Monday, May 04, 2015

You Know I Love "Jane Bear?" I Mean, "Jane Eyre."

I was intrigued when I read a review of The Cottage in the Woods by Katherine Coville and snatched the book off the shelf when I saw it at my local library. I mention this to make the point that sometimes reviews actually do get readers. Or, in this case, a reader.

The Cottage in the Woods has been described as Jane Eyre meets Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It certainly is. Jane Eyre fans can have a fantastic time picking out the connections. A young, powerless, single female enters a large house as the employee of a wealthy man. This is a wealthy, married man with a family, which is one of the ways this book is different from Jane Eyre. But he's also a bear, as is the young female, Ursula. (Relating to ursine, I'm guessing.) Ursula is there to act as a governess to the bear's son, Teddy. (Oh, my gosh. Teddy Bear!!! No, actually his last name is Vaughn.) Ursula has a love interest, and, shades of Mr. Rochester, he's not free to love her. There is a mystery in this house, as there is in Jane Eyre. And it's related to a female, as is the mystery in Jane Eyre. This female, though, is young, with golden hair.

However, there is a whole nonJane plot involving human bigotry toward enchanted animals like Ursula and the Vaughns. I've read that some reviewers found that aspect of the book didactic. To me it was distracting, because it wasn't part of the Jane Eyre/Three Bears premise. It seemed unnecessary. What was going on with Goldilocks was so clever and unique that I would have liked a plot sticking much closer to that, which could have been closer to the Jane Eyre source material.

But, then, I know Jane Eyre. Readers who don't could feel differently. Since this is a middle grade novel, there will be many readers who don't know Jane.

While reading this, I wondered what Ms. Yingling would think of it. Sure enough, she read The Cottage in the Woods and weighs in on the subject. I agree that while I enjoyed it, it may have trouble finding an audience. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Annotated "Saving the Planet & Stuff" After Party

Yes, the Annotated Saving the Planet & Stuff project is done. You can access every post for some kind of total reading experience.

 But What Was The Point?


The original edition of Saving the Planet & Stuff went out of print in 2006. Print books go out of print because publishers make the decision that the sales the books are generating aren't large enough to justify warehouse space. That's why so few even traditionally published books are found in bookstores, too. Shelf space goes to books believed to sell. Print books are expensive to sell because of the real space they take up. The window for marketing a print book isn't very long. I've read more than once that after three months, authors should give up marketing efforts and work on the next book.

The edition of Saving the Planet & Stuff that I self-published is an eBook, however. No warehouse or shelf space required. Theoretically, you should be able to market eBooks indefinitely. Theoretically, you should always be able to find new readers because there are always new people who missed earlier promotions, who are growing into your book's age range, or who are discovering your subject as a new interest.

This theory gives me an opportunity to indulge my obsessiveness. Saving the Planet isn't my passion. You don't hear me going on about how much I love this book, believe in it, must give it its chance in the world. No, STP&S is much more of an obsession, probably because it straddles the YA and adult reading group and is so many things. It is fiction. It is humor. It deals with characters at different stages of life. It is connected to time and place. That wide net gives me opportunities to experiment with so many things.

What Was I Trying To Do This Time?


I had thought of putting up STP&S book excerpts at my website, but, seriously, I couldn't see myself going to a website to read an entire chapter of anything. Why would anyone else? Something briefer in a blog post was another story. And I love annotations and those behind the scenes features you see on DVDS. I'm always looking for ways to do Earth Day tie-ins. The annotated excerpts became my Earth Day month tie-in.

What Did I Actually Do?


Sold a few books. That's what you want to know, right? It really was just a few.

Learned that these days you have to promote blog posts. I got the idea to tweet the Annotated STP&S posts at the marketing program I attended in March. I also posted them to Google+ communities when the content was appropriate for them. On days I didn't do Annotated STP&S posts I tweeted the guest blog posts I'd done over the last two years. This past month I got the best blog stats I've had since back in the Golden Days of Blogging, around 2005-06. I suspect that that won't lead to a lot of new, regular readers. However, I will be more proactive from now on about promoting blog posts as a result of this experience in order to extend my reach.

Twitter has it all over Facebook for getting the word out. There's nothing to discuss. But I will. Facebook author pages, in my experience, reach barely anyone. Personal pages involve a finite group of Friends. Posts are liked, but rarely shared. You're not going to reach new people, and your friends are primarily interested in hearing about your kids and vacation. On Twitter I could use hashtags to attract people beyond my own followers, people who were interested in what I was hashtagging. I got some retweets by environmental groups, one with a lot of followers. I could see results there, and those results presumably led to the leaps in blog page views. 

Confirmed that Google+ communities don't get the credit they deserve. Links posted to a community could end up getting shared days after they went up. I've often seen a little boost in blog stats here after posting at a Google+ community.

Definitely An Experience


This last month's work has changed how I'll be doing my posting. I've blogged in the evening for a long time, then posted as soon as I was done. For this project, I blogged in the evening, then posted early the next morning so I could tweet and retweet during the day. I'll be continuing with a similar system.

Also, the next time I have a new book come out, I would far prefer doing a lengthy blog promotion than a blog tour. I've done one traditional blog tour for a book and a nontraditional one, over a long period of time, for the Saving the Planet & Stuff eBook. I think this past month's promotional work was more effective.

For now, I am looking forward to blogging about other subjects. I'll be taking a rest for a while from Saving the Planet & Stuff promotion. But I do have a couple of ideas to try sometime in the future, because who just drops an obsession?

Next up: A weekend off from blogging. I've got some biking planned, and any time I can squeeze in for work I'll be using for my May Days project. Then next week--new material!


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Annotated "Saving the Planet & Stuff" Part Twelve: The Romance Edition

A number of years ago, a YA agent or editor (I really don't remember which) announced at her blog that YA fiction required romance. She got a lot of attention for that. Then it all blew over, and I've heard no more about it.

So that's not the reason I included a little romance in Saving the Planet & Stuff. I included it because I think that out in the real world, teenagers hope for romance. It's part of what they're looking for in life. It's part of what teenagers look for in a summer experience.

I'm not a big reader of romance, though, so these two final scenes in the Annotated Saving the Planet & Stuff project, are not going to bring the Romance Writers of America beating a path to my door.

     "Hey, listen," Michael said as he followed her. "You want to do something?"
     Amber stopped suddenly and turned to look at him.
     "Okay, we need to get something straight," she said. "I don't date guys."
     Michael gasped. A lesbian! I've never met one before! At least, I don't think so. Wait until everyone hears about this. I wonder if there's some way I can send a postcard to Marc. This would cheer him up for sure.
    "I'm not a lesbian, if that's what you're thinking," Amber went on.
    "Oh."
    "I meant I just don't date. And I don't date because I don't want to get involved with anyone from East Branbury. You get involved with someone from your hometown and then you're stuck there or else you're stuck going where he wants to go. I have one more year of high school, four years of college, then a master's program and a Ph.D. program before I can practice psychology. What do you think the chances are of my doing all that if I have a boyfriend back home? Zilch."
     She's going to be a senior this year. So she is older than I am.
     "I'm not from East Branbury," he reminded her.
     "Oh. Well. That's a minor point," Amber said quickly.
     "And I don't want to be your boyfriend or anything," he added, thinking he sounded very reassuring.
     Amber didn't look reassured.
     "I thought that was what you wanted—to not have a boyfriend," he said as he rushed to follow her along the balcony to the stairs. "Aren't we perfect for each other?"
     "What kind of standard for perfection do you have?" Amber snapped over her shoulder.
     "I don't know. All I did was ask if you wanted to do something. I'm not interested in going shopping for rings or anything."
You can understand why Michael finds the story of how Walt and Nora met a big improvement on how he and Amber set up their first date.

