As you can see from the picture above, a Goodreads giveaway ended for me about a week ago. I also received more entries for this one, and over 1200 adds on Goodreads. Both these figures are an anomaly. The average entries are about 800 (including other countries added), and the average adds are about 8%. Mine was more like 50%. I do believe the cover alone lured in readers, and probably the description, too, but I’d mostly like to think Viola Estrella for creating such an amazing cover in the first place. The giveaway wasn’t helpful at all in terms of sales (I receive monthly reports), but hopefully all of those people who added the book will eventually get to it. I will be writing a post on conducting a successful Goodreads giveaway campaign on Sunday.
My post on Creating Effective Action Scenes is also still receiving attention on Tumblr. It has 704 notes and might have more by the time you read it. So if you want to learn how to create an effective action scene, this is the post to go to! I am also trying to draw more attention to two recent posts on there. But I believe my action scenes post is very popular because it’s more bite-sized than my two recent ones, although 88 notes and 50 notes isn’t too terrible. Tomorrow’s Tumblr post will be about the correct usage of commas, so that one will be bite-sized. My blog has also gained about 200 more followers because of these posts for a total of 940 followers. I would have much more than that if I had kept diligently posting.
If you are interested in using Tumblr as a platform, read this article, which, from my stats alone, is a very popular article on my blog.
When Stars Die also has 69 ratings on Goodreads, although Goodreads claims I received a review on March 3rd, which would make it 70. However, it hasn’t registered in the filter for some reason. It’s a nice little milestone for me.
I am also on the reading-out-loud phase of The Stars Are Infinite, meaning I am getting close to re-sending it back to my publisher. For now, enjoy When Stars Die. It has 30 reviews with a 4.5 star rating on Amazon.
Helpful Articles for Writers
An Anon on Tumblr was having plot problems because this person couldn’t figure out how to interweave varying plot ideas. I simply told Anon to outline and found this article about the various types of outlines you can do. So if you wish to start outlining your novels, here is “Choosing the Best Outline Method for You,” an article at Writer’s Digest.
If you have a Tumblr, follow thewritingcafe. If you don’t have a Tumblr, I recommend that you get one. I feel like it is a must-have social marketing platform, and it isn’t too difficult to use once you get the hang of it. thewritingcafe exists to re-blog helpful articles found around the internet for writers and authors.
You can follow my author page to receive scores of updates from me. My author page is linked to both my Twitter and Tumblr.
Links for Readers
Readers, if you don’t have a Goodreads account, get one. This is such a great place to discover books your bookstore may otherwise not carry. Not all traditionally published books end up in bookstores, even if they are from the Big 6. There is limited shelf space in bookstores, and all books deserve a chance.
For voracious readers, I encourage you to buy an e-reader device. Not all books are released with print versions, so you could be missing out on some great stories by not having one. You can also get a Nook or a Kobo or some other type of device to suit your comfort levels.
Get on social media to discover new books. Twitter and Tumblr are two places I recommend. You can interact with authors you adore on these websites, and what reader doesn’t want author interaction?
Friday’s post will involve something in the world of publishing. I wanted to end this with a picture quote from When Stars Die, but WordPress is not allowing me to insert any more pictures for some odd reason. So I will just end it with a regular quote from my novel instead.
“However we die…I will make certain we all die free.”
Recently I have been re-vamping how I use my social media platforms, WordPress being one. I have Heather Hebert of AEC Stellar Publishing to thank for this. I have been doing informative posts on WordPress lately, and I am seeing the benefits of doing so, as well as using generic tags that register me in the WordPress reader and tags that will make my posts appear in people’s search engines. Because it’s difficult to interact with other people’s blogs on WordPress, all of my posts on here will be about providing a service to you.
In any case, I have noticed that generic writing advice on Tumblr receives the most attention for my blog. I never did generic writing advice on WordPress, as I know WordPress is used by more adults than teens, so I wanted to go beyond generic writing advice in terms of my audience. Teens, however, spend a great deal of time on Tumblr, and teen writers are no exception; therefore, I want to help out teen writers in any way I can. They pretty much treat Tumblr as the entire internet itself, and Tumblr might as well be–you can find ANYTHING on there. I can type in any anime, and I guarantee you that a lot of the pics that pop up in the images on Google will all be from Tumblr.
While we writers are expected to have platforms now, and we are overwhelmed by the various social media options out there, I argue that Tumblr is one social media site you cannot ignore. And I am going to tell you how to effectively use it.
To start, here is a picture of a post I did on Writing Effective Action Scenes that has received a sudden influx of attention. I posted this two days ago. When I last checked it, it had about 45 notes. Now it has over 200 and is still receiving attention as I write this very post, so the picture I’m showing you is actually outdated, even though I took it several minutes ago (also notice how short it is):
Look at the very bottom. Notice that little heart and the number before it? That heart is your notes indicator, which includes re-blogs and likes. The number before it indicates my total notes, which is 274. The great thing about Tumblr is that people do not like and re-blog to like and re-blog. Their likes and re-blogs are genuine. I wrote a post before this with generic writing advice that received over 400 notes. I didn’t know this until I checked the post a week later. Needless to say, I was completely astonished. So how did my post receive this much attention?
