Wednesday, August 28, 2013

When Analyzing A Story Just Won't Quit

In my pre-kid life I was a publicist for a major movie studio and was privy to a lot of inside knowledge about the films I worked on. Often that made it hard to watch movies for enjoyment’s sake only, knowing that a particular scene was filmed where it was because the unions had made it difficult to film in the first-choice location, that the actor and director positively hated each other and searching for signs of it on screen. Several times a week, I would “have” (tough gig, right?) to watch movies and try to identify potential marketing strategies we’d use to sell the film in my geographical territory.  I could never complain about that job, but it did make watching movies feel like work, and so I escaped to books to lose myself in another world.

This summer I thought I would do the same in reverse.

With the kids home from school and plenty of vacation to disrupt our routine, I knew I wouldn’t have the quiet time and mental space I usually rely on to write and read. It’s hard to plot amidst requests to carve the watermelon or help find new batteries for the Wii remote. So I decided to give myself a total break from it all.

Mmm...not so much.

What I found was that I’d been working so hard recently to dissect books I loved and really hone the story analysis part of my brain, that I just couldn’t turn it off, even though the medium was totally different. On the one hand, there were times I really wanted to lose myself in a story, but on the other hand, I gained appreciation for the techniques other mediums employ and the way they can transfer to my own stories. I watched mindless summer blockbusters, but still gained a whole new appreciation for breathless pacing. 

I watched TV shows that were master classes in realistic dialogue. A stretch of rainy days had us marathon viewing full seasons of TV series, which gave me a great perspective on combining smaller story arcs with an overarching season-long narrative and some kick-ass examples of realistic dialogue. 

I thought I was taking a break, but instead I was expanding my source material and I’m hoping my “time off” has made me a better storyteller.

Of course, I now need to find entirely new diversions since none of these gave my brain a rest. So, can anyone recommend a good board game? Preferably one with absolutely no characters and no background storyline?

And while you’re at it, where have you found inspiration to help you as a storyteller?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Being an Author's Assistant

As some may know, I'm a (part-time) author's assistant so I get a lot of questions about what I do and how I got the job. I wasn't sure if my experiences were the norm, so I thought I'd ask a few authors & assistants about their relationships. I asked them the three questions I get asked most often. 

I'm Lisa Greer's assistant and my answers will look like this. Lisa Greer is a gothic romance author who also writes bonnet and sweet romances under the name Lorraine James. I'm not just sucking up when I say she's a pleasure to work with!

Joanne Levy is Lisa McMann's assistant. Joanne is an assistant for several other authors, as well as the author of Small Medium at LargeLisa McMann is the author of lots of amazing YA books (including Cryer's Cross, The Unwanteds, and the Wake trilogy) as well as one of the nicest people I've ever met.

Rachel Harris is the (YA & adult romance) author of My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century, A Tale of Two Centuries, and Taste the Heat. She's also hilarious and super sweet. Her assistant is Ashley Bodette.

Sarah M. Anderson is an award-winning author who writes "contemporary westerns with a kick!" Her current release is Bringing Home the Bachelor. She loves to put people from two different worlds into new situations and to see how their backgrounds and cultures take them someplace they never thought they’d go. Her assistant is Melissa Hermann Jolly of AuthorRX.

Here are their answers.

1) Is the assistant a virtual or IRL (in real life) position?

Mine is completely virtual. We've never met IRL.

I’ve been working for her for a while and I although I do know Lisa personally, I do all work for her virtually.

Virtual. We chat via email, Facebook chat, and Google chat 

My assistant is virtual. We've never met!

2) What does the assistant do for the author? 

I do very random, occasional things. I've created and ordered bookmarks, created and maintained a sales-tracking spreadsheet, formatted and published serials. I am an admin on her facebook pages, but I never "pretend" to be her. I do a few hours of work for her per month.

