Saturday, January 28, 2012

Win a CHAINED Book Club Kit!

The release date for CHAINED is just a little over three months away! One thing I'm really looking forward to is talking to kids about the story.

Borrowing a great idea from author Caroline Starr Rose, I'm donating a book club kit to a classroom or reading group.

The kit will include:
- Ten hardcover copies of CHAINED
- A CHAINED tote bag
- Bookmarks and signed bookplates for each member of your class or group
- Up to an hour-long Skype visit

Everyone who enters will receive CHAINED bookmarks for their readers.

So, if you're a teacher, librarian, or reading group coordinator for grades 3-8, fill out the form below to enter the giveaway.

And I realize that since the book releases in May, it might be a difficult time of year for teachers to plan the reading and discussion of a new novel, but I figured I'd go ahead and post it now so it'll be ready for you to use either this school year or next. The Skype visit can be planned for whatever month is best for you and your group.

Contest is open from now until May 1st. Good luck!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The YAmazing Race With MGnificent Prizes!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Race! Hope you all had fun, and I loved reading all the nice comments here and on Facebook. Check The Apocalypsies blog tomorrow for the list of winners, and stop by the individual authors' blogs again for the results of their bonus contests.

Speaking of bonus contests...congratulations to Kathryn Flucht, who won a copy of CHAINED!

I'll leave you with this baby elephant playing with a rock:

You've reached the CHAINED stop on The YAmazing Race with MGnificent prizes, a whirlwind Internet contest featuring over 50 debut authors and prize packs with signed books, gift certificates, swag, and more. Don't worry if you just happened upon this page and are a little confused now. See the Apocalypsies post to start from the beginning and read the complete rules.

But, if you're ready to get going, take a Gatorade break while you read a little about CHAINED:

The touching story of a boy and an elephant who have a friendship stronger than any lock, shackle, or chain.
Ten-year-old Hastin’s sister has fallen ill, and his family must borrow money to pay for her care in the hospital. To work off the debt, Hastin leaves his village in northern India to work in a faraway jungle as an elephant keeper. He thinks it will be an adventure, but he isn’t prepared for the cruel circus owner. The crowds that come to the circus see a lively animal who plays soccer and balances on milk bottles, but Hastin sees Nandita, a sweet elephant and his best friend, who is chained when she’s not performing and punished until she learns her tricks perfectly. With the help of Ne Min, a wise old man who seems to know all about elephants, Hastin protects Nandita as best as he can. Still he wonders–will they both survive long enough to escape?
“…a story that unwraps the heart and asks it to be brave, loyal, and above all, kind.” ~ Kathi Appelt, Newbery Honor winner and New York Times bestselling author of The Underneath and Keeper.

Before you go, here's a bonus contest! Leave a comment about the race on my Facebook page to enter to win a signed hardcover of CHAINED. Plus, there are baby elephants over there.

If you're ready for the next stop on this leg of the race, go visit Katherine Longshore and find out more about her debut novel, GILT.

Thanks for playing!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Favorites (so far) From This Season of Toddlers & Tiaras

You may know how much I enjoy Toddlers & Tiaras, and the new season already has a promising start. Here are some favorites from the past couple of weeks:

From episode 1, "Precious Moments," here's "Dolla Make Me Holla" Alana. Can't imagine how that way of thinking can go wrong. Like having a "special juice" that give you the energy to dance and makes you "laughy."

Her father's dialog had to be captioned too. I think Extreme Couponer Mom has provided my favorite quote of the season so far: "If someone wanted to come up to me and had an opinion to say about my daughter, I'm gonna nut the hell up." Wait, you mean any opinion? What if it's a good one? You have put her in a pageant in front of a panel of judges. Who will be giving their opinions. Never mind, "Nut the hell up" is too good not to use in conversation.

In last night's "Lollipops and Gumdrops" episode, there was a lot more going on than the Return of Mackenzie that everyone was looking forward to. There was the family from the town of Dubberly, Louisiana, for example. Anything named "Dubberly" has to be awesome.

This family, with two pageant girls, has a "pageant trailer." Since it's enclosed I was never able to confirm whether it's for hauling equipment or the daughters themselves.

There was contestant Hailey, who has perhaps the best pageant coach ever, drag queen Shangela, also her godfather.

Coach/godfather Shangela advised Hailey to push her candy cart "like a homeless woman in New York." I haven't been to New York City, but the homeless women there must be much sassier than I'd imagined.

Finally, a pageant judge tells us how we'll know when we've really made it big:

Stay fierce, everyone, and go enjoy some Pixy Stix the size of a small car.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

It's Not You, It's Your Book. Wait, Now It's You.

Almost every day this week there was some fight between authors and reviewers. Long story short, a reviewer reads a book they don't like, posts a not-so-flattering review, and the author responds defensively and angrily. Then friends of each side join in, and pretty soon it's looking something like this:

Bad reviews range from the polite "this wasn't for me" variety to the more direct "I hope this author loses her fingers in an industrial accident so she won't be able to write anymore." That's like real life--some people will have a civil conversation about a problem they're having with you, and others will kick you in the face for bumping into their grocery cart. And yes, that's going to hurt. But getting reviews is part of being an author. For so long the book is ours, shared only with the trusted few we choose, but once it's published, it doesn't belong to us anymore. It belongs to the readers now too, and some of those readers will love it, but some won't.

Everyone gets negative reviews, so I'm not naive enough to think I won't get them or that I'm so emotionally evolved I'll brush them off without feeling the sting. Even though publication is a few months away for me, I get why authors are hurt by bad reviews. I started writing CHAINED in 2006, sold it in 2010, and it'll be published in May of this year. Finding out someone hates it will probably feel like being told I've delivered an ugly baby after a six-year pregnancy.

Still, reviews are not about us. Reviewers don't review authors; they review books. We pour so much of our work, time, effort, and lives into the book, so yes, it's hard to separate ourselves from the book, but your book is not you.

Not every person is going to like every book. We know that people have wildly different tastes. Some people cuddle up to dogs that look like this, for example:

...but that may not be your thing.

So what can authors do when they come across bad reviews of their work? Keeping in mind that it's not personal might help, but that's easier said than done. If you must complain about the reviewer or vent about your pain, do so in a place that isn't public. That means NOT ON THE INTERNET, WHICH IS PUBLIC AND DOESN'T GO AWAY. Deleting doesn't help--if you do something embarrassing online, someone will circulate a screenshot of the evidence before you wise up and remove it.

If you can't stay away from the reviews, here are some suggestions for coping with those "I wish I could click on half a star because this author doesn't deserve one whole star" write-ups:

- Call up a trusted friend who will listen to you cry and then tell you how fabulous you are. Better yet, meet in person over a bottle of wine. Another advantage of meeting in person: you can frisk them for recording devices before you say anything incriminating.

- Did I mention wine?

- And don't you own any chocolate?

- Get back to the computer--not to Google yourself, but to write. Turn off the wi-fi and write something new. It can be mean if you feel like it. Just don't turn it into a blog post.

- Most people are not watching nearly enough baby animal videos, even though there's scientific proof that baby animals make everything better. It would be smart to keep a few of them on your desktop, so your next experience in reading a bad review will be something like, "How dare they this is an outrage don't they know I've spent my life writing this and OH MY GOD YOU GUYS IT'S A BABY POLAR BEAR PLAYING IN THE SNOW."

A few bad reviews might turn some people off of your book, but getting into a fight with the reviewer is a good way to guarantee that a lot more people will not buy that book or any others you write. 'Cause now it's not just that one story they don't like, it's you.

Quick, this kitten riding a tortoise will save you!