Sunday, December 30, 2012

How not to let your writing make you crazy in 2013

When I began to write Venom at the end of 2010, in collaboration with Paper Lantern Lit, I was also working full-time as an RN, going to grad school, and writing a contemporary manuscript. I had always been the kind of girl who got things done, so I naively thought: I can do all of this. No problem.

And it wasn't, for awhile. But then the revising and copy-editing for Venom started to blend together with the outlining for Belladonna. All of a sudden I got emails about flap copy and promotional stuff. Meanwhile, school got busier and I had finished my contemporary manuscript and managed to land my dream agent. But now I had revisions to do for her before we could look for a publisher. I found myself working on three books in the span of a single day.

I started to go crazy. Like teary-eyed, stressed out, starving, sleepless, scary-crazy. I was snapping at everyone. I had road rage. I had rage in general.  My friends and family tactfully voiced their concerns. And I knew they were right. So I decided to take a semester off school.

 This is how I look when I'm crazy, except not as blue or as cute. Or as fluffy. Fine, this looks nothing like me, but I love me some Bumble.

But I really wanted to finish my Masters degree. The reality is, even after my agent sold my contemp in a two-book deal and I was writing five books for two Big Six publishers, I still wasn't making enough money to survive on my writing income alone, and I knew an advanced degree would give me more choices.

Since I wasn't willing to quit school, I decided to take a year off from my job as an RN to finish my degree and the books I had under contract. This was a hard choice because I LIKE nursing. It has a way of making you feel useful, like you're giving something back to the world. Writing can do that too, of course, but I have always gravitated toward writing fluffy fun books, not big life-changing stories.

Believe it or not, once Venom's release date came near and I was doing promotional stuff for it, doing copy edits and jacket flap stuff for Belladonna, and beginning to write Book #3, which was going to have to be drafted in less than three months to meet its deadline, the crazy came back. I was just as busy, just as rage-filled and stressed-out even without my RN job.

What I'm saying here, in the most verbose way possible (as usual), is that writing is fluid. It will spread out, suck up all of the free space that you give it. It will drown you if you let it. This is especially true once you have a publishing deal and all of those optional things like blogs and FB pages become less optional. So with that in mind, here are some suggestions that might help you stay sane as a writer in 2013.

Note: I realize many of you will not need these suggestions, as you are undoubtedly more enlightened and less obsessive than I am. But those of you who are compelled to do everything, all the time, read onward. Perhaps something will resonate.


1. Whenever possible, schedule your writing time for the week: Whether you write 4 hours or 40 hours, if you start the week with an idea of your butt-in-chair schedule and (mostly) stick to it, you can prevent yourself from spending 99 hours in front of the computer and still feeling like you didn't get anything done.

2. Give yourself tiny goals with tiny rewards once you meet them: Write 500 words and then you can check twitter. Write for an hour and then you can play with the kitties. Revise 10 pages and then you can go for that walk or read another chapter of that book. Trust me, you really don't need to check twitter every single time someone posts a new tweet #BeenThereDoneThat

3. Have designated web-free days: Two days a month I unplug and go do something completely not writing-related. Like hike or kayak or shop or go sledding or take a cooking class. Try it. Do whatever it is you've been wishing you had time to do, or else do something new and interesting you've never tried. Turn off the email alerts on your phone and limit your usage of it to checking messages once or twice and jotting down any amazing ideas that hit you while you're biking or climbing a mountain, etc. You'd be surprised how days off actually recharge your creative batteries and increase your overall productivity.

No cell service? No problem.

4. Find a writing community: No matter where you are in your writing journey, you can find a group of like-minded individuals locally or online who will understand the stresses specific to being a writer. I feel so fortunate to belong to the Apocalypsies and to have 'met' the 2012 Breathless Reads girls online. These groups, along with my crit partners and a couple local writers, have been there to tell me when I'm being unreasonable, support me when I'm not, and to occasionally pull me back from the ledge, so to speak. Love you guys! :)

5. Make to-do lists: I realize to-do lists are not for everyone, but when you find yourself getting charged excessive late fees by your credit card company because you were so busy that you forgot to pay your bill, a little reminder about those mundane obligations goes a long way. I find them especially helpful to coordinate my writing and grad school deadlines. If you don't like lists, try just jotting down crucial things on a paper or phone calendar.

6. Read your negative reviews, or don't: I started out ostrich-style, fingers tucked securely in ears. LALALALALALA Whatever I don't know can't hurt me! Then one day I was just like "Whatevz. I am busting my arse writing these books, and working with a development company means I have to please three or four editors so if I can manage that feat then who cares if I can't please all the readers." So I read all of Venom's bad reviews. And you know what, some of them were really helpful. Some of them inspired changes in the later books. So it's a trade-off. Your negative reviews might help your writing, but they might also make you feel bad or discouraged. I think every writer has a balance when it comes to letting reviews into their world. Find yours and be okay with it.

7. Remember that you are not your book: Seems obvious, right? But when you're tired and stressed and everyone you know is getting starred reviews and movie deals and your book seems to be getting scorned by the world, it's easy to internalize those negative words. Whether it's Kirkus or your crit partner who doesn't like your book, it doesn't mean they don't like you.