Tags. You cannot underestimate the importance of tags on Tumblr. The good thing about Tumblr is that everything you need is right on your dashboard. If you want to know what popular tags are, type in a certain word into your search bar, and you can go through that tag and see how popular it is. With WordPress, you have to go to the reader to see what your followers are doing. Not with Tumblr. Now the screen capture above is via thewritingcafe, so thewritingcafe only tagged it as #fightscenes. However, when I tagged it, I used writing, writers, writing advice, writing tips, revising, editing, editing tips, revising tips, authors, teen writers, and so on and so forth. Tumblr does not limit tags like WordPress does. When you’re typing in a tag, Tumblr will recommend a popular tag to you as well, but make sure that tag is relevant to your post. Don’t try to use Google search SEO tags, because Tumblr isn’t about that. A good post on Tumblr has the chance to receive more notes than the followers you have, so it’s unnecessary to try to use Google SEO tags, not when generic tags can carry you far enough. Plus, when the right person spots your post, that person can create an SEO tag for you, if that person so desires, which brings me to my next point.
Getting the right person to re-blog your post. thewritingcafe is the reason why my post has received a sudden influx of attention, as this blog likely has many, many followers. All it takes is that one person to find your post, and your post can become a sudden hit on Tumblr. Feel free to re-blog your own post, too, tagging it with the same tags you used so that it gets right back into the tag. If you provide something awesome, that one right person WILL find your post and give you the attention your hard work deserves. At the same time, I think I MAY have followed this person on the writing tag before it received all these notes. Even so, if you write a quality post, regardless of whether or not you followed that person that made you a hit, that post is receiving much-deserved attention, so don’t think your hard work is riding on the back of someone else.
Creating content that provides a service. Many of my followers tend to re-blog a lot of pictures posts, but these are followers who are in it for the content and aren’t necessarily about creating content themselves. This is not a bad thing. This is a great thing. They are actively seeking content that appeals to them, so if you can provide that content, you are guaranteed re-blogs by these people who want others to see what you’ve created. As I am still an unknown writer, I have to create content that appeals to them. Someone like John Green can post whatever he wants and receive attention; he already has a massive fanbase from his books alone. Not me. So I have to work at creating content. As a writer, you need your Tumblr to be different from your other social media sites, so you want your Tumblr to be something that will gain popularity on this website. Peruse it and see what’s generally popular among writers and readers. You do not have to post generic writing advice like I do. I am a YA writer, so it makes sense for me to post generic writing advice to aspiring teen authors. If you write adult fantasy, for example, you need to tailor your blog around this and create content that will be popular.
Re-blog others’ posts that are relevant to your blog. I love going through my Tumblr feed. My followers post such interesting things, like gifs, text posts, videos, among other things. However, I generally only like these posts. I do not re-blog, because most of them are not relevant to the content I create. Even so, if a popular post shows up in my feed that is social justice in nature, I will re-blog it and add my own commentary that will boost the conversation and, subsequently, have my followers interacting with it as well. So when you do re-blog something, add text relevant to the conversation. This will give your followers a taste of who you are as a person based on what you re-blog. Try not be controversial, though. I made that mistake in the beginning, and it earned me some trolls.
Follow everyone back who likes and re-blogs your ORIGINAL content. Not only will this give YOU more attention, but once you post something, all those followers are going to be able to see what you post, granted their feed isn’t cluttered, which is the only downside of Tumblr I can think of. Then again, any social media site has the potential to be cluttered–Wordpress isn’t innocent in this, especially if people subscribe to mass amounts of blogs. Even so, Tumblr users will scroll and scroll and scroll through their feeds since Tumblr is so user friendly. *Note: You cannot individually thank all those who follow back; more likely than not, a mass amount of people will do so. 32 people have followed my Tumblr today, so I wrote a post thanking them.
Utilize your ask box. All you have to do is create a post encouraging people to ask you questions that are relevant to the content of your blog. Sometimes you don’t even have to do this. People will eventually start asking you questions of their own volition. Try to answer their questions. However, once your blog picks up in popularity, you may not be able to answer all questions. John Green certainly can’t, but he will still answer questions anyway.
That’s my advice on using Tumblr effectively. You can feel free to follow me on Tumblr if you are seeking writing advice. My Tumblr post tomorrow will be tips on brevity–cutting the fat, basically. My WordPress post on Wednesday will be updates on my author life, plus a picture quote from When Stars Die. Can’t wait to see you all then!
When I began my Goodreads ad campaign, I wasn’t happy at first. I had trouble trying to get clicks. I thought I had created a good one, and I thought my cover alone would draw people into seeing it. Well, I found a thread on Goodreads with one man claiming that it does work. Many others replied, absolutely unhappy with their experience. I think I may have even commented, too, telling everyone that Goodreads ads were a waste of time. But because I had sunk 50 dollars into the campaign, I was determined to make it work. Even if no sales resulted from it, people are at least still looking at it and maybe adding it. So I decided to change the description entirely. Here is a screen capture of everything I did to create the ad that is earning me clicks now. Out of the 50 dollars I have spent, 23 dollars have been used since January. I consider that a victory, as many people struggle with trying to get clicks at all. Ignore the Campaign Goodreads Giveaway part. That is over with, but the destination URL simply takes you to the book, not to the page where you can sign up for the giveaway. Instead pay attention to the ad description. This is what will earn you more clicks than anything else. My original ad description was simply a rip of some sentence from the synopsis of my book. That wasn’t earning any clicks at all for the week it had been put up. However, once I changed it to this description, it slowly began to receive clicks. The description is short to the point and shocking. Witches are worse than murderers? That’s a big shock factor. Finding out her brother is one and they have to flee or risk dying? That’s another draw-in. These words alone convey a few things: This book is going tell a story about witches who live in absolute fear because they know they are going to be ruthlessly killed upon being discovered. The heroine, Amelia, is completely selfless and will do anything for her little brother, so it’s a story of sibling love. The cover helps as well. I shrunk this screen capture, but if you have ever found this ad on Goodreads, you would be able to read the entire title, along with my name.
