Thursday, May 21, 2015

"The Writer's Voice" Blogfest, 2015 Edition

#TheWVoice Blogfest is live! Over the next two weeks, the coaches will review your queries and first pages on the blogs listed below, and if one of the coaches wants you on her team, she’ll leave a comment on your post that says something like, “I want you!” (Please note that the coaches won’t post any comments until Monday, June 1, so don’t fret when you don’t get an instant “I want you!”) If more than one coach wants you, you’ll have to pick which coach you want to work with. (We’ll give you more instructions on this next week, depending on how things pan out…)

For more information, including a timeline of events and a list of this year’s participating agents, check out this post. In the meantime, feel free to hop around and play along with these not-quite-blind auditions!

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Now Accepting Entries for "The Writer's Voice" 2015

Welcome to #TheWVoice 2015! To enter, your manuscript must meet two conditions: First, it must be COMPLETE, POLISHED, AND READY TO QUERY, and second, it must be in one of the following genres:

MG fiction (all genres)
YA fiction (all genres)
NA fiction (all genres except erotica)
Adult genre fiction (excluding erotica)
Adult literary fiction (including women’s fiction but excluding erotica)
Adult commercial fiction (including women’s fiction but excluding erotica)

Also, YOU MUST HAVE A BLOG TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS CONTEST, as the coaches will be building their teams via #TheWVoice Blogfest (which starts tomorrow). You don’t have to have a blog at this moment to enter, but you will need to create one ASAP if you win a spot in the blogfest (which is what today’s Rafflecopter lottery will determine). 

For more information, including a timeline of events and a list of this year’s participating agents, check out this post. Then feel free to enter the Rafflecopter lottery anytime between now and 9:00 p.m. EDT!

We strongly recommend you enter the Rafflecopter lottery with your current e-mail address, NOT your Facebook account. Most people no longer use the e-mail addresses tied to those accounts, so if you use it to sign up, you probably won't get our notification e-mail if you make it into the blogfest. Also, we MUST be able to leave comments on your blog if you want us to pick you (and the easier it is to leave those comments, the better).

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


After more than two years of working, waiting, and worrying, THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING makes its debut today. It's kind of a surreal feeling, and I'm still not quite sure what to make of it. I thought I'd feel more nervous or excited or something, but I don't think my brain's caught up with the idea that it's finished, that it's out in the world, that one of you might be reading it right now.


"Twelve-year-old Ella Mae Higbee is a sensible girl. She eats her vegetables and wants to be just like Sergeant Friday, her favorite character on Dragnet. So when her auntie Mildred starts spouting nonsense about a scientist who can bring her cousin Robby back to life, Ella Mae doesn’t believe her--until a boy steps out of the scientist’s pod and drips slime on the floor right before her eyes.

"But the boy is not Robby--he’s Japanese. And in California in the wake of World War II, the Japanese are still feared and mistreated. When Auntie Mildred refuses to take responsibility, Ella Mae convinces her mama to take the boy home with them. It’s clear that he’ll be kept like a prisoner in that lab, and she wants to help.

"Determined to do what’s right by her new friend, Ella Mae teaches him English and defends him from the reverend’s talk of H-E-double-toothpicks. But when the boy’s painful memories resurface, Ella Mae learns some surprising truths about her own family and, more importantly, what it means to love."

To learn more about the book and how I went about writing it, check out my interviews over at Literary Rambles (includes an international hardcover giveaway!), Butterflies of the Imagination, and That Artsy Reader Girl (also includes an international hardcover giveaway!). And here are a few snippets from what other folks are saying about THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING:

"Brimming with empathy, humor, forgiveness, and wisdom
about what it means to be truly, fully human"
--Tricia Springstubb, author of MOONPENNY ISLAND

"Ella Mae is a scrapper in the tradition of Harper Lee’s Scout"
--Publishers Weekly

"A remarkable effort that explores stereotypes, family, and friendships that transcend the 1950s"

"Perfect for classrooms and book clubs, as it definitely offers a lot of material for discussion"

"Recommended to fans of historical fiction who enjoy a mix of history and ethics"
--School Library Journal

I'll be hosting several giveaways over the next couple of months, but if you don't want to wait, feel free to buy yourself a copy (or request it at your local library!):

Thank you for sharing this amazing day with me!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About "The Writer's Voice" 2015

It's that time again! “The Writer’s Voice” is a multi-blog, multi-agent contest hosted by Brenda Drake, Mónica Bustamante Wagner, Elizabeth Briggs, and me. We’re basing it on NBC’s singing reality show The Voice, so the four of us will serve as coaches and select projects for our teams based on their queries and first pages.