8. Ask for help if you need it: Do you have to write 12,000 words per week to meet a deadline? Perhaps you should ask for an extension. Not possible? Perhaps you should ask your professors for an extension on that term paper. Maybe you should ask your spouse to grocery shop this week, or do the laundry. Maybe a friend would be willing to watch your kids for a couple of days so you can grind out more words. Don't try to do it all. No one likes a Mary Sue :)

9. Know when to step away from your writer community: Insane jealousy over everyone else's successes got you down and distracted? Log off the message boards. Publisher's Lunch announcements all starting to read like this: Someone younger than you just sold a trilogy about that thing you wanted to write about that everyone told you was overdone and wouldn't sell, in a 7-figure deal, at auction. Movie rights for all three books to JJ Abrams. Time to unsubscribe, dude.

10. Institute a universal cooling-off period: Yes, wait. Before you quit your job, buy a car, decide to move, press send on that email, etc. Writers spend a lot of time embroiled in fictional drama. If you let down your guard, it might leak over into the real world.

11. Regress and regroup: Watch Cartoon network in your penguin-print pajama pants and your NIN hoodie. Have a big ugly cry. When the stress starts to pile up, allow yourself to do whatever you need to do to feel better. Then get back to work.

So cute when he's not being bad...

12. Don't forget to do other stuff: This is sort of a catch-all that includes things like sleeping and showering (not optional), as well as more whimsical things like watching your kitties sleep and having snowball fights (though not with your kitties--they don't seem to like that). Even if you're on a huge deadline writing 60+ hours a week and mostly ignoring everything except your laptop, writing is still not TEH ONLY. Doing other stuff is kinda fun, and if nothing else it gives you more things to write about.

Got more sanity tips? Share them in the comments :)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Venom Readalong!


Annabelle made this. I am not even remotely this talented.


So why, exactly, would you want to take the fun lazy experience of reading a book and answer questions about it like it is extra homework? Um...er...well... #SucksAtPublicity

No. I'm kidding. everyone should do this because THERE WILL BE BLOOD! And by blood, I mean prizes. And swag. (Just as cool as blood and a heckuva lot less messy). Bookmarks. Autographed stuff. Apparently there will be magnets! I don't even have a Venom magnet. *taps Nikki* *looks pathetic* I can haz magnet? 

And one lucky duck will win a Belladonna ARC :) Have I mentioned how much I love Belladonna? I mean, I love Venom of course but I am in love with Belladonna. For realz.

Thanks to Nikki and Annabelle for organizing and hosting the read-a-long. Signups will be in 3 days--yes, Christmas Eve if that applies to you. I will post links to the signup page then...if I don't forget.

Look. I remembered: You can sign up here.

For more info, watch my twitter feed: twitter.com/fionawritesYA. You don't hafta have a twitter to look at that page so I don't wanna hear any excuses :)

Okay, then. #MostMeanderingBlogPostEver 

Happy holidays and stuff :) See you soon, I hope.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Fiction Freak: Day 5


Hey guys. I'm hosting super-blogger Nikki Wang from Fiction Freak today as part of her Blogaversary tour. Nikki is known for thought-provoking reviews, copious tweeting, and lots of squealing. Yep, she's the best. It's all you, Nikki ------------------->




Author Love!

Everyone knows you can’t have a book without publishers and, of course, the authors. So THANK YOU to all those people who make sure that books are at their top and come up with these amazing ideas (even if it DOES empty out my pocket. It’s totally worth it. ;D)

To authors:
Thanks to all those authors who tweeted about my reviews, interviews, and more and for RTing! And a special thanks for sending me awesome tweets that made me smile! (And for the record, those books TOTALLY deserved my enthusiasm and love! They were SO good!) And especially to those authors I never talk to who made me love reading in the first place. (But is it OKAY to say BOO to those authors who bashed my negative review? Hmph.) And even if I didn’t like their books, thanks for taking the time to write them in the first place! To those authors that took the time to read my review and share them with their own little quirky messages on Facebook and Twitter. It made my day seeing them! And when y’all /they replied? I squealed so much!

AND THANKS SO MUCH!!! To those authors who sent me a copy of their book to review! I know that most authors would send copies of their books, if they could, so thanks for that too! But too a whole bunch (Gina Rosati {I PROMISE not to cut off my hand for a book now lol.}, Jennifer Echols, and SO many more!) THANK YOU for sending me a copy! I loved reading and reviewing them, and err…it also felt pretty good saying “The authors sent me this AWESOME book!” but never mind that. XD Thanks a lot again! :D

And a BIG thanks to Lili Peloquin for having dealt with my by-and-by emails filled with my reactions (AWESOME book by the way. I mean, BIGGEST. TWIST. EVER. :O) and my insistent emailing almost every day while reading lol. I know I probably annoyed you! And for sending me three hardbacks? My brain exploded. Not kidding. (Oh hey. Just saying, HINT FOR ONE OF THE PRIZES)

And last, but not least, a GIANT HUMONGOUS THANK YOU to Fiona Paul for posting this on her blog in the first place! And a whole bunch of other things. For example…
·         Writing that SO NICE paragraph for me for The Bloggy Awards! I didn’t win, but the fact that I got over 20 votes is awesome enough! And that paragraph made me squeal! I’m quite a squeal-y person, obviously.
·         For guest posting on GYDO! And an awesome post it was! Very informative *nods solemnly*
·         Interviewing me for her Bloggers Helping Bloggers series! I felt so special, honestly. :D
·         Posting my sucky fan art on her sidebar. Even though it’s sucky. No, it really is. I am SO not the best artist!
·         THE BANNER. ACK. The banner I made is ON HER BLOG. :O :O :O
·         My review. Is on. HER WEBSITE. Y’all, I did not squeal. I SCREAMED! It was so exciting because…because…Well, honestly Who WOULDN’T be?
·         For putting up with my conversation (aka my attacking her with emails and gchat messages whenever she’s on.) She’s an awesome author whose book I loved. I CANT HELP IT.
·         FOR GIVING ME THE ONLY ARC SHE BROUGHT TO TEEN AUTHOR CARNIVAL WHEN I FIRST MET HER! ACK I was so excited! I was waving it around and started reading once I was on the subway. AND she SIGNED it. *SQUEAL TIME*

