Tag Archives: debut novel

NOT IN THE SCRIPT and the Great TV Debate

Not in the Script coverAmy Finnegan’s debut novel, NOT IN THE SCRIPT, takes readers behind the scenes of the fictional TV series, Coyote Hills.  It got us thinking about the television shows we’ve loved over the years, the ones that kept us coming back week after week. When we asked the EMUs to weigh in with their absolute favorite TV shows of all time, it was all very civilized–no punches were thrown, no cross words exchanged. Although the final picks vary widely across several decades and multiple genres, we hope you’ll agree that our list makes for some dang fine television viewing.

Christine Hayes

I watched a lot of TV in the 80s. I mean, like, a lot. To this day, any time I stumble upon an episode of The Love Boat, Charlie’s Angels, CHiPs, or The Dukes of Hazzard, I will sit down and watch. I can’t help it. My gleeful nostalgia meter spikes up into the stratosphere. But my very favorite show of all time was Simon and Simon. Two cute brothers, solving crimes, cracking jokes and watching each other’s backs? I was hooked! Ever since, my taste in TV has followed a similar pattern. Case in point: Psych is probably my second very favorite show, because: Humor! Action! Buddies getting into trouble! I could cite many other examples, but since we were supposed to pick just our favorites, I will merely say that I am predictable but consistent.

Lindsey Lane

Favorite TV Show of all time?!? I never missed an episode of Gilligan’s Island when I was a kid. Never. I think I played island castaway for years in my backyard. My best friend and I would switch off being MaryAnne or Ginger. But really, I think we both wanted to be the goofy, goodhearted Gilligan. I don’t think it had any influence on my writing except maybe, well, the show did play around with multiple perspectives.

Gilligans_Island_title_cardTamara Ellis Smith

So my favorite TV show as a twenty-something was, hands-down, ThirtySomething.  I was obsessed.  Maybe because I felt like it was showing me what my own life could be like in ten years.  Maybe because it was showing me what I WANTED my life to be like in ten years.  I loved following the multiple storylines, I loved thinking about what I might do in the characters’ situations, I loved the dialogue. In fact, at the time, I was both writing and acting, and a friend and I used to memorize monologues from the show because we thought they were excellent audition monologues.

Rebecca Van Slyke

From childhood: Anything with a family who had unusual animals, like Gentle Ben, Lassie, Flipper, and Daktari. I used to long for a family who was cool enough to have a pet bear, dolphin or lion. Heck, I’d even settle for a dog who could understand people, like Lassie. Sadly, the Army frowned on having a pet lion living in base housing, or so my father told me.

From high school: Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley. These shows could make everyone in the family laugh.

All-time favorite: The Bugs Bunny Show taught me most of what I know about the classics: music, literature, great films, and classic movie stars. It was funny as a child, and got funnier as I grew up and got more of the “adult” humor. As a writer, I aim for this kind of humor–something to make kids laugh, and a little something to make the adults reading to them laugh, too.

MuppetShowJennifer Bertman

Oh man, this is a harder question to answer than I thought it would be. I didn’t realize how many TV shows had been an influential part of my life until I tried to narrow them down to “favorite of all time.” But two are without a doubt at the top: The Muppet Show and Gilmore Girls.

I have so much fond nostalgia for watching The Muppet Show every Sunday night with my parents and older brother. It sparked my lifelong admiration for Jim Henson. The Muppets gave the show the pretense of being for kids, but the humor and celebrity guests spanned all ages, and as a kid I loved that my parents and brother genuinely enjoyed the show as much as I did.

I discovered Gilmore Girls on my honeymoon, oddly enough. I came to the show late–I’d heard people gush over it but never took the time to watch it. But as soon as I caught part of an episode and heard the witty banter, saw the wonderful chemistry between the actors, and realized how smart and full of heart the show was, I was hooked. It’s become my #1 comfort show. Forget chicken soup–if I’m sick or feeling blue, you’ll find me on the couch visiting my old friends Lorelai and Rory.

Donna Janell Bowman (Bratton)

I didn’t think I watched much television until this question came up. I mentioned previously that Bionic Woman was my go-to TV choice as a child. So was Gilligan’s Island. These days I’m a big fan of BBC shows. I adore period dramas like Downtown Abbey, Mr. Selfridge, and The Paradise. I suppose it’s not surprising since I love to read and write historical fiction and nonfiction. I love the visual details and historic portrayals. As for laughs, I’m a fan of Big Bang Theory. And, in the reality-show department, I prefer to geek out on ancestry shows like Who Do You Think You Are and Finding Your Roots. Once a research junkie, always a research junkie.

Megan Morrison

Man, this is a big question. I really, really like good TV, so I’m just going to go with the first things that come into my head. Childhood – The Price Is Right. I think Bob Barker should probably get retroactively paid for babysitting me for like four summers in a row. First big TV obsession: The X-Files. Mulder and Scully. I was hooked on the unresolved tension between them, and I would go to great lengths to justify any and all plot holes to myself in order to keep on enjoying it. Finally, recently, I’ve loved Arrested Development.  I can’t think of any other show with more jokes per square inch. Amazing writing. Pure concentrated irreverence. I stand in awe.

xfilesLaurie Ann Thompson

My all-time favorite TV show is Firefly, because what could be better than a western… in space? Oh, yeah, Nathan Fillion as a space cowboy. Everything about the show itself was perfect, from the opening theme music to the characters and their relationships to the futuristic interpretations to the moral quandaries. The only disappointment was that it was cancelled way too soon.

Mylisa Larsen

I’ve had a kind of odd relationship with TV since I was born during the period of time where my parents had decided to throw the TV out of the house. My grandmother lived next door and she would sometimes invite my sisters and I over to watch The Lawrence Welk Show with her. I remember sitting there thinking, “This is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen.” But my grandma was so sweet and enthusiastic and my grandpa was so generous with his Brach’s Pick-a-mix during the show that we’d settle right into that big flowered couch between them and happily watch the weirdness.

