Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Critiquing Pet Peeves: Are You Committing Any of These Faux Pas?

I’ve been blogging about critique partners for the past few months. In January I discussed where to find critique partners, in February I covered what types of critique partners to look for and last month I blogged about how to give good critiques. This month, I’m going to address the opposite and discuss some common critiquing pet peeves; otherwise knows as: how to make sure I’ll never ask you to read for me again.

Let me preface this by saying my critique partners do not do any of these thing, which is why they are wonderful and amazing and will earn acknowledgments in all of my books.

That said, I have had a lot of people read for me and there are definite things that always pushed my buttons, despite the fact that I was grateful for the time and energy they put into reading for me.If you are planning to critique for anyone in the future, you make want to take care to avoid:

Only pointing out the bad.

Yes, I asked for a critical eye on my work and I desperately want to know what isn’t working, so I can fix it. But toss a girl a bone! It’s also incredibly helpful for me to know what is working so I don’t accidentally cut it. Help me make my manuscript better—versus worse—by pointing out the things you like, whether it be a character name that fits the traits of the person well, a line that made you laugh, or a subplot that left you breathless. 

Not giving me any notes.

As much as it thrills me to know that you loved every word of my messy first draft, I’m going to have a hard time believing it. I’m relying on you to be fresh eyes for me on something I’m too involved with to see objectively. I appreciate that you took the time to read, but you’ve somewhat wasted mine in not offering any thoughts for improvement because I now have to track down another reader to point me in the right direction.

And this last one really makes me grind my teeth:

Rewriting my manuscript.

I once had someone read for me who made giant x’s on full pages of my manuscript and took it upon herself to delete a whole chapter in track changes. She also rewrote a ton of paragraphs, including the entire opening. I’m perfectly fine with a suggestion to “think about improving pacing by cutting this chapter” or “Show us this in a scene versus telling us in backstory” but it really grated my nerves that she went in and did it for me. In fact it bothered me so much that I now refuse to delete a single word from a CPs manuscript unless it’s a typo. I mark it in comments instead. Good CPs will say, “Here are my thoughts. Take any that resonate with you and ignore the rest!” and let the author decide for herself whether the suggestion is in line with her vision for the book or not. You might have clear ideas for how you could make this book sooo much better, but in the end you’ll be more valuable as a CP by recognizing that it’s only your opinion to offer and not your story to write.

What about you? Share your horror stories here or tell us what really pushes your buttons on the receiving end of a critique.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

How to Help Authors You Love!

Dear Authors,

This post isn't for you, not really. You probably already know all of this. It's really for your friends - the ones who would help you if they knew how but it's kinda awkward for you to outright tell them. So, instead, post this in a rather general sense on your Facebook/Twitter/Whatever and let me tell them :-)

Dear awesome readers,

We know that when you love a book, you'd buy a thousand copies and shout from the rooftops if you could. But you can't. So here are some small things you can do that help more than you could ever know.

1. Reviews

I cannot even begin to tell you how huge this is. If this was a list of 100 things you could do, reviews would be about 90 of my bullet points.

Find the book on Amazon and Goodreads (and B&N if you're motivated) and write a quick review. It doesn't have to be anything fanciful, but should be a little more detailed than "This is the best book ever!!" Tell potential readers why you loved it so that they'll want to read it too.

Also, like positive reviews written by other people.

2. Like

Here's the thing about Facebook: they want to make $. So they're now trying to charge authors to show their fans their posts. But the more likes and comments a post has, the more people (who, may I remind you, have already indicated they want to see this author's posts by liking their page) will see the post.

Go nuts. Like every post the author has. Comment, even if it's just to say ":)" or "yay!"

3. Share

Tell your followers/friends about a book you love! Post on twitter/facebook/instagram/tumblr/pinterest/Google+/wherever and provide a link to where they can get more info. RT/share/reblog/repin the author's posts.

Tweet your favorite lines from the book or share why you loved it. Post a picture of yourself reading the book - or your pet posing with it (everybody on the internet loves cats; it's a fact)

4. Like the author's Amazon page.

Nobody really knows how Amazon's complicated algorithms work, but there's some evidence to suggest the more likes an author has, the more Amazon will help the author promote their book.