Here is another picture detailing what also helped.
I have two ads running. You can have multiple ads running, if you want. Notice that my click-to-rate for the second ad is 0.04%. You want it to be 0.05%, but my goal, really, is to use up ALL of my funds, as many writers who use Goodreads ads can’t even manage that. But look at the genres. The first ad might not have a high CTR because it targets less genres than my second ad does. However, my first ad yesterday received 5 clicks, and my second ad received 0. That was a CTR of 0.09% from yesterday. Each click also uses 50 cents, which is the minimum you should be using. This could affect how often Goodreads is willing to show your ad. I have also allotted a cap of 10 dollars a day. This may also reflect views. However, the views are very arbitrary. I have tried looking up why this may be, but I have found nothing.
Here is a line graph detailing my views:
As you can see from the line graph above, it takes a lot of views to receive a click. You can also see I have certain days where I peak and other days where I don’t. I can’t explain why this is. For three days now I have had clicks because of all those views you are seeing from the 25th to the 27th. But today, it doesn’t appear I’ll have any clicks, so my Goodreads daily report will probably show 0. It’s a very strange pattern for me. For 3 days I’ll have clicks, and then for 2 or 3 days I won’t have any. I cannot explain why this is, but it’s a miracle I’m receiving clicks at all, as many, many users of ads do not receive clicks…never.
All in all, I know I have created an effective ad campaign due to the usage of my funds. Will I do another ad? Probably not. It’s great for exposure, probably great for getting people to add your book, but I can get people to add my book through means that don’t cost money, like Twitter, Tumblr, and this blog, as well as the myriad of interviews and guest blog posts I do. Not to mention I still have some print books left that I can use to do a giveaway on Goodreads to celebrate some sort of milestone in my author life. I’ll probably do another giveaway once my publisher gives me the contract to The Stars Are Infinite ;).
I hope this helps. Any questions, feel free to ask me in the comments or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every Friday I will be doing a post on publishing, whether it be publishing news or a column from me responding to articles about publishing–with statistics, of course.
Every Wednesday I will try to do an author update post about what is going on in my author life–something inspirational–ending it with a picture quote from When Stars Die.
Pau has been live-tweeting my book, and here is her review. I normally don’t post reviews others have done, as I am an EXTREMELY modest person, but because she live- tweeted it, I decided to go on ahead and give her blog a nudge. I want to warn you that there are spoilers in the latter half. Follow her on Twitter! She’s fantastic, an avid reader, hardcore lover of books, and I appreciated all her live tweeting. It was fun to read her reactions as she was going through my book.
I am also going to try to do one Youtube video per week. I haven’t decided what I want my theme to be. I may answer questions people have posed in the past, or I may do something else entirely. Currently I am watching John Green’s Youtube channel to gain some inspiration. I would also love to do something with my ballet, like detailing my journey as an adult dancer while I’m simply practicing by myself. However, that would require my fiance to attend my dance class at least once a week to record my practicing.
I’m pretty much going to blog on here every other day so I can also blog on Tumblr.
My PA, Mariah Wilson, recently posed something interesting about authors and beta readers. Here is her exact quote:
Authors also have to protect themselves. Beta reading for just anyone isn’t a good idea once you get published…why? Because if you publish something that even remotely resembles a shred of an idea that was in a book you beta read 10 years ago…that person can try to sue you. Best to B-read for peeps you know. That’s why authors like Koontz and King won’t read ANYTHING you send them, unless it’s published. It’s for their own protection.
Plus it IS time consuming and it’s not like I would not have returned the favor…but I cant’ drive 2 hours to go to a lousy writers group. (I used to be part of a writer’s group, until, for some reason, we were expected to pay? But I never attended the writer’s critique circle. Too time consuming to read for others. Too many expectations in a writer’s group.)
I’ve been wanting to seek out a few beta readers for a contemporary fantasy I am working on, but when Mariah sent this to me during a Facebook conversation we were having, I immediately realized this was a bad idea. Mariah has been my only beta reader. She’s fantastic, but it also doesn’t hurt to receive another perspective. Now I am going to bring on a second beta reader because she is a part of my lit magazine and loved When Stars Die. Not only that, but she has actual editorial experience to boot, but I’m not expecting her to fully edit it. I don’t want her to. A beta reader’s job is not to do that.
I originally wanted to hire an affordable editor for this contemporary fantasy. Before Mariah, I had nothing but bad experiences with beta readers. I would look at their novels and provide actual editorial feedback in exchange for their reading mine, but they never finished, or suddenly found themselves too busy. This was frustrating for me. I gave them valuable feedback, and I never got anything in return.
If you have been following my blog since it’s inception, you’ll also know I stumbled across Georgia McBride, who basically showed me that past feedback I had been receiving for The Stars Are Infinite actually wasn’t as good as I thought it was. Even though I had completely changed the book from its original draft, she told me it wasn’t ready for beta readers. But that in itself is frustrating. It basically says that writers need to retreat to freelance editors first before finding beta readers. So I concluded that the beta readers I had weren’t that experienced in the first place. But they still provided actual feedback. They were honest, but apparently it’s not the feedback that my book needed.
How are you supposed to know that though?
This is when I lost my trust in beta readers. Georgia McBride taught me a lot about structural editing. Because of her, I had been going to affordable freelance editors for my books. All I had to do was pay them, and it was a guarantee they’d get back to me. Plus, I wasn’t expected to return anything other than money.