Some years, my parents would import a television during the Olympics and we would lie on the floor of the family room for two weeks, wide-eyed, watching. I still have a strange, binge-watching relationship with the Olympics.

But if you ask me about my favorite shows, I’d have to admit that they were shows that I didn’t really watch but, rather, listened to. When my kids were young, they would watch cartoons while I was in the next room getting dinner ready. So I’d only hear the voice track. My favorite TV show to “watch” in that way was probably Recess. My kids can still walk by and say something in a Spinelli voice and I’m right back there.

Tara Dairman

My favorite TV show when I was a kid was I Love Lucy. No, I’m not quite old enough to have seen the show when it first aired, but there were marathon showings of it every year, and my parents would tape them (I am old enough to have grown up on VHS). Lucy showcased farce and slapstick comedy at its finest, and I like to think that a little bit of the comic timing rubbed off on me as I became a writer. I still love to write funny scenes that are slightly over the top–though thankfully, Gladys Gatsby’s kitchen disasters have not yet reached the epic level of Lucy’s!

Penny Parker Klostermann

I really like TV and there are so many shows I have followed over the years. But my favorite TV show of all time is one from my childhood, The Carol Burnett Show. Carol Burnett is a genius when it comes to comedy and the entire cast was hilarious. My favorite ever skit was Tim Conway as a new dentist and Harvey Korman as a patient needing a tooth pulled. Tim Conway accidentally sticks himself with the Novocain syringe and it goes downhill from there. One of the things that cracks me up about this skit is that Harvey Korman can’t keep a straight face. You should take a few minutes and enjoy this clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CSJw96SAeM


So…what’s your favorite TV show of all time? Tell us in the comments for a chance to win a signed copy of NOT IN THE SCRIPT, plus bonus swag!

You can also order a copy of your very own from:

And don’t forget to add it to Goodreads here!


Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, Promotion

NOT IN THE SCRIPT Launch Party and Favorite TV Couples

Not in the Script coverToday is Amy Finnegan’s Book Birthday! Her novel, NOT IN THE SCRIPT, is now available everywhere! We will be celebrating all week at EMU’s Debuts and we are delighted that you are here celebrating with us 🙂

I’ve read Amy’s book and I loved it! One reason I loved it is because I found Emma Taylor and Jake Elliott realistic and appealing as a couple. And isn’t “realistic and appealing” what makes a couple special? Especially a TV couple that we’re going to watch week after week! Isn’t “realistic and appealing” what keeps us watching? What TV couples keep or kept you watching a series? That is the question for the EMUs today. And that is the question for you!

After you read about the couples that keep/kept EMUs watching, we would like for you to join us by voting in a poll. There are way too many “favorite” couples to list so I’m keeping the poll limited to the ones that the EMUs chose. If none of them suit your fancy, mention a couple when you comment. And don’t forget to comment because if you comment on any post this week, you will have a chance to win a copy of NOT IN THE SCRIPT along with some awesome swag!

EMUs Favorite TV Couples

Lindsey Lane

booth and bones

I gotta go with Bones & Booth…aka Dr. Temperance Brennan and Seeley Booth of BONES. I love the Sherlockian, literal mind of Brennan in contrast to the instinctual and emotional Booth. I love that they are playing against gender and the angsty period of ‘should we be a couple?’ didn’t go on and on. Speaking of Sherlock, I love the new BBC version with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. But that’s not really television, is it?

Megan Morrison

Leslie and benI adore Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt from Parks and Recreation. I love that they really love each other – they’re into each other, they’re geeks together, they laugh at each other’s jokes, and they admire each other.  Each of them has put the other ahead of their own career, too.  But my favorite thing about their relationship is that it’s never cynical. Their love is never threatened by the usual plot twists that threaten TV relationships. Leslie and Ben are just too solid for that kind of drama.

Rebecca VanSlyke

rebecca couples1) Penny and Leonard from “The Big Bang Theory.” A great case for opposites not only attracting but strengthening each other. I like to think that my husband and I do this for each other. Usually. When we’re not baffled by how the other one thinks.
2) Paul and Jaime Buchman from “Mad About You.” I swear NBC owes us some BIG money for bugging our apartment early in our marriage. We had some of the same conversations, disagreements, and situations that they did. They were two very different personalities, but they stuck together because they were, you know, mad about each other.
3) Cliff and Clair Huxtable from “The Cosby Show.” They were hilariously funny, but not at the expense of the other person. They had a great sense of humor, but they always treated each other and their kids with respect.

Tara Dairman

tara couplesFavorite TV couples…oh, this is a tough one. I’m tempted to go with Ross & Rachel from “Friends”–THE couple of my teenage TV-watching years–or Starbuck and Apollo from “Battlestar Galactica,” who had pretty much the best tension (though maybe the least functional relationship!) in all of space and time. But if I just have to choose one, I think I have to pick Cam and Mitchell from “Modern Family.” They provide plenty of hilarity, shrieking, and hysterics…but also know how to pull together when they need to for the good of their family. And for me, comedy + closeness seems like the perfect formula for a great TV couple.

Christine Hayes

chris couples
I loved rooting for Jim and Pam from The Office to get together. They were both just so nice! Pam gained confidence with every season and really figured out who she was and what she wanted out of life. Jim had such a good heart and a wicked sense of humor–he reminded me of my own sweetie in many ways. I felt every twist and turn in their relationship keenly, because they felt like real people to me.

Mylisa Larsen

mylisa couples
My favorite TV couple is actually a movie couple—Carl and Ellie from Pixar’s Up. It’s a great opposites attract kind of romance where the whole is so much greater than either of the parts would have been alone. Plus, I have a deep affection for couples who figure out how to make love work in the long game. The story of that romance only takes up five or ten minutes of that movie but the rest of the movie would be nothing without it.

Laurie Ann Thompson

laurie couples

I was going to go with Castle and Beckett on CASTLE, but I’m sure someone has already beaten me to that punch. I mean, we’re writers. We gotta love CASTLE, right? (No one beat you, Laurie, so you get Castle and Beckett along with Chuck and Sarah!) So, another one of my all-time favorite TV couples has to be Chuck Bartowski and Sarah Walker on the long-running series CHUCK. I love how fundamentally different they were and how that made them perfect for each other. And, of course, there’s a chance that I may just be partial to geeky yet good-hearted guys. 😉

Donna Bowman Brattan

donna couple

It’s about to be very obvious that I don’t watch much television and I am woefully ill-prepared to conjure pop-culture characters. Maybe because, in my house, the cat and I are the only females. And Mittens limits her screen time to cat videos on YouTube. I do catch Big Bang Theory sometimes and I kinda giggle at the pairing of Sheldon and Amy because they are both socially awkward in hilarious ways. But my first thought about TV couples was a blast to my childhood. I loved watching The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman. Mostly, they were separate shows, of course, but I remember looking forward to any episodes when they crossed into each other’s television world. Steve What’s-his-name (aka Lee Majors) was a major hunk who could bend cities in half while he eyeballed straight through Mt. Everest. And Jamie What’s-her-name (Lindsey Wagner) was beautiful, strong, sweet, and she could hear a seahorse burp on the moon. Or so it seemed. Imagine the genetic lottery their children would inherit! Oh, oh, what if the children of the bionic couple (let’s pretend their bionicness was genetic) married Sheldon and Amy and had their own TV show. Ha! Now THAT would be a show I’d watch.

Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

Jenn couples

Three couples immediately come to mind:
1) Luke and Lorelai from “Gilmore Girls.” I mean, he built her an ice skating rink, for Pete’s sake!!
2) Cliff and Claire Huxtable from “The Cosby Show”. The affection they showed each other felt so genuine, and they made each other laugh even when they were exasperated with one another. Maybe especially when they were exasperated with one another.
3) Coach and Tami Taylor from “Friday Night Lights.” The Taylors had such respect for each other, through all their ups and downs. Both were good people, and they worked so well together as a team.
Penny Parker Klostermannchris couples
I know Chris already picked them, but I didn’t know that when I chose them. So, I’m going with Jim and Pam from “The Office”, too. (Chris, we should hang out and watch TV!)  The reason they’re my favorite couple is that it was so sweet that Jim hung in there even though Pam was engaged to another guy And we all knew Jim and Pam belonged together way before they got together. Also, I loved the office-romance aspect and how they handled it. For me, they added a bit of “normal” in the most dysfunctional office EVER! They did it with a sense of humor and, to me, that’s a necessary element for “couple success” on or off the screen.Thanks for hanging around. And just for fun, vote for your favorite couple!

Comment for a chance to win this super swagalicious giveaway.
Comment on any of the posts this week (Oct. 6-10). 

Not in the Script giveaway package

Of course, you can order hardcovers, paperbacks, and ebooks from:

And don’t forget to add it to Goodreads here!


Filed under Celebrations, Happiness, Launch

EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN: Agent and Editor Interviews!

Evidence of Things Not Seen by Lindsey LaneThis week, we Emus are absolutely thrilled to be celebrating the launch of Lindsey Lane‘s debut young adult novel, EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN! A twisty, turny, super-smart story about a teenager who goes missing and the people in his small Texas town who are affected, EVIDENCE is an unputdownable read that will be out in the world on September 16.

Here’s a more detailed summary:

When high school junior Tommy Smythe goes missing, everyone has a theory about what happened to him. Tommy was adopted, so maybe he ran away to find his birth parents. He was an odd kid, often deeply involved in his own thoughts about particle physics, so maybe he just got distracted and wandered off. He was last seen at a pull-out off the highway, so maybe someone drove up and snatched him. Or maybe he slipped into a parallel universe. Tommy believes that everything is possible, and that until something can be proven false, it is possibly true. So as long as Tommy’s whereabouts are undetermined, he could literally be anywhere.

Told in a series of first-person narratives from people who knew Tommy and third-person chapters about people who find the things Tommy left behind—his red motorbike, his driving goggles, pages from his notebook—Evidence of Things Not Seen explores themes of loneliness, connectedness, and the role we play in creating our own realities

Want a signed ARC of EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN, and a T-shirt? Just leave a comment on any post this week for a chance to win!

We’ll have a new post every day this week, delving into the fascinating world of this book, and today we’re kicking things off with interviews of two very important people: Lindsey’s agent, Erin Murphy, and her editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Joy Peskin.

Interview with Agent Erin Murphy

Erin pictureTara Dairman: EVIDENCE is not your typical YA novel. What about it grabbed your attention when Lindsey queried you with it?

Erin Murphy: Well, first of all, Lindsey herself grabbed me. We’d met a few years earlier, when she was just going into the program at VCFA, and I really liked her then–her energy, her focus–but I felt she should wait to sign with an agent after she was through the program, because it can change a writer so much. When she approached me after she graduated, I appreciated how READY she felt. She sounded sure and steady.

And the manuscript itself–the concept was intriguing, in a could-fall-flat-or-could-blow-the-doors-off kind of way, and it blew my doors off. The different voices carried me away. It had incredible potential, and it was one of those situations where I had complete and utter confidence that the writer could take it to the next level. It certainly helped that while she was waiting for me to read it, Lindsey had time to step away from it herself and come back to it anew–and then she did something completely unorthodox: She read it through and wrote herself an editorial letter, and sent it to me to see if I concurred with her thoughts on what needed work. I did, although I had some thoughts to add to the mix, too. I loved that she did that. It showed me how hard she’s willing to work, how self-motivated she is, and how clearly she can see her own work.

