Friday, October 30, 2009

Book Signings, Part VI

Just when I thought I'd really stopped going on about Book Signings, I hear a story that has a great lesson in it for all of us and have to share it. This came from an avid reader who goes to meet a lot of authors and loves to buy signed copies of their books.

Here's what happened to her last week. She'd heard about a new cookbook, with the theme of home cooked food and family. The ad announcing the book signing read, "Author will be at XXX from 2-4 pm." My friend arrived at 3 and the author had already left. When she asked the bookseller what had happened, the woman said, "Nobody was here, so the author didn't want to stay any longer."


And here's why. My friend belongs to Slow Foods, and her chapter was interested in promoting this author's new book by featuring some of the recipes at their functions and on their web-page. Oops!

Moral: Stick around for the time you promised even if nobody's there to buy your book.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Interview with Kristina Springer

Kristina Springer's The Espressologist debuted October 27, so welcome to the bookstore shelf, Kristina.

About The Espressologist
What’s your drink of choice? Is it a small pumpkin spice latte? Then you’re lots of fun and a bit sassy. Or a medium americano? You prefer simplicity in life. Or perhaps it’s a small decaf soy sugar-free hazelnut caffe latte? Some might call you a yuppie. Seventeen-year-old barista Jane Turner has this theory that you can tell a lot about a person by their regular coffee drink. She scribbles it all down in a notebook and calls it Espressology. So it’s not a totally crazy idea when Jane starts hooking up some of her friends based on their coffee orders. Like her best friend, Em, a medium hot chocolate, and Cam, a toffee nut latte. But when her boss, Derek, gets wind of Jane’s Espressology, he makes it an in-store holiday promotion, promising customers their perfect matches for the price of their favorite coffee. Things are going better than Derek could ever have hoped, so why is Jane so freaked out? Does it have anything to do with Em dating Cam? She’s the one who set them up! She should be happy for them, right?

About Kristina Springer
Kristina Springer has a Bachelor of Arts in English Education from Illinois State University and a Master of Arts in Writing from DePaul University. Her first novel, THE ESPRESSOLOGIST, was published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux on October 27, 2009. Her second novel, MY FAKE BOYFRIEND IS BETTER THAN YOURS, also from FSG, will be published in the fall of 2010. She lives in a suburb of Chicago, IL with her husband Athens and their four small children Teegan, Maya, London, and Gavin.

Can you share a little insider information, Kristina? Like ,of all your favorite books, which one do you wish you had written?

Confessions of a Shopaholic. The research for that one had to be AMAZING. :-) But really, I adore all of Sophie Kinsella's books-- she's just so funny and clever. The whole Shopaholic series is fantastic and of course there was also a movie made from her book. Bonus points for that.
Along the same line,  what fictional character do you wish you could be?

See questions #1. Becky Bloomwood-- the Shopaholic. And not just because she gets to shop so much and has such great fashion sense (which I would love to have!) but she's funny and endearing and sweet too. And even thought it gets her into lots of trouble, I like how she just does what she feels like and suffers the consequences later. I'm so totally the opposite. I worry about everything being just right and done on time. If I'm late for something it seriously makes me ill. So it would be nice to not worry about things so much for awhile!

Now here's the real insider kind of question: After chocolate, what do you eat to make the writer-block pain go away?

I drink coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. A trip to Starbucks for an iced mocha or pumpkin spice latte usually recharges me.

Thanks for having me!
Thanks for being here.

The Espressologist is available at Amazon and at Indiebound

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Book Signings, Part V

 When I first started appearing at book signings I expected a mixed audience: young adults, some middle graders who read YA, and older people like parents and interested writers. I thought I get questions about how I found my publisher or what "surprises" I'd experienced during my journey to publication. And I did.

I also had questions about who my favorite author was or what my favorite book was, and those I was prepared to answer. However, I wasn't expecting some of the questions that people asked.  Here are few examples of questions you might have to field.

Q: Where is Sweet River? (Sweet River is the fictional town in my novel.)
Bad Ans:     In my head.
Better Ans: When I imagined Sweet River, I saw a small Sierra Nevada town similar to Auburn, CA.

Q: What part of your story is autobiographical?
Bad Ans:  Are you kidding?
Better Ans: The only autobiographical part is a small portion of a scene where one of my characters says her grandmother used to bake her a cake for her birthday. That's true. Mine did.

Q: How did they get the horses back?
Bad Ans: Uh. Well, Er. Let's see.
Better Ans: In my mind they stopped the trailer at the rest stop and rescued them. (None of this is in the book.)

Q: Do you know Shawna?
Bad Ans: Of course. I created her.
Better Ans: I don't know her really, but I know her as a character I wrote. In fact, I kind of like her. She's still in my mind a lot.