AUTHORS ARE ALL AWESOME. LIKE ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY AWESOME. SO THANKS TO ALL OF Y’ALL!  BEST. PEOPLE. EVER.
THE NEXT HINT IS: C
Collect the hints along the Blogoversary tour at these stops, then unscramble to find when (yes, when!) to find my giveaway! My archive will be mighty important!

(11/19) Day 1: www.fiction-freak.blogspot.com (Kick off!)
(11/20) Day 2: www.sparkles-and-lightning.blogspot.com (How I Started and What I Learned.)
(11/21) Day 3: www.chocolatecoatedreviews.blogspot.com (Books, Books, Books!)
(11/22) Day 4: www.read-a-holicz.blogspot.com (Friends, Rants, and Help, Oh My!)
(11/23) Day 5: www.fionapaulbooks.blogspot.com (Author And Publisher Love!)
(11/24) Day 6: www.yareads.com (You Think You Can Blog?)
(11/25) Day 7: www.eileenlisblog.blogspot.com (Debating? Fun!)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Get ready for BLACK CITY!

Breathless Read #4, Black City by Elizabeth Richards releases on Tuesday November 13th.

A dark and tender post-apocalyptic love story set in the aftermath of a bloody war.

In a city where humans and Darklings are now separated by a high wall and tensions between the two races still simmer after a terrible war, sixteen-year-olds Ash Fisher, a half-blood Darkling, and Natalie Buchanan, a human and the daughter of the Emissary, meet and do the unthinkable—they fall in love. Bonded by a mysterious connection that causes Ash’s long-dormant heart to beat, Ash and Natalie first deny and then struggle to fight their forbidden feelings for each other, knowing if they’re caught, they’ll be executed—but their feelings are too strong.

When Ash and Natalie then find themselves at the center of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to pull the humans and Darklings back into war, they must make hard choices that could result in both their deaths. (via Goodreads)



You've probably heard me going on and on and ON about how much I love this book. I love all of the Breathless Reads, but BLACK CITY is my personal favorite, and I don't even think that blurb up there does it justice. It's just so dark and mysterious and sexy and creepy and action-packed and downright disturbing in a good way. It's like Underworld meets True Blood meets a Nine Inch Nails concert meets that party your mom forbade you to attend meets that guy your best friend warned you about. If Elizabeth Richards did not live on the other side of the Atlantic, I would have to find her house and break in and steal the sequel.



5 minutes of Q&A with Elizabeth Richards:


FP: Most fun part of writing Black City?
ER: The most fun part of writing Black City was the Tracker training scene between Ash and Natalie - it's the first time they make a move on each other, and it's pretty steamy!

FP: Hardest part?
ER: The hardest part of writing Black City was the last few chapters of the book. Those who have read it will understand why *sniff*.

FP: Black City will appeal to people who like ________.
ER: People who like Divergent will probably like Black City. They're both dystopian novels with a steamy romance at their core.

FP: Just for fun, because I am (finally) reading His Dark Materials, what would be your daemon or spirit animal? 
ER: It's gotta be a Long-Eared Jerboa. [FP: A wha? Is that Brit-speak for rabbit? How have I never even heard of that?] They're so unbelievably cute, I'd just spend all day going 'awwwwwww'. Plus they'd be great for spying on people, since they're so tiny they can get into any room and have these massive ears to eavesdrop on conversations. 


Need more Elizabeth Richards? Try her website, blog, twitter, and Facebook!




Monday, November 5, 2012

Venom vocabulary and playlist

Just in case you missed it at the #VenomReleaseParty


 Vocabulary (disclaimer: I am not a native Italian (or French) speaker, so feel free to correct me if you are).

Mannaggia and accidempoli both roughly translate to ‘dammit.’ (or ‘dangit’ if that’s how you roll).
Santo cielo and caspita both roughly translate to ‘goodness!’ or ‘good heavens!’
Mi dispiace means ‘I’m sorry.’
Faites attention means 'be careful' (in French).
A la prochaine means 'until next time' (in French).

Here's a post I did for blogger Nikki Wang that has some illustrated terms like chopines and portego. If there are other foreign words you come across that you think I should define here, just let me know. (I wrote Venom over 2 years ago so I might have forgotten a few).


