Wednesday, June 27, 2012

PRETTY AMY by Lisa Burstein

This week's feature is PRETTY AMY by Lisa Burstein. I found Lisa through her Dear Teen Me entry and the premise if her book grabbed me immediately. It's also a great example of superb cover art.

From Goodreads:

Amy is fine living in the shadows of beautiful Lila and uber-cool Cassie, because at least she’s somewhat beautiful and uber-cool by association. But when their dates stand them up for prom, and the girls take matters into their own hands—earning them a night in jail outfitted in satin, stilettos, and Spanx—Amy discovers even a prom spent in handcuffs might be better than the humiliating “rehabilitation techniques” now filling up her summer. Worse, with Lila and Cassie parentally banned, Amy feels like she has nothing—like she is nothing.

Navigating unlikely alliances with her new coworker, two very different boys, and possibly even her parents, Amy struggles to decide if it’s worth being a best friend when it makes you a public enemy. Bringing readers along on an often hilarious and heartwarming journey, Amy finds that maybe getting a life only happens once you think your life is over.

Your website bio states that you earned your MFA in Creative Writing. What led to this and can you tell us more about your journey toward becoming a writer?

I have always wanted to be writer. After college, I worked in publishing for a year before deciding I wanted to write book, not sell them. I took a year off and applied to MFA programs. I was accepted to two of them. Basically for me an MFA gave me two years to focus on nothing but craft. To focus on nothing but writing and reading and talking about books(and of course a little drinking in bars with other writers spattered in between)- it was heaven. Like this perfect space and time where everything I was doing was exactly what I wanted to be doing.

I've considered pursuing an MFA--you make it sound fabulous!
I love the premise for PRETTY AMY. Where did the idea for the story come from and what do you want readers to take away when they're finished reading?

I write YA because I felt like I still had all these things to say from when I was a teenager that I never got a chance to say. I also feel like teens need books in a way adults don't. At least I know I did, I looked to books to help me make sense of what I was feeling. I guess I hope teens will use PRETTY AMY in the same way. I was arrested during my senior year of high school, not for the same reason Amy was, but that was where the kernel came from. I also knew I wanted to write a "shocking" book from a teenage girl's point of view. I feel like you can get away with your character being a murderer, or a jerk, or just a smart ass more easily if your book isn't contemporary and I wanted to try to break that mold with PRETTY AMY. I also wanted to write a contemporary YA book that was about what real teens go through. I feel like teenage girl's lives are complex and I hoped to show that in PRETTY AMY. In terms of something to take away, just that they are not alone.

Contemporary YAs are extremely relatable, and allow for a wonderful opportunity for authors to share experiences with teens. I hope to do the same in my writing.
 I read the first chapter of PRETTY AMY on your website and noted that you started the narrative right before her prom. What led to this decision, and how do you devise your plot points while writing?

Well I needed to up the stakes in the story and so an important night like prom night was the obvious choice. It gave everything that happened to Amy so much more resonance. In terms of plot points, I am a pantser who takes notes as she writes, most of my best ideas come while I'm writing.

I love the PRETTY AMY project--a great way to reach out to your readers! In what other ways are you outreaching, and what do you recommend to writers who want to get themselves out there?

I am very open and friendly. As someone who has been on the other-side (a reader or an aspiring author) I know how much it can mean for an author to be nice and helpful. I respond to emails and tweets and hopefully will always have time to.

We aspiring writers definitely appreciate it! What are some current projects you're working on?

A companion novel to PRETTY AMY, titled DEAR CASSIE that follows Amy's best friend Cassie's post-prom arrest to a rehabilitation retreat in the woods, told in Cassie's irreverent voice via her diary entries.

Thanks, Lisa! To snag a copy of PRETTY AMY, click on the button below:

Monday, June 25, 2012

Librarian's Corner: Odd Reference Questions

To honor the librarian aspect of this blog, I've decided to feature library stories, everything from the endearing, to the absurd, to the wacky. To start us off with a bang, I've collected some odd reference questions from friends and colleagues (most of which from the great Alison Kemper--Thank you, Alison!).

