Author Archives: emusdebut

Enter the Sophomore EMU, with Wild Eyes and Frothy Spittle

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The original EMU’s Debuters: Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Natalie Lorenzi, L.B. Schulman, Jeannie Mobley, J Anderson Coats, Cynthia Levinson (not pictured, Mike Jung and Michelle Garson Ray)

It’s been about four years since I first got the idea of creating EMU’s Debuts We started out as eight writers who had all sold our debut books close in time, and wanted to band together through the debut experience and share it with the world. But after our debut books came out? Well–we weren’t really thinking that far ahead four years ago. We were all still reveling in the glorious glow of that first book sale–of passing through the golden gate of We Made It and All Our Troubles Are Over Now.

It's no wonder each step is a surprise when I'm walking around on these weird dinosaur emu feet.

Walking the path together is always better when you have a mob of emus walking it with you.

We all gained a fringe benefit we hadn’t counted on with the blog. We became a strong support group for each other as we entered the forests of Oh My God, What Am I Supposed to Be Doing?! found just on the other side of the golden gate. Together, we traversed the You Want the Revisions When?! Mountains, and passed through the desolation of the Waiting For Reviews Wastelands. And of course, we were all there together with aid and confetti for the Who Knew A Book Release Was this Much Work?! stretch at the finish line. And that turned out to be really, really good support to have.

Where our reasoning broke down, however, was in the belief that there was, in fact, a finish line. In the confusion between whether the debut book release was the finish line, or the starting line. Because after the first book, there is–hopefully–a second book, and then–hopefully–a third book, and so on. And none of those book deals are necessarily easier than the first. That’s right. That gold on the gate? It’s just spray paint.

Searching for Silverheels, by Jeannie Mobley, Margaret K. McElderry Press, September 2014

Searching for Silverheels, by Jeannie Mobley, Margaret K. McElderry Press, September 2014

So, here I am, back to celebrate the release of my sophomore book, and wondering why we didn’t set up a sophomore book blog, or a…Um. What is the third book? Junior book blog? That sounds odd.

There aren’t many blogs that talk about those second book deals, which is a shame, because several people have told me that around the second to third book is when it gets really rough–when a lot of authors find themselves in a convoluted morass that threatens their careers and sanity. I didn’t really believe the people who told me this. Some of them, I suspected, were just looking for an excuse to slip the word “morass” into a sentence. Others had that wild look in their eye or that weird tic at the corner of their slightly frothing mouths that rendered them, in my opinion, a bit untrustworthy.

But here’s the truth. The second book is hard. Just like the first book is hard. And also, in totally different ways to how the first book is hard. There. I said it, and very little foam escaped my lips when I did. So you can trust me on this.

The truth is, this is a hard industry, and the minute you let yourself think, “I made it! It’s going to be a cakewalk from here on out!” you’re in for a heap of trouble and disappointment.

Me, trying to convince family and friends that I wasn't a total failure, despite evidence to the contrary, at the Katerina's Wish release party in 2012.

Me, trying to convince family and friends that I wasn’t a total failure, despite evidence to the contrary, at the Katerina’s Wish release party in 2012.

I learned this lesson on the afternoon before the release party for my debut novel, Katerina’s Wish. I was less than 24 hours away from having a whole crowd of friends and family at the library celebrating my rising star as a novelist, when I got the email to let me know that my editor was rejecting both of my next two manuscripts. Two manuscripts that, to me, felt so much stronger and better than the book that was coming out. Manuscripts that I had already anticipated would set up my future. When Katerina’s Wish had gone out on submission, I had no reason to believe it would be acquired. Now I had a great relationship with an editor, and two new manuscripts in which I had incorporated all I had learned from the first book. I was sure they were the next big thing. I had made assumptions that I had some kind of “in” that was going to see my way to success. Now there I was, facing a release party where I had to smile and give everyone the impression my career was roaring forward when I had just slammed face first into a brick wall, and my career was a twisted wreckage around my feet.

That was my first lesson about the sophomore book. Assume nothing. Every book is unique in the acquisition process (unless you get one of those crazy multi-book deals, which can have its own pitfalls, including the high probability that I’m going to totally hate you for it.) Selling one book predicts very little about selling the second. Or the third, or probably the four thousandth. I’ll report back in about a million years and let you know for sure about the four thousandth.

As it turned out, however, there was a light at the end of the tunnel, probably cast by that bonfire of my vanities. Because a conversation with my editor a few weeks later about one of the two rejected manuscripts led to revisions, and my editor acquired the revised manuscript about four months later. And so the sophomore book process began, despite the terrible timing that had cast it all in such devastating light.

The difference between getting the second book out into the world compared to the first, though, was that the debut book was an adventure–a dive into the unknown. The second book, at least for me, was acquired, and then I felt like the main work was done and I needed to be looking farther forward. After it was acquired, I didn’t feel I could relax into the process of publishing that book. Revisions, copy edits, first pass pages–the whole process felt like something of an afterthought, because my focus moved immediately to what I needed to do to get the next manuscript out there. The crushing smack of reality that came with those rejections somehow reframed my thinking into a focus more on the career track than on the individual manuscripts. Which is not to say I was writing for the market–not at all. But I did become much more concerned with the struggle for survival as a published author.

