Monday, February 29, 2016

Louise Rennison--Fabby, Fab, Fab Forever

I have written about Georgia Nicolson many times here. I am sorry to be writing about her today, because I have to report that her creator, Louise Rennison, has died.

Rennison's most famous creation was, and continues to be, a fantastic character. Sometimes not much happened in a fabby, fab, fab Georgia Nicolson book. "Not many authors can write about the nothingness of life as entertainingly as Rennison. Sacre bloody bleu! She is a genius!" Yeah, that was me, saying that.

How terrific was Georgia Nicolson? How much of an impact did she have? Write alikes started appearing soon after Georgia exploded on the scene. They didn't last long, because there is only one Georgia Nicholson.

How good is she? I can read a book about boyfriends and shopping only if Georgia is in it.

How good was Louise Rennison? Even when she moved on to another series, one about Georgia's younger cousin, Tallulah, she couldn't help but be funny. And that's with Tallulah being deeper than Georgia. "Her interests  involve more than boys but not to the point that it ruins her sense of humor."  "She and her friends have read Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, though, and are capable of some really clever Heathcliff and Mrs. Rochester jokes. In the Glossary at the back of the book, Tallulah defines Heathcliff as "The 'hero' of Wuthering Heights. Although no one knows why." Yes, I'm quoting me again. Because, seriously, Rennison is a favorite author.

Well, this stinks. 

What I Do In The Kitchen

As my legions of Facebook friends know, I am prone to binge cooking on weekends. I consider cooking unnecessary creativity. It's creative work unrelated to my writing work. I indulge myself with it in the belief that creativity will spur creativity.

I am not one of those people who wants her cooking space open to the whole neighborhood. I am very happy in the kitchen by myself. But I do like sound when I'm cooking, either music or, the last couple of years, podcasts. I horde podcast links in my bookmarks. Quite honestly, I am never going to sit for a half hour, staring at my computer screen and listening to someone talk. (Though I did sit for more than 15 minutes staring at my computer screen and listening to Mindy Kaling give this speech.) So I try to multi-task with podcasts while I'm being unnecessarily creative, even though by doing so I am risking brain damage and my already shaky career, because I'm never going to listen to these things otherwise and the links will just pile up and up on my hard drive.

The Longform Podcast

So on Saturday afternoon, I listened to the Longform guys' podcast with Meghan Daum because I recognized her name, and she's an essayist, a type of writing I'm interested in. Daum had some interesting things to say about the personal essay and whether writers refine them enough before publishing. The Longform podcast deals with nonfiction writers and editors. I'll definitely check it out again.

I also started to listen to Longform's interview with Kurt Andersen because I liked his book, Turn of the Century, which isn't nonfiction, and I've heard him on Studio 360. But someone came into the kitchen, and since I could get him to help with the chicken parm, I gave up on the podcast.

That's the risk you take with podcasts.

A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment

I had to cook again on Sunday afternoon because I got such a late start with my Saturday binge. So that day I listened to the first A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment podcast, hosted by Sherman Alexie and Jess Walter. I almost listened to this on Saturday, because I like Alexie's work. But in the description of the program it said these two might discuss professional basketball. I took that as a warning. But when I tried A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment out on Sunday, they talked about kids' recreational sports instead. And not until the end of the show.

The really great section of this podcast was Alexie and Walter talking about dire author appearances they've made. Maybe you have to be a writer to enjoy that kind of thing, because when I repeated the stories to my husband at dinner, he said things like, "So he didn't get paid?" Which totally missed the point.

I'll be listening to A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment again, too.

Friday, February 26, 2016

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? Feb. 26 Edition

Goal 1. Adhere to Goals and Objectives. As I said last week, I'm finally beginning to see my enthusiasm dwindling a bit. But I'm hoping I'll rebound next week, after I make the school appearance I've been prepping for for a couple of months.

Goal 3. Generate New Short Work/Programs. Yeah, that would be the writing strategies presentation I alluded to above.

Goal 4. Marketing Saving the Planet & Stuff eBook. I put STP&S on KDP Select, which has not changed my life in any way to date. This was part of the 30-Day Productivity Challenge. I went through a list of blogs to contact regarding an April marketing push. (A MULTIPLIER. See below.) That wasn't helpful.

Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding.
  • Andre Norton post  Promote to google+ & Twitter
  • TMT post Promote to Facebook, FB communities, google+, google+ communities, & Twitter
    Horn Book post Promote to google+ & community & Twitter
  • CCLC post promote to FB, communities, CT Bloggers, Twitter. Find potential readers for newsletter
  • Distribute newsletter on weekend
  • Check out some blogs for STP&S April marketing; MULTIPLIER because it hits two goals.
  • This week's Goodreads post--Andre Norton post
Goal 6. Generate New Work. Began work on the picture book idea I came up with recently. Didn't go well, but I think I know what is wrong. Have made a change in approach.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

March Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

Oh, look. It's only March, and already we've got a lot more appearances.

Wed., March 2, Sandra Horning, Pleasant Valley Elementary School, South Windsor Family Book Share Fair Night 6:30 to 8:00 PM

Thurs., March 3, Suzanne Cordatos, Barnes & Noble, Farmington 10:30 AM

Sat., March 5, Julie Phillipps, West Hartford Public Library, Bishop's Corner, West Hartford 10:30 to Noon. 

Tues., March 8, Natasha Friend, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 6:00 PM

Tues., March 8, Leslie Connor, Guilford Free Public Library, Guilford 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM Book launch.

Wed., March 9, Lauren Tarshis, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 5:30 PM

Thurs., March 10, Lois Wendus, Lauryn Wendus, Barnes & Noble, Farmington 10:30 AM

Thurs., March 10, Beth Vrabel, Avon Free Public Library, Avon  11:00 AM  Writing workshop follows at 12:15, which requires sign-up

Fri., March 11, Jesse Andrews, Andrea Cremer, AR Kahler, David Levithan, Luanne Rice, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 7:00 PM

Sat., March 12, Suzanne Cordatos, Barnes & Noble, Glastonbury 11:00 AM

Sat., March 12, Natasha Friend, Simsbury Public Library, Simsbury 2:00 to 4:00 PM

Sat., March 12, Sandy Agate, Linda's Story Time, Monroe 1:00 to 3:00 PM

Thurs., March 17, Patrick Jones, Barnes & Noble, Farmington 10:30 AM

Fri., March 18, Anne and Lizzy Rockwell, Fairfield Public Library, Fairfield 4:00 PM

Sat., March 19, Allia Zobel Nolan, Fairfield University, Fairfield 12:00 to 3:00 PM

Sun., March 20, Christopher Lyles, Simsbury Public Library, Simsbury 2:00 to 4:00 PM

Wed., March 30, Lauryn Wendus, Barnes & Noble, Manchester 11:00 AM

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

I'm Caught Up On My "Horn Book" Reading!

I'm afraid the next issue of The Horn Book will come before I have a chance to post about this one. Hurry, hurry, hurry.

Material At The Front Of The Book

This was one of those issues filled with speeches by book award winners. I'm not that fond of reading those. I wonder if speeches are like sermons--meant to be heard. Nonetheless, Candace Fleming's talk about The Family Romanov caught my eye. First what struck me was that Fleming said she read Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie when she was young. Well, guess what! So did I! She also talks about the difference between listing facts in a piece of writing and telling the truth. The business about facts not being enough is something I've tried to explain to others, without much success I have to admit. With me it's more a matter of facts and what they actually mean.

I also liked On Writing the American Familia by Meg Medina, which was an article, not a speech. One of the interesting bits was her contention that language is a "dilemma" for multicultural families and books about them because in many ethnic families, the language is no longer spoken. We saw that first with the "old" ethnic families in this country. Polish, Italian, German, French were all lost. Yup. I saw it happen. I mentioned this article in relation to Listen, Slowly.

Reviews I Liked

Dylan the Villain by K. G. Campbell. Picture book. First line of review: "'Congratulations,' said the doctor. 'It's a healthy little super-villain!'" I'm in!

Emma and Julia Love Ballet by Barbara McClintock. Picture book. I got over my child interest in ballet really young. But this parallel story of two ballerinas, one child, one adult, sounds good.

I Don't Know How the Story Ends by J. B. Cheaney. Fiction. Kids in Hollywood during the WWI era, one of my favorite historical periods.

