Friday Q&A

You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers! On Fridays, the OneFours answer questions about their books, writing processes, life, favorite flavors of ice cream, and more. This week’s question:

Which book by another author would you love to claim as your own and why?

I’d love to pass off MONSTERS OF MEN by Patrick Ness as my own. His whole Chaos Walking Trilogy, really. It contains such an interesting sci-fi concept, and Ness isn’t afraid to put his characters into the kind of horrible situations that make you want to simultaneously punch him in the face and sob for a million years. My goal as a writer is to make people feel the way I feel when I read his books.
Stephanie Diaz, EXTRACTION

Maggie Stiefvater’s book always make me feel like I have no business writing, but I’ve learned that a lot of newer authors feel that way. So, I’m going to say Amber Dermont’s THE STARBOARD SEA, which is a coming-of-age story (classified as adult, but I’d readily recommend to teens who appreciate beautiful words). It’s the kind of book that deepens with repeated reading and a protagonist who really got under my skin and made my cry (which is the benchmark of a good book for me).

I’m gonna cheat and go with a whole series here, but they’re short! The Ruby Oliver series (THE BOY BOOK, etc.) by E. Lockhart is, in my opinion, the most dead-on insight into the teen female mind. The writing is great, and Ruby’s a really fun character, but what really gets me about it is the way four strong books are crafted out of the kind of real, true dramas I remember experiencing that age, which no crazy, unrelatable plot points thrown in for sympathy points or dramatic effect or to scream “High concept!” It’s really just a girl learning to prioritize her life and embrace herself, while understanding what makes some relationships stronger and more worthwhile than others. To pull off that kind of thing while also being quirky and entertaining and unique isn’t easy, and it’s the kind of thing I’d love to contribute to the YA canon!

Would anyone notice if I replaced Ellen Raskin’s name with my own? Even now, The Westing Game has everything I love in a book. A central mystery. The reading of a will. Cryptic clues. A race to solve them. An ensemble cast of interesting, complex characters. A flawed but funny mini-heroine with a great name (Turtle). And at no point does the book talk down to kids: the plot includes bombs, bookies, religious extremism, and degenerative disease. I read this book over and over as a kid, and I still pick it up and re-read it! I think that’s the dream of any author–to write a book that has something to say to every reader.
Laura Marx Fitzgerald, UNDER THE EGG

Oh, Libba Bray’s BEAUTY QUEENS, without a doubt. It’s smart and funny. A brilliant work of satire! I had writer-envy right from page one.
Skila Brown, CAMINAR

I’m a sucker for a good romance, and it doesn’t get more perfect than ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins. I don’t know anyone who isn’t in love with both Etienne and Anna, and the perfect Parisian setting is just the icing on this delicious cake. I would love to be able to craft such a perfect romance.
Jessica Love, PUSH GIRL

I’d be thrilled to be able to slap my name onto WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead. Fantastic characters and setting, and a plot that fits together like a perfect puzzle? Something to aspire to, for sure.
Tara Dairman, ALL FOUR STARS

I was so endlessly captivated by the world building in DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE, by Laini Taylor. Her ability to create a world that is so vivid and lush, while also creating real, relatable characters blew me away. I wish I wrote in that genre because every word on her pages would be such an incredible study in craft.

Another vote for DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE. Laini Taylor’s prose is breathtakingly gorgeous, and her world-building is some of the best I’ve ever come across. I read that book twice—once in complete awe of its craft and once more just for fun.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. From the very first sentence, I knew it was going to be a bad idea to read it, because it ‘s so good, with such completely compelling prose, I felt like a total hack in comparison. It’s the kind of book that makes you want to be a better writer.
Lisa Maxwell, SWEET UNREST

If I’d written BREADCRUMBS by Anne Ursu, I could die happy. I love the way she combines the real world with fantasy and brings alive the hurt of losing a friend. She manages to make being human seem hyper real through fantasy, and her writing makes me so immersed. Breadcrumbs is also super dark and scary, and I love that!
Edith Cohn, SPIRIT’S KEY

One day I would love to write a book like The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. I love it for its scope and the incredible characters she creates and follows through out their lives.

This is a hard one! I’m so tempted to say Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, but I’m going to have to go with God-Shaped Hole by Tiffanie DeBartolo. It was the first book I had to re-read immediately after finishing it.

I’m tempted to say The Hunger Games, because, helloooo, BANK. But I’m going to say Jandy Nelson’s The Sky Is Everywhere. Beautiful prose, quirky characters, gorgeous setting, poetry. It’s basically like the best date ever in a book.
–Jaye Robin Brown, NO PLACE TO FALL

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor because HOLY GORGEOUS WRITING, BATMAN. She could write about knitting and I’d be captivated.

