BabesinBookland

2 Blondes, 1 Redhead & a Reviewer

Archive for the month “May, 2012”

Beauty Tips

Secrets?    Maybe some tips. 

 1.  Bare Escentuals Make up. Minerals stay on, don’t melt and let’s talk the ease of using it.  Granted there’s a bit of a cloud of minerals, but the benefits are hands over fist worth it.

2.  Have oily skin?  Don’t use scrubs.  Facial scrubs have abrasives in it and with acne prone skin, its stirring up the dirt and making more blemishes.  Proactive is by far the best solution.

 3. Get a mascara comb. Some women put on too much mascara and then all we see is mascara! A lash comb will thin it out and it will look more natural.  FYI a blonde should wear brown mascara.  You want it to look natural and black lashes doesn’t.

 4.  Faux Tan.  Bare Escentuals makes the best.   Its dark brown, you apply with a fat, very soft brush and it goes on without streaks.  Let it cure for a couple hours and it gets darker. 

 5.  Ped Egg. I’m barefoot most times, even in winter.  So calluses are a given.  The Ped Egg is the safest way to rid your dainty feet of ‘man marks’ as I call them.  Do not use it when your feet are damp. It will cut.

 I wish I had more but today, I’m working on a new story idea and my brain is in that ‘what if?’ mode.  

 Think… while you’re reading this, Rhonda Pollero is sitting alone… on her Leedo deck balcony on a cruise shop, reading a book.  With the assurance she’ll get to finish it!  I’m pea green with envy.

Amy

The one thing to help a career?

If I knew that, I’d be doing it.   My career is in a deep hole and I’m digging it out the best I can.

For you, new writer… get an agent and write a great book.  Find your niche and work it.

Be ethical.  If you don’t know what I mean, look it up.  I am a professional and in all aspects, I behave as such.

Be realistic.  The tough part.  Everyone has a starry eyed picture of what they want their career to be and the reality pales.  When I was first published, I thought I’d write 25 book and then retire.  HA.

In the last two years I’ve changed my direction twice.  I’ve written all sorts of proposals, but few truly excite me.  So the best advice I can give anyone on the one thing… be passionate about whatever it is you are writing.  Passion drives us more than commitment.  For me, a contract and money give me passion. =)

What do you think is the ONE THING that will help a career?

 

Save my career!

At some point, every career needs some help.  As writers, we’re held hostage to forces we can’t control.  Buying limitations, genre fluctuations, editor changes, imprint changes, agent changes, writing speed, etc.  So what do you do when your career needs a shot in the arm?

However we do have control over how we deal with changing market landscapes.  For the most part, promotion is left up to authors.  Yes, you may get some publisher support, but for the most part, we’re on our own.

The one thing I’ve learned is how important it is to embrace change.  Often that’s the only way to hold on to your career.  Easier said than done, though.  Reinventing yourself has some pluses but it also has some drawbacks.  The major plus is a clean slate.  Let’s say you write humor and the market for humor has fallen on hard times.  What to do?  Well, you can try the self-pub route, but that comes with its own pitfalls.  Like the expense of professional editing, cover creation, ISBN, formatting and uploading.  Even if you self-publish electronically, that doesn’t change the truth that the humor market has taken a nosedive.

The other option is to make a change in your content.  Again, this has pluses and minuses.  The major plus is you might find that you have a talent for writing for a stronger market.  The major minus is you may have to adopt a pseudonym.  Someone buying a Rhonda Pollero book will expect humor but if I write something dark and gory, those same readers may be put off.  Of course changing names has some other downsides – you often lose your reader base and have to start from scratch.  In the end though, by reinventing yourself, you’re breathing new life into your career.

So how do you approach change?  Most importantly, you have to know your strengths and weaknesses.  You can’t jump on a trend and expect that to suddenly reinvigorate your career.  Trends come and go quickly, so what’s on the shelves now was bought twelve to twenty-four months ago.  Check publishersmarketplace.com to see what’s hot right now.  But it’s harder than that.  You need to make sure you have the skill set to make a jump from one type of book to another.  I know I can’t write angst.  I just don’t have it in me.  However I can write a dark serial killer.  So instead of trying (and failing) at writing something that may be saleable and angsty, I have to go dark.  That’s where my skill set leads me.  Will I lose readers who like my Finley Tanner series?  Absolutely.  But hopefully I’ll pick up new readers who prefer something on the gory side.  Above all, I’ll know that I’ve done everything I can to keep my career alive.  Even if it means tackling a new genre.