Playlist* (disclaimer:I'm a proud child of the 90s, but I tried my best to diversify. Honestly, the fact that this list contains no songs from Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, System of a Down, Stone Temple Pilots, or The Crow soundtrack represents major self-restraint on my part :D)

Funeral by Band of Horses 
ET by Katy Perry 
Come on Closer by Jem 
Nightcall by Kavinsky 
Here in My Room by Incubus
My Body is a Cage by Peter Gabriel 
This Night by Black Lab 
I’m on Fire by Stateless 
Wicked Game by Stone Sour 
Good Girl by Carrie Underwood 
The Boy Who Murdered Love by Diana Vickers
The Perfect Drug by Nine Inch Nails

*Thanks to Julie and Nikki for their suggestions :) 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

#VenomReleaseParty wrap-up and WINNERS

List form because my brain is fried:

1. Thank you all so much for coming.

2. Next time I will be even more organized to cut down on the spam madness. Perhaps I will have you all send me your questions ahead of time so they only need to get answered once. That way I won't get kicked off the twitter!! :) #SpamQueen

3. Some of the winner-calls were hard to make. This person was clearly first, but she didn't respond to the right tweet. One of you had an even longer name for da Vinci that I didn't find when I researched the question. I did the best I could, tried to be fair, but admit that I am human and hope no one resents me. Boy do I have newfound respect for referees, umpires, gymnastics judges, etc.

4. It appears two answers were right on Breathless Reads question. Sapphique was in the boxed set but Across the Universe went on the tour. I made that question up on the fly because we needed another one when a winner opted not to select a prize, and I'm not sure why the touring group differed from the boxed set. I apologize. I believe @inthebestworlds clocked first with that answer, but if anyone can verify that or knows how to review the feed and can send me a screen capture I will make that right for the other winner.

5. In the coming months, I will give away at least one ARC on my blog via a Where in the World is Belladonna?? contest. I did this with Venom and people found it to be a lot of fun, so keep an eye out for that :)

6. WINNERS: (no worries if your twitter handle is a little off--due to my sloppy hurried contest scribbling--as long as YOU know who you are and I can match your address and verify your identity).

$25.00 B&N giftcard: @bookklovr22
signed VENOM HC: @YAvareads
Breathless boxed set: @kiki3138

Breathless 2-pack: @MsJessR
PaperLantern 2-pack @novelsounds
PRODIGY @Louisse_Ang
OUT OF THE EASY @MVTheBookBabe
RISE @YAvareads
THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH @goldenfurpro
ORLEANS @Emzchang

Cyborg/Pixie/Editrix/Wunderkind Beth is in charge of doling out the Belladonna ARC. (I can haz only one right now, and I NEEDS it). NOTE: An ARC is not a finished product and there are a few minor blips in there and a couple of words that are not time-period appropriate, which will be changed. Feel free to email me with any other mistakes you notice. This is helpful :)

#VenomReleaseParty PRIZES AND RULES


The attendance prizes, generously provided by Penguin Teen  and Paper Lantern:
1.     ARC of The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson
2.     ARC of Prodigy by Marie Lu
3.     ARC of Orleans by Sherri L. Smith
4.     ARC of Out of the Easy by Ruta Septys
5.     ARC of Rise by Andrea Cremer 
6.  Not pictured: A Breathless Reads 2-pack: ARCs of The Innocents and Black City
7.  Not pictured: A Paper Lantern Lit 2-pack: paperback of Fury and hardcover of Envy, both by Elizabeth Miles. Also includes 2 Butterfly Clues bookmarks and a Paper Lantern Lit totebag. Tres cute!

*I am giving 6 and 7 away as 2-packs because these books are already out (or will be by the time my post office delivers them) so I expect them to be less in demand. But they are all awesome, I assure you :)

RULES:
1. Open internationally
2. We're going to be playing games where the 'right answer' might not be completely black and white. My decision is final. (I'll try really hard not to screw up).
3. Max of 2 attendance prizes per guest 
4. Must. Have. Fun.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

It's time for another YAmazing Race with MGnificent Prizes!



The APOCALYPSIES are doing it again! Doing what? Oh, you know, just giving you a chance to win lots of books and swag and gift cards and other cool stuff, while finding out about 2012's most happening reads. IMPORTANT: The YAmazing Race does not start until Monday, October 22nd at noon EST, so if you've found your way here early, get excited but don't go a-clickin' yet.

Welcome to my blog, site of mad giveaways, shameless bragging, and occasional rants and raves. My debut novel, VENOM, comes out on October 30th...




Love, lust, murder, mayhem and high society converge in one thrilling debut

Cassandra Caravello has everything a girl could desire: elegant gowns, sparkling jewels, invitations to the best parties, and a handsome, wealthy fiance-- yet she longs for something more. Ever since her parents' death, Cass has felt trapped alone in a city of water, where the dark and labyrinthine canals whisper of escape. 

When Cass stumbles upon the body of a murdered woman--with a bloody X carved across her heart--she's drawn into a dangerous world of secret societies, courtesans, and killers. Soon, she finds herself falling for Falco, a poor artist with a mischievous grin...and a habit of getting into trouble. Will Cassandra find the murderer before he finds her? And will she stay true to her fiance or succumb to her uncontrollable feelings for Falco? 

Beauty, romance, and mystery weave together in a novel that's as stunning and seductive as the city of Venice itself. 

That's all the information you need to be YAmazing. Good luck! I'll send autographed Venom bookmarks to everyone who comments on this post. (Writers' block? Cat got your tongue? Tell me if this is your first YAmazing Race, or the best book you read all year, or what you're dressing up as for Halloween). If you want bookmarks, don't forget to send your mailing address to fionapaulbooks at gmail d o t com.


Other possibly relevant things: 

Anyone who has already or does preorder VENOM should click here to receive pretty Venom wallpaper and a free pdf copy of VENOMOUS, my 9000 word companion story. You'll also be entered in a drawing to win more great prizes.

Also, #VenomReleaseParty madness starts today on twitter, where I will be giving away at least two signed copies of VENOM this week to people who have changed their twitter avatar to the cover design in support of VENOM's launch. Then, more giveaways on October 30th!!