I’d love to claim MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY (the whole series) by Rachel Harris. The characters are so real, the romance makes me swoon, and I love the time travel elements. (I’ve always wanted to write a time travel book, but I’m so afraid I’d mess it all up!) Or if I can’t have that series, I’d claim the CAMP BOYFRIEND series by J.K. Rock for the same reason: characters that feel like real people and romance that makes my heart flutter. :)
Veronica Bartles, TWELVE STEP

I’m going to say CLOCKWORK ANGEL by Cassandra Clare. There’s something about her writing that makes me care so freaking much about the characters, and the romance between Will and Tessa is one of my all time favourites. The scene where they first kiss is a masterpiece of an example of how to create an incredible amount of romantic tension with the simple act of removing a glove.
Danielle L. Jensen, STOLEN SONGBIRD

My choice would go to JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta. I read it last year and was so struck by the beautiful writing and the stunning plot craftsmanship. And all of the characters felt so real and genuine to me; I didn’t want to leave them behind when I got to the last page. I didn’t at all expect it to affect me like it did, and I only wish I could write something so complex and touching.

I’d love to be able to claim SAVVY by Ingrid Law. I am so intrigued by the idea of turning 13 and having a special power! I was captivated from the first page of her wonderful book.

Jaye stole my idea of Jandy Nelson’s The Sky Is Everywhere. You know what they say about great minds… Beyond the heartfelt way Jandy weaves a tale of both grief and love, loss and new beginnings, the use of Lenny’s discarded poetry is genius. I had ALL the feels after readings that book. In fact, I think I need to reread it right now!
Bethany Neal, MY LAST KISS

The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper. I don’t recall how old I was when I read it, but those are the books that made me look for the small crevices and sheltered places in my own world where magic might hide. Which is another way of saying they turned me into a bizarre little child writer. I’d like to do that for some other unsuspecting creature.
Natalie Parker, BEWARE THE WILD

What book do you wish you could claim as your own? Share in the comments!

Annie Cardi lives outside Boston, MA, where she spends her time baking, creating alternate lyrics for tv show theme songs, and writing YA fiction. Her debut novel, THE CHANCE YOU WON’T RETURN, is forthcoming from Candlewick Press on April 22 2014. Her writing is fueled by copious amounts of coffee and chocolate.

Setting; or, That Special Feeling

If you open any book called, say, How to Write Anything With the Slightest Possibility of Getting Published, there will be a chapter or a clipart bubble about setting. It doesn’t matter if your plot is unique, your dialogue is witty, and your prose is long-steeped in descriptive phrases. If you don’t have a sense of place and time for your scene, then it’s nothing more than a passing dream.

Setting is what grounds the story. It is what frames the story. It is what enriches the story.

The hard part is how to write setting well. I’m not an expert, but I do enjoy writing setting more than, well, any other part.

Here are some tips I use to develop setting:

1)   Decide on where the story takes place. Start big-picture, such as “a New York  public high school” or “the planet Schwarz.” Then work your way down to where the imminent action is taking place (“the janitor’s closet” or “on the riverbank”).

2)   Imagine what this place looks like—and then record every detail you can think of, going through the five senses. What colors do you see? What are the textures like in the rug, the pebbles, the crispy strings of the dried-out mop? What do you hear? Are there other people talking, far off? Is there an animal purring or howling? Is there water flowing or dribbling past? Can you hear the wind? Can you smell a paper mill? Or flowers? Or body odor? You get the idea. Work through these, and jot them down.

3)   Now, when does this scene take place?

4)   What sort of feeling do you want your reader to get from this time and place, in this scene?

Once you’ve got your setting all set up (haha), you’re ready for the fun part: weaving it in to the story.

Why don’t you just start off with several paragraphs describing every detail of the setting?

You can, but you might put your reader to sleep. My favorite thing to do is texturize the dialogue and some of the descriptions with little details that put the reader into the right frame of mind. I want her to feel the setting, as if she’s actually there. I want him to taste that cupcake. I want her to feel the sting of saltwater against her battle wounds. I want the reader to feel his bare feet against the cold marble tiles just as the main character feels them.

All the Feels…

To do this, you need to have your character notice these details. Don’t have your character tell the reader that the daylight is waning. Have him notice that the waxy leaves on the magnolia have lost their sheen and are deep in matte shadow. If the reader experiences these details while the characters notice them, it will develop immediacy and intimacy between the reader and the story. This is what I aim for every time I sit down to write.

Other tips:

1)   Setting descriptions are like salt…not enough, and the story is bland. Too much, and it turns the reader off.

2)   Let the details flow naturally in the story. Blend them into the dialogue, or the inner monologue (if there is any), or the narration.

3)   If you’re stuck, close your eyes and put yourself in your character’s shoes. This always grounds me back into the story.

Good luck!

