Tuesday, July 31, 2012

And the Winner Is...

...Kell Andrews! Congratulations! Kell will be receiving an autographed arc and a bunch of swag for THE SINISTER SWEETNESS OF SPLENDID ACADEMY.  Thanks to all who participated--your comments were fantastic!

I'm at a writing workshop this week, which I'll elaborate on more later, but stay tuned tomorrow, when I'll be featuring Katherine Longshore and her book GILT.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


 The winner of the FIRE KISSED giveaway is Kesska! Congratulations!

And that leads us right into another prize package--this time for some bookmarks and an ARC (advance reader copy) of THE SINISTER SWEETNESS OF SPLENDID ACADEMY by Nikki Loftin. Leave a comment on this post to enter!

From Goodreads:

When Lorelei's old school mysteriously burns down, a new one appears practically overnight: Splendid Academy. Rock-climbing walls on the playground and golden bowls of candy on every desk? Gourmet meals in the cafeteria, served by waiters? Optional homework and two recess periods a day? It's every kids's dream.

But Lorelei and her new friend Andrew are pretty sure it's too good to be true. Together they uncover a sinister mystery, one with their teacher, the beautiful Ms. Morrigan, at the very center.

Then Andrew disappears. Lorelei has to save him, even if that means facing a past she'd like to forget – and taking on a teacher who's a real witch.

 Here are some questions I asked Nikki:

In your website bio, you mention that you teach Zumba "to combat the ever-threatening Writer’s Butt" (I need to find something like that to combat my ever-flattening Librarian Butt!). What else do you do to keep active, and can you tell us more about your journey toward becoming a writer?

First off, you should try Zumba! It’s fun, sort of like dancing in your room to the radio when you were in fourth grade. Except now you’re doing it with a bunch of other grown-up fourth graders, all of whom are laughing their heads off at their own booty-shaking. It’s the perfect way to shake off the “rejection blues” that all writers must face – and to be a little social. 
I also take walks around my house out in the country, especially when I’m thinking of a new novel idea, or stumped about what comes next. Combining exercise with WIP meditation works for me! And of course, I run around like crazy to keep up with my two sons, who are 9 and 12 years old. 

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was their age! I even went to graduate school to get a Master’s degree in fiction writing. But life got in the way post-graduation, and I ended up in my late thirties, happy enough, but still longing to be a writer. I had a sinking feeling if I didn’t make some drastic changes, I’d be 75 years old, wishing I’d written those novels before the arthritis set in… so I quit my job, cancelled all the magazine subscriptions and extra cable channels, gave up a lot of the little luxuries, took up part-time Zumba teaching – and full-time writing. 

I wrote like my life depended on it. I still do! Now, I finish somewhere between two and four full-length manuscripts a year, as well as magazine articles, essays, short fiction, and poetry.  

It's wonderful that you were able to figure out what was important to you and could find a way to follow your passions. All writers should have that kind of courage! THE SINISTER SWEETNESS OF SPLENDID ACADEMY has a fantastic premise. Where did the idea for the story come from and what do you want readers to take away when they're finished reading it?

Thank you! Well, the seed of the idea grew from a conversation I had over lunch with my husband. We were bemoaning the way children’s fairy tales had been sanitized for today’s kids. Like, in the Gingerbread Man, the fox had even stopped eating the cookie in some versions of the book! The stories were becoming sweet, boring, and sometimes didn’t even make sense – fairy tales were and are supposed to be cautionary tales. I remarked that what kids needed was modern, updated fairy tales that didn’t shy away from the scary stuff. Like Hansel and Gretel, but set in a school where the teachers were the witches… The idea popped into my head, unspooling like film. I raced home rather abruptly and began writing! 
I would love for readers to be empowered by the main characters, Lorelei and Andrew, when they see normal kids (no super powers here!) overcoming the forces of evil.

That is so true--kids' books are often watered-down to the point where they lose their intrigue. Bravo for doing something about it! Your book is categorized as a Middle Grade. What do you think is the marketability of MG books compared with YA?

I think MG books may be more difficult to market than YA books initially. For one thing, middle grade readers usually don’t have unfettered access to the Internet (and book blogs, etc) as many older readers do. And they don’t have as much discretionary income, either! So you have to appeal to the “gatekeepers,” the adults in charge: librarians, teachers, and parents. If I can get my book into school libraries, for instance, kids who check it out will (I hope!) spread the word. 