TD: Did the unique structure and premise of EVIDENCE make it easy for you to decide which editors to submit it to, or more difficult?

EM: It made it easy. It went to editors I knew would fight for it despite the unusual form if they fell in love with the writing. (And how could they not fall in love with the writing?) I focused on editors who were known for taking chances to good effect, and who were well established. I think if new-ish editors had gotten a manuscript like this, it would have been harder for their team to trust them to have a vision for it–although if we hadn’t seen success on the first round, I would have definitely broadened my thinking about that. Joy Peskin at FSG read it quickly and fell in love with and had a strong vision for it, and worked fast to put together a preempt so we’d take it off the table elsewhere. She and Lindsey spoke and hit it off so well that it felt like we’d found the best possible home for the project, so we accepted the offer. I had thought that because of the unusual structure, we might find just one editor who was interested–the right editor, the one person who really got it. But it turned out that if we hadn’t taken the preempt, we would have had quite a lot of interest from others, too. Editors really are looking for something they’ve never seen before, something completely fresh and new.


joy peskin photo may 2013Interview with Editor Joy Peskin

TD: Most novels have one or two protagonists, but in EVIDENCE, there’s a new protagonist in every chapter. How did this affect the editorial process?

Joy Peskin: That’s a good question. Lindsey’s skill with the range of protagonists is one key thing that drew me to this book. Oftentimes, authors struggle to give multiple narrators (even just two!) distinct voices. But Lindsey was able to create this wide cast of characters and each voice was immediately different. I never got one character confused with another. One thing we did work on in the editorial process was lengthening the book, because when it came in it was a little short. And the way we did that was to weave in a few all-new characters and also to elaborate on some of the stories of the existing characters.

For example, in the original draft of the manuscript, the chapter called “Ritual” didn’t exist. The main character in that chapter, Tara, showed up in the chapter called “Lost,” but she played a minor role. Lindsey decided to give Tara her own chapter, and to tell more of her story, and we ended up with one of the most powerful chapters in the book. So the wide range of characters gave us a unique way to extend a manuscript. Instead of telling more of the story overall, we looked for supporting characters who demanded more of a starring role.

TD: One of the most striking aspects of EVIDENCE, to me, is that some chapters are in first person, while others are in third. Was that something that changed during the editorial process? How did you and Lindsey decide which POV was the right one for each chapter?

JP: Lindsey decided to put each chapter that comes from someone who actually knew Tommy in first person—his classmates, friends, parents, etc.—and to put each chapter that comes from someone who finds something Tommy left behind in third person. I think that worked out really well. I imagine the first person chapters almost like monologues, which makes sense because Lindsey is a playwright. I also imagine that the characters in these chapters are talking to an investigator who is off the page. And the third person chapters are almost like short stories. You may begin reading one and think, “Wait, what does this person’s story have to do with Tommy?” But then you keep reading and see the character find something that belonged to Tommy, and it makes you think about the seemingly random ways our lives overlap. As Tommy wrote, “We leave pieces of ourselves everywhere,” and part of the thrill of reading this book is seeing who found all the pieces Tommy left behind.

TD: What do you think really happened to Tommy?

JP: I hate to say it, but I think something bad happened to Tommy. Maybe he was abducted? It actually really bothers me to say that, because I like Tommy so much, and I wish I could say that he slipped through a wormhole into another dimension. But in my heart of hearts, I don’t think it’s possible.


Thank you so much, Erin and Joy, for taking the time to give us all some behind-the-scenes insight into this incredible book. And congratulations, Lindsey, on your debut!

You can get your own copy of EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN from your local independent bookstore (find one here), or order it from your favorite national or online retailer such as FSG, BookPeoplePowell’sB&N, or Amazon.

Please comment here–or on any post this week–to be entered to win a T-shirt and a signed ARC of EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN by Lindsey Lane!


Filed under Agents, Book Promotion, Editing and Revising, Interviews, Launch, Publishers and Editors

Longing for Balance, Post-launch

On Monday, our newest Emu Tamara Ellis Smith wrote a beautiful post about the longing that accompanies the journey toward publication. It’s a feeling that many, many writers aspiring to become published know, and one that I knew well for many years.

Born on July 10, 2014!

Born on July 10, 2014!

But now, I’m on the other side of the fence. All Four Stars has been out in the world for a month and a half, and I’ll be hanging up my Emu feathers before long. Has the longing evaporated?

No, of course not—but it has changed. For weeks around when my book came out, when my life felt swallowed up by launch-party planning and online promotion efforts, I longed to get back to my quiet, boring, normal routine and write. Finally, the chaos of launch has passed, and I’ve been able to do that, and now I have even more appreciation for it than I did before.

But now that I am writing again, I long to do it better—to dig deeper into my new characters, to send them on better-plotted journeys and describe their actions with more beautiful sentences. I’m thrilled that my first novel has been published, but I long to up my game in future ones.

But most of all, I long to find balance. I want to focus enough energy on promoting my published book that readers will continue to discover it even after the push of launch-time is over. But I also want to write new books. And I want to continue to travel and have the adventures and experiences that inspire my stories in the first place. Basically, I long for my old, prepublished lifestyle to continue while I also integrate my new obligations as a published author into it. A tall order, perhaps, but each day I’m finding my way.

All that said, finally being published after years of working toward it is undeniably sweet. There is nothing quite like a stranger—someone who has no reason to coddle or lie to you—telling you that they loved reading your book. And if that stranger is a kid, even better. And if they come to your latest book event and tell you in person, EVEN BETTER.

