March 16, 2012

Cover/Description Reveal: EASY

I'm excited to show off the description and cover for my current WIP - a stand-alone novel (contemporary Mature YA). I'm on track to upload Easy to Amazon and Barnes & Noble on May 25, 2012, but even an indie-published novel doesn't come from just the author. It goes through critique partners, beta-readers, my copy editor and finally, my programmer - so please be aware that the publication date is tentative and will be changed if necessary.

A girl who believes trust can be misplaced, promises are made to be broken, and loyalty is an illusion.

A boy who believes truth is relative, lies can mask unbearable pain, and guilt is eternal.

Will what they find in each other validate their conclusions, or disprove them all?

When Jacqueline follows her longtime boyfriend to the college of his choice, the last thing she expects is a breakup. After two weeks in shock, she wakes up to her new reality: she’s single, attending a state university instead of a music conservatory, ignored by her former circle of friends, stalked by her ex’s frat brother, and failing a class for the first time in her life.

Her econ professor gives her an email address for Landon, the class tutor, who shows her that she’s still the same intelligent girl she’s always been. As Jacqueline becomes interested in more from her tutor than a better grade, his teasing responses make the feeling seem mutual. There’s just one problem—their only interactions are through email.

Meanwhile, a guy in her econ class proves his worth the first night she meets him. Nothing like her popular ex or her brainy tutor, Lucas sits on the back row, sketching in a notebook and staring at her. At a downtown club, he disappears after several dances that leave her on fire. When he asks if he can sketch her, alone in her room, she agrees—hoping for more.

Then Jacqueline discovers a withheld connection between her supportive tutor and her seductive classmate, her ex comes back into the picture, and her stalker escalates his attention by spreading rumors that they’ve hooked up. Suddenly appearances are everything, and knowing who to trust is anything but easy.

March 8, 2012

What I Mean When I Say YA Mature

I'd love to be able to please everyone. Honestly, I would. But since that isn't possible, I have to pick a road and drive on it. The stories I write are about people in the 17-22 age range (in keeping with the fact that young people generally like characters who are a bit older than themselves), and they're going to realistically portray those ages as much as possible.

My definition of Mature Young Adult is 17+ (or younger, with parental permission - and if you aren't checking what your kid is reading, you've effectively given your permission).

A comment I read recently posed the judgment that "YA Mature" should mean later college at the youngest.

NO ONE in charge of entertainment ratings (these panels are made up of parents) agrees with that statement. First, let's take movie ratings as an example. In the US, at age 17 (generally high school junior), a person may purchase a ticket to see an R-rated or an NC-17-rated movie (or the movie itself) without parental consent. We're not talking words here, folks. We're talking film: harsh language, drug and alcohol use, physical violence, explicit sexual scenes. (Note: He or she may purchase pornography at 18.)

To reiterate: Your 17-year-old high school junior can run down to the cineplex and see any damned movie she pleases.

Game ratings follow movie ratings fairly closely, though the lettering is different. Once again, a 17-year-old high school junior can pop by the local video game store and buy any M-rated game (meaning intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content, strong language) with no parental consent. Adult-only games may be purchased by 18-year-olds, otherwise known as high school seniors. These may include scenes of intense, prolonged violence and graphic sexual content.

Young Adult (YA) literature has a problem. It lumps 14-year-olds in with 17-year olds. Anyone who works with or has kids in that age range knows there's a big difference in maturity between 14 and 17. (If a child is a very mature 14-year-old, she is most likely going to be more mature at 17 than her peers, as well. This is where parental guidance - the notion that you know your own child best - comes in, eh?)

I began choosing YA books for my kids when they were 12/13 and had become bored with MG (middle grade) books. Trust me when I say that it didn't take me long to realize that the ratings for YA weren't good enough. I was going to have to read or skim through everything they wanted to buy until I felt they were old enough to choose for themselves.

As an author, I can't invent a book category. Amazon and B&N give me category choices when I publish. My category (YA) contains no separation between 14-16 year olds and 17-ups. The best I can do is include, in the book description, my own warning/disclaimer - and that's what I've done since I first published Between the Lines.

I'm not required to do this. And by the way, this is not something traditional publishers have been doing. This is something I took it upon myself to do - because I was the parent sitting in the bookstore floor, reading the YA books to make sure they were appropriate for my 13-year-old. I have zero problem with someone deciding my books are too edgy for their kid. I have LOTS of problems with someone deciding my book is too edgy for someone else's kid.

And please, before you assume that indie authors are running hell-bent-for-leather into sexual situations that no traditional publisher would ever condone, please go read Looking for Alaska (Printz Honor Book), Perfect Chemistry (NY Times Bestseller), Going Too FarThe DUFF, The Sky is Everywhere, the Wicked Lovely series, The Wolves of Mercy Falls series... all of which are amazing, wonderful, traditionally-published, "Young Adult" labeled books with edgy content.

The authors whose works are listed above are well-respected by the publishing world and the general public - as well they should be. You won't find anything in any book of mine that I can't find in a Big-Six published young adult novel (which will include no parental warning by that publishing house).

If the publishing world - which includes Amazon's KDP and Barnes & Noble's Pubit - comes up with a book category reflecting the independence and maturity 17-ups are afforded in every other entertainment venue, I'll be happy to move my books into that category. Until then, I'm motoring down my chosen road, marking it as best I can.

March 5, 2012

New Project Update

I'm celebrating the downhill side of my WIP Novel (woooo!) by doing a title/cover/blurb reveal all at once, scheduled for March 16th, right here on the blog. Instead of revealing everything piecemeal, I just decided I'd throw it all out there at once. Several of my (and hopefully your) favorite book bloggers will be doing the reveal with me, which is a fun way to spread the word, I think.

WIP Novel is a stand-alone contemporary Mature YA, set on a college campus. This story began rattling around in my head long before I published the first Between the Lines, and I'm thrilled to have the chance to tell it. (FYI: This novel is unassociated with the Between the Lines series. I am planning to write one more BTL segment, but I'm letting my ideas for that simmer for the time being and will begin work on it when this one is out.)

When I put my husband through school, I was a college-aged woman, working as a full-time secretary on a university campus. I had no desire to go to school myself; I was content to support his educational goals while trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was writing, even then, though novelist seemed like an impossible career choice. But I was19 years old, working for a university, and eventually I began asking myself why not try college. As my husband neared his graduation, I started - still aimless, majorless, and not quite sure how to define myself.

I'd completed a year's credits before the first baby surprised both of us and my career became motherhood. I attempted going back several times, but with the addition of two more kids and moves around the country to further my husband's career, going back didn't work out until the kids were all in school. By the time I returned for real, I was very much one of those "non-traditional" older students.

At first, being older than most of my classmates was odd, but I immediately found most of them refreshing. It was nice to talk about something other than typical mommy-issues. While other women my age cliqued together, I made friends with people 10-15 years younger. I preferred to hear their stories of crazy weekends and relationships with roommates, friends, parents, boyfriends and girlfriends. I listened to their fears about the future and their burgeoning independent political thoughts. I watched them make mistakes, and when asked, I gave my opinion. Otherwise, I tried to shut up and let them live their lives, just as I had.

When I graduated (BA in English - was anyone actually surprised?), I began writing again. The word from agents and publishers: they didn't want stories set in college. This pissed me off because I couldn't imagine a more perfect turning point time period in a person's life. How could it be that no one wanted to read about it? I thought they must be wrong, but it didn't matter. If they weren't buying it, then there was little use to write it. I wrote a high-school-set YA novel (my third "shelf novel"), but it wasn't really what I wanted to write about.

Now, thanks to the brave new world of indie-authored e-publishing, I'm able to define the parameters of my stories as I see fit. WIP Novel fits inside those parameters perfectly.

March 1, 2012

Revised Content

One of the cool things about digitally-based books is the ability to upload revised content. I recently revised and re-uploaded all three of my books with the newer covers, plus any little typos or formatting glitches I'd found since publication repaired. (I'm a perfectionist, as my poor IT guy* can attest. If I notice a mistake, I'm going to fix it. I don't care how small it is.) Kindle and Nook customers can get the revised copies FOR FREE. Do not repurchase the book - not only is that not required, it doesn't work - it just sends the exact same version of the book you already purchased.

To check that you've got the latest content for BTL, WYA and/or GFY, check these things:
(1) The interior cover photo should match the one on Amazon/BN exactly.
(2) Under About the Author, the very end should show the printed web addresses to my Facebook page, blog and Twitter. If all three of these aren't there, you DO NOT have the latest version.

Amazon is still learning, I guess. You have to call (or email) and ask to have revised content "pushed" to your Kindle. (Good news: It's not a complicated process and should just take a few minutes. It helps if you have the original order number, but if you don't the rep can search your digital purchases and find it.)

Amazon Kindle Customer Service
866-216-1072 (US)
206-266-2992 (International)

Barnes & Noble did this right - I LOVE how easy they've made it for customers to get revised content. I tried it with my Nook last night and it worked like a charm:

(1) Go to your Library.
(2) Select the book(s) you want to receive revised copies of and click "archive." (Don't worry, this doesn't delete your books.)
(3) Go to your archived books (under "My Stuff").
(4) Open the book.
(5) Click "Manage" and then "Unarchive." The new version should download automatically.

B&N Nook Customer Service:
800-843-2665 (US)
201-559-3882 (International)

*Paul <3