Even so, that’s not ideal, especially because I’m not seeking to self-publish my work. I just wanted a guarantee that my book would receive feedback in an appropriate amount of time, with no expectations of returning a beta read.
I posed a question on my Facebook page. How many beta readers do writers normally have? Here are some of their responses:
Elizabeth Guizzetti: Other Systems had 2, The Light Side of the Moon had 1 before it went to the publishers. The Martlet so far has had 3, plus a few people who helped me with specific scenes. So 5? I guess the answer to your question is as many as I need.
Ryan Attard: Personally it’s between none, one or maximum 2. Including the people at the publishing house. But that may say more about my paranoia than it does about writing
Mariah Wilson (she had more to say): That’s precisely the reason I don’t beta for many people. Time. I hate promising something, then never going through with it. I only take on projects that I’m confident I can return in a timely fashion. Why? Because it’s infuriating to send a book to betas and never hear from them again.
And now that I’ve been a beta reader for awhile, and a writer for awhile, I think that the best beta readers are ones who you have established a relationship with. I think that there should be some form of trust. Trust not only that you will do what you say you will, WHEN You say you will, but trust that you will put forth your best effort and your unabridged honesty. If you offer anything less, you are useless as a beta reader. If I want someone to candy coat it and tell me how awesome I am, that’s what I have family and close (non writer) friends for.
As for me, I’m sticking with Mariah and this other beta reader. I don’t think I’m going to retreat to freelance editors, unless I feel it’s absolutely necessary. I’m not bringing on anyone else, though, and I won’t beta read, unless it’s authors tied to my publisher(s), and their books fit my particular tastes–and Mariah and the other one. Especially Mariah. She’ll actually receive full, free editorial services from me whenever she thinks her first novel is ready for it. Otherwise, I’m going to charge people who want me to look at their books.
I have over 1500 likes on my FB author page. These are genuine likes. I didn’t pay for advertising. Yet…out of all of those likes, only 14 are talking about it–whatever that means. Sometimes I’ll receive an influx of likes and my activity will rise to the 100s. But then just as quickly, it will die. I’ll admit I haven’t been that busy on my page. Recently I started posting more: The original number was 5. Yet, even when I do post continuously, I can get, at most, probably 50 or 60 actually talking about it. Out of all those likes, that’s EXTREMELY frustrating. One time I had over 300 talking about it because there was a point where I just had a flood of likes, and I didn’t even know where they were coming from! But, of course, it died…fast. This video explains my frustrations perfectly and why I have considered abandoning my FB page numerous times. It’s not like my fans are really seeing anything I post. FB, after all, WANTS you to spend money on promoting your page, and it wants you to keep doing that.
In spite of the waning dystopian genre, Jordan Locke’s ‘The Only Boy’ breathes new life into it. I found this book on Twitter through this cover alone. Jordan Locke actually created this cover, and I must say, Locke did a fantastic job.
The main crux of this book is there are no more men in the world, as they have been wiped out by a plague called the Cleansing. Thus, it is only women that remain–or so Mary thinks.
Mary has never seen a boy in her life. She lives in Section One, which is a crumbling hospital with plenty of other women. Pictures of men have been removed from all books.
Then there is Taylor, whose dangerous secret is, of course, that he is a boy. In order to remain in Section One, he must pretend to be a girl; however, this is not an easy feat. The threat of death looms above him should he be found out.
Taylor wants to leave Section One because of the Matriarch. Her idea of safety is to keep Section One under totalitarian control. Even so, Taylor doesn’t want to leave Mary behind. But what will happen when Mary finds out just who and what Taylor is?
Upon seeing the cover and reading the description, I knew I had to snatch this book up right away. I love the dystopian genre, but the dystopian books in my bookstore are beginning to sound the same. They’re not even drawing from The Hunger Games. The most recent ones are being drawn from Divergent, because they all involve some sort of test, and it’s getting very tiring. In fact, Locke had to self-publish this novel because it couldn’t find a home due to the “waning dystopian genre.”
But this book manages to be its own dystopian.
There aren’t too many YA books with a male perspective. What’s even more interesting than a book with a male perspective is that Taylor, as for as he knows, is the only male alive and must live among nothing but women. I love how Locke doesn’t fall into the trap of believing that girls and boys are completely different from one another. This book shows they are not, and even Taylor himself learns that they are not.
So what is it like being the only boy among women? For one, he has to hide a razor blade in order to keep his face shaved. For another, he has to wear baggy clothes in order to hide his obviously-male figure. And last, he knows that if he were found out, he’d be killed because the plague killed men more quickly than women, and if there are/were any remaining men, they’d likely be carrying it. However, Locke instills an interesting secret within Taylor’s genetic code itself, and you’ll just have to read to find out what that is.
I love Taylor’s development. I love how he looks at the oppressive structure of the compound and realizes that women can be just as cold and violent as men. There is no touching allowed at this compound. Or affection. Or comfort. They avoid touching one another due to the plague, and affection and comfort are the same way. In fact, if a child is crying, the women leave that crying child alone. Thus, Locke presents a different side to women, one that isn’t so nurturing. In our culture, it’s a common-held belief that only women are capable of being nurturing. But this book shows that one’s environment determines one’s true behavior. In an environment based on pure survival, women will do what they need to do to survive.
I can’t forget about Mary, either. Her perspective is interesting because she has lived in Section One all her life under the oppressive rule of The Matriarch. She is a curious girl and wants to know what life was like before the Cleansing, but the Matriarch will allow no such knowledge. In fact, The Matriarch has made it so that men are unneeded. The women in Section One don’t need men to reproduce, not when all babies are basically genetically modified. So…GMO babies!