This actually happened last weekend.

This actually happened last weekend.

Yeah…life after launch isn’t so bad.


Tara DairmanTara Dairman is a novelist, playwright, and recovering world traveler. All Four Starsher debut middle-grade novel about an 11-year-old who secretly becomes a New York restaurant critic, was published on July 10, 2014 by Putnam/Penguin.

Find her online at taradairman.com, and on Twitter at @TaraDairman.


Filed under Book Promotion, Book signing, Happiness, Launch, Promotion, Satisfaction

I am not my book

My debut novel, All Four Stars, is just about two months away from publication.

Its lovely jacket arrived in the mail a couple of weeks ago.

All Four Stars full jacket

Its first trade reviews have started to roll in.

The book’s New York launch party is confirmed (please come!), and its Colorado launch party should be set up within the week (please come to that one, too!).

I wrote those last three sentences very carefully. Note that I didn’t say that “my” jacket arrived, or that “I” got reviews, or that I’m planning “my” launch parties. I did that on purpose, because—as I’ve been trying to remind myself daily of late—I am not my book.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m incredibly proud of All Four Stars, and I’m proud of myself for having produced it. I worked on it (on and off) for seven years before it scored me an agent and a book deal. My main character, Gladys, is in some ways a lot like me, and her story is very close to my heart.

But, the book is just something I made. Actually, thanks to the long publishing process, it’s something that at this point I can say I finished making quite a while ago. I’ve written other books since, one of which will come out in 2015 (hooray!), and I’ve got plenty more stories in the pipeline. I’m dedicated to my work, and most of the time I love it, but I try to be careful not to let it be the only thing it my life that can bring me joy or fulfillment. (I succeed at this some days better than others.)

Being a writer is more than just a job. The work we do as writers is often inspired by and bound up in our lives and experiences, so it can be hard to leave it behind mentally even when we’ve left the writing space for the day. And then, when it’s finally time for that work to find an audience, it can feel impossible not to take each and every reader’s reaction personally.

But I’m trying. I’m trying really hard, because the alternative is to let everything in, to believe every contradictory review, and to let them drive me crazy. And as much as my writing is part of me—a big, important part of me—it isn’t all of me.

Since this post has gotten a little heavy, I will leave you with a few lines from one of my favorite musicals, Avenue Q.

There is life outside your apartment.
I know it’s hard to conceive.
But there’s life outside your apartment.
And you’re only gonna see it if you leave.

-From “There is Life Outside Your Apartment” (whose other lyrics, I warn you, contain a delightfully hefty dose of profanity)

Over the next couple of months, I may have to make this my theme song (replacing “apartment” with “book”…or, better yet “first novel,” for the sake of meter). As much the debut process will surely try to take over my existence, I know that there is a life outside of it, a “me” who is not her book—and for the sake of sanity, I’m going to make sure to keep her around.

Tara DairmanTara Dairman is a novelist, playwright, and recovering world traveler. All Four Starsher debut middle-grade novel about an 11-year-old who secretly becomes a New York restaurant critic, will be published on July 10, 2014 by Putnam/Penguin.

Find her online at taradairman.com, and on Twitter at @TaraDairman.


Filed under Advice, Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Anxiety, Happiness, Helpful or Otherwise, Launch, Panic

Meet our magical wish-granting space cats!

Writers have always loved cats. Is it their mercurial natures? Their ability to take care of themselves (mostly)? The fact that a cat in a lap guarantees a butt in a chair? Perhaps we’ll never know.

Hemingway had a cat (or hundreds). Twain had one, and so did Poe, Bradbuy, Huxley, T.S. Eliot, Plath, Yeats, Dickens, Neil Gaiman, and this poor guy.

Not to be outdone, many of us here at EMu’s Debuts have a cat (or two). In honor of the Felix in Adi Rule’s STRANGE SWEET SONG, we re-imagined our furry feline companions as magical wish-granting cats from space. What would we wish for if they happened to be in the mood to grant us anything? Keep reading…

Josh's cat, Mouko

Josh’s cat, Mouko

Sadly, Mouko is no longer with us in the flesh. He now resides in a lovely urn. If Mouko granted wishes, Josh says, “I would wish to the Mouko Urn that he stop sending dopplegangers to lurk in our bushes and torment our dogs.”


Penny's cat, Otis

Penny’s cat, Otis

Penny would ask her magical cat, Otis, “Please grant me (or all the EMUs) pawsitive reviews for my (our) debut book(s).”


Megan's cat Lola

Megan’s cat Lola

Megan says, “I wish them many rapt contemplations of their ineffable, effable, effanineffable, deep and inscrutable singular names. (T.S. Eliot, The Naming of Cats)”
Megan's cat Ari

Megan’s cat Ari



Tara's cat, Quincy

Tara’s cat, Quincy

Tara says, “I thank Quincy for guarding my book contact so carefully, and wish that he would send me (and all of my fellow Emus!) many more!” (Ed. note: Before I GIMPed him into outer space, he was very adorably curled up on top of Tara’s contract!)


Donna's cat, Mittens

Donna’s cat, Mittens

Donna would tell Mittens, “I’d like to have nine lives and a remote re-do button for life’s little snafus.”


Jennifer's cat Remy

Jennifer’s cat Remy

Jennifer would wish for self-cleaning litterboxes. And self-cleaning bathrooms too, while she’s at it.

Jennifer's cat Coco

Jennifer’s cat Coco


Lindsey's cat, Trouble

Lindsey’s cat, Trouble

Lindsey guessed what Trouble would tell her, “I will bless your manuscript by sleeping on it. Now hurry up and write it. I’m getting sleepy.”