(but worth it)

Amber Lough lives with her husband, their two kids, and their cat, Popcorn, in Syracuse, NY. She spent much of her childhood in Japan and Bahrain. Later, she returned to the Middle East as an Air Force intelligence officer to spend eight months in Baghdad, where the ancient sands still echo the voices lost to wind and time. Her Middle Eastern fantasy, THE FIRE WISH, is due from Random House Children’s in July 2014.

The Author’s Voice: interview with OneFour author Robin Constantine

Tacky hors d’oeuvres and longing glances!

Robin speaks with us about her YA contemporary The Promise of Amazing (Balzer + Bray, 2014).

Kate Boorman is an independent artist and writer from the Canadian prairies. She was born in Nepal (where she was carried up the Himalayas in a basket) and she grew up in a small Albertan town (where she rode her bike to Girl Guides). She is fond of creepy things. Speaking of! Her YA fantasy WINTERKILL debuts in November 2014 (Abrams/Amulet and Faber & Faber).


Though he doesn’t debut until September, Joshua David Bellin just couldn’t wait to tell the world about his book, the YA sci-fi adventure SURVIVAL COLONY NINE. (Josh gets that way sometimes.) Let’s forgive his impetuosity and welcome him to the OneFourKidLit blog!

Survival Colony Nine cover

So we understand you can’t wait to tell the world about Survival Colony Nine, right?


Well, then, tell us already!

Oh. Okay.

War and environmental catastrophe have ravaged the world, and all that’s left of human society are the survival colonies: small, mobile units clinging to the remnants of past technology as they crisscross a hostile desert landscape. Heat, dust, and starvation aren’t their only enemies. They also must evade the Skaldi, creatures with the ability to consume and mimic human hosts that mysteriously appeared on the planet after the wars of destruction.

Fourteen-year-old Querry Genn, a member of Survival Colony Nine, has problems of his own. The leader of his colony–his father, Laman Genn–is never satisfied with him. The girl he loves, Korah, is someone else’s girlfriend. And six months ago, he lost his memory during a Skaldi attack on the colony. If he can recover his past, he might possess the key to defeat the Skaldi.

If he can’t, he’s their next victim.

Sounds pretty cool! Is Survival Colony Nine the first novel you’ve written?

Far from it! The first novel I wrote was titled “The Slowest Runner,” which I typed (laboriously, on a manual typewriter) when I was eight. It ended up being about two pages long. The first novel-length novel I wrote was an epic fantasy titled To Alter the Past, which I wrote when I was sixteen. A family friend who was in publishing took a look at it, but he told me (quite kindly, thank goodness) that I needed to work longer on my craft before I’d be ready for publication. As it turns out, “longer” meant about thirty years!

That’s not so long. So where did the idea for Survival Colony Nine come from?

Growing up, I was sure I was going to be a comic-book artist. Though that career didn’t pan out, I remain a very visual thinker, even when I’m writing. So my best ideas come to me first as images, not words. In the case of Survival Colony Nine, I woke up one morning with an image buzzing in my brain: the image of a desert landscape and a small group of people in camouflage uniforms traveling across the waste. I had no idea what this world was or how the people had gotten there, but the image wouldn’t go away. I had to create a story to fit the world, and that meant I had to create a main character, a history for him and his people, and all the rest of it.

One more question before we go. What was your favorite book when you were fourteen?

Hands down, my favorite book then remains my favorite book now: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I read it when I was thirteen (a year after the first Star Wars film came out), and I’ve loved it ever since. I read all kinds of stuff when I was a teen and pre-teen, including Judy Blume, Roald Dahl, Madeleine L’Engle, some adult titles (mostly fantasy and sci-fi), but I was blown away by Tolkien’s ability to create a fantasy world that seemed as necessary and complete as the real world. I don’t read much epic fantasy these days–I’ve shifted to sci-fi, dystopian, and contemporary–but I think everything I write is shaped by my formative experience of immersing myself in Tolkien’s great imaginative act.

Joshua David Bellin has been writing novels since age eight (though his first few were admittedly very short). His debut YA science fiction novel SURVIVAL COLONY NINE will be published in September 2014 by Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Josh likes (in no particular order) gorillas, frogs, monsters, and human beings.

When We Say YA

Welcome to When We Say YA! Every month, the OneFour YA authors get together to talk about everything related to young adult lit. This is our very first When We Say YA post, so this month’s topic is:

Did you always know you wanted to write YA?

I did! When I started writing, I wasn’t even a young adult yet. I was about eight, and obsessed with my big sister’s Sweet Valley Highs, and I just wanted to create gorgeous and popular California girls of my very own. So I started writing what we’d now call YA, and never stopped.

