Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Crazy Year, Crit Club Deadlines and Your Questions Answered

Well, it's been an amazing, crazy, challenging, eye-opening, tick-it-off-the-bucket-list kind of year for me. And it's ended on a high with over 4,000 people downloading BREAKABLE last week!

I'm grateful for everything I've learned and experienced. And I'm resolved to share as much of it as I can with you guys in 2014.

Right now I'm planning some insight posts into self publishing (what marketing worked, what didn't, what I'd do differently next time, etc), some how-to writing posts (finding the flow, getting discriminating with describing words, how to polish, and more) and I'll be hosting some more of my favorite authors which is just a high.

If you have any burning questions about writing, editing, critiquing, or self-publishing, feel free to email me, or to ask them in the comments. I'm looking for inspiration for new blog content for 2014 so ask away! I am an open book (no pun intended).

Don't forget that I've also set up The Crit Club. We'll have our inaugural workshop in January. If you use your holiday break to finish up a manuscript and would like to join, make sure and read the FaQ's then apply before January 6th.

So, I'll see you in the New Year. Thanks for taking this manic journey with me in 2013!


Your Turn: Any questions or requests for blog posts in the new year? Ask them here, or email me at aimeelsalter (at) gmail (dot) com

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

BREAKABLE is FREE until Friday!

That's right! The Kindle edition of Breakable is free on Amazon until end of business Friday. If you don't already own it, now's your chance!

And if you send one of the quoted tweets below, or share my facebook status promoting Breakable anytime between now and Friday, you'll go into the draw for a free paperback copy too! (That's international folks - if Amazon ships to your country, you can go into the draw).

So head on out there and pick it up for free, or tell your friends about it and go into the draw for a free paper copy.

To enter, go to my Facebook page and share any status update advertising the free promotion, or tweet about it using one of the tweets below (you can make up your own - just make sure it includes #BreakableBook so I count your entry):


Free today! BREAKABLE the #YA NYT Bestseller @Coracarmack calls "Officially one of my favorites" http://ow.ly/rOF4g #BreakableBook

I love this book and it's free! BREAKABLE Stacy can talk to her future self. Her future self lies. http://ow.ly/rOF4g #Breakablebook #ya

Free today! BREAKABLE the #YA NYT Bestseller @Coracarmack calls "Original. Authentic. Heartbreaking." http://ow.ly/rOGPf #BreakableBook

Free today: BREAKABLE - Stacy can talk to her future self. Her future self lies. http://ow.ly/rOF4g #Breakablebook #ya #mustread

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Release Blog Tour: SLEEPER by S. M. Johnston

I am so blessed to have awesome online besties like Sharon laying around. Sharon answered a call I made years ago to find readers for Breakable when it was still Listen to Me. Through that we've ended up reading for each other, blogging together, and generally having a riotous good time on Twitter. (Yes, I do riot on occasion. It's been known to happen. Don't judge).

Anyway, when I heard her debut, Sleeper, was finally coming out, I jumped at the chance to interview Sharon about the book so you can know more about it too! This is a truly unique concept, expertly delivered, and despite it's Sci-Fi roots, it's compelling to a die-hard romance fan like me.

Read on - especially if you like speculative fiction!

Okay, Sharon, welcome to Living the Write Life! To kick this off, give us some idea what Sleeper is about, and who you think will most enjoy it?

Sleeper is about a girl, Mishca, who meets two boys, one she genuinely likes (Ryder) and one that she loves the moment she sees him and doesn't know why (Colin). But it also has cool speculative fiction twists with a heart transplant triggers super powers that Mishca tries to keep secret as she's worried about being a science experiment freak. It's her journey to finding out the truth behind her powers and her love for Colin. 

I think anyone who enjoys trying to solve an intricate mystery will love this as well as people that love romance. Even though it's got a Science Fiction/Paranormal bent, it's more Fi than Sci.

What was the inspiration for SLEEPER? How has the protagonist, Mischa, developed since your initial idea?

Originally, it was meant to be Mishca and Colin's love story, but I quickly realised that they had a doomed love that would never work, so along came Ryder. Originally Mishca struggled with her situation a lot more, but my mentor, Angela Slater, showed me I need a MC who wasn't a sad-sack-syndrome sufferer. She became a lot stronger and it really improved the story and Mishca's character ARC.

Do you have a favorite scene, or theme in the book?