Laurie's cat, Angel

My cat, Angel

If Angel could suddenly grant me a wish, I’d wish for more time: per moment, per day (and definitely per night), per year, and per lifetime.


We’d love to hear about your own furry feline companion(s) and what wish you’d like them to grant you! And remember, if you leave a comment below (or on any other post from this week), you’ll be entered to win a copy of STRANGE SWEET SONG of your very own.
Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule


Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations

Strange Sweet Song Launch: When Cats (and Other Dangerous Animals) Attack!

Strange Sweet Song by Adi RuleOutside Dunhammond Conservatory, there lies a dark forest. And in the forest, they say, lives a great beast called the Felix.

One of the most delicious aspects of Adi Rule‘s magnificent debut novel, Strange Sweet Songis the mysterious, murderous Felix–who may or may not really exist. But in honor of her legendary throat-ripping capabilities, we Emus have banded together to share stories of dangerous animal encounters that really did happen. We swear. (Some of us have even provided photographic evidence.)

Enjoy our tales, and please feel free to share some of your own in the comments!

Tara Dairman‘s Ape Escape:

My husband and I were hiking with a group near an orangutan preserve in Sumatra when an enormous orangutan with a baby on her back lumbered into our path. Our guide immediately recognized her as “Mina,” an orang so notoriously violent that she has her own warning box in the Indonesia Lonely Planet guide. He knew that she was after food, and threw her our fruit scraps to try to placate her. She ate them up…and then attacked him anyway. One moment he was standing there, and the next he was rolling around on the forest floor in a clench with an orangutan! He managed to get away with just a couple of bites, and we all tore down the trail as quickly as we possibly could. We’d already been hiking for hours and I had been exhausted just a minute before, but let me tell you: Adrenaline works wonders. I have never run so fast in my life.

Penny Parker Klostermann‘s Inception-worthy Insects:

In high school, I shared a room with my older sister. We had twin beds. One night she dreamed there were ants in her bed  . . . crawling everywhere. She woke me up and asked to join me in my bed only to wake me up about an hour later because she dreamed the ants were now crawling in my bed. She insisted I move to the living room couch with her. And, yes, she woke me AGAIN because now the ants in her dream were crawling all over the couch. She must have been pretty convincing because we got little sleep that night and I agreed to sleep on every bed, piece of furniture, floor, etc. in our house. I don’t have a picture of these ants to share, of course, but let’s just say they were scary and not to be deterred from following us from place to place in the wee hours of the night.

Lindsey Lane‘s Rat Restaurant Closure:

I heard it when I was writing. About 10 am. Rustle. Rustle. Scratch. Scratch. I knew it where it was. In the dog food cabinet. I knew it because I’d noticed a hole in the bottom of the dog food bag and little nuggets of grain-free goodness trickled out the bottom of the bag every time I pulled it out to feed the hound. I ignored the creature in the back of cabinet. We could co-exist, I thought. But every morning as I wrote, I imagined it growing bigger and bigger. Every evening, when I pulled out the dog food bag with a bigger and bigger hole, I imagined a gargantuan rat lolling in the cabinet with a belly only outsized by its teeth. I called a manly man friend. We went to the hardware store. He told me not to pussyfoot around with have-a-heart traps (they will always come back to their favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant, so to speak) or sticky-feet traps (ick…imagine listening to them gnaw their feet to escape). No, the best trap snaps its neck just as it is creeping toward the hole-in-the-wall special: a delicious bite of dog food slathered in peanut butter. A cruel twist of anticipation. So we set the trap. I sat down to write. I heard the rustle, the scratch, the SNAP. Silence. I wish I could say I gave it a decent burial. I didn’t. I did leave an empty, un-set trap in back of the cabinet. I think of it as a “closed for business” sign in the window of my hole-in-the-wall restaurant. So far, the restaurant remains empty.

Joshua McCune‘s Cheezy Tale:

Okay, not so much dangerous, unless you count possible exposure to rabies. Was at the Devil’s Punchbowl on the Oregon coast a few years back when several of the local residents scurried from the brush to surround me. They’re normally halfway hesitant around human folk, but not when you’ve got the scent of food on you. The chirped and chittered and finally I succumbed to their cuteness and sat among them, playing C-3P0 to their Ewok cuteness. The suckers swarmed me. I was no God to them, merely a hindrance on their quest to attain the delicious, almighty Cheez-It.

Squirrel in Box

Parker Peevyhouse‘s Adventures in Babymonkeysitting:

I once babysat a baby monkey. Here’s what it was like:

oh man oh man — a baby monkey I’m babysitting a baby monkey — this is the most adorable thing that has ever happened to me — how is this legal — it has its own baby blanket– so to recap, a baby monkey with a baby blanket — and a baby bottle!!! — it is so cute — so cute how it shows its pointy little teeth when it’s hungry — and makes that terrifying screech like it’s going to eat my face if i don’t feed it — is this at all legal — this is the most terrible thing that has ever happened to me

Christine Hayes‘s Husband’s Paper Route Rout:

When my husband was 11, his mom drove him around on the back of a moped to help him with his paper route. One fateful morning, an angry dog chased them down the street and actually bit my poor, defenseless husband-to-be on the uh…posterior. There were shots involved. Surprisingly, he is not afraid of dogs, but paper routes are another story!

Laurie Ann Thompson‘s Scream-Inducing Skull:

One of my earliest memories from childhood involved an animal encounter in the woods, not with a live animal, mind you, but with a dead one. It was an experience I’ll never forget, and remains one of the most terrifying experiences I’ve ever had in my life. I must’ve been around four years old, and had wandered past the edge of our lawn into the woods behind. Our beagle, Chipper, was on the scent of something interesting, and I tagged along behind him, secure in the knowledge that he would protect me as well as lead me back home again (obviously wrong on both counts, if you know anything about beagles). Anyway, he soon started baying and digging in the leaf litter. I expected to see a cute little bunny or something hiding there, but when I looked down into the hole I saw… a SKULL. And not just any skull, either, but one from a rather large carnivore, with strong jaws and very, very sharp teeth. The skull terrified me. The teeth terrified me. And now the darn dog had disturbed its resting place. I was sure it would exact revenge. I ran through the woods and across the yard as fast as I could, out of breath but somehow screaming the whole way. I was sure the skull was right behind me all the way, and the relief I felt when I finally slammed the house door shut behind me was immense. Somehow, all Chipper got out of the incident was a dirty nose, but it would be quite some time before I forgave his betrayal, and even longer before I would step into those woods again.


Amy Finnegan‘s Tropical Terrors:

I’ve had many dangerous animal encounters, mostly because there is a large number of animals—and insects—that scare the crap out of me. But allow me to summarize a recent trip to Costa Rica (no offense to this beautiful country, it just wasn’t a dream vacation this particular time). Within one hour of arriving, my 10-year-old was stung by an unknown insect that left a large welt on her back for about two months. The first night in our room, we were swarmed by giant red hornets that had made a nest in a ceiling light. The next night, a crazy bunch of enormous raccoons tried desperately to break through our sliding glass door. Then we discovered that, despite what the brochure said, monkeys are more likely to smear their feces on your shirt than cuddle with you. The next day, our lovely guided, two-hour tour on horseback had barely begun when I was bucked off and landed just inches from a sharp protruding rock that could’ve split my head in two. (“Sorry, Senorita! Your horse is muy loco!”) When moving my toddler’s blow up mattress, I found a shiny black scorpion under it. And then . . . and THEN . . . when driving our rental car the night before we returned home, I ran over a huge freaking PYTHON. Oh, but don’t worry, it scrunched up like an accordion right as I passed over it, and was just fine. I was not. But, my dear amigos, the iguanas were AWESOME!


Megan Morrison‘s Fearsome Felines:

They were small and black, breathing together, curled like one creature in the cage.  Eight legs.  Two heads.  One of them yawned, exposing sharp teeth and a ridged palate.  Against my better judgment, I brought the beasts home and set them free, unleashing a reign of terror. They urinated on my clothes.  They turned my wood furniture to sawdust with their claws.  They vomited in my bed and deposited hair in my ice cream.  Eight years later, I remain in their thrall, taking them to the vet and buying them Friskies pate. Their hold on me knows no end.

Giveaway reminder: Just leave a comment below (or on any other post from this week) to be entered to win a copy of STRANGE SWEET SONG. Feel free to share a dangerous animal encounter in your comment!


Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations

The Second Time Around

One of the pieces of advice I’ve heard most frequently from authors who have published multiple books is “Enjoy this time—you only debut once!”


You’re official! Now please rewrite this piece-of-dreck manuscript.*
(*Not an exact quote.)

For about a year after I sold my first book, I kind of got where they were coming from…but there was definitely another part of me that thought “Yeah, right. Because it’s sooo enjoyable is it to be a clueless noob about absolutely every single step of the publishing process!”

I regularly felt like I was flailing around in those months. I had no idea when to expect my contract, my editorial letter, my advance check. The conferences that more experienced authors referred to with casual ease sounded like alphabet soup to me. And let’s not even mention the looming challenge of how to promote a book when you have no fan base yet and zero name recognition.

But today, four months before my debut, I think I finally understand what those old hand authors were talking about. It just took selling a second book for me to get it.

Now, I’m absolutely ecstatic that All Four Stars will have a sequel. And this time around, I definitely feel more at-ease about the whole editorial process, since I’ve already been through it once. For instance, after I turned the manuscript for book two in to my editor, I found that I wasn’t constantly refreshing my inbox like I did after turning in book one; I was actually able to appreciate and enjoy the enforced time away from that story while I waited for her edits.

But I also have to admit that the things that felt like big milestones for me with my first book just haven’t been as thrilling this second time around.

I took copious pictures of myself signing my first book contract, and my first check. I may have squealed a little with delight when I received my first editorial letter, if only because every page had that official-looking Penguin logo. But that wasn’t really because other authors had told me to “enjoy it”—it was because these were pieces of hard evidence that my long-held dream of becoming a published novelist was really coming true.

The second time around, though, I just signed my contract quickly, wanting to get it back in the mail so my payment could get processed. When that payment came, I deposited the check with no fanfare. And as happy as I was to get my editorial letter for book two a few weeks ago, this time I didn’t squeal over how official it looked. I’d already done this once, so I knew how much work was ahead of me—and that I really needed to get right down to it.

So, I guess I’m on the brink of becoming one of those authors who warbles the song of experience, warning the whippersnappers that they’d better enjoy every little moment of their debut process, or else. “Never again will paperwork feel so exciting to you!” I’ll preach.

But you know what? I’m okay with becoming that person. Where I used to feel clueless and anxious, I now feel confident and…well, not exactly mellow, but at least a little more chill than I used to be. Publishing may not feel like a thrill a minute anymore, but overall, I think that the trade-off will be worth it.

Tara DairmanTara Dairman is a novelist, playwright, and recovering world traveler. All Four Starsher debut middle-grade novel about an 11-year-old who secretly becomes a New York restaurant critic, will be published on July 10, 2014 by Putnam/Penguin.

Find her online at taradairman.com, and on Twitter at @TaraDairman.


Filed under Advice, Book Promotion, Celebrations, Editor, Helpful or Otherwise, Satisfaction, Writing and Life

How Being a Debut Author Turned Me Into a Book-Buyer

In a recent newsletter from the Nelson Literary Agency, agent Sara Megibow said “Last year I spent $2,000 on books and $40 on clothes.”