Yes, I did. I began writing seriously as a teenager, so it made sense to me to write for people in my age group. I love YA so much, I’m not sure I’ll ever write anything else!
Stephanie Diaz, EXTRACTION

I didn’t! I always thought I would write for adults until I received feedback that various stories of mine might work better as YA. I tried it, and then I was hooked. No going back now!
AdriAnne Strickland, WORDLESS

I never considered writing fiction! But when I got hooked on reading YA, stories just started collecting in my head and I gave it a try. I can’t imagine writing in another age-range now.

No–my first few novels were adult SFF (even though I was a teenager at the time). When one of my adult novels wasn’t clicking I re-envisioned the characters as teenagers, and the book fell into place straightaway. All my ideas since have been YA, with a sprinkling of MG. Given that in my time in fandom, I’d spent a lot of time writing characters in that same age range, I wonder why I didn’t make the switch sooner!
Corinne Duyvis, OTHERBOUND

I am a Janie-come-lately to YA novels. I began my career writing and publishing a children’s picture story book series, ages 5-9, and NF articles for adult market magazines. Then I went back and got another degree in jounalism and wrote for newspapers. So prior to selling NO SURRENDER SOLDIER to Jacqueline Mitchard, editor of Merit Press (Adams Media/F+W Media) I was published in poetry (in English and French), picture story books, ESL/EFL fiction, HI/LO-ESL NF, NF middle-high school library books, plus articles in newspapers, magazines and journalis. My first choice in writing novels was middle grade. But along this path editors kept telling me over and over that I’m an abstract thinker who writes complex concepts in an understandable manner and I write best for YA.

All of my first literary loves were YA or middle-grade. I grew up living in those imaginary worlds, and I never wanted to leave. So I didn’t.
Also, I think it helps that I’m perpetually a teenager at heart. Or at least I retain my teenager sleeping habits. (Mornings? What are mornings?)
Emily Lloyd-Jones, ILLUSIVE

A friend once suggested to me that we write to the ages at which we most needed stories, the ages when things happened that shaped us in some fundamental way, and I subscribe to that. For me, there are several big signposts starting around age ten and carrying into young adulthood. Since I felt like an adolescent well into my twenties, I have plenty of life experience to tap into in the YA realm, and so far that’s where my story brain has wanted to live.
Rachel M. Wilson, DON’T TOUCH

When I decided I wanted to try my hand at writing fiction, the first idea I had was what would now be considered New Adult. But at the time, NA wasn’t a thing at all, so I abandoned the idea because I couldn’t find any comp titles to read for genre guidance. Soon after that was when I really got into reading YA and I realized that was where my passion was. I may try to write something else some day, but right now YA is where my heart is!
Jessica Love, PUSH GIRL

Not at all! I was working on an adult novel that had some kid characters. I kept getting such great feedback on the kid characters. Everyone was most interested in them and wanted more of them, not the grown ups. That was when I realized I should follow that strength.

I thought I was going to try my hand at romance, but then I had an idea for this book and I knew the character wasn’t an adult. And then the more YA I read, the more I loved it. I’m actually writing a middle grade right now, and it feels strangely right.
Lisa Maxwell, SWEET UNREST

When I joined SCBWI I wrote picture books, but then I had this idea…I thought it was going to be a short story, but it kept growing and then it sort of stalked me. I think I was afraid of writing something longer – that I couldn’t sustain it, but I adore young adult – it’s where my voice naturally settles. Such a volatile time of so many changes – how can it be anything but exciting?

I read “The Catcher in the Rye” when I was nineteen and thought it was the best, most powerful book I’d ever read. I wanted to create characters like Holden, with unique voices that critiqued society and carefully examined the world around them. I didn’t start seriously writing for a number of years after reading “Catcher”, but that voice has always been an inspiration and guide. Sometimes I wonder if “Catcher” is really YA – it came about before the YA category did, so the book could probably lean in either direction (YA or adult or maybe NA) and I think that’s the direction I typically lean as well.
Chris Struyk-Bonn, WHISPER

I didn’t think I’d be a writer of anything until I was thirty, but it was a YA novel that inspired me to try. And I wanted to write something my high school (math) students would identify with and want to read. Since then, it’s been YA all the way!

No. I read a lot of adult SF/F as a teen (and a lot of it from decades ago, when the YA barely existed as a separate category), so I always figured that I would be a general fantasy author–winning the Hugo and the Nebula, of course! But slowly it dawned on me that I kept writing about teenaged protagonists, and that the current YA genre was a really good fit for me. So here I am, and it’s awesome! Though I still think I would like to write adult as well someday…
Rosamund Hodge, CRUEL BEAUTY

I always read YA, and was really disappointed when I graduated high school and felt pressured to move to adult fiction (which, in my mind, was all about middle-aged white men feeling angsty and having sex). But taking fiction classes in college and grad school, I wrote more standard literary fiction, even though I was mostly interested in YA. Then, in my Shakespeare class, I did a project on Shakespearean imagery in YA and realized I was working way harder on that project than on any of my other standard fiction stuff. I threw myself into the genre after that and haven’t looked back.