Here's my alter ego's page, in case you'd like to practice. ;-) The like button is near the top right.

5. Goodreads Lists

Add the book you love to relevant Goodreads lists. This helps increase visibility of the book!

6. Library

If your local library has the book (print or ebook), check it out and encourage local friends to. This shows the library that people want to read this book.

If your local library does not have the book, request it! Most major library systems have a form you can fill out. Ask your librarian how to request the library purchase a copy.

7. Indie Bookstores

If your local indie bookstore doesn't have a copy of the book, ask them to order it!

8. Book Clubs

If you're in a book club, suggest the book you love! 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

RT Booklovers Convention--Photos and Tips for Next Time!

Hello, readers! It's Kate today. I just returned this weekend from the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention. This was my first year going, and I had a great time. I really, really did. I met so many of my wonderful Twitter friends, including Sarah Nicolas (!), and brought home a crazy awesome haul of books, and learned so much from the publisher spotlights and author panels.

RT is definitely a conference I recommend going to. It's one of the more social conferences, which is great, because publishing is a very social industry. Meeting people and making connections is both smart business and a wonderful way to make up for most of us having solitary, me-and-my-computer jobs. I work in my library all day by myself; getting out and meeting people who do what I do and love what I love is pretty darn awesome.

So, since clearly you are planning on going next year, here are some tips:

1) Book your hotel ASAP. I'm not kidding. Do it MONTHS before the convention starts. This year the discounted hotel block was full I think a good six months before the convention date. So make the decision to go early, and book as soon as you can. It's so nice to be in the hotel with the conference and be able to run up to your room to drop off books and bags or change or even take a power nap, and it's much cheaper since the convention gets a discounted rate.

2) Go to the panels, and plan which ones you want to hear. I learned so much from hearing Kiera Cass, Gayle Forman, Beth Revis, Amy Boggs, Jennifer Laughran, Jennifer Armentrout, etc. There's plenty of time for socializing after the panels end, and you won't want to miss them. The reader parties and signings and book events are fun, but it's also a great time to learn from the pros.

3) Make social plans ahead of time. Of course, it's great to see what happens and go with the flow, but it's easy to miss people you know because SO MANY people are there. So make plans with Twitter friends before you go, perhaps to meet up the first day or the next afternoon, and exchange some cell numbers (contacting each other through Twitter works, but it's easy to miss, too). Having some friends you can immediately connect with when you get there can save you from feeling lost in the crowd.

4) Get good sleep before going to the conference. This might seem obvious, but it almost always turns out I end up staying up late getting ready the night before leaving. If you're an introvert like me (and a lot of publishing people are) social things are a ton of fun but also take a ton of energy. If I'm tired and trying to socialize, I'm just not myself. So get good sleep, and take a quick nap in between panels or events during the day, so you're focused and quick on your feet for the evening, when all that awesome socializing and connecting happens.

Those are my main tips! I'll be posting more on my personal blog, some photos on my Tumblr, and a recap of the panels over on Publishing Hub, so check those out today and tomorrow, too!

And seriously. GO TO RT. :)


Critique partner Alex Yuschik and me on Bourbon Street

Beignets at Cafe Beignet

Fantasy author panel including Leigh Bardugo, Tamora Pierce, Kelley Armstrong, Carrie Ryan, Rae Carson, and Morgan Rhodes

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

When there's no smoke to the fire

The publishing industry is very small. Word can spread very quickly on poor behaviour from writers, agents and publishers.

For writers there are sites that aim to put the light on shady behaviours such as Absolute Write, Editors and Predators, and Writers Beware. However, sometimes issues don't come to out of the shadows until after people have been burnt. There's no smoke to warn them of the impending fire.

Here's some things to look for if you can't find anything ominous on any "warning" sites:

  1. Research their credentials: If they haven't gone through a agentry internship then steer clear. They should also have done their time as a junior agent. 
  2. Research their sales: If they're not a recently promoted to junior agent, they should have sales. Check out who they're selling too. Are they selling to publishers you can see your book with? Are there any sales with advances? If they're a junior agent with no sales yet, what are the sales like for the agency as  a whole. 
  3. What's their presence online like? Do they talk in the correct publishing terms? If they have no online presence at all then are they the right agent for you?
  1. Research the owner: If they don't have SIGNIFICANT experience (like years and years) at a SENIOR level in the publishing industry don't sign. 
  2. Research the editors: They too should have significant experience in the publishing industry - not freelancing. 
  3. Research their authors: See if anyone was signed with them then suddenly is with someone else or has self published. 

