Three Giveaways

Good evening from Copenhagen! My work today is fun and exciting, because there are a lot of giveaways going on for We Rule the Night! If you haven’t read about girls flying planes and kicking ass and fighting lots of things, but mostly each other, and you’d like to, you have the chance to win an advance reader copy not once, not twice, but THREE times.

Goodreads Giveaway

goodreads giveaway photo

 

Head over to Goodreads and enter the giveaway by February 21st to win one of ten copies! Unfortunately only eligible to those who live in the United States.

NOVL Giveaway

EDIT: This giveaway is now closed. Check out the other two!

twitter booksquad promo

If you’re the reviewing type, Little, Brown’s YA blog division, NOVL, is looking for reviewers as well. I’m not sure when the window closes, so head over now and fill out your info! (I don’t know whether this one is US only or not. Why not give it a go, my international friends?)

Newsletter Giveaway

It has come to my attention that I miiiight have an extra Advance Reader Copy or two lying around, just waiting for a loving home. Who should I give it to?

If your answer was, me, me! then you should definitely sign up for my newsletter. I’ll pick a winner by the end of February.

 

In other news, April is just around the corner and I’m panicking. So I hope you’re well, but I’d better get back to writing.

WE RULE THE NIGHT gets a starred review from Kirkus!

kirkus review screengrab

 

F&$# yeah.

 

 

 

Okay, this is coming in later than I intended. LIKE SO MANY OTHER THINGS IN MY LIFE. However, I’m just as excited as I was on the 18th of December, when the review went live.

You can read the review in full here.

I particularly loved this quote:

The richly textured world, painted in snow and fire, filled with disparate, diverse people who all want to win the war, is background to a powerful, slow burning story that develops Linné and Revna’s reluctant friendship, their growing understanding of the world, and their emerging identities as soldiers who may not entirely trust the country they are willing to die for.

As I was doing my research, I was struck by the number of women who showed unflinching loyalty to the USSR despite the fact that it had (or would) destroy their families or their lives. I couldn’t help thinking about my own relationship to my home country, to a United States that I love and miss but can’t trust with my life. In this day and age, a lot of people are being betrayed by the countries they call home. It doesn’t make you less of a citizen to call your country out, my loves. We can love and fight for our countries, and still criticize them for their wrongdoing. It can be both, and for as long as we’ve had the concept of nations, it has been both.

I can’t wait for We Rule the Night to be on shelves. Sometimes it’s a little too easy to forget how proud I am of the story I made. So thank you, Kirkus, for making me feel like there’s something to be proud of.

New Cover, New Name, New Excerpt

While attempting to gather my wits after a triple shift on the day job, I realized that I’d missed out on a big bit of news for the blog – I have a cover, a new name for my debut, and you can even read part of the first chapter over on NOVL.

To keep a long story short, Our Realm is the Night has been changed to We Rule the Night, and the incredible studio of Billelis has designed my cover. I love the strength of the firebird, and the ruined city behind it really brings out the dieselpunk atmosphere of We Rule the Night.

Best of all, if you want that gorgeous cover on yourself, you can preorder We Rule the Night from Amazon, Indiebound or B&N.

What do you think of my amazing cover?

We Rule The Night
The cover of my book, We Rule the Night

No, the YA Ballroom Trope Isn’t Bad

Twitter can be a magical place, full of people who expand my horizons and teach me new things about the world and my craft.

THE JEWEL by Amy Ewing - Coming this September! - See more @HarperTeen cover reveals on EpicReads.com!
The cover of The Jewel, by Amy Ewing

It is also full of what some people might call hot takes. Personally, I think most of them are lukewarm at best.

Examples of hot takes gone wrong abound on twitter, but what got me thinking about tropes and their value was a take on the ballroom Scene that can be found in numerous YAs. I’m not going to link to the debate, but some people seem to think that the YA ballroom scene is Over.

23197837
The cover of The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

People smarter than me were quick to jump in, first and foremost to say that for many marginalized identities, the ballroom scene hasn’t happened yet – or maybe it’s happened once, and is that really too much? Declaring it over ignores what some people need in terms of representation. But, like I said, smarter people than me have weighed in on that. I want to weigh in on the value of a trope, and what it can do for us.

Some tropes are damaging, like Bury Your Gays. Some tropes are irritating, like romantic problems that can be solved by simple explanation, but Plot dictates that the romantic characters fail to have a real conversation. And it’s fine to be irritated by a trope. You don’t even need a reason not to like a specific trope. But I argue that the Ballroom Scene is a good trope, objectively.

 

The Ballroom Scene is versatile. It can take place in any setting – historical, dystopian, high fantasy, space opera. But it’s versatile in what it can do, too. The ballroom scene fits at almost any part of a book. Your assassin can have a high stakes pursuit of her target at a ball. Your lovers can meet at a ball. You can have mistaken identity, court intrigue, an attempt on someone’s life – or all of those, all at once. People can get together or break up at a ball. And maybe that’s why the trope is used so much. There are so many ways that writers can use it.

So is the trope really over? Is it fair to declare a trope over for no other reason than you’ve read it more than you’d like? I think the Ballroom Scene has a place in YA literature – and beyond – for a long while yet.

An Interview with Ashley Hansen

Ashley Hansen: writer, geologist, mother, tamer of the Utah Wilderness

 

 

Like the last post, this is an interview with a fellow member of #51writers, the twitter hashtag for and about strong female protagonists. I had the privilege and pleasure of interviewing Ashley Hansen, and if you want to learn more about her amazing YA project, read further!

Welcome, Ashley. Tell us a little about yourself.

Thanks for doing this interview! I am a full time mom, a part time geologist, and a writer in between. I’ve been making up stories since I was a small kid, but I didn’t start writing them until high school. I wasn’t brave enough to show anyone until I turned 30, and thought, what do I have to lose? I live in Utah with my husband, three kids, and two cats, and when I’m not writing I like to knit, run, hike, and bake.

It sounds like you like all the things I do! Except running, haha. I cycle out of necessity but that’s basically all the exercise I can stand. On to the next question: what do you like to write?

My first novel is with beta readers right now. It’s a young adult fantasy/fairy tale retelling about a girl who wanted to be a chemist before she found out she was a princess. While I wait for feedback I’m working on the sequel. I tend to stick to young adult, but I’d like to write more than just fantasy. I have an idea and some scenes written for a YA contemporary, that I want to get back to at some point.

Ooh. What fairy tale are you telling?

Sleeping Beauty. It’s been one of my favorites since I was a kid, but as an adult I want to know about the actual princess a little more. So I decided to write about it.

What do you like to read, but not write?

That’s a great question! I love reading books that have humor, but I cannot write it. I also like reading adult books, even though I focus on young adult for my writing. And I do read non-fiction too, but I think it takes a really unique and talented person to take a bunch of facts and weave them into an interesting story. I’m not sure I have the patience for that.

we were brought together by , which aims to give love to strong female characters. Who’s your favorite strong female character right now?

There are so many great female characters, it’s hard to choose. Right now I think my favorite female character is Sang Ly from The Rent Collector by Camron Wright. Sang Ly is a woman who lives in a dump in Cambodia and has a baby that is sick. What I love about her is that she takes action to make her life better. She has to go completely out on a limb, and she has to have help, but she persists, and improves her life and that of her family. I love that she uses both her traditions and a new education to do so. While I love heroines that save the whole world because they are so fun to read, my favorites tend to be the ones that make a difference in smaller but no less heroic ways.

That book sounds amazing. I have two more questions: First, how do you keep yourself from getting distracted in this age of distractions with work, kids, pets, Netflix and so on?

I try to set aside some time for writing activities everyday. For me, it’s while my kids are at school, and the baby naps. Writing activities can include writing, but also include editing, beta reading, researching, or anything else that gets me closer to my goals. I also set aside time to relax, so that I don’t get overwhelmed by everything.

And lastly: what is one piece of advice you know now that you wish you’d heard back when you were getting started?

My advice would be to connect with other writers. This was one thing that seemed really daunting to me when I first started, but I’ve found that there are so many people who can help you grow and support you. It will make you a better writer and make writing more enjoyable. Whether that means you join a local writer’s group, attend writing conferences, or engage with writers using social media, get out there and meet other writers.

 

That is a great piece of advice. And that’s the interview for today! Thank you to Ashley for joining me and discussing her process and preferences.

Ashley blogs at confidentialchronicles.wordpress.com, and if you want a sample of her style head over there for some free, beautiful short fiction and creative nonfiction. She can also be found on twitter as @ashleydhansen12.

An Interview With ThisIsHowIWasteTime

Today we have an author interview! This is ThisIsHowIWasteTime, who has graciously agreed that I may call her Jen. Both Jen and I are part of #51writers on twitter, which has brought us together for this lovely conversation. Jen tweets and blogs and today she talks to me!

1. Welcome, Jen. Tell me a little about yourself:

Let’s see, I’m almost 28. I’m a CNA by day and have been for twelve years. I’ve told stories all my life but really got into writing at the age of nine, my first “book” being a Goosebumps style story about a rose that killed people who moved into the house it belonged to (horrible I know, haha)

I strayed away from writing in high school when I started my career and hadn’t picked it up other than writing random story ideas that I never stuck with until my current project.

I have a soon-to-be 8 year old boy, 2 cats, and one very weird pup. In my spare time, I am a hobbyist and have many many creative projects going aside from my book. Crochet, sketching, dabbled in jewelry making, and many more that I want to try.

2. Fantastic. And what do you write now? What is your WIP about?

Ever since I could read I’ve chosen Fantasy, I tried other genres but it was a struggle not to abandon them. I always had a pull towards the worlds and creatures you could find in Fantasy novels/series/art! Actually I always turned to Fantasy books to escape stress/emotional moments. Still do!

My novel is a New Adult Fantasy novel, kind of a mix between Astral Projection/family magic/spirit world. With innocent souls, horrid demons, and a rogue team member. Grace comes back home from college when her mom goes into a mysterious coma, only to find out that her family has special gifts passed down through generations. Along with six other families, they’ve been tasked with protecting innocent souls (living or dead) in the Veil. However the circle broke years ago and went into hiding when the Gatekeeper went rogue. Now he’s back and coming after the rest of the circle. Grace and the others have to find a way to take him out and save her mom and all of the other souls before catches all of them.

3. What genres do you like to read, but NOT write?

Hm, I like to read SOME mystery/romance books. Or New Adult dystopian. Not many others can keep my attention and you could say horror but I have considered dabbling in horror for future projects- not fully set on that.

4. And another reading question! We met via #51writers, a hash tag for and about strong female characters. Who’s your favorite strong female character?

I might have to think about this question, there are so many options. I’ve read so many books that it’s hard to decide. How about you?

Right now, Wonder Woman! Alanna made a big impact on my teenhood, too.

Always Wonder Woman! Or Hermione Granger, I don’t think Harry would have gotten very far without her.

So true.

I was never a fan of the whole damsel in distress scenarios so most of the books I’ve read had stronger female characters.

5. Okay, second to last question. What do you do to keep yourself writing?

I read or do something creative, when I get stuck or when I’m having trouble getting motivated. Just to get the creative juices flowing.

6.  And the final question: if you could give younger you one piece of writing advice, what would it be?

I would tell my younger self “Don’t stop!!!” I shied away from writing and I would probably be a lot farther had I kept going. Now, coming back into writing with all of the technology that it entails, I’m trying to remember everything I learned about writing and trying to learn all of the new information. It’s tough, and a little degrading at times.

Jen, aka ThisIsHowIWasteTime, thank you so much for joining me. I hope that we have a lot of fun on the #51writers hashtag. For everyone else, you can find Jen at her blog, or on twitter. Read her fantasy and enjoy!

Writing for Money: Being Reliable

Neil Gaiman once said:

You get work however you get work, but people keep working in a freelance world… because their work is good, because they are easy to get along with and because they deliver the work on time. And you don’t even need all three! Two out of three is fine.

If you’re getting into ghost writing or working on spec, I’d argue that you need all three out of three, especially to begin with. The world is full of freelancers, and from my own personal experience, I’m more expensive than many of the freelancers out there and thus I need to justify my expense. So today I’m expanding on these three points, and how they lead to reliable work as a freelancer – both in that you will be considered reliable, and that you will make reliable money.

Impressing the Boss

I write for a couple of freelance portals. Sometimes there are 50-70 other bids for a job I want. This means that if I want to grab that amazing job, I need to prove that I can give my client the kind of writing he wants.

Once you get to a certain point, it’s going to come down to the matter of individual taste. Make sure you keep that in the back of your mind, otherwise you spend too much time dwelling on how awful you are when you lose a contract. Pick yourself up, tell yourself that you’re awesome, and get ready for the next job. And of course, keep practicing. Good writing will get you a long way, especially if you’re a fairly untested freelancer.

Keeping it Friendly

I have been on the other side of the table every so often, working as a client rather than contractor. Mostly this is in regards to the magazine for which I am a second reader. So I’ll say flat out: I don’t like working with unpleasant people. I don’t like reading the work of unpleasant people. There are a lot of great writers out there, and there are a lot of publishable stories that we don’t take at my magazine because it comes down to one or the other, and we like the other just a little bit better. So if you give me a good reason to say no to you, I’ll take it. And the same is true on the freelancer side of things.

Freelance portals have review options, which means that your client can complain publicly about how rude you are. People might take a chance on someone with less experience but more politeness as well. Not to mention that working with someone repugnant drains your emotional energy and nobody needs that right now. The easier you are to work with, the more likely clients will come back. And that means that you’ll start to have constant income streams.

Delivering by Deadline

Authors are famous for not doing this. George R.R. Martin is a classic example at the moment. What is he, two years behind on Winds of Winter? Other Fantasy authors in particular have caught flak for falling behind on deadlines, and you might think that it’s just the way things go.

If you are a new freelancer, it had better not be the way things go for you.

Here’s the thing: a lot of deadlines are kind of tight. Especially if you’re doing work on spec through a portal. If you say you can complete a piece by a deadline, people expect you to deliver. And life happens, we all understand that. But you need to do what you can to make sure life doesn’t happen to you before you’ve built up a reputation. This isn’t a bad idea for publishing under your own name, either. People will give you a break if they can see your missed deadline is out of the ordinary.

So, how do you make sure you don’t miss your deadline? First of all, consider your expectations of the piece. How long will it take you to create a piece you’re happy sending out as a representation of your abilities? You won’t just be drafting, you’ll be revising, so keep that in mind. Build in some extra time in case an emergency disrupts your schedule. That way, you can keep on track without pulling an all-nighter or turning in work you’re not happy with. Also, if you don’t have an emergency, you can get the work done early and get a reputation for writing ahead of the deadline!

Being a freelancer is hard work, but super rewarding. Hopefully you can use these tips to build your reputation and get repeat customers.

Writing for Money – Landing Gigs

Writing for money is hard for two reasons. First, paying gigs are scarce. And second, you get paid for what you write after you write it. Sometimes years after you write it. So how can you make money reliably? This part of my blog series is about getting work. If you are interested in writing for money or editing for money, I think it can help you out.

You can find my other Writing for Money posts here.

Okay. Let’s make buckets of money. How do we do it?

First step: dust off and update your CV. If you want to catch some clients, you need a CV with relevant work – hopefully relevant work done recently. Make sure you’re not violating any agreements with what you put on your CV, such as a non-disclosure agreement, and make your CV detailed and varied. I have an entire CV devoted to my writing so that I can note every single thing I’ve done in the past few years.

Bah! CV’s are boring. What’s next?

Next, you need to be able to provide samples of your work. If you edit, you need to provide samples of your editing. If you write, you need to provide samples of whatever you’re trying to write for someone. Maybe your travel articles will land you a novel-writing gig, or vice-versa, I dunno. But the closer you can hit to a potential client’s mark, the more they can see you writing for them. If I’m applying to ghost write someone’s novel, I usually try to find an excerpt that matches their genre (as close as I can get to it), and a short story to show that I can write completed stories with a plot and character arc.

If you edit, or if you write stories for other people – get permission before distribution. Editors, don’t put someone else’s work out there without their knowledge or permission. That’s scummy. If you can’t provide samples, you can offer to do the first five pages on a trial basis, or you can get testimonials from previous clients. Or you can do free edits for your friends, in exchange for using samples in your applications. Writers, likewise – get permission before sharing samples of work that is not entirely your own. This is especially relevant because, if you’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement, you could get into legal trouble.

That’s all good, you super special unicorn you, but I haven’t written/edited anything recently/ever.

Okay, then we need to take a step back. People will hire you if they think you can get the job done – but how will they know you can get the job done if they can’t see anything you’ve worked on? If you’re rusty, out of practice, or inexperienced, then forget the business of writing for money. Write for the sake of writing first. Write to finish something. Write to explore your world. Write to learn how to write. And write to see if you enjoy it. Writing for money is a challenge, and like so many other jobs, you won’t be very successful if you don’t actually like doing the work.

Once you can write a story, a poem, an article, whatever it is you want to write for other people – then come back here, and get going with that CV and those samples!

Okay, okay. I’m ready. Show me the people with the money.

So, here’s where things start to work a little differently depending on what you want to do with yourself. If you’re looking to write articles, there are plenty of sites who will take your submissions – just beware of getting offered exposure instead of money (I mean, people literally die of exposure. A different kind, but still).

I’m not much of an expert on selling short stories or poems on short order, and while selling them to a magazine is extremely gratifying, it is NOT going to pay your household bills any time soon. If you want to translate, edit, write copy or articles, then you can check out freelance portal sites such as Upwork and Odesk. These sites link clients and freelancers, and provide you with some measure of safety net for your work – in exchange for a cut of your earnings, of course. Just be aware of the fee you’ll pay when you bid on projects.

Novelists have more options than ever. Plenty of people on freelance sites want you to write their bestseller for them, and recently I’ve noticed the rise of the literary book packager – companies that work with a writer to develop a concept and make it a novel. Some places, like Glasstown Entertainment, vary on whether they want a writer to use a special pen name, and writers get paid upon a publishing deal. Others, like Relay Publishing, pay by the word. (Quick note – I was unable to verify the legitimacy of Relay publishing, as their site is down, but a previous check revealed no shenanigans)

Ohmygod. About 3000 people want to work for the client I want. How do I make them pick me?

First, make sure they have your CV and samples of your work, and know where to find more – on your web site, or on your profile if you use a freelance portal. Second, write a killer cover letter:

Paragraph 1: I usually thank the client for posting the job, say I’m excited to apply and broadly state who I am and why I think I’m a good fit.

Paragraph 2: I get into the meat of my previous experience and interests. What I’ve published previously, how my writing experience interacts with the project in question, and so on. I often discuss how I think I can bring something particular to a project. Like writing a query, it’s great to be specific, but bad to be long-winded!

Paragraph 3: I discuss the samples of my work attached for perusal. ‘Discuss’ in this case, means, what I’m trying to showcase for the client, whether the pieces have been published, and where to find further samples of my work.

I’ve had above average success for the jobs I’ve applied for, using these tips. And the secret, of course, is to apply to a lot of jobs. When starting out it might be difficult to net the highest paying jobs, and you may need to do some work for less than you’re worth (or *gasp* for exposure). NEVER agree to work for a price you’ll later resent, but remember that no one’s going to treat you like Stephen King until you prove that you can write like him.

If you have any questions you can always use the contact form – or just comment on the blog! What are your dreams about writing for money?

Writing for Money: Getting Started

Every author and their dog has writing advice, whether we’re published, soon to be published, or just messing around. I’m not a big fan of giving theoretical advice or espousing the show-don’t-tell mantra (what does that even mean?). But there’s one thing I can talk about – getting writing gigs.

The landscape around freelance writing has changed a lot since I started 7 years ago, which has significantly affected writers’ opportunities to make money. And that’s not entirely a bad thing!

So, let’s say you want to start getting paid for your writing. How do you do that? I have a few general tips.

Let’s tackle the big issue: writing your own stuff. By this I mean short stories and novels that you submit to magazines, agents and publishers. It’s so rewarding to see your name (or pen name) in print, to see yourself credited for a piece of work that not only you love, but that someone else loved and felt was valuable. There are many people who make a living just by writing their own stuff. If you’re starting out, though, that’s not going to be you. Not yet. If your goal is to make a living off of writing, make sure that you have the time you need to focus on your work, but ensure other income streams as well.

Writing for other people can pay, and it can pay well. Start with analyzing what you want to write. There are opportunities in fiction, nonfiction, articles and stories aimed at kids and at adults, web or magazine copy, and more. There are also editing opportunities. Examine what interests you and keep those interests as broad as possible – the more you can do, the more you’ll be hired to do.

Personal contacts are great to have, and if you can get a gig through a writing program, site or friend that’s great. If you don’t have the contacts you need, head to a freelance portal. Odesk, Upwork and other sites will connect you with clients and make it easy for you to get paid for your work. The downsides of these sites are that they take a cut of your earnings, and they’re often flooded by clients who want high quality work for low-quality pay. You may have to take a couple of low-paying gigs to start in order to establish yourself, but always make sure that you’re okay with the work and the price. There’s no shame in saying no, and resentment at the work versus the pay can make a difficult job even worse.

It’s best to have work you can showcase in a portfolio for prospective clients. Make sure that whoever has commissioned this work from you is okay with having it posted.

My best paying gigs have usually been ghostwriting. Ghostwriting has changed a lot since I first heard about it in high school – back then it was writing autobiographies for B-list celebrities and downwards. With the advent of self-publishing and the rise of small publishers, the Book Packager has begun popping up. Book packagers put together a concept and hire a writer to turn it into a novel. Some allow you to write under your own name, some require you to ghost write. Some work together with traditional publishers, granting the writer an advance and royalties, and some pay the writer up front. I ghost write fantasy and science fiction, and it has been one of my greatest writing experiences.

Writing is a build-up career, and it takes a lot of work up front for little or no pay. You probably won’t be able to jump headfirst into a freelance writing career. But with focus and persistence you can build a client list and reputation, see what jobs work for you, and get started on that elusive goal – getting paid just to write.

Good luck!