Saturday, March 31, 2012

Prizes from Tracy Bilen, Katie McGarry, and Kristen Simmons

Wow—what a difference a year can make.

In January of 2011, I approached a couple of writer friends and asked them if they would like to participate in a young adult group blog. To my utter happiness, they agreed. So on March 27, 2011, I uploaded the very first post for YA Fusion titled, “Twitter and Third Grade Kickball.”

Since then we’ve added more contributors to our YA Fusion family, we’ve celebrated book releases, and we are on the verge of celebrating a few more.

Even though it is our birthday, we’d like to give our readers the opportunity to win some presents. We have four packages that we are giving away.

Package #1: What She Left Behind by Tracy Bilen notebook and bookmarks.

Package 2: A signed hardback copy of Kristen Simmon's Article 5

Package 3: A signed ARC of Katie McGarry's Pushing the Limits

Package 4: A copy of Divergent by Veronica Roth, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, Delirium by Lauren Oliver, and a book chosen by the winner from our list of other titles.

So, how do you win one of these fabulous packages? Comment below by Saturday April 14, 2012 by midnight eastern standard time. Please list your e-mail address in the comment.

Tell us what YA book you're looking forward to this year, tell us what you'd like to see us post about in the coming year or tell us you'd like to be entered into the giveaway. If you'd like an additional entry, twitter about this giveaway and leave the link in the comment section. Sorry, contest is only open to U.S. and Canadian entrants. Winners will be announced on Monday, April 16th.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Overcoming Writer's Block

See the end of this blog for details about my annotated ARC contest! All you have to do is comment and or tweet!

Subtitled: Bethany's Big Contradictory List of Tips that Sometimes Help Some People (meaning her) Overcome Writer's Block. 

So, it's no secret that I've kept writing through conditions that would make many sane people quit. With an interval of four years between my first published book and my second...when you count in the fact that my first book sold a good two years before publication, well, I wrote for years while feeling hopeless, like an unmitigated failure who would never be published again. I wrote with toddlers. I wrote with small children who, each time I looked away to write, were prone to eating things that poison control said weren't poisonous, (but I was never quite sure about that). I wrote through floods, tornados, and blizzards (note- the author is prone to exaggeration). I wrote while walking ten miles to school uphill both ways. 

But none of that prepared me for writing under contract. My friends told me that writing under contract was harder. My agent told me the same thing. But somehow I thought I was, or should be, left out of the category titled: everyone. What I'm saying is, not only did I find writing my sequel incredibly difficult, but I was filled with a sense of angry self-loathing at my perceived lack of writing strength, and long story short- got very frustrated with myself, which only made things even harder. 

Now, no matter where you are, writing a new book--that's exciting, but what happens when the excitement evaporates?--writing while on submission--difficult, but not impossible, at least after the first few weeks when all you can think about is being on submission, writing a first sequel was also the book that has to wrap up my duology, so unlike people who write trilogies, I had to figure out how to continue the book, and end the book all at the same time. At any point, you can have a day, a week, a month of crippling writer's block. What do you do? 

What I'm going to share today are my list of tips for overcoming writer's block. Please note, they don't all work for everyone at every time. All of these have worked for me, but at different times in my writing life, so while several of them seem (and are) contradictory, they are also, possibly, potentially, probably, helpful.

1. Write every day- setting a goal, 500 words, 1000 words, is a good way to get a writing pattern. Even if you have the world's busiest day, if you make time to sit down and write your 500 words, it helps you prioritize writing as important.

2. Don't write every day- take breathers. Write when you are inspired. When there is not inspiration, do laundry so that when you rediscover the inspiration, you won't have to stop to do laundry! 

3. Reward yourself. Maybe not with ice-cream if you are on a diet, but find something nice to do for yourself when you hit a writing goal. Give yourself a day off from doing the laundry. Read a book, take a hike, watch a movie or an episode of Bing Bang Theory, or whatever makes you happy. 