YA is definitely where I feel the most comfortable, although I have written a few picture book manuscripts and a MG contemporary that I absolutely adore. But when I decided to really get serious about my writing a few years ago, YA was my default category. YA contemporary books are my favorite things to read, so naturally that’s where my mind goes when I create. (My 13-year-old daughter recently took a “how old are you mentally?” quiz, and when she finished, she told me that I didn’t need to take it, because she already knew my results. “It would tell you you’re 13-18 years old, because you think just like a teenager. Good thing that’s the kind of books you write.” High praise from a girl firmly in the middle of her “my parents are so embarrassing!” years.)
Veronica Bartles, TWELVE STEPS

I’ve been all over the place as a writer before finding my home in YA. I wrote academic prose, literary fiction, adult fantasy and sci-fi…. And then I had kids. Reading to and with them made me fall in love again with the genre I’d loved when I was a YA myself, and I’m so glad I found my way back. Now I’m re-imagining all my old, unfinished non-YA projects as YA!

YA wasn’t such a big thing when I was a teen, and I more or less stopped reading it in my last year of high school in favour of adult fantasy novels. I didn’t start writing until I was 26, and the first couple novels that I completed were adult epic fantasy. I didn’t actually start reading YA again until I picked up a copy of Twilight to see what all the fuss was about, which got me started reading more and more of it. I found I really enjoyed the pacing and character focus in stuff written for teens, so I decided to give it a go. And I never looked back 🙂
Danielle L. Jensen, STOLEN SONGBIRD

Yes! It’s 90 percent of what I read, so it only makes sense.
Livia Blackburne, MIDNIGHT THIEF

I never thought of myself as a writer because I never thought I’d be good enough. But soon the desire to put the stories in my head onto paper overcame that fear. And since my natural voice is definitely YA rather than adult, YA became a natural niche for me.
Christy Farley, GILDED

Even as an 10-year-old scribbling stories in a notebook, I wrote about characters in their teens. At the time, it was probably just me wishing I was a teenager because, for some reason, that seemed like the ideal age. But as I got older, those sorts of books were the ones that stayed with me and left the strongest impressions. So of course, that was what I wanted to write as well.

I started out trying to write adult chick lit. Whoops! I randomly stumbled upon YA when I saw an online YA writing course offered and figured I had nothing to lose. Since then I’ve never looked back. Writing for teenagers comes so naturally, I wish I’d thought of it sooner!

Was YA always for you, or did you try other categories/genres first? Share your answer in the comments!

Annie Cardi lives outside Boston, MA, where she spends her time baking, creating alternate lyrics for tv show theme songs, and writing YA fiction. Her debut novel, THE CHANCE YOU WON’T RETURN, is forthcoming from Candlewick Press on April 22 2014. Her writing is fueled by copious amounts of coffee and chocolate.

The Author’s Voice: interview with OneFour author Danielle L Jensen

Trolls! Romance! Rebellion!

Danielle speaks with us about her forthcoming YA fantasy, STOLEN SONGBIRD.

Cover: Steve Stone, Artist Partners

Kate Boorman is an independent artist and writer from the Canadian prairies. She was born in Nepal (where she was carried up the Himalayas in a basket) and she grew up in a small Albertan town (where she rode her bike to Girl Guides). She is fond of creepy things. Speaking of! Her YA fantasy WINTERKILL debuts in November 2014 (Abrams/Amulet and Faber & Faber).

What I learned from my first Goodreads giveaway

As I learn how to get the word out about The Secret Side of Empty I grow more and more grateful for Goodreads, the social networking site for readers. Imagine a website full of people who love the very thing you hope to popularize (and which you also love)… books. Amazing, right?

That’s why Goodreads giveaways are a great way to help spread the word. You list a free book on their giveaways page and the people who find it intriguing enter to win it. If they really find it interesting, they also add it to their “to-read” shelf.

I just did my first Goodreads giveaway and I learned some tips and tricks that should help you make yours more successful.

Here are the stats on my Goodreads giveaway for my young adult novel:

I ran the giveaway for 3 days.
I had 652 people enter to win the book
I had 304 people add my book to their “to-read” shelf.

That’s an average of 200 entries a day – a really good number. My giveaway ran Saturday through Monday, 3:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. Eastern time. (So technically Tuesday. It doesn’t let you pick a time). When going for maximum entries, day of the week probably matters. I had over 200 entries on Saturday and Monday and less on Sunday, with Monday being the highest with over 250 entries. I was totally delighted that I averaged over 200 per day.