I help her organize fan mail, liaise with people for some of her touring schedule (what doesn’t come from her publisher) arrange travel etc.. I also handle her newsletters and some stuff on Facebook for her as well as other little tasks as required.

So much already, and it's only been a couple weeks. She helps with the promotion of any sales and releases, contacts bloggers and review sites. She is an admin on my FB author page & street team pages and helps conversation as well as promotion. She searches for events and conferences, and will be assisting in setting up engagements, as well as general marketing and branding. 

Ashley's career interest lies in the editorial side, so we really focus here (a huge help with my schedule now). She helps me brainstorms plot points, character arcs, and performs research. Most recently she read through my edit letter and made comments throughout, and she reads through each day's changes. Edits can be so stressful, but with her encouragement and fabulous brain, it's been such a fun experience this go around.

I hired Melissa to do stuff that I won't do myself. Melissa is in

charge of booking speaking events and signings for me. I do not like cold-calling/emailing bookstores and libraries for signings. I always meant to do it, but it got put off and put off until the time passed. So what happens a lot is that I'd meet someone at a networking event and get their information--make that contact--but I'd never follow up on it. I now send all that information to Melissa and she takes care of that for me--handles the legwork, sends me *very* helpful reminders and itineraries and basically takes the worry about it off my shoulders.

3) How did you get the job / how did you find/hire your assistant?

Someone on twitter retweeted her tweet about looking for an assistant and I emailed her. I'd never done it before, but I'd been worming my way into the publishing industry. We talked back in forth via email and came to an agreement.

It was a while back that I started for Lisa, so I can’t remember exactly how it evolved, but it was probably something like her saying “OMG, I’m overwhelmed.” And I said something like, “I can help you. I’ve been thinking of doing this stuff for a side business.” We were friends before this came about, so it grew from that. 

Lisa was my first client (and my only client while I had a day job) but since May of this year, I’ve expanded out and have several clients now. They come to me, mostly via word of mouth from other authors. I don’t do a lot of advertising—mostly just Twitter.

Around the end of July I looked at my calendar and saw that I had six books to write and edit as well as six books releasing in the next year. Along with homeschooling my girls, things were piling up and I needed help, so I turned to my fabulous street team. I was amazed by the fabulous response and ended up with an awesome street team director through the search as well, but quickly one candidate rose to the top. She is AMAZEBALLS!!

I tweeted that I wanted to hire an assistant and got several replies. I talked with people and decided to go with Melissa Jolly of Author RX. I'm naturally a cheap person and Melissa was comfortable with the discussion being limited to a modest set amount. Some assistants didn't seem interested in a small fry such as myself, but Melissa still treats me like a rock star! She gets a lot done in a very little time and isn't bothered that there are some months where there's not much to do.

4) Any other comments?

I love doing it—I’m an author so I know how crazy busy it can get, but I’m also really organized and good with spreadsheets and technology. I love doing this kind of thing, so it’s a perfect job for me to go along with my own writing.

It was hard to convince my husband that I needed as assistant because I'm a smart woman and I could, in theory, do all those things myself. He didn't see the value in it at first, but he's been impressed with the bookings Melissa has helped me get. He knows me and has realized that I wouldn't be able to do those on my own. For me, the benefit of not having to do things I abhor outweighs the modest cost. If authors can find someone who can work within their budgets to handle the things they hate, well, that's a win-win!

So there you have it. I hope this has helped provide a little insight into the world of author's assistants. As you can see, the tasks and hiring methods vary quite a bit.

I'd like to thank every one who answered my questions for this post, as well as everyone who retweeted me when I was looking for authors to interview. <3


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Writers are heroes too, you know

Ignore those who claim that a writer's journey isn't for the faint of heart. Believe me, it's an adventure the likes of which Alice or Frodo have never seen.

While you're at it, balk at those who try to tell you that being a writer doesn't amount to much. With your head high and your voice strong, tell them that the writer is somewhat of a superhero.