Speaking of giving stuff away, if you have any extra kidlit books or ARCs, please consider donating them to Books Change Lives. Lili is a high school senior working to get books into the hands of kids who might not be able to afford them. How awesome is that?

Next stop on the YAmazing race? May I present the fabulous Lenore Appelhans...




Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pre-order VENOM for a chance to win big prizes!

Anyone who has already pre-ordered VENOM or does so by October 29th will receive a .PDF file of the companion story VENOMOUS, a pretty Venom desktop, and be entered in a drawing to win awesome prizes.

Click here for more info!

And, for collectors, if you pre-order from one of my local indies Left Bank Books or Main Street Books, I will sign your book. Shipping fees will apply. Be sure to call them or mention in the comments that you want an autographed a signed copy. (I still feel really pretentious using the word 'autograph'. I'm not sure that will ever go away).

If you're hoping to win a signed copy of VENOM, check out the blogs Cover Analysis and Distraction 99 as they will be featuring international giveaways this month.

P.S. Dear Blogger, thank you for not doing that highlight-y thing again.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Get ready for THE INNOCENTS

Penguin Teen's second 2012 Breathless Read releases Tuesday October 16th.



Nothing ever came between sisters Alice and Charlie.
Friends didn't.
Boys couldn't.
Their family falling apart never would.
Until they got to Serenity Point. 

"The Innocents" is the first in a new series of young adult novels that weave a saga of nail-biting drama, breathless romance, and gothic mystery.

(Reprinted from Goodreads).





My thoughts on THE INNOCENTS: I love the TV series Pretty Little Liars but I couldn't get into the books, so I was a little hesitant. I mean, rich girls, beach houses...not my usual style. But from page one, I just could not put this down. I read it in one sitting and I was super-impressed by the way Lili Peloquin wrote from both Alice and Charlie's POV without being confusing. There's a hint of the supernatural interwoven with a big mystery and the whole town seems to be harboring dark secrets so you never really know who you can trust. Tension practically leaps off every page.

Lili compares this series to the TV series Revenge (her Revenge-related twitter feed is becoming quite popular), and while I don't feel that THE INNOCENTS is quite that complex or devious yet, here's hoping she's hinting about the next books in the series and telling us things will continue to get deeper and darker.


5 minutes of fill in the blanks with Lili Peloquin


1. The most fun part of writing The Innocents was: 
LP: the love scenes because I’m sleazy like that.

2. The hardest part of writing The Innocents was: 
LP: the violent scenes because I’m squeamish like that.

3. People who like ___________ will probably like The Innocents.
LP: the Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead 

4. Just for fun, because I am (finally) reading His Dark Materials, what would be your daemon or spirit animal?
LP: So Fiona, I decided to go the scientific route with this question. Did a little bit of research. I found an online quiz that tells you how to Find Your Daemon:http://www.hisdarkmaterials.org/opinion/essays/finding-your-dmon.  According to said test, I’m a snake. Not so flattering but there you go!


 Welp, I am off to go find out my official daemon. Don't forget to like THE INNOCENTS on FB and be sure to check out Jessica Spotswood's blog for an interview with Lili Peloquin and a giveaway on Tuesday.

P.S. I have no idea why blogger insists on black print on a white highlight background today, but hover over those apparent blank areas for useful links. Gah! I'm hoping it will fix itself before my next blog post.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Five things I learned about writing from Dean Koontz

I actually read most of my generation's YA books back when I was MG, so by the time I hit middle school I was on to adult books. I read a handful of different mystery and suspense authors, but nobody quite held my attention like Dean Koontz. Here's what I learned from devouring the entire Koontz catalog:



1. Write what you love. Dean Koontz loves dogs, especially golden retrievers. Not all of his books contain canine companions, but many do, and his human-animal relationships live and breathe on the pages. They talk directly to your heart, not because he's manipulating you with cheap sentimental tactics, but because the dynamics feel real. It's a lot harder to craft emotional scenes and sincere character interactions when you as a writer aren't passionate about your own words.



2. Begin with a bang.  The Vision begins with the line "Gloves of blood." Do you want to know more? I did. In chapter one of Velocity, the main character finds a note on his car that reads: If you don't take this note to the police and get them involved, I will kill a lovely blond schoolteacher somewhere in Napa County. If you do take this note to the police, I will instead kill an elderly woman active in charity work. You have six hours to decide. The choice is yours. Holy high-concept! What kind of crazy person would leave this note? And what will the main character do? I ripped through Velocity in record time to get the answers.



3. Writing is hard work. According to his website, Dean Koontz reads over 150 books a year. He writes ten to eleven hours a day and sometimes revises a page forty or fifty times before moving on. He's written over sixty books, and when he was starting out he wrote as many as eight books in a single year. His first four books were never published. I know of a very few writers who managed to sell their first book for a giant pile of cash, but that is not the norm, and if you're an aspiring writer planning on hitting the big time with your first novel, you're probably setting yourself up for disappointment.



4. The execution matters more than the idea. I remember being skeptical when I heard the storyline for Odd Thomas, what is now my all-time favorite Koontz novel. Hmm. A guy who sees dead people. Didn't I see that in a movie not too long ago? Has Dean run out of ideas? Now that I have seen how slow publishing is, I know it's entirely possible that Dean had the idea for Odd Thomas before anyone saw The Sixth Sense. But who cares? Both works may use the same setup, but that's where the similarities end. Odd Thomas is a suspense novel, a horror story, and an epic love story all woven into one.