I have someone that I’ve never met to thank for this great initial success: the good folks over at NovelPublicity. See below for a link to their tip sheet.

Probably their best tip was to run the giveaway for a short number of days. I am a “more is more” kind of girl, so left to my own devices I would have probably run my giveaway for a long time and promised a whole lot of books, hoping to attract a lot of entries. But that overlooks two of the main ways that people find giveaways on Goodreads: the “Recently Listed” tab and the “Ending Soon” tab. When you first list your giveaway, it will naturally be listed in the “Recently Listed” tab. When it’s about to end, it will come up on the “Ending Soon” tab. If you list for a few weeks or a month, as I saw a lot of authors do, there is a whole lot of time in between when your giveaway is languishing in a sea of giveaways. Listing mine for 3 days meant I was getting entries constantly. I saw books with more entries than mine (some over several months) but few with that 200+ a day average.

Also, offering just one book did not slow down the rate of entries at all (other giveaways that were offering more weren’t necessarily getting entries at a faster rate). My theory is that if the book looks intriguing, people will enter whether you’re offering one copy or ten. (I mean, would you calculate your odds of winning based on entries divided by books available from book to book? I wouldn’t. I’m a writer, peeps, not a mathematician).

One other thing I did was employ my know-how from my marketing days. I know that you’ve got 3 seconds to catch someone’s attention. While deep and meaningful descriptions might sell someone on entering, potential entrants won’t even get to reading that unless you grab them right at the start. That’s why the first two lines of my giveaway were “Signed Copy” and “Junior Library Guild Selection.” If your book has gotten an award or an amazing review, put that up at the top where it will make you stand out from the pack.

Running this initial giveaway was a great learning experience. There are a few things I will do differently for my next one. For example, when tagging my giveaway, I looked to the list of tags and picked the one that made the most sense: young-adult. But it wasn’t until the giveaway was underway that I realized that you can tag with as many tags as are relevant, not just one. I didn’t edit it right then and there because I realized that giveaway changes have to be approved by the Goodreads staff, and approval of my giveaway took several days. When I made one edit pre-start date, it told me it had to be reviewed by the Goodreads staff again so I didn’t want to risk taking my giveaway off-line during its short run. I made a mental note to do it better next time. But that meant that if someone looked to narrow their search for giveaways to “YA,” (instead of young-adult, which is how I tagged it) The Secret Side of Empty didn’t show up.

Here are a few of the ones that are relevant to The Secret Side of Empty:

coming-of-age, ya, young-adult, new-adult, contemporary-fiction, love-story, teens, book-club, teen-fiction, book, books, young-adult-fiction, college, debut-novel, new-york-city, secrets, multicultural, sweet-romance, youth, family-relationships, ya-fiction, yalit, girls, author, juvenile-fiction, young-adult-romance, new-authors, first-love, ya-romance

Be sure to scroll through several pages of potential tags (list is to the right) so that you can jot down all the ones that are available for your genre.

Still, I am beyond thrilled with this amazing early exposure for the book. I thought I’d share my experience for authors finding their way through the wonderful world of Goodreads giveaways.

Write me or tweet me @WriterSideofM and let me know how your own Goodreads giveaways go!

And, in case you’re curious, here’s a link to my upcoming Goodreads giveaway (ending 1/24/14) so you can see all my tweaks in action. Click here.


Click here for the Novel Publicity tip sheet


A Personalized Soundtrack for Your Novel: Creating Writing Playlists

When I’m in the early phases of writing, I don’t plot. I don’t outline. I don’t write extensive character bios.

I create playlists.

Okay, so lots of writers don’t listen to music when they work. But I think there’s a big difference in having the radio on and listening to an well-crafted collection of songs that remind you of your WIP. Music can create an immediate emotional reaction and help you find the emotional touchstones within your narrative. Think about Jaws without that ominous base soundtrack, or that wordless sequence of Up without the touching score. (I’m tearing up right now.) Why not use that kind of emotional connection in your own writing?

Maybe you don’t have John Williams or Michael Giacchino creating your novel soundtrack, but you do have your own collection of music. Here’s how my playlist-making process went for The Chance You Won’t Return:

Step 1. Start thinking about your WIP like a cat considers a speck of dust–“Oh, I don’t really care about you, I’m going to look over here instead”–before you ultimately pounce on it.

The Chance You Won’t Return started with the idea “My mother thinks she’s Amelia Earhart.” I eventually started thinking that this was from the perspective of a sixteen-year-old girl who’s also the worst driver in Driver’s Ed and is suddenly getting the attention of a hot guy at school with secrets of his own. Beyond that, I didn’t exactly know where this was going or what would happen to these characters.

Step 2. Once you have some basic characters/settings/plot in mind, go to your music collection. Start finding songs that might connect with your WIP and create a playlists with those songs.

