Saturday, October 30, 2010

Setting Thesaurus

Angela at the Bookshelf Muse is the genius behind the Setting Thesaurus and let me do a post on setting in science fiction--specifically, a cryogenics lab. If you've never checked the Thesauri Angela runs, you should!

(Also: the comment function debate continues. Several people have recommended Disqus to me--if you'd like to check it out and compare it to Intense Debate, please do so! I won't do anything until after the blog tour.)

Friday, October 29, 2010

New Commenting System After Blog Tour

So I was lamenting the poor commenting system Blogger uses on Twitter tonight, and a couple of people recommended I try Intense Debate.

Basically, I wanted something similar to LiveJounral and WordPress for commenting--the ability to reply to comments easily. I'd also like something that was easy for non-Blogger people to use.

I'm not going to risk disrupting the Across the World tour, but I did install Intense Debate on my test site. If you'd like to check it out, click here:

And please let me know what you think! I *want* to comment on everyone's comments and make a true discussion, but I have such a hard time keeping up with comments with Blogger's current system.

Across the World Tour & Contest!

I am pleased (thrilled, excited, beyond-normally-ecstatic) to announce that next week starts off the Across the World Book Tour for Across the Universe!

So, here's the deal. By now, you've probably found the Super-Secret-Hidden-Link. It's up there, in the telescope. Go ahead, try it! (And by the way, you're going to have to look for that secret link in the telescope.)

Ah, noticed the password-protection, huh?

*evil cackles*

Behind that password protected page, there's some awesome stuff:

  • The secret origin of the good ship Godspeed, setting for Across the Universe
  • The origin of my characters' names
  • The story of the fish that inspired a whole new character
  • Hidden Easter eggs sprinkled throughout the book
Oh, yeah, and...

The contest entry form for the November Giveaway!

Prizes, you ask?

A signed, personalized, doodled copy of Across the Universe ARC

A limited edition collection of three pin-buttons featuring Across the Universe

A collection of star-related swag that I'll be giving away at my launch in January.
This does include a star-shaped lollipop.
Awesome, I know.

A mystery gift! It's so mysterious, even I don't know what it is.
I mean, sort of. 
I'm trying to get my hands on something AWESOME.
But if I can't, I do have an awesome back-up plan.
Either way, we're both going to be surprised come giveaway day!

So, how do you get all these awesome prizes?

For the next two week, I've got bloggers all around the blogosphere lined up to tell YOU about their most amazing awesomest adventures from all over the world.  At the end of each post is a link--the link will take you to a letter--gather all the letters together and unscramble them to find the password. Once you break into the password-protected page, the first thing you'll see is the entry form to be entered into the drawing for the prize pack!

A few rules and addendums:

  • Yes, this is open internationally
  • The only thing you have to do is solve the password and fill out the entry form
  • You must fill out the entry form by November 20th
  • Winner will be announced November 22nd
Any question? Please feel free to ask in the comment section. And if you've not read it yet, be sure to check out the clues I gave on Thursday!

Creative Contest at Flipping Pages

In case you've not seen it, Sherry at Flipping Pages for All Ages is holding a creative contest for and ARC of AtU--write a haiku (that rhymes!). Personally, I'm loving all the entries--they look amazing.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Clue to the Secret Link

If you're having trouble finding the secret link, here's a clue for you to LOOK through at:

A Day in My Writing Life

I'm being featured over on the Elevensies blog--check it out if you want to see what my writing desk looks like!

Calling All Code-Breakers, Super-Sleuths, & Tricksters!



I am. SO. Excited.

Tomorrow, I'm opening up the November Giveaway Contest. I'm excited about the prizes, which include an ARC and a one-of-a-kind special thing. But I'm more excited about the quest I'm sending you on to get the prizes.

See, in order to win, you've got to break the password on the secret page of this here website.

What, haven't you noticed the password protected page yet? You will have to look for it above...

But there is still a matter of that password.

Don't worry--over the next two weeks I'll be giving you a letter at a time (including an awesome series of adventures from people all across the world). Unscramble the letters, find the password. Find the password, find the entry form. Find the entry form, win the awesomest prize pack I've made so far.

  • The password is made up of a three word phrase (no spaces)
  • It is a very simple phrase (nothing foreign or outlandish or random)
  • The phrase is made up of real words--no numbers or anything tricky
  • The password is relevant, but not directly related to, Across the Universe
  • Two letters are repeated three times
  • If you DO figure out the password, don't tell! That gives YOU a greater chance to win!

Go ahead and try some guesses now! But don't worry--if you can't guess the password yet, you're going to get all the letters to unscramble over the course of the next two weeks.

The Line-Up:

Side note: I am so scared that you guys are going to think this is lame. Please tell me what you think of this game/contest! Personally, I think reading the adventures of everyone will be lots of fun...I hope you do, too!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Revision FAQ: How do you find readers?

The second most common question I ask doesn't apply strictly to revision, but in general, how does one find reliable critique partners?

There's no right or wrong way--and often times a fair amount of luck goes into finding a good partnership. But here's what's helped me, if you're on the hunt:

  • Get involved with the writing community
    • Every single one of my critique partners was found by my involvement in the writing community. Every. Single. One. 
      • Forums
        • My first critique group came from finding people with similar writing interests as mine on the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award forum. None of us won the competition, but we did find a hugely beneficial critique group.
        • Other popular forums include Verla Kay and Absolute Write
        • Warning: Don't just jump at every Joe Schmoe out there asking for a partner. Take time to make sure you are at similar levels, similar writing tastes, etc.
      • SCBWI
        • My state has an active ListServ; I found one critique group after there was an call for new members on the ListServ. 
        • Advantage: people on the ListServ are (probably) more dedicated to writing as they're members of SCBWI
        • Disadvantage: There are many more picture book writers than anything else in SCBWI (at least in my area) which means if you write MG/YA, you might have trouble finding someone in your genre.
      • Blogging
        • When you blog, you show people your writing style. People with similar writing styles and interests will read your blog. Participate in the comments (something I'm struggling to do more of) and find people who are like you, writing-wise.
  • Reach out--ask
    • Don't be afraid to approach a fellow writer. I'm not saying that JK Rowling is looking for a critique partner. But if there's a blogger who has a project that interests you, shoot her an email and offer a swap. 
      • Keep in mind:
        • Be polite. Be willing to accept if the person you ask says "no."
        • Offer something in return. Don't expect them to critique your work without offering to critique theirs in return.
        • Leave yourself a way out. I recommend not starting with a full manuscript swap (more on that below).
  • Use writing samples and trial periods
    • No matter how similar you think you are to the potential critique partner, there's a chance that it just won't work out. In order to avoid bad break-ups, try this:
      • Request a sample first
        • Pretend like you're both agents--ask for a query and three sample chapters. If the writing is something you can work with in that sample, good chances are you can take on a whole manuscript swap. But if you hate the sample (for whatever reason--it's not your style, you dislike the genre, the work is too bad OR too good), then mutually agree to move on from there.
          • It's much better to waste a couple of hours on a sample project than days or weeks on a longer one.
      • Create (and stick to) a schedule
        • It sucks when you swap pages and you finish the project in a week, but it takes the partner a month. Or if you know you have a time conflict and need longer, but the partner's pestering you for speed. Agree ahead of time on a schedule, and stick to it.
  • Figure out what critique style works best for you
    • Critique groups/alpha readers
      • These groups take small samples of work (i.e. a set number of chapters) and swap them at regularly scheduled meeting (i.e. bi-monthly).
      • If you need to finish the first draft and need direction as you write, use these people
        • Advantages:
          • Helps you finish the first draft
          • Keeps you on schedule
          • Helps you create a more polished draft as you write
          • Gives you direction as you go
        • Disadvantages:
          • Slower pace--it may take a year or more to finish if you only swap a few chapters at a time, making this less appropriate if you've already got a finished manuscript, or are a quick writer.
          • Because they're not seeing the manuscript as a whole, some overall themes/motifs, etc., may be ignored or lost in critique
          • Greater chance for members to slack on schedule
            • I have never had a critique group where every member was as active and participated on the same level. I have always had at least one member who wouldn't provide samples frequently enough, or who slacked on critiques.
    • Beta Readers
      • These readers read a rough draft of the manuscript, reading the whole book at one go. 
      • If you have a finished manuscript you want to take to the next level, use these people.
        • Advantages
          • You get a great sense of how your manuscript stands overall.
          • There's less focus on the minutia an more focus on the actual story--which is more important.
        • Disadvantages
          • Whole manuscript reads take time--sometimes more time than you want to spend. Agree on a schedule before you sign up.
          • If this is your first time working with someone, then you might not find out until the whole critique is over whether or not the person is helpful to your writing.
    • Gamma Readers
      • These are your final readers, the ones who let you know that it's done and ready to be submitted.
      • If you have already revised one manuscript (either through crit groups or Beta Readers) and just want to know if you've fixed it correctly and the manuscript is ready, these readers are for you.
        • Advantages:
          • Confidence boost--they tell you to get the manuscript out the door
          • Ask them to look for faults you tried to fix previously, so you know if you have actually fixed them.
        • Disadvantages:
          • They may say it's not ready--so you're going back to the drawing board.
          • Avoid using previous readers on this--get a fresh set of eyes, or the readers may be blinded by past version of the manuscript
  • Don't be afraid to "break up"
    • I have been in several crit groups before that just, for some reason or another, didn't work
    • You don't want to be rude, but you don't want to waste your professional time
    • Treat critique group as professional partnerships--if it doesn't work, move on
      • Don't be rude--explain why the group isn't working, then firmly back away
      • Maintain ties with people in the group who did work for you.
        • I was in a critique group once that I hated. One member in particular ruined it for me. She was rude, never took direction, and we clashed terribly. But there was one person in the group in particular whose writing style was good and who meshed well with me. I left the group, but kept the person as a friend and a beta reader.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

PS: One signed arc a week!

PenguinTeen is giving away one signed ARC a week from now until release! All you have to do to enter is sign up for the Facebook Fan Page.

(Yes, really. One a week. When I was in NYC, I signed quite a bit of stock.)

Revision FAQ: How did you get so organized?

I've been getting a couple of the same questions over and over since I posted about revision (some from last year, and some since yesterday), and I thought--hey, I should do a couple of blog posts on that!

So, here's the first and most frequent FAQ:

How did you get so organized?

I have a theory: whether you're a pantser or a plotter, you've got to have at least one stage of your writing that is terribly organized.

Plotters make organized outlines (hence why they are plotters). They have lovely index cards with themes and characters and whatever, or they use Post-Its to plot the novel, or they just have a lengthy outline that they can use as a map for when they write. Whatever. They have something.

But I'm a perennial pantser. When I write, I've got nothing except whatever ideas are floating in my head. I'm the most unorganized first drafter ever. I throw together words all willy-nilly on the screen. I start one thread, get bored or forget about it, and start another thread. There's a whole subplot in my current rough draft that I just dropped about halfway through the book.

But since I'm so unorganized in drafting, I become ridiculously organized in revising. Writing is a two-step process: writing and revising. I think every writer needs organization in at least one of these steps--either you have an organized way of writing and then you have a fairly simpler revision process, or you have an unplanned writing style that must then be organized in revision.

What do you think? Is writing a two-step process that requires one step (at least) to be organized? If so, where are you organized--in writing or in revising?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

New Revision Rewriting Process

Last year, I tried a new way of revising. You can read about it here (the plan), here (what worked), here (what didn't work), and here (the end result).

The thing about that plan was that I was working on my own schedule then. Essentially, I set aside three months, and had three groups of beta readers. I had alpha readers to check pace, revised it, sent it to beta readers for a month to check plot and characters, revised again, and then sent it to gamma readers for the final spit shine.

The end result? Three rounds of revisions and three rounds of readers who could tell me how well I progressed at each revisions = a pretty polished manuscript.

The problem? This time around, I don't have three months to revise. AND I have a much rougher manuscript on my hands.

I admit it--soon after finishing Draft 1, I started panicking. A LOT. I had a mess of a manuscript--and I knew it was a mess--and I had a very tight deadline.

Fortunately, I also had a cadre of trusted readers.

So, I threw it at them in a frazzled, semi-incoherent email, begging for help. I did not have the organized stages of reads and focused topic points and well-organized plan of last year.

And they took my huge mess, and made lovely nice notes explaining what a huge mess it was.

Which is why I love them.

So, because my crit partners friends are so awesome, I ended up with a huge mess of a manuscript and piles of notes on what's wrong and how to fix it. was rather intimidating, actually.

So: new plan.

The Revised Revision Rewriting Plan
For use when you got a great big fat mess on your hands.
  • Gather together all the notes from critiquers
    • First, I read through everything and got a basic impression of what the general idea was
    • Then, I started translating their notes into my own words
      • This is hugely important--sometimes, critiquers will say "Why don't you do X?" Well, maybe you don't want to do X--but you've got to figure out why they suggested X (maybe the character seemed weak, or the motivation wasn't clear, or whatever). Then, put the idea that you have in your own words.
        • Also--no matter how good your critiquers are, not all notes work
          • Point 1: I had one critiquer who really didn't like my first chapter. I had another who sincerely loved it. They can't both be right--I had to look at why each felt the way she did, and which interpretation more closely matched my intent. In the end, I decided to keep Chapter 1, but fix the issue that made the critiquer not like it.
          • Point 2: Sometimes critiquer's suggestions run contrarily to your intent. When a critiquer suggests something that causes a gut reaction of "No!" in you, that does not mean the critiquer is wrong--that means you've somehow failed to get across what you were actually going for. So you don't have to change it in the way they suggest, but you do need to understand where the suggestion was coming from a fix it from there.
          • Point 3: Sometimes critiquers who are writers are thinking with their writing head, not their reader heads. I do this all the time, personally--I basically start to try to rewrite a scene  the way I want it to be, whether or not it fits in the story.
    • Finally, I took all the big picture things, and compiled it into a notebook of what I basically had to do to fix up the manuscript. 
      • For me: this is 9 pages long, with notes as varied as "Amy and Elder should fight over X in the scene where Y happens." to single lines of narrative that I want to shape a chapter around.
  • When you have the general idea of what needs to change, apply the changes to specific chapters
    • Once I had my 9 pages of generalized notes, it was time to funnel the generalizations into specific scenes.
    • First, I took a sheet of note paper, and divided it into two columns. I labeled the first column "What Happens" and the second column "What Needs to Change." 
      • In the first column, I listed each chapter and a one sentence description of what happens in the chapter.
      • In the second column, I referred back to my general notes, coming up with specific scenes and changes that would answer the problems of the general notes.
    • Then, I used a different colored pen to draws changes and new scenes to the chapters that they coorespond to.
    • For example, in one chapter, Elder talks to some Feeders about a problem. There's not really anything wrong with this chapter. But one of the big changes I'm making is the type of mystery the character solve and I wanted to make sure there were traces of that mystery early on in the novel. So, I added a clue of the mystery and a new scene were Elder finds the clue before the chapter where he talks with the Feeders.
    • For me, I got between 40-50 pages of manuscript condensed to one legal-sized piece of paper in notes with mark-ups of how to change them.
  • From this point, you need to decide: revision or rewrite
    • For me, I had such significant changes that I decided I needed to rewrite instead of revise
    • The difference?
      • With revision, you use the same manuscript document and then add changes from there.
      • With a rewrite, you open up a new Word document and start writing all over again.
        • Personally, I have a wide-screen computer screen (awesome), so I have the old document open on the left side, and the new document open on the right side, because there's rather a lot I can cut and paste from old to new, interspersed with new writing. 
How about you? How do you revise?

Friday, October 22, 2010


Psh. NaNoWriMo. Everyone's jumping on board.

Me? I'm making my own NaNoREVISIONMo. I'm giving myself from now until mid-November (preferably early November) to finish revising my (very) rough draft of Book 2.

I mean very rough draft.

I mean ridiculously-rougher-than-sandpaper rough draft.

I'm trying something new with revisions. I will tell you all about it--later, after I see whether it works or not. Meanwhile, why not look at this awesome video, courtesy of Stephanie Perkins?

The video is all about Understanding Teenage Boys, and since half my novel is told from a teenage boy's POV, I consider it research. Also, Charlie is cute. There, I said it.

And while you're at it, why not watch this video, too? Just because it's pretty funny, and John Green also makes a cameo appearance.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bookanista Feature: Stephanie Perkins's ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS

The Bookanistas are a group of writers - in various stages of the publishing process – who have decided to band together and review the special books of our peers.  No negative reviews here! We post every Thursday and cover various topics– upcoming ARCs, books we love, special diamonds in the rough, classics, and even cover reviews.

ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins

I wasn't planning on posting this week.

My revisions on Book 2 have turned in rewrites. Panicked OMGosh-MUST-DO-THIS-NOW rewrites. I don't have time to read.

But then I got ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS in the mail from my Bookanista sisters.

I said, "Fine. I'll read the first chapter."

And then two hours and 100 pages DISAPPEARED.

You guys know it's rare for me to feature a contemporary novel. RARE. Well, ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS is a rare kind of book. Basically, it's a love story. But it's such a good love story.

What ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS has that most other contemporary love stories don't:
  • A very hot boy
    • Who also has flaws and is no where near perfect
  • A very nice girl
    • Who isn't a push-over and is willing to stand up for herself
  • A very beautiful city
    • That's so realistic, it's practically a third main character
  • A plot
    • Yes, really! There's a plot! An actual, interesting plot!
Also: Stephanie Perkins makes fun of Nicholas Sparks. I mean, I guess it's possible that Anna's dad is a completely fictional character, but I like to think of him as Nicholas Sparks.

What ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS doesn't have that most other contemporary love stories annoyingly do:
  • A love triangle
    • I mean, there are other people, but it's realistic teen dating situations, not exactly a love triangle. In other words, it's not like anyone's going to be on any team other than Team Anna and Etienne, and that's....refreshing
  • A plot that hinges on love
    • Isn't that nice? That some things happen other than goo-goo eyes and romantic sighs?
  • Lust taking priority over love
    • C'mon. Let's ask ourselves honestly. Do most teens love each other in stories because they're mutually hot, or because of their winning personalities? In ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS, the teens actually, you know, get to know each other before they actually fall in love.

  • If you're a writer, then ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS can teach you to:
    • Show, don't tell
      • Anna's a neat freak. I know this as well as I know Anna. But yanno what? Stephanie never. once. tells me that. Not once. She shows me. 
    • Make setting count
      • Dude. It's Paris. It's Paris. But yanno what made it real? The little things. The jerk in the Euro Disney shirt. The macaroons. The VO tickets at movie theaters.
    • Create plausible secondary characters
      • There's a slew of them. Toph has about ten pages of face time--but he's just as real as Anna and Etienne. To say nothing of Rashmi, Mer, Josh...all superbly done.
    • Follow narrative themes
      • I'll let you discover this one on your own. But I'll just say something in the first chapter comes back in the last. And I adore that sort of thing.

I feel a bit stalkerish of poor Stephanie Perkins--I mean, I kidnapped her website designer to design my site, and I keep bugging her on Twitter, but...even should totally read this book.


Other Bookanista Features Today:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Contest Winner and New Interview Up


Oh, hi there!

What can I do you for? We've got some lovely coffee made, why not sit for a spell and chat. Nice weather we're having. Isn't the latest movie divine? My local sports teams beats your local sports team.


You're waiting for something?

You're waiting for some news?

Some news about who won the Adventurous Contest?

Why don't we dish about the latest hot topic? Dissect some Puritan literature? Compose complicated sonnets?

No? You just want to find out who won the Adventurous Contest?

*huffs* Fine.

Well, after countless hours of carefully tabulated research counting up the entries and entering it into

The winner is....

Congrats, Melissa! *throws confetti around* Send me your address, and you'll get the signed ARC and a special little something-something from NYC in the mail!

Didn't win? NEVER FEAR. I'm going to be holding another contest in November, and another one in December AND another one in January. AND THEY ALL GET PROGRESSIVELY MORE AWESOME. Seriously. I've got SO many awesome people helping out with November's contest your mind, it will be blown. And as for December? It's so epic that I'm a little nervous about pulling it off. And January? Holy cow. I want the prize for January!!

So, yeah: don't worry about not winning this time! It can only get better ;)

Finally, make sure you check out The Scibbler's Cove. This awesome new site is all about helping writers and commiserating about the craft, and today, they interviewed me! Rebecca's questions were really interesting--one of my answers (the one to the question about what's surprised me since getting the call) wasn't something I expected...but when I really thought about it, I realized it was the truth.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New York, New York

To read this post properly, you really should be belting out "New York, New York." Here, let me set the mood:

OK! With that playing in the background, let me indulge my inner grandma and share some pics from the trip!

First thing we did--literally, as soon as we dropped our bags in the hotel room--was hoof it to the piers and get on a Circle Line Cruise. I know. Cheesy. Tourist-y. BUT. I had ridden in a car, van, bus, plane, and train in one day, and all I was lacking was boat. So off we went.

One of the first things we saw was the beautiful statue of liberty. I had better pictures, but I like this one the best, with the sunlight and the glittering water.

This man was so funny! He'd just caught a fish, and wanted to show it off to everyone on our boat.

This is something new I learned on the Circle Line Cruise--at the top of the island, there's a recreation of a medieval cloister, complete with medieval era plants in the garden and tapestries on the wall! Now I realllllly want to go, but it's a long way from downtown.

One of my fave pictures--the sun setting over Washington Bridge.

After this, the husband and I both crashed in our hotel--that was a long cruise following a long day of travel. And beside, the next day was ComicCon!

Check it. I totally caught a bird in the upper right corner! Awesome.