For your amusement (these are all true!):

PATRON: How much is a nickel?

PATRON: How do I get a mail-order bride?

PATRON: Do you have any books on those dead squirrels?
(Translation: Do you have any books on the Dead Sea Scrolls?)

PATRON: Do you have that movie The Whispering Horse?
(Translation: Do you have The Horse Whisperer?)

PATRON: I need books on a 20th century event, maybe the Civil War?

SAME PATRON (5 minutes later): I need a book with more color photographs of people in the Civil War.

PATRON: I'm looking for a picture of the armor of God.
(The librarian who submitted this to me quipped, "Apparently she missed class in junior high the day they discussed metaphor.")

PATRON: Do you have any toenail clippers I could use while I’m in the library?
(I think a version of this guy is in every library in North America.)

PATRON: Would you like to see the video of how my bionic hand was installed?

PATRON: Did you know there is a dead guy in your parking lot?

LIBRARIAN: I poked him with my foot—he’s just drunk.
(This happens a lot more often than most people realize!)

PATRON: Can you find that brown book on the shelf I checked out a year or so ago?

LIBRARIAN: Do you remember the author or title?

PATRON: No. But you're a librarian, so you can find it, right?

PATRON: Can you tell me which books I’ve read?

PATRON: My teacher says I have to do a paper on euthanasia, so I guess that’s books on, like, kids in Japan and China, right?

For more odd questions, you can check out Things People Said: Questions Asked of Librarians.

Any other stories out there? Please share! 

Sunday, June 24, 2012


...NoraA! Congratulations!

Here's a link to for those who want to snag their own copies! Thanks, everyone, for participating!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tonsillitis: Thou Art a Cruel Bitch

A bout of tonsillitis has put me out for the count for at least the next few days, so I'm going to take a break from blogging for a bit.

This is what happens when I don't follow my own advice, and don't get enough rest. Please take note, especially those of you burning the candle at both ends--you will reach the wick, as I have.

The good news is that the ALEXANDER OUTLAND:  SPACE PIRATE contest has been extended--go here to post a comment about what you would do as a space pirate.

Thanks, everyone! I'll check back in when I can.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


As part of the ALEXANDER OUTLAND: SPACE PIRATE blog tour, I'd like to welcome G.J. Koch! She writes a ton of great books, including TOUCHED BY AN ALIEN and others.

To win a FREE COPY of ALEXANDER OUTLAND: SPACE PIRATE, leave a comment below. 

Here's her bio:

G.J. Koch writes science fiction. Not the hard stuff, though. Because that requires actual scientific knowledge or at least actual scientific research. Knowledge may be power and research may be cool, but they take time away from writing jokes, action, and romance, and being witty in the face of death is what it’s really all about. Check out G.J.’s rollicking Alexander Outland: Space Pirate series from Night Shade Books and reach G.J. at Space…the Funny Frontier (

And here's a bit more about Alexander Outland:

 Alexander Outland: Space Pirate

Trouble’s brewing out in space, and Alexander Outland -- the least likely hero in the galaxy -- and his eccentric crew have to save the day, despite the fact they’d prefer to take the money and run.

Alexander Napoleon Outland is the best pilot, and ladies’ man, in the galaxy. But Nap, as his friends call him, is more than that -- he’s a schemer with a heart of gold he desperately wants to hide, a soft spot for other people’s cargo and his exotic weapon’s chief, and the unerring ability to find the biggest misfit on any planet or space station and somehow join that person onto his crew.

Nap’s not your classic hero, but that tends to make him the right guy for the job…whatever the job happens to be. He’s a little bit Han Solo, a little bit Malcolm Reynolds, a little bit Jack Sparrow. He’s also a whole lot of fun to fly with, as long as you don’t mind near-death experiences.

There are aliens, explosions, telepaths, donkeys, space pirates of all kinds, and a galaxy-wide conspiracy. And the most horrifying “underwater” trip any crew’s had to face in a long, long while. But mostly, there are laughs.

And finally, her answers to my questions:
You've said it took you awhile to insert humor into your stories. What finally brought you to write humorously, and can you tell us more about your journey toward becoming a writer?

One of my friends, Dixie, begged me for years (YEARS) to “write funny”. I finally broke down and listened to her and wrote some short humorous essays and a humorous poem. My first sales were three of those humorous essays and that humorous poem.

You’d THINK that would mean that I instantly started putting humor into my writing. But you’d be wrong. LOL No, it took more time for the realization that people wanted to buy and read my humor for me to really focus on writing a novel that was funny.

I wrote for years before I even considered trying to get something published. I got a lot of rejection along the way. But that’s the nature of this game -- writing is one of the arts, and that means it’s completely subjective and open to criticism. Such is the life of an artist. I do warn people that if you can’t handle constructive criticism, nay, if you cannot handle criticism at all, perhaps a career in the arts is not for you.

I can handle it, which is part of the reason why I’m now multi-published in a variety of pen names. (Gini Koch, G.J. Koch, Anita Ensal, Jemma Chase, J.C. Koch, and A.E. Stanton. So far.)

That is so true--aspiring writers should definitely consider the feedback that comes their way! I've definitely found golden nuggets of information within the criticism I've received. 
I love the variety of characters you've created in this story, especially Nap. Where does your inspiration for characters come from and how do you develop them as time goes on?

In the case of Alexander Outland, the inspiration came from the name, which I stumbled upon. Alexander Napoleon Outland just sounded like a space pirate’s name to me, a cool, fun space pirate. I thought about what kind of person he’d be, who would be in his circle, and what his world would be like, and that’s the genesis for Alexander Outland: Space Pirate.

Otherwise, at least half of my inspiration comes from my dreams. I have very vivid dreams and I get story ideas, characters, conflicts, tones, and more from my dreams.

Other inspiration comes from music, being given a writing assignment (which happens frequently if you’re submitting to anthologies, which I do), from something random. I don’t worry about where the characters and story ideas come from because I have a plethora. Right now I have more ideas than I can hope to actually write in my lifetime, and I get new ideas all the time. Ideas are not the issue. Wrangling them into an interesting, coherent form is the issue. And that’s all craft -- practice, perseverance, practice, trying new things, practice and, oh yeah, practice.

I’m a linear writer, so I start with the title, then the first line, and go from there. So, the characters come to me normally as I’m writing. I may, or may not, know some of them before I start writing, but absolutely I don’t know all of them until they enter the story.

That's an important distinction--not just where the ideas come from but how to organize them. Having met you in person, I can attest that you really know how to market yourself as a writer. What advice to you have for both aspiring and published writers who are trying to network and get themselves out there?

First off, it helps if you like people and like meeting them. For a lot of writers, that’s a huge hurdle, and all I can say is that you need to weigh the pain and fear of being introverted and so on with the loss of sales you’ll have if you’re not “out there” in some way.

For aspiring authors, the most important thing you can do is learn to write and write well. All the people in the world that you know, a great web presence, lots of online friends, lots of blog followers -- none of this will make a crappy book good. Your actually putting the focus into becoming a good writer who’s spent time learning the craft of writing (and it’s both an art and a craft) is the most important thing you can do. It’s your book -- put the effort into your book that those of us already published put into ours. And, trust me, we put in a lot.

Otherwise, making friends with published authors is never a bad thing. Don’t be our friends just because we’re published. Be our friends because you like our books and you like us. If you like our books and you like us, there’s a darned good chance we’ll like you. And many of us like to help people we like.

For published authors, much is the same, but much is also different. Having a website means nothing -- it’s the price of playing poker these days. You MUST have a website if you have a book published -- it’s your electronic business card. And, unless you actually put some thought and action into your website, that’s all it is. I do recommend having a dynamic website, but not everyone can do that (costs and know-how).

Being active on social media is no longer optional, either. I love Twitter and like Facebook, so between those and the various lovely blogs that focus on my books or have me by for an interview or guest blog, that’s my main social media focus. I could spend more time on other social media platforms, but I don’t have the time, so I stick with the ones I ENJOY. That’s also important -- pick the one you like and the one you kinda like and focus on those. The ones you hate? Either find out how to love them or leave them alone. Disdain for the platform comes across clearly and to those who love the platform, it’s insulting.

Going to writers’ conferences and fan conventions and similar is hard for some, from a time, money, and personality standpoint, but I think it’s very important. You get to meet people in person and make connections with them, and I think that’s incredibly valuable.

I think writing well is the most important part too (and you've definitely got that down--the first chapter of TOUCHED BY AN ALIEN is outstanding!). What is something you wish you'd learned sooner as a writer?

Many things. LOL But one in particular. And that one is that there is no one “right way” to do it, to write, to get an agent, to get a publishing contract, to market yourself, and so on. Any time anyone tells you that there is only one right way, what they’re saying is that this is the way THEY do it, and they want you to do it their way, too.

I don’t say that. I say try everything. You outline and it’s not working? Try writing off the cuff, or writing scenes and then sewing them together. You only write in first person POV? Try writing in third person POV. And so on.

There is only one real rule: Money flows TO the author.

And only one really strong suggestion: Spelling, grammar, syntax, punctuation, and word usage matter, especially to agents and editors. They matter to readers, too.

Beyond that? It’s a craft and an art. Learn your craft and practice your art how YOU do it and it’ll work out for you.

You said that to me at the conference too, and I'm eternally grateful--and I've found the most success when I don't try to mold myself into any particular "standard." What are some other current projects you're working on? Will there be more books in this and your Alien Series?

I’m always working on something (which is how I like it!). Next in terms of release is Alien vs. Alien, coming from DAW Books/Penguin on December 4, 2012.

Right now, I’m working on Book 7 in my Alien series, Alien in the House, and as soon as I finish that, it’s Book 8, Alien Collective. Those two are releasing in April and December 2013, respectively.

I’m also working the next in my novelette series, The Martian Alliance Chronicles, Three Card Monte, which will be coming from Musa Publishing whenever I finally turn it in to them (yes, Musa’s waiting on me, not the other way around). I have some other short stories contracted going into anthologies that I can’t officially announce just yet, and have stories out right now at Musa writing as Jemma Chase, Anita Ensal, and A.E. Stanton.

I’m also working on the next book in the Alexander Outland series, Alexander Outland: Space Avenger. So, there’s plenty out there and plenty more coming!

Don't forget! Enter to win a FREE COPY of ALEXANDER OUTLAND: SPACE PIRATE by leaving a comment in answer to the following: If you had one day to be a space pirate, what would you do with it?

I look forward to your replies!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Library Stories: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Lately I've been considering collecting stories occurring within libraries from colleagues (and others) regarding the good, the bad, and the ugly that happens within institutional walls that most people might not know about--as realistic a portrait as possible. I'd keep the contributors anonymous of course, but am also considering writing down some of my own stories as well. Mostly, I want a clear lens into what life is really like within libraries, to help figure out what's working, what's not, what needs to be fixed, what doesn't, and what librarians are doing well (and not so well).

So the questions I'd like to post to all my readers (to all writers, librarians, writer/librarians and others) are as follows:

  • Would you be interested in seeing these kinds of posts on a weekly basis? 
  • Would you be interested in contributing your stories?
  • Why/why not?

Please leave all feedback in the comments form--and those who want to keep extra extra anonymous are welcome to email me directly: cloudhime (at) gmail (dot) com.

Looking forward to your responses! 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Holler Good and Loud

Dear Teen Me is a great site where authors write letters to their teen selves. My letter was published today (June 8) and can be accessed here.

Since I tend to censor myself a bit when I'm writing (especially from a biographical standpoint), this was a really good test for me. An opportunity to tell some personal, somewhat embarrassing things about myself to a wide audience. To lean into discomfort--because within discomfort, we grow.

But it's damned scary. Like standing naked in front of a crowd and telling them all your deepest, darkest secrets, and praying they don't throw tomatoes at you.

When I saw Sandra Cisneros at an event, she described writing as a empty house where you can say anything you want. A place were censoring is absolutely unnecessary, where you don't have to give a damn about what anyone else might have to say about it. This really struck a chord with me, because I do tend to care what people think of me. And I started to realize how much it was getting in the way of my writing.

On the inside cover of my copy of WOMAN HOLLERING CREEK, she wrote, "Holler good and loud."

I hope that with my Dear Teen Me letter, I can start to.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


I met K.C. Klein at the Arizona Dreamin'  Romance Reader Event last weekend and found out that she contributed to the HOTTER ON THE EDGE anthology with Erin Kellison, who I featured in a previous post. K.C. is loads of fun and her books sound fantastic!


Awakened in the middle of the night by a future version of herself, Kris Davenport is given a mission; go forward in time to save the world and his life. Of course, her future self doesn't tell her who he is, just sends her into the abyss and straight into an alien invasion.

He turns out to be ConRad Smith, the callous, untrusting Commander of Earth's army and the world's last defense. There's only one way to know for sure if this strange woman is an alien spy, slice her throat. Except, he didn't anticipate the heat he would feel as he interrogates the hot-tempered, warm-blooded woman. For a man whose sole focus has been survival, she's more temptation than he can handle. But a world on the brink of destruction leaves no room for love;and time is running out.

TEXAS WIDE OPEN (November 2012)

Katie Harris loved growing up on a ranch. She had her horse, the beautiful Texas prairie, and Cole Logan, the cowboy next door. But
there are a lot of secrets hidden under a Texas sky…

Katie always knew she’d marry Cole one day—until he broke her dreams and her heart. But now that Katie’s father is sick, she’s back home, older, wiser, and nowhere near the love-sick fool she once was.

Cole knows Katie doesn’t want anything to do with him. But after so many years, he can’t pretend she’s no more than a neighbor. Not when thinking about her cherry lip gloss and hell-for-leather passion is keeping him up all night. Holding his ground was hard enough when she was seventeen. Now that she’s her own woman, Cole’s heart doesn’t stand a chance…

First of all I wanted to say thank-you to Karen for offering to do an interview with me. I met Karen at the AZ Dreamin’ Reader Event in Phoenix this last weekend and had a blast. It was fun meeting avid readers in the romance genre and some cool aspiring authors. Thanks again, Karen!

No problem, K.C.! It says on your website that you started writing seriously about three years ago. What led to this, and can you tell us more about your journey toward becoming a writer?

Well, I guess I’ve been writing closer to four years now, but I still remember the night I joined RWA. Since reading my first book in second grade, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I had fussed with stories here and there, but was too scared to let anyone read my work. It wasn’t until I was standing in my kitchen crying, complaining to my husband about how I was letting my dreams go that he looked at me and said, “Well, go get happy.” That’s when I realized I had a choice. I could let fear prevent me from what I wanted to do or I could go out and do it anyways.

Fear is such an inhibiting force--I'm glad you conquered yours! Where did the idea for DARK FUTURE come from, and what do you want readers to take away when they're done reading it?

I wrote DARK FUTURE during a difficult time in my life. My first child, though a sweetheart now, cried the entire first year of her life. I spent all my waking hours either walking the floors with her or working full-time. For a person who used to read one to two novels a week, I had a bad case of reality-bites. During those long nights, I started thinking of a story I could play in my head to entertain myself. I wanted something dark and gritty, yet fun to read. My hero, ConRad, came to me first, and then from there it was simply creating a world where this hardened warrior, but super-sexy man could exist.

Sounds like ConRad has an interesting story to tell! Your other story, TEXAS WIDE OPEN, just got a new cover. Congrats! Can you tell us more about the book and what led to the decisions regarding the cover?

This story was my break from the dark, dystopian world I created in DARK FUTURE. At the time, I was spending my Friday evenings taking my oldest daughter to horse riding lessons. As I sat there next to the dusty arena, in ninety degree heat, I thought about that special relationship girls have with their horses. I then threw in my own special blend of guilt, lust, and betrayal, and TEXAS WIDE OPEN was born.

As far as for the cover, my publisher had the final say, but I was fortunate enough to have an editor that wanted my input. I usually have a feel for what I want the cover to convey. We both agreed on something that said Texas, cowboys, but also super-sexy. I think Kensington’s art department nailed it.

I think so too--and it's nice to read lighter material along with the dark stuff. What other projects are you currently working on?

I will be releasing another sexy, sci-fi, anthology, which for me will be a continuation of the story in HOTTER ON THE EDGE. I also am leaning toward a sequel for DARK FUTURE (a lot of fans have asked for the sequel), but I also have a very cool YA series that is begging to be written.

Ooh, I want to hear more about that YA series! When I saw you at AZ Dreamin' , I noticed what a great job you did in promoting your books. What do you recommend to newer authors trying to market their work?

Marketing is so hard, especially for authors. My best advice is that it all takes time. Building a solid fan base does not happen overnight, neither does writing a great book. Spend time on social networks, but I caution spending money on promotion. Most of the advice I’ve read is promotion is wasted until you have at least three books out. I will have my second full-length novel and second anthology out by the end of this year, so I hope I’m heading in the right direction.

Thanks again for having me. I always love to talk to fellow readers!

And we love talking to you!  Here's how to find K.C.: 

Twitter: @kckleinbooks

And here's where to find her books:

DARK FUTURE from Avon Impulse:

Monday, June 4, 2012

365 Days of the Query: Are You Getting Enough Rest?

As aspiring writers (especially those of us with full-time jobs), it's very easy to burn the candle at both ends while we pursue our dreams, especially if we want to be the best in every aspect of our lives.

But I've come to realize (espcially after attending another conference) that I'm much better off in my writing and my work life if I take time to rest and recouperate.

This was discussed at a writing workshop I attended recently--and even published authors (especially those on deadline) have to strive for work/life balance. It's a problem everyone faces, especially in this day and age.

So here are some things I'm going to try in my efforts to recharge my batteries in the coming week:

1. Let go of the guilt.
After I got home from my conference, I was so exhausted that I napped for a few hours and then spent the afternoon relaxing with a few movies. Often when I spend my time this way, I start to feel guilty--phrases like "I need to answer my email" and "I need to jot down the notes for that chapter" start rolling through my head. These are important tasks, but it's more important for me to be recharged when I do them.

2. Take care of basic needs.
A very dear friend of mine gave me a very good analogy to the basic human needs of eating and sleeping. She compared them to the bottom rungs of a ladder--without adequate meals or rest, you can't climb up the ladder, and you'll always be stuck on the bottom rungs.

3. Make sure the writing comes first.
If those bottom rungs are intact, make sure your writing comes first, above Twittering, Blogging, Facebooking, Pinterest, etc. While those are great promotional avenues, you won't have material to promote unless you write. Sometimes it helps to draw out a calendar to see how much time you spend on various tasks--you might be surprised at how many other activities are encroaching into your writing time. Lessen those, if possible.

4. Get some sleep.
Not only for the sake of rest, but for the sake of your health. A writer is no good on deadline if they're ill or drowsy. Listen to your body's exhaustion and let yourself shut your eyes, if only for a little while. I'll let this TED talk from Arianna Huffington elaborate further:

Are you getting enough rest? What are some barriers that currently stand between you and the rest you need?