Happy writing . . .

 

PS – Happy 30th anniversary to my hubby!

 

Wayward Saints

by Suzzy Roche

Here’s a winning combination of witty, wise and weird.  Wayward Saints is as edgy as it is emotionally taxing, much like its main character, Mary Saint, and the music that she writes and sings.  The author, Suzzy Roche, a founding member of the rock/folk group the Roches, must have heard that age-old advice, “Write what you know,” as that’s exactly what she does here.

The story alternates between Mary Saint, an aging alternative rocker, and her mother, Jean, a good catholic woman who tries her best to understand her very different daughter.  Both have endured years of abuse at the hands of Bub, Mary’s father and Jean’s husband.  When Mary is old enough and strong enough, she begins to fight back and eventually leaves.  Jean never does, thus building a huge, seemingly impassable gully between herself and her daughter.

Through the years, Mary has poured her pain and rebellious nature into her songs.   She forms a band, Sliced Ham, and for many years they enjoy cult status in the alternative rock world.  Their songs are painfully raw, often vulgar and jarring, yet poetically sound, as well.  Mary holds nothing back, and while the majority of people don’t “get her,” her die-hard fan base definitely does.  Not surprisingly, tragedy eventually tears the group apart, and when the novel opens, Mary is recovering from a stint in rehab.

Meanwhile, Jean spends her days visiting Bub in a nursing home and wading through endless days of loneliness.  She definitely doesn’t “get” Mary, though claims to miss her immensely.  So, when a high-school teacher, a major Sliced Ham fan from way back, approaches Jean about having Mary return to their little town of Swallow to perform a concert, Jean jumps at the opportunity, having wanted her daughter to come home for years.

Jean happens to catch Mary at an extremely vulnerable moment, and Mary agrees to come home.  With the help and support of her “chocolate tranny” bff, Thaddeus, Mary is able to make the painful journey home.

Wayward Saints is a quick read and a worthwhile one.  There are many hidden, as well as obvious, messages on which to reflect.  In other words, the book will live on in your mind as you ponder the true meaning of life and whether or not you’re living it to its fullest, while having fun doing so.

Bonnie Crisalli

 

To Agent or not?

With digital publishing, people believe you don’t need an agent.  I disagree.  Odd, since I haven’t had an agent for about 6 years.  But I also had an advantage of being long time friends with my editor, so that cancels it out.  Sorta.

I want an agent for the simple reason that contracts are complicated and have lots of loop holes that I don’t understand. Agents do.  Publishers write those with the advantage in their court.  Agents will guard your back, will open doors and will bend ears about you and your talents.  And then sell it and get a little something for that effort. (though I think 15% is a bit high)  If an agent talks my work, sends it out or even discusses it with an editor, she / he is the agent of record and they are owed the 15%. anything else is unprofessional.

And an FYI…. the reason advances go to agents first or have split checks is becaseu writers would not PAY the agents once the book was sold.

I don’t want to be my own agent, nor the publisher.  There is not enough protection for digital books.  that’s my first beef.  Idiots out there have stolen an authors works a hundred times over.  People are very comfortable stealing my work and reselling it for a profit.  I don’t want all the headaches, nor time it takes to self publish.  I’m old school.  Publishers do that, I just write the books.

AMY

 

 

Agents – yes, or no?

When it comes to the agent question, my vote is yes. These reasons are important to me, but I know plenty of other writers who are fine navigating publishing themselves. You are welcome to comment!

Traci’s Reason #1

The publishing landscape changes on a daily, no, hourly, basis and writers are left with more choices than ever – which can be overwhelming.

How to publish: self publish, traditional Big Six, traditional small press, e pub only, vanity press

Where to publish:amazon e pub only, which provides benefits but also limits availability, smashwords, which, for a small percentage, puts your book everywhere, small press, or New York. Nook’s PubIt program on Barnes and Noble – sony, apple, kobo – and I’m sure there are many more. Time might be a deciding factor.

It is smart to have someone knowledgable in your corner to discuss industry news with – another alternative is subscribing to Publisher’s Lunch.

Traci’s Reason #2

New York is a tough nut to crack, and if you want to reach editors who can buy your book, you need an agent who can get it before the right people. The writing world is tight – ask around before signing anything! Get an agent you can see working with for the long term. You do not have to be friends, lol, but business partners. Your writing career is your business. I am not an agent, I do not have time to be an agent, and so I work with someone I trust in that capacity.

A way around the agent dilemma to reach New York? Go to conferences, network…I have a great friend who just signed a three book contract by meeting with an editor at our local conference.  It can happen!

Traci’s Reason #3

I can’t do it alone, lol. For anyone who knows me personally, my 13th book, The Queen’s Guard :Violet, was just released. My goals for my career require more than the grunt work I’ve done on my own so far. I am not getting where I want to be, which is New York, and so I found someone who likes my voice, likes my writing style and who believes they can get me into the big houses. It is not a fast process, lol. There have been some growing pains…but I know that we both want the same end goal. Are you familiar with the saying, “It take a village to raise a child?” Well, I believe it takes an agency to guide a career. 

So as an added bonus to this blog, my previously hinted at agent, Josh Getzler, gave me a hot tip for those looking to submit. Right now, at this very moment, he shared this!  “I’m looking for historical fiction these days—would love a good French or Russian Revolution novel—and dark, realistic, girl YA.”

Thank you Josh!!!! I’ve included his contact information below. I also promised he wouldn’t be inundated with stalkers, lol, so be kind and professional if you decide to drop him a line 🙂

Josh Getzler

Hannigan Salky Getzler Agency

287 Spring Street

New York, NY 10013

646-442-5770

jgetzler@hsgagency.com

www.hsgagency.com

 

Thanks for stopping by today – please feel free to comment if you have any things you would like to share regarding agents!

Traci

Agent hunting

I’m probably the worst person to ask about agents.  I’ve had 5 ½ of them in my 20 years in this business.  (The ½ was an agent I sent requested material to and when I followed up 6 weeks later I was told she was fired and no one knew anything about my manuscript.  Hence the ½).

I have gotten smarter with time.  I recognize there are things I want out of an agent and things I definitely don’t want.  I want an agent who is hands on.  Who reads the material before she/he sends it out.  How else do they know which editors to target?  I want an agent who is responsive.  I don’t want to have to make an appointment for a phone call but I do expect my calls to be returned within 48 hours unless my agent is travelling or sick or whatever.  I want an agent with good negotiating skills who isn’t a bitch/bastard.  I lost a hunk of my career because agent #4 lit into my editor and got me labeled a problem author and I was not asked to write for them again.  Yes, I want him/her to be aggressive, just not abrasive.  I have several former agents who are friends and they tell me stories about how they’d avoid calls from certain agents because they were so unpleasant.  Definitely not what I want.

So let’s take a trip down memory lane.  I sold my first book without an agent and all my chapter buds said that was a mistake, that I needed an agent.  So I hired the one who represented several people I knew.  After a year or so I learned she had a pretty hefty cocaine habit.  She is sadly, no longer with us.  One down.

Still not knowing that having an agent when one writes for Harlequin is pointless, I hired another agent I met at a conference and liked very much.  It wasn’t until well into our relationship that I found out two things.  My editor had offered a 3-book deal and she told my editor she didn’t think I was up to the task and suggested two of her other authors to write books 2 and 3.  Thing 2 – she was a good friend of the first Mrs. Pollero.  Two down.

Agent 3 committed the unforgiveable sin.  Even though I was calling her on a regular basis to find out where my check was for delivering a manuscript, she kept flipping me off, promising she’d send it ASAP when it arrived.  Well, she did send it ASAP when it had arrived months earlier, only she sent it to another author. Three down

½ agent, see above

Agent 4 had real potential.  She was one of those agents with enough clout to move me from relative obscurity into single title.  Which she did and I’m grateful to her for that.  In between that, she was busy tanking my Harlequin career by pitching fits and making unrealistic demands.  After 2 years of not having calls returned promptly or at all.  Of emails that did nothing, I fired her in a 30-second phone call.  Four down.

Fifth agent has been working well for almost 3 years.  She is responsive, smart, savvy and knows everyone in the publishing world.  She’s professional and a great sounding board so we work well together.  Sadly, she was with another agency when I signed with her, so former agency is getting the commission, so basically #5 has been working for free for the last couple of years.  Poor #5.  Hopefully as we enter contract negotiations, I can finally start making her some money.

Want an agent?  Know what you want from that agent.  Know that agent’s history (check them out online and on Publishersmarketplace.com).  If possible, talk to a present client.  Know what that agent is offering – consultation and suggestions or a mail forwarding service.  Find the right agent for your place in the publishing world.

There are many agents who excel at making first sales.  But they aren’t so good at moving you up the publishing food chain. There are agents who are great at taking an author from phase one of their careers up to mid-list.  Then there are über agents who try to get you serious recognition and serious money.  Shoot for the right kind of agent.  Don’t be afraid of baby agents.  Sometimes the newbies are the hungriest to make a sale.

Picking an agent is a very personal thing.  One might be golden for your best friend but you may not get on and vice versa.  If you do sign an Agency contract, be very careful about restrictions placed on your work.  The best clause is termination of representation within 30 days written notice by either party.  Agent agrees to pull all active submissions and return all rights to the author.

Happy hunting

 

Reviews, who writes these things, anyway??

I loved Rhonda’s post on this – and I couldn’t agree more. I’ve had wonderful reviews, and strange reviews, and downright awful reviews. As with anything, I think I am conditioned to look at the bad stuff and wonder a) what I did wrong, and b) how I can fix it – and c) if can I sue the reviewer for slander – which isn’t really an option

Reading a review where the reader totally gets the book, and loves the character, makes me so happy – totally makes my day!!  If I find a review of my book out there on some of the smaller review sites, I post a comment thanking them for taking the time to review. I’ve even done that for the negative ones. Everybody has a right to their opinion, and in case you haven’t noticed, bad reviews aren’t stopping Fifty Shades of Gray from flying off the shelves, lol

Just this week I’ve gotten four fan letters, and one odd review. Since I have quite a few different books going, theses were all for separate things.  In my coming of age YA novel, a person actually posted that my novel read like an after school special, and that my protagonist couldn’t possibly learn a lesson from how tamely I’d written the story. The reviewers suggestion? That I cut off an arm or a leg.

I know.

lolololol

What are some of the strangest reviews you’ve ever gotten – and as a reader, do you take the time to review a book?

 

Traci

What does a review really mean?

Go ahead.  Shred me.  I learned a long time ago that if I could write a book that pleased everyone, I’d be a very wealthy woman.  Since that’s impossibility, I’ve learned to take the bad with the good.

Reviews are subjective.  And how much weight I give them really depends on the source.  I take Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus very seriously.  Why?  Because so does my publisher.  As long as there is a pull quote, I’m a happy girl.

But the last 15 years have brought a definite change to the reviewing landscape.  First are the reviews on Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com.  They aren’t reviews so much as they are opinions.  I don’t give them much thought since anyone with a screen name and a password can leave a comment.  I find they often leave negative feedback.  I assume this is because they have nothing better to do with their time.  I’ve been reading for eons and I’ve never once trashed a book or an author.  And I’ve read some stuff I didn’t care for.  Why?  Because I’m not an authority.  I’m not a journalist trained to write an objective piece about a work of fiction or non-fiction.  I will go in and praise a book.  But that’s all I’m bringing to the table.  My opinion.

The latest monster to rear its ugly head is Goodreads.  My editor told me they pay no attention to Goodreads because the reviews are so out there.  So I don’t pay attention.  But people forward me comments made all the time.  Currently there’s a woman who started on Goodreads and has now done a copy and paste of her harsh review on all the other sites.  I guess it makes her feel important.  Or something.  I can’t comment on the operation of another person’s mind.

Then the other avenue is review sites.  There are a billion of them.  Okay, so maybe that was an exaggeration, but it seems as if a new crop goes live every month. Again for me, this is a question of credibility.  If it’s Fresh Fiction, I pay attention.  If it’s Aunt Sue’s Book Reviews (I made that name up), not so much.  And it has nothing to do with a good versus bad review.  I just prefer to have my work analyzed by someone who has some publishing background.

I’ve gotten good reviews and some really bad ones.  One thing I’ve learned is they don’t usually have any impact on sales.  They are primarily used for pull quotes for an inside page.  But you won’t see pull quotes from Goodreads or Amazon or any of the other sign in to rant sites.  Unless you’re self-publishing, then that’s all you’ve got to work with.  You’ll see Fresh Fiction, newspaper reviews, Kirkus & PW reviews, magazine reviews and peer quotes.  I guess that’s why I don’t put a lot of stock in online content.

With a few exceptions.  I just had a person post a 1 star review on B&N.  Had nothing to do with the book.  She was pissed that her copy didn’t arrive on time.  It isn’t like I hand deliver the books, so why not slap customer service and not me?  I had a person post the identity of the villain in my book once.  It took a few emails but I did get Amazon to pull the review.  I didn’t care that she hated the book.  I did care that she gave away a substantial piece of the plot.  I even asked Amazon to pull the single line and not her whole review.  After all, the person has a right to share an opinion.  I’ve gotten great reviews, on sales sites and review sites.  Nice ego strokes but alas, nothing more.

So how do I feel about reviews?  I’m completely neutral.  Other than PW, Kirkus, Fresh Fiction and any newspaper reviews, I pay no attention.  On the whole, I get more positive reviews than negative ones, but I always get at least one stupid one per book.  The delivery person is my current WTF reviewer.  On my last book the person happened to say Fat Chance was terrible and had no chance of surviving as a series.  Guess she missed the two books before that and the two books after Fat Chance.  Oh, and she made a point of telling people I was no match for Janet Evanovich and she had no idea why Janet had given me a quote.  Another WTF moment.  Hard to get worked up over ill-informed people who get to hide behind the anonymity provided by the Internet.

 

 

In A Perfect World

by Laura Kasischke

In a Perfect World is a disturbing look at an apocalyptic world, devastated by the Phoenix Flu.  Only it doesn’t start out that way.  At first, you might think you’re reading yet another tale of the evil stepdaughter, ruining the sweet stepmother’s one chance at true love.  But the story gradually evolves into something much more mature and meaningful.  It makes perfect sense, actually, that an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scenario would help facilitate character growth and development.  Kasischke takes full advantage of the emotional devastation wrought by the tragedy.

The story begins with Jiselle, a flight attendant, dating and eventually marrying Mark, a much-sought-after widowed pilot.  Mark is a good-looking charmer at first glance, but begins to show signs of chinks in his armor almost immediately after the honeymoon.  As he stays away from home for longer and longer periods of time, with phone calls few and far between, Jiselle quickly starts wondering what in the world she’s gotten herself into.  She went from an exotic partying and travelling lifestyle to an extremely quiet and lonely life in a log cabin in middle suburbia.  She finds herself trapped with three children—a hostile teenage girl, a second girl on the fence about what to feel about her new stepmother, and an affectionate younger boy.  None of them are quite over the death of their mother, who was hit and killed by their school bus, and all of them are missing their father.

Once the flu pandemic hits, their father is quarantined somewhere in Germany (since plane travel appears to be the main source of spreading this flu), and they are more or less stuck in their home, once gasoline and food shortages hit.  There’s really nowhere to go, anyway, since no one is sure where “safe” is.  As you would imagine, the forced closeness and palpable fear brings Jiselle closer to the children.  She’s the only one they can trust, the only one who has ever not left them.

Obviously, there are many opportunities for poignant moments, mixed among the ordinary ones.  Kasischke does a wonderful job of pulling the reader in and making it feel as though you’re right there in their living room with them, playing endless games of chess, wrapped in blankets in front of a roaring fire, and snacking on whatever is at hand.  There’s the feeling of timelessness, as their schedules cease to matter, and time becomes one long, endless vacation of late nights and sleeping in the following day.  Their trips into town become fewer and fewer, as they try to conserve, try to survive.  One by one, they learn of celebrities dying off (Brittney Spears being the one to devastate the girls), and eventually people closer to them.  It’s a scary world, though an all too real one, making it all the more scary.

I do know from reading several reviews of this book that many readers did not appreciate the ending, which was rather abrupt and left much to the imagination.  Though I did read it a month or so ago (and several books ago), I don’t recall feeling as mad about it as some reviewers, who wanted to throw the book against the wall.  What I do recall is that it was extremely thought provoking, and that it took me a while to be able to start another book (which is unusual for me).  Perhaps it was just my mood at the time (I was on vacation), but I really did not mind the all-too-sudden ending; possibly because I had the time, for once, to imagine whatever sort of conclusion I wished, to luxuriate in the myriad possibilities.  Another time, another place, who knows, I may have wanted to throw the book, too.  So, reader beware, if you do not like endings that are left hanging, this may not be the book for you.  That being said, In a Perfect World is an enjoyable book that will surely get you thinking about what and who is important in your life.

 

Bonnie Crisalli

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