And so Mary is constantly getting into trouble, being put in the pit, sometimes with another, sometimes by herself. One can be in the pit for days or weeks at a time. Oftentimes those in the pits survive on water alone. This conveys just how dictatorial The Matriarch can be.
Even more interesting are The Earthers, people who are looked down upon by those who live in The Compound. In fact, Mary is convinced The Earthers killed her mother…with a gun. However, The Earthers have no such technology, so draw your own conclusions from there.
The Earthers live off the land alone, but I can’t give away too much about these people. All I can say is that the world building is fantastic because Locke delves well into Mary and Taylor’s perspectives. Doing so allows Locke to delve into the many layers of the characters’ worlds, and the characters themselves. Locke also does a fantastic job of making readers sympathize with secondary characters, such as The Matriarch’s daughter, who happens to be the bully of the compound. When I learned that The Matriarch showed no affection to her daughter, even as an infant, I really began to empathize.
I remember being in a junior in my AP Junior Literature class, which mostly focused on argumentative writing. In the beginning, my essays weren’t that great. In fact, no one wrote that great of an essay. Then again, the teacher never really mentioned what she was looking for when we first began writing them (I normally made A’s up until then). It was up to all of us to pretty much teach ourselves how to write essays based on individual feedback. There were a couple of essays I wrote where she would circle words or phrases and write ‘trite.’ I knew what that meant, and I suppose triteness shouldn’t be used in essay writing, but I don’t fully agree (this is coming from someone who generally makes A’s on her essays). Then again, writing essays isn’t about colorful or creative writing.
There was one class where she was talking about clichés as it relates to speech writing, and she said, “I was so unnerved by this one woman who was in an argumentative forum, and she had the gall to say “They just want to cross their T’s and dot their I’s!” I couldn’t care at that at the time, because it was one cliché. What’s the big deal? I still don’t see what the big deal is, and I’m a pretty good speaker. I don’t know what the argument was, but I think that’s an effective cliché to convey that these people just want to nitpick on everything. I mean, if she had simply said, “They just want to nitpick,” I feel that wouldn’t convey her message strongly enough.
Clichés exist for a reason. To me, they’re like those little gems that people are familiar enough with, but can be effective when used properly. I know I find myself prey to trying to come up with some original phrase, when, really, a “cliché” might serve me better. But I’ve read tons of writing books, and sometime it’s hard for me to break from them, like said bookisms, which are basically words you use other than said. I always try to find a way to avoid adverbs in my dialogue tags by either conveying that adverb in the dialogue or an action tag. But, still, in all published books I’ve read, writers use adverbs, writers use clichés. As long as they’re not overdone, it’s fine.
For this post, here are two articles that inspired me to write it: Cliché’s Exist for a Reason. This article focuses on primarily plot clichés, and why they’re popular. Then this one, 12 Clichés Writers Should Avoid, which talks about clichés that you shouldn’t use. I don’t agree with this one at all, because those cliché’s exist for a reason.
Again, cliché’s, like any other writing device, should be used sparingly.
I am pleased to welcome author Jenny Torres Sanchez to my blog. She has written The Downside of Being Charlie and Death, Dickenson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia, both books that I love and enjoyed. I pretty much give both of these 5 star ratings. I reviewed the latter, but did not review the former. I hope you all enjoy this interview and will consider purchasing her books. They’re great reads.
1. Tell us about both of your books, The Downside of Being Charlie, and Death, Dickinson, and The Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia.
Both books deal with characters going through a difficult time in their lives. In The Downside of Being Charlie, Charlie is a teen boy dealing with his very dysfunctional family (mainly, his mother who runs away). He also battles with his weight and self image and is trying to understand the girl who he is in love with but who may or may not love him back. In Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia, Frenchie is dealing with the aftermath of her high school crush’s suicide. They spent the last night of his life together and Frenchie doesn’t understand why he chose to spend it with her. The summer after her senior year, she should be looking forward to the rest of her life, instead, she’s trying to figure out why Andy ended his.
2. Both of these books deal with some pretty heavy topics. In The Downside of Being Charlie, Charlie’s mother is absent all the time and appears to be struggling with her own demons. Charlie is also struggling with his inner demons, especially when it comes to food. What made you want to deal with such heavy topics in The Downside of Being Charlie? As for The Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia, Frenchie is reliving the moments she spent with Andy right up to the point of his suicide. You could have put the book in Andy’s perspective, and we would have received a very intimate look into his psyche, especially understanding what made him choose suicide, so what made you decide to put it in Frenchie’s perspective instead?
I don’t initially set out to write books with heavy topics, but my characters show up and I can tell they have problems. Sometimes it’s easy to dismiss teens and think their lives are easy and not so complicated, but lots of teens go through really heavy things. I want teens who are going through those or similar types of issues to see themselves in these characters and know that while sometimes they might feel alone, they’re not. There are a lot of people struggling. And there’s not always a clear solution. Sometimes the only solution is to struggle on for awhile and know that eventually, things can get better.
I wrote suicide from Frenchie’s perspective because I think the effects of suicide are far reaching. Andy wasn’t Frenchie’s best friend. He wasn’t her boyfriend. She hardly even knew him actually. But his suicide hit her really hard and left her reeling. I think this happens to a lot of people. Suicide takes so many people from this world and it seems like the people around them end up in this place where they keep trying to understand, keep looking for clues and answers, even if they weren’t particularly close to the person. I wanted to explore that place, that person’s story. I think it’s a story worth telling.
