Friday, September 27, 2013

Surviving the Debut

I'm so grateful for the support of the writing community. I would not have been able to survive this process without help from the wonderful people I've met along the way. Today I'm thrilled to have authors Tiffany Schmidt, Mindi Scott, and Charlotte Bennardo, who all survived their debuts and were gracious enough to tell us just how they did that, as well as offer up advice to those of us who have yet to walk through that fire.

When did it feel real?

Tiffany: I’m still waiting for this one! I sometimes have lingering nightmares about query-letter rejections.

It felt real when I received my ARCs, and when strangers started Tweeting about reading SEND ME A SIGN. It felt more real when I held my finished copies, then saw them in bookstores. It felt even more real when I had interactions with readers at various signings.  Then surreal when I received my first fan mail and email, or when I had a blogger walk up to me at a bookstore event for a different author and tell me she was having a ‘fangirl moment,’ just seeing me.

I’m still living in a constant state of ‘pinch me’ because oftentimes it just doesn’t seem like this can possibly be true!

Mindi: I can’t think of a single moment that helped define it as “real.” More, I think it was a series of moments (seeing my ARCs for the first time, reading pro reviews of my work, having readers ask me to sign their books, bloggers using my book in their posts, receiving emails from fans) that all built upon one another in such a way that it became impossible to NOT believe.

Charlotte: When we got the call from Brian Farrey, our editor at Flux, it was a scream fest (really, the neighbors heard us screaming) so it felt real to me; I’d never had that “We want to offer you a contract” call before. Of course I worried until the contract was signed, sent, received, and copy returned that they’d change their mind. Once I had that binding contract, it was super REAL.

What would you tell your former self?

Tiffany: I’d tell my former self (and current self, since I still really struggle with this) to remember to enjoy the journey. Publishing is a slow, slow process, and release day will eventually arrive, but it’s so important to take time to enjoy and celebrate each step along the way.

Mindi: Watching time-travel movies has made it so that I can’t allow myself to even consider talking to my former self. Ha! Not to mention that my former self is such a skeptic that any needed words of encouragement would be wasted on her. ;-) 

Charlotte: I would say “Savor and remember this moment because there are going to be a lot of ups and downs, but this is a dream come true.”

How is the experience different? The same?

Tiffany: I’m still as impatient as can be, but there’s a little less of the breathless panic/anticipation of what’s next? As a debut, everything is new and scary and exciting. Things are still exciting (and sometimes scary) —I hope I never stop being thrilled and terrified of this industry— but the second time around, there’s a little less panic, a little less fear about “am I doing everything right?” Because there is no single ‘right’ way to be an author or handle promotions.  It’s all about finding a balance between life and writing and all the other non-writing writer stuff.

Mindi: Compared with my expectations? I thought getting published would change me in some huge way. It hasn’t. Small ways, sure, but not in big ways. I think the ways that is the same as what I expected is that having readers say that my book changed them in some way really is the most gratifying thing in all the world.

Charlotte: I get excited about all the contracts, although the one for Sirenz Back In Fashion was bittersweet; it originally was to be for books 2 and 3, not just 2. Things happen. The contract for my 3rd book, Blonde Ops, with a new publisher, made me just as giddy because there was competition and guess who got selected?

What is the best part about debut?

Tiffany: Besides the part where I got to see my dream come true and my story turned into a book? I loved being part of debut group (Yay, Apocalypsies!) and was so grateful to have a cohort of people going through the same challenges and fears and celebrations. And nothing is better than meeting bloggers, readers, librarians, teachers, or other writers. It’s so great to be a part of a community that loves books!

Mindi: Everything is exciting! There are so many firsts happening and so much that you don’t know what to expect.

Charlotte: That feeling of exhilaration- ‘I’m published! Someone likes my writing enough to pay me! I’ll see my book in bookstores and libraries!’ You only get that breathless, one-of-a-kind joy once.


What were you most afraid of? What are you most afraid of now?

Tiffany: Hmm. I think it was a toss-up between terrified of everyone hating my book or everyone ignoring it. I’m still not sure which would be worse, loathing or obscurity. On one hand, it’s so hard to handle criticism, but on the other, inspiring hatred means you’re at least provoking a reaction, whereas being unnoticed means you’ve put your heart on a page and no one cares?

I’m not sure I have a good, clear answer for this one. I’m also not sure that my answer has changed.

Mindi: I think my biggest fear is the same now as it was then: That I’ll have put so much into my writing and no one out there will care.

Charlotte: Initially, the thing I was most afraid of was that they’d change their minds, say they ‘made a mistake.’ Now I worry about sales, the next contract, the next manuscript, the next query.

What advice would you give debut authors?

Tiffany: First, celebrate yourself. You’ve achieved something spectacular and no one can ever take that away from you. Your book, your story, has earned a spot between covers and on bookshelves. While it can be so easy to get caught up in stresses about print runs, reviews, sales, and such, whenever you find yourself spiraling down the not-good-enough rabbit hole, stop and pat yourself on the back for what you’ve accomplished.

Second, don’t be afraid of the word ‘no.’ Use it when you need to. It’s remarkably easy to burn yourself out by saying yes to every request that comes your way. Make sure you know your limits. Make sure you protect your sanity and writing time. Remember: if you don’t leave yourself time to sit down to write your next novel, then we won’t get to read it.

…and that would be criminal!

Mindi: Some authors don’t read reviews of their work. Others read every single review. That’s a choice that everyone has to make. My advice is that you occasionally reevaluate your choice—especially if it starts getting in the way of your new writing. 

Charlotte: Enjoy the moment. Take pictures. Save posters announcing your debut. Save reviews (yes, even the bad ones!). Let people approach you to talk about the book- savor the spotlight because it’s all too brief and people quickly move on to the next debut.



Tiffany Schmidt is the author of Send me a Sign and Bright Before Sunrise, which comes out February 18, 2014 from Walker-Bloomsbury.


Mindi Scott is the author of Freefall and Live Through This.


Charlotte Bennardo is the co-author of the Sirenz series, as well as Blond Ops, which will be released by Thomas Dunn/St. Martins in April 2014.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Waiting on the Debut

I wanted to do a post on waiting on a debut because I myself am waiting on my debut and wanted both commiseration and consolation. For me, now at about twenty days away, there are times when it still doesn’t feel real. I wanted to know how others were dealing with the wait and how others have survived the wait. (Check back later this week for advice from those who survived their debuts.) I’m so grateful that two lovely and incredible writers, Dahlia Adler and Jaye Robin Brown, agreed to let us in on just how they are surviving that wait.


When did it feel real?

Dahlia: This is horrible to say, but the thing that really made it hit home for me was seeing it on Goodreads and realizing I was now open to bad reviews. Like, the offer and seeing it on Publisher’s Marketplace and signing the contract and all of that was amazing, but the real gut Oh my God, this is happening came with the bad review realization.

Jaye Robin: Honestly? It still feels surreal. But I suppose all the official things —signing a contract, getting an advance check, programming a Harper Collins’ editor’s phone number into my cell phone—all work towards making it feel like it will eventually happen. I’m supposed to receive cover art in the next month or so, now that will be a milestone!

What are you most afraid of?

Dahlia: Oh, God, everything, pretty much. Mostly of letting people inside my head, I think. Not strangers—strangers are welcome!—but family, close friends… anyone who’s ever watched me kinda space out, writing in my head, or say no to plans because I have deadlines to make. I want them to read it and go “Ooookay, now I get it,” not, “Really? This is why she bailed on my party?” Writing is this thing everyone who loves me just assumes I’m good at, because I love it. But while passion and skill are both important, they aren’t the same thing. Having something out in the world will allow people to decide whether I only possess the former. It’s unnerving to think about. I’m trying not to!

Jaye Robin: Readers not connecting with my book.

What is the one thing you’re most excited about?

Dahlia: Just seeing the thing. On a shelf. Preferably not my own. I imagine it’s miraculous.

Jaye Robin: Readers connecting with Amber and her dreams!

What would tell your “before the book deal” self?

Dahlia: A lot of the “after” stuff is going to be like the “before”—a ton of hard work, and a ton of waiting. Only now, you have the pressure of having people invested in you, financially and otherwise. Appreciate this period right now when you’re only accountable to yourself.