Another thing to do (whether you're going for an agent or a publisher) is to be clear about what your looking for in an agent or publisher. Make a list and stick to it. Do you want an editorial agent? What type of marketing support do you want from a publisher. Research industry best practice and use this to help formulate your wish list. 

If you've had a bad experience, please share the warning signs with our followers to help them avoid going through the same thing.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Let's Talk About Sex in On-Screen YA

Sex in young adult fiction is an often-discussed and hot-button topic for some. Whether or not to include it in YA novels, how to include it, how much detail to go into and whether or not teenage sex should have some kind of consequence and thereby transmit a lesson to the presumably young reader. For writers of YA, these are all valid concerns especially considering the number of adult readers and how easily sex between teens might overstep the bounds of decency.

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of teen TV shows from the old like Roswell and Buffy to the more recent like The Vampire Diaries, Star-Crossed, The Tomorrow People and The 100. Recently, however, I began to feel uncomfortable watching certain scenes in these series. I am not a prude. Quite the opposite actually, but I do think we need to draw the line...somewhere.

***spoiler alert: I'm going to talk about certain relationships that might spoil some of these shows if you haven't seen them so look away now if you need to***

Still with me?


Okay, so when I was a teenager, watching Max and Tess peel off each other's clothes in Roswell and lose their virginity to each other or watching Buffy and Angel get steamy seemed real and romantic and exciting and I had no qualms about living vicariously through those characters. Fast forward a decade or so and cue the queasy.

In recent episodes of The Tomorrow People, 17yr old Steven (played by 26yr old Robbie Amell) has some serious sexy times on screen. I'm not gonna lie. Mr Amell is easy on the eyes and I had zero problem watching him lose clothes on screen before taking his love interest to bed. The realization, however, hit my like a Hulk smash to the gut. I'm not watching a 26yr old engaging in adult, consensual sex on screen. I'm actually watching a 17yr old character get undressed and into bed with an older woman. That's statutory rape and that's not sexy. Needless to say, this did not sit well with me. I teach 16yr old boys, roughly the same age as the character on screen. Would it be okay for me to watch one of them getting steamy in real life? No, no, no, a million times no it would not. Is it different, yes, but not nearly different enough.

An official add campaign for the show featuring the 17yr old main character

Cue Star-Crossed, a show whose main male characters are both supposed to be juniors in high school, but are played by 31yr old Matt Lanter and 29yr old Greg Finley. Watching those two shed their clothes and get into raunchy scenes is hawt, but I'm not watching adults - they're playing teenagers and I'm watching teenage boys getting naked with teenage girls! The dichotomy and misrepresentation here leaves me feeling nauseated to say the least. And I'm not alone in not knowing how to feel about what I'm watching on screen.

I've seen comments all over the Internet from adults giving themselves 'permission' to drool over the male lead in everything from Divergent to Star-Crossed because of the age of the actor playing the character. I admit, I too have been falling into this trap and it's all kinds of perilous because Four (Divergent) isn't 29 - he's 18 and only just 'legal', Roman (Star-Crossed) isn't 31 - he's 17, and even 16yr old Max in Roswell was played by then 26yr old Jason Behr, who is now 40! The guy I drooled over as a tween was more than double my age! 0.o

We're objectifying teenage boys, because the way they're presented on screen is as men when really, they're children - regardless of when they started shaving or how broad their shoulders are. And this isn't something that only happens to the boys of fiction although it seems more socially acceptable for older woman to perv over younger guys than it does for older men to do the same to younger women. I do not understand this double-standard, but it exists.

So back to sex in YA books. Sex is a normal, healthy part of growing up and would be conspicuous by it's absence were it kept out of YA books. I think sex definitely does belong in YA, but the way in which it's written needs to be handled carefully, not in the 'premarital sex is bad' kind of preachy way, but rather so as not to exploit our teenage characters for the titillation of adult readers. I've seen many an editor say that if the scene would get you arrested for filming it in real life, you've gone too far in the writing, but the thing is, we do see these scenes in TV and movies all the time. Were those actors actually the age of the characters they're playing, the director would get arrested, but because older actors are used, the scenes are considered fine even when they're not. We forget that we're not watching two consenting adults on screen, but rather two fumbling teenagers.

I'm not sure where to draw the line or what the right answer is, but I wish more people were talking about this because I can't be the only one feeling a little uncomfortable when hordes of squealing adult fans - sometimes myself included - want to see teenage characters (when played by adult actors) get undressed.

What are your thoughts about sex in on-screen YA? How do you feel about the sexual content of YA TV shows and films?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

What is YA Lit?

What is YA Lit?

I have been thinking about this question a lot lately. Is YA Lit the books being written for Young Adults/Teens as designated by the publishers and authors? Is YA Lit any book that a Teen or Young Adult reads? Or is it some combination of the two? Or is it something totally else entirely?
Who defines what YA Lit is?


Young-adult fiction or young adult literature (often termed as "YA"), also juvenile fiction, is fiction written, published, or marketed to adolescents and young adults, although recent studies show that 55% of young-adult fiction is purchased by readers over 18 years of age. The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) of the American Library Association (ALA) defines a young adult as someone between the ages of twelve and eighteen. Authors and readers of young adult (YA) novels often define the genre as literature as traditionally written for ages ranging from sixteen years up to the age of twenty-five, while Teen Fiction is written for the ages of ten and to fifteen. The terms young-adult novel, juvenile novel, young-adult book, etc. refer to the works in the YA category.

Merriam-Websters, Oxford Dictionary, American Heritage Dictionary 

They don't define it.

Those that have been reading this blog might know I work at a public library and I am the Teen/YA Librarian. I see just as many teens as I do adults checking out books from the YA section as I see teens just as many teens checking out adult books.

There is no rating system yet for books like there for movies, TV shows, and video games. Though I will not lie; I am waiting for this to happen. But then again they tried this with comic books and it worked for a while with the Comics Code and then the publishers decided to start policing themselves and rating stuff. We see the ratings on manga.

Sorry I am straying from my point as to what really is YA Literature? Is it something created by the publishers just to sell books? Or is it a guide of books which would be appropriate for those ages to read. I know when I was kid/teen there was no YA Lit. There was kids’ book and adult books. So I delved into the world of sci-fi/fantasy literature like Tolkein and Weiss and Hickman. I read the Star Wars books that were out there and all the comic books I could get my hands on. There was also the Doctor Who novelizations; how could I forget about Doctor Who in all of this. But none of these would be consider YA Literature.

I think the topic of what is YA Literature is an interesting one. I believe, and it is just my opinion, that there are many YA Lit books that far more superior in craft and writing style than Main Stream Literature and New York Best Selling Fiction. There is a lot more freedom in writing YA Lit. There is mixed genera. There is even a mix of age groups in the protagonists; though I will admit they are younger; teen like in age.

But in the aspects of my library’s YA section I have Frank Herbert’s Dune; the Weiss and Hickman Dragonlance books, Robert Jordan’s the Wheel of Time, Doctor Who, Star Wars, etc.

I also have Lemony Snickett, Tom Angleberger, Rick Riordan, and Eoin Colfer all who some would say could be too young for the section.

Then I have everything they consider “YA Literature.”

But look at the authors who are writing it; everyone is getting in the game look at Patterson, Grisham, and  Reichs. When is Nicholas Sparks going to write one?

So what is YA Lit?

How is it really defined?

Age of the Readers?

Age of the Characters in the book?



Subject matter?


The authors who write?

What is YA Lit?

What really defines it?

Is it all based on a matter of perspective?

Or does all of this define what YA Lit? Is it a living organism which will change with the times and the readership?

I don’t know.

Though I am curious to see how you define YA Lit, so please feel free to share your thoughts and feelings about YA Lit.


Monday, May 12, 2014

The Importance of Diversity in Your Beta Readers/CPs

Most of the CP/Beta feedback I received on my first novel was from white, twenty to thirty something dudes. Like me. The responses I got were somewhere along the lines of:

"This rocks!"


"I love his voice!"

I was riding high. I had knocked it out of the park. Then I met a female CP who was digging it, too--until the third chapter. At that point, she said my MC was a jerk who seemed to just want to use women.

I laughed to myself.

I figured she just didn't "get it". She didn't understand how young guys thought. And she was just one voice crying foul from the dark.

Then an agent said the same thing, almost verbatim, that she enjoyed it until the same point in the story and then just saw my MC as a player douche.

Well, dang.

And after casting eyes across the pages once more--they were right.

Thankfully, the agent said she would look at it again if I fixed her area of concern. I crawled back to my female CP on hands and knees and asked her to look at my revision that focused on making the star of my book less of a tool.

She loved the revision.

Good! Great! Grand! Everybody on the bus!

But I wasn't finished. I met a self-declared feminist on Twitter and asked if she would look at it. She also brought in one of her CPs, who was not only a feminist but also a woman of color. They gave me great notes and thankfully my revision had hacked away any flagrant douchebaggery that had weighed my MC down without changing the story.

The point of this little learning experience is to do your best to have CPs from a wide range of characteristics and view points. It's the only way to really have your manuscript run the gambit and test its metal. Welcoming diversity in your beta readers means you'll have the perspective of individuals who are not like you. You don't have to agree with every critique they give but it'll give you a better idea of the different types of people who will walk the aisles of a bookstore where your tome may sit. And the whole point is to get those pedestrians to pick your baby up and head to the cash register, right? Right?


Saturday, May 10, 2014


We all know our readers like to read up into different genres so today I would like to introduce my interviewee of choice - Shelley Watters with her NA novel BURN ME!  Caveat:  BURN ME is best suited to our older readers, as it does have some more adult content.

Let's find out what Shelley had to say about the questions I asked her on BURN ME and on writing itself!

1)      Tell us about BURN ME – what was your inspiration?  What gave you the burning desire to write this story down? 

Honestly, BURN ME all started as a crazy Nanowrimo project. I’ve always been a HUGE fan of firefighters, and besides, what girl doesn’t have a firefighter fantasy?  I’ve always written YA, and mostly fantasy/paranormal type at that, so I wanted to give contemporary romance a try. It started as a whole long slew of sex scenes strung together, but after finishing Nanowrimo, I realized just how much I was in love with my characters and that I wanted to explore their story more in-depth. The result? BURN ME!

2)      If you had to pick a favorite character from your book – who would it be and why?

Greyson Neal, hands down. He’s the quintessential firefighter every girl dreams about. Well, at least this girl. He’s the perfect alpha male, in my opinion. I love how strong and sexy he is, but most of all I love how he loves Kat. I love a hero that makes my stomach clench when I think about him, and Greyson does that for me! 

3)      What do you think makes BURN ME different from other books in its genre?

BURN ME is a dark, intense, emotional ride. The mystery and suspense I weaved in with the romantic plot, hopefully, makes it stand out amongst the other contemporary romances out there. A lot of contemporary romances tend to only explore the relationship between the two main characters. I wanted to explore who my characters were, apart from how they interacted with each other. I wanted to explore their world and their career. And I really wanted to explore how far I could push them, how much I could torture them, to see if they were strong enough to pull through it all.

4)      Will we see Katrina and Greyson in a sequel book?

While Kat and Greyson’s story is complete in BURN ME, you will see some cameo appearances in CUFF ME, the intended companion/sequel book to BURN ME. I don’t want to give away the plot of CUFF ME or the ending to BURN ME, but I’ll just say that I do intend to give readers little glimpses of Kat and Greyson in future books. 

5)      You hit upon the theme of grief – did you find that challenging to write?

I don’t really think BURN ME has the theme of grief, but it is one of the catalysts that make my characters the people they are at the start of the book, and ultimately at the end as well and how they changed throughout the story. But yes, the grief was challenging to write. I wanted to stay true to my characters and how they were changed as a result of that grief, resulting in having to consider myself and my reactions to a certain situation. There were definitely a lot of tears shed while writing BURN ME. And in reality, firefighters deal with grief and loss every day, be it their own, or working with victims who have just lost someone, or holding someone’s hand during their last moments. They have to deal with this on a daily basis. So I felt I had the duty to include that part of their lives when writing about them. 

6)      If you couldn't be an author, which career would you choose?

I did it for five years before quitting to be a stay at home mom and pursue my love of the written word: an epidemiologist. I love the data crunching and exploring trends, finding ways to best serve our communities health needs. Yeah, I’m a geek.

7)      BURN ME is termed as a New Adult book, which is a genre commonly read by Young Adults as well as New Adults.  What do you think both target readers can get from your book?

I should throw out there that BURN ME has explicit sex, language and violence. That’s part of the beauty of the NA market – we can explore more in depth things that might be shied away from in the young adult market. This book is definitely NOT about or written for teens, and doesn’t shy away from showing life how it is. I hesitate to say that teens should read my book, for that very reason.
That said, I was reading regency and historical romances when I was thirteen years old and loved them. I didn’t have a problem reading the graphic scenes, and I don’t think my emotional health was damaged by reading those scenes, but with that said, I’d put a “Reader be advised” stamp on my book when younger audiences are considering reading it. 

Readers who are prepared for and can handle the graphicness in a novel will enjoy the mystery and suspense and honesty when it comes to my presentation of the characters and their struggles. Oh, and of course the romance… ;)

8)      What advice would you give to young writers?

Write. Every. Day. That’s the biggest piece of advice. Keep writing. Don’t give up, don’t let the critics tell you that you can’t do it. Read voraciously. The best way to learn to write well is to read, read, read. Know that publishing is a slow industry, and a tough industry. Everyone faces rejection at various parts of the process, and understanding that going in can help keep the process from being devastating. EVERYONE gets rejections, it’s all part of the game.

Oh, and knowing that creative writing is such a subjective industry. Everyone has critics, not everyone is going to love your work. Write for YOU. Write what YOU want to write, not what you think readers want. 

9)      What advice would you give to writers writing for the NA or YA demographic?

Like I said for the previous question, read voraciously in the genre (and age group) you want to write for. That’s the best way to find out exactly how to handle certain situations. Again, consider your audience when you’re writing – make sure your dialog rings true to the teens of today, not how you talked when you were a teen (because that’d be historical YA! Ha!). Above all, respect your audience!  

10)  Last of all – what was the hardest part of writing BURN ME, and what was the easiest?

Hardest part: blending technical accuracy of the firefighting scenes with a narrative voice that doesn’t alienate my readers.

Easiest part: the sex scenes. I loved writing the sex scenes during Nanowrimo, when I turned my inner editor off and just let the words fall out on the page, without worrying about censors and what others would think about what I wrote.

Thanks so much for having me! 

Thank you for being here, Shelley!  I'm a big fan of showing readers books that aren't necessarily strictly in their "genre", because I think it's safer for readers to experience more challenging topics and issues within the confines of a great book that handles them with respect.  As Shelley said, BURN ME is a more adult content book, but I would say that older teens with overly curious minds would be better served learning these topics in a book like BURN ME than somewhere else!!!

Burn Me by Shelley Watters

When Katrina Hale's brother dies in a house fire, she's determined to prove she's stronger than everyone thinks she is. But grief can do strange things to a person and Katrina knows all too well how the death of a loved one can change a person. As the romance in her current relationship fizzles, she focuses on her work and fights the undeniable attraction she has for Greyson Neal.

Firefighter Greyson Neal is the type of guy girls dream about. But Greyson isn't interested in other girls. He wants the one woman he can never have: Katrina. As the two struggle with their feelings, Kat must choose between her career and her heart, and fight to keep them both when an arsonist threatens to take it all away.

Shelley Watters

Shelley Watters grew up in Tucson, Arizona and currently resides Chandler, Arizona. She graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor’s in Sociology with a focus on Women’s Health Issues and continued on to get a Master’s certificate in Public Health Epidemiology. After serving many wonderful years in the public health sector as an Epidemiologist, she left the field to raise her family and re-discovered a long-lost passion: writing. While her days are filled with extra-curricular activities, her nights are devoted to slinging words across the page. Her novels sizzle with the heat and passion that only growing up in the southwest can bring.

Shelley Watters on Twitter:
Shelley Watters’ blog: