Monthly Archives: January 2014

Spotlight and Giveaway: Red Rising

Red Rising. I don’t often post reviews on my blog (I have a Goodreads account for that), but last month I had the opportunity to read an advanced copy of Pierce Brown’s Red Rising, and it kind of blew my mind. I’m also always in favor of helping a fellow writer out, so I thought I’d take this chance to promote a debut author and his awesome book. The publisher, Del Ray, is raffling off two signed copies of the book; I’ve pasted the link for you to enter below.

Here’s the summary from Amazon:

“I live for the dream that my children will be born free,” she says. “That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.”

“I live for you,” I say sadly.

Eo kisses my cheek. “Then you must live for more.”

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power.  He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies . . . even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

As I said, this book blew my mind. Pierce Brown’s rich prose and invented slang have created a setting so real that I could feel myself sweating in Darrow’s frysuit. Part Ender’s Game, part Hunger Games, and yet entirely unique, Red Rising is one of the best books I’ve read this year. I can’t wait to see what Brown has in store for Darrow in the rest of the triology.

About Pierce Brown

Pierce Brown. Pierce Brown spent his childhood building forts and setting traps for cousins in the woods of six states and the deserts of two. Graduating from college in 2010, he fancied the idea of continuing his studies at Hogwarts. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a magical bone in his body. So while trying to make it as a writer, he worked as a manager of social media at a startup tech company, toiled as a peon on the Disney lot at ABC Studios, did his time as an NBC page, and gave sleep deprivation a new meaning during his stint as an aide on a U.S. Senate campaign. Now he lives Los Angeles, where he scribbles tales of spaceships, wizards, ghouls, and most things old or bizarre.

Find Pierce on GoodreadsFacebook, and Twitter.

Use the links below to purchase a copy.

Amazon  |  B&N  |  iBookstoreGoogle PlayAll other retailers

Use the Raffle Copter to enter for a chance to win a signed copy!

What to do when no one comes

Tumbleweed.

Photo by Flickr user VancityAllie

Last week I had my first zero-attendance program at the library. I’ve had low attendance before, but this was the first time that nobody showed up. It was a little disheartening; this was supposed to be the first in a series of Appy Hour programs where librarians and attendees share their favorite free and inexpensive apps related to a designated theme. My manager was really excited about the idea, and many people in the department thought it would be a great program.

So what happened?

It’s impossible to know the exact reasons why the first Appy Hour failed. It could have been the theme — I thought health and fitness apps would be great for tracking New Year’s resolutions, but maybe this community isn’t interested in that. It could have been the day I chose, which I realized only a week beforehand was the same day as several TV series’ season premiers. But I think the biggest reason was a failure to get the word out to the right people.

The library is not a field of dreams; building a program doesn’t mean they will come. What made advertising Appy Hours even harder is that the series was designed to draw people who don’t normally come to the library, or who don’t interact much with the library. Most of the marketing for Appy Hour reached those who already use the library. We posted on our blog, website, social media pages, and electronic signs throughout the building. I strategically placed fliers on tables where people use their laptops or tablets for work, and in the stacks near books related to mobile technology. I even wrote two press releases — one announcing the series and one with details about last week’s kickoff.

But the people who would theoretically come to Appy Hours likely never saw the fliers or signs in the library. If they visited our website, they probably clicked past the banner without even looking at it to get to our catalog or the database they wanted. They may not subscribe to the library’s blog, or like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter. And who reads the local paper anymore? Most of the target demographic for Appy Hours gets their news online, via links posted on social media, or through parodies like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

So what now? Do we write the series off and move on? It’s possible that there’s simply no interest in this type of program in this community, but I’m not ready to give up just yet, and neither is my manager. We’re adjusting the way we tackle publicity for February’s Appy Hour, and hopefully the theme (date night) will be a bigger draw than health and fitness, too. I’m still going to advertise in all the places that I advertised the first Appy Hour, but I’m also going out into the community. I made a list of all the places where I’d like to advertise, and I’m going to take an afternoon driving around town, asking business owners if I can leave handouts there or post something on their bulletin board. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  • Panera
  • Starbucks
  • Local university’s student center
  • Local university’s library
  • Orange Leaf (a yogurt place)
  • Local chocolate shop (since the theme is date night)
  • Payless
  • Meijer
  • Walmart
  • Target

Can you think of any other places to promote a program like this? What has your experience been with reaching this demographic?

What’s the “right” way to query?

Writer's block.

Photo by Flickr user Sharon Drummond

After spending way too much time making miniscule changes and avoiding even thinking about querying, I’m ready for round two. By the time you read this, I will have sent at least five queries for my young adult science fiction novel. I’m putting it in writing. Hitting “schedule.” Now I’m obligated to do it.

I spent one of my “adult snow days” this week on Query Tracker, perusing links to various agents’ websites, blogs, and more. I took notes on submission guidelines, agonized over my query and synopsis, and daydreamed about a call from the perfect agent over a large mug of hot cocoa. Then I sat down for that dreaded, hardest part of the process: personalizing my queries.

I’ve come to think of querying literary agents as akin to applying for jobs, only without the help of job descriptions telling me what to say. When I was looking for a library position, I scrutinized job ads to determine which skills to highlight in my cover letter, which keywords to focus on in my resume. Were they looking for someone with experience organizing programs? Or were they more concerned with one-on-one tech help? Did they talk about “patrons” or “users” or “customers”? But since agents don’t post job ads, all of the little details I used to make my library applications stand out were missing.

To make matters worse, everyone seems to have a different idea of what you should or shouldn’t do in a query. Some agents rave about queries that are written in the main character’s voice, while others say they hate having a character talk to them. Some want a professional bio, while others say they don’t want a bio unless you have specific credentials (previous publication in that genre or field of study, personal experience with an unusual situation your book may cover, etc.); and all seem to agree that you don’t need to have any credentials if you’re writing fiction. With all this conflicting advice, how’s a writer to come up with the perfect query?

My conclusion: you don’t. There is no one perfect query. Just as every job requires a different cover letter, every agent requires a different query. The ones who say they want a bio get a bio. The ones who like to have your main character tell his story get a personal letter. I went into this thinking that tailoring a query letter meant somehow dropping the names of other authors that agent likes or represents, but now I feel it’s much more about tailoring the query to the agent’s preferences. Follow the agent’s submission guidelines — that goes without saying — but also listen to what they like and don’t like. If they have a blog, check that out; if they tweet, follow them on Twitter. I’ve found Writer’s Digest’s series on successful queries especially helpful. Another good resource is the interviews on Literary Rambles, some of which go beyond the basics that you’ll find on an agency’s website. And if you’re still trying to decide whom to query, the Agent and Editor Wishlist Tumblr has more detail about what different agents are looking for that goes beyond just the genres they represent.

Now it’s time for me to stop writing about queries and actually write them. What has your experience with tailoring queries been?

Blind Date with a Book

Blind date with a book. I’ve heard of a few libraries that have tried versions of mystery book displays, and I’ve been meaning to try one for a while. Our teen librarian did a display of wrapped books last summer to tie in with the “beneath the surface” theme, and I’ve talked to librarians at conferences who had a great time organizing a “blind date with a book” display. There’s a lot of preparation involved — choosing the books, wrapping them, promoting the display — but I’m really looking forward to giving this a try.

Since it’s so involved, I’ve started writing the “personals” for the books I’ll display. Here are a few of my favorites so far. Can you guess what they are?

Genre: Science Fiction

Forget love; I’m more interested in survival. The zombie apocalypse has come and gone, wiping out huge cities and small towns alike. I am a direct transcription of the survivors’ testimony – their terror, their strength, their incredible will to survive. Not for the faint-of-heart, I’m an edgy read that will place you in the throes of humanity’s fight for survival.

Genre: Fantasy (this one’s also an audiobook, because I’m a huge audiophile)

Once upon a time, there was a fairy tale written for adults, complete with scheming witches, murderous princes, and falling stars. This is that story, read to you just like when you were a kid (and in a delightful British accent!). Expect talk of true love and of good triumphing over evil, but don’t expect your classic Cinderella story. Give me a listen for the adventure of a lifetime!

Genre: History

Take a trip back in time to the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, and I’ll spin you a tale of an architect, a serial killer, and a giant wheel that put France’s Eiffel Tower to shame. I’ll show you around Burnham’s famous white city, introduce you to the planners of the fair, and let you see how this splendid gathering provided the perfect backdrop for murder. If you like architecture, history, or true crime, you’ll find a favorite story in my pages.

I’ve had so much fun writing personal ads that I’ll turn the challenge over to you. What does your favorite book’s personal look like?