Friday, December 19, 2014

THE NIGHT HOUSE: Blog hop, guest post and giveaway!

To celebrate the release of THE NIGHT HOUSE, author Rachel Tafoya has graciously offered to guest blog here at ThinkingToInking and share her writing advice with us. Yay!  We are thrilled to have her.

Check out her post below, and be sure to scroll down to the bottom for a chance to win your very own copy of THE NIGHT HOUSE. 

Writing With Others by Rachel Tafoya, author of THE NIGHT HOUSE

I’ve been writing all my life, telling stories and telling other people about the books I’m reading. My writing was highly influenced by what I was reading at the time. It still is, but when I was younger, I borrowed characters and settings. And I had people who would write with me. Back in elementary and middle school, I had a writing partner and we would send chapters back and forth to each other. I can’t say the writing was good, but I had fun, and I wrote a ton. 

Having a friend to talk about writing with and to share stories with is paramount. When I got a little older, I joined a teen writing class, and that was when my writing really improved. I was able to get weekly new inspiration and hear other people’s work. I think the biggest inspiration was our teacher, Jonathan Maberry who wrote the Rot and Ruin series, which I love. He told us his wild tales of publishing and told us all the time that it IS possible to get published, anyone can do it, and we should try. 

I had thought to myself before this class that I wanted to be a writer. My dad is a writer, and his story inspired me too, but this class was when I really dedicated myself to it. So my advice to anyone trying to become a writer: find other writers! Nothing will inspire you more than talking to others about it, and sharing your writing with someone else. It’s scary for sure, but it’ll make you more comfortable with your own work, and it’ll allow you to learn how to critique others. Mostly, I think you’ll have fun! 

Publication date: December 9, 2014
Author: Rachel Tafoya

Bianca St. Germain works at a Night House, a place where vampires like the aristocratic Jeremiah Archer, pay to feed on humans, and she doesn’t much care what others think of her. Themoney is good, and at least there, she’s safe. Bianca also doesn’t care that the Night House is killing her. All she cares about is: nauth, the highly addictive poison in vampire bites that brings a euphoria like no drug ever could.

But when Bianca meets James, a reclusive empath who feels everything she does, for the first time, she considers a life outside of the Night House and a someone worth living for. But Jeremiah has decided to keep Bianca for himself; he won’t allow her to walk away.

As she allows her feelings for James to grow, she struggles to contain nauth’s strong hold on her life. If they are to have a future, James must make her see what she’s worth, what she means to him, before Jeremiah and nauth claim her for good.


Rachel Tafoya studied creative writing while at Solebury School and was published in their student run literary magazine, SLAM. She attended a writing program for teens at both Susquehanna University and Denison University, and the Experimental Writing for Teens class and Novels for Young Writers program, both run by NY Times bestselling author, Jonathan Maberry. Rachel is the daughter crime author Dennis Tafoya.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Keeping it Real Even During the Holidays

Hoiiday Revision

I think revising is like decorating for the holidays.  I spend hours scouring pinterest looking for ideas for home décor. I do the same with ideas on how to revise.  I don't know why, but it inspires me.  Or maybe it is just procrastination.  But eventually I do get motivated and take a look at my house or my writing.  I make a list and I check it twice to find out what will work or not.  Then it is time to spruce up the house or my WIP with some final touches.

I put away everyday items (or clichés, adjectives, and adverbs) and replace them with something unique or festive. Sometimes I set out all my decorations or throw in all kinds of extra writing ideas.  I then stand back and start to edit so that only the really good pieces shine.

Next, it is time to show off that hard work.  I'll throw a party (or handout my WIP) and wait for the feedback.  With any luck, I'll have a nice present to unwrap and I'm done.  If not, repeat the process and try again.  Valentine's Day is just around the corner after all.  Funny how life reflects so much on writing.  I guess that is why it is important to keep it real.  Happy Revision Days!!

