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Never Underestimate A 10-Year Idea …

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I’ve known Janci for several years. When I first met her, I had no idea she was a writer, and then when I was informed of the fact by other people around me, I was quite pleased. Not many people top the cool charts the way she does! Like me, Janci writes in several different genres, and what I’ve read of hers so far, I love. She and her husband both do what they love for careers — at home. They are an example to me of following your heart and dreams. Today, I’ve invited Janci here to my blog to talk about her new book, EVERYTHING’S FINE, and how it has stuck around for over 10 years. I know this feeling well, since THE BREAKAWAY was one such similar book for me. Read on! Janci has some great things to say here!

Janci Patterson writes fantasy, science fiction, and contemporary young adult novels. Her first book, CHASING THE SKIP, will be published by Henry Holt in 2012. Janci lives in Orem, Utah, with her husband, Drew Olds. When she’s not writing, she manages Drew’s painting business, and plays geek games of all kinds.

I wrote the first draft of Everything’s Fine in 2004, so this book was ten years in the making. The idea started with this line: “So I stole Haylee’s journal.  We might as well get that out in the open right now.”  As soon as I had that line, I knew it was the beginning of a book. I experimented with it. Why does Kira take Haylee’s journal? What is it that she’s trying to hide?

Across years worth of drafts, a few things stayed the same, but more changed. It got sent out on rounds of submission several times, and always I discovered afterward that the book still wasn’t quite working. Many times I thought about giving up on this book — about just declaring it a trunk novel and leaving it alone. But inevitably as soon as I decided that, I’d have an idea for how to make the book better, and I’d rewrite it again.

Because of its long road to publication, Everything’s Fine is my most re-written novel to date, and anyone who knows me knows I’m not shy about rewriting novels. I started over from scratch at least three times, and heavily revised it dozens of times over. To give you an idea, here are a few of the more recent changes:

  • If you’ve read the book, you know that every other chapter is an in-scene flashback from a different point in Kira and Haylee’s friendship. Those chapters didn’t even make it into the book until January, when I pulled the book out and rewrote it yet again, this time with the intent of sending it to my editor. I was having a hard time getting the reader to connect to Haylee, since she’s already dead when the book begins.  Alaya Dawn Johnson suggested that I take all the flashbacks out of the book and put them in scene, and it turned out to be just what the book needed. So grateful for that critique. Without it, I think the book might have hung out in limbo forever.
  • Kira is now an only child, but from the first draft in 2004 to the first draft that my editor read back in February, she had an older sister who came for Christmas with her college boyfriend. I loved Lainie and Derek. They had a lot of awesome scenes. But in the end, Lainie’s scenes were taking away from the space I had to develop Kira’s relationship with her mother, which was much more important to the arc. So out of the book they went.
  • For a long time, Kira’s secret was that she had an eating disorder. Then I read Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls, and realized I wasn’t doing any kind of justice to that concept. Then I had to give Kira a new secret … and I did, but you’ll have to read the book to find out what it is.

I almost gave up on this book dozens of times, but now that it’s finished, I’m so glad I didn’t. I was ready to abandon it, Kira’s voice was never ready to abandon me. I think this is a book that wanted to be written. Who was I to stand in its way? It makes me giddy to see it finally done, and in a form that other people are getting to read. Kira’s character took a long journey with me, and getting to share her story is the best of all possible endings.

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Kira thought she knew everything about her best friend, Haylee. But when Haylee commits suicide immediately after her first date with her longtime crush, Bradley Johansen, Kira is left with nothing but questions, and a gaping hole in her life where Haylee used to be. 

Kira is sure that the answers to her questions must be written in Haylee’s journal, but she’s not the only one searching for it. The more Kira learns about Haylee’s past, the more certain she is that other people grieving for Haylee are keeping secrets—especially Bradley, and Haylee’s attractive older cousin Nick. Kira is desperate to get to Haylee’s journal before anyone else finds it—to discover the truth about what happened to Haylee— 

And to hide the things that Haylee wrote down about her. 

From the author of CHASING THE SKIP comes EVERYTHING’S FINE, a new contemporary YA novel about secrets and loss, and the winner of the 2007 Utah Arts Council award for Best Young Adult Novel.

Add Everything’s Fine to your Goodreads shelf.

Purchase Everything’s Fine on Amazon

Find Janci on jancipatterson.comFacebook, and Twitter.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, Guest Posts, Writing Process, 8 comments

A Letter to An Author Friend on Her Debut

Dear Sara B. Larson,

I really loved your debut novel, DEFY! I’m excited  you’ve stepped into the world of the Published Author — a world I’m sure you’ve noticed by now is quite different for everyone. Like your main character, Alexa, who pretends to be a male warrior, I’ve found that I’ve also felt nobody understands me and never will, but I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to hide forever.

Today  I’m going to step away from my hiding and boldly dispel two things about being a published author — at least, things I’ve dealt with and seen many other authors deal with. You may or may not find yourself in my shoes at some point, or maybe you’ve already experienced some of these things. Whatever the case may be, I hope this dream you have reached continues to shine around the edges, no matter what!  

Jealousy

I think most authors get extremely envious of each other and don’t admit it. It’s not the nicest thing ever to talk about in public. But, I’ve found that if I admit my jealousy and face it, I’m a lot more likely to get over it quickly and move on with my life. I’ll admit I’m jealous of your success, Sara. You have an amazing, friendly agent who came to your launch! You are with a pretty sweet publisher, and you are tall and popular and pretty. Oh, I could go on.

The truth of it all is, however, that jealousy often means I want what someone else has, even though it might not be the best thing for me. The truth of it is that jealousy is an opportunity to turn myself around and face the reasons why I’m jealous and what I am overlooking in my own life. Opportunity is never a bad thing. So even though I’m jealous of you, that jealousy has helped me see myself better, and also strengthen my excitement and happiness for your success.

Other People’s Opinions, Namely Reviews

Published authors tell you not to read reviews, but 99% of the authors out there have read them at one point or another. Some of them continue to do so. I used to preach the “don’t read reviews” rule, but lately I’ve begun to see that at least when a new book of mine goes out there into the world, it’s actually quite helpful to know the feedback it’s getting — good and bad, even if it hurts. In the end, I have to admit that it has made me a better writer. If I lived in a sugar-coated world of five-star reviews (or completely unaware of responses on my work), I’m pretty sure I’d lose something important.

So I hope you don’t beat yourself up if you’ve read a few reviews, even if they sting. 

There are many great authors out there who can give better advice than me, but I hope you don’t think of any of this as advice — just me bravely stepping forward to share some of the things I’ve been afraid to admit publicly before. And I owe this to Alexa’s bravery in DEFY. Thank you, Sara, for being brave enough to chase your dreams. 

Standing With You In Publishing Land,

Michelle D. Argyle

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Sara B. Larson can’t remember a time when she didn’t write books. Although she now uses a computer instead of a Little Mermaid notebook. Sara lives in Utah with her husband and their three children. She writes during naptime and the quiet hours when most people are sleeping. Her husband claims she should have a degree in “the art of multitasking.” On occasion you will find her hiding in a bubble bath with a book and some Swedish Fish. Find more about Sara and her debut DEFY on her blog.

“DEFY by Sara Larson is an amazing, fantastic book. It has everything you’d want: intrigue, awesomely real characters, suspense, and a captivating plot. All in a world that comes to life in your mind. Highly recommended.” ­– James Dashner, bestselling author of THE MAZE RUNNER

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, 10 comments

Your Hero Sucks

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I met Ed online awhile ago, and was excited when he announced that his thriller novel, I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, was going to be published by Black Opal Books. I’ve already got the book on my TBR list because if anyone knows me at all, they know I love a good thriller with some depth to it — especially depth that has to do with family relationships. And that’s exactly what Ed’s book sounds like. But Ed says his hero might suck, so read on to find out more of what he’s talking about. Maybe your hero sucks too? Somehow, I have a feeling this might not be the worst thing ever.

E.A. Aymar studied creative writing, earned a Masters degree in Literature and is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, the International Thriller Writers and SinC. He and his wife live with a relatively benign animal menagerie just outside of Washington, D.C.

I have a problem with my hero, the protagonist of my debut thriller I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead. He’s not very heroic. After his wife is murdered, he decides to seek revenge, and in doing so he places revenge over the importance of raising his daughter. This troubled me when I published the novel and, although the reviews have been largely cheerful, a few readers took issue with that aspect of his character. I understand their concern, even though it seems to me that any number of characters in literature and television choose duty (or perceived duty) over family. Still, though, I thought the critiques were valid, and considered them constructive – maybe the choice he made could have been presented differently, and that’s on me.

But it also touches another topic – heroes, and how they should be depicted. I wrote a thriller and, as a hopeful entrant to that genre, I had to take a long look at the typical hero of these books and what they tend to embody. The following excerpted review of the film Jack Reacher, based on Lee Child’s celebrated series, highlights some of the same issues I have with my genre’s typical protagonists. Note that I don’t share all of the author’s views; these are like my opinions, but on crack: 

Jack Reacher is the embodiment of a certain kind of narrow alpha fantasy. He is the best at all the things: the smartest detective, the best driver, the greatest fighter.… His mind works faster than anyone else’s; he sees patterns no one else sees. He is Batman without the silly costume. He is the entire A-Team rolled up in one, such that he can disappear like a ghost (though he somehow pulls his military pension each month), but will still walk into a room at the most dramatic moment, just after someone has said, “You don’t find this guy unless he wants to be found.

Naturally, being so exceptional isolates him in his noble loneliness…. In particular, he has no time for women, who only exist in his world as victims to save or to manfully mourn. For those who buy into the extremity of his excellence — for those whose suspension of disbelief rivals the suspension system of the Golden Gate Bridge — he’s a potent fantasy. But for everyone else, it can be tiring listening to subsidiary characters go on and on about him, or watching him stand three steps ahead of everyone else, waiting with annoyance for them to catch up.”

Like I said, I don’t agree with everything the author wrote, but she makes some good points. Genre writers rightfully bristle at the notion that their work isn’t comparable to literary fiction, especially with the assumption that plot twists and timing are more valued in thrillers than characterization and prose, but the archetype depicted above, when realized, doesn’t help. Still, though, it’s a bit of a quandary. We like James Bond movies, and find Bond fun, but the character depicted in the movie is decidedly not a complex person. And writing about a character without complexity is describing a corpse.

Happily, there are a number of writers in my field who create great protagonists: Meg Abbott, Chris F. Holm, Lawrence Block, Michael Sears, Lou Berney, Gillian Flynn, Kate Atkinson, and many more. And they don’t sacrifice prose or good storytelling to do it. If you want to learn how to write a good thriller or mystery, check out their work.

In the end, you want to make someone complex and believable without disappointing fans of your chosen genre. And you want to create someone compelling to you. The choices your character makes may trouble you, give you a sleepless night or two, and some readers or reviewers might find their actions disheartening. The trick is to keep the reader invested when that doubt surfaces, to keep them turning pages even faster when their devotion shakes. You know you won’t satisfy every reader, but that’s okay. You want to be a good writer. You want to create a good character. You want readers to believe.

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Tom Starks has spent the three years since his wife’s murder struggling to single-handedly raise their daughter, Julie, while haunted by memories of his dead spouse. When he learns that the man accused of her murder, Chris Taylor, has been released from prison, Tom hires a pair of hit men to get his revenge. But when the hit men botch the assassination of Chris Taylor, Tom is inadvertently pulled into their violent world. 

And now those hit men are after him and his daughter.

Add I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead to your Goodreads shelf.

E.A. Aymar’s debut thriller, I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, was just published by Black Opal Books. To learn more about I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, and to watch the animated trailer, visit www.eaymar.com/novel

Purchase I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead on Amazon, B&N, or Black Opal Books.

Find E.A. on eaymar.comFacebook, and Twitter.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Guest Posts, Writing Process, 6 comments
How To Work With A Cover Designer

How To Work With A Cover Designer

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Today I’m excited to welcome my good friend Natalie Whipple here to the blog to talk about working with a cover designer for her upcoming novel, Relax, I’m a Ninja. Since Natalie has worked with traditional publishers in the past — and this new novel is one she will be independently publishing — this was her first experience working on a cover for one of her novels one-on-one with a designer.

Natalie Whipple, sadly, does not have any cool mutations or magical powers like her characters. Unless you count the ability to watch anime and Korean dramas for hours on end. Or her uncanny knack for sushi consumption. 

She grew up in the Bay Area and relocated to Utah for high school, which was quite the culture shock for her anime-loving teen self. But the Rocky Mountains eventually won her over, and she stuck around to earn her degree in English linguistics at BYU, with a minor in editing. Natalie still lives in Utah with her husband and three kids, and keeps the local Asian market in business with all her attempts to cook Thai curry, pho, and bulgogi.

She is the author of TRANSPARENT, BLINDSIDED (January 2, 2014) and HOUSE OF IVY & SORROW (coming April 15, 2014). In addition to that, she is on the writing team for the cRPG Torment: Tides of Numenera that should be out sometime in 2015.

I’m so proud to show off Michelle’s amazing design for the cover of RELAX, I’M A NINJA (designed under the name Melissa Williams Cover Design). She really captured what I was hoping to in a cover for this book—it’s bold yet simple, cool with a hint of intrigue. So with the revealing of this cover, I thought advice about working with a cover designer would be the perfect fit for a guest post on Michelle’s blog today.

1. Learn About Your Market—Accept Your Market

Your book may be a little different than a certain genre or market, but you still need to learn about the market closest to your novel and what it responds to. If you are writing romance, look at the covers, find the similarities. These are not bad things! This is what an audience takes as a cue. They see a certain type of cover and think, “Oh, this is a insert-this-genre-here book.”

You might think that sucks, but that’s how it is. Books DO suffer when they are packaged wrong, and traditional publishers even redo covers that don’t get a good response. So know your market, embrace it, seek a cover that belongs in that market.

2. Decide What Your Cover Needs To DO, Not What You Want It To Look Like

Covers are marketing tools, first and foremost. When working with a designer, it’s more important to convey what you need your cover to DO versus what you want it to look like. Does it need to appeal to boys? Does it need to hit the YA market but stand out from the other YA Paranormals? Does it need to be gender neutral? These are things your designer wants to know and accomplish for you.

Looks come second, and they need to comply with the doing part. If it gets in the way of what your cover needs to do, then you have to edit just like a novel.

3. Collaborate With Your Designer, Don’t Be A Boss

Designers know stuff. They do what they do because they took classes and have experience. Hopefully they have experience in cover design specifically. It is wise to approach cover design, therefore, as a team effort. Not a “You will create what I exactly picture in my head or I will not be happy and it must be this way or it’s wrong.”

Creative collaboration can create some of the most amazing work out there, while stifling a designer can create … less than amazing. Of course you need to be happy with your cover, but it’s a give and take.

4. Let Your Designer Design

I’ve heard a lot of designers say they do their best work when they are given a lot of leeway to just do their job. Remember that designers are creative sorts as well, and just like writers it can be hard to be inspired with someone breathing down your neck. When they are doing their job, it’s important to be respectful of their ability and needs. Just your basic “be professional.”

5. Learn About Design So You Can Give Informed Opinions

If you really want to collaborate with a designer, you might need to learn the lingo a little. Not that you have to get super educated and take classes and get a degree, but if you offer criticism it would be ideal to verbalize it in a way a designer can understand clearly. A lot of times they have to translate what a writer is saying into design terms, and sometimes that’s hard and they miss the mark.

But if you can say there needs to be more leading or perhaps the kerning on that word should be decreased. If you can talk about san serif fonts versus scripts, if you can identify the photo needs more contrast or deeper saturation … that helps.

And those are my tips for working with a cover designer. It can be such a pleasure, and I hope if you’re thinking of self-pubbing a novel that you find a designer who’s right for you. Magic happens then.

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A Clan of ninjas in San Francisco may sound improbable—but as the son of a ninja master, Tosh Ito knows what lurks in the shadows of his city. Or at least he thought he did. When a killer with a poisoned blade starts cutting down teens, Tosh enlists Amy Sato—newest ninja recruit and his best friend’s crush—and sets out to uncover the killer’s identity. What they find is ninjutsu more evil than they could have ever imagined.

As Amy and Tosh grow closer, they discover their connection unleashes a legendary power that could stop the murders. Problem is, that power may be exactly what the killer is looking for, and wielding it could cost them both their souls.

Relax, I’m a Ninja is slated to release June 3, 2014. Find out more about Relax, I’m a Ninja and Natalie Whipple on her blog at betweenfactandfiction.blogspot.com. You can also find her on Twitter @nataliewhipple.

Add Relax, I’m a Ninja to your Goodreads shelf.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, Guest Posts, Self-Publishing, 2 comments

My Affair with Canada Does Not Stop With the Music

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I’m so excited to welcome Sheryll Caulfield to my blog today! I met Sherryl online just a short while ago, but I’m already impressed with her sweet, caring and attentive personality and her professionalism and enthusiasm for everything writing and publishing. Please welcome her today as she talks about country music and all things Canada (which is awesome because she lives in Australia), including her new novel that is just out.

Sherryl Caulfield is an Australian-born marketer, traveller and writer. After twenty years working for some of the world’s leading technology companies and a stint with Outward Bound, she longed to write about the human experience and the redemptive qualities of nature. Her first novel, Seldom Come By, Book 1 of The Iceberg Trilogy, will be released in December 2013.

Michelle is right. Everybody does love country music – even if they don’t admit it. I thought I wasn’t a fan. But you know I grew up listening to a British-born, Australian songstress singing about a river in America, “The Banks of the Old Ohio”. My mother would hum Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy”, my brother would sing Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler” under his breath while I personally favoured “Canadian Dan Hill” and his “Sometimes when we Touch”.

Then came the other Canadians:

Cowboy Junkies (how country is that name?)

Shania Twain Jane Arden and her Insensitive anthem And the incomparable

k.d. lang who covers practically every genre there is

Love, love the music, but like Michelle’s Maggie from Out of Tune, can’t sing to save myself.

My affair with Canada does not stop with the music though. I’m a fan of Canadian literature as well. When I was twenty I read No Fixed Address, An Amorous Journey about a young, sexually-liberated, travelling lingerie salewoman who drove a Black Mercedes. I became enthralled with Arachne and Canada. And then came the idiosyncratic The Shipping News, followed by the Novia Scotian drama, Fall on Your Knees, leading up my recent fascination with the novels of Joseph Boyden.

Yes, I am truly, madly, deeply in love with Canada. I’ve travelled to many parts and still have many more to visit. But it was on my first trip to Canada that I came across a single woman whose image followed me home and into the pages of a series I’ve called The Iceberg Trilogy – epic adventurous love stories about three irrepressible Canadian women and their remarkable men.

They’re epic because each woman has a disastrous experience that defines their life; each one has a breathtaking, heartbreaking hard-won romance that is the love of their life; and each one celebrates the frail mysteries of families in all their beautiful twisted forms. The Icebook Trilogy also takes you across the stunning land and seascapes of Canada with cinematic, signature moments that you will never forget.

My first book, Seldom Come By (Book 1 of The Iceberg Trilogy) is a about teenage girl, called Rebecca, who feels trapped by her surroundings.

This soon-to-be fifteen-year-old lives on a remote Newfoundland island overlooking Iceberg Alley, which to her is the only redeeming feature about the place. Icebergs are the most exciting spectacle in the months of monotony and mediocrity that mark her year. If it weren’t for icebergs Rebecca doesn’t know what she would have to look forward to. Just the thought of climbing on board one of those frozen forms and seeing where it might take her is magnetic.

To Rebecca icebergs represent something magical; a sign of lightness in darkness, a sign of hope and endless possibilities.

And then one spring, this young woman who lives and breathes longing, is looking out to sea, yearning for an iceberg, multiple icebergs, when she discovers a shipwrecked sailor and her world is never the same again.

Nineteen year old Samuel, near death, with his blonde straggly hair and his out-of-this-world Samuel smile and his far-flung experiences and talk of nude sculptures and the teal waters of the Carribean, is like no one Rebecca has ever imagined, let alone met.

One look at her sister, Rachel, and Rebecca knows they both are in the same boat: Samuel’s boat. The summer Samuel stays with them, recovering from his misadventure at sea, ignoring requests from his brother to come home, is the most exciting summer of Rebecca’s life.

And then one day she casually asks him, ‘Have you ever been up close to an iceberg?’

‘No,’ he tells her, ‘but you know it would be something, to be able to get up close and have a look at one, don’t you think?’

‘Yes,’ she sighs, in a way that is more an inhalation than an exhalation.

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Seldom Come By, named after an actual place in Newfoundland, is Rebecca Crowe’s coming of age story and Samuel and Rebecca’s soaring and unforgettable love story. It’s out on now! Come, meet Samuel and Rebecca and the iceberg that started it all. Visit. www.theicebergtrilogy.com. Oh, did I mention, it’s set in 1914? Don’t let that stop you 😉

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Guest Posts, 1 comment

“Everybody Loves Country Music — They Just Don’t Know It Yet”

“Everybody loves country music — they just don’t know it yet.”

That’s something my brother said to me about ten months ago. That was the point I started listening to country music in earnest because I was writing Out of Tune, my “country music book.” I wasn’t too keen on country at first, but now my car’s radio station is permanently stuck on the local country music station. It’s all I want to listen to now. I was converted, so to speak.

There are lots of different kinds of country, so it’s kind of silly to me when I hear someone say they HATE ALL COUNTRY. There’s country folk, bluegrass, classic country, country pop, country rock, etc. There are a lot more genres than that, but those are the main ones I’ve found.

COUNTRY FOLK

Think John Denver. Who doesn’t like a good John Denver song every now and then? “I’m leeeeeavin’ on a jet plane!!!!”

Country folk has been described as a mellower and gentler form of country music with more emphasis on song writing than vocals. Many of the artists described as country folk are respected more in mainstream country circles for their song writing abilities. The lyrics of the songs tend to be more thoughtful and emotionally complex than mainstream country. ~ Wikipedia

BLUEGRASS

Think the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? Think “You Are My Sunshine”. Alan Jackson has a fantastic album dedicated to Bluegrass titled, The Bluegrass Album.

Bluegrass music is a form of American roots music, and a sub-genre of country music. Bluegrass was inspired by the music of Appalachia. It has mixed roots in Irish, Scottish, Welsh, and English traditional music, and also later influenced by the music of African-Americans through incorporation of jazz elements. ~ Wikipedia

CLASSIC COUNTRY (whee!)

Think Johnny Cash. Have you seen Walk the Line? Yeah, go watch it.

The classic country format can actually be further divided into two formats. The first specializes in hits from the 1920s through the early 1970s (thus including music that is older than almost any other radio format in the United States), and focus primarily on innovators and artists from country music’s Golden Age (including Hank Williams, George Jones and Johnny Cash). The other focuses on hits from the 1960s (including some the above-mentioned performers) through early 1990s, some pre-1960 music, latter-day Golden Age stars and innovators such as Waylon Jennings,Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard) to newer recurrent hits from current-day artists such as George Strait, Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson and Reba McEntire. ~ Wikipedia

COUNTRY ROCK

THIS is the country my husband adores — yet he claims to hate country. (Shhh, he doesn’t really hate country if he likes this stuff) Think The Eagles and Bob Dylan.

Country rock is a subgenre of country music, formed from the fusion of rock with country. The term is generally used to refer to the wave of rock musicians who began to record country-flavored records in the late 1960s and early 1970s, beginning with Bob Dylan and The Byrds; reaching its greatest popularity in the 1970s with artists like Emmylou Harris and the Eagles. ~ Wikipedia

COUNTRY POP

If you “hate country,” this is probably what you hate. Think Garth Brooks, Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban. This is the country I mostly listen to, but I get back to the roots of country and listen to folk and bluegrass as well.

Country pop, with roots in both the countrypolitan sound and in soft rock, is a subgenre of country music that first emerged in the 1970s. Although the term first referred to country music songs and artists that crossed over to Top 40 radio, country pop
acts are now more likely to cross over to adult contemporary. ~ Wikipedia

So chances are, you don’t really hate country. You  just think you do because you haven’t given it a chance yet. I know I thought I hated country since I grew up in a tiny hick town where country was the rule, not the exception. Country is more popular than I’ve always thought, though. When I announced over a year ago that I was going to write a “country music book”, I was blown away by how many people said they love country. I think since country truly does reach down to the roots of who we are, it has the potential to touch everyone.

Oh, and if you’re a Firefly fan, I feel strongly that you’re country at heart.

Do you hate country? Love it? I’d love to hear where you stand on your music preferences.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in About Me, Out of Tune, 14 comments

Bonded Book Club Visit

Bonded; Three Fairy Tales, One BondOn Wednesday night, I went to a book club run by my friend Ilima Todd. It was her month to choose the book, so she chose Bonded, which makes me feel all sorts of special. Thanks, Ilima!

I’ve done a few book club visits now. I think this was my fifth visit, but the first one I’ve done for Bonded. I was a little worried about how it all might work with three different books. Would it be too much to discuss all of those? Turns out several readers didn’t have the chance to finish all three books, but it was still easy to have a great discussion. Everyone was so kind, even when we discussed things not everyone particularly liked. Mostly, the discussion revolved around questions everyone had about the characters or the plot. What I find most interesting is that these questions are ones I’ve heard time and time again (especially when Cinders was first published). It’s fascinating because readers seem to gravitate toward the same issues every single time. At first, I worried this is because I’ve done something wrong in my writing. Did I not spend enough time on certain aspects? Did I leave a few things too vague? Did I do it all WRONG? (That’s like my greatest fear, ever, mind you).

I’ve realized over time, though, that I haven’t written anything wrong. As I’ve discussed before, there are no right answers. Everyone brings different things to a novel when they read it, but that’s why it is so interesting how different readers ask me the same questions over and over. To me, that means I did something right. The story I’ve written obviously begs different questions and different themes that make a large group of readers stop and think about those same things in a critical way. It’s more than entertainment, and that’s something pretty great.

I think attending book groups is one of my favorite things to do as author. It’s not because attention is focused on me and my book. It’s because I get an insight, in person, how my book has affects readers. I’ve heard the highest praise in these book groups and the harshest criticism. I’ve grown a lot because of it. Wouldn’t trade any of it for anything! Book clubs are awesome. I don’t belong to one, but someday I might. Do you belong to one?

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Bonded, Books, 7 comments

Bonded Launch Party at The King’s English Bookstore

First, a suspenseful story.

I live about 40 minutes away from the bookstore that hosted me for my launch party. There’s a stretch of freeway between me and Salt Lake City, which means I was looking forward to a nice drive with three friends. Forty minutes of talk-time isn’t anything I’ll ever complain about! Unless, of course, I almost hit a deer on the freeway while we’re talking. It was rolling across the road, apparently just having been hit by a car. I was barreling along at about 68 mph, when my friend in the front seat pointed out that something wasn’t right up ahead (note, “up ahead” means, like, a split second up ahead). Since about six years earlier, I ran over (it was lying in the road, just hit) an entire elk on a backroad on my way to work (in a sports car, mind you), I had that flash through my head as my brain recognized the deer flopping across the road ahead of us. I swerved because I was thinking there is no way I’m running over a huge freaking deer again. I think my brain registered there wasn’t a car next to me, otherwise, I would have caused a nasty accident. Later, we learned the deer did cause a four-car pileup. Probably the people right behind us. I am very lucky to have missed the deer and not hit another car at the same time. Very lucky.

So that out of the way, we made it to my launch party right at the starting time, thank goodness! We could have all been in the hospital, but for the next three months, I’m thanking God in my prayers for keeping me and my friends safe.

The launch party itself was a fantastic, super, amazingly wonderful success! I wasn’t too nervous, I had fun reading my excerpt, and two of my good friends came dressed up as characters from the book. My six-year-old was well-behaved, and even asked a cute question during the Q&A section. There were a lot of people in the signing line (I consider it a total success if at least one book sells!), and I had so many friends and family show up, I went home with tears of gratitude in my eyes.

I want to thank every single person who came, and a huge thank you to The Kings English for hosting me! A launch party is a celebration, and that is exactly what this felt like.

Thank you to Janci Patterson and Lisa Shafer for most of these pics!

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Bonded, Books

The Post-Revision Antsy Blues

So I’m not really into post-revision on Pieces yet since I’m waiting for two more readers to get me feedback, but after getting feedback from my other readers, and doing major slit-my-wrist revisions on the book, I’m sitting here staring at my computer and wondering what the heck to do with myself. I’m antsy. I’m nervous. I’m hungry, but I don’t want to eat. My brain feels like it was a rubberband all stretched out and then somebody let go. Now I’m lying on the floor, helpless. I’d watch a movie, but I’m too antsy. I’d read a book, but I’m so tired of reading after reading through my book like five times, forward and backward and up and down. The worst thing of all is that I’m exhausted. I’ve been exhausted for a long time now because when I do revisions, I DO REVISIONS. I don’t do anything else. I don’t do laundry. I don’t cook (much). I don’t clean (much). I don’t sleep (much). I just revise until I make myself sick, which I’ve done.

Does anyone else get like this?

Also, let me clarify what revisions are. Jennifer Hubbard did a great post about what revisions are for her. She sums it up better than I can.

As Jane Lebak notes, this is about more than fixing commas. This is about deleting entire scenes, moving chapters around, writing new scenes. Bringing in new characters, or getting rid of old ones, or merging two characters who have too-similar reasons for being in the story. Changing the plot: changing what happens or when or in what order. Chopping unnecessary pages from the beginning, or the end, or even the middle. Introducing new subplots. Jane Lebak discusses the most thorough kind of revision: the rewrite that starts from a blank page. Sometimes it does come down to that.

And, yeah, I’ve done the rewrite that starts from a blank page before. More than once. Thankfully, this book does not need that extensive of revisions. I’ve restructured and rewritten and added and deleted and shuffled stuff around. Now I’m onto the line stuff, and then a final read-through for copyedits. Then it all goes to my editor and I get to do all of the edits she sends to me. Then more copyedits.

I guess all I’m saying is when people ask me how hard it is write a book, I honestly don’t even know where to start. It’s definitely a job that goes beyond the mind. It’s physical too. Revisions, for me, are the equivalent of running a marathon. I’m pretty sure I end up burning as many calories.

The post-revision antsy blues get me every time. Like my friend Becca said to me, last time this happened to her, she sat in her office chair in the middle of the room and just spun around forever. Sometimes that’s all your mind can handle! I really just don’t know what to do with myself while my brain gets back to normal. Yoga. Maybe some yoga.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Books, Pieces, 16 comments

How to Stand Out in a World Crammed With Books

Color me surprised. Overall, The Breakaway did so much better than my other books in the first few selling weeks. I think it’s a combination of factors – the first being that the book hits an apparently huge niche market for young adult and adult readers who love kidnapping/captive/Stockholm Syndrome books. I had no idea such a market was out there for this genre, but it’s big. And it’s also picky, I’m finding. This specific niche market loves a certain type of ending, I think, and The Breakaway messes with that type of ending. So I’m really not sure how well it will keep doing. I have no idea. The other reason I think The Breakaway did so well (and will hopefully keep doing well) might have to do with the marketing tactics my publisher took – several that they did not do with Monarch because they hadn’t explored those avenues yet. But Monarch is also adult and a thriller and not really a true thriller, at that. Other reasons for The Breakaway’s success might also have had to do with the fact that it is young adult, the cover people seem to love, marketing tactics I took, or, well, sheer dumb luck.

So all of this one-book-doing-better-than-another thing has me thinking about a lot of publishing points. I have asked myself if I would be as jazzed about publishing more books if The Breakaway’s sales had been the same as Monarch and Cinders in their first few weeks. I worry that I question too many things. I worry that the sheer dumb luck I mentioned above is a bigger factor in all of this than I’m willing to admit. Because, honestly, that’s what it seems like at this point. I did less marketing for The Breakaway than any of my other work. I cared less. Maybe that was important. Or maybe it’s because I have other books out and I’ve built more of a readership. Maybe it’s because I’ve focused more on marketing to readers than writers. Who. The. Heck. Knows.

And I walk into a bookstore and realize that all the books on the shelves are like .0000001% of the books out in the world, and I get short of breath and realize that my books are only a tiny speck in the huge cosmos of stories out there. How … I ask myself … how in the world will I ever make it? How will I ever stand out in a world crammed with books?

My answer to that is: I already do … in certain people’s worlds. And that’s what matters.

But … I don’t write to take over the world in general (hahaha, if only), and I don’t write to stand out everywhere, and I don’t write to be on every shelf in every bookstore, and I don’t write to please everyone, and I don’t write just to make money and sales. I write because I write and want to keep writing. And the small, beautiful success I’ve seen with The Breakaway is a happy perk and something special I treasure right now. But quite honestly, while all those sales will always be awesome, they do not feel as poignant as that first sale I made on my little self-published book, Cinders, when I felt even smaller than I do now. And that’s what makes me stop and think. I look at the authors I love and wonder how small they feel, even if they are big in the publishing world. I wonder if I will always feel insignificant standing in a bookstore or sifting through hundreds of books online.

And I sit here and fret and worry about my next full-length book, Bonded, and how it will fare compared to The Breakaway in its first few weeks. So far, each book I have put out has done better than the last, but I am not sure I can top The Breakaway, and that scares me because beyond hundreds-of-thousands of dollars I don’t have to spend on marketing, there’s not much me and my publisher can do beyond what we have done for my other books. At least so far. I am sure my publisher will keep surprising me with their brilliance in marketing! And I know it’s not always about “the first few weeks” … it’s often how your books do overall over a long period of time, but still, the beginning can say a lot.

Everyone says Bonded will do amazing, but I have my doubts. Bonded is completely different, and it’s a collection and fantasy/fairy-tale based. Is that market as big as the market for The Breakaway? The first novella in Bonded has a controversial ending. The second novella, Thirds, is happy, but will people keep reading after Cinders and all the punches I pull in there? Perhaps not. The third novella, Scales, is far from a happy ending, and it’s my very favorite, like a piece of dark chocolate I think should be savored. Some people hate dark chocolate.

I guess this is enough rambling about all my worries and fears. It all reminds me of a post I wrote last year right before Monarch came out. I had cold feet, but I came to a conclusion I need to remember now. I need to staple it to my forehead: So bring on the cold feet. I know I’ll still worry and fret as the release date grows closer, but for me, the best part of the book has already happened – the fact that I finished and got it to a place where I’m 100% happy with it. Nothing will erase that. Ever. Remember, published or unpublished, you are a writer, an author, and a creative person who strives for the ultimate goal of creating something you’re proud of. Don’t ever let the little publication tag get in your way (and I need to add here that sales numbers should not get in your way either), because it doesn’t change anything in the end. It only overshadows the best part.

In the end, the only thing to do is write your next book, and at the end of the day, I’m pretty happy with that. So I’m going to go work on my next book and stop worrying.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, Books, The Breakaway, 0 comments