Scary author tasks: Asking for reviews

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“Excuse me, if you like me, can please you tell everyone how awesome I am? If not, you have my permission to punch me in the face.”

Asking a book blogger to review your novel is a little like approaching a stranger on the street and saying: “Excuse me, if you like me, can please you tell everyone how awesome I am? If not, you have my permission to punch me in the face.”

Okay. Maybe that’s a little melodramatic, but that’s what it feels like to me. And it’s that time again: book review request time.

Every couple of months, I sit down with a spreadsheet and a copy of the Book Reviewer Yellow Pages, take a deep breath, remind myself that it’s too early in the day to start drinking, and start writing emails.

When I put it like that, it  doesn’t sound that difficult, but it is. It’s one of my most demanding tasks as an author, both physically and emotionally.

Physically demanding, because I like to send out several requests in a day, but the requests can never be one mass request. That would be disrespectful.
Every blogger has her own review guidelines, and those review guidelines have to be respected. So if I’m sending out 12 emails to 12 bloggers, I’m typing an individualized email to each, trying to follow their instructors to the letter. (Sometimes bloggers will slip something crazy into their guidelines, like a math problem, or a random phrase, just to make sure authors are paying attention and following directions.) Then there are typos. I worry about typos, and when I fret about them, I create more of them, so each email takes a while.

Emotionally demanding, because basically, I’m spending a lot of time and effort to very politely ask a stranger to give me what could be a horrible review.
Asking people for opinions is a gamble. It’s hard to say “Here, I wrote this thing. Please, tell everyone on the Internet what you think of it.”
Part of the reason it’s so difficult is because I start writing the bad review I expect to get in my head as I’m writing my request to the reviewer. I have to be careful to not write disclaimers or apologizes for the work into the request. I also have to be careful to avoid false bravado.

It’s not my favorite task, but my fears are often unjustified. Many of the reviewers who have responded to my requests have been kind (the insane review guidelines are just so that they are not overwhelmed by authors who mass email them) and have given me wonderful reviews.

But here’s the thing: word of mouth is still the best way to sell a book that doesn’t have the publicity of say, Go Set A Watchman. And on the Internet, book blogs are word of mouth. So if you want to be read, requesting reviews from people with an audience in your genres, you must ask for reviews.

And sometimes, you will get punched in the face. (And remember, you gave that person permission to punch you in the face, so don’t complain about it!) But sometimes, the book blogger will turn around and tell everyone within earshot that you are awesome.

 photo credit: 40+117 Sucka Punch! via photopin (license)

Tamela Ritter’s ‘From These Ashes’ is released today!

Tamela J. Ritter, From These Ashes, Battered SuitcaseI am so excited. My friend Tamela Ritter’s novel, “From These Ashes” was released today!

I will be writing about this more in the future, but I asked her for a quote about her first release so I could post about it, and here’s what she said:

“Having a hard time wrapping my mind around it, but if Amazon says it, it must be true: Today is the day this story and its characters FINALLY live in the world, not just my mind!”

Those characters live in my mind too, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them again. I first read the novel 10 years ago, when it was differently titled and we were in a writers’ group together.

I loved the novel; it’s a coming of age story, told in flashback from the point of view of a Native American teenager who is living in a cult recovery center. She and her brother had been traveling the U.S. in search of a home, and then… something happens.

I cannot wait to read it again. If you love Sherman Alexie, Native American tales, the American West (her writing always reads to me like a love letter to the land), or if you just love a good story, check it out.

I’ll post more about it later. Just as soon as I’ve got my copy.

A sequel update, and blogging for Geek Eccentric

It’s Superbowl Sunday and I have some fattening snacks to make, so I will keep this brief.

I got an email from my editor last night and the revisions to my Beware the Hawk sequel, The Eagle and the Arrow, are complete. The manuscript is headed to the copy editors now. This is exciting, because it means all the plot/character/setting/structure work is done and now all that remains is for people to correct my grammar.

Geek eccentric, geek girl

From the same photo session as the GE photo. I don’t know what the problem is. I think I look charming. It’s the communicator pin that makes me so. (See what I did there?)

Next, I am thrilled to announce that I am now also blogging over at Geek Eccentric, a site devoted to all things geekish. I joined the team there last week. My first post, which takes aim at the myth of the Fake Geek Girl and features an apparently horrendous photo of me (but how can a photo with Gandalf and a communicator badge even be horrendous? I don’t get it.) went up on Friday. Check it out.

I will be blogging about  – what else – geekiness and feminism. But no worries. I will still write about the plight of lady dwarves in Middle-Earth here, and indeed, I’m several weeks late in writing a post about dwarf women in The Hobbit. I’ll get on that. Promise.

So that’s it. I’m off to figure out what team I’m rooting for today, and to take a look at my Football for Dummies book so that I can remember what a down is. May the best team win.

The sequel! (Because guess what? There’s going to be a sequel.)

Beware The Hawk novella

I am so excited to announce that there will be a sequel to Beware the Hawk!

I signed the contract with my publisher, Vagabondage Press, on Sunday and have been working this week on the first round of edits and revisions. I’m super-excited to share this news, and plan to be posting this spring about the process of getting ready for a release.

I’ve been hanging onto this news for a few days. In fact I announced it on my Facebook Page on Sunday, but for various reasons, I didn’t feel like I could post it here until now.

The fact that I found out Sunday morning doesn’t change the fact that I’ve been bubbling over with this news all week. I still can’t quite believe that I published one book. To be on the brink of publishing a second book is beyond my hopes.*

What can I tell you about this new book? Well, not much. The working title is The Eagle and the Arrow. The release date is looking like June. I’ve been working on the first draft of this piece since last March or February, but although it seems like I’ve spent an age on it, it’s still novella-length.

At the moment that’s all I can say, but as I continue to work with my editor over the next few months, I will be able to release more tidbits.

Also, I haven’t forgotten the winner of the naming contest. The protagonist of the last book now has a name, of course. The namer will find out who he/she is when the book is released this summer, and will get a copy of the new book as a prize.

Stay tuned for more. I am so excited to share this journey with you all.

*Literally. My ambition as a kid was always to write a book. I really never thought beyond that first publication. So maybe announcing it on the date of the supposed end of time is appropriate.

The short form: An interview with the editors of ‘Spry,’ a new literary journal

Linsey Jayne and Erin Corriveau, founders of Spry Literary Magazine.
(Photo by James McCready.)

On Monday, I had the pleasure of g-chatting with Erin Corriveau and Linsey Jayne, the founders of Spry, a brand new literary journal.

I know both Erin and Linsey from our MFA program, and I was intrigued by their mentions on Facebook and Twitter of a new literary magazine dedicated to brief literature.

As someone who naturally writes short, I really wanted to find out more, and so I asked them for an interview. After g-chatting with them for an hour, I’m excited about their project, which will showcase short, powerful pieces of writing, and I hope all the writers who read this blog will be as well.

Below is the interview, which is divided into three parts with page breaks. Click through, and enjoy!

Editor’s note: The following interview was conducted over the internet and has been edited. Lols have been removed, g-chat typos have been corrected, and for the sake of clarity, some  sections of the interview have been moved around.

(Also, the ladies make reference to a “Third Semester Project.” That’s an academic project that Fairfield University makes its MFA students do in order to obtain their degree.)

What is Spry?

ASpryJ: So tell me about Spry. What distinguishes Spry from the other journals out there? What’s your vision for this publication?

Erin: Well, Linsey and I both studied “short” or “brief” literature during our third semester projects and we also really respect how well words are used when the space is limited. I’d say that what distinguishes Spry from other journals is the dedication we have to concise yet well-done writing.

AJ: So all the pieces in Spry are going to be super-brief?

Linsey: Yeah, we want to reward the bravery and power and experimentation that exists in shorter forms.

Erin: Ditto to LJ, that being said though….We’ve seen a lot of poetry that is concise to a fault (even though I wouldn’t really want to put it that way) I think we have a lot of poets sending us work that is quite sparse… While we don’t want epic poems, we also aren’t only searching for haikus.

AJ: That’s pretty cool. For short-form work, I’ve seen a lot of flash fiction journals, but not so many cross-genre journals dedicated to the short form. You’re accepting a few different genres, right?

Linsey: We sure are! We’re accepting submissions in creative nonfiction, short fiction, flash fiction and poetry.
Sorry. Flash anything, not just fiction.

Erin: Yes, and…. flash creative nonfiction too.

On Brevity:

AJ: This might seem like a silly question, but what’s the difference between flash and short fiction or non-fiction? Is there a word count cutoff? How does it work?

Erin: We had many discussions about this.

Technically Linsey is the expert here. I can say, though, that for our journal, fiction and creative nonfiction must be under 2500 words for the “normal genre” and then for the Flash category, all fiction and creative nonfiction must be under 750 words.
I don’t know if Linsey wants to speak more to how we came up with those numbers or anything, but I can say there was a lot of discussion…. and also a lot of forgetting what number we chose.

Linsey: I can if you’d like – in my Third Semester Project, I studied the superfine lines that exist between prose poetry and flash fiction (and flash fiction / short fiction), and while more often than not this is something that is dictated by the presentation of content, most publications seem to consider flash fiction as being around 750 words. Sometimes it’s a bit longer, no longer than 1,000 usually. So since our passions were driven by the shorter, more agile work of the economy of words, we stuck to the shorter end of that spectrum. And when I say flash fiction, again, I just mean flash prose.

Next section: Submitting to Spry, Issue One and Naming Spry

My first reading is today.

Today is a big day for me. It will be my very first “author event,” a reading and discussion of e-books at the Watertown Library. 

I posted once that I get stage fright before every class I teach. Well, I’ve got stage fright now.

Part of my brain is babbling incoherently about having to stand up in front of a bunch of people who probably knew me as a child, and ohmygod, what if the nun who taught me in the fifth grade is there and I forget to bleep myself out while I’m reading? What if my shipment of books doesn’t come in this morning and I have to go to a signing without them and what if my car breaks down or I have an allergic reaction to my lunch or my one print copy of Beware the Hawk spontaneously combusts and I lose my voice and pass out?

Another part of me knows that’s just stage fright. I hear that kind of nonsense from my brain at least three times every week.

A third part of me – the part I’m paying attention to – is so very excited to be going back to my hometown to read from a book that I wrote and that a company published. I can’t wait to get up to that podium and talk about e-books. I can’t wait to see Watertonians that I haven’t seen in ages. I can’t wait to sit down and sign some books.

And if the books don’t come in? I’ll sign Post-Its instead.

And if I lose my voice? I will use large poster boards to deliver the talk silent-film style.

And if I forget to bleep myself out and my fifth grade teacher is really in the audience? She’s heard those words before. Probably from kids who were published for saying them. I’ll just have to resign myself to having my mouth washed out with soap.

The reading/talk will take place at 7 p.m. today at the Watertown Library in Watertown, Connecticut. If you are free, come by. Maybe you’ll get to see me get my mouth washed out with soap. Maybe not. Either way, it should be a blast.

Scavenger hunt, day 10; An impressive tattoo.

We’re in the home stretch. Today is the tenth and final day of the scavenger hunt. Tomorrow, Beware the Hawk becomes available at Vagabondage Press and tomorrow I will announce the winners of the hunt!

But that is tomorrow. Today, I am looking for one more item from you scavengers – a photo of a tattoo. The protagonist in my book has a, shall we say, all-encompassing tattoo. You don’t have to take a photo of a full body tat, but take/find a photo of an impressive tattoo. You know the drill by now, folks: Tweet the photo with the hashtag #bewarethehawk or post it to my Facebook author page.

Now, let’s talk about pain. Yesterday – in honor of my protagonist’s cover-to-cover ankle injury – I asked you to tell me about a time when you had to live with an injury.

Mary-Jo Bates wrote this on my Facebook wall: “Being the fat kid, I made the best tug-of-war anchor. Unfortunately, being able to stand is a function of that post. Back in middle school, the class bully showed an odd moment of insight, whipping the giant jute rope around, catching my ankle, and twisting it something fierce. Still bitter my team lost on that field day.”

What a jerk that kid was. I hope s/he got a detention or a time-out. Or at least a dressing-down from the teacher.

Alena Dillon tweeted this: “I burned myself on the oven last weekend. That’s what I get for cooking. On the bright side, the scar is pretty badass.”

That must have been one hell of an oven burn to leave a badass scar. Hope it’s healing.

Lastly, Tamela Ritter made my day by walking by – and photographing – the Chinatown gate in D.C., which I’ve never seen before. Feast your eyes. It puts Boston’s gate to shame: