Cates in her red bikini, it’s stuffed with riches beyond them: Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” the baseball dugout, Mr. Hand’s housecall, the way it all walks the line between comedy and teenage tragedy.

3. Fish Tank (2009)

Because of Katie Jarvis’s lead performance, dancing, fighting, cursing, powering her way through life – until she realizes she may be powerless after all.

4. Ghost World (2001)

Because of bondage masks and record collections and summer art class.

5. The Last American Virgin (1982)

Because the title suggests a shallow romp like Porky’s, but this is actually about the struggle between loyalty to friends versus loyalty to an object of desire. (It also has maybe the most realistically bleak ending of any teen movie ever.)

6. The Myth of the American Sleepover (2010)

Because of riding bikes at sunset. Because of dancing on a pier. Because of abandoned tunnels. Because of all the possibilities in the waning days of summer.

7. Rushmore (1998)

Because the whole thing takes place in fall, the late season light lending a fabulous melancholy that both undercuts and enhances the storybook quality.

8. Say Anything… (1989)

Because our hero’s best girl friend tells him: “The world is full of guys. Be a man. Don’t be a guy,” and even the guys watching have to agree with her. Because our hero trades his heart to his dream girl in exchange for a pen, and all the guys watching would have done the exact same thing.

9. Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)

Because how could I not include a John Hughes movie? (This, in my opinion, is his most underappreciated.)

10. Submarine (2010)

Because the protagonist says to his possibly-girlfriend: “I thought it would be nice to get some mutual interests, now that we've had sex, other than spitting and setting things on fire.”

After Dakota


Newborn MTV. Cabbage Patch Kids. Rubik’s Cube. Michael Jackson. President Reagan. A U.S. – U.S.S.R. Cold War that threatens to go hot at any moment.

Against this backdrop, three teens begin a year of change and turmoil following the sudden loss of one of their closest friends.

Dakota meant different things to Cameron, Bryce, and Claire. When she disappears in a plane crash, they each have to face their own mortality, along with the secrets they still carry about her. 


Kevin is giving away one hard copy of After Dakota (US only) and one ebook of After Dakota (open internationally)! To enter, just leave a comment about your favorite teen movie. Don't forget to include a contact email and whether you live in the US or not :-)

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Story About Finding Your Way

Bear with me, if you will, while I flashback to a difficult time in my writerly life, allllllllllllllll the way back to the year 2011...

I had it--the story that would make me famous! It was good. Really good. Or so I thought.  I was in love with it. Better yet, I was having the time of my life writing it. The words poured onto the screen like magic. I pictured its cover. I imagined the looks on the faces of those kids who were going to read it.

Then the rejections started rolling in--one after another, each a bigger, sharper dagger straight to my ego. The dream of my passion project being on bookshelves went up in smoke. I kept asking myself: what went wrong? I scoured over the rejections, looking for something that I could use, something that would help ease my mind--and reassure me that it wasn't just because I sucked.

Of course, as much as I tried to find an answer, I knew it was a pointless search. There never is one answer to why a particular project isn't right. It could be anything from bad timing to just being poorly executed. Frustrated over not being able to find that answer, I became down on the project, and worse yet, down on myself as a writer.

I was scared to death of starting a new project, worried about wasting another six months on something that would get me nowhere. Man, to view writing as wasted time... thinking back, I just shake my head. My mind was so consumed with negativity. I decided right then that for my next project I'd leave no room for error. I'd write a story that was guaranteed to attract an agent. It would have all the ingredients of a book that sells in today's market. In other words, I was writing for no other reason than to get published.