My favourite scene is "caught in my bra in my boyfriend's car" where Mishca decides to play show'n'tell to explain her heart transplant to her boyfriend Ryder. Unfortunately her dad sees this and thinks something else is going on. It was actually inspired by something that happened to me. I had a boyfriend giving me a kiss goodbye and my dad yelled out "Get your tongue out of my daughter's mouth!" My boyfriend crapped himself and made a quick exit. Unlike Mishca's dad, I found my dad crying with laughter at the outcome. 

You’ve had a long road to publication. Tell us a little about your journey and your publisher. How much control did you / do you have over the final product?

When I first wrote SLEEPER, I had never heard of New Adult. I put some of it on a site called Inkpop, which was like a crowd-sourcing site run by HarperCollins. I called the story Mishca then and it quickly rose through the ranks and was the most successful Australian story on the site. I've  a talent scout represent me and an agent, but neither of those situations worked out. I've had other agents interested, which included a request for a rewrite to make it YA. I did that and it ended up with Entranced on the basis of that version. When I let them know there was a NA version as well they asked to see it and wanted to publish that one as they felt it was more inspired. Entranced are fantastic to work with. I had so much editorial control.

Do you have any advice for writers considering independent press?

Independent press are more willing to publish the left-of-centre stories. So if you've been having trouble landing an agent, you could try small press. With Entranced I got a lot of support with publicity and my cover is amazing. I realised that I wasn't confident with self publishing at this point in my career as I wanted to work with a publishing team, and that's what I got with Entranced. Every step of the way is covered. SLEEPER and the TOY SOLDIER SERIES won't be the only novels I will publish with small press. 

Is there anything you wish you’d known before you got published? Anything you’d do differently or tell others to consider?

I did a lot of research, so I knew what I was getting myself in to. What I've learnt the most along the way was finding the balance between listening to others and staying true to my vision. You need input from others as often they will find things in your story that you can't see because you're just too close to it. Work on your story, have multiple eyes look at it, and make sure they're not just friends and family. You need people in publishing - editors or authors - to be reading your work. I'm blessed to have beta readers who are industry professionals, but I still paid to have a professional edit.

Although I found a home for me first novel, I know many authors who didn't. Be prepared to let a project go if you need to and move on. 

What has been your favorite moment in your journey so far?

Finding a home for Sleeper, knowing that someone saw the merit in publishing my work. I actually got the offer for SLEEPER quite quickly after I sent through the full. It was a matter of days, which I know is rare. But for me it was a great validation of the belief I had in myself - someone else shared it too. I jumped around like a crazy woman when I got the offer. 

Intrigued? You should be. But if you need more, take a look at the blurb and cover below:

A new heart should mean new life, not a living nightmare.

Mishca Richardson’s life is at an all-time high after her heart transplant. With new boyfriend, Ryder, the two of them have the perfect summer romance. Even the nightmares that have been plaguing her sleep since her operation can’t dull the high she’s on.

Things start to unravel as Mishca develops superhuman abilities. She does her best to hide them so as not to end up a science experiment in a lab. But she can’t ignore the instant attraction she experiences when she meets her university professor, Colin Reed.

Torn between the blossoming love and the obsession, Mishca must decide if she wants Ryder or Colin. But the organization responsible for her changes and her connection to Colin, is moving to secure Mishca for himself so that she can be the weapon he always intended her to be. If Mishca can’t resist her programming she’ll have a lot more to worry about than romance.

Buy it now on Amazon, or check out the reviews on Goodreads!

Monday, December 9, 2013

5 Questions with My 5 Favorite Authors FEAT. Julie Anne Long (Historical Romance)

Okay, so I had this inspired idea of asking my favorite authors questions about themselves and their writing, and so far they're all saying YES. *Dances* (Though one will have to wait for the post-Christmas push to be over).

Anywho, I'm kicking off this roaring good fun with one of the wittiest and pure-darn-sexiest writers I know. And by that I mean, her male characters are sexy. Not Julie Anne herself...though she may be. I wouldn't know... except that to write like that she's got to have some kind of insight, right? But... well, this is heading into dangerous territory...


Well, it's no surprise to me that Julie Anne is a USA Today bestselling author. If you enjoy funny, emotional, historical romance with depth and genuine wit, you can't go wrong with her Penny Royal Green series. Seriously, I have yet to hate on one. And they are all on my "re-read" shelf which, let me tell you, is very sparse.

In fact, even if you aren't normally an historical fan, I'd encourage you to pick up Like No Other Lover if for no other reason that the scene Julie has mentioned below. (Or, my favorite, How the Marquess was Won. Seriously. Inspired).