     "She took a big chance on me. I was drunk the first time she saw me. I was so shitfaced, I went into a coffeehouse looking for beer. They had a guy there sitting on a stool, reading poetry, so, as you can imagine, there were lots of empty tables. But I went and plopped myself down next to this woman who was sitting all by herself. She had a black cardigan sweater on that was buttoned all the way up to the neck. Her hair was red—not that orangy red like Bozo the Clown, but a dark, brick color, and it was in this twist along the back of her head. She turned and looked at me, and she didn't seem surprised to see me sitting there. She just smiled."
     "Why were you drunk?" Michael asked.
     Walt groaned and rolled his eyes. "I knew you were going to ask that. You always zoom in on something insignificant. I don't remember why I was drunk, okay? Wait! Yes, I do! I was drunk because Nora and I were meant to meet that night. It was Fate. But since I would never have gone to a poetry reading in a coffeehouse sober, Fate had to make sure I was drunk."
     Michael sighed. I want to meet a woman that way, he realized. Except for the poetry. I really don't like poetry. And except for being drunk. I've never been drunk, and what if I were drunk and went to the wrong coffeehouse or the wrong table? But otherwise I'd like everything to be the same.
Walt met a woman who wanted to save the planet. By the end of Saving the Planet & Stuff, it's pretty clear that Michael could deal with that, too.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

May Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

An active month. Not overwhelming, but plenty to do.

Fri., May 1, Joshua Jay, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 4:30 PM

Sun., May 3 Michaela MacColl, Barnes & Noble, Westport 4:00 PM

Sat., May 2, Christine Pakkala, Tommy Greenwald, and Michaela MacColl, Fairfield University Bookstore, Fairfield 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM

Sun., May 3, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Barnes & Noble, Glastonbury 2:00 PM 

Mon., May 4, Neal Shusterman, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 6:00 PM

Tues., May 5, Bob Shea, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 10:30 AM Story Time

Tues., May 5, Dave Barry, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 5:00 PM

Fri., May 8, Tommy Wallach, Westport Public Library event held at Toquet Hall Teen Center, Westport 6:00 to 8:00 PM

Sat., May 9, Janet Lawler, CT Authors and Publishers Association 12th Annual Conference on Writing, Publishing & Marketing, Hartford  11:00 AM Registration and fee

Sat., May 9, Katie Davis, CT Authors ad Publishers Association 12th Annual Conference on Writing, Publishing & Marketing Hartford 11:00 AM Registration and fee

Sat., May 9, Susan Hood, Fairfield University Downtown Bookstore, Fairfield 4:00 PM

Mon., May 18, Michaela MacColl, Westport Public Library, Westport 5:00 to 6:00 PM

Tues., May 19, Mac Barnett, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 4:00 PM

This calendar is available in a pdf suitable for copying and posting. 

April 30th Update: This calendar was updated today with two events. The information was too late to make the e-newsletter edition.



Time Management Tuesday: Yes, Yes. Another May Days Project Is Coming Up

My May Days Facebook group is powering up again. You remember May Days? I've been talking about it here since 2012. Part of what I like about taking part in this event, as I've said before, is that it gives me an opportunity to indulge in obsession. Sort of the way I did this past month with the Annotated Saving the Planet & Stuff. I think of these blocks of time as set-aside time to work on specific projects. Like the An--you know.

I've written here before about the significance of the beginnings and endings of units of time. I'm really feeling that significance right now. I've been worn out from this STP&S promo month for a while. How much have I been looking forward to the end of this project? A little more than a week ago, I thought the month ended this past weekend, because it was the first weekend I didn't have any family commitments. Commitments done, month done, right? Imagine my disappointment when I realized I had another four days to go.

So while I'm anxious for this April set-aside time to end, I'm also looking forward to the beginning of the next set-aside time, May Days. As far as new work is concerned, this month I've mainly done revising. I'd really like to move forward. That's my plan for May Days.

What I want to move forward with is the mummy book that I worked on last May. And the May before.  I'm not foolish enough to think I can finish it next month. (Though I did meet a writer this weekend who can do a rough draft in six weeks, and I already have five chapters.) But it would be terrific to get it done by fall. Making some serious progress in the next few weeks would go a long way toward getting there.

Note that with both these monthly projects, the Annotated Saving the Planet & Stuff Earth Day Promo and  Mummy for May Days (a name!!), involve two of my six  goals for this year.  I am staying on task!


Monday, April 27, 2015

The Annotated "Saving the Planet & Stuff" Part Eleven: DIY Recycling

In Saving the Planet & Stuff, one of Michael's tasks while working for The Earth's Wife is to research "second lives," so to speak, for the waste that had been diverted to Walt and Nora's spare bedroom. He uses 1001 Ways to Give New Life to Old Things (Northampton, Mass.: The Free and Open Press, 1973) for this job.

     On Monday morning, Roberta asked him, "What kinds of things have you been finding in your room? You said you made a list."
     "Butter containers," Michael said. "There are hundreds of butter containers under the bed. They're all different sizes and colors and brands. And then there are lots of those artificial-whipped-cream containers."
      "Someone must have given Nora those. She would never buy anything in a plastic container herself. And she wouldn't buy artificial whipped cream no matter what it came in."
      "Plus, there are empty bleach bottles all along one wall," Michael said.
     Roberta groaned. "I swear, when I was in college, people were making purses out of bleach bottles. Or maybe that was just one of those urban legends, because you never actually saw anyone carrying one of the things. I did know a guy who made himself a vest out of the ring tabs on soda cans, though."
     "There are only a half dozen soda cans. I brought them in yesterday," Michael admitted.
     "Fortunately that's not enough to make anything out of. Whatever you do, don't buy any more. What else have you got?"
      Michael looked at his paper. "There are some used beach towels."
     "Are they nice?"
     "No."
     "Maybe we can make pot holders out of them. What's that you've got written there? 'Blue jeans'? Are there a lot of them?"
     Michael nodded. "But they have holes."
     "Now those we can use to make a quilt. I've seen a few of those. They're actually attractive."
     "A quilt!" Michael repeated. And then he thought, What does she mean by "we"?
I think my Aunt Tessy really did make one of those bleach bottle purses. I don't know if she went out in public with it.

When the original edition of this book was in the editing stages at G. P. Putnam's Sons, someone there told my editor that no one would cut up old blue jeans for a quilt. They were too valuable. Well, I would. I don't have any kind of emotional attachment to my old Levi's. Or those of any of my family members.

And so, folks, I have, indeed, made a denim quilt out of old blue jeans. I think it was done either just before I was writing this book or soon after. It went away to college with someone and is now in his house. I also made a cute little bag for a girl out of denim with a denim patch work side. Don't have a picture of that.

What I do have a picture of is all the denim, some of it already cut into squares, that I've collected for another quilt. A couple of weeks ago a family member was visiting and told me he had a bag of denim for me but had forgotten to bring it. So there will be more squares and more quilts and maybe more denim bags.

Wow. Little denim bags. I could have cranked out a bunch of those and used them for swag. I could make a little denim bag and put a copy of the original paper STP&S in it for raffle donations! Got to think seriously about my ROI on that idea.

This whole recycling old things business was a bigger deal in my college days, so this is another example of an autobiographical element making its way into my work. Recrafting recycled items still has its advocates, however. Team EcoEtsy is a group of sellers on Etsy who reduce, reuse, and recycle. This past month they ran a trash-to-treasure challenge to celebrate Earth Day.