3. Do you see yourself always writing books that deal with heavy topics? (I myself set out to write about heavy topics)
It’s hard to say a definite yes, because I really do want to write whatever stories come to me. Sometimes they may have heavy topics, sometimes they might not. But it does seem like I’m drawn to exploring stories with darker themes, so for the most part, I think that will always be a part of my writing. Sheesh, that seems like a longwinded way of saying, “Yeah, probably.”
4. How long did it take you to write both of these books, from draft to publishable material? (This is how long it takes me, too)
About 1 year and a half on both.
5. What was the publishing process for you like? How long did you have to query before landing a bite?
I received a request for the full manuscript to the first query I ever wrote. And when I received that email, I kind of cried like a baby. It was silly, because it was just a request, but to me it was like angels were singing and trumpets were playing somewhere in a golden sky just for me. Seriously, I cried. But I guess it was because I figured, if I can get this request, I can get more. And if I can get more, then I think I can actually do this.
That agent ultimately passed, but the request gave me so much hope. Three months and several queries later, I was offered representation by the amazing Kerry Sparks (seriously, she is wonderful).
6. What is it that you love about young adult literature? Will you always write young adult literature?
I guess I just really like that point of view. It’s that point between childhood and adulthood that has it’s own unique flavor; there is wonderment, there is angst, there is confusion and fear, and all just makes for such a unique and interesting perspective. I love it.
7. Are you currently working on anything right now? If so, are you able to tell us a little bit about it?
I am working on something and it’s actually pretty different than Charlie and Frenchie, but I can’t reveal too much. There is dysfunction, though. And darkness. It’s been challenging, but I think it’s made me a better writer, so that’s pretty cool!
8. Now tell us anything and everything about yourself, including your love for red swedish fish.
Anything and everything? Ha, okay, well, obviously I love reading and writing. I love photography, painting, going to art museums, and music. I love hearing bands I’ve never heard before, though I cling to the music I grew up with. I am a very, very slow reader and an even slower writer. I want to like tea for some reason, but I actually don’t. But I still buy it anyway. My standard coffee (which I do like) order is an Americano. If given enough time, I will freak myself out when I’m home alone (because I think ghosts or aliens or something is out to get me). By given enough time, I mean, oh anywhere between a few minutes to a few hours. Which is completely contradictory the fact that I do actually enjoy being alone. I’m afraid of the dark. I run fight or flight mode and recite the alphabet when I’m scared. I don’t enjoy the outdoors unless it is NOT super sunny or hot out, which means I mostly stay indoors since I live in Florida. I’m married to someone who actually knows all this about me and still loves me. We have three amazing kids, the youngest whom we actually named after Frenchie (yeah, no joke). Oh, and I like to eat Swedish Fish until I feel sick and can hardly stand to look at them. Then I eat them some more.
9. Anything else you want people to know?
Ha, I think the above pretty much covers it! Thanks so much for these great questions. 😀
Author bio: Jenny Torres Sanchez lives in Florida with her husband and children where she currently writes full time. Before the publication of her debut novel, The Downside of Being Charlie and her second novel, Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia, Jenny taught high school English for several years. She credits her students for inspiring her to write young adult novels.
Recently an author commented on a review I wrote on a book this author had written. It wasn’t mean or anything, but I found it a little unprofessional. The author wanted to clean up some misconceptions I had, ones that were based on my own experiences with what happened in this particular book, so they weren’t exactly misconceptions. The author simply had a different experience from me, but my experience was more common, not just with me, but among a variety of other people, so I wouldn’t exactly say I was misconstruing anything. I know I’m being vague, but this is to hide the identity of the author and the work. Even so, the author appreciated the review and thought it was the best one. And I, of course, replied, taking the author’s own experiences into account. But it was still unprofessional, considering the author’s experiences were rarer than this author was led to believe. Doesn’t make them any less legitimate, but when I comment on something in a book that seems inaccurate in terms of realism, I often go by the average experience, not the exceptional.
In any case, I do comment on reviews, but it’s simply a thank you if it was given as an ARC. It is never to correct things I feel they didn’t get, or even correct things they might have gotten completely wrong. Reviews are for readers, not writers, and because there is this ability to comment on reviews, let the readers do that. Let the readers clear up misconceptions, or agree or disagree with the review.
That’s the great thing about Goodreads. It opens up a discussion on these books, a practical forum, and I like that, so hopefully When Stars Die will get to the point where readers do want to open up with discussions on these reviews. I won’t be reading them, of course, but it will just be a neat idea to think that readers want to talk about the book in some way, be it negative or positive.
Now I’m going to admit that I take 3 star reviews and use these reviews as my invisible harshest critics to help shape the sequel of a book I’m doing in a series. Yeah, beta readers and crit partners are great, but most of them look at the manuscript as a writer, not a reader, and I want to think about readers when writing. To be frank, I wasn’t thinking a whole lot about readers when doing revisions for When Stars Die, besides the edits given from AEC. I wasn’t thinking, ‘What would they like? What would they want to see? How would they react?’ It’s still creating my story, but I also believe thinking about readers ultimately creates a book that you’d love even more. So I hardcore think about readers during revisions, which is what I did with The Stars Are Infinite and am now doing with All Shattered Ones, which isn’t in The Stars Trilogy. It’s a standalone contemporary fantasy. So, if anything, 3 star reviews have taught me to really, really think about readers.
In any case, I posed this question about authors commenting on their own reviews, and here are some answers:
Tanya Gaunt: “Reviews are what readers do authors get feedback.”
Nazarea Andrews: Unless it’s a ‘thank you!’ I don’t. Even from friends, I stay away.
Maria E. Wilson (My PA Extraordinaire): “Unless it’s to say “Thank you for taking the time to review my novel.” I don’t think authors should comment. If a reader wants to talk to you about your book, they will contact you. The reviews are not there for the authors, but for other readers.”
Nazarea Andrews (again): Fwiw I don’t use reviews as a crit for how to go into my next book. That’s what CPs and Betas are for. IMO.
Glenn Harris: “Other than a simple thank you, an absolute no-no. If it’s a bad review, you sound defensive and if it’s a good one you sound self-congratulatory.”
Rashad Freeman: “It’s a lose lose.”
Megan Moffat: “It’s awkward and I hate it. I had an author comment on a review before when I gave their book one star. They weren’t very happy to say the least and basically tore me down, saying I didn’t know anything, didn’t understand their work, demanded more answers as to why I gave it the rating I did, etc. I have never replied and don’t intend to. I found the author’s comment rude and intrusive.”
Sebastian Starcevic: “Even saying “thank you” lets all the reviewers know that you’re there watching, assessing what they post. Just stay away. You seem obsessive otherwise.”
Joey Paul: “I agree with other people saying that it’s not something you should do as an author. Read the reviews, sure, smile when you get a 5 star and frown when you get a 1 star, but do not, under any circumstances, comment. It will only end badly.”
Barry Koonstachin: “Under any circumstance, an author should never comment on the reviews of his/her book.”
Wendi Starusnak: “I don’t think they should… it seems unprofessional in my opinion.”
Kimberlee Fisher Sams: “Fine, as long as they’re either basically saying “thanks for the review” or “glad you enjoyed the book”, or correcting blatantly wrong information (ie “You must be thinking of a different book. My book, “blah blah title”, does not contain a single swear word. My editor and I are meticulous about this.”
DeAnna Chapmann Kinney: “I’ve done it, but only if it was a great one and I just had to thank them for it.”
Gregory Lamb: “It can be a slippery slope with lots of unintended consequences. Letting the readers have a dialog without interference is the strategy I go by.”
Cheer Stephenson Papworth: “Just be very careful! Stay classy!”
Hopefully I spelled all these names right. Let me know if I haven’t. Some were a little difficult.
What do all of you think about authors commenting on their own reviews?
Next post will be an interview I did with Jenny Torres Sanchez, author of The Downside of Being Charlie and Death, Dickenson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia.
Let me preface this by saying this is not a departure from my blog. Oh, certainly not. I am still trying to figure out how to build a following without busting my butt off by commenting on a million other blogs, friending those blogs, with the hopes that they follow me back, even though I understand they have no obligation to do so. I shouldn’t have to do that to build a following, because many successful blogs don’t have to. Having a lot of followers means nothing if I’m not having any interaction. But that is neither here nor there.
I call myself The Dancing Writer for a reason, and I think it’s time to talk about ballet, which I don’t do often enough to keep up with the title of The Dancing Writer. I’ve complained about it a little on Facebook and Twitter, if any of you have seen, which, I’ll take the blame for, was very unprofessional of me, but in the heat of the moment, you tend to do things you wouldn’t normally do, and lashing out is one of my faults. I rarely get angry, but when I do, I go from 0-180, which usually ends up in crying that lasts for a few hours. I do get upset, but that upset rarely leads to anger. In this case, I was immediately angry and was considering switching schools the moment I found my name.
To remain as sensitive as possible about the topic, I am not going to bash my previous school. It was a very good school. It was very fun. The teachers were great. I made some good friends there, and I have many positive memories. Being able to participate in The Roar of Love (2013) was one such fond memory I had. However, it is a recreational school, one that places priorities on company members over non-company members, which I don’t think is fair, as not every dancer there can afford the time nor money to be a company member, but it’s probably how the school earns its money to stay afloat–through sponsors and what not. And that school deserves to stay open because it has won many awards for a reason. But it might have been the wrong school for me all along, and I didn’t realize that until this year. I was blind because I started out with private lessons there with a wonderful woman named Rebecca, who made me want to start taking classes there. She was the only reason I did. She’s gone now, but I persisted in spite of her absence, because I was already used to the atmosphere and greatly adored the girls.
I never considered myself a role model to them. I didn’t sign up to be a role model. I signed up to dance. I think once I established myself as equals to them, and took them on as friends, that role model idea went out the window. And I wanted to be equal to them. I didn’t want any special treatment for being the only adult consistently taking classes and being serious about the art form. I also didn’t want the pressure of being a role model put on me. Sure, I could dish out advice to them with situations I’ve been in when I was their age, but really being able to talk to these girls and getting to know them made me realize that it’s possible to be 23 and still be able to relate to girls who are in their late or early teens. I had one who was pretty much a younger sister to me, because she did look up to me and sought me out for advice. However, she left for pretty much the same reason I did, which I will mention soon, and I miss her terribly. Otherwise, the other girls were my friends. Plain and simple. I interacted with them the way I interacted with my friends my age (albeit, I toned down the jokes and language), but I still acted plain silly with them, just as I would with friends of my age–even ones much older than I.
Even so, this year’s casting made me realize I wasn’t going to get any better, not just in casting, but in terms of skill. I have improved as a dancer, but I attribute that largely to the performance experience I had in Roar because it better taught me how to memorize longer combinations without stopping in the middle of one to remember what the next move was. However, without that performance experience, I don’t think I would have gained that betterment in my dance skills. The roles weren’t complicated, but they developed the memorization part of my brain, which I didn’t have when starting the school. They also developed that part of my brain where I didn’t need to think about what move came next. The moves were already in my muscles, so there was no need to think about them. I just did them.