5. Don't forget to give something back. Dean Koontz and his wife, Gerda, have a charitable foundation that supports critically ill children and dogs. He also apparently finds time to answer occasional letters from mothers of debut authors such as myself. Yes, my mom actually put pen to paper and invited one of my writer-idols, the uber-mega-bestseller Dean Koontz, to my Halloween launch event for Venom. Alas, he can't make it, but he did send my mom a personal note and me a box of Koontz-awesomeness including an autographed limited edition copy of Velocity. I was so surprised that I cried. I will never forget the fact that a workaholic, super-famous, bestselling author took time out of his schedule to autograph some books for me. I suspect I will never be quite as famous as Dean, but I will definitely do my best to pay this incredible act of kindness forward to other young authors.

Koontz fan? Love dogs? Click here to find your local golden retriever rescue organization.


Thanks Dean. My mom and I think you rock! :)



Friday, October 5, 2012

#VenomReleaseParty


You're invited!!! 
Join me at the #VenomReleaseParty
October 30th, 6-8pm Central time

Hi everyone! VENOM is going to have her book birthday soon, and rather than a traditional launch where I stand in front of a firing squad an audience in uncomfortable dressy clothes and completely panic ramble on about Venom for twenty minutes while people tweet about how hilariously awkward I am listen attentively but secretly wish I'd handed out cookies, I figured I would have a party on Twitter!

No technical difficulties. No uncomfortable clothes. No panic. There will probably still be awkwardness because, you know, I’m going to be there, but the best thing about this launch party is that by having it on the interwebz everyone from Alaska to Zimbabwe can come. (Note: The timing of the party might be a tad late if you live in Zimbabwe. Sorry).

So why do you want to come to this party? See the above line about how I’m going to be there J Oh, also, there will be prizes.


Attendance prizes: All you have to do is show up at the party, AKA follow the #VenomReleaseParty hashtag and wait for me to announce giveaways. If you’ve played Where in the World is Venom?? you know that my giveaways tend to be A LOT of fun. Expect a mix of trivia and task-oriented questions spread throughout the two hours.

The attendance prizes, generously provided by Penguin Teen:
1.     ARC of The Madness Within by Maureen Johnson
2.     ARC of Prodigy by Marie Lu
3.     ARC of Orleans by Sherri L. Smith
4.     ARC of Out of the Easy by Ruta Septys
5.     ARC of Rise by Andrea Cremer 
6.  Not pictured: A Breathless Reads 2-pack: ARCs of The Innocents and Black City
7.  Not pictured: A Paper Lantern Lit 2-pack: paperback of Fury and hardcover of Envy, both by Elizabeth Miles. Also includes 2 Butterfly Clues bookmarks and a Paper Lantern Lit totebag. Tres cute!

*I am giving 6 and 7 away as 2-packs because these books are already out (or will be by the time my post office delivers them) so I expect them to be less in demand. But they are all awesome, I assure you :)


But Fiona, what if I can’t make it to your party in real time because I do live in Zimbabwe and I have to go to sleep before 0100? Well, that brings us to the…

Bigger prizes: Anyone can win. [Edited to add: anyone but P0rnbots. No more pictures please, bots *claws out eyes*] All you have to do is tweet a picture of yourself in a mask or Halloween costume to me anytime between October 22nd and 2359 Central time on October 29th. Important!! You must tag this picture with the #VenomReleaseParty hashtag. No tag. No entry.

The pic can be you in a mask. It can be you in makeup or costume. It can be you from twenty years ago. It can be you with a mask Photoshopped onto your body. It can be a drawing. The idea is to generate some fun pictures, not to stress anyone out. If you have changed your avatar to the Venom cover when you tweet this picture, I will give you a second entry. Maximum of two entries. One posted pic per twitter handle please.

The bigger prizes:
1.     A Penguin Teen Breathless Reads boxed set including ARCs of Origin, Black City, The Innocents, Falling Kingdoms and Venom, with the Venom ARC autographed if desired
2.     An autographed hardcover of Venom and 5 Venom bookmarks
3.     A $25.00 gift card to barnesandnoble.com


#VenomReleaseParty fine print:

*Questions? Put 'em in the comments.
*All prizes are open for everyone. I will ship anything internationally.
*Sorry, but you cannot enter without a twitter account. Now’s a great time to make one J


Monday, October 1, 2012

VENOM blog tour!

So yeah. In the middle of doing a lot of other stuff, I decided to write a short story called Venomous for my Venom blog tour. It's one very important night in the life of a girl named Mariabella. Like Venom, Venomous is filled with glamour, romance, scandal, and mystery.




My blog tour was organized by Beth from Paper Lantern Lit. Beth works as an editor, marketer, researcher, organizer, scheduler, manager, and technical support person, among other things. I'm pretty sure she's a cyborg. She doesn't seem to sleep so she might also be a vampire. (But the sparkly friendly kind, not the kind that drinks your blood). She also runs this fun website, Spandexless. You should check it out.

My blog tour. You should check that out too. Here's the schedule. Here's the first post. Thanks to everyone who offered to be a part of this, especially to Nikki Wang from Fiction Freak who made this lovely blog tour button...and my header, come to think of it. Thanks again. You guys are my <3

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

My Cluttered Bookshelves

A couple of weeks ago, real actual hilary (formerly known as the Intern) did a fun blog post exposing her bookshelves to the world. Cool idea, but at the time I was too busy obsessing about how busy I was to do the same.