For me, this is my iTunes library. I had a few scenes written already, and a few more in mind, so I imagined them as if they were movie scenes and tried to match those images/tones with the right songs.

The first few songs that jumped out to me were pretty literal: “Lady Pilot” by Neko Case, “Dream About Flying” by Alexi Murdoch, “Amelia Bright” by Ben Folds, and “Someday We’ll Know” by Jonathan Foreman and Mandy Moore (with the lyric “Whatever Happened to Amelia Earhart?”). These worked pretty well as I was drafting, then…

Step 3. Find songs that hit the emotional core of your scene/draft/character. Add them to your playlist and hit shuffle whenever you’re writing.

The first time I remember really connecting with the first draft of The Chance You Won’t Return was when I heard “All My Friends” by LCD Soundsystem. I was trying to write the scene in which Alex first drives with Jim, and this song felt perfect for the scene–there’s a slow build to it, and a constant forward momentum, and there’s the sense of being swept up in something but also feeling kind of lost.

Eventually, as I started learning more about my characters and their stories, I started finding more songs that connected emotionally for me, like “Lonelily” by Damien Rice (which reminded me of the Winchesters and leaving/coming home), “Where It’s At” by Beck (which reminded me of Alex and her best friend, Theresa), and “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” by Arcade Fire (which reminded me of Alex driving around with Jim).

By the final draft of The Chance You Won’t Return, I had 63 songs and 4 hours and 15 minutes worth of writing music. That’s a lot of time to be able to sit at the desk and not have any silence or any repeating song. Having a crafted soundtrack was a huge help in the writing process–I easily got into the right frame of mind, and didn’t get distracted by non-related music or noise.

Step 4. When you’re stuck, for other songs based on the songs you already have in your playlist.

When a scene wasn’t working for me, I’d go to a particular song that almost felt right for the scene’s mood and click “Create genius playlist.” iTunes would compile 50 other songs like that one from my library, some of which I hadn’t originally considered but were perfect and got me back in the zone.

Step 5. Listen to your playlist when you’re writing and when you’re not writing.

I’m someone who needs music while writing. It helps me shut out the rest of the world and dive into the emotional core of the story.

But sometimes a writing playlist can be just as good when you’re not writing. I would put on my The Chance You Won’t Return playlist when I was driving or walking around or on the T, and it led to some great brainstorming. Now, one of my favorite things to do is put on the playlist for whatever my WIP is when I’m traveling to conferences or retreats. It immediately puts me in the writerly frame of mind.

So maybe if you’re a pantser like me, a playlist can be a helpful tool in understanding who your characters are and where they’re going. And even if you’re not, it’s fun to have a collection of songs that remind you of your work and can get you in the writing mood at the click of a button. Or, you know, the dancing mood.

Annie Cardi lives outside Boston, MA, where she spends her time baking, creating alternate lyrics for tv show theme songs, and writing YA fiction. Her debut novel, THE CHANCE YOU WON’T RETURN, is forthcoming from Candlewick Press on April 22 2014. Her writing is fueled by copious amounts of coffee and chocolate.

Happy 14th Day: January AGAIN!

Happy 14th Day, Everyone!

It’s finally our debut year! 

And wow do we have lots of things going on with our authors. First up, we have some new sales/launch dates:

Dana Alison Levy has sold the audio rights to The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher to Listening Library, and the book will be out July 22nd.

Nicole Maggi has sold the audio rights to her second book, Heartlines, to Audible.

Heidi Schulz has sold the UK/Commonwealth rights of Hook’s Revenge to Chicken House Books.

The OneFours have been noticed, big-time, online and across the globe:

Robin Constantine will be part of a five-stop Southeastern USA tour, along with the likes of Megan Shepherd, Kasie West and Megan Miranda. There’s also a contest! Check it out here.

Christine Kohler‘s book, No Surrender Soldier, has two upcoming events: in Ballinger, TX and San Angelo, TX. Australian teen vlogger Dylan named her as debut “author of the month” for January. The book was named one of “the most anticipated new YA novels released Dec. 28-Jan. 4.”

Laura Marx Fitzgerald‘s Under The Egg received a stellar review from SLJ/Fuze8.

Publisher’s Weekly noticed the OneFours in this wonderful article about the twitter-based #30mdare. Check out the dare on Twitter, by the way. It’s fun, and if you win, you get to pick everyone else’s twitter avi.

OneFour Short Fiction on the Web:

Rachel M. Wilson, author of Don’t Touch, will have a digital short story published with HarperTeen Impulse on October 7, 2014.

The Hanging Garden, a gif-based short fiction tumblr blog featuring OneFour authors, has unleashed itself on the universe. Check it out now!

And finally, our beautiful, gorgeous, intriguing covers:

Amber Lough is the author of THE FIRE WISH (Random House Children’s). She lives with her husband, their two kids, and their cat, Popcorn in Syracuse, NY. She spent much of her childhood in Japan and Bahrain. Later, she returned to the Middle East as an Air Force intelligence officer to spend eight months in Baghdad, where the ancient sands still echo the voices lost to wind and time. Her Middle Eastern fantasy, THE FIRE WISH, is due from Random House Children’s in July 2014.

Happy Book Release to our fellow OneFour, Robin Constantine!

Hey, everyone! Emery Lord here. I recently got to ask Robin Constantine some questions about her contemporary young adult book, THE PROMISE OF AMAZING, which was released on December 31st! The story follows two teens, Wren and Grayson, in an opposites-attract love story that begins with the Heimlich manuever. Thanks for talking to us, Robin!

THE PROMISE OF AMAZING is told in dual-POV, which I thought was a really interesting creative choice. Why did you go that route? Was it planned or is that how the narrative unfolded naturally for you?

When I first set out to write TPofA, I wasn’t planning on two POVs.  I was a bit terrified to write from a boy’s perspective but when I hit chapter two from Wren’s perspective, I froze.  Then I realized at that point in the story, Grayson had the more dramatic moment.  When I started fooling around with the male POV, I thought it might turn out to be an elaborate character sketch.  As I delved deeper into Grayson’s side of the story – he had a lot to say, so I just went with it.

Wren is pegged as the quiet, rule-following type, where Grayson is outgoing and a bit of a troublemaker. In writing both perspectives, is there one you identified with more or one that came more easily to you?

I was/am a rule-follower extraordinaire.   There was once a piece on 20/20 about people in a (simulated situation) burning restaurant and how there were some patrons who wouldn’t leave – even though there was imminent danger – because they didn’t pay the check.  Yeah, that would be me.  Troublemakers fascinate me and I tended to pal around with them and lived vicariously.  So, I identified with Wren much more but also understood her pull to someone who ‘lives out loud’ like Grayson. 

The Arthurian-themed catering hall is such an great setting/high school job that I have to ask: how did you come up with it?   

Thanks!  Originally I was going to set the story in a coffee shop, but I realized early on that that was going to be limiting in what could happen.  So that’s when I switched the setting to a catering hall, and I definitely had some experience to draw on there.   

I worked at a catering hall during college. The hours were so long and the work was fairly grueling (seriously, there is a science to piling plates on a tray) but most of the time I worked weddings and that was pretty fun.   And while the weddings could be full of drama – that was nothing compared to the behind the scenes dramas.   The place was full of such characters and I definitely drew a lot of my inspiration from some of the things that went on, but The Camelot is a work of my imagination.  There was no love shack where I worked (at least not to my knowledge!) and while a guest did in fact ask me what I was serving when I offered up a plate of cocktail franks, the hot dog name game is something I came up with for the novel. 

As for the Arthurian theme, I wanted something that would add a kitsch factor – something that may have been popular at one time, but has faded a bit.  And the Arthurian legend was really perfect for that.  It was also slightly symbolic for me as well, since Camelot is associated with sort of a timeless golden age and I felt like having it close and yet be reimagined was a nod to not letting your past define you. 

In many MG and YA books, the parents are conveniently out of the picture for one reason or another. In The Promise of Amazing, we see both Wren and Grayson’s families. What went into your decision to put the families “on-screen?”

I’m not sure if this was conscious, or just how I saw the characters. You always hear “kill the parents” because it’s more exciting for your main character to figure things out for themselves.  Wren and Gray figure out things for themselves but to portray them without a family life would have felt unrealistic for me.  And people who come from supportive and loving families can screw things up too.  

And as this community is All for One and OneFour KidLit, we’d like to know what two or three books inspired you as a kid.

The book that always comes to mind for me is Are You There God It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume.  It was the first book that spoke to me, and made Judy Blume an auto-buy author for me.  I liked it because it spoke directly to my experience and was so relatable.  I also loved The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton and could hardly believe that was required reading!

Thanks Robin, and congratulations!! Visit Robin on her website or Twitter for more! The Promise of Amazing is available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Indiebound.

About the author:


Robin Constantine is a born and bred Jersey girl who moved down South so she could wear flip-flops year round. She spends her days dreaming up stories where love conquers all, well, eventually but not without a lot of peril, angst and the occasional kissing scene. Her YA debut, THE PROMISE OF AMAZING, is available from Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Emery Lord lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, with one husband, two rescue dogs, and three packed-full bookshelves. She spends her time impulse shopping, laughing so loudly that other people in the restaurant shoot dirty looks at her and her friends, and reading everything. Her debut novel, OPEN ROAD SUMMER is out with Walker/Bloomsbury on April 15, 2014.