4. visit bookstores. Touch the books. There is nothing more inspirational that feeling books. Eventually, in feeling your own book...but you won't ever get there until you conquer writer's block. Or at least finish that manuscript. 

5. Write in order- especially if you have an epic scene with grandiose action or swoon-worthy hotness. Make yourself write the scenes  leading up to it, and remember that these scenes build to the major scene, don't let them be filler! Challenge yourself. 

6. Write out of order- got a scene that you can't wait to write, a scene that you are dreaming about, thinking about? Go ahead and write it, you don't want it to evaporate, for the excitement to dissipate. Write that scene! 

7. Write by hand- this is, in all honesty, the thing that I ALWAYS do. When I have no inspiration, I get out my notebook, my good pen, and I scratch out the scenes. In the end, no matter how bad the stuff I've written is, when I type it, it will be improved. I would never have gotten through my sequel (the name of which I cannot yet reveal) without my notebook and my pen. I realized that I already blogged about this here. So if you want to know more, or see pics of the office supplies I discuss below, visit my blog. :) 

8. Buy office supplies. When I google myself, using google images, I find a big picture that says, I heart office supplies. I do. For each manuscript I buy a new notebook, (for scratching out scenes, for writing notes, for notes when I talk to my agent etc) and usually a binder for printing out pages. Oh, and pretty sticky notes, for notes to myself throughout the physical manuscript. 

9. Find a concept that pushes you forward. For me, I always find some little challenge in each manuscript. Can I do this? Well, I have to finish the manuscript to see. For Handcuffs I wanted to see if I could write an  entire story without naming a main character or giving him a nickname, yet make it clear who he is in every scene, or every time he is mentioned. In Masque I wanted to see if I could coax a suicidal/self destructive narrator into becoming a hero. 

10. Enjoy other people's success. There is nothing that will kill your writing mojo more than jealousy. Sure, some people seem to find success over night. Sometimes you'll see an interview where the author is like, "oh, I never meant to write a book, or no, I never revise, or I wrote this in fifteen minutes and then sold it at auction!" Whatever. Ignore the 'I never revise one precious word that I write' folks, and focus on the success stories of authors who've worked hard, who have awesome talent, who inspire you. Find inspiration, not jealousy. 

11. Allow yourself to feel jealous- for a few minutes. Whether it's someone you know on the internet who got a major deal and a movie deal and a parade, all within 24 hours. Or a best friend, or your secret writing rival. Allow yourself to feel it, and then acknowledge that you want that kind of success and use it as motivation to keep going. Remember motivation, a small does of rivalry= healthy. Murderous envy=not healthy.

12. Find a fan base. I don't care if it's your mom (though you should resist referencing her in your query). Find someone, or a group of someones who are waiting for your next installment, there is nothing like adulation, admiration, the simple verbalization of, 'I must know what happens next' to push you into writing the next scene. I would never have finished Masque, especially in the face of a rather devastating series of rejections, if it wasn't for my critique group! (Thanks guys!)

And that's my list of contradictory tips for overcoming writer's block. Unlike your oversized t-shirt with the pithy writing epithet (watch out or I'll put you in my novel) one size does not fit all.

Now for the contest. I'm giving away an annotated Masque ARC. This is my last unread, pristine, lovely ARC. I'm going to go through it, page by page and fill it with observations and notes. I'll also throw in a Masque of the Red Death leather bracelet. They are hot, you want one! 

All you have to do to be entered is leave a comment about a way you get over writer's block. or leave a comment about how much/why you want to win the ARC. You'll be entered once for each comment. You'll also be entered for each tweet, just make sure I see them by including my twitter handle @_bethanygriffin 

Thanks for reading, hope these tips help, and good luck!  Winner will be announced on Colette's day in two weeks! (April 8, I believe). 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Interview with Tom Ryan + giveaway!!

Tom Ryan's debut YA Contemporary, WAY TO GO is getting lots of great advance buzz, and ARCs (advance reviewer copies) have been snapped up quickly, but there's still one left! What does that mean for you? It means that you have a chance to win an autographed ARC of WAY TO GO!! Plus a bookmark! You can find details at the end of this post. But first, Tom was kind enough to answer a few questions!

 Please tell us about yourself.

I'm a proud Canadian, currently living in Victoria, British Columbia. I grew up on the east coast, in a small town on Cape Breton Island, and although I really love the west coast, I'm an easterner at heart and I can't wait to get back! I've been writing full time for almost two years, but prior to that I had all kinds of cool and crazy jobs. I've done everything from giving career exploration workshops to high schoolers, to building and painting props and sets for children's television shows. It's also probably worth pointing out that I have an awesome, unbelievably supportive partner and the coolest, most adorable dog in the world. Life is pretty good.

What inspired you to write this book?

WAY TO GO was heavily influenced by my teenage memories of summertime in a small seaside town. At heart, WTG is a story about friendship, and the people you lean on when you're young and still trying to figure out who you are.

More specifically, WTG is a teen coming-out story that in some ways reflects my own experiences. Growing up as a gay kid in the 90s wasn't always easy, especially in a remote little town where I often felt as if I was the only person in the world who felt the way I did. I was a voracious reader, and I could have really benefited from reading about other kids like me, but LGBT fiction for teens was almost unheard of at that time. When I began to notice, a few years ago, that books for gay teens were being published more frequently and that they were being positively received, it made me really happy and got my wheels spinning. I wanted to be part of it.

It's easy to forget that it wasn't very long ago when there were very few gay role models in the media, and although we've made leaps and bounds in that regard, being a gay teenager, even in relatively progressive parts of the world, can still be a scary and isolating experience. The spate of gay teen suicides in recent years tells us that there's still a whole lot to be done to put a stop to anti-gay bullying. The "It Gets Better" campaign was an incredibly powerful and important response to that awful trend, and I wholeheartedly believe that books in which LGBT teens see themselves reflected can have a similarly positive impact.

Tell us a bit about your main character.

Danny is 17 and trying to come to terms with who he is while navigating the expectations of his friends and family. He's spent his whole life in a really small town, but now the future is looming and he has no idea where he's going to end up. When he gets into some trouble and has to find a summer job to make up for it, he discovers a passion for cooking and becomes friends with Lisa, a girl from NYC with some problems of her own.

Do you have a favorite scene?

I really like the scene where Lisa invites Danny to a party at her aunt's summer house. Danny gets a glimpse of a world that he'd love to inhabit, but knows he'll never be part of - I think most of us have had that kind of experience at one time or another.

Can you tell us about your path to publication?

I moved to BC when my partner, who is in the navy, was posted across country. For several reasons, it was the perfect opportunity to attempt writing full-time. In one of those fortuitous moments that you hear about happening to other people but never expect to happen to you, I met my editor, Sarah Harvey with Orca Book Publishers, at a writing class she was teaching. I'd been working on another project - an adult novel - that I was going to use to query agents, but the contact was too great to ignore, so I re-focused my energies onto another idea that became WTG. I submitted it to Sarah and she liked it and agreed to take it on. Working with Sarah was great - she's written several great YA novels of her own and she's a fantastic editor. During the editing process I woke up every day feeling as if I was getting a free Master's level education. It was a great experience and I've just signed a contract with Orca for my second book.

Are there any writing courses or books that you would recommend?

There are lots of great books about writing and writers. I'd definitely recommend ON WRITING by Stephen King - it's part memoir and part advice manual and well worth the read, even for non-fans. Last year for Christmas, my partner gave me a four volume collection of Paris Review interviews which is just incredible - Hemingway, Toni Morrison, Alice Munro... dozens of amazing writers going into detail about their writing lives and histories.

What marketing advice do you have for other authors?

Even authors who have massive marketing budgets backing them up (which most of us don't!) should expect to do some work to market their books. How much effort is really up to the author, but I think a web presence is essential. There's no question that the internet is the greatest book marketing tool in history - most importantly, it gives readers a chance to directly connect with writers, which is amazing. I've made lots of great connections and friendships online - via the Apocalypsies, Twitter, Youtube, etc... and the enthusiasm and information that gets shared is priceless. It can be really daunting to tackle online marketing, so it's important to realize going in that it's impossible to be active on all available platforms, so focus instead on the ones that you enjoy and that you'll actually use! Eventually it stops feeling forced and becomes a genuine and enjoyable process. I recently posted a (tongue in cheek!) vlog about book marketing to the Apocalypsies YouTube channel - I'd love to hear what people think!

Tell us about your upcoming second novel.

I'm so excited about it! TAG ALONG (working title - it'll probably change) is in so many ways a total departure from WAY TO GO. It's a four voice story set over the course of one night. I wanted to bring four very different characters together and see what happened. Chapters are narrated by each of the characters, in sequence, which was a really fun challenge to take on. It's scheduled for a fall 2013 release.

TAG ALONG - SYNOPSIS : Andrea, Paul, Candace and Roemi aren’t friends – they barely even know each other – but they do have one thing in common: it’s prom night, and for very different reasons, none of them is at the big event. Over the course of one crazy night, paths are crossed, plans are changed, messages are mixed, and things definitely do not end the way they began.

Interviewer's note: I love this back cover excerpt of WAY TO GO:
Maybe Lisa had appeared out of nowhere for a reason. I was kind of like a frog in a fairy tale who needed a kiss from a princess so he could turn into a prince. Only, instead of a frog, I was a might-be-gay kid who needed straightening out, and instead of a princess, she was a cigarette-smoking, tattooed city girl with a bag full of mix tapes. I figured that was close enough.

FOR A CHANCE TO WIN AN AUTOGRAPHED ARC (advance reviewer copy) of WAY TO GO plus a bookmark, please include an e-mail address in the comments to this post by Friday March 23, 2012 at midnight. (writing out AT and DOT). One person will be randomly selected from all the entries. U.S. and Canadian entrants only please.

BONUS: CLICK here to read the first chapter of WAY TO GO!!!! Also, be sure to check out Tom's webpage and follow him on Twitter

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Predictably Speaking

First a bit of news:

My buddy Cole Gibsen’s debut YA novel, KATANA, came out this week. The weaponry on the cover—to say nothing of the title—hints at serious swordplay. I suspect there is also icky girl stuff in there, but you can find out for yourself at and at the Apocalypsies blog

Another Apocalypsie (and YA Fusion blogger) Kristen Simmons, signed her debut novel, ARTICLE 5, at Carmichael’s Bookstore in Louisville KY this past week Kristen told the large and enthusiastic crowd about her journey, then she read and gave away swag.

Although I did not win an ARTICLE 5, ‘How I Can Help Survive The Apocalypse’ prize, I did come away with a swank bookmark announcing that (drum roll) YA Fusionista Bethany Griffin will sign her new book, MASQUE Of The RED DEATH, at Carmichael’s on Friday April the 27th at 7.

And one more bit about Carmichaels and a YA Fusion member. Author Kelly Creagh was also at the signing, and while there, she autographed a couple in-stock copies of her novel, NEVERMORE. If you hurry, you might score one.

All of which, leads me to... When Kelly wasn’t scribbling in books, we talked about plot predictability, and she asked if I want to know what is going to happen next in a book. Oddly enough, that’s what I’d planned on rambling about this week, so without further ado:

Do I want to know what is going to happen?


Okay, that’s a tad brief for a ramble, so let me flush it out. I like a believable surprise. Within the context of the story, I like characters to make consistent decisions that logically drive the plot to believable but unpredictable places. I like to be out-thought (not saying it’s hard).

Except when I don’t.

On rare occasions, I like knowing that the light at the end of the tunnel is a train. Seeing the impending impact only makes the crash better.

So here’s my rule: If I know what is going to happen next, the scene has to be better than a Roadrunner cartoon (and good luck with that). Not everyone agrees with me—you can find an interesting discussion on spoiler alerts at:

Please share your tastes in plot predictability. While you’re commenting, please list a couple books you find especially satisfying, either because of a surprise ending or because of Wile E. Coyote levels of predictability.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Spotlight on Jobs in Publishing - Alexis Saarela, Publicist at Tor

Today I have another Industry Insider interview. Introducing Alexis Saarela, Publicist at Tor. Alexis graciously took time out of her busy day to answer some questions about her job. Be sure to check out the helpful links at the end for more info. about publicists and self-marketing/book promotion for authors.

Please tell us what led you to this career path.

I have always loved books and was able to get an internship during college at a publisher. I wasn’t sure which department was the right one for me, but I found that I really like talking to people (whether they be authors, booksellers, reviewers, etc) and it’s a great job if you are passionate for books!

Describe a typical work day.

Working in publicity, we are juggling a lot of different balls at once – at the same time that I might be contacting bookstores and booking travel for a book tour that is coming up in a few months, I may also be mailing out galleys for a newer book, writing a press release, fielding review copy requests, pitching authors for reviews and interviews, or gathering clips/reviews to share with our sales department.

Some days we might also be figuring out publicity plans for books up to a year ahead of time! And some nights, I might attend a local author event that I have set up.

Your days are go, go, go! What is your favorite/least favorite/most challenging part of your job?

Sometimes if you really love a book and it either is getting negative reviews, or no one is responding to you at all, that can be really depressing! You have to not take it too personally – media people are busy and may just not have a minute to reply to your pitch email.

Favorite parts of the job are when, thanks to my hard work, authors have successful signings and events, or a great review, or a great interview!

What can authors do to make your job easier/more successful?

We love authors that are active on social media and blogs already and we’re always happy for them to work their connections to reviewers and other media.

Are you able to read most of the books you publicize? If not, how do you familiarize yourself with the books?

I do try to read almost all of the books I work on – it helps when you’re writing press materials, pitching the book to media, and in general it can help you discover some unique things to say about the book!

There are a few that can be difficult to read such as the 4th book in a long epic fantasy series that I don’t have time to go back and read all the early ones. However, we talk to editors to find out the important and interesting points of the book and what we should pull out for our press releases.

That's great - I had assumed you'd only have time to read a portion of the books. Go ahead and shout out about some of your favorite new/upcoming YA releases.

We are really growing our Tor Teen line and have some GREAT stuff coming up this year – including:

ARTICLE 5 by Kristen Simmons (great dystopian YA debut). Kristen is a YA Fusion blog partner and on her book tour now!

GIRL OF NIGHTMARES by Kendare Blake (August) (the sequel to the great ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD)

DARK COMPANION by Maria Acosta (July)

Thanks so much, Alexis! Want to know more about the role of a book publicist? Cynthia Leitich Smith interviewed the Marketing and Publicity Team from Peachtree Publishers on her Cynsations blog here.

***The fabulous YA author Saundra Mitchell has a very helpful self-marketing primer for debut authors on her website. Step by step, she tells you exactly what to do, and when to do it.

Did you miss our previous interviews with industry insiders?

Go here for an interview with a sales representative for Random House Children's Books.

And go here for an interview with the cover artist who designed Tracy Bilen's YA debut, What She Left Behind.

On Tuesday, please stop by the Literary Rambles blog to read my Tip Tuesday post. You'll also find a link to a wonderful Academy Award-winning animated short film about the magic of books.

Finally, Ill leave you with a giveaway link. Rebecca Behrens has a spring-break giveaway of 3 YA ARCs here.

Have a great week!
Kristin Lenz