Tips for YA Lit: Don't make writing New Year's resolutions

Tips for YA Lit: 

Don't make writing 
New Year's resolutions

Every year, on this particular day, people make New Years' resolutions. A lot of writers do it too. I used to, but now I don't. Well, I do something a little different.

Just like any other resolution people make that fall to the wayside because of life's complications and struggles--dieting, exercise, cutting back on vices, etc.--whatever writing resolutions you make will most likely fall to the wayside as well. The only possible way to fulfill a resolution is to permanently change your life for at least the entire upcoming year. Daunting prospect.

I'm not trying to be negative, but realistic. If you could write more, brush up on grammar, get published, go to conferences--whatever your goal may be--you could've done it by now. We're creatures of habit and habits are hard to break. Life is busy. Life is hard. This is why we probably have forgone resolutions in the past. For example, saying you want to write more is pointless, unless you instead alter your life to leave more room for writing: putting a kid in preschool, cut off your cable to not watch TV--something drastic.

Every year on this day, I would toast to my goal of getting published. "This will be my year" was my motto. Every year, things would come up to prevent me from getting it together and sending queries out. Every year I was distracted by the art of creating and dreaded the art of selling my work. For only a couple years of the last decade, I tried very hard, stuck to my 52 queries in a year resolution, but no leads panned out into representation. It made me depressed, hopeless. I thought I must be a terrible writer. "This will be my year" turned into "It's never gonna happen." Time and time again, I am too hard on myself and set unrealistic and difficult goals that end in disappointment.

This last year, I made no resolutions. I hoped as always I would finally get that book published, but I made no plans at all to make it happen. And here's how my year went. I wanted to write something shorter for fun. I found a novella contest, entered, won a spot in an anthology. Then I queried these publishers, got my debut novel published. Queried another publisher, getting my second novel published next summer. Both these novels were picked up on Twitter pitch parties that I entered on a whim, only having found out about them the morning of.

My point (no, it's not to endlessly brag) is I had no plans, no self-imposed resolutions or goals. Without that stress and obsession with trying to query (I think I sent out 8 altogether the entire year), my year was relaxing. I had things ready, but I put no pressure on myself to try to reach goals that might never be attainable. With this subjective industry, things sometimes just need to be the right place at the right time. Setting up resolutions or lofty goals sets people up for disappointment and, for me, intense stress and anxiety. Being prepared for everything and then throwing your all into chances that pop up is much more rewarding. If you gain anything, it's a bonus; if nothing comes of it, it's okay. There was no pressure, no goal.

Of course, some people have that magical ability to see their resolutions through. If you are one, you're freakin' amazing! And I myself can't help but to have goals, but I make them easy and realistic. I want to publish 2 books in 2019, but I already have one coming out, so halfway there. I want to write a sequel to that book so it will be ready to publish in 2020. I want to get 2 of the many manuscripts I have revised into a querying position. If these don't happen, that's fine. I'll continue these into 2020, like a phone with rollover data. But the point is, I'm not resolving to do anything. I'm not setting myself up for stress and disappointment. I'm going to be ready, for sure, but I'm not hinging my year's happiness on attaining these resolutions.

Have a happy New Year and be kind to yourself by ditching resolutions and creating soft goals. You never know what can happen if you relax and just let things happen instead of intensely focusing on them. Here's to 2019 being a year to remember, not to stress over.

Tales in Publishing: Book Launch Parties

Tales in Publishing: 
Book Launch Parties

I was publishing my first novel. It has always been a dream of mine to have a book launch party.

I imagine all my friends at a restaurant I've reserved, toasting drinks to my accomplishment. There would be a special menu made involving foods drizzled in honey--since my book was about bees--a menu catered by theme. I'd invite a beekeeper I had spoken to before and bring literature on how we could save the bees, take donations for a foundation to help them. At the party, there would be copies of my book, door prizes, and swag for people to take with them. I'd sign books for adoring fans and friends. It would be an amazing charity event, book launch, book signing...birthday party.

When I realized the book was coming out on a couple weeks prior to my birthday, I figured I had to make this happen ... until I started doing the math. Even though I know a few venues who might let me do this for free, I couldn't afford all the rest. It's pricey enough buying bulk of your book to sell, even if you will make it back. Add in the swag--book marks, mugs, door prizes--the food, and open bar, the budget swelled beyond affordability. The idea fizzled out inversely to the budget's inflation.

I moved on to thinking about going to a book store to do a signing instead. But I only have one book and a novella, and it wouldn't be something my friends would be dying to go to nor something I'd want to do on my birthday. I feared a book signing so early in my career would embarrassingly flop.

So the question remained, how could I launch a book affordably while celebrating my success? I had published a novella prior so understood what a virtual book launch party was. That was my affordable solution.

I'm still determined to celebrate in style one day. However, not having a hefty budget, I opted for the online book launch. The only thing it cost me was time and a little cash for prizes. It was a great
compromise and successful. Below are some of the things that worked for me.