12 easy ways to support your soon-to-be-published author friend

I've had a number of friends recently ask what they can do to help as I get ready to launch my book next year. So I thought I'd write a post about it. :-) That, and over the past year I've had several friends release books and several more that are coming in 2015, and I've realized that there are lots of little things you can do to show your support and help spread the word about their books both before and after publication.

Of course the operative word here is support - while publishing a book is exciting, it's also nerve wracking and scary. Your writer friend is putting something they likely spent years developing out into the world for others to critique, and that can sometimes leave them feeling naked and vulnerable. So if you only do one thing, be supportive and remember that publishing a book doesn't mean overnight success.  It's hard, stressful and often scary work.

How you can help before the book launches:

1. Add their book to your to-read shelf on Goodreads.

Whenever you add a new book to a bookshelf on Goodreads, an alert goes into all of your Goodreads friends' news feeds, making this a great, low-involvement way to help build awareness for your friend's soon-to-be released book.  It takes less than a second and won't cost you a thing, while giving them some much needed additional exposure.

2. Vote for it on Goodreads lists.

Goodreads' Listopia has a list for just about everything - from "the best YA books" to "where for art thou grass," a list dedicated to covers featuring grass on the front (no joke).  Any Goodreads member can start a list, add a book to an existing list, or vote for an already added book to move it further up in the rankings.

To find out which lists their book is on, search for the title, click onto their page, and scroll about halfway down to the section "lists with this book."  For each list that includes your friend's book, click the "vote for this book" button next to the cover image. And viola!  You've just helped potential readers discover your friend's book.

3.  Post their cover to your social media sites.

When the cover for my debut was released in September, I was blown away by all the support I got from my friends.  I posted it to my Facebook and Twitter accounts, and within hours I had dozens of friends sharing it on their pages as well.  It was minimal work on their end, but it meant the world to me not only because of the extra exposure, but also because of the outpouring of support.

4. Retweet their promotional tweets.

A simple retweet goes a long way, and only takes a second.

5. Like the author's Facebook page.

Ditto to liking their author page - liking their page is an easy way to show support, and more likes also helps them establish legitimacy when potential readers stop by their fan pages.

How you can help after the book launches:

6. Buy their book (don't ask for a free copy.)

This one is always a little touchy, but here's the thing you may not know: your friend is only going to get about 10 copies of their book.  That's it. And every book they give away to a friend is a book they can't use for promotional purposes.

That free book they just gave you could have been used for a Goodreads contest that would have resulted in 50+ new readers.  She could have sent that copy to a local library to ensure her book gets added to the new release lists, or to a local independent bookstore to drum up interest in a book signing.

I get it. We all love to get free things. But it's important to remember that book publishing is a business, and publishing houses don't give authors very many copies for a reason. If your friend has any hope of making it as an author she's going to need to sell books, and every sale counts.

7. Review their Book on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.

When it comes to book sales, word of mouth is the name of the game.  And every positive review helps increase your friends book sales.  It's also not just the star rating that matters, but the number of ratings.  It helps legitimize the author and their book.  A review is a gift that keeps on giving, and the more places you leave it, the more exposure you'll give.

8.  Reserve a copy at your local library and/or ask your local library to carry it.

When a library starts to get a long list of reservation requests for a book, it can lead to them ordering
more copies of that book.  Or, in the case of new authors and/or smaller publishing houses, the library may not even carry it until they start to get requests for it.

9. Ask your local bookstore where it's located.

This drums up attention for the book, and could even lead to a staff member selecting it for their monthly staff recommendations section.  And if your friend is with a smaller press, the book store may not have a physical copy in the store. If enough people ask about it, it could lead to them ordering the book and even displaying it in a prominent area of the store.

10. Recommend it to a book club.

If you or a friend belong to a book club who reads within the genre your friend wrote, why not pick their book for your monthly meeting?  You could even invite the author to the discussion for a live or Skyped Q&A session.

11. Recommend it to your friends.

What's the number one way you've discovered a good book?  Probably through a friend's recommendation. If you read and liked your friend's book, there is no greater gift than encouraging others to give it a try. That, and #7.

12. Be a supportive shoulder to cry on.

Publishing a book is scary.  These days simply having a publishing deal does not guarantee success - far from it in fact. There are over one million books published each year, which can make the task of promotion and breaking through the clutter feel damn near impossible. Your writer friend will be inundated with examples of other, more successful writers. They will receive negative reviews. They may not outsell their advance. Their second book might not get picked up. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to simply be a supportive friend, and even if that doesn't feel like much, know that your friend will be eternally grateful.

If you liked this post, check out even more ideas from the blog Writers In The Storm here which was the inspiration for this post.

What are some other ways you've help your newly published friends promote their books?

Monday, December 15, 2014

YA Book Pick: Between Shades of Gray

Once a month, we choose an outstanding YA book to review. We want to spotlight books of interest to aspiring writers, as well as highlight some of our favorite books and authors!

This month's book pick is Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. While not a new book this season, it's so good I just had to write about it.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):  Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously--and at great risk--documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives.Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

Highlights:  When historical fiction is done well, I love it, but it's not my first choice when out hunting YA fiction. That said, I read this book over a year ago and loved it so much that I gave it out to all my colleagues at work last year  for Christmas. They may have initially been disappointed/surprised/confused when they heard the title (so close to another Shades of Gray, of course), but soon they were sold as well.

The most obvious highlight for me was that the historical story Sepetys tells here is one that is significant, but largely unwritten. We have many touching accounts of the horrors of the holocaust, but the Lithuanian purging of intellectuals hasn't had as much publicity, but is absolutely fascinating and heartbreakingly sad as well. 

I also love Sepetys depth of thematic inquiry. When I heard her speak at SCBWI after the book came out, she talked about her research, and about spending time in a gulag recreation to prepare. She said that it had scared her how close to the surface we all are to becoming savage.  Those questions about our humanity swirl around the characters, and keep bubbling up in even the setting descriptions they are so thoroughly engrained in the book as it keeps sweetly probing into what makes us human.

Notes for writers:  Sepetys does a great job of understating the atrocities she presents. While many writers might have succumbed to the temptation to be dramatic and maudlin about the horrific conditions and experiences, Sepetys fleshes out the ordinary bits of life that occur in the midst of tragedy so well that the reader is forced to see the people as more human and the situation more complex. She also includes very ordinary thoughts on love and being a teenager in the midst of darker and harder questions, a balance that's difficult to get right, and that she nails.

A good read for: Fans of historical fiction (of course), but also anyone who enjoys deep thematic issues and subtle poetic writing.

Happy reading!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Keeping it Real Even When Broken

The other day, I'm out enjoying a nice fall day and playing a little football with a friend.  I jump to catch a ball and BAM, I land on it wrong.  Oh snap, something inside snaps.  The pain spreads like wildfire.  Right away I know it is broken.  I've done this before.  I go to the doctors and yup, my ankle is fractured.  I'm in a cast for the next three weeks and then the boot for another month.  So much for my off-season football training.  I'm spending the next two months hobbling around on crutches.  Maybe I can  get some writing done.

Writing?!  I haven't done much of that lately with school, football, and all.  Now that I'm laid up awhile, I see that broken bones and writing go through much the same process.  BAM a story idea hits you.  It spreads like a wildfire inside you.  Consumes you.  You have to write, but you also have to contain it. Mold it even. Once the cast comes off and you're done, you need another pair of eyes to diagnose the writing's status.  Maybe some beta readers or an editor.  Usually you need some more time to fix the problem.  So revise, revise, revise.  Polish that writing.  Once again you go back to an expert for another round of probing and if you are lucky, then you pass. It sounds like a lot of work.  It is.  But you know that.  It sounds painful.  It is.  But you know that too. But in the end it is fun and it is worth it because you and your writing come out stronger.  Broken bones and writing - each have a story to tell, but for a good, healthy one - it takes time. Don't rush it. 

In the meantime, here's a list of some of my favorite "doctor" sites: -

Broken - pathway to a good story