Q: What happened to Kenny?
Bad Ans: How should I know?
Better Ans: In my mind he continues to live at the horse ranch and be Kay's support.

Q: Does the Sunday Boy marry Shawna?
Bad Ans: I didn't think that far ahead.
Better Ans: It's quite possible they will have a continued relationship, but since she's only sixteen I can't imagine marriage yet.

What you see is that readers sometimes enter into a story so much that the characters and where they live become real to them. Interestingly enough these questions didn't come from younger readers, but from older adults.  Can you think of possible questions that readers might ask about your books--ones that might reflect this kind of involvement? You might think about them now, so you won't come up with some of the Bad Answers I did at first.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Book Signings, Part IV

. . . then there's the STAR TREATMENT book signing, the kind of book signing authors dream about.

I was invited, along with thousands of other facebook denizens, to a ticketed event. Here's part of that invitation.

"Free numbered tickets for a place in the booksigning line will be available at 6:30 pm; one ticket per customer in line. Seating for the presentation prior to the signing is limited, and available on a first-come, first-served basis to ticketed customers only."

I picture a red carpet with a throng of avid fans pressing toward the book store door, clutching their cash and demanding to be the first to buy THE BOOK. (Sigh)

Do you have any book signing fantasies? What would be your idea of a smashing book signing event? In the meantime, I'm off to find a roll of tickets to stash away for my "limited, first-come, first-served ticketed customers."

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Book Signings, Part III

I didn't plan to do such a long series of posts on book signings, but your questions have been so interesting that I thought I'd press on with yet another one. This is in response to a question about the size of the venue.

Space at small Indies isn't a problem at all. Here is the venue for Montclaire's A Great Good Place for Books. You can see it's "cozy," but the turn out was great for two reasons: people from different ages came and during the Q & A there were a lot of questions.

At larger venues like Books Inc. in San Francisco space was definitely not an issue and the turn out was about 40 people: teens, bloggers, and adults. Jen Laughran did a lot of publicity and offered refreshments. The theme, Debutantes, included tiaras for fun.

Here's another event with five of us (L to R. Sarah Quigley, me, Malinda Lo, Cheryl Herbsman, Jon Yang) at Corte Madera's Kidlitsalon hosted us. This audience was mostly people who wanted to publish either their illustrations or their novels. Some bloggers came as well.

So you can see that the venues are as varied as we are with our books, and the size of the venue isn't something to be concerned about. Getting the word out is.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Book Signings, Part II

I don't do book signings where I sit at a table in a bookstore. Even if I did and followed the experienced writers' guidelines, like come with balloons and candy, walk around cornering customers and thrusting your book into their hands, that kind of event would be pure hell for me.

I love to do book signings that involve panel presentations in front of a group of readers/writers. It's fun to talk about my journey to publication, my book, why I wrote it, and some of my little "surprises" after publication.

What I've found is that by doing a panel with two or three other YA authors, we have a varied audience, a surprisingly good turnout, lots of questions, and a chance to network with bloggers as well as book sellers.

Here's how we structure our cooperative events:

1) Each writer talks about 15 minutes. This talk includes what I've said in the first graph and usually a short reading from his or her book.

2) Sometimes we talk about our favorite characters and why they are so appealing, reading excerpts to give the audience an example of that character. We change this topic depending on what the book seller wants. Some other options: effective dialog, building tension in a scene, description to set the mood.

3) The wrap up is Q & A that usually lasts another 10 to 15 minutes.

4) The bookseller usually offers some kind of snack and beverage, so even after the Q & A and the signing, people stay and there's an opportunity to talk.

Does anyone agree/disagree with me on the "table in the corner" event? Have you had good experiences doing that kind of signing? How about readers? Do you go over to the authors in the store and talk to them? Just curious.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Book Signings, Part I

I can't believe that most of November and December is going to be all about book signings. I'm excited and somewhat terrified at the work ahead. I went though tons of notes about what to do and what not to do when making appearances, and here's what I've gleaned as the key points for a successful book signing experience. I'm calling this Part I.

First, it's a lot about pre-planning.

1) Contact the person in charge where the signing will take place at least 10 weeks in advance.

2) See what marketing you can do that will enhance the booksellers efforts. Do this about 6 weeks in advance.

3)About 5 weeks ahead be sure there aren't any problems with getting your book to the store, library or wherever.

4) Send out press releases or media kits about 4 weeks before the signing. Coordinate this with the bookseller.

5) About 1 week ahead check with the seller again re: the details. e.g. do you have enough books?

6) The week of the event, try to have some media coverage: radio spot, newspaper piece with a different twist on who you are or what your book is about.