Here’s the timeline:

May 20
May 21
Everybody enters the Rafflecopter lottery
The lottery winners sign up on the widget
May 21-June 4
We select our team members from “The Writer’s Voice” Blogfest
June 4-18
We coach our team members, helping them polish their entries
June 19
We post our team members’ entries on our blogs
June 23
Agents vote for their favorites


To enter, your manuscript must meet two conditions: First, it must be COMPLETE, POLISHED, AND READY TO QUERY, and second, it must be in one of the following genres:

MG fiction (all genres)
YA fiction (all genres)
NA fiction (all genres except erotica)
Adult genre fiction (excluding erotica)
Adult literary fiction (including women’s fiction but excluding erotica)
Adult commercial fiction (including women’s fiction but excluding erotica)

In other words, we’re accepting pretty much everything this year--except erotica:)

To determine who gets to participate in the blogfest, we’ll hold a single-entry Rafflecopter lottery on Wednesday, May 20. The lottery will remain open for 12 hours, from 9:00 a.m. EDT to 9:00 p.m. EDT, at which point the Rafflecopter will select 200 random winners. Those winners will then sign up for the blogfest on one of Mister Linky’s Magical Widgets the next day, May 21. Once you sign up on the widget, you’ll post YOUR QUERY and THE FIRST 250 WORDS of your manuscript on your blog.

In summary, you must follow these three steps to enter:

1. Enter the Rafflecopter lottery on May 20 during the submission window listed above.
2. Sign up on the widget on May 21 if you win the lottery.
3. Post your query and the first 250 words of your manuscript on your blog.


We’re building our teams via “The Writer’s Voice” Blogfest, so YOU MUST HAVE A BLOG TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS CONTEST. We don’t care if you’ve had it for five years or five minutes; we just want to be able to fight over you in public:)

We coaches will review the entries and leave a comment on your post that says something like, “I want you!” If more than one of us wants you on her team, you’ll have to pick which coach you want to work with.


We’ll select our 8 team members by June 4, then spend the next two weeks helping them put a final polish on their entries. You won’t have to take all of our suggestions, of course; we just want to help you make your entry the best that it can be before the agents get a look at it.

Each coach will have a guest coach to help her whip your entries into shape, and my guest coach will be the inimitable Anna-Marie McLemore. Anna-Marie's atmospheric THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, about two star-crossed teenagers from feuding performing families, comes out this September, and she's got mad revision skills that we're going to rely on.


On June 19, we’ll post our team members’ queries and first pages on our blogs so that the agents can review them. Here are the awesome agents who’ll be voting on your entries:

The agents will vote for their favorites on June 23. Each vote will count as a partial or full request depending on how many votes the entry receives. If an entry receives 1 or 2 votes, those votes will count as partial requests. If an entry receives 3 or more votes, those votes will count as full requests.

Voting will stay open until 9:00 a.m. EDT on June 24, at which point we’ll determine which coach’s team received the most votes. That coach will win bragging rights for time immemorial, and everyone who received requests will be able to submit their materials to all the agents who voted for them. These votes represent serious interest in your project, so PLEASE DON’T ACCEPT AN OFFER OF REPRESENTATION BEFORE GIVING “THE WRITER’S VOICE” AGENTS AN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE A COMPETING OFFER.

So get those queries and first pages polished up, then meet us back here on Wednesday, May 20, between 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. EDT. We can’t wait to read your entries! (And of course, if you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below.)