I do think middle grade readers can be every bit as voracious as teens for good books – my 12 year old is addicted to books, and we could spend thousands on books every month if we didn’t have such an amazing local library to save us.

Yay for school libraries! Those collections could really use a book like yours, too. I also see that you're a contributor to the upcoming DEAR TEEN ME Anthology coming out this November. I really enjoyed the experience of writing a letter to my teen self. What was the experience like for you?

Well, I was such a dramatic teen, I sort of blush and laugh when I think about myself back then. So, mostly, I wanted to tell myself to chill out, calm down. I’ve actually written two letters for the Dear Teen Me site, cataloguing some of my most humiliating moments ever. I made myself laugh while writing them, so that was fun – finally realizing I’m at that stage of life where those moments are hilarious rather than humiliating. 

Sounds like you've gained a lot of great perspective! What other projects are you currently working on?

I have another book coming out from Razorbill, probably in early 2014. This one is another fairy tale re-imagining, of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Nightingale. It’s a lyrical story, more magical realism than fantasy, and deals with some dark themes. I’m thrilled Razorbill chose it to come out next, and I’m just about to start the editing process.
I may have some secret news about future books, but I can’t spill just yet!

Thank you so much for the chance to share some of my writing journey with you. I hope you enjoy The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy!

We certainly will! Readers, be sure to leave a comment on this post to enter to win your own advance reader copy of  THE SINISTER SWEETNESS OF SPLENDID ACADEMY!

 For more information, here's Nikki's bio and points of contact:

Nikki Loftin lives with her Scottish photographer husband just outside Austin, Texas, surrounded by dogs, chickens, and small, loud boys. Her middle-grade novel, The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, will debut on August 21, 2012. You can visit her online at www.nikkiloftin.com.

twitter: @nikkiloftin
FB: Splendid Academy

Friday, July 20, 2012

FIRE KISSED, by Erin Kellison

When I featured author Erin Kellison back in February, I aluded to her new book, FIRE KISSED. After months of waiting, I'm happy to report that FIRE KISSED has finally debuted! It's a spin-off of her expertly written Shadow Series, and introduces some new characters, including the feisty Kaye Brand.

Synopsis, from Goodreads:

Fae Fire
It is Kaye Brand's power to wield. But outcast from her kind, she's been selling herself to the highest bidder—money for her survival in exchange for a magic glimpse into the flames of the future.

Angel Ice
One of the angelic Order, Jack Bastian has no use for a female like Kaye, as provocative and unexpected as her blazing beauty. Yet he has no choice but to hire her to uncover the secrets of his sworn enemy and her former fiancé, Ferrol Grey.

War is inevitable between the defenders of the Order and the mage Houses who threaten to engulf the world in Shadow.
For Jack, mage-born Kaye is off limits, no matter how hot the impossible attraction between them. But in the coming darkness, beset by danger and desire, everything is about to change...

An excerpt from FIRE KISSED can be found here.

Since I've already conducted an interview with Erin, I thought it would be helpful to open up a Q&A session to you all.

So, what do you want to ask Erin? A free copy of FIRE KISSED will be given to the commenter with the most compelling question!

You can either:

1. Leave a comment on this post

2. Tweet your question to @WriterLibrarian @EKellison and include the hashtag #firekissed

Good luck, everyone! FIRE KISSED is also available on Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

365 Days of the Query: The Letter that Earned a Partial Request

So after months (and months, and months) of tweaking my query letter and sending it, I received my first partial request. Yippee!

Of course, I know this definitely doesn't mark the end of this process, or any guarantee either way--it just means I've transcended one of the rungs on the ladder. The higher rungs that I'm yet to achieve include: a) A request for a full and  b) An offer of representation. All these rungs come and go at different times--and everyone's journey is different.

Still, for those who are interested, below is the letter that earned a partial request (with my comments included):

Dear [redacted],

I stumbled upon your blog, [redacted],  when you posted about a relatively stinky query you received. (I wouldn't copy this verbatim--instead, find something unique you've discovered about an agent of your choice and be sure to mention it right off the bat.) I was amused by your take on the matter, and when I saw that you were seeking science fiction and fantasy, I thought we might make a good professional fit. (This shows the agent that you have something to offer them, instead of expecting them to have something to offer you.) I’m currently seeking representation for TRISKELEON, a YA version of OUTLANDER crossed with A WRINKLE IN TIME. (Logline is at the end of the first paragraph).

In the land of Anderli, the trees are dying, the lake has disintegrated, and the fungus that ravaged the farmlands is showing signs of re-emerging. The stricken land’s fate lies with fifteen-year-old Marnie Sayebrooke from Spring Oak, California, taunted for her braces and frizzy hair. Marnie’s convinced she’s unimportant and invisible--until an ancient book and Triskeleon bracelet transport her across timelines to Anderli. (This is the crux of the query pitch--without this sentence, the rest of the plot can't happen.) There, she discovers powers she inherited from the Momenta—a race of people with the ability to manipulate time and space. She also meets Quinn, a warlock-in-training, who she wishes would notice her as much as she does him. (Includes protagonist's love interest.)

Before the land disintegrates, Marnie must discover which Anderlian works for Terrsarah, a powerful sorceress fueled by her hatred of Momenta. (Stakes--protagonist must do x before antagonist conquers all. Also includes antagonist's motivation). With the help of Rags, a disheveled beggar with telepathic abilities, Marnie starts to grow into her new-found powers and believe in herself.  But when she discovers Rags’ true identity, she realizes the full implications of Terrsarah’s scheme—and if Anderli is destroyed, Marnie will not only lose the people and the land she now loves; the universe will ultimately unravel. (More stakes.)

TRISKELEON is a YA sci-fi/fantasy complete at 89,000 words. It is a stand-alone with series potential, and I’m currently at work on the sequel, tentatively titled STOLEN SIEVE. (Be sure to include title, genre, and word count. If the book is the start to a series, like this one, indicate that it can stand alone, but also imply that you are serious about writing other books besides it.)

Outside of my librarian job, I’ve been writing full-time since 2008, including reviews for Library Journal and Children’s Literature. This past January, I published a feature in School Library Journal entitled “What Teens are Really Reading” found here, which led to P.A.L. membership in SCBWI and furthered my knowledge of books that are most marketable to teens. I’ve also conducted writing workshops for NARWA, a division of RWA, and was asked to contribute a chapter to a forthcoming book entitled, Now Write! Speculative Fiction. On June 8, I will be featured on the website Dear Teen Me, where authors write letters to their teen selves. Finally, I received a scholarship to The Glen Workshop West, a writing workshop taking place in Santa Fe this August led by Sara Zarr. (Bio includes credentials and experience that indicate I'm serious about writing as a profession and I continually strive to become familiar with my potential audience.)

Please see below for a five-page excerpt and synopsis, per your submission guidelines. (Shows I've paid attention to their specifications.)

I hope to hear from you. Thank you for your time.



Karen McCoy
Email: info@kbmccoy.com
Website: www.kbmccoy.com
Twitter:  @WriterLibrarian
Blog: http://thewriterlibrarian.blogspot.com/
(contact information is included at the very end)

Granted, I know this letter isn't a perfect formula, and what works for me may not work for others. And, it's entirely possible that this letter won't garner the same results with other agents. But it's a nice conglomeration of the tips/lessons I've picked up along the way of tweaking my query letter, and I hope it helps all you fellow queriers out there!

Stay tuned on Friday, when I'll be featuring the lovely Erin Kellison and her newest book, FIRE KISSED.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Librarian's Corner: Bad Patrons, Part Deux

After my original post about library patrons behaving badly, other categories started coming in. Among them:

1. The Isolated Eccentric
This is usually the patron who will stop by the reference desk and make conversation, usually assuming the librarian isn't all that busy and has time to chat. It's fine to get to know patrons, especially regulars, but unhelpful when they keep the librarian from helping others.

2. The Stalker
This was referenced in relation to a bookstore, but libraries have these people too. I have a co-worker who always asks if a certain patron is in the vicinity. If he is, we usually shut the door to our department. He's relatively harmless, but he always interacts with her (and no one else) and his interruptions tend to keep her from getting her other work done.

3. Late Kate
This is the patron who comes in five minutes before the library closes and needs everything under the sun because her paper is due the next day. "Can you print this paper?" "Can you help me find sources?" "Can you help me cite in MLA?" All in the next five minutes.

Another "writer librarian" I'm in touch with posted about an unpleasant interaction with a patron on her blog, The Mad Ravings of a Feaky Snucker. Kudos to Feaky Snucker for keeping a straight face with this patron!

So what does all this mean for all the libraries and librarians out there? Are bad patrons a significant enough problem? Some people I work with are so used to all the crazy phenomena that they just shrug it off as being "usual."  It might be usual for a patron to bring in a bottle of alcohol and leave it in the bathroom, be kicked out by the police, and eventually return when another librarian, unfamiliar with his antics, lets him back in. It might be usual for librarians to permit patrons to view pornography on the public computers, because librarians, as a rule, are told they need to "err on the side of free information"--and can only intervene when said patron is looking at illegal content (i.e. child porn)). But what about the patron sitting next to the porn voyeur who is uncomfortable? What about their rights?

It may be usual, but that doesn't make it right.

On the flip side, what about librarians who feel uncomfortable approaching someone who is behaving badly, who would rather look the other way than confront a potentially dangerous person? Are libraries (especially those without a security staff) offering security training to librarians? Should they?

It's time we get the word out--that while libraries still are the places of quiet and learning that most people perceive them to be, that some individuals are slowly picking away at the integrity of this structure. It isn't until the perception of the library as quiet, pristine place is dispelled that we will be able to make any headway--to convince those in power that we need a better way to deal with people who disrespect libraries and librarians.

I think Stewie from Family Guy says it best:

Ok, I'll step off the soap box now. Stay tuned for the next post, in which I'll revert back to my writing stance to talk about partial submissions.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

THE PECULIAR, by Stefan Bachmann

To continue on our Middle Grade kick, I'd like to feature THE PECULIAR, by Stefan Bachmann, set to release this September.

From Goodreads:

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK meets JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORRELL in this gothic steampunk page-turner for readers of all ages.

Bartholomew Kettle won't live long. Changelings never do. The child of a human mother and a faery father, Bartholomew is a secret, despised by both his races. If the English don't hang him for witchcraft, the faerys will do something worse. So his mother keeps him locked away, hidden from the world in the faery slums of Bath.

But one day Bartholomew witnesses a mysterious lady kidnap another changeling through a shadowy portal, and he realizes the danger is closer than ever before. Changelings are surfacing in the rivers, their bodies empty of blood and bone and their skin covered in red markings. A powerful figure sits in the shadows, pushing the pieces in place for some terrible victory. When a sinister faery in a top-hat begins to stalk Bartholomew's steps, he knows it's his turn. Something is coming for him. Something needs him. But when you're a changeling there's no where to run...

Stefan was also kind enough to answer some interview questions:

Your blogger profile says you live in Zurich, Switzerland. What brought you there, and can you tell us more about your journey toward becoming a writer?

I moved to Switzerland with my family when I was one, so I suppose my parents brought me here. ;) But seriously, it was for work. We just stayed.

The becoming-a-writer thing probably started with all the books we had growing up. Our house is ridiculously full of books. My mom would read Tolkien to me and my siblings, and Lewis Carroll, and various Newbery-winners, and then we were encouraged to read books ourselves, and then when I was eleven I randomly announced I was going to write my own. So I did. And it was terrible. I wrote some other ones, and they became progressively less-terrible until I wrote a book about creepy faerys in an alternate history steampunk England and rather liked it. I queried agents for about a year, got a fantastic one (Sara Megibow at the Nelson Literary Agency, in case you were wondering), and she sold THE PECULIAR at auction to Greenwillow/HarperCollins two weeks later. It was very crazy and surreal, and I feel very fortunate.

I've heard great things about Sara Megibow--and the Nelson Literary Agency as a whole. I'm glad THE PECULIAR found such a great place to land--especially since it has such a fantastic premise. Where did the idea come from and what do you want readers to take away when they're finished reading?

Thank you! I was interested in history for a long time, England's in particular, and I started becoming slightly obsessed with folklore after a while, too. I came to the conclusion that in ye olde days faerys weren't anything like the sparkly things people think of now, but really strange and sinister creatures, and I thought it would be cool to see what would happen if they were forced together with Victorian England and had to set up a society. The other thing I wanted to do was write a book with everything I like in it. So fantasy, and steampunk, and a little bit of scariness, and some monsters. That could have turned into a big mess, but luckily all those things work pretty well together.

What I would love for readers to take away from the book, especially middle grade readers, is that being peculiar is TOTALLY THE WAY TO GO. :D The book's main character is half-faery, half-human - a Peculiar - and he's rather small, and rather ugly, and people are afraid of him for no good reason. His life is hard, and he wants desperately to belong somewhere, either with the English or the fay. But it turns out neither of those parties are worth belonging to. Bartholomew finds friendship and belonging where he least expects it, and he learns that sometimes doing the right thing is not necessarily the most normal thing to do. I hope maybe the book will encourage a few kids to take the path less trodden. It's not a very realistic goal, because when you're twelve, chances are you really don't want to be different from everyone else, but I think it's worth a try.

A great message for middle grade readers--I hope they take your advice to heart! You've managed to fit a lot of interesting plot elements into your overall synopsis. How did you tailor your pitch paragraph when you queried agents and how did it change once the book was set for publication?

The synopsis that's up on Goodreads is actually the query letter I used to get my agent. Like, word for word. I had re-written it a few times until I thought it gave the necessities of hook, conflict, and atmosphere, but it did take a while. Because writing query letters is hard. And I actually just saw the full jacket! Which was exciting. The synopsis on it is pretty similar to the original as far as content goes, but it was re-written again.

You're definitely right that writing query letters is hard--but it sounds like you did all the right things! You also list music among your interests--what instruments do you play and do you find that music makes its way into your writing?

I'm a music student at the Zürich Conservatory, so music is actually more like a job. I play piano, organ, several types of recorder, and some really hideous violin. I don't know if music has much influence on my writing, but I think it must, a little bit. I am really interested in sentence rhythms and the way words sound out loud, so maybe that counts?

I know what you mean about that--I was classically trained on the piano for about ten years-- and it sometimes felt like more work than play. But I think you're right--music (and words, and dialogue) definitely requires a good ear. What other projects are you currently working on?

The second book! THE PECULIAR was a two book deal, and I'm working furiously to finish up the companion book right now. I'm pretty excited about it. After that, I don't really know. I have lots of ideas, but I'm kind of waiting to see how this whole book thing works out. Most likely I'll have to take a break from writing to finish my music studies, or my teachers will collectively boot me out of school.

Thanks, Stefan! Readers, keep on the lookout for the PECULIAR when it debuts on September 18! To pre-order the book, click on the button below:

Monday, July 9, 2012

Librarian's Corner: Bad Patrons

Okay, so I know not all library patrons are bad. The vast majority are good, decent, reasonable and pleasant people.

However, I've noticed that the bad patrons tend to end up in one or more of the following ten categories (each of which I've experienced first-hand in all the libraries I've worked). I've highlighted these below:

1. The stinker

I'll combine the usage of this to mean patrons who literally smell (one lady I helped had a combined aura of horse manure and lotion) and those who are snarky/stinky toward librarians and what they do. One man in particular epitomized both of these--his sweaty aroma was so thick that I could smell him from across the room. But I would have forgiven him for that had he not been so rude. He opened with a line I loathe to this day: "Working hard, or hardly working?" I was doing collection development on a spreadsheet, so I answered, "Working, actually." He sneered and said, "Yeah, right." I ignored this to help him find a book he was looking for, but his rudeness gave him a one-way ticket into my first book. I made him into a race of beasts--and they were all just as fleshy and smelly as he was.

2. The non-listener

I can't count the number of times I've explained things to patrons--whether it be a library policy, or how a database works, or why we don't have a particular book--and the vast majority of what I say goes in one ear and out the other (especially if they're typing on their cell phones). This can also happen via chat reference--as the below example demonstrates:

Patron: I was wondering what editions the copies of [redacted title] that the library owns are

Librarian: Hi there--is [redacted title] a periodical?

Patron: no it is a textbook.

Librarian: ok--the library doesn't usually carry textbooks

Patron: The author is [redacted]. If that helps

(But the librarian just said…)

Librarian: if we do, they're probably much older

Later that same conversation…

Patron: i was able to find worldcat and it says that the book is at the library here but i am not sure if it is an older edition

(Okay, but the librarian already said…)

You get the point.

3. The creepy-mc-creepster
This guy is the reason that most libraries have (or need) a security staff. If he doesn't rope you into a conversation you don't have time for, he'll hang around just closely enough to make you uncomfortable. One older guy who frequented a public library I worked at had long white hair and smelled like a suitcase. I tried to keep our conversations short, especially when I was buried under a ton of work. But when he asked me to help troubleshoot problems on a laptop he'd purchased in Costa Rica (complete with Spanish keyboard characters) I drew the line. Probably even worse than him was another, more portly guy (in a separate library) who wore a mesh shirt with nothing underneath.
4. The basket-case
Some readers have requested my library bunker story, and I think it fits well within this category. This was recounted to me by a member of library security: a lady in rags took a bunch of books off the shelf and used them to build a wall around herself--a bunker, of sorts. As she hid behind it, the security member kindly explained that the books needed to go back on the shelf. She rose out of her bunker and pointed a shaking finger at him, saying, "You're one of them!" I'm not exactly sure what happened after that, but I'm pretty sure she wasn't allowed in the library again.

5. The non-descript library user
This type of patron encompasses anyone who doesn't use a library for its intended purpose--like the guy who always brought in an arts and crafts bag (we dubbed him "arts and crafts man") and proceeded to spill white-out on one of our tables (and left it to dry). This also applies to people who seem to have no idea what they're actually looking for, and keep their answers extremely vague, like the following (also fielded via chat):

Librarian: Hi there--are you searching in the library catalog or in a library database? in other words--a book, or an article?

Patron: book

Librarian: what is your topic?

Patron: supervision

Librarian: in a business atmosphere or...?

Patron: yes as a supervisor of graduate assistants in student affairs area

Librarian: okay--you mean specifically at our university?

Patron: lol, yes

Librarian: ah, ok, I thought this was for a research paper

Patron: i figured, nope more for self improvement

Later that conversation, after the librarian googles some pdf articles about graduate assistant supervision…

Patron: that's a good start! And it has references too! Those also provide guidance

I don’t want to put down this patron because they were very nice and sincere—but it just goes to show that sometimes patrons are unclear about what they're using the library for.

6. The non-reformed alcoholic

When I tell people how common this is in libraries, they're usually surprised. The worst was when I had to call campus police to come pick up a guy who wanted me to type his computer password ("Cougar4u") because he was too drunk to type it himself. I would have let that slide, but he was also yelling "Hey! c'mere!" to passing students, most of whom sped up to get away from him.

7. The Tourette's-impersonator
Two examples of this:

A) One day in the public computer area, a woman was randomly yelling out profanities at odd intervals. I'm not sure if it was because of something she saw on her computer screen, or whether she was just accustomed to yelling things anyway. I'm sure I could probably lump her into the basket-case category.
B) Yesterday, a group of men were cussing while huddled in front of a computer screen. When another patron complained, I was about to intervene--but these guys left the building before I had a chance. The unfortunate reality is that librarians aren't usually allowed to intervene unless these people are being actively and purposely disruptive.
8. The non-parent
Another common person in the public computer area is the oblivious parent--I once saw a woman who was so busy on her MySpace page that she completely ignored her toddler and the dirty diaper he was forced to sit in.
9. The porn voyeur
This continues to be a common phenomeon in libraries. When I worked as a graduate assistant, my supervisor told me, "Laptop 3 doesn't circulate anymore." When I asked why, she said, "I don't want to talk about it." Turned out a graduate student (in counseling!) had borrowed our laptops and video cameras to make some not so appropriate videos of himself.

Probably the worst at my current job was a man who improperly combined the usage of one of our multimedia rooms with a box of kleenex. I'll stop there.

10. The snorer
This one's pretty self explanatory--I was in my office one day when I heard what sounded like a buzz saw outside my door. The sound emitted from a weather-faced gentlemen leaning back in a plush chair with his mouth hanging open. I thought about waking him up, since some nearby students were trying to study--but he ended up walking out before I could.

Another library I worked in took the time to write out a policy against people sleeping in the library--which also tends to happen with some frequency among patrons under category #6.

Any other rude library patron stories out there? Feel free to share!

Thursday, July 5, 2012


This week's feature is a middle grade series, THE INCREDIBLY AWESOME ADVENTURES OF PUGGIE LIDDELL, by Karen Mueller Bryson. I met Karen at the Arizona Dreamin' conference last month, and was very impressed to learn that she is also a screenwriter and playwright.

The first book in the series is TESLA TIME:

When the wise-cracking whiz kid, Puggie Liddell's modified Gameboy activates a time travel portal, he lands in the 1890s with his sibling rival, annoyingly prissy teen sister, Gigi, who thinks history is like-totally-gross. The kids must learn to work together to find a time travel portal back to the present before the eccentric scientist, Nikola Telsa, or his arch nemesis, inventor Thomas Edison, can steal the Gameboy and use it to complete a death ray machine, an invention powerful enough to disturb the very fabric of space-time and create an instantaneous world disaster.

I also had a chance to interview Karen:

Thank you so much for the interview! I appreciate it! Below I have included the responses to your questions:

Thank you, too! You write “Short on Time Books,” novels for readers on the go. What started this venture and can you tell us more about your journey toward becoming a writer?

I came up with the idea for Short on Time Books when I took a business trip from Phoenix to Los Angeles. I bought a memoir in the Phoenix Airport bookstore that I hoped to finish on her trip. I read as much as I could traveling to LA and then tried to finish the book on my return trip to Phoenix. Unfortunately, I was only able to complete about 60 percent of the book and still hadn’t finished it because I haven't found the time. That’s when I decided to put my story-telling talent to work creating novels readers could finish in an hour or two and Short on Time Books was born. All Short on Time Books can be completed in one sitting and are great for the beach or airplane.

I can't really say I had much of a journey toward becoming a writer. I fell in love with books when I first learned to read and I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was four years old. Although I've managed to accomplish a lot of other things in my life, I've also spent most of my life writing.

Sounds like a good niche in our ever-changing fast-paced world! Your website mentions that you also write screenplays. How is that different than writing a novel and what do you recommend to aspiring screenwriters who want to hone their craft?

A screenplay is like a "blueprint" of a film for a filmmaker, who brings the words to life on the screen. When one writes a screenplay, the screenwriter has to remember that filmmaking is a visual medium, so everything should be expressed in a visual way. The screenwriter can only write what is seen or heard. The screenplay has a specific format and length that needs to be adhered to as well. Finally, the screenwriter is only the first step in the creation of a movie. Filmmaking is a collaborative process, so it's as if the screenwriter "gives birth" to the movie but then has to "give it up for adoption" to producers, actors and a director, who will "raise the film" to maturity.

A novel is a complete work in itself, so the novelist has more control over the work than a screenwriter. The novelist "gives birth" to the novel and puts it out into the world. The novelist also has more flexibility in story-telling and fewer limitations than the screenwriter. 

One of the best things an aspiring screenwriter can do is to read screenplays. It's a good idea to read screenplays while watching the films. Also, write scripts; you can learn by actually doing it! 

Very sound advice! I love the premise of the Puggie Liddell series. Where did the idea come from and what do you want readers to take away when they’re finished reading?

When I was a kid, I enjoyed going to "living history" museums. My parents took my brother and I to Colonial Williamsburg and I fell in love with it. I wanted to live there! I thought it would be amazing to travel back in time and actually experience history first hand. I decided to write an action/adventure time travel series for kids that would help them learn about history in a fun way.

Your books are not only fun, but can be useful for a school curriculum--especially for reluctant readers! In addition to screenplays, you also write stage plays. How do you balance time between writing your novels, screenplays and stage plays, and how much time do you devote to promoting each?

I work full time as a university professor, so I write on a part-time basis. When I have an idea for a new story, I write the screenplay first and use the script as an outline for the novelization. The novels I write are short, so they don't take as much time to complete. I find it extremely difficult to find time to market and promote my work. With limited time, it's difficult to justify spending all my time marketing when I'd rather be writing and it is equally important to create new products.

We'd all like to spend more time marketing--but it's good that you put the writing first and it sounds like you've found a good balance. What other projects are you currently working on?

At the end of this month, Short on Time Books will be releasing the biography of Roller Derby legend, Cindy McCoy, which I wrote. A graphic novel version of The Incredibly Awesome Adventures of Puggie Liddell will also be released soon. I am also working on a YA science fiction/action story, which will be both a screenplay and novel. My goal is to release the book by August. Additional books in the Puggie series will also be coming soon!

To snag your own copy of TESLA TIME, click the button below:

Monday, July 2, 2012

Want Your Book Available in Libraries? Here are Some Pitfalls to Avoid

Some of my author friends have asked me about effective ways to market books in libraries, and I figured the tips I passed along to them might make a useful blog post.
Before I delve into the actual tips, I'd like to offer up the following as an example of what not to do. This was forwarded to me last week from a colleague with subject: "No need to respond."

Dear law or history librarian, (It's always better to address a librarian by name--if you don't know who the law or history librarian is, be sure to call the reference desk and ask.)

I, (redacted), am the author of (redacted title), which  increasingly features prominently on  many  libraries` introductory  reading lists for books on  legal history (I have not seen this book on any such list). The origional (misspelling is always a bad sign) publisher (redacted) gave the rights to this book back to me in 2008 (red flag--returned rights likely means the book didn't sell well). I have, however, produced a very affordable ebook edition sold through (redacted website), Ontario, Canada (9 Canadian  Dollar, ISBN redacted) and also at a price of  about 78 USD my own hardcover reprint of  the (redacted publisher) edition of  2004 (of course without (redacted publisher) imprint and without ISBN). (Four things: One--though this author is published, they didn't proof their letter for grammar mistakes before sending via email. Two, the author shouldn't  have mentioned Canadian dollars (or any other currency) to a librarian in the United States. Three, most libraries do not purchase items from independent websites outside the US, particularly ebooks, since they already have established relationships with vendors. Four, "my own hardcover print" implies the second edition wasn't picked up by the publisher.) This hardcover-reprint edition  of 2010 I offer through (redacted vendors that libraries rarely use). As even used copies of the (redacted publisher) edition of 2004 cost in the range of 150-500 USD (a textbook, I'm guessing, based on this pricing, which most collection development policies nix--and the high price ($500 USD for a used book!) also guarantees an automatic rejection and therefore isn't worth mentioning) you might perhaps be prepared  to communicate the existence of the e-book edition as well as the existence of my hardcover reprint edition of  2010 (sorry, submitter--it's your job to promote your book, not mine), which has admittedly no ISBN (even without the above caveats, this would guarantee an automatic no--and submitter mentions this not once, but twice!), to interested staff or students. To do so or not is of course left completly  to your own decision (makes it more likely the recipient won't) but in these budget conscious times some members of staff or students  might have interest  in  this information. If interested, please do not mix up my book with (similar redacted title by different author) which already had been published by (same redacted publisher!) in 1989. I equally offer through (aforementioned redacted vendors) and german book suppliers (Don't mention any other books besides yours, and why would a U.S. library be interested in a German book supplier?) my publication  (different redacted title, but does include the ISBN this time) at a price of 49,99 Euro (again, I am in the United States).  With best regards, Yours (redacted)

I know this submission is somewhat of an anomaly, but you get the idea. The following week I received another, better request, in which the author mentioned we'd purchased his books before (we had) and that he had some newer material available (all complete with ISBNs).

So first, and foremost:

1. Know your ISBN number, both in ebook and print form.

2. Know which libraries carry your book.
A great free resource is WorldCat.  Be sure to select the Advanced Search function to search by ISBN (in the dropdown menu). Also be sure to click of the title of the book hyperlinked in the list to see which libraries carry it.

3. Know which ebook/print vendors your library works with, and make sure they have an acquisitions budget (not all libraries do).
Here are some common ones:
4. Don't mention the unpleasant facts about your book, and don't ask the librarian to promote it!
Only include necessary information. "I published this book (include ISBN), in this genre, for this audience, and it is available via Overdrive (or some other vendor)." If your book has been reviewed in Library Journal, Kirkus, PW, or some other publication, be sure to mention that too.
Per the above example, do not mention if the book is self-published, the rights were returned, if there is no ISBN number, or if your book is only available through non-library vendors.

5. If you are (very) good friends with your local librarian, you can also ask them to mention your book on library listservs.

Hope this helps! If you have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section.