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A metaphoric representation of the novelist after her debut. She’s the big cow, in case you were wondering. (Photo credit: Corinata, via Wikicommons.)

With the first book, there is a sense that you have been given life, that you are growing, thriving, coming into your own. After that, it’s just the tooth and claw struggle to survive in a dog eat dog world, where every scratch and bite has the potential to fester, gangrenous on your soul, until you rot from the inside out and

 

die

DIE

DIIIEEEE!!!!!

Oh, I’m sorry. Did I get a little frothy spittle on your face there? Let me just wipe that off.

Years ago, when I first decided to go from writing for a hobby to pursuing it as a career, I hesitated, afraid doing so would take the enjoyment out of the process for me. This is what I let overtake me in the years of my sophomore book.

I let myself bog down in the industry details, railing and storming against the walls and barriers and silent indifference that blocked my way forward. I struggled fruitlessly in the conflicts between my vision and the vision others have for my work. I got lost in the morass of difficulties that had nothing to do with the bottom line–me and my muse and the words on the page.

And that was my biggest error. I let the business of being an author overshadow the joy, the beauty, the story at the heart of being a writer. I forgot to play- with language, with my characters, with plot. I forgot that that is what matters, because that is all I can do, all I can control. All that will make me better, instead of bitter.

Playing the suffragist at the Searching for Silverheels release party, 2014.

Playing the suffragist at the Searching for Silverheels release party, 2014.

And so here I am, the sophomore novelist, having come through the fire–one that I no doubt stoked myself. Ironically, my second novel, Searching for Silverheels is the story of an innocent, romantically minded girl and a cynical old woman, a story of what feels a bit like the old me and the new me, although I penned it well before the events that would reshape me began. The book now feels somehow prophetic.

I hope to eventually have a third book, and a fourth, and eventually, a viable career. But in the mean time, I’m playing. I’m seeking joy. And I’m rereading my ending, where the cynic and the romantic find a peaceful, secure path forward together. And I’m wishing every writer out there, debut or otherwise, the good luck and good sense to find their way through, or better yet, around the morass. Because, seriously. It’s an awesome word, but you can find other ways to slip it into a sentence.

Relish the joy, and the celebration of every book, published or otherwise.

 

***

About Searching For Silverheels

by Jeannie Mobley

Searching for Silverheels, by Jeannie Mobley, Margaret K. McElderry Press, September 2014

Searching for Silverheels, by Jeannie Mobley, Margaret K. McElderry Press, September 2014

In her small Colorado town Pearl spends the summers helping her mother run the family café and entertaining tourists with the legend of Silverheels, a beautiful dancer who nursed miners through a smallpox epidemic in 1861 and then mysteriously disappeared. According to lore, the miners loved her so much they named their mountain after her.

Pearl believes the tale is true, but she is mocked by her neighbor, Josie, a suffragette campaigning for women’s right to vote. Josie says that Silverheels was a crook, not a savior, and she challenges Pearl to a bet: prove that Silverheels was the kindhearted angel of legend, or help Josie pass out the suffragist pamphlets that Pearl thinks drive away the tourists. Not to mention driving away handsome George Crawford.

As Pearl looks for the truth, darker forces are at work in her small town. The United States’s entry into World War I casts suspicion on German immigrants, and also on anyone who criticizes the president during wartime—including Josie. How do you choose what’s right when it could cost you everything you have?

“An engrossing, plausible story of several unlikely feminist heroines with a touch of romance and intrigue.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Readers follow Pearl in her quest to learn the truth about the dancer nicknamed Silverheels, and they see her shed her complacence for a determination to do right, no matter the cost. Mobley uses the microcosm of Como to echo the broader issues of the day—women’s suffrage, the Great War, prejudice, and class divisions—yet she doesn’t overwhelm readers or the town with these themes.” (School Library Journal)

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Filed under Happiness, Launch, Patience, rejection and success, Uncategorized, Writing and Life

LET US ALL EAT CAKE!!!

Good morning! Allow me to (re)introduce myself. I am Jeannie Mobley, one of the founders of EMUs Debuts, and I write historical fiction. Which is why I have been invited to return with a guest post on this great, glorious, momentous day in history.

Yes, my friends. Today, July 14, is Bastille Day! Vive la France!

motto of the French revolution source:istockphoto permission:licensed

Yep. I’m here because  in 1789, on this very day 225 years ago, the French revolution began with the storming of the Bastille. A revolution that would culminate in overthrowing one of the great monarchies of Europe and see the king, and more notably (at least for my purposes here,) the queen guillotined in front of the populace.

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Yeah, so. She had a little money. But how much cake could she really be eating with that waistline?

That queen was the beautiful and elegant Marie Antoinette. Beautiful and elegant on the outside, anyway, but so arrogant, and hard-hearted that when she was told that the peasants had no bread, she allegedly replied, “Let them eat cake.”

In truth, it’s unlikely that Marie Antoinette ever said this. The story comes originally from Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s autobiographical work Confessions, penned in 1765, when Marie Antoinette was a mere child and the storming of the Bastille was over twenty years away.

Which brings us (obviously) to the Literary History of Cake.

Because while I’ve been trying to educate you on French history, you’ve just been thinking about cake, haven’t you? About the tender sweetness of the layers and the buttery texture. About the chocolaty smoothness on your tongue, and the creamy, dreamy swirls of icing bursting with sugary delight across your tingling taste buds.

Ahem. Where was I? Oh, right.

The literary history of cake.

We might argue that the literary history of cake begins with that great visionary, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and culminates, at least so far, on July 10, 2014 with the release of the

BRAND NEW AND UTTERLY BRILLIANT

ALL FOUR STARS cover

ALL FOUR STARS by TARA DAIRMAN

 

But Tara’s journey with Cake didn’t begin with her debut novel, just as Gladys Gatsby’s journey in ALL FOUR STARS didn’t begin with Cake. In fact, we first meet Gladys preparing a non-cake French dessert, Crème Brulee. I’m not going to give you the details. Suffice it to say, if the French monarchy had had Gladys and her blow torch 125 years ago today, things might have turned out very differently. Vive la France! indeed.

Gladys’s journey takes us through hilarious and astounding feats of cookery, despite her parents demands that she stay out of the kitchen, and on to her accidental assignment reviewing a top New York dessert bakery for a New York newspaper. It culminates not only with cake, but with  mouth-watering moments of literary goodness you won’t want to miss.

Desserts only

As for Tara, her journey has included some hilarious encounters with cake as well. Apparently, she has had a long fascination with cake in literature, claiming Roald Dahl’s Matilda as a favorite book, and the cake-eating-torture within it a favorite scene. Tara’s obsession with cake literature has even led her to reenact this scene. On video. On this very blog!

 

And she thought when I left the blog she could stop being haunted by this picture.

It’s sad, really, where the literary history of cake takes us, isn’t it?

No. No, it isn’t.

Because it takes us, in the end, to THIS FABULOUS WEEK in which EMU’s Debuts is celebrating the release of Tara’s delicious first novel, ALL FOUR STARS (which went by the working title Gladys Gatsby Takes the Cake for a time. Just in case I haven’t mentioned cake enough in this post.)

Congratulations, Tara. Because nothing is sweeter, or bursts more gloriously upon us, than a debut novel. And this one is sweet indeed.

So stick with us all week to celebrate ALL FOUR STARS.

Raise a slice of cake in honor of the event!  Then wipe off those sticky fingers of yours and crack open a copy!  You’ll find yourself cheering the whole time!

What’s that you say? You don’t have a copy?! Well, there are three things you can do about that:   buy one at your local bookstore, check one out at your local library, or LEAVE US A COMMENT THIS WEEK FOR A CHANCE TO WIN A SIGNED COPY OF YOUR VERY OWN!!!!!

FourstarsVive la Gladys Gatsby!

FourstarsVive la Cake!

 

 

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Filed under Celebrations, cover art, Guest Posts, Launch, Uncategorized

The Longest Journey Starts with a Single Book

Anyone one who has ventured to write a book can tell you it is a journey. A journey with many dead ends, missteps, stomped toes and the occasional rejection-letter mugging.  A journey that, to quote J.R.R. Tolkien, goes ever, ever on. After passing through the Golden Gate of the Book Deal, the debut novelist continues on the journey, through the Quagmire of Revision, the vast, parched Wastes of Waiting for feedback, the foggy, slightly toxic Swamps of Reviewland, and up the blog tour/buzz building slope to the great pinnacle of THE RELEASE PARTY!!!!

ParchedCoverMelanie Crowder’s amazing new book PARCHED is also about a journey. The journey of two kids and a group of dogs that must seek out water to survive, and a landscape made harsh by drought and human cruelty.

Both Melanie and this wonderful book have a journey yet ahead of them as the book enters the world, finds its readers, encounters all the ups and downs a new book and author experience in the world.

But before we go there, let’s reflect on the road we’ve been on shall we? And by “we” I mean Melanie and her book. Okay, actually, I just mean her book. Because while poor Melanie was chained to her desk, slogging through the metaphorical land of Publishatopia, her book was seeing the world. Her ARC (Advance Reader Copy) was too hot to stay put. Much like the characters within its pages, PARCHED ventured out, seeking what it needed to survive:

water

readers

fans.

It seems to have no trouble on all fronts.  It started in Boulder, Colorado, where Tara Dairman  and her cat enjoyed it thoroughly. Given that the one of the main characters is a dog, the fact that the cat enjoyed it is a real testament to the quality of this book! Here’s what Quincy and his pet Tara had to say about the book:

Quincy“Even though a dog is a major character, Quincy gives PARCHED two paws up, with bonus grumpy stare for the water warlords who menace Sarel and Musa. (Please don’t tell him that the dog chapters were his owner’s favorites in the book!)”

After devouring the story in a single afternoon, Tara passed it on to me, Jeannie Mobley. I took it out to the edge of a drought-starved lake and fell into its story of beauty and ugliness, hatred and friendship, struggle and triumph. An amazing, thought provoking read!

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Then I sent it on to a land less PARCHED than my own, the Pacific Northwest, where it was enjoyed by Jeanne Ryan and Laurie Thompson

JeanneSeattle

LauriePacificNW

As for Laurie, she says:

” I have a terrible memory. Most characters and plot lines, however enjoyable and engaging at the time, slip right through soon after I’ve put the book down. Not so with PARCHED. It has stuck with me, and will continue to stick with me for a long time. In addition to the story itself, I think it is because there are so many contrasts in this little book: the violence and brutality of the action versus the poetic, beautiful language; the harshness of the landscape versus the tender love between Sarel and her dogs; the drive toward self-preservation versus the will to be compassionate. I love that it isn’t exactly clear where or when the story takes place, which makes it feel like it could be anywhere at anytime, and somehow that makes it feel that much more real and immediate. I don’t think you can read PARCHED and not have a heightened appreciation for the water, safety, and–of course–dogs in your life.”

After a stint in the cold, moist part of the world, PARCHED decided it needed an environment a bit more familiar, so it set off for San Antonio, where it was enjoyed, along with a little cat poop, by Anubis, Boots, and Josh (although how many indulged in the cat poop I can’t say for certain). Click on the image to read their five star/four paw review.

SanAntonio

But wait, the dogs aren’t the only ones with an opinion! Josh says:

“In a blurb, I read that it’s intended for 10-14 year olds, but this is definitely one of those books that transcends age. Spare yet complex, gut-wrenching yet heart-warming… yeah, it’s one of those books. Plus, you know, it’s got a dog POV in it. Nuff said.”

PARCHED next traveled to New York City, where Laurie Crompton took it out to Time Square. (About this time, Melanie was at her desk writing blog interviews and filling out her publisher’s author questionnaire. Ah, the glamorous life of the novelist.) Next time, Melanie, chain the book to the desk and you take the trip!

NYLaurie

MainLLBAnnaBoll

It continued along the East Coast to Maine, where, unlike it’s main characters, it found ample water in the L.L. Bean fish pond. Anna Boll, it’s hostess in Maine, designed a teacher’s guide.  Of the book, she says

“the beauty of the writing and the characters will hold on to your emotions and not let go until you’ve finished the entire story.”

She, however, did let go of the ARC, which made its way to Claire Caterer in Kansas City, where water lingered in the form of snow.

KansasCityClaireCaterer

Snow or no snow, PARCHED didn’t leave Claire cold. Here’s what she thought:

“In spare, perfect sentences, Crowder conveys the emotions of these two children and even Nandi, the dog leader who shares in the narration. The detail is sharp, for all its ambiguity. The story is beautiful, for all its stark reality. It’s not a difficult read, but it is a deep one, one that kids and adults alike will not forget.”

After spanning the country, PARCHED was still restless. After all, it had found water, met dogs, and even impressed a cat, but lets face it. The L.L. Bean fish pond hardly seems a worthy body of water for a book destined for greatness. It needed more.

There are TWO great works of art in this photo!

There are TWO great works of art in this photo!

So, here it is one more time, at Rome’s famous Trevi fountain–a water source befitting the artistry of Melanie’s book. What’s that in my other hand, you ask? That is my coin, which I threw, according to tradition, with my right hand over my left shoulder so that my wish will come true.  And my wish? That great things will come for Melanie and her book. Not that magic wishes are needed for that to happen with a book this good!

Congratulations, Melanie, on your stunning debut, a book that will leave readers thirsting for more!

***

Where to buy PARCHED:

IndieBound   Barnes & Noble   Amazon  Books-A-Million   Indigo Books   Powell’s Books

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Filed under ARCs, Book Promotion, Celebrations, Writing

The Chicken Has Crossed the Road (and so must say farewell)

Well, here we are, on the last day of 2012, and I, the first of the original eight EMUs, am the last of the original eight to say goodbye. Alas, my debut year is coming to an end. Tomorrow will be the two-year anniversary of this blog. In that time, we have revised, edited, proof-read, copy-edited, and released ten books. They have transformed  from piles of pages to hardbound editions on library shelves.

In the aggregate, those ten books have garnered FIFTEEN starred reviews. Individually, they have appeared on numerous BEST OF THE YEAR lists, been shortlisted for major awards,  reviewed in the NEW YORK TIMES, won PARENT CHOICE AWARDS, been discussed on Mock Newbery and Printz lists.  What can I say, I keep good company.

But all good things must come to an end. In parting, therefore, I want to share the wisdom I have gained in this endeavor. Because what’s the point of passing the flame without imparting wisdom on the younger generation? And besides, this is my last chance to slip in another chicken joke.

SO here it is, my wisdom. My

Top Ten Things I Have Learned as a Debut Author

10  You aren’t done worrying about the fate of your novel just because the manuscript sold. Oh, no. You’ve just upped the stakes, my friend. Because now you have an editor to disappoint. Now, on top of worrying about that manuscript, you can obsess about the editor sitting in his/her New York office, regretting having acquired your horrid little book.

9You aren’t done worrying about the fate of your novel just because the editing is done. Oh, no. Because now there are critics–and what if it gets a bad review? Or what if, all of a sudden at the last minute, your publishing house goes belly up? Or what if that stupid prophesy comes true and the world ends right before your book comes out? And here you went to all this trouble, and, true, billions and billions of living organisms will be snuffed out in the blink of an eye, but WORSE YET your book ISN’T GOING TO MAKE IT INTO PRINT!!!!

catonbooks

Believe me, there are some tough critics out there!

8You aren’t done worrying about the fate of your novel just because it’s been released. Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no. Because now, you have to worry about sales, and readers, and more reviews, and end of the year “Best of” lists. And guess what? There’s a whole plethora of internet resources to help you obsess–Amazon ratings, and WorldCat listings, and Goodreads opinions. Why, if you Google your book title, you will find 3,527,842 results (hypothetically speaking), and how can you leave a SINGLE ONE OF THEM unexplored???? Congratulations, my friend. You have now transformed from “Debut Author” to “Creepy Internet Stalker,” in the click of a mouse. On the bright side, you might just discover dozens of wonderful restaurants, bars, and bungalows for rent on Greek Islands with the word “Katerina’s” in their name. Still hypothetically speaking, of course.

7By this point in your writing career, your neurotic need to worry has become so deeply engrained in your genetic code that you are going to worry about your book and career no matter what happens. So don’t worry about how much you’re worrying. As a certain brilliant agent (whose initials are Erin Murphy) once said, “Enjoy the process! Don’t question it and analyze it into oblivion–find ways to enjoy this time. You’ll never have another debut book!”  Erin spoke these words of wisdom on this very blog, but it wasn’t until a critique partner pointed them out and told me “I just wish you could take that to heart,” that I made the conscious effort to do so. And guess what? The whole process is A LOT more fun when you stop worrying!

6Finding a community of writers who have been through/are going through the same process is essential to your enjoyment and mental health. These are the people who can listen to you whine with sympathy and tell you that what you are experiencing is normal. Find them and cherish their wisdom and support. Because, let’s face it; your not-yet-published friends aren’t going to want to hear about how hard your life is now that you have a contract.

5

Yes, those are our real bodies! Is it our fault if the tanning booth was malfunctioning in the head area that day?

You didn’t really think I was going to leave without getting this image in one more time, did you?

Photoshop is a wonderful tool for whiling away the hours of waiting and worrying. It can be used to create promotion materials, to get a laugh or two on facebook, and to advertise yourself online. It can also be used as a weapon against fellow writers with whom you blog, lest they get too uppity.

4If you do learn to use Photoshop, and you do blog with fellow writers who get a little uppity now and then, it is useful to know the legal definition of  the term “libel.”

3One can never, ever overdo a running chicken joke. Never. Because after all, it probably wasn’t all that funny to start with, so what can it hurt to run it into the ground?

Chickenyear

Admit it, it’s still funny, right? Right?? Anyone???

2 Selling your second novel may be easier than selling your first, or it may be harder. Either way, rejection still stings. Buck up. Every day is a new day in the writing world. No rejection has to be the last nail in the coffin unless you let it be. And no matter what happens from this point forward, you are a published author. And how many people ever get to say that?

1 100_0280If you start a group blog to minimize your online duties and in the selfish hope of promoting your book, you’re likely to end up with a tight group of friends and supporters that you can’t live without. Writers are wonderful people, and once you get eight of them together and share the most tumultuous, brilliant, stressful, exciting, depressing, celebratory two years of your life with them, there’s no turning back. Be prepared to discover you’ve created a bond that overshadows even the release of your debut novel.

And so, in gratitude, and with nails that have been chewed down to the quick, I sign off of EMU’s Debuts. Happy New Year to you all, may 2013 bless you, and thank you for these amazing two years. I leave this blog in the competent hands of a new generation of EMU’s. And with one last chicken.

chicken

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Filed under Farewell, Uncategorized

Be the Light. Defeat the Dark

It’s that time of year when the publishing world really starts buzzing with Best Books of the Year lists and speculation about the big awards. I was going to blog about this today–what it’s like to be making a list, or to see friends and associates winning awards and gathering buzz as the major awards draw near.

But really, after last week, it feels so inconsequential. And I realize how much in life is fragile, and how easily the dark overtakes the light.

And this is the darkest time of the year.

candleSo instead, I want to do what little I can. To offer a little light. While each little light may not be much, added together they can outweigh the dark.

If there is one place in the world I have encountered the light, it is in the company of writers. It is in the glorious pages of their books, but even more, it is in their hearts, their humor, their kindness. I want to share each little flame of light that has come to me in this community–each a brilliant candle to drive away the dark.

blueberry pieTamara Smith, who spent fifty dollars to overnight mail a homemade pie full of fresh blueberries for my birthday, which she knew was falling 10 days after my father’s death. Did I mention that Tam lives in Vermont, and I’m in Colorado?

Jean Reidy, whose Light Up the Library auction raised $8,500 for libraries and literacy in Uganda

Ellie McDoodle, the creation of Ruth McNally Barshaw.

Ruth McNally Barshaw, who upon hearing of a young fan constrained to a back brace for scoliosis, drew the child into one of her Ellie McDoodle books.

People from the Kansas SCBWI who came up with An Abundance of Ukuleles for Mike Jung when he lost his (Note: An Abundance of Ukuleles is Mike’s next book title. I’m sure John Green won’t mind.)

Kate Messner, with help from Joanne Levy, who organized KidLit Cares Superstorm Sandy Relief Effort, which raised $60,038 for the American Red Cross.

Erin Murphy and all the people of her agency who banded together to start a fund for agency members in need, starting with the members left for days without power by Sandy.

Deborah Underwood, who sensed the chocolate bars in the grocery store wanted to be sent to me, so she bought them and sent them. I don’t know exactly how they knew I was struggling emotionally, but they did.

ErinMurphysDogAll the amateur performers (and a couple pros) who came together to form the mock band “Erin Murphy’s Dog” and then managed to actually put together an awesome performance.

All the members of the audience that night, whose love made that performance awesome.

The EMUs Debuters, who behind the scenes of this blog offer each other all the emotional support and talk therapy needed at awkward, “I’ve got to know but am afraid to ask” debut moments.

Lynda Mullaly Hunt, who founded Book Train to give new books to foster kids, who have so little of their own.

The light, my friends, is stronger than the dark, if we have the faith to let it be. That is why this week, the darkest of the year, I invite you all to offer up (in the comments) the moments and friends that have lit your life.

Light a candle.candle

Be a light.

Defeat the dark.

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AMAZING KIDS, BOOKS, GRANDMAS, AND GOLDFISH. OH, AND ME!

On Monday, Pat Zeitlow Miller introduced herself as our newest EMU hatchling, and, as she put it, a “Book Geek.” As I read her comments, I saw many traits that seemed familiar, but I am not sure I like the term “Book Geek.” Sounds a bit, um, maladjusted to me.

When I was a kid, the term “Book Worm” was more often applied, but I can’t say I care for that one either. Especially since they were always drawn in cartoons like slimy earthworms, or those nasty worms you get in apples, wearing glasses. And since I started wearing glasses at the age of five, I wasn’t all that keen on the “book lovers with glasses are worms” implications.

So the question is, what is the right term to use? What conveys the correct sense of what the young-lover-of-books is really all about?

As it so happens, I am in a position to address this question, because just this past weekend, I met with a young book group for the first time.

The group consisted of one dedicated grandmother, three young lovers-of-books, and a little white carp named Goldie. They had chosen Katerina’s Wish as their book for this month (although in truth, I’m not convinced Goldie read it–she was pretty quiet in the discussion.)

I knew they were gathering at 12:30 to discuss the book before I arrived at 1:30. This was a good plan, I thought, because it gave them the freedom to be perfectly honest about the book, just in case. As it turns out, meeting ahead of time gave them time to do more than that.

What do you need for a great book group? Start with three great kids and an enthusiastic grandmother…

When I rang the doorbell, they all greeted me at once, wearing blue hair ribbons! (For those of you who don’t know, early in the book, two wishes are granted: one for blue hair ribbons and one for plum dumplings.)

So, guess what was waiting around the corner for me in the kitchen? That’s right–the table all set, with place cards for everyone, paper dandelions for a centerpiece (also a reference to my book):

Dandelions out of season? No problem, if you are as creative as these kids!

and a big plate of fresh, warm plum dumplings! We also had goldfish crackers and apples. And let me assure you, it was all quite delicious!

Add one author and a plate of plum dumplings, and you have everything you need for a GREAT book discussion. (There were a lot more of the dumplings when I first arrived. This was post-feast!)

Then the hard work began–I had to answer their questions. Of course, it wasn’t really hard work; they asked GREAT questions: who was my favorite character, did I think of Mark as a good guy or a bad guy, how do I take criticism from my editor, and even did I see the lessons that my characters learned as important lessons or struggles in my own life. Boy, do I ever!

I asked them plenty of questions too, and adored their answers. Here are a few highlights:

  • They each had a different favorite character, but among them, they picked all my favorites too (Holena, Martina, Old Jan, and Trina)
  • They liked that it ended without everything being perfect for the main character, because that’s how life is.
  • They thought Mark was his own worst enemy, because he was always being negative and putting himself down.
  • They were glad Trina chose the path she did and not the other one.
  • One of the girls was even gracious enough to compare Trina’s youngest sister Holena to Beth in Little Women.

After we ate our fill, we moved to the floor, where the conversation really got going. And Goldie admired our fish necklaces.

Then I shared with them everything that went into the book, from the first, handwritten draft, through the copies that came back from the editor, the bound galley, to the finished book. They were complimentary of my handwriting and maybe a little horrified by how many trees died in the process of producing all that paper.

I was supposed to leave after an hour, but I couldn’t tear myself away quite that soon. And when I left, I felt so lucky to be writing for such a bright, exuberant audience.

So, back to my question: what do we call these young-lovers-of-books? These kids like the young Pat Zeitlow, or the young Jeannie Mobley? Like the members of that wonderful book group (with the possible exception of Goldie)?

Book Geeks? No way. When I looked at those girls I was impressed to see such a solid, well-adjusted, socially responsible foundation for the future!

Book Worms? You’ve got to be kidding! Nothing slimy there. I saw so much clever, creative intelligence. Those young women are not going to crawl through the dark underground–they are going to shine, shine, shine!

Advanced Readers? That sounds kind of dull and academic, doesn’t it? I mean, these kids knew how to joke and laugh and have fun, too!

How about

GREAT KIDS?

Hmmm. That feels right, but maybe not quite enough. How about

AMAZING KIDS!

Or

AMAZING KIDS WITH BOOKS!

Or

AMAZING KIDS WITH BOOKS, A COOL GRANDMA, AND A GOLDFISH!

I think that sums it up well, except it’s going to be abbreviated AKBCGG, which, frankly, is the worst acronym ever.

I’ll keep working on it. And in the mean time, I will just rejoice in knowing such great kids are out there. And I’ll be writing more books for them. After all, I have to. They told me what I needed to put in the sequel! 🙂

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STUPENDOUS ALERT! GEEKS, GIRLS, and SECRET IDENTITIES IS HERE!

Go ahead! Do a happy dance! Rush outside and party in the streets! Because Mike Jung’s fun and funny book GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES hits the shelves TODAY (along with it’s birthday twin, LEAGUE OF STRAYS, that we celebrated all last week.)

And speaking of LEAGUE OF STRAYS, we have a WINNER!!!! Congratulations to Kelly Winningham, who will be receiving the signed copy from L.B. herself!

But back to GEEKS GIRLS AND SECRET IDENTITIES. As Publishers Weekly so aptly notes:

“Debut author Jung smartly balances adventure and comedy…. Jung’s fast-paced storytelling, filled with comics-inspired gadgetry and sound effects, makes the story’s action sequences come alive, and thanks to Maihack’s b&w spot illustrations, Vincent, Polly, and the others look like they’re ready to star in an animated series.”

But no need to wait for the animated series! We’ve got a week long party coming atcha,  with a whole, big, bucket load of goodies for you–in depth and thought provoking interviews with the illustrator and the editor, a critical analysis from young readers, and some heavy-duty investigative reporting, delving into the secret world of fan clubs.

And today, to get it started, we have Santa Duck and Zombie Buddy with an introduction to the book and its deeper central themes.  If you are a follower of Santa Duck and Zombie Buddy videos, you might notice some minor alterations to the production, but probably not. They’re minor, and we have adhered to the same level of high, ultra-professional quality you’ve come to expect from the fabulous Dead and Duck Duo.

Don’t you just love giant robots? Stick around all week to celebrate Mike’s fabulous new book!

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Filed under Celebrations, Reviews

Life Imitates Art (and not in a good way)

By now, those of you following along undoubtedly know the premise of LEAGUE OF STRAYS–a shady character pulls together a group of misfits, introverts, and loners, organizes them into a band with a catchy name and a singular purpose, then gradually pushes them into doing bad things for his pleasure and benefit. It is a tense and dramatic story, in which the reader wonders when or if Charlotte will get the strength to escape the dangerous sociopath before she is in too deep to redeem herself.

The story carries important messages about the dangers of peer pressure, temptation, bullying, and the desire for revenge. But I want to talk about something else here. About the ease with which someone can fall into this trap if the shady character happens to be smooth enough, charismatic enough, and deeply sinister enough.

It is a cautionary tale about how easily life can imitate art.

It is a dreadful little real-life  horror story I like to call:

Let me take you back two years. To the very beginning. To right about this time of year in 2010, when both L.B. and I were eagerly awaiting the completion of our debut book deals. This is a nerve-wracking, email-checking, nail-biting time for a writer. A vulnerable time. A times when a person feels desperate for a connection.

Desperate.

And thus, I set my plan into action.

“Hey, L.B. I hear you’re about to have a book under contract. What would you think of joining me in a debut author blog,” I enthused innocently.

“Gosh, Jeannie,” she expounded, “It’s a little creepy that you know such secret information about me.”

“Never mind that,” I laughed lightly. “Join me. It will be great.”

“Okay,” she agreed. “Hey, I know. We can call it EMU’s Debuts.”

I smiled at how well the plan was coming together, and let her believe she had come up with the name, while meanwhile I gathered others to me:

Michelle Ray, burning for revenge because Shakespeare not only copied her story idea, but killed off her favorite character

J. Anderson Coats, the promising young scholar of medieval history, surrounded by fools who didn’t understand a word of Latin

Lynda Mullaly Hunt, wrestling daily with the pain of an abused child in foster care

Natalie Lorenzi, alone in a foreign land, with little but gelato to comfort her,

Cynthia Levinson, a lonely non-fiction specialist in a sea of fiction writers.

One by one, I reeled them in, promising them camaraderie in their lonely author’s journey.

Then, Mike Jung’s deal with this dream editor Arthur Levine came through. At once, I pounced.

“Hey Mike,” I crooned in my sultriest voice, “Wouldn’t you like to join us?”

“Gosh, I don’t know,” Mike hesitated. “I have young kids, a day job, a lot on my plate.”

I batted my eyelashes in a way he could not ignore, even though we were communicating via email.  “But Mike. EMUs NEEDS your masculine, manly touch.”

“Golly, gosh, gee-whiz!” Mike exclaimed. “Count me in!”

(Yeah. When I bat my lashes, I’m that hot.)

And so I had them, and could set my master plan into motion. None of them suspected my true intent; my desire to exhaust them creatively and humiliate them publicly until my book–MINE I TELL YOU–would dominate at the expense of all others!

What’s that you say? You think I am making all this up? Exaggerating, to make our EMU’s journey sound just like LEAGUE OF STRAYS? You don’t believe I would push them all to humiliating extremes?

Need I remind you of this?

And my hair is rarely that combed.

J Anerson Coats bares it all (nearly) in her big girl panties.

Or this?

“Sure,” I said. “Have another drink. Don’t worry about that man with the camera.”

Or, God forgive me, this?

There’s really no caption that can do this justice.

And as for exhaustion, I am the one who first suggested we do release parties that last all week.

“It sounds like a lot of work,” one of them mused.

“I don’t know if I have that much time,” remarked another.

“It’s only a week,” I encouraged warmly. “And it’s for dear, dear Michelle. You wouldn’t want to disappoint dear Michelle, would you?”

Yes, that’s how the release party plan began, in July of 2011.  Little did they foresee the outcome: Five release parties in seven weeks in the fall of 2012 (mine, of course, being the first, while they were all still fresh as daisies.)

Coincidence?  I think not.

So take your own lesson from this. Sociopaths are out there–one in every twenty-five people, as L.B. will tell you.  They seem nice. Normal. Charming, even. Don’t be drawn in.  It can happen to anyone, even Charlotte. Even L.B. Even a manly man like Mike Jung.

LEAGUE OF STRAYS by L.B. SchulmanThe best defense is a strong offense. So read LEAGUE OF STRAYS so you can see the risk, and learn to be your own guide in life. Before it’s too late and you find yourself eating a whole chocolate cake under duress.

Another unsuspecting victim is drawn in…

And the best way to get your hands on a copy of LEAGUE OF STRAYS? Post a reply any time this week, for our drawing. For a book, not a cake.

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Filed under Blogging, Celebrations, Colleagues

HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY, KATERINA! MAKE A . . .

Today is the official release day for Jeannie Mobley’s debut novel, KATERINA’S WISH, and yes, I know, we already did that party last week. Don’t worry, we’re not going to get out of control again. After all, we have to rest up before our release party for HENRY FRANKS next week! And NERVE the week after that!!

If you want a little more KATERINA FRIVOLITY, though, I do have two interviews this week at other blogs,

the Lucky 13s and Bibliolinks! Drop by and say hello.

AND, we have one piece of unfinished business!  We promised last Monday to give away a book to one lucky commenter.  The books have arrived, have been inspected and approved…

…so we are all ready to go. And now, if my lovely assistant would be so kind as to hand me the envelope. Thank you.

Ladies and Gentlemen, THE WINNER IS…

Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich!!

Congratulations, Gbemi! I’ll contact you off list to get your address and find out how you want the book signed!

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On Joy, and Sorrow, and the Tears that Bind Them

On Monday, Tara talked about watching readers react to her book. There is a great deal of joy in having our work read. It is exciting, and a little scary, to know that our books will touch people’s lives. That maybe the words we put on the page will leave readers a little different from who they were before they read the book. The knowledge that my art would remain hidden and untouched if I didn’t seek publication is what drove me to work toward this goal, so of course, reaching readers has been the prize my eye has been on for years.

But as I write this, my last blog post as an unpublished author, I find myself thinking less about those who will become part of this journey in the coming months and years, and more about the people who have been with me along the way, and those who no longer are.

When I joined the Erin Murphy Literary Agency, it was with a selfish goal of getting published. It was a move I made for my career and my writing. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Erin Murphy, but I admit I had dollar signs in my eyes as I signed the contract.

There’s nothing as supportive of a community of EMUs. Even if some of us are chickens. L to R: J. Anderson Coats, Mike Jung, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, L.B. Schulman, Cynthia Levinson, and Jeannie Mobley.

I had no idea of the community that would become mine. Of the friends and colleagues, peers and mentors that would become a part of my life because of my agency. It is not only a community that gives writing support, but lends a hand to each other when times are rough, whether it is a flooded house, a death in the family, a sick child, a financial crisis. It includes people who cook plum dumplings and blueberry pies for a person,  because they can (Thanks again, Tara and Tam!) It is a community that laughs together, cries together, eats chocolate together, and sometimes even forms bands and sings together.

Gwen used this as her online avatar. The sketch came originally from Ruth McNally Barshaw, who drew Gwen at an EMLA retreat in 2010.

This community lost one of its cherished members a month ago, when Gwen McIntosh passed away. If you didn’t know Gwen, go back through our blog and you will find her icon there, “liking” almost every post that we have posted, and commenting on many as well. That’s the kind of person Gwen was–supportive, warm, funny. Not one to let you get too full of yourself, but also one to make sure every moment was celebrated! In short, even though Gwen hadn’t met many of us in person, she was a true friend none the less.

Gwen’s death was a surprise to all of us. She hadn’t been sick. She wasn’t elderly. She had plans, dreams, and goals for the future. Among those unfinished dreams, was the dream to publish a novel. Even as she held that dream in her heart, she cheered for those of us who were achieving it.

And so, as I move closer to the publication of my first book, a book about dreams and wishes, and hopes that can be either crushed or fulfilled, I find myself reflecting less on where I am going, and more on where I have been. Life deals us so many things, both glorious and heartbreaking.  If I cry when my book is released, it will be out of joy for those brought to me by this journey, and grief for those I have lost along the way. Out of gratitude for what I have accomplished, and sorrow for what others have not. Out of acknowledgement of how simultaneously momentous and insignificant the moment really is, in the grand scheme of life.

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Filed under Celebrations, Colleagues, Writing and Life