Have them think about any hero with any super power, any one at all, and I'll show you the writer has it too, without a doubt.

"Super strength," they might say. Well, yes, writers need it to balance all those characters, do they not?

"Surely a writer can't read minds," they might retort. Why, yes they can! How else do writers know what's happening in their characters' heads?

"Super speed?" Please! Have you seen a writer's fingers burst across a keyboard?

"Okay, okay," they'll likely say, "but if writers are superheroes, they've got to have supervillains!"

That's when you'll pause, furrow your brow, and speak real low, making sure they know the severity of what you're about to say.

"Think of the worst villains you can, the most evil, dastardly ones there are. Think of Voldemort. Think of Smaug. Think of the Wicked Witch and the Red Queen. Now put them all together. That thing... that most hideous, most vile, most sinister thing standing before you... is like a rolly-poly little puppy compared to the foe that the writer faces. You see, the writer's villain is in his or her own head."

That's right. Those sad saps are sorely mistaken if they think a writer sees no adventure. Sure, they begin their journey at home, safe and sound. But faster than the blink of an eye, writers are wading through the thick, mucky swamp of ideas inside their brain. They must watch out for leeches and crocodiles disguised as bad ideas. If the writer successfully fishes out a good one, and climbs out of the muck, it's off to Mount Doom where only then the treacherous path of crafting the story begins.

Slowly and steadily the writer must climb, one foot at a time. One misstep and the mind will send the writer hurling off a cliff, down, down, down into the deepest canyon one can imagine.

This is the dreaded writer's block.

Only blackness awaits the writer there. Blackness and misery with no end in sight. But skilled writers have strong powers, and with hard work and focus, the writer can emerge from that abyss and continue up the mountain.

Let me tell you, the top of that mountain is glorious. The writers stands there tall in his or her heroic stance, proudly taking it all in.

Aching? Yes.

Tired? Most definitely.

Satisfied with a job well done? You better believe it. A finished story is the most satisfying thing there is.

And so, the journey ends.

The writer hangs up his or her cape.

The mind is put to rest.

Until they meet again... the next day.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Welcome our new YAtopians

Recently we put out the call for three more YAtopian’s to join our ranks. We had a fantastic response with such high quality applicants. We would have loved to have you all joining, but unfortunately we only had three spots. Thank you so much to everyone who applied.
Out of the many applications we had a consensus on three great writers, each with their own unique journey that allows them to bring you more great perspectives on MG, YA and NA books, writing and paths to publication.
So here they are..drumroll…our new YAtopians!

As a young girl, Lori Goldstein would make a tent with her bed sheet and clasp a flashlight in one hand and a book in the other. She’d read into the wee hours, way past her bedtime. Today, she not only reads past her bedtime, she writes too.
Thanks to Azra, the sixteen-year-old genie in Lori’s debut novel, her wish to be a published author has been granted. The currently titled Becoming Jinn, a Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy, will magically appear in Spring 2015 from Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s. The spell will last through Spring 2016 when the sequel is revealed. Lori is represented by Lucy Carson of The Friedrich Agency
With a degree in journalism from Lehigh University and more than 10 years of experience, Lori is a freelance copyeditor and manuscript consultant for all genres. She focuses on the nitty-gritty, letting writers focus on the writing.
Too much of Lori’s day involves chatting books, obsessing over The Vampire Diaries, and perfecting the art of efficient writing through Twitter. Find her at @loriagoldstein, follow her blog at, or swing by Goodreads to see her favorite reads.

Lindsay Leggett is a writer and an editor for Month9Books. She loves the juxtaposition of beauty and grit, urban crawls, indie everything, and time well spent in the woods. She currently lives in Northern Ontario, with plans to dominate... er, travel the world. 

Lindsay is the author of Flight and has a number of works-in-progress on the way. She spends most of her time writing and editing, but can often be found watching copious amounts of anime, playing video games, or riding horses.