Today I just had to snap my own pics.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
If you're wondering what Assistant Mufasa clawed out in order to make space for his wiry body, it was The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama, The Only EKG Book You'll Ever Need by Malcolm Thaler and The US Army Survival Guide. Very interesting reading, indeed! (That's his copy of Twilight, by the way :D).
 
What are you and your cats reading?

 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Win VENOM!

Question: Dear Fiona, Can I have VENOM for free? Kthxbai.

Answer: Man, I wish I could give everyone VENOM for free. Okay, I guess that would negatively impact my sales, so maybe not everyone. But lots of people. Especially people in Bangladesh and Romania and super faraway exotic places that probably won't be stocking VENOM on their library shelves. But I can't. So I did the next best thing and scoured the interwebz for you in order to compile this awesome list of places you can try to win VENOM.

#1 Fellow Apocalypsie Lauren Morrill is giving away a copy. You have until September 15th to enter here. I am not sure if this giveaway is international, so check with Lauren for more details.

#2 Goodreads is giving away three copies here. This contest closes Sept 15th and is apparently for US residents only. I'm not sure who is sponsoring the giveaway because to be honest Goodreads kind of scares me *delicate writer soul* so I don't delve very deeply into GR things anymore.

#3 Nikki at Fiction Freak is giving away an ARC of VENOM or a choice of about a bajillion other books on her blog. Her contest is open until September 30th.

#4 Blogger Monica Lopez, one of my original tweeps, will be giving away my last ARC in combination with an interview I did for her, sometime in September. I know, I know, that's vague, but she's got like school and stuff so just be patient and stalk her blog and/or my twitter feed for more info. This giveaway is sponsored by me so the ARC will be autographed, and hellz yeah it will be international :)

#5 Blogger (and awesome St. Louis Children's Hospital pediatrician) Christina Ahn will be hosting my first signed hardcover giveaway contest which will start on September 25th and run for about a month. Sponsored by me. Autographed. International. Watch her blog for more details.

#6 Author Nova Ren Suma has invited me to participate in this year's What Scares You blog series. I'm totally honored to be invited to Distraction 99 and since I am scared of basically everything, I know writing a guest post for her will be loads of fun. My post will go up sometime in October and will include an autographed hardcover giveaway of VENOM. Sponsored by me. International.

#7 In the days leading up to VENOM's release--October 24th through October 30th--I will be giving away two autographed hardcover books (and possibly more) randomly on twitter to people who have changed their twitter avatar to VENOM's cover in support of the release. Sponsored by me. International. I even made you an avatar. #Helpfulness





 
 
#8 Author Jessica Spotswood is doing a Penguin-sponsored hardcover giveaway to celebrate my book-birthday. She'll be bundling it with some excellent Cahill Witch Chronicles SWAG (for some reason I always want to capitalize the word swag. I don't know why) so you'll want to head over to her blog on October 30th.

#9 MY TWITTER PARTY!! OMG guys. The details are still being worked out, but the plan is for me to have a twitter party from 7pm to 9pm Eastern Standard time on October 30th. I'll be giving away my last Breathless Reads slipcase, a signed hardcopy, multiple book-related gift certificates and a slew of ARCs and other stuff that I am currently accumulating via mad begging and bribing of all of my industry contacts. [Edited to add, my editrix of wonder, Jill Santopolo, just offered a few AMAZING things, but I won't tell you what they are until they arrive because the post office ninjas like to steal my stuff.] I'm hoping to give something away every ten minutes, and even if you can't make the party (cuz you know, some people gotta work or go to basketball practice or whatnot) you can still be a winner! More details to come on my blog by October 1st.

#10 My first hardcover signing with my awesome St Louis YA writer colleagues Antony John and Heather Brewer. Come on, dudes. Halloween is on a Wednesday and you're too old to trick-or-treat. Bring yourself and your friends and your kids and your kids' friends to the Spencer Creek branch of the St. Charles Library system in St. Peters, MO on Halloween. (Time TBA). There will be tricks, treats, mask-making, costume contests, and giveaways galore. This is seriously going to be an epic party, and I'm heading to a local haunted house afterward for more fun. So if you want, you can come with and listen to me scream like a little girl as random dudes with chainsaws chase me around.




Saturday, September 1, 2012

Get ready for ORIGIN

The first of Penguin Teen's 2012 Breathless Reads releases Tuesday September 4th!!


Pia has grown up in a secret laboratory hidden deep in the Amazon rain forest. She was raised by a team of scientists who have created her to be the start of a new immortal race. But on the night of her seventeenth birthday, Pia discovers a hole in the electric fence that surrounds her sterile home—and sneaks outside the compound for the first time in her life.

Free in the jungle, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Together, they embark on a race against time to discover the truth about Pia’s origin—a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever.

Origin is a beautifully told, shocking new way to look at an age-old desire: to live forever, no matter the cost. This is a supremely compelling debut novel that blends the awakening romance of Matched with the mystery and jungle conspiracy of Lost (via Goodreads).


My thoughts on ORIGIN: I was lucky enough to go to Costa Rica in March and ORIGIN was like a free trip back to the breathless beauty of the rainforest. The flowers, the foliage, the jaguars! To find out Jessica Khoury wrote the book without ever having seen the jungle for realz was astounding! Her research must have been all-encompassing.

While 'perfect' protagonist Pia made me want to strangle her for the first couple of chapters, I warmed to her character as she begin to question her immortality, her humanity, and what was happening in the hidden scientific compound that had been her entire world for seventeen years. From that point onward, this gripping story moves at a breathless pace and culminates in an ending that is both surprising and satisfying.



5 minutes of fill in the blanks with Jessica Khoury:

FP: The most fun part of writing ORIGIN was _____.
JK: Getting to do research on the Amazon jungle and learning all this cool stuff I got to put into my book--especially about the animals! I loved writing about Alai, Pia's pet jaguar.

FP: The hardest part of writing ORIGIN was _____.
JK: The romantic scenes. I wrote them over and over again, because I'd get halfway through and just bust out laughing. That was usually my clue that the scene wasn't working. So I'd sigh, erase it all, and start over until it was just right.

FP: People who like ______ will probably like ORIGIN.
JK: Tiger's Curse by Colleen Houck or Across the Universe by Beth Revis

FP: Just for fun, because I am (finally!) reading His Dark Materials, what would be your daemon or spirit animal?
JK: Oh! I've thought about that exact thing for a long time, ever since reading HDM. My daemon would be a red fox. (I'd really want an orca, since that's my favorite animal, but that would be kind of difficult for both of us, I think).


Need more Jessica Khoury? Check out her website, twitter, and facebook!

Buy ORIGIN here or here or here.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Bloggers helping bloggers #6


My final Bloggers Helping Bloggers contributor is Kathy from A Glass of Wine. Thanks for being part of my first blog series, Kathy!

My name is Kathy and I run the book blog A Glass of Wine. I have been blogging for around a year and half now. I love YA novels with some adult titles thrown in. I have a cat named Aria who tends to try to eat my books, and work as a travel agent when I am not reading.
  What are some things an aspiring book blogger needs to consider when setting up a blog?

I think most people underestimate the amount of work that goes into something like this.  The usual refrain from new bloggers (and I still consider myself a newer blogger as I have been blogging for about a year and a half now) is how much more involved it is than they were expecting. Most bloggers spend over an hour a day either writing reviews, using social media to promote the books they review (and their blog), and that does not even include reading time.

Always do this for the love of books and sharing the word about books you really enjoyed. The other stuff is just a bonus that happens when you’ve put in the effort. Doing this because you love it is really the most important advice I can give.

What social networking tools do you use to promote your blog? Is there one that seems to work better than the others?

I mainly use Twitter to promote my blog. I swear by Twitter. You have access to send your review links right to the publishers twitter feed and they often retweet them. Not to mention authors are always happy to retweet and mention reviews they come across as well. Other bloggers will often retweet reviews from fellow bloggers, especially if it’s for a book they enjoyed.

It is a fine balance between promoting and spamming though. I think a few tweets throughout the day for the various time zones is sufficient otherwise people may grow tired of seeing your reviews pop up constantly.

I know a lot of bloggers have set up Facebook pages for their blogs. I think this is fantastic idea. While I haven’t set one up myself, it is something that I am considering. It all comes down to what works for you, and your blog.


In your opinion, what's the sweet spot for review length? How often do you post reviews? What other things do you post about (if any)?

I don’t think there is a certain length that they should be. I tend to write between 500 – 800 words depending on the book. Some have been shorter. I find the more I love a book the longer the review tends to be.

I post 3 reviews a week at a minimum. I have a set schedule that I rarely deviate from which helps me keep on track. I use Google Calendar to keep track of what I am reviewing and on which date.

I also post a Waiting on Wednesday pick each Wednesday. It’s a book blogger meme that is very popular. It helps promote books that we are excited about and has caused me to add numerous books to my ‘to be read’ pile.  I also do a post highlighting my weekly obsessions on Saturdays. This is where I put newly unveiled covers that have caught my eye, book trailers that stood out, or book sale news I am excited about. It’s also a place where I talk about my other interests (TV, movies, etc). It helps people get to know ME, the blogger behind the blog, a little and that’s important.

I think the most important thing is creating a schedule you enjoy. Try to balance it with reviews, topic posts, and other fun things. Above all else, make sure your blog reflects YOU.


In your opinion, does a blogger need a certain number of followers or reviews before he/she can start writing to PR departments asking for free books? Is there a particular format she should use to email these people that will make them take her seriously?

I think it depends on how long you have been blogging. Most publishers would want you to wait until you've been reviewing more than six months. I think they want to see that it is something you are serious about doing, and something that you didn't start up on a whim. Some publishers may have specific follower totals, or page views that they would like you to have, but I don't think there is a set rule they go by. My advice is to simply make the best blog you can and have a clear voice that is your own. If you are using social media, and have a healthy following most publishers will be happy to work with you.

What I found worked for me was introducing myself to the publisher via their media contact email that most publishers have available on their website. Telling them about your blog, your stats, what type of novels you review, and your contact information is a good place to start. Most publishers have a person that handles blogger requests and will get back to you.

Just for fun: Congratulations! You were the last tribute standing at this year's Hunger Games. What fictional boy (doesn't have to be Gale or Peeta) do you hope is waiting to welcome you home? Why do you like him so much?

Hmm....I think I would like Noah Shaw from The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer waiting to welcome me back. He's British, loves animals, a little on the bad boy side, and did I mention the accent?!


This concludes my Bloggers Helping Bloggers series. A huge thank you to Brooke, Nikki, Sarah, Monica, Julie, and Kathy for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer questions for me. You guys rock!