As someone who hates clothes-shopping but loves books, this sounded about right to me!

The book that started it all.

The book that started it all for me.

I didn’t used to be a book-buyer, though. Eight years ago (eep!), when I lived in New York and was just starting to kick around the idea of trying to write a children’s novel, I owned the Harry Potter series and…that’s about it. And I won’t pretend that I went to the library much, either. Mostly I mooched books off friends who were big book-buyers and were generous enough to lend me whatever I wanted to borrow. I probably purchased two or three new books a year—if an author I loved did an event in town and I could get the book signed, or if something called out to me from a bargain bin.

Forgive me, fellow authors. Back then, I had only the vaguest ideas about how royalties worked, about how sales numbers affected authors’ abilities to keep getting deals for new books. I was much more immersed in the theater world, more attuned to the economic realities of trying to mount a profitable (or even break-even) off-off-Broadway show. So I had no problem forking over $18 a couple of times a week to support the production of a playwright or actor or director I knew. But when it came to spending that much money on a new book, I balked.

Nowadays, the situation is almost perfectly switched—I probably go to the theater three or four times a year, but I’m in my local bookstore every month, hauling home a new pile of books. What led to this change?’

Well, leaving New York probably helped; there’s just not as much must-see theater where I live now. And reading the fine print on my own book contract didn’t hurt either. Now I know exactly how many copies I’ll need to sell of my book to break even on my advance and, hopefully, one day start earning royalties.

But honestly, the biggest contributor to my change in book-buying habits is that I actually know a bunch of authors now.

I mean, as much as I liked to pretend that going to David Sedaris and Michael Chabon signings back in the day made us BFFs…we weren’t. But two years ago, when I was just starting to query agents, a mutual friend introduced me to a kidlit writer who had already an agent and a book deal. His advice and support during my own agent search was invaluable, and I remember the day, a few months later, when his first novel came out. I found it on the YA shelf at my local Barnes & Noble, and my heart leapt. My brain let out a string of excited (though thankfully internal) expletives. Holy #$%&! It’s my friend’s book! And, of course I had to own it. (This book, by the way, is the fabulous Fair Coin by E.C. Myers, which went on to win the Andre Norton award.)

Nowadays, I’m lucky to have that experience almost every time I walk into a bookstore. Thanks to my agency, OneFour Kidlit, Facebook, and Twitter, I’ve connected with a slew of published and soon-to-be-published kidlit authors whose work I’m excited to see out there.  It’s been one of the most unexpected but completely rewarding side effects of signing with an agent and selling a book.

The shelf-of-books-by-folks-I-know (minus several currently lent out to friends and students. Yes, I'm the book-lender now!)

The current shelf-of-books-by-folks-I-know (minus several currently lent out to friends and students. Yes, I’m the book-lender now!)

Now, I certainly don’t purchase every book I read—I couldn’t afford that. I make much more use of my local library now than I ever did in New York. But I try to at least buy new releases by authors I know personally (especially debut authors). And my borrowed books often lead to purchases these days, too; when I read a book I love that doesn’t quite seem to have achieved the bestseller status I think it deserves, I often go buy a copy or two to give kids I know as gifts or use for blog giveaways.

If someone had told me a few years ago that I’d one day have an entire shelf at home dedicated to books by authors I knew, I would have told them to get out of town. But I do, and I get warm fuzzies every time I look at it. 🙂


Speaking of buying books for giveaways, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and offer one commenter a free copy of the book that started this whole book-buying frenzy for me: Fair Coin by E.C. Myers! You can choose a hardcover, e-book, or the just-released audiobook version.

To enter, please leave a comment sharing how you choose which books to buy and which ones to borrow. We’ll announce a winner one week from today (on Monday, November 18).

Tara DairmanTara Dairman is a novelist, playwright, and recovering world traveler. All Four Starsher debut middle-grade novel about an 11-year-old who secretly becomes a New York restaurant critic, will be published in 2014 by Putnam/Penguin.

Find her online at taradairman.com.


Filed under Agents, Book Promotion

Cover reveal: ALL FOUR STARS by Tara Dairman!

Recipe for a delicious book cover:

Start with one strip of sparkling city skyline…
Skyline only

Stir in 22 mouth-watering desserts…
Desserts only

Add a dash of determined heroine…
Gladys only

Season with one generous scoop of lovely blurb…
Blurb only

And get an incredibly talented artist and design team to cook things up…

and maybe…

just maybe…

if you’re very lucky…

the stars will align…

stars only

and you’ll end up with something like this. 🙂

Gladys Gatsby has dreamed of becoming a restaurant critic for New York’s biggest newspaper—she just didn’t expect to be assigned her first review at age 11. Now, if she wants to meet her deadline and hang on to her dream job, she’ll have to defy her fast-food-loving parents, cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy, and battle Manhattan’s meanest maitre d’.

On a menu (by which I mean, in bookstores) near you in summer 2014. Hooray!

Many thanks to amazing cover artist Kelly Murphy (whom we’ve interviewed on Emu’s Debuts before!) and the design team at Penguin Young Readers Group for producing such a perfect cover for my story. Also, today I’m being interviewed by Krista Van Dolzer over at Mother.Write.Repeat. about this cover, the editorial process for All Four Stars, and its sequel-in-progress, so feel free to stop by over there, too, if you’d like a little more behind-the-scenes info on any of those things!

Tara DairmanTara Dairman is a novelist, playwright, and recovering world traveler. All Four Stars, her debut middle-grade novel about an 11-year-old who secretly becomes a New York restaurant critic, will be published in 2014 by Putnam/Penguin.

Find her online at taradairman.com.


Filed under cover art, Illustrators, Promotion