I'm going to stop fangirling now and let Julie talk. Except I'm formatting it so it looks like we had an actual conversation, because to me, that would be awesomesauce.

Let me live the dream...

ALS: Which of your books was the most fun to write, and why?
JAL: Interesting question! They all have their moments, truthfully, and writing in general is “fun” for me, even when it's torture, if that makes sense. :) I remember in particular having a WONDERFUL time writing a certain scene in LIKE NO OTHER LOVER—a shooting scene, to be precise. But I probably had the most fun writing my first one, THE RUNAWAY DUKE. I knew absolutely nothing about publishing, was unfettered by expectations of ay kind, and blithely went about writing whatever the heck I wanted, unconstrained by perceived genre rules or jargon or constructs.  It was a delightful surprise when it was a big success (after a bit of whittling down to fit into genre constraints.)

ALS: Which of your characters do you like best, and why?
JAL: You know this is an impossible question for authors to answer, right??
[ALS Sidenote: No one said this was all going to be fun and games, Julie].
JAL: LOL. It's like choosing a favorite child! I like all of them, but I do tend to favor the ones I'm currently writing, because creating them is delicious.. Truthfully, however, I still have a crush on Adam Sylvaine from A Notorious Countess Confesses, however. He was such a different hero—a hot vicar, with tremendous moral and spiritual strength, but who was funny, human, honest, very no BS, and kept a volcanic passion in check—until, of course, the right woman came long. The book was emotionally challenging to write and I think Adam is husband material. ;)
ALS: Did you choose your genre (and if so, why?), or did your genre choose you?
JAL: A bit of both, actually. I've always been a pretty voracious and egalitarian reader, and I read and loved quite a bit of historical romance. I set out to write a book with no genre in mind—I truthfully didn't know books were so specifically marketed by genre—and what I ended up writing was a big, big historical love story. Its original 500 pages were whittled down in the editing/revision process to a more orthodox historical romance length. And the momentum of the success of my first book sort of carried me forward in the genre. The rest is history!

ALS: Which part of being a published author do you find most difficult?

JAL: I'm not crazy about the word “difficult”, because I kind of feel like labeling something “difficult” is a self-fulfilling prophesy. :). Every bit of my career challenges my creativity and emotional maturity in many ways. Since I love learning and I'm always on a quest for self improvement, it's all valuable, and even the disappointments become sort of interesting when viewed in that light. That said, I think the uncertainty inherent in a writing career challenged me the most. You never, ever know what might happen, and it could be spectacularly wonderful or it could be disappointing. Getting comfortable with ambiguity is a process. :)
ALS: And thusly, you've reached the BONUS ROUND [In the vein of "Boxers or Briefs"]: E-book or paperback?
JAL: It depends! If I can only get it in paperback, then I'm delighted to read it in that format. I read a lot on my Kindle because of the instant gratification factor. ;) (Kindles are dangerous little inventions.)
ALS: *Nods sagely* I concur, Julie. I concur....
 Julie Anne Long is the USA Today bestselling author of the popular Pennyroyal Green series, To Love a Thief, and The Runaway Duke. She's funny, inspiring, downright talented and one of my five favorite authors of all time. If you have any kind of interest in historical romance, you do not want to miss these books! The next installment of the PRG series, Between the Devil and Ian Eversea is out April 2014. Go ahead and buy the others now. You won't regret it!


Thursday, December 5, 2013

YA Author, Beth Pond, On Tackling Book Research

Confession: As a 7-year-old, I dreamed of being an Olympic pairs figure skater. I loved the grace of the female skaters, how they were lifted and thrown, how they spun. I loved it all. When I told my mom and my figure skating coach my wish to try pairs figure skating, they couldn’t contain their amusement. I was already as tall as my coach and was still growing. Sure I was coordinated and had strong legs, but I definitely did not have the build of a figure skater.

I took figure skating lessons for another year, but ultimately went on to compete in a variety of other sports. Still, I loved skating, and I loved the Winter Olympics. In fact, it was the 2006 Torino Olympics that first inspired my novel Podium Finish. As interesting as the sports were, I found the athletes’ life stories even more fascinating.

While I knew what it felt like to win and lose, how much it hurt to break a bone, and though I had some idea of what it meant to train twice a day multiple days a week, I realized very quickly that I didn’t really know what it was like to be an Olympic hopeful, nor did I know that much about the winter sports I wanted to write about. This meant one thing: I had to do research.

The first thing I did was buy a 3 ring binder and dividers. I wanted to research 5 sports, so each sport had its own section. I made lists of the things I didn’t know, starting with a bulleted list of broad topics such as rules, gear, or training, and then started writing specific questions.
I also made “character sketches.” So much of what drew me to wanting to write about the Olympics in the first place were the different life stories of the athletes. This notebook was a good place to develop their character and plotlines before I even started writing.

The internet was a great resource for answers, especially my questions about ice dance. Image searches helped with ice dance costume ideas for Alex’s character. The images were also helpful for when I needed to explain certain body positions.
I watched footage from different skating competitions, always making sure I had a pen and paper at hand. Watching skating competitions gave me a feel for how the skaters moved and acted. Plus, televised skating competitions have sportscasters, some of whom were skaters themselves. They explain what is going on for an audience of non-experts. They make skating accessible to those who have never skated before. This is similar to what an author does, so it was incredibly useful to hear how the sportscasters described the rules and routines and borrowing their jargon added a sense of authenticity to the book.
Nonfiction books are another great source of information. I read several autobiographies of athletes from various winter sports. These books captured the hard work, sacrifice, and daily struggles of an Olympian. Plus, they answered questions I didn’t even know I had. Turning to autobiographies has also proven helpful in the research I’m doing for another manuscript I am currently working on. This story involves various medical components—comas, organ transplant, hospital regulations, etc.—and while some of this information is on the internet, autobiographies give a closer and more insightful look, because they tell of a more in-depth personal experience.

It’s important to know your market. Where does your book fit?

The best way to figure this out is to read other books in the genre. When I was writing Podium Finish, there weren’t many other young adult books out there that dealt with winter sports, let alone the Olympics, so my work offered something new. However, there were some wonderful young adult books that had sporty female protagonists, such as Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s Dairy Queen series and Miranda Kenneally’s Catching Jordan. Know what’s out there. Know what these authors do well and see if your book has these elements. Sometimes doing book research involves improving your craft.

Initially, I had intended for the book to take place in Torino, as this was what sparked the premise of Podium Finish in the first place, but an agent told me that using a real Olympic location would date the book. She recommended I change the location to some place real, but a place that had not recently hosted/was not scheduled to host the Olympics. I had traveled to Iceland in 2010 and was able to use bits and pieces of that experience in the book.

After reading and scouring the internet, I still had some unanswered questions, so I contacted some Olympians and Olympic hopefuls. I emailed them explaining that I was doing research and asked if they would have time to answer a few questions for me. I had some wonderful responses. I wanted my book to portray their sports as accurately as possible. The accuracy was something important to the athletes too. I was writing about sports that most people only pay attention to every four years, so this was a way to get the athletes’ voices out there as well. Plus, I was 16 at the time. I used my age to my advantage. While some adult athletes might have been skeptical of helping a young, budding writer, I found that teen athletes and athletes in their early twenties were very interested in helping out. They were trying to build their career just like I was trying to build mine, so we could relate to one another. And, the characters in my book were 17-year-old Olympic hopefuls. Interviewing teen Olympic hopefuls about their experience made the most sense.

As a final note, it’s important to remember that not all research will end up in the book. For example, I interviewed a snowboarder, Brooke Shaw, who, fingers crossed, will make the 2014 Olympic team—she’s awesome and I loved interviewing her—but I ultimately decided to cut the snowboarder character from the book, so I could focus more on Alex and Harper. This research wasn’t in vain. I learned a lot, and who knows, I might use it an upcoming project.

Thanks for having me, Aimee!

Beth Pond graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Hendrix College in 2012. In 2013, she taught in South Africa for 9 months as part of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Grant. Pond is currently completing her coursework at the University of British Columbia’s Creative Writing MFA program. When she’s not writing, Pond enjoys martial arts (she’s a black belt) and serving as a volunteer coach for her brother’s special needs baseball team.  
Her debut YA novel, Podium Finish is available now:

With six months until the Olympic Games, seventeen-year-old Harper's life is pretty much perfect. She's fighting for the starting spot on Team USA Women's Hockey, and for the first time ever, she has a crush on a guy who likes her back. She feels like the luckiest girl in the world, until she runs a risky play at practice and breaks her knee, thereby sentencing herself to six weeks in a cast and possibly ending her Olympic dream before it even starts.

For seventeen-year-old Alex, being anything less than the best is unacceptable. That's why, after a miserable debut season at the senior level, the former junior national singles champion switches to ice dance. Her skating partner, Ace, is an "all skating all the time" type of guy, which would be fine, if he'd stop keeping secrets about the real reason he and his former partner broke up. Now is not the time for second thoughts, but how can Alex skate her best if she can’t trust her partner…or herself?

As the pressure to make the Olympic team builds, the girls must rely on each other, because if there’s one thing they both know, it's that the only thing harder than skating to the top is staying there.

Available for Kindle / Nook , and in paperback where good books are sold ;)
You can also find it on Goodreads.
Twitter: @BethPond90

Monday, December 2, 2013

Should You Believe Your Own Reviews?

The hardest part for me in the process of moving from "unpublished" to "author" was the week, a month ahead of release date, when I lost control of my book: I had to send it to reviewers.

While I'd never looked forward to reading my own reviews (mainly out of fears they'd all be 1 or 2 stars from people saying things like "What on earth convinced this woman she was a writer?!"), I hadn't anticipated the fact that I would actually court reviews. That I would need them before readers even got their hands on the book.

Way to think things through, Aimee.

So the week I started passing out copies to people I didn't know and couldn't trust to be anything but honest felt like an exercise in self-flagellation. It was an odd experience. After all, I'd courted plenty of tough critiques and editorial comment prior to that point. I'd gone out of my way to ask people not to try to save my feelings. But it wasn't until that day that I realized, while I may have wanted honest feedback on the book before, I'd always been in control of who had it - and who saw the feedback they gave.

Turns out, getting reviewed was a WHOLE lot different than getting critiqued because, after all, whatever the results, they'd be out there in the public forum.

You're raising your eyebrows at me, thinking "Well, duh." and if I were you, I would be too. But the fact remains that I hadn't really thought through the differences until the moment was upon me. Let's just say I spent a fair week or two sweating it out.

Now, before I go any further I'll say I've been lucky: Reviewers like my book. There's currently 29 ratings on Goodreads and about 18 reviews, and none rates lower than a 3. Only 4-5 of the raters / reviewers know me personally, and they're legit. I'm sure they wouldn't have rated me lower than a 3 anyway, just to be nice. But all of them posted 5-star ratings or roaring, thoughtful reviews.

The rest, however, are legitimate reviewers who were either given a copy by me in the process of hunting for review sites for my blog tour, or readers who've bought the book and decided to let others know what they think of it.

Strangely, it turns out that even though my reviews are all positive (even the vocal 3-stars have a lot of good things to say), reading my own reviews in any category is nail-biting. See, when people read your book they take things from it you never intended. They feel things you hadn't realized you communicated. They ask questions you never intended to answer.

In some ways that can be very rewarding - after all, I've never wanted my writing to be escapism for escapism's sake. But in others it's a real challenge.

And then there's the other side of it - the ratings. The vast majority (20 of 29) of raters / reviewers have given Breakable 5 stars. I've also had feedback personally from people via social media, who tell me how much it touched them, or what they loved about it. That's wonderful, of course. Seriously, you'll hear no complaints from me. But strangely I've found myself asking "Are they begin honest? Or do they just have a reason to be nice that I'm not aware of...?"

It appears that, even in my outward success, my insecurity still carries a foghorn and presses the alarm button on a regular basis.

So...should I believe my own reviews? Objectively I think yes. The fact that people like the book is rewarding and reassuring. The fact that readers who don't know me are complimentary is the first mark of a job well done, in my book. (SIDE NOTE: I seriously wrote that sentence without realizing I'd made a pun until I re-read the post for proofing... *facepalm*)

But, by the same token, that doesn't mean my book is perfect, or I have no work to do to make the next one better. In particular, one three-star reviewer really got me thinking about the role of a "hero" and how to ensure my reader is brought along for the ride.

So, yes, I will take the (so far) predominantly positive feedback as a tick in the right box. But I will not accept that my book couldn't have been better.

With all that said, it's a lot easier to go to sleep at night feeling like I've done what I set out to do than it would be if reviews were decidedly mixed, or watery. I am thankful that readers are taking the time to think about my book - what it says, and what it doesn't say. And I'm really grateful they're willing to talk to other people about it in a public forum.

Then again...maybe they're just being nice? *Insecure frown*

Just kidding.

Sort of.

Your Turn: Do you think reviews are a true measure of a book? Do you ever "pull punches" when you're reviewing on Goodreads, or Amazon?