The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett. Fiction. This is Pratchett's last Tiffany Aching book. I'll probably read it hoping for a Wee Free Men sighting. I'm also hoping this isn't Pratchett's honest-to-goodness last book. I'd like a final Sam Vines and the nightwatch story.

The Hollow Boy by Jonathan Stroud. Fiction. I just read the first two books in this series. I have The Hollow Boy on order from Interlibrary Loan.

I'll try to post this tomorrow before the mail comes. I've got to beat that next issue.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: Content Marketing Calendars For Social Media

The Time Issue Involved With Social Media Marketing

Content marketing involves getting whatever content you create out before the public. Obviously if you're a writer, content involves your books, short stories, essays, poetry, etc. All marketing takes time.

But content can also be your blog posts. Blogs are valuable not just for marketing yourself in the traditional sense ("I have a new book out!" "I'll be speaking at the White House!") but for keeping an Internet presence, a public face, when you're between publications and appearances. These days blog content needs to be marketed, too. No one has time to read all the blog posts being created, so writer bloggers need to get their content out in front of the many, many people who aren't reading them already.

Since many of us blog regularly, that means marketing of this content regularly. Like, say, all the time. Lots of time. Blogs are a form of social media, anyway, and our best option for marketing individual posts is through social media. Paper publications don't do articles on blogs all that often, and we can't sit and wait for some day in the far off future when they'll choose to feature ours. So social media it is. Social media, which has that reputation for becoming way too big a part of our lives.

Spend Less Time Marketing With A Calendar

Last year, I heard Frances Caballo being interviewed on this subject on a podcast that I am embarrassed to say I lost. However, you can check out her guest post Social Media in 15 Minutes a Day for details on her plan for limiting your social media time. What I've been doing since hearing the Caballo interview: planning a weekly calendar (of sorts) each week.

Since January, I've been formally writing it out. You've been seeing it each Friday in my Friday reports on what I've done. You may remember last week's. It was under my Community Building/General Marketing/Branding goal. 
  • Blackbird Fly post. Promote to Google+, community, Twitter, and Goodreads
  • Book Scavenger post. Promote to Google+, community, Twitter, and Goodreads
  • Blackthorn Key post. Promote to Google+, community, Twitter, and Goodreads
  • Footer Davis post. Promote to Google+, community, Twitter, and Goodreads
  • Listen, Slowly post. Promote to Google+, community, Twitter, and Goodreads
  • Goodreads blog post 
  • Began collecting CCLC material for March. 
  • Worked on Publishers Marketplace post. 
  • Worked on Horn Book post.
I planned on Monday that I'd do these things over the course of the week. It takes only a few minutes to target posts to specific sites. Last week I had a lot of reader response posts because I was covering all the finalists for the middle grade fiction Cybals award. Goodreads was a target for those. However, this week the Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar is on my marketing "calendar." The content marketing calendar plan for that is "CCLC promote to FB, communities, CT Bloggers, Twitter. Find some new librarians to mail to  Distribute newsletter on weekend."

So different posts need different target promotion. It would be difficult to do that without a calendar plan. The promotion to various sites really does take only minutes, once I know what I'm going to do. Having blog post topics on a calendar is helpful in reminding me to get them started. That is far more time consuming than the promotion, and getting them started means I can try to work on them in smaller chunks of time instead of committing a lot of time all at once to each one.

The other thing the calendar plan does is help me make sure I've hit all my spots. When it gets toward the end of the week, if I see I have a number of items on the calendar I haven't done, I start to hurry.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Nominees

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America have announced the finalists for the Andre
Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy. I feel I should pick something from this list to read.

Seriously Wicked, Tina Connolly (Tor Teen)
Court of Fives, Kate Elliott (Little, Brown)
Cuckoo Song, Frances Hardinge (Macmillan UK 5/14; Amulet)
Archivist Wasp, Nicole Kornher-Stace (Big Mouth House)
Zeroboxer, Fonda Lee (Flux)
Shadowshaper, Daniel José Older (Levine)
Bone Gap, Laura Ruby (Balzer + Bray)
Nimona, Noelle Stevenson (HarperTeen)
Updraft, Fran Wilde (Tor)

Friday, February 19, 2016

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? Feb. 19th Edition

Goal 1. Adhere to Goals and Objectives. I'm reading the Lockwood & Co. series in which the narrator talks about a malaise that sets in when ghosts get too close. That's what's been going on here this past week. When I get close to an appearance malaise sets in. I had a brief appearance yesterday morning and another one the week after next that required creating a new program. And then there's a tai chi performance coming up on Sunday, which is like an appearance but...No, it's like an appearance. Malaaaaaaaaaise. Yet it looks as if I hit every goal this week in spite of it.

Goal 2. Prepare Mummy Hunters for Submission. Sent the entire manuscript to an agent who requested it and queried another one. I also finished going over more than a year's worth of Publisher's Marketplace Deals as part of my agent research.

Goal 3. Generate New Short Work/Programs. Created a ten/twelve minute mini-presentation on developing ideas. Putting that together went fast, at least for me. And yesterday's presentation went very well, thank you for asking.

Goal 4. Marketing Saving the Planet & Stuff eBook. Took the eBook down from Kobo and Barnes & Noble prior to offering it on Kindle Select. Had the website changed to reflect that. This was part of the 30-Day Productivity Challenge.  Found a list of blogs to contact for an April marketing push for Earth Day.

Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding. 
  • Blackbird Fly post. Promote to Google+, community, Twitter, and Goodreads
  • Book Scavenger post. Promote to Google+, community, Twitter, and Goodreads
  • Blackthorn Key post. Promote to Google+, community, Twitter, and Goodreads
  • Footer Davis post. Promote to Google+, community, Twitter, and Goodreads
  • Listen, Slowly post. Promote to Google+, community, Twitter, and Goodreads
  • Goodreads blog post 
  • Began collecting CCLC material for March. 
  • Worked on Publishers Marketplace post. 
  • Worked on Horn Book post.
  • Visited local school's 5th & 6th grade writers' club.

Goal 6. Generate New Work. This wasn't an original objective, but I came up with a picture book idea last weekend that I'm going to draft just so I'll have it before it's gone from my mind.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Cybils Middle Grade Finalist: "Listen, Slowly"

Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai is a traditional story about an American girl stuck spending part of her summer vacation away from friends and boys and all that is good. It's also a fish-out-of-water story about an American girl stuck spending part of her summer vacation with her Vietnamese family in Vietnam. It's also whatever we call books that fit into the category "diverse books." And it does all those things well.

Mai's parents came to the U.S. from Vietnam when they were young. They are both professionals, so Mai has a comfortable, middle class or better life. Her father arrived in this country with his siblings and his mother after his father disappeared during the Vietnam Conflict. His mother, who never learned to speak English, lives with them. She is, if I recall, pushing eighty, if not older, not in great shape, and she's managed to hire a detective back in the old country to find out what happened to her husband decades ago. She just needs to get back to Vietnam to meet with him.

Mai's father, the doctor, goes back to Vietnam regularly to provide medical assistance in rural areas. But once he's there, he needs to tend to patients off in some remote spot. He can't hang out in the village with Mom and all his relatives. So he and his wife come up with a plan by which he would get twelve-year-old Mai and granny to the family in Vietnam, where  Mai would watch over her grandmother and get to know the folks.

Mai is what I call a "bridge character" like Christopher in The Blackthorn Key. Because she is familiar to us, she acts as a bridge between us and what is, to us, the more unusual world of Vietnam, the way Christopher acts as a bridge between us and what is, to us, the unusual world of England in the sixteen hundreds. Mai feels about the strangeness of the culture there much as we would.

The author does a great job with the Vietnamese world. While the village where Mai's family lives is different from what we're used to--not everyone has showers or Internet access, and what's there isn't state of the art--it's not portrayed as being impoverished, either. There's a young relative with braces on her teeth, after all. And I loved the love triangle in the village, similar to the one Mai kind of thinks she's part of back home. The young guy who has been going to school in Texas, speaks with a Texas accent, and acts as translator for Mai? What a hoot. And a touching character, too.

That translator I just mentioned brings up the issue of language, which Meg Medina discusses in a recent Horn Book article.  She is speaking of Spanish, but she says, "Language is such a dilemma in multicultural families and in the books that represent us. The fact is, some of us speak Spanish, and some of us don't--sometimes all under the same roof." That is definitely the case here. Mai understands some Vietnamese because she's lived with Vietnamese speaking people, though she made the choice to stop speaking herself because it marked her as different when she was in kindergarten. (Shades of Blackbird Fly!) It turns out, her closest contact among her new Vietnamese family members (the girl with braces), can understand some English. The language issue for families with American branches is very real. I think the title, Listen, Slowly, relates to a couple of the characters trying to understand one another.

I believe all the things I said about Listen, Slowly in the first paragraph here are true. But the book does all those things in a very organic way. There's never a feeling that this is a fish-out-of-water or girl-torn-from-her-social-group story with a "diverse" character tacked on. Nothing in this book could happen without Mai being who she is.

A word about grandma and her story--In the best of all possible worlds, Thanhha Lai would have written two books, Listen, Slowly and another about grandma and her experience as a young woman in Vietnam, coming to America and raising those kids, seeking out information about her husband, and then going to Vietnam with her granddaughter to find it. They would have both been published at the same time. And that would have been incredible.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Cybils Middle Grade Finalist: "Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy"

You've got your problem novels, and you've got your mysteries. Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy by Susan Vaught is both.

Footer Davis has two things...well, three...depending on how you look at it...three...or four...things going on in her life. Just a couple
involve her mother, who is bipolar, and the neighbor kids who are missing after the grandfather, with whom they lived, is murdered and their farm is burned down. Mom's condition took a turn for the worse soon after the murder, and she needs to be hospitalized, not for the first time.

That's plenty for a book. But, as I said, Footer has a lot of other things piling up around her--a neighbor who suffers from PTSD, a friend with cerebral palsy who has a sister with a problem I wasn't clear about, and her own concern that she could be developing the same condition her mother has. Then there are a couple of cases of child abuse, and a father in prison, and a neglectful mother. So much going on is a lot for a reader to juggle. Lots of distractions.

The child dealing with a parent's mental illness was a positive for this book, and the mystery actually is interesting. Overall, though, I preferred one of Vaught's earlier titles, Big Fat Manifesto, which deals with just one problem/situation.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Cybils Middle Grade Finalist: "Book Scavenger"

Codes! Attempted murder by nitwits! Hidden books! A chase through the streets of San Francisco! Musicians in a van! Edgar Allen Poe! A treasure hunt!

Got your attention yet?

In Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, our main character, Emily, has moved once again, this time to San Francisco. She's not a fan of the moving, but she's not a vagabond because her family is running out on bills or one of her parents puts a career before loved ones or any of the usual kids' book reasons for that kind of thing. She's a vagabond because that's her parents' lifestyle. They like to move, and the kids go with them. This is Emily's personal problem in this story.

San Francisco is a great place for her to land, though, because it's the homebase of a publisher who runs a Book Crossing type on-line book finding game that Emily loves. No sooner does she arrive than he is shot, his survival left in question. And he'd been about to release a new game, too. Emily can't let that go.

Will she find the new game and solve the puzzles involved with it? Will we find out who shot the publisher dude? Hey, and what's with that teacher?

I believe two more Book Scavenger books have been accepted for publication.

There's no Time Management Tuesday this week, so I can attend to all the Middle Grade Cybils finalists.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Cybils Middle Grade Finalist: "Blackbird Fly"

I'm covering the Cybils' Middle Grade finalists in alphabetical order, so today you'll hear about Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly.

Main character Apple and her mother have moved to Louisiana from the Philippines. Apple is growing up American while at the same time living with Filipino culture at home. The Filipino culture part results in her becoming the target of boy bullies at her school, who use a particularly unpleasant method to attack girls, many of whom are not members of different cultures. They're selected for other reasons.

Initially this book seemed to me to be a bully book. But I think it could also be described as a between cultures story. Though the bullying stuff is going to be what gets most readers' attention. 

Apple wins over the student population with a suddenly discovered, but also long foreshadowed, talent, something I found a little bit of a stretch. I think it could be argued that it's more of a YA story than middle grade, too, both in terms of the characters' ages and the situations they're in. But whatever the age, this is a book that will probably be embraced by any reader who has suffered at school and hoped for a way to overcome it all. Fast.

Check out author Erin Entrada Kelly's extensive list of short fiction publications. At some point, I do hope to hit some of those.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Cybils Award: Our Middle Grade Winner Is "The Blackthorn Key"

The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands took the prize this year for middle grade fiction. It's both historical fiction and a mystery, two genres I was very fond of in my youth, so I'm happy to see it made it to the top of our short list. The Blackthorn Key avoids the oppressive days-of-old voice or feeling that sometimes drags down historical books, especially those for younger readers. Oddly, it reads a bit like fantasy. But it most definitely deals with England in the mid-sixteen hundreds.

Christopher Rowe is an apothecary's apprentice, assisting with the creating of medicines that his master dispenses. At the same time, he's a kid horsing around with his buddy the baker's son. It makes him a regular guy by our standards and a nice bridge between readers and the historical material.

Christopher gets dragged into a mystery when apothecaries are being murdered. Oh, wow. That's sort of a seventeenth century serial killer, isn't it?  Christopher's master has some knowledge of what's happening, or, rather, why it's happening and entrusts him with coded messages that will help him gain that knowledge, too.

One of the things I particularly liked about this book is that there is a search going on for something that appears to be mystical or spiritual. But in reality, what I think they're talking about, though they don't know it, is science. So we've got both history and science here.

I often hear that historical fiction isn't popular now or a hard sell with publishers and readers. Cybil laughs in the face of that kind of talk.

The day after we selected The Blackthorn Key as the Cybils Middle Grade Fiction winner, I saw it on display at a Barnes & Noble. Good luck to this book and its author.

What Does Valentine's Day Mean? Why, The Cybils Winners Announcement, Of Course.

You can find the winners in all the Cybils categories at the Cybils site. Later today, I'll be doing a post on the middle grade fiction winner, The Blackthorn Key.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

A Little Reading Round-Up

 I've been doing some reading I'd like to talk about, so get ready.

Children's Books: A Middle Class Ghetto? by Elen Caldecott in The Guardian. Interesting points: Caldecott argues that when working class kids do appear in children's books, they're often portrayed negatively. The working class life is one characters should want to escape.

Not Another Critique Group by Kelsi Turner in the SCBWI Winter 2016 Bulletin. This was a list of suggested alternatives to traditional critique groups.

State Author Networks: A Model From New Jersey by Jennifer R. Hubbard in the SCBWI Winter 2016 Bulletin. You know how I am about community. This article is all about creating a writer community within a state. Our SCBWI presence in my corner of the world is New England-wide, not state-wide. We miss out on the closer community.

The Savvy Self-Publisher column in the Nov./Dec., 2015 issue of Poets & Writers. Editor Jessica Page Morrell says that a "strong cover" can be designed for less than $5,000. Publicist Jessica Glenn reports that her company provides a "traditional campaign" for $5,000. The column doesn't mention editing. The days of publishing eBooks is long gone, people.

Friday, February 12, 2016

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? Feb. 12 Edition.

Goal 1. Adhere to Goals and Objectives. Six weeks in, and I'm still adhering.

Goal 2. Prepare Mummy Hunters for Submission. The manuscript is ready. I did another traditional submission this week, as well as a Twitter pitch. In my experience, Twitter pitches are more fun than functional.

Goal 3. Generate New Short Work/Programs. The Writing Strategies for Fiction program is pretty well prepped. I'm working on making it performance ready now. Came up with a new essay idea. Did a little market research to see if it was worthwhile to write another essay I started thinking about last weekend.

Goal 4. Marketing Saving the Planet & Stuff eBook. Specifically, Objective 1. Taking book down from Barnes & Noble and Kobo to take advantage of Kindle marketing for books exclusive to that company. This week I learned how to get the book onto KDP Select. This was part of my 30-Day Boost Your Productivity Challenge. It didn't take any couple of hours to do this week's part of the project.

Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding.
  • Cybils post  Promoted at Google+ and Twitter and reposted at Goodreads Blog
  • TMT post Promoted at Facebook, Google+, Google+ community, and Twitter
  • Worked on Cybils middle grade shortlist posts for  next week
  • Did some Twitter organizing

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: Planning You Can See

At the end of the year, I heard about bullet journals twice, once from Facebook friend Erin Dionne and then from blogging buddy Melissa Wiley, in just a matter of days. These journals were recommended for planning over periods of time, so I was interested. (Plus if you hear about something totally new to you twice in a short period of time, that is a sign you should do something about it.) The bullet journal appears to be adaptable to individual users. For those of us who like planning we can see, for real, versus planning in our heads, which all too often ends up being pretty much imaginary, bullet journals are definitely worth a look.

See how much I like journals?
I REALLY like journals

Journals And Me

I am fond of journals. After many, many years of traditional writers' journals, I've moved on to a journal computer program for that material. And I have some kind of psychological dependence on planning.

But I found the how-to video for bullet journals as planners a little complicated, especially since it looks as if I'd have to do it regularly. It involves dealing with more than one page and a bunch of numbers. I don't think I want to take the time to do it. Knowing me as well as I do, I don't think I would take the time to do it. I don't think merging a traditional journal with planning will work for me, as much as I love those two things.

The Yellow Notepad System

My Yellow Notepad

I'm sticking to my yellow notepad system. I lay out my week on Monday mornings with plans for work, what  I want to do with those fifteen minute breaks (often home/personal stuff) after I've put in a forty-five minutes of work, what I'm going to do in the evening, and now content marketing strategy. (To be covered another week.) I try to have task options for every part of the day, though I may not do them on the day I planned them for. I'm happy if I get them done by the end of the week.

I'm sure this yellow notepad business looks as complicated to other people as bullet journals look to me.

The Value Of A Plan You Can See

The point is, though, that planning with something visual, paper or on a computer if that works for you, keeps what you want to do in front of you, making it harder for you to go off task. If, like me, you get a big jolt from crossing items off the plan as they're done, a visual plan becomes even more important.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Cybils Then And Now

Cybils 2016
Saturday night I got all dressed up in my Cybils shirt to meet with my judging colleagues in a Googles Hangout to discuss the middle grade fiction section of the Cybils Awards. "Typing" with blogging buddy Alex from The Children's War was almost like meeting her. Except for the part about not being in the same room. Or town. Or state.

After we finished the job we were there for, we chatted about other awards people had been involved with and whether or not we'd worked with the Cybils before. I was a first-round judge ten years ago, during the Cybils' first year. That first year, judges received masses of nominated books from publishers. The people I was communicating with loved hearing that I received bags of books to my door. I kept both UPS and FedEx busy.

Cybils 2006
It was a great time. And, of course, I documented it. Here I am ten years ago with my Cybils books. I took the month of December off that year to read and blog.

You'll be hearing about all the Cybils winners next week.

Friday, February 05, 2016

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? Feb. 5 Edition

 The Friday report on my work on this year's goals.

Goal 1. Adhere to goals and objectives.  By this I mean, did I actually make an effort at the beginning of the week to plan which goals I would concentrate on. Yes.

Goal 2. Mummy Hunters submission. Have new places lined up.

Goal 3. Generate new short/work programs. I'm in good shape with the elementary school version of Writing Strategies for Fiction, which I need to present at the beginning of March. I've finished the script for the middle school version, prepared the content for the slides, and handed them off to Computer Guy. By the way, I also had to turn down an invitation to speak at another school because it conflicted with the Writing Strategies event. That was a fun first.

 I checked out a market for short stories. No go with that one.

Goal 4. Marketing Saving the Planet & Stuff eBook. I finally mailed a copy of the original edition off to an agency that will use it for a fundraiser in May. I also have the info on how to withdraw the eBook from Barnes & Noble and Kobo prior to offering it as part of KDP Select. I'm going to coordinate the withdrawal with a website update so we won't be marketing it as available in places it's not.

The work I did on gathering the above info was part of my 30-Day Boost Your Productivity Challenge. I probably would have let that slip through the cracks without that commitment.

Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding.

  • Book stats post. Promoted to Google+, and Twitter
  • TMT post. Promoted  to Facebook, Google+ communities, Twitter
  • Environmental Book Club Post. Promoted to Google+ Community, Goodreads, Twitter, and Amazon. Interesting point--the Environmental Book Club tweets got me a lot of RTs and likes, but they didn't generate a lot of visits here, which is very interesting.
  • Reposted one of this week's blog posts to my Goodreads blog
  • Renewed my SCBWI membership
Goal 6. Generate New Work. This goal is supposed to be about the adult version of Becoming Greg and Emma, which I did not work on. Instead, I spent some time e-mailing back and forth with someone about a totally new long-form project that will probably take years to complete, assuming we do it at all.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Environmental Book Club

Well, I have done it. I've found a YA novel with an environmental setting and secondary story line that is not climate fiction or post-apocalyptic or dystopian.

What Kissing Frogs by Alisha Sevigny is, is a YA romance. That is a genre I do not embrace. But main character Jessica is sharper than the romance main characters I've encountered in the past. Seriously. She is smart. She's maintained an A-average across the board while using her brain power to make herself a member of a popular-girl group and snatch one of those shallow, good-looking guys who are never up to any good.

She blows her biology grade, though, which is how she ends up in Panama with a science club from her school that is volunteering to work with an endangered frog species. Her biology teacher is their faculty adviser and offers her the opportunity to take the trip and write a paper to save her average and her chances of getting into UCLA. Some may find that a bit of a stretch, but I find a lot of things that happen in romances a bit of a stretch.

Kissing Frogs is a fish-out-of-water story. Jessica is the outsider with this group, though she's smart enough to be one of them. With this crowd, she becomes the victim of science mean girls, mean girls who had been victims of members of Jessica's posse back at school. That's a neat little twist. There is a bit of a torn-between-two-lovers thing going on, something I always dislike. In this case, though, one of our potential lovers is clearly a player, and Jessica knows it...because, remember, she's smart. She's also no damsel in distress.

The environmental story-line involves the Panamanian golden frog. The Final Wave of the Panamanian Golden Frog at The Guardian suggests Sevigny did a fine job with her factual material. She also does one of the best jobs of integrating environmental information into a main story that I can recall seeing. I won't say there was never a moment when I felt the characters were being just a little over informative. But there was also never a moment when I felt a character was saying the equivalent of "Let's save a species!" either.

Environmental material is going to get out to a lot more people when it can be packaged in main stream books like Kissing Frogs and not just be isolated in disaster stories.

Another interesting thing about Kissing Frogs--it's published by Swoon Romance, which is a "digital-first" imprint. Kissing Frogs exists in an eBook edition only. That might limit its audience, which would be too bad. I don't know how popular eBooks are with teen readers.

On the other hand, if you have a Kindle, Kissing Frogs is only 99 cents.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: Working February For All It's Worth

Carmela Martino of Teaching Authors is inviting writers to take part in a 30-Day Boost Your Productivity Challenge. She connects it to goals and habits, which we're into here. I like planning projects for specific periods of time, so I'm accepting the challenge.

To take part, you need to:
  • Identify a goal to work on this month
  • Track your progress
  • Make yourself accountable, either to an individual or a community, such as your blog audience.
So what I'm doing this month is spending a couple of hours a week working on Goal 4 for 2016, marketing my Saving the Planet & Stuff eBook. Specifically, I'll be attending to the first objective, looking into taking the book down from Barnes & Noble and Kobo to take advantage of Kindle Direct Publishing Select, because I'd really like to have that done by April.

First accountability report: I worked on this yesterday and am very happy with what I got done.

Monday, February 01, 2016

I'm Having Trouble Understanding These Numbers

The Hot and Cold Book Categories of 2015 has some really juicy stuff. Those adult coloring books...Who would have thought?

The article says that "The classics segment got a nice bump from the publication of Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman, which caused a surge in sales of To Kill a Mockingbird." So I'm assuming these sales figures are not for books published just in 2015 but for back list books, too. This article also doesn't say if these numbers include self-published titles. I'm going to guess they don't, or they would have been much higher.

Okay, so now what I'm wondering about is the number of new titles published each year and how that compares with the units sold. The best number I can find for new traditional titles is for 2013, and it's around 305,000. That's the number of titles, not the number of copies of each title. What I'm trying to wrap my head around is how many individual books are out there and how many of them find a home.