ComicCon takes place at the Javits Center, this colossal black glass building that is a labyrinthine maze inside--or, at least it felt that way as we waited HOURS to get in, despite the fact that we'd already bought our tickets online. But it was totally cool with me, because I got to speak at a panel (so cool!) and had a few people stop me and ask me to sign their ARCs (even cooler!).

Evidence of the crowdedness. Interesting sidenote: my phone's camera can do panoramic shots! Be prepared for more similar. Clicky through for bigger picture.

But, of course, the real appeal of ComicCon was the books! Yes! Glorious books! Also: costumes! And since pictures of books are boring, here's my fave costumes:

Yes. I love Kingdom Hearts. There were many Sora costumes, but this was the best. And don't you love the pose?!

PS: Yes, I'm a great big nerd. This is Inuyasha. If you don't know Inuyasha, YOU SHOULD.

I TOLD YOU I WAS A NERD, OK? All right, just in case you don't know--this is Princess Serena. From Sailor Moon? Yes, I'm old-school nerd. And yes, I totally noticed that she even did the classic Princess Serena pose. OMG this was by far my favorite costume.

On Sunday, I took the husband off to...NINJA NEW YORK! Many of you will remember that I've long said I wanted to go there if I ever got an agent/book deal/a good enough excuse to go to NYC. And now I've been! It was AWESOME. It was SO SO SO AWESOME. The husband and I ordered food for every course, even dessert (rare for me) AND we ordered the special ninja-style food for every course (read: special effects food).

Imagine this sign turned around right-side up. But I wanted to include the pic, because it pretty much sets the scene for the restaurant. They really do the place to look just like a real Japanese town.

There were cute little pumpkins carved alongside all the Japanese decor!

My first course. On fire.

Shared appetizer. It smoked for a good ten or fifteen minutes.

Corwin's second course. Also on fire.

For the record, Corwin let me die THREE TIMES. I cannot trust him anymore.

After ComicCon, I drug my husband to the American Museum of Natural History. Yes, drug him. Because, see, he knows I'm a nerd. And he gets bored easily. And his idea of fun does not include museums. "But," I said, "you've not seen anything as cool as THIS museum."

He was doubtful.

First I took him to the observatory:

I told you I liked the panoramic feature! Clicky to embiggen.

This room was so cool. Dead creepy crawlies and stuffed animals everywhere. I loved the swirl of butterflies on the right.

This cloth is made of SPIDER SILK. Awesome.

Corwin meets a long lost ancestor.

Oooh, shiny!
 And then, of course, we got to the dinosaurs. And the husband was in utter awe.

This turtle was so big you could RIDE HIM. I mean, you could ride him if he weren't dead.


Check out the brontosaurus! So huge he'd barely fit in the picture.

You know those creepy stories about antlered fairy men? I imagine THESE antlers.
 After the museum, I made Corwin do a bus ride. I know, I know. Touristy. Yeah. But whatever! The bus ride we took was called The Ride, and it's brand new--as in, it's only been open a few weeks brand-new. AND IT ROCKED. Seriously. Don't be a touristy snob like I usually am. DO THIS. It was SO MUCH FUN.

So, basically, you get on a bus:
The bus.
 But it's NOT a normal bus.

The bus from the other side. Notice the full glass windows.
 Inside, the bus has three rows of stadium style seating that faces one direction. One entire side of the bus and half the ceiling is glass--so as you ride, you get a full view of what's in front of you.
The bus from inside. Tilt your head. Sorry about that.
 But this is not a typical bus ride. Yes, you go past the famous site, such as Times Square and Grand Central Station and all that. But instead of just harping on about how tall a building is or some tosh like that, there are actors on the street who reenact famous scenes...

Recognize this kiss?
 ...or who otherwise interact with the bus. For example, outside of the Ritz, a fake paprazzi flashed pictures of the bus and pretended as if we were celebrities. A street delivery person dropped into a break dance routine. You never knew WHO on the street was a performer, and who was just one of the hundreds of bystanders in NY. In one really funny scene, we drive down a street that looks fairly normal and boring. We're told that someone on the street will remove something. We're looking at the dozen or so people walking down the street, and one man takes off his hat. Then we're told he'll remove something else...and he takes off his wig!  Then...we're told he'll remove one more thing...and as he's walking down the street, he rips his pants off! It was truly hilarious and unexpected--and even better was to see the regular New Yorkers just look at him and shrug as they went on with their day.

It started raining heavily, so my picture didn't turn out well. But here, a ballerina and her partner danced in a circle as The Ride went around Columbus Circle. It was magically beautiful.

And, of course, I couldn't do all the touristy stuff without also doing the Empire State Building.

Now I'm singing "Empire State of Mind." I hope you're happy, Alicia Keyes.
The Empire State Building was just fun. I'd been before, but it was the husband's first time, and we hit a great time of day--just as the sun was going down. It wasn't too crowded, it was still light, and there was still a bit of romance as the buildings' shadows lengthened.

The real reason anyone goes into the Empire State Building: to see the much prettier Chrysler Building.

Manhattan, with the Statue of Liberty.

Lookit! The shadow of the Empire State Building!
And that was it! My grand NYC adventure!

I know some of you are thinking--but what about the publisher stuff?! And yes--I did get to meet my wonderful editor and everyone else at Razorbill (hi everyone!) and it was BRILLIANT. And I met my wonderful agent (hi Merrilee! hi Jennifer!) and it was also brilliant (and the Writers House offices---gorgeous). And I ate so much delicious food I'm surprised I lived to tell the tale.

But...uh...I didn't take any pictures of that.


But I felt like such a greenie, I couldn't just pop out my camera and say "cheese!" in front of all these uber-cool NYC peeps, could I?

OK, yes. Probably. They were all very nice and would have totally done it. But I was too shy to ask :P

But here you all go! My awesomely amazing NYC adventure...sans the publishing stuff...with extra touristy stuff added!

Hope you enjoyed!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Things to Consider When Hiring a Web Designer

I can still barely believe I'm back. NYC was starting to feel like home! And so much has happened in the space of one short week--going and coming back, nursing a sick husband (he caught bronchitis on the last day of the trip, and had the brunt of it here at home, which wiped away all thoughts of maintaining a clean house and some semblance of order), launching a contest and a new website...

I'm going to post about NYC--SOON. I've got dozens of pics to share, and even some video! But the idea of actually plugging the camera into the computer and starting is exhausting to even think of. So, instead, I'm going to focus on the website re-design.

I did not jump into an entire website overhaul lightly--but I knew I wanted one. I don't believe in spending a lot of money on web design before you actually, er, make any money at writing, especially when there are totally great free or low cost options online. But I do believe in having an online presence for an author, even before publication. So, in my opinion, here's what's needed:

Things an author website needs before publication:
  • Free or low-cost
  • Simple, clear web address
    • is the best; also-- or similar
    • Yes, you are judged by your web address. Is it really too much to pay $2 for a domain name, as opposed to getting a free web address that's a million characters long?
      • Do not make your web address rely on your book title ( Your book title may very well change. Also, the current book may not be the one that sells.
    • Btw, you're also judged on your email address. Invest in or similar.
  • Basic contact information 
    • Email, blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc.--not a physical address or phone number.
  • Basic book information
    • I suggest only having the basic pitch of one project on your website--whichever project you're querying. You don't want to appear all over the board or scattered.
    • There are advantages and disadvantages to having a first chapter online. You decide.
    • I do not recommend putting more than one or two chapters online as a sample.
  • Optionals
    • Biography: keep it short and snappy
    • Resources and links that help other writers or readers
    • Short essays or links relevant to your work (such as a page about the history behind your historical novel, or the science behind your science fiction)
  • Non-optionals (or, what not to have)
    • Flashing graphics, or a design that would come from a '90s high school student project
    • Statistics on failed queries and/or agent hate-list
    • Hard to find links and poor organization on the page
  • When in doubt: simpler is better
Personally, I used the Website Tonight and domain registration program offered by These were really good, simple to use, and reasonably priced programs that offered what I needed for the basics of my website. A good example of a pre-published author's website is Robyn Campbell's.

However, once I got my book deal, I knew I needed to upgrade. I wanted something that would match my book, but would also show my own personality and fit other, future books. I also needed something that looked professional and worked across several platforms--something that matched my blog, website, Twitter, etc. in one theme.

This was beyond my tech skills, so I had to hire someone.

This to consider when hiring a web designer:
  • Price
    • Have a clear budget for what you want--but also keep in mind that you're buying a service that requires talent and skill--in other words, have a realistic budget and know that good web design may cost a pretty penny
  • Skill
    • Look at the designers' portfolio. Consider past work. Know what you like about the past work's design. Know what you don't like about the past work's design. 
  • Design
    • What do you want? Illustration or photography? Top or side navigation? You don't need a 100% complete design in your head--you want to leave room for your graphic designer to interpret your ideas and contribute creatively--but you should also know the basics of what you want. I suggest making a sketch that you can then pass on to the designer.
  • Abilities
    • Can your designer do what you want? Do they know how to make a Blogger template that matches your website, for example? Ask before you hire.
  • User friendly
    • There are two schools of thought on this. 
      • Some people want a designer who maintains the website for her--you tell the designer what you want, the designer updates and makes changes.
        • Advantage: Someone else does the work
        • Disadvantage: You're working on someone else's schedule and (probably) paying that person to update your site periodically.
      • Some people (like me) want a design that, once it's done, you're given the reins. I have admin ability on my entire website, can change whatever, whenever. 
        • Advantage: You can tweak it to your heart's content, you don't have to pay someone to make changes.
        • Disadvantage: You're doing the work.
For me, the ideal choice was Manning Krull. He made two sites that I really admire: Stephanie Perkins and Carrie Harris. I knew I wanted illustration, and his style of illustration suited my idea of a Tim-Burton-meets-celestial-mobile for a website.  His price quote was comparable to similar top website designers. He made websites based on WordPress, which means I can update and tweak and change things on the site whenever I want.

I am thoroughly and 100% happy with what this site now is. I think it helped that I had a sketch of what I wanted as a website--that eliminated a lot of questions later:

Isn't that a long way off from the awesome we now have?

One thing I also had to think of was content. What I did--and it really worked--was research everyone else's websites HEAVILY. If you're a YA author, published or not, with a website, chances are I studied yours before making mine.

Things an author website needs after publication:
(Obviously, I'm basing this off my own stuff)
  • Home page
    • This is optional--but it's nice to have a home base for when people link to your website
  • About
    • This is a bio page. I think it's good to have a short bio people can use when they link to you (with or without hyperlinks) and also a longer, more personal bio page for people to get to know you
    • I also have a FAQ linked from there
  • News
    • I don't have much news, an even fewer events, but at least I have a place established for them for later.
  • Books
    • This one is non-negotiable. If you've got a book coming out, you've got to have a book page.
      • Include:
        • a short description
        • book cover
        • ISBN and ordering information
        • Other fun, applicable links
  • Blog
    • I don't think writers need a blog, just like I don't think writers need a twitter or Facebook. But if you have one, make sure it's linked up to your website.
  • For readers
    • This is where I'm putting information that I think readers of my book will like, such as inspiration, where the title came from--fun tidbits like that
  • For writers
    • I like writing about writing. This is where I am going to collect information that I found helpful, that I wish other writers had told me about before (and after) publication.
  • For press
    • This is something else I think writer websites need. A simple, clear place for people to find the basic information about you and your book. This is the business link.
  • Contact
    • Again, a need. You want people to be able to easily find contact information.
  • Optionals:
    • Photos
      • Now is the time to invest in professional-looking photographs. Think about your audience. I'm writing for teens, so I opted for fun pics (that still look professional). I'm not in a photography studio, for example. 
    • Multimedia
      • IF you have professional multi-media, like You-Tube videos of you, a book trailer, etc., then by all means include it.
        • A word of warning: keep it professional. I don't have a book trailer online. That's because I know my limitations--I can't make a decent one myself. I'm waiting for a professional one from my publisher. I don't want to muddy the waters with my amateur-ness.

And that's it! I don't know if this will help any of you, but these are the things I thought about and researched, and what I came up with. What do you guys think? What makes a good website? And what are some good author websites out there?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Adventurous and Musical Updates!

WHEW. Guys. That was one heckuva trip! I ate with ninjas and editors and agents and writers and other cool people (the food including rabbit, tentacle pasta, and crepes). I did something totally completely touristy, and it turned out hilariously awesome. And I discovered a hidden cloisters! Really!

But there is really too much for one post--so I'm going to post about that next week.

Instead, I'd like to direct your attention to this:

And remind you about the contest! Post your adventurous stories on your blog for a chance to win a signed and doodled copy of Across the Universe...and a little something-something that I picked up in NYC!

Want to check out some of the entries so far? You do. You know you do. Because YOU GUYS ARE AMAZINGLY AWESOME. And you all have had amazingly awesome adventures that put me to SHAME.
I think that's everyone! Please tell me if I was stupid and missed someone!

And still have time to enter if you haven't yet! The contest closes on October 20th--so you don't have MUCH time--but you do have time! Either post about your own adventure or spread the word about the contest, and make sure to leave your link here.

As for me...I'm going to go through and re-read all of your awesome-o adventures. Your lives are amazing. Seriously.