Thursday, April 23, 2015


Just wanted to let you know that a couple of my lovely critique partners, Myrna Foster and Tara Dairman, are giving away ARCs of THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING on their blogs. Today is the last day to enter Myrna's giveaway, and Tara's giveaway is only open until next Tuesday, so as Ella Mae's mama would say, don't dillydally!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Lessons Learned from My First Goodreads Giveaway

I sponsored my first Goodreads giveaway last week, and it exceeded my wildest expectations (and trust me, my expectations can get pretty wild). The giveaway drew 772 entries, and at the same time, 379 people* added the book to their shelves. Goodreads doesn't track entries by day (or at least I couldn't find where they track entries by day), but I was able to follow the adds over the course of the giveaway:

And for those of you who like pictures, here's the same information in a handy-dandy graph:

Considering that only 179 people had added the book in the seven-plus months leading up to last week, these numbers are kind of amazing. I also had a few observations that I thought I'd share:

As you've probably heard, beginnings and endings are super important. As you can see from my table, I got the most adds by far on the first and last days of the giveaway. It really does make a difference to be at or very close to the top of the "Ending Soon" and "Recently Listed" lists.

So how do you maximize your exposure? I noticed that lots of people were still using arbitrary beginning and ending dates: the starts or ends of months, of weeks, etc. Heck, I fell prey to this tendency and started and ended my giveaway at the end of a week. Next time, I'll aim to start and end in the middle. Or maybe I'll start my giveaway on the last day of the month. The possibilities are endless!

The length of your giveaway will determine exactly where it falls on those lists. I can't say this with certainty, but I'm pretty sure that the top slots on the "Ending Soon" list go to the longest-running giveaways while the top slots on the "Recently Listed" list go to the shortest-running giveaways. In other words, A LONG-RUNNING GIVEAWAY IS GOING TO GET MORE EXPOSURE AT THE END OF ITS CYCLE, AND A SHORT-RUNNING GIVEAWAY IS GOING TO GET MORE EXPOSURE UPFRONT.

Case in point: on the first day of my giveaway, it appeared about halfway down the first "Recently Listed" page, but on the last day, it was only as high as the third. Plenty of users still found it--as you can see above, it was my best day for adds--but it's something to be aware of.

If this number-crunching has seriously stressed you out, throw it all out the window--but still sponsor a Goodreads giveaway. I don't know how influential Goodreads actually is, but having 500 people wake up on the day my book comes out to an e-mail from Goodreads reminding them about it can't hurt.

I should also add that I found Catherine Ryan Howard's excellent post on Goodreads giveaways extremely helpful, but what about you? Have you sponsored a Goodreads giveaway, and if so, what have YOU learned?

*I pulled these numbers from my book stats on Goodreads, but they don't quite add up. My total adds peaked at 520 on the last day of the giveaway, but 179 plus 379 doesn't equal 520. Also, several people have un-added my book in the last several days, but that's to be expected.

Friday, April 10, 2015


Longtime critique partner Jeni and I have been trading book recommendations lately, and THE SCANDALOUS SISTERHOOD OF PRICKWILLOW PLACE was her latest suggestion. The cover perfectly captures the tone of the book, so feel free to stare at it for a while before you read on.

When the odious headmistress of St. Etheldreda's School for Young Ladies and her oily brother keel over dead after Sunday dinner, the young ladies of the aforementioned school know that, if they sound the alarm, they'll be investigated for murder (or, worse, sent home). So they do the only thing a group of somewhat well-bred young ladies might do: they bury the victims in the vegetable garden and try to convince the townsfolk that their headmistress and her brother are still very much alive. If they're to succeed, they'll have to fool the doctor, their domestic, and their headmistress's elderly beau--and pray that her heir, the fabled Julius Godding, doesn't show up.

Is it irreverent? Uh-huh. Is it implausible? Yes. Did it make me smile and laugh out loud more than once? You bet it did. Ms. Berry was clearly less interested in developing the characters in her ensemble cast than in plunging them into the most absurd situations imaginable and watching them fib, grease, and connive their way out. And I enjoyed every second.

THE SCANDALOUS SISTERHOOD OF PRICKWILLOW PLACE totally reminded me of Arsenic and Old Lace, so if you like your comedy dark and your farces Victorian, definitely check this one out.