Part II coming soon.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Interview with LK Madigan

FLASH BURNOUT is here and it's fabulous. L.K. Madigan has written one fine book. It's funny. It's poignant. It's a "connect-with" kind of story that teens will love.

Having the author here today is a special treat because I was one of the fortunate members of The Garett (a group of fine YA writers) who read Flash Burnout as it developed into the novel you're going to love.

Here's a little bit about the story.

Fifteen-year-old Blake has a girlfriend and a friend who's a girl. One of them loves him, the other one needs him.

When he snapped a picture of a street person for his photography homework, Blake never dreamed that the woman in the photo was his friend Marissa's long-lost meth addicted mom.

In a tangle of life, death, and love, Blake will emerge with a more sharply defined snapshot of loyalty.

So who is this author?

L.K. Madigan is a writer living in Portland, Oregon, who finds it odd to speak in the third person. Therefore:

Hi. I am married with one son, two big black dogs, hundreds of books, and a couple of beaters, I mean vintage cars.

While you're hanging out here, give us a little insider stuff about the person, L.K. Madigan. Tell us of all your favorite books, which one do you wish you had written?

I’ve been sitting here staring at the blank screen for a long time … which must mean I can’t think of a good answer.

So what I’ll say is that I wish I could write a really excellent mystery someday, like FINGERSMITH. I admire the gorgeous prose and the many deep, dark secrets, and the satisfaction of the ending. I’d like to be able to knit together that many plot threads so neatly, and create the kind of tension that makes readers fear for the well-being of the characters.

Here's one that may be easier . . . or not. What fictional character do you wish you could be?

Hermione Granger. :-)

I'd like to be Hermione too, just to have people call my name. Now here's a deep, deep secret kind of question. After chocolate, what do you eat to make the writer-block pain go away?

It’s not food, it’s drink that helps with writer’s block … strong drink! No, I’m kidding. I drink coffee or iced tea while I write.

Whatever works. And what you're doing seems to be doing the trick.

Be sure to visit L.K. Madigan's web site to find out more about the author and her work. Whatever you do pick up your copy of Flash Burnout today. It's on Amazon or at 

Sunday, October 18, 2009


I've been rewriting all month, so thought while the experience was fresh I'd share a few ideas about what I've found useful.

I've come to love and appreciate what you can accomplish during rewriting--streamline the plot, deepen the characters, clean up those dangling participles and comma splices. All kinds of improvements are possible inside this slow, but necessary process.

As to what works, this is truly subjective.

What seems to work for me is the chapter by chapter technique. First I have my premise written and in front of me; this has to state exactly what the story is about--what happens, who it happens to, and what changes. (I always write this one to two sentence premise BEFORE I begin writing in the first place.)

I read chapter by chapter and make notes about what happens in each one, when and to whom. Once that's done I'm able to see if I have events out of place, or if I have any "ho hum" chapters where the story doesn't move forward, or if I've repeated something I don't need to repeat. About now, I might find my premise doesn't match the book. So what to do? 1) Adjust the premise. 2) Adjust the book. 3) Both.

When I'm satisfied that my premise and my book are on the same track (a very gleeful moment), I focus on my "embellishments"--all those threads that I want to weave into that "Red Thread" or "Premise" to give it texture. A writer friend recently gave me a great idea and when I tried it I was pleased that this technique shortened this part of my rewrite.

I shrank my manuscript by single spacing and reducing my font, making it a more compact piece. Then I went through one thread at a time--an important bracelet, a toy with special meaning etc. I made each thread a different color font, so it was easy to note where they were mentioned, if it appeared too frequently or not frequently enough, if it added to the story as I intended.

With each pass through the manuscript I'm always on the look out for shallow characterization. I dump descriptions that don't do more than give, for example, eye or hair color for no reason. If a character talks, it should be to show who s/he is. If a character talks, that dialog has to move the story ahead. By the time I've "finished" rewriting I want each of the characters to be a person I might know in the real world. Actually, by the time I'm finished (sometimes a bit elusive this finished business) I do know them and they are real in my mind.

I love to let a manuscript marinate after I think it's exactly how I want it. A few weeks being tucked out of sight does wonders, so when I return to read it again I see it with fresh eyes.

Happy rewriting.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Visit from Beverly Stowe McClure

Beverly Stow McClure's Just Breeze has arrived. Take a look at what it's all about. Then grab your copy or copies for the holiday season of gift giving.

Just Breeze

My name’s Breeze Brannigan. I’m thirteen and in the eighth grade. Have you met my friends? I’ll be writing about them from time to time. They each have their own page.

I’d also like to hear about you. What kind of music do you like? What are your favorite movies and TV shows? Do you have a favorite book?

Now you know exactly what I look like. That’s me on the cover. You see what I’m saying about my hair, huh? I’m the envy of every clown in the universe.

Adios for now. (I’m practicing my Spanish.) Do you speak other languages? I don’t very well, but am trying, so I can understand Cam, who either is an alien from the planet Hunky Guys or else he’s from another country.


Woo Hoo! Just Breeze is now available from the publisher’s site . You can also find it at Amazon, and Barnes and Noble and other book stores. Books make great birthday presents, gifts for best friends, and Christmas will soon be here. Buy a copy for all your friends. Pick up one for yourself too.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Interview with Lauren Bjorkman

Lauren Bjorkman is here!! And she comes with her debut novel, MY INVENTED LIFE which just came out this September.

Want a preview of My Invented Life? Read on.

Roz and Eva are sisters, close friends, and fierce rivals. Roz fantasizes about snagging the lead in the school play and sexy skate god Bryan as her boyfriend. Sadly a few obstacles stand between her and her dreams. For one, Eva is the more talented actress. And Bryan happens to be Eva’s boyfriend. But is Eva having a secret love affair with a girl? Enquiring minds need to know.

Roz prides herself on random acts of insanity. In one such act, she invents a girlfriend of her own to encourage Eva to open up. The plan backfires, and Roz finds herself neck deep in her invented life. When Roz meets a mercurial boy with a big problem, she begins to understand the complex feelings beneath the labels. And she gets a second chance to earn Eva’s trust.

My Invented Life is set in a small California high school during rehearsals for a Shakespeare comedy.

Here's a quick look at who Lauren Bjorkman really is.

Lauren Bjorkman grew up on a sailboat, sharing the forecastle with her sister and the sail bags. Against all odds, they are still friends. She enjoys making things up, chocolate in large quantities, and anything that makes her laugh. She lives in Taos, New Mexico with her husband, two sons, and a cat that plays fetch.

While Lauren was here she answered some questions that give a little more "insider" information about her.

Of all your favorite books, which one do you wish you had written?

I've been asked this before. The answer keeps changing based on my mood. This week, I'll say Crank by Ellen Hopkins because I'll never write a novel in verse, and she does it so beautifully.

What fictional character do you wish you could be?

Doesn't this scenario sounds fun: sailing through the air on a soft orange peach, snacking on scoops of juicy fruit, while arguing with a witty giant centipede? I'll go with James, from James and the Giant Peach.

After chocolate what do you eat to make the writer-block pain go away?

Popcorn, maybe. Noisy chewing has a way of relieving my stress levels. It totally bugs my husband, though. So I have to do it in private. Which allows me to go off by myself and escape into a good book at the same time.

Be sure to order Lauren's book at AMAZON or one of your favorite Indies.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Kids Write Too

I've been collecting poetry from kids that either I know or, after reading what they write, would love to know. Today I thought I'd share one of those with you. This is from my nephew and appeared in the local Yuba-Sutter Living.

I am from . . .

I am from candles
From Fabreeze and Windex
I am from the tan giant
That protects me from the rain
I am from the flower
the daisys
whose long gone limbs I remember as if they were my own.

I'm Christmas and Thanksgiving
from Pa and Grams
I'm from jokes and laughs
and from fun and gags.

I'm from Santa and the Boogie man
and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
I'm from Easter
I'm from Yuba City and Ireland
turkey and chicken
From my uncle skydiving
and breaking his leg
beach campfire
in my heart
and on the wall

Bearson Smith, age 11

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Well, it's here! I know some of my friends are already warming up their keyboards, getting ready for the NaNoWriMo challenge. Hats off to you, writers!

I'm not taking up the November challenge, but here's something I stumbled onto. It's called Write or Die. And it's kind of "fun" because you get to chose just how insane you want to be while cranking out the prose. There's the kamikaze zone that should strike fear into any hesitant fingertips. If you stop typing too long, your words start to disappear. OH NO!

Take a look and test it out before the big day and share what you produce under pressure. I'd love to see the results. Bet it's great and has a touch of the frantic. Just what you want to keep us readers turning the pages.

Monday, October 5, 2009


What? I just looked up from my computer and somebody put pumpkins on my deck. Where did summer go and can anyone get it back please? I hate to sound whiny, but I haven't checked off my July Must Do Without Fail list.

I'm in the middle of a massive, er make that, a messy re-write. I started and stopped writing a non-fiction piece that I really wanted to do before fall . . . '08, and I haven't kept up with my favorite bloggers this past month.

And there's more: The 2009 Debutantes are putting together a National Holiday Tour that will see a lot of us doing signings and panels all of November and December. I thought I had a lot of time to get ready for those events, but now with October's untimely arrival that's simply not the case. I feel like the White Rabbit. Gotta go. I'm late.