Jaye Robin: Practice patience. And keep in mind that, to your editor, the manuscript you sweated and toiled over and had multiple beta readers and agent eyes on, is only a first draft. You’re starting from go again in many ways. Embrace it.

What advice would you give those who are in the middle of the querying/submission process?

Dahlia: Take the time to know what you really want, and to learn how things work. If you don’t understand why a bad agent is worse than no agent, or a bad contract worse than no contract, you are probably not ready to do this professionally yet. And that’s okay. You don’t automatically become ready to sign on the dotted line somewhere just because you finished writing a book. Research is part of the process. Don’t let anyone pressure you into going at a pace you’re not comfortable with, or a path you’re not comfortable with. It’s even okay to write for fun, I promise J

That said, if you do want to get published, don’t give up. It may be annoying to hear “Write something new!” or heartbreaking to realize it’s time to put that manuscript you love on a shelf, but the reality is, writing something new is always going to be part of being an author. Knowing when something doesn’t work right now? Always going to be part of being an author. And rejection? Always going to be part of being an author. So yeah, it pays to get accustomed to that early, and just keep going!

Jaye Robin: Work on other projects. Get invested in a new story. That way, if things don’t work out ideally, you’re not standing empty-handed! Always, always keep writing.


Dahlia Adler's Behind the Scenes will be released June 24, 2014, by Spencer Hill Contemporary. You should also follow her on Twitter because she's awesome, wears many hats (including a tiara), and dispenses wise advice.

Jaye Robin Brown's No Place To Fall will be out Fall 2014 with Harper Teen. You should follow her on Twitter because she is phenomenal, loves dogs (just look at that face), and is up early with the 5 AM writers' club!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Don't Turn out the Light

Artwork courtesy of the
American Library Association.
It’s that time of year again: Banned Books Week, the one week out of the year that we throw a harsh light on those who would try to keep others in darkness. Those who want to project their prejudices and fears onto others. Those who want to hide the books.

Last year I wrote about how we should celebrate our right to read. This year I want to talk a bit about how my students are doing just that.

I teach sophomore English, and for the past few years, I’ve assigned Fahrenheit 451. I read the book myself when I was a sophomore in high school, and it had a profound effect on me. If you haven’t read it yet, you should. I recommend it to everyone. It’s a scary picture of what might happen if the book banners win, if books are indeed outlawed because of our fear of offending someone. It’s also a reminder that it is up to us to keep literature alive. In Bradbury’s world, books were not initially outlawed. It’s just that people stopped reading. They spent too much time getting offended and not nearly enough time listening.

The world is a scary place, and I understand that many parents want to protect their children from it. I get the need to shield children from the ugliness that life sometimes brings. But in doing so, we are also shielding them from its beauty. And while it is the parents’ prerogative to stand between their child and the world, it is not their job to monitor the morals of everyone else.

When we ban books, what we are doing is telling those who received comfort from those books that they are wrong. They are wrong to find beauty in something ugly. They should be ashamed of their feelings, their desires, their connection to something others view as sinful or shameful. We teach them to be silent. And when we do this, it is we who are wrong.

It is admiral for adults to want to stand between children and the world and become a shield against the darkness. But if I’ve learned anything about the dark, it’s that it creeps around our strongest fortifications, crawls into the gaps, finds a way through the keyhole.

Light is the only thing that chases away darkness. Literature is that light to many people. It’s that light to me.

It girds readers against ignorance and oppression. It comforts us and shows us we aren’t alone. Above all, it teaches hope.

Because in the end, we can’t protect those we love from the world. We can only make sure we’ve helped them to find their strength and to discover that hope.

One of the questions I asked my students after they’d read Fahrenheit 451 is which book they would memorize. If, like Montag, they were the one source of survival for a book, which one would they want to save at all costs? In looking at the books some of my students chose to memorize, to keep alive when all others may have been lost, you’ll see that each one holds a mirror up to life and reveals its ugliness, its darkest places. But in the end, each one gives us hope.

And hope is the strongest of shields.


Here are just a few of the books my students named:

The Bible (This was the most common response. The Bible is full of violence and war, of humans being at their worst, but in the end, there is hope.)

A history textbook (This was mentioned a couple of times. Students wanted to memorize the truth in order to gird themselves against lies.)

A Tale of Two Cities (Plenty of death here, but also love and sacrifice.)

The Fault in our Stars (Beautiful but harsh, am I right?)

The Hunger Games (Children killing each other for entertainment – not exactly Dick and Jane, is it? And yet it speaks to so many.)

Fahrenheit 451 (Just when hope seems buried, it rises from the ashes like a phoenix.)

1984 (This is the only one in the list that doesn’t end with hope. But that makes it the scariest of them all. The student wanted to memorize it as a warning – what would happen if we lost our hope altogether. The thought is chilling.)

To learn more about Banned Books Week and how you can celebrate your right to read, visit the American LibraryAssociation.

Monday, September 9, 2013

RECLAIMED Pre-Order Giveaway!

Reclaimed releases in just over a month, and while that thought often induces flailing and random hand flapping, more often than not, it just makes me really excited.
I know many of you have already pre-ordered the book. THANK YOU SO MUCH! It means a lot that people are excited and ready for Reclaimed to be released. If you haven’t yet pre-ordered, it’s not too late. Reclaimed is available in both paperback and e-book. The buy links will be at the bottom of this post.
We have some amazing prizes for those of you who pre-order the book. Just send an email confirmation of your pre-order to This can simply be a screen shot of your receipt (minus your credit card info).
The first prize we're giving away is a signed poster of Reclaimed! We will choose 25 random winners from the email confirmations. And as more pre-orders come in, we’ll be giving away even more amazing prizes. (While I can’t divulge the secrets yet, trust me, you’re going to want to get in on this giveaway.) 
Once new levels of prizes are unlocked, you remain eligible as winners will be picked using a random generator.


Thanks to everyone who has already sent in their preorder confirmation. Signed swag will be sent your way soon! (Say that three times really fast.) It’s time to announce the other prizes up for grabs. Unfortunately, this contest is open to US residents only, as two of the prizes are heavy and I can’t afford to take out a loan for shipping. If, however, you live outside the US and you preorder the book, please send in your email confirmation and I will send you signed swag!

The first prize we are giving away is a gift basket filled with reclaimed items, including a painting of the lake from RECLAIMED on a piece of reclaimed cypress, a journal with recycled newspaper cover, and a candle holder made from a wooden yarn spool, as well as signed swag. (The winner is Paige! Your prize has been sent!)

The second prize we’re giving away is a handmade box. It is also made from reclaimed cypress (crafted by my amazing husband) and is a replica of the one mentioned in the book. (Just wait until you read the book. Trust me, you want this box.) It will also have a surprise in it! (The winner is Diane! Congrats! I'll be emailing you shortly.)

The final prize we are giving away is a $100 gift card to a bookstore of your choice. Enough said.

The contest ends October 21st. Use the rafflecopter to tweet about and post links to the contest, and don’t forget to send in your release-week order confirmation (which is worth 10 entries)!
Good luck!
Amazon         Barnes and Noble        IndieBound
a Rafflecopter giveaway

*If you already sent in your pre-order confirmation, you are still entered to win the last remaining giveaway - the giftcard. Continue to tweet about the giveaway for entries. For extra entries, buy RECLAIMED during release week. (Oct. 15-20) Thanks!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

RECLAIMED Playlist + Blog Tour

RECLAIMED comes out next month and I couldn't be more excited! (I typed that in Chandler's voice, by the way.) This book has been my heart since I started writing it in 2010, and I can't believe that I finally get to share it with the world.

Last month I was part of the Authors are Rockstars tour with the awesome Katelyn over at Kate's Tales of Books and Bands, where she featured the RECLAIMED playlist. Check it out now, then tell me what you think!

Also, I believe there are still a couple of spots left for the RECLAIMED blog tour if you are interested. There are no ARCS left, so unless you already have one, the review portion of the tour is out. Fill out the form if you want to participate!

EDIT: That link is broken. Try this one!