Don't get me wrong, I still loved writing. It was my passion, as it always has been. But the process of trying to get published, of being immersed in the publishing industry with all the querying, and Twitter following, and seeing other writers get deals--it makes you a bit obsessed. So, I tried my hand at writing to the trends. I was still confident in my ability, and I knew I could write a book that would sell.
Well, what resulted was one of the worst cases of writer's block I ever had. It was beyond block. It was a writer's funk. I would start one thing, lose interest, and then start another. Did you know that I tried to write a paranormal romance? I know, right? Me! Paranormal romance! Then I moved on to dystopian, becauce those were big at the time. Then YA sci-fi. Then contemporary realism. Then magic realism. I just kept jumping from genre to genre, forcing myself to churn out a story.

Well, fellow YAtopians, I'm afraid it doesn't work that way. At least not for me, as I learned the hard way. I wasn't passionate about any of those stories. And so, my writer's funk continued--for 18 long, excruciating months. 

Then I got some advice from someone near and dear to my heart.

"At the end of the day, you're a story teller, Ryan," he said. "We're all sitting around a camp fire waiting for you to spin your next yarn. At the end of it, it's not about profit. Just a good story."

"Write what you feel, what you're passionate about. Write you. Don't write to get published, because then you lose the story. If you're thinking about getting published more than a story that will be memorable, then in my opinion you're in the wrong profession."

It hit me. I was writing for the wrong reasons. Somewhere I had lost sight of why I was writing, and more importantly, who I was writing for. When I first started out--bright eyed and fresh-faced--I wasn't writing for agents. I wasn't writing for publishers. Certainly not for money.

What happened to that guy? What happened to the guy who wrote that goofy story about the kid-eating washing machine? All he wanted was to write stories that filled kids' heads with a sense of wonder like Roald Dahl books did for him. That guy needed to come back in the worst way.

And thanks to that advice, he has. For that, I'm eternally grateful. As long as it echoes in my mind, I'll never lose my way again.

Remember this: trends come and go, but truly great stories written by people who are passionate about them are timeless.

Write about what you love, not what you think others will love.


Saturday, April 20, 2013


IN STONEeBook + Kindle Fire Giveaway


IN STONE will be available July 29!

Beau Baily is suffering from a post break-up meltdown when she happens across a knife in her local park and takes it home. Less than a week later the new boy in school has her trapped in an alley; he's sprouted horns and is going to kill boy unless she hands over the knife.

Until Eighteenth Century gargoyle, Jack shows up and saves her.

Jack has woken from a century long slumber to tell Beau that she's accidentally been drafted into a power struggle between two immortal races: Demons and Gargoyles. The knife she picked up is the only one in existence capable of killing immortals and they'll tear the world apart to get it back. To draw the warring immortals away from her home, Beau decides go with Jack to Bulgaria in search of the mind-bending realm known as the Underworld, a place where they'll hopefully be able to destroy the knife and prevent all hell from breaking loose. That is providing they can outrun the demons that are chasing them. .
About the Author

Louise is a graduate of Garstang Community Academy, currently studying for a BA (Hons) in English language and literature with special emphasis on creative writing. YA aficionado. Brit bird. Film Nerd. Identical twin. Junk Food enthusiast. Rumoured Pink Power Ranger. Zombie apocalypse survivor. Avid collector of book boyfriends.
You can find Louise on her Blog, on Twitter and on Facebook where she's anything but as still as a stone gargoyle.

Giveaway – Open Internationally

To celebrate her upcoming release, Louise is giving away an ecopy of IN STONE and a Kindle Fire to one lucky reader! One runner-up will also win an ecopy of IN STONE. UK and US residents are eligible to win the Kindle Fire. If you live outside the UK or US and your name is drawn, you will receive an Amazon gift card valued at £160 (GBP) instead. The winners will be announced July 29. Good luck!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Interview with YA/NA author ST Bende

The biggest trend at the moment is New Adult. These books are targetted at a slightly older young adult crowd, usually featuring characters of college going age although there is quite a bit of overlap. From what I've read and seen about this emergent category, NA titles tend to be contemporary and the inclusion of more explicit sex scenes seems to be par for the course. Today I'm delighted to introduce author ST Bende with her upper YA/NA novel Elsker, which is a refreshingly clean, fantasy read.

Take it away ST Bende...

Thanks so much for letting me visit. I’m a huge fan of YAtopia, and I’m super excited to be here to share my debut series with y’all!

Elsker, Book One in THE ELSKER SAGA, follows twenty-year-old Kristia Tostenson as she leaves her small town to find adventure at Cardiff University in Wales. Kristia gets a lot more than she bargained for when she falls in love with Ull Myhr. He’s not just a graduate student - he’s an Asgardian Assassin and the Norse God of Winter. And he’s going to make Kristia’s orderly life seriously complicated.

Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a lifelong skier, a baking aficionado, a huge IndyCar fan, and a lover of all things Scandinavian… except for fish. I’ve been trying to learn Norwegian for the better part of a decade but all I can really say is, “thanks for the waffles”. I have the best Norsk waffle recipe in the world, and I share it at the end of Elsker. Skal!

Which authors have influenced your writing?
Shakespeare and J.K. Rowling. They’re brilliant at world building, and they’re masters at moving scenes along through dialogue. I love their stories because I get lost in them. I honestly forget where I am when I pick up a Harry Potter book, and when I’m having a bad day the snarky banter in Much Ado picks me right up. I hope my characters can make readers even half as happy as Beatrice and Benedick make me. (You know you laugh when Benedick declares his love for Beatrice by saying, “The world must be peopled!”)

What kind of research did you do to write this book?
I think I read every book our little library had on Scandinavian Mythology, including the kid’s books -- those books had some seriously disturbing illustrations of trolls. I wanted to choose a hero who didn’t have a preexisting back-story, and I found him in the God of Winter. Ull is popular with skiers, but I didn’t find a ton about him in scholarly research. He was enough of a blank page that I felt like I wouldn’t offend too many people if I reinvented him.

I tried to stay true to the gods’ stories where I could, but I had a blast adding my own twist to the mythology too. And setting the world of Asgard against a girl whose frame of reference is a one-stoplight-town was all kinds of fun.

What made you decide to go the indie/small press route?
Honestly, I was too scared to put it out there on my own. I knew there were holes in my story, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to fix them. Landing Eden Plantz was like winning the editor lottery. We talked a lot about where we wanted Elsker to go, and she respected what I could and couldn’t do to my characters. By the time we started content edits I knew we were on the same page, and I just ran with every change she suggested. I’m so grateful for her.

What input, if any, did you have in the cover design?
Not a lot, so I was happy that Kristia’s Mj√∂lnir necklace was incorporated into the Elsker cover. It plays a big role in her story.

What are your thoughts on ebooks? (i.e. love them, hate them, future of publishing, just a phase)
Since Elsker’s publisher only contracts e-book rights, I’m hoping for the best. From a reader’s perspective, I’ve had great experiences reading e-books from small press/self published authors that I’ve met on Twitter. I love that writers are taking their publishing journeys into their own hands, and I’ve read some really good books in the three months I’ve had my Kindle. Yep, three months. I’ve crept slowly into the digital age…

Do you read reviews written about your book?
Oh good heavens, there are going to be reviews. *cringes* Can there be a rule you should wait to review Elsker until you’ve eaten those delicious waffles I give you the recipe for? No? It doesn’t work like that? Sigh…

How do you deal with negative reviews?
I’m thinking it will involve lots of ice cream… and Norwegian waffles smothered in Nutella.

Would you like to add anything else?
I really appreciate your letting me visit YATopia. I’m a huge fan of the blog! And I can’t wait for y’all to meet my hunky hero, Ull Myhr. I’ve got a bit of a crush on him, and I hope you like him too.

Now just choose one:

Summer or Winter? Since Ull’s the God of Winter, and he’s all kinds of awesome, I choose Winter.

Ice cream or custard? Ice cream.

Tea or Coffee? Coffee before noon, tea after.

Reading a good book or watching a good movie? Good book!

Gods or Monsters? Gods. Norse gods. ;)

THE ELSKER SAGA will be available from Entranced Publishing April 22nd. Watch the trailer!

Tur, the prequel, can be downloaded for free over here right now!

Find ST Bende on Twitter at her blog. Be sure to stop by the blog between April 11th and May 20th for a chance to win fabulous prizes in the ELSKER Release Month of Giveaways!   

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Interview with YA Author Janine Spendlove

This month I am doing something a little different and posting an interview with Janine Spendlove, whom I have had the pleasure of knowing for quite sometime. I plan to something even more different, or is it really different since I have never done this before, is do a follow up interview with Janine next month for and with any questions you might have for her. If you do please post them in the comments by the first of May.



Janine K. Spendlove is a KC-130 pilot in the United States Marine Corps. Her bestselling first novel, War of the Seasons, Book One: The Human, was published in June 2011 and her next novel, War of the Seasons, Book Two: The Half-blood, was released in June 2012. She’s also had several short stories published in various anthologies. A graduate from Brigham Young University in 1999 with a BA in History Teaching, she is an avid runner, enjoys knitting, playing Beatles tunes on her guitar, and spending time with her family. She resides with her husband and daughter in Washington, DC. She is currently at work on her next novel. Find out more at

Why or what made you want to be a writer?

I'm a pilot in the United States Marine Corps and back in 2007 I was asked to contribute a few short stories of some of my flying experiences to an anthology. I did and they bought both stories that I wrote... I thought "hey, this is pretty cool..."

Then I read a novel & was very disappointed by the ending and took my first foray into writing fanfic to give the story the ending I thought it should have had.

That story led to others... and before I knew it I'd caught the writing bug and was writing original fiction. 

Do you have a day job or do you write full time?

I have two 24/7 jobs. First and foremost I'm a wife/mother; additionally, as mentioned above I'm also a U.S. Marine. Neither one of these is a "day job" by any definition I can think of. ;)

Tells us about your series

The first book in the War of the Seasons trilogy, The Human, introduces Story, a strong female lead who happens to quite literally fall into another world and land herself smack dab in the middle of a centuries long conflict between the fairies and elves. As it turns out she is the deciding factor, and her choices determine the fate of a dying racing. It's got action, adventure, romance, magic, and a story that appeals to all ages.

The Half-blood  picks up six months later. Story finds herself once again on a quest and along the way she must face the consequences of her previous choices and battle with enemies both old and new while she races against time. 

The final book in the trilogy, The Hunter is the culmination of a millennia of prophecy, where everyone in Ailionora must fight to hold the Winter King at bay, and prevent Chaos from being unleashed. The existence of all hangs in the balance.

What inspired you to write your series?

If you own a copy of War of the Seasons: The Human and you look at the dedication you’ll see it’s “For Will.”

Who was Will?

William Harrell Snell was born on March 26, 1990 and died in a car accident on Aug 4, 2008.
He was a very dear part of my life and I was having a very difficult time dealing with his death, so I turned to writing. If you'd like to learn a little more about Will I have a blog post here:

What advice would you give to a new writer trying to become an author?

To kind of quote Dory from Finding Nemo "Just keep writing, just keep writing..."

Seriously. It's the only way you'll ever get better. And when people give you constructive criticism, don't get defensive - listen to what they have to say. They may have a point, and what could it hurt to give what they are suggesting a try? If it doesn't work you can always go back to the way it was. 

Do you have any hobbies besides writing?

So very many. I love to run, with 1/2 marathons being my favorite race distance, though I have raced everything from a 200 mile road relay down to a 1 mile dash. Running keeps me sane & is perfect for when I've got some writer's block. Additionally I love to knit, play my guitar, make costumes, and though I haven't done it in years I desperately want to pick up quilting again. Some day when I have the time... 

What is one question you have never been asked but wanted to be asked and answer?

Who is my favorite Beatle?

Paul. Forever Paul.