Find her at for fun blogs and vlogs, interactive writing, and random fun.

Laura Diamond is a board certified psychiatrist and author of all things young adult paranormal, dystopian, and horror. Her Young Adult Paranormal Romance novelette NEW PRIDE and novel SHIFTING PRIDE debuted in 2012 from Etopia Press. A spin off short story based on the lions of Tsavo, TSAVO PRIDE, is now available on Amazon. ENDURE is a YA paranormal dystopian with sci-fi elements. Its sequel, EVOKE, is coming late 2013/early 2014 by Etopia Press. ZODIAC COLLECTOR, a YA paranormal romance, is coming 2014 by Spencer Hill Press. When she's not writing, she is working at the hospital, blogging at AuthorLaura Diamond--Lucid Dreamer, and renovating her 225+ year old fixer-upper mansion.
Please make our newest citizens of YAtopia feel welcome!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Teentopia: Samuel

Teentopia is a monthly feature here on YAtopia where we ask real teens questions about what they like to read and how they choose the books they read. For more information and more Teentopia posts, click here.

This week, we're interviewing Samuel. Please tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Sam. I am a nineteen-year-old college sophomore and I like to surf the internet, read, and participate in campus activities for fun. I am a member of Student Senate, a religious life group, a local social fraternity, and a national service fraternity at my current college. I study education and am still exploring what it is that I want to do. I love to socialize and do all sorts of things. In fact, sometimes I’m that person that does a little too much in school.

How many books do you think you read in a year?

I read about five pleasure reading books a year because I take my time reading and I have a lot of academic reading to do. If I included all of my textbooks you could multiply the books I read by five or more. Since I haven’t taken an English class lately, these books aren’t often novels. However, It’s still reading.

What are some of your favorite recently-read books?

One of my favorite books that I have recently read is Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. It’s a real thriller and it includes old-timey photographs that give it a real flare. I love how he made an entire story around them. It’s like a thriller/adventure/fantasy that combines themes from X-Men, Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and Percy Jackson in a way that makes it a world of its own. It’s a great book that I had a hard time putting down once I got going.

How do you find out about and choose books that aren't assigned in school?

I find out in a variety of ways. I go to bookstores and libraries and ask for suggestions, I look up reviews of books, and I even peruse the selections in my favorite areas and read the back sleeves of books. Some books are non-fiction and about history or language, most are YA novels, because I still cannot resist them. I also love classics. I just wish I had the time to read as much pleasure reading as I wanted to.

On a related note, do you read reviews before you decide to read a book? Where?

I do read reviews.  Look on Amazon, Barnes and, and sometimes I search Google if I’m not satisfied. But it’s not too hard to find decent book reviews if you look at the right places. Book stores’ websites tend to have great reviews because they are written by bookworms. ^^

Do you read author's blogs/facebooks/twitters? If yes: before you read their book or after - and what kind of content do you like to see?

I do read two authors’ social media pages/feeds. I read those of JK Rowling and John Green. The former is amazing and my childhood hero. I love to see what she is doing and what she’s up to next and her Twitter made me borrow a copy of The Casual Vacancy from a friend. The latter is entertaining and I love to read his twitter feed and watch his YouTube videos, however, I have been unable to make the time to read a book of his yet.

What kind of covers draw your attention?

To be honest, anything without a cheesy teenage couple on the cover attracts my attention. It makes me stop for a second and think, hmm, this may be worth my effort and time. But what really catches my eye is something with simplicity, but class and grace. I also get caught by covers that are abnormal, depict nature, or deserve some kind of explanation, which forces me to read the back. Not all of them really affect my attraction to the book, but ones that kind of give away that the genre is one I’m not really into make me not want to read them. I look more at titles and the back of book though. However, I feel like sometimes the covers do affect how seriously I take the books.

Do you feel like YA books accurately represent teen culture? How so?

I feel like it accurately represents different groups of teens. I feel that each genre can represent a different culture within “teen-dom”. But one group within teen culture may not agree with what represents them when compared to another. I think there are books for every teen out there, you just have to know where to look for them.

Is there anything (themes, character types, genres, time periods, etc) you'd like to see more of in YA books?

I would love to see more unique ideas. It gets tiresome seeing the same old thing over and over again. I like entering a whole new world. Some books that are good examples of how I’ve found that world are Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Percy Jackson Series , The Thirteenth Tale by Dianne Setterfield, and The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

Anything you want to see less of?

Vampires, vampires, vampires. I am done with and not interested in paranormal romance. I hate seeing it crowd the shelves. It was never really good and now it irritates me when I go to Barnes and Nobel and see it covering the shelves.

How do you read books? (paper, e-reader, phone, audio, etc)

I read paper, audio, and e-reader books. I own a Kindle and use it just as much as paper books. I really appreciate all of the formats that a book can come in and sometimes audio books even help me focus on what I’m reading. So really I’m a proponent of all formats. I actually get really frustrated with people who limit themselves to one type out of a form of disdain for change or lack of change. I think many mediums offer many ways to receive books. Plus, e-books are cheaper, which is nice for my shallow college pockets. :)_

What do you think about all the YA books that have recently been made into movies?
It depends on the book. I loved the movie of The Lightning Thief. I really didn’t like Twilight as a book or movie. It depends on the movie and the quality of the literature, I guess.

What book have you read that you think deserves more attention?

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. It’s really good. Trust me.

What novel are you most looking forward to in the next year?

I never really know what’s coming out until it’s out, but I have a lot on my list. I am excited to read The Hunger Games next, but I know I’m behind by a lot.

Do you use any book-specific sites to keep track of what you've read?

Not really. At one point in time I used this site with shelves, but I stopped using it in high school.

What's the most important element to you: characters, plot, writing style?

To have a new world fold in front of my eyes and be able to journey with the character. I love the mystique and adventure of a world unique to a novel. The character needs to be relatable, though, and the plot and writing style need a flow that can draw you in with each step they take on their journey.

Have you ever seen a book trailer? If so, did it make you want to read the book? What do you think about them?

Yes. Actually, the book Witch and Wizard by James Patterson had an awesome trailer that made me read the book. I think they’re a pretty neat way to get YA’s involved in literature.

Thanks so much for your thoughtful answers, Sam!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Why Authors Need Other Authors

It's fairly obvious that authors cannot exist without the support of readers, and in this day and age - without the support of the blogging community. But authors also need each other, perhaps now more than ever given the indie revolution and the changing face of the publishing industry.

The authorial life can be a lonely one with only your characters for company while friends and family battle to understand why you spend days poring over outlines and character sheets, how you can spend weeks at the computer typing out words you're never quire sure are good enough, or how you can survive the months spent agonizing over query letters, publishing deals, editorial letters, revisions, rewrites...

There are some things about the writing life that only other authors can truly understand. Thankfully, given the advent of social media, being an author no longer has to be a solitary activity. Regardless of where you are in the world, like-minded writers are just a tweet away.

I am a fairly isolated writer. As an English native living in Finland, I don't have the possibility of joining a writer's group (they're almost exclusively for writers of Finnish, Swedish or possibly Russian works), there are few if any cons I can easily attend (with limited English content) and I don't have many personal writing buddies I can meet for coffee. While this sometimes gets me down and leaves me frothing with jealousy when online writer friends post pictures of writing retreats or the huge convention they attended in their home town, in general, I don't feel isolated because of the online community.

This month alone, I have received buckets of encouragement from authors via Facebook and Twitter, I have engaged in discussions on everything from voice to ebook formatting, best ways to promote as an indie and how to stay motivated through the muddy middle. I am so lucky to have stumbled upon two fantastic author communities.

1) The New Adult Authors Unite! Facebook group (#NAAU) where a diverse bunch of writers have come together to share their love of New Adult fiction, to learn about the craft and industry, and interact with other NA authors. I have learned so much through this group and have made so many new friends within the writing community.

2) The WIPMarathon team on Twitter. I stumbled upon #wipmarathon and since joining this group of writers, I have written almost 10k words since August 1st - quite a feat for me. I've never been so encouraged and motivated to write as I have since providing daily check-ins on story progress and weekly updates regarding the month's writing goals. I'd probably still be floundering around the 15k mark if it weren't for the WIPMarathon community.

Authors needs other authors. Yes, many of us are in direct competition for agents, for publishing deals, for readers, but that doesn't mean we can't support and encourage each other along the road to success because we're all walking that road together. Sometimes you'll be the one sprinting towards the three book deal and movie adaptation, stopping to offer encouragement to those still in the query trenches, and sometimes it'll be you in need of a helping hand to dust off rejection and find the motivation to keep writing.

What kind of experiences have you had in the author community?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


So there is only one thing I can talk about this month because it is just right around the corner – DRAGONCON!

It is thanks to DragonCon that I am here writing for YAtopia and have had a blast doing so talking about writing, authors, collection development for libraries and hopefully the best is yet to come.

DragonCon is a great place to meet authors, writers, editors and everything in between. It was once described to me as a Lucas and Spielberg movie where the director never yelled cut for four days straight; sometimes five depending on when you arrive. But it is a great place to meet friends you never knew you had.

So I figured I would post my DragonCon schedule since I will be doing stuff for both the YA Lit Track and the Kaleidoscopes Track involving YA books, authors, reading and everything in-between as well. I will also be launching a new book this weekend as well. It is my first non-fiction library collection and readers advisory book for teens and tweens.

I hope to see many of you there. Say hello… Because I will have some cool stuff to give away.

Title: Fart Jokes and Boy Humor
Description: Shows like Crash & Bernstein attract both boys & girl viewers. Let's discuss the reasons why kids love these shows.
Time: Fri 01:00 pm Location: A708 - Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Davey Beauchamp)

Title: Vampires vs. Werewolves
Description: Which is more awesome: vampires or werewolves? Dear reader, you must choose a side in this hilarious debate.
Time: Fri 08:30 pm Location: A707 - Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)
Moderator / MC for panel
(Tentative Panelists: Lucienne Diver, Mari Mancusi, M. B. Weston, Bonnie Kunzel, Debbie ViguiƩ, Davey Beauchamp, Clay and Susan Griffith)

Title: Autograph Sessions
Time: Sat 01:00 pm Location: International Hall South - Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Mercedes Lackey, Michael Stackpole, Davey Beauchamp)

Title: Mighty Morphin' Mega Panel
Description: Power Rangers! Awesome! 20th Anniversary gathering of some of your favorite Rangers & Villains.
Time: Sat 04:00 pm Location: Imperial Ballroom - Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)
Moderator / MC for panel
(Tentative Panelists: Robert Axelrod, Karan Ashley, Walter Jones, Davey Beauchamp)

Title: Read-A-Likes
Description: Turn your child's love for TV into a love of Reading
Time: Sun 02:30 pm Location: A708 - Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)
Moderator / MC for panel
(Tentative Panelists: Davey Beauchamp, Janine K. Spendlove, Bryan Young, Tracy A. Akers, David Macinnis Gill)

Title: May the Power Protect You
Description: Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. Catch up with the cast & ask your questions!
Time: Mon 10:00 am Location: Imperial Ballroom - Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)
Moderator / MC for panel
(Tentative Panelists: Robert Axelrod, Karan Ashley, Walter Jones, Davey Beauchamp)

Title: Stuck in the Middle
Description: SF and Fantasy for the middle grades and younger fan.
Time: Mon 01:00 pm Location: A707 - Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Davey Beauchamp, L. M. Davis, David Macinnis Gill, Susan Fichtelberg, Rachel Hartman)