Nora would have done an article about them for The Earth's Wife.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Conference Day

I spent yesterday at the New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators spring conference. A very good day for me. In the past when I've attended professional events, I've reported on the people I knew who I ran into. Well, I seem to know quite a few people now. Reading a list of them wouldn't be that fascinating. So I will go on to other things.

Workshops Attended


Crafting Short Stories with Trisha Leaver. I may spend a month later this year revising a number of my short stories because of this program.

Show Me the Money with Chris Eboch. This workshop dealt with what I've heard called "income streams" for writers. There are a number of options, but they require so much work! I came up with some pitches for someone else I know while I was in the class. And this workshop was a good lead-in to the afternoon workshop I attended, which was on school visits. School visits, you see, are an income stream for writers.

Bringing Books Alive During School and Library Visits with Marcia Wells and Kwame Alexander. Interesting story here. When I signed up for this workshop, I'd never heard of either of these people. And then Kwame Alexander won the Newbery Medal! Marcia and I have already become Twittermates. I'll be doing a separate post early next month on school visit workshops.

Lunch!


The New England SCBWI regional conference is huge in terms of attendance. Computer Guy went with me a few years ago when we were preparing to republish Saving the Planet & Stuff so he could take a workshop on making e-books from scratch. He was stunned by the crowd then and amazed by the lunchtime picture to your left.

That is why it was terrific that Jill Daily, a member of my writers' group, somehow snagged a table for the nine of us. It was great not to have to negotiate a ballroom full of people on my own. I am afraid I was not a great lunch companion, however, because I was seated in such a way that I had to turn my back to everyone to see the lunch speakers. And I also was busy taking notes and pictures.


During lunch Deborah Freedman received the Crystal Kite Award for the New England region. This was for her book, The Story of Fish and Snail.




Kwayme Alexander spoke during lunch, too. Extremely charming and charismatic. I actually read a book of poetry this year, and I think I'm going to ask for one of Kwayme's (I went to his workshop, so I can call him Kwayme, right?) adult books for my birthday.

The lunch panel discussion was a surprise for me. I wasn't looking forward to it, because it was on nontraditional publishing. I've spent a lot of time on my own nontraditional publishing effort, and this past month I've been promoting the living daylights out of it. I wasn't wildly enthusiastic about hearing more on this subject right now.

But I was totally taken with this discussion. I think what made it good was the variety of viewpoints of the panelists. There was a self-published writer who is very encouraging on the process, someone who runs an editing company that also helps authors self-publish who recognized that some people are going to need help, someone who had been involved in some kind of self-publishing company that wasn't successful, and a traditionally published author new to self-publishing. I appreciated that they didn't all speak with one voice.

The panelists: Chris Cheng, Laura Pauling, Erica Orloff, and Steve Mooser. J. L. Bell, from the NESCBWI was the moderator. There is a reason for that. He's very good at it.

I'll be doing another couple of Conference-related posts later this week.

I am finishing today with a picture of lunch because Kwayme Alexander used a food slide in his lunch talk. It was terrific. People love looking at pictures of food. It is a universal truth.





Friday, April 24, 2015

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? April 24 Edition

More whining. It's been a rough month with a lot of prepping for family events, three medical appointments during the work week for an elder, and this Annotated Saving the Planet & Stuff promotion I've been doing. That is exhausting. How exhausting? Last week I didn't do a weekly check in on Friday night. I did my nails instead. I kid you not.  And, for the first time, I understood why women like doing it. It's a very zenny experience. I'll have more about this next month.

Goal 1. Mummy Book. I have been revising early chapters in an excruciatingly slow manner. However, some things are coming together that will...should...I hope...maybe...make later work easier. Or at least possible.

Goal 2. Short Pieces. I finished an essay I actually started this year! And I submitted it! This evening, so I just barely made it into this week. And I think I may write a writerly piece about NOT finishing a draft before you start to revise. Everyone says we should do that, and as you can see from what I said in Goal 1, I can't manage it. I have never managed it.

Goal 5. Community Building. The May Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar is ready to go next week. I also found my registration material for the New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Conference tomorrow and now I know what workshops I registered for! Good work, Gail!

Goal 6. Marketing Saving the Planet & Stuff. Ayup. One week left to go.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Annotated "Saving the Planet & Stuff" Unplanned Post: Ripped From The Headlines!!!

Oh,  my gosh.  The  Saving the Planet & Stuff storyline involves Michael discovering that a major store chain has been selling insulation with mold. The Earth's Wife, the magazine he's working for,  has the opportunity to blow this story sky high, but the new managing editor has kept the story from publisher Nora Blake because he wants to take The Wife in a different direction. Michael finds himself in a dilemma that involves one of the book's major themes--how do we decide what is the right course of action, the right thing to do?

Well, just now I read that Home Depot is phasing out toxic vinyl flooring from its stores! Now moldy insulation that causes hallucinations isn't toxic flooring "linked to a laundry list of ailments." Plus it sounds as if Home Depot is acting pro-actively in requiring the the chemical in question no longer be used in flooring it carries while the company in Saving the Planet & Stuff doesn't. But except for all that, I see a parallel. It's there! I'm not hallucinating. (Well, not much.)

Man, what luck that I republished Saving the Planet & Stuff  a mere two years before this happened so everyone can ooh and aah over how prescient I was, huh? Also, what luck that I still haven't replaced the flooring in my kitchen. When I go shopping, I'll be checking out the chemical content of those vinyl squares I'm looking at.

Update To Add Excerpt


A reader asked for a Saving the Planet & Stuff excerpt related to the mold storyline described above. Ask and ye shall receive!

     "Oh, you're familiar with the story I'm working on?" Doug asked, sounding pleased.
     "Sure. I saw the e-mail about the hallucinations, remember? What kind of hallucinations are we talking about, anyway?" Michael asked.
     "They involve sounds. People have been hearing things," Doug explained.
     "Voices telling them to do stuff?" Michael asked hopefully.
     "I wish! There's no way they could keep a lid on that kind of story. No, these hallucinations involve hearing annoying songs. There was one person who would hear Frank Sinatra singing and see all his furniture dance along."
     "Wow," Michael said appreciatively. "So people have been seeing things, too. And hearing Frank Sinatra. That's bad."
     Doug laughed. "I'd be seeing a doctor if it were happening to me."
     "Isn't it funny the way everyone carries on about how awful heavy metal is, and it's Frank Sinatra who people hear when they're hallucinating?" Michael asked.
     "Ironic, isn't it?"

The Environmental Book Club

Yesterday was Earth Day, which means the Green Earth Book Awards were announced by The Nature Generation.

Fiction Winners


  • The Promise by Nicola Davies with illustrations by Laura Carlin  Picture Book
  • Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly Children's
  • Threatened by Eliot Schrefer Young Adult

Nonfiction Winners


  • Plastic, Ahoy!:  Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by Patricia Newman with illustrations by Annie Crawley Children's
  • Eyes Wide Open:  Going Behind the Environmental Headlines by Paul Fleischman 

Honor Winners


  • A Bird On Water Street by Elizabeth O. Dulemba 
  • A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz with illustrations by Catia Chien
  • Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate with illustrations by G. Brian Karas
  • Josie and the Fourth Grade Bike Brigade by Beth Handman, Kenny Bruno, and Antonia Bruno
  • Pills and Starships by Lydia Millet
  • Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal by Margarita Engle
  • The Case of the Vanishing Honeybees:  A Scientific Mystery by Sandra Markle
  • The Kid’s Guide to Exploring Nature by the Education Staff of Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Sarah Schmidt, editor, and Laszlo Veres, illustrator
  • The Next Wave: The Quest to Harness the Power of the Oceans by Elizabeth Rusch
Notice Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla is an honor winner. We were just talking about that book.

And you can check out the list of all nominees.