Now it’s time to get down to the part that broke my heart. Last year I did not expect to be cast into Roar at all because of my status as an adult, and I was okay with that. I had no reason to expect it, so I had no expectations. However, when I received casting and decided to peruse it out of curiosity to see who received what role, I was surprised to find my name on there four times in three different roles: Flower Fairy, Spring Maiden, and Wind–2 casts. Because of last year’s casting in Roar, I felt this year I had every right to expect I was going to be in Roar–otherwise, it would have been plain cruel to not cast me. I was really banking on getting more challenging roles this year that would better me as a dancer. I could come away and say, ‘Yep! I did that role. I was able to do it, and now I’m confident I can improve as a dancer.’ That didn’t happen at all. I put so much hope and heart into casting and was on pins and needles, as was every girl at the school, about the casting. Ballet is as much of a passion as writing is, even though I have no plans to go pro.
When the cast list appeared in my Gmail, my heart jumped in my chest. However, when I perused the list for my name, I saw it only once. In cast two, as Spring Maiden, which I did last year. At the time the role was slightly challenging because it was probably a 4-5 minute piece and I hadn’t fully memorized it until the last two rehearsals, but I expected something more and didn’t get it.
At first I was angry, because I realized less-experienced girls, both on and off pointe, were getting the roles people at my level usually receive–so I wasn’t the only one upset about casting. All the girls at my level had been shortchanged (except for one), for one reason or another. But I won’t go into detail about that. All I can say is that the school probably depends a lot on sponsorships, and in order to keep those sponsors happy, they have to ensure that their children are happy at the school, lest they lose their sponsors, which are often the ones most active in the school. Casting is a HUGE deal at that school, as these girls are in 4 performances a year, and if they’re losing dancers because of casting, they could lose sponsors as well. So it’s no surprise; however, it’s very upsetting for someone such as me, who devoted two years to the school, was always able to afford tuition, who mostly attended dance classes regularly, and was very serious while in class. I especially worked hard this year, not only for myself, but to ensure I would receive a good role in Roar that would make me into a much better dancer, as I believe the girls are as good as they are because of the performances.
Some tried to persuade me not to quit, as there was always next year, but, not only did I know I was never going to get anything better, I also knew I didn’t want to stick around for another year to wind up in disappointment–again. I take ballet seriously, and I want to have fun with it, so I knew the passion for that school died when the casting came out.
I am not perfect, I still slightly struggle, but I have taken the highest level there, and I was surprised with my ability to keep up. I think I should have been struggling, but I didn’t. Even boys they pulled from an art school because they are in desperate need of boys, who had been with the school for not even two years and had never taken ballet prior to this school, were keeping up with the highest-level class. Granted, their technique isn’t strong, but they were able to keep up with the exercises. So I knew the challenge did not lie in the classes themselves, but in the performances.
So after realizing this, I had broken down in tears and could not be consoled for a few hours. I knew I was never going to get anything challenging beyond Spring Maiden, so to speak, because as the girls that move up in level and more join the company, I knew I was going to be slipped into whatever was left. Being in Roar is a privilege, and not a right, and I was made an exception when I was cast for Roar, but, even now that I have cooled off, I don’t think I should have been expected to be grateful to be cast at all, not when the prior year was better, especially considering I didn’t dance that much in the fall because of depression and hospitalizations. This year, I did dance more, so I was flummoxed. Even worse, I was not given a role en pointe, which would have deprived me of pointe work for three months. That is not a good thing for someone as serious as me who wants to improve.
As bittersweet as it is, I am moving on to another school, one that is a professional and not a performance-based one. At this school, if any of the girls are chosen to participate in The Nutcracker, rehearsal time is outside of class, and so does not eat up class time. Also, they only use certain girls–or boys–when they can’t fill all slots in their professional performance of The Nutcracker, so I won’t have to have any expectations. They also do demonstrations at the end of the year, but this is more for the parents. I don’t think I’d be allowed to be in one, but I wouldn’t be getting anything out of it anyway because I am the one who will be paying the school, so I know I am getting a good dance education and don’t need to prove it to anyone like the kids will have to for their parents. The point is that I can still participate in these demo rehearsals that are actual exercises done in class–not variations of ballet performances. This isn’t to say anything bad about my old school. This is just the reality. My old school may have never been a right fit for me from the beginning, but just because it isn’t a right fit for me, doesn’t mean it won’t be a right fit for someone else. In fact, many adults who really want to do ballet often retreat to the new school I’m going to so they can learn ballet in a more serious environment without being an exception to anything. My old school has an adult class, but it is purely recreational, purely for fun.
I am both nervous and excited. I am nervous because they have a set repertoire of exercises they do every day, so I’ll have some catching up to do. And I am excited because I know this school will help me bring out my full potential as a dancer. I probably should have gone there to begin with. After all, I did an intensive there. Even so, another reason I didn’t go to the school was because during that intensive, fibromyalgia really affected by legs horribly, and I attributed it to the intensity of the work, which is not found at my old school. However, I have learned that it is my ballet tights that aggravate my fibromyalgia, so I simply need to roll them up to my knees, and I am usually okay. I will also let the teacher know about my chronic pain condition. It has not really affected by ballet as of late, but I will be attending, twice a week, classes that are 2 1/2 hours long, so I do expect my fibro to pop up a little bit more. (Of course, my former rhume told me that without ballet, my fibro would be much worse, so you have to outweigh the benefits with the consequences. My fibro is really mild compared to a lot of cases, but I am also very limber.)