  • I used Facebook. Probably still the best place for an interactive launch.
  • Slot a couple hours at at time where most people are free. I did a Friday, 6-8 pm. 
  • Advertise it, a lot. Start with inviting friends, some family, and people from the writing community. If you have a following, invite them obviously. 
  • I didn't get a huge response of "going" right away but a lot of "interested." People rarely like to commit to something unless they know they'll be there for sure. I sent a personal message the day prior to every interested person to remind them. I think the personal touch swayed a lot of them to come.
  • Play a couple games to win prizes. Here, you have to be careful. I read it is against Facebook policy to have contests, so I clearly stated "random winners will be drawn." You should also say that the contest has nothing to do with Facebook. The games I played were fact finding where some of their posts led to details about the book I could give hints about. The other was the common meme/gif prompt of their current situation which is always entertaining.
  • I posted frequently to keep people interested (averaging every 6 minutes). That is a lot of posts, but I wanted a fast-paced atmosphere. I've been to book launches that were slow and I'd lose interest and walk away from my computer/phone. Then I would lose track of time and not be as involved as I wanted to be. 
  • How can you manage so many posts and respond to readers? Two things, vary the posts so that some ask them provocative questions (where you'll need to respond), some are a game (where you can simply like posts), and some should just be pictures, descriptions, links, and excerpts (no follow up needed). Second, Facebook Event has a fairly new feature where you can schedule posts. It took me about a half hour to set up all my posts, but then it automatically did everything for me leaving me free to comment the entire time. It was less stressful.
  • Of course you need prizes. I had a color changing mug with the book cover on it (Etsy $12 with shipping) and a $15 gift card to my publishing company. I was contemplating more prizes if more people were attending, but then the writing community helped me out.
  • A couple fellow authors jumped in to offer prize books, a win-win collaboration: they get some publicity and my launch gets more prizes. So I gave them the last 20 minutes of my two hours, and my partygoers got 3 more books.
  • I planned ahead. Instead of "going live" I recorded videos the night before. Screencast-O-Matic is free, simple, and compatible software. I created my posts, schedule, and content a week prior. I got on the computer an hour before go-time only to realize it couldn't upload videos without crashing. I moved onto my work computer and everything was fine. If I had waited until the last minute, I would've started late or not been able to upload and schedule my posts ahead of time.
  • Definitely do a video. It is more personable. I opened and closed with videos, one to welcome people and tell them about the inspiration for the novel, the second to conclude and to read an excerpt from the book. 
In all, a virtual book launch is a must. I'm contemplating doing one in tandem with an in person one for the next book, but it all depends on the budget.

YA Book Review: Feyland: The Dark Realm (book 1)

YA Book Review: 

The Dark Realm 

Recently, I "purchased" a free anthology of first books in series which comprised of seven novels. One of them I already owned and enjoyed reading, so I figured it would be worth my time even if I only enjoyed one of the remaining 6. This is a common practice done to try to get readers hooked into a series with a free or very low priced first novel.

It starts with Feyland: The Dark Realm, a first novel in a series written by Anthea Sharp. I was pleasantly surprised with the novel, after being unsure about the premise, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The story centers around the wealthy Jannet Carter inside a virtual reality game facing the Faerie Queene, losing much more than she bargained for. Jannet must somehow get back into the game and win it, only she needs a "champion" to do so for her. This leads her to leave everything in her life behind and move to a new town due to her father--and his prototype gaming simulator--being transferred. Here, in a rundown, crime ridden town, she searches hopelessly for the best gamer around to help her who happens to be Tam Linn, a closed-off boy with a complicated home life and poverty stricken upbringing that clashes with her exorbitantly wealthy lifestyle. Together they must fight obstacles in the real and fantasy-sim world and all before a certain date or they won't just lose themselves or their autonomy, but the real world as they know it.

The premise seemed to be out of my taste range, since it seemed to blend genres and I'm no gamer. And yet, the world building in both the Earth future and the simulated virtual reality game was astounding and well done to the point that the reader feels as if there's no game, but a real fantasy world. As a person well read in mythology, I thoroughly enjoyed this well-researched and uniquely envisioned fairy-world. The fact it was in a game made it much more plausible and less fantastical. I'm impressed with the mix of dystopian and fantasy themes, and the well-rounded characters full of rich character building issues. I absolutely love Tam.

I really have no negatives to say, except I felt the ending was done so well and things ended so perfectly that I don't want another novel. Tam and Jannet ended on such a positive note that I'd rather see two new characters in another faerie world than spoil their happy-for-now ending. I didn't look into the second book yet, but when things end so perfectly, I'm not sure what the author will do next--deepen the relationship (yes, please), break them up (no!), or insert new love interest (ugh, another love triangle)?

Despite my worry of where it will go, I do want to know, so it will go on my wishlist for the future. For now, I'll move on to other books. If you'd like this bargain anthology that I know has at least two great books in it (so far), here's the link below.

Buy the 7-book anthology SPARK: Seven Fantastic First-In-Series

Tales in Publishing: Query example

Tales in Publishing: 
Query example

I'm sharing my successful query to others in hopes it exemplifies what to do and helps other authors craft their own. Queries are one of the most difficult things for an author to do. From trying to sell yourself to buttering up the recipient, by far the hardest part is to condense your book baby down to blurbs.

For those who are brand new to the scene, if you want to go the more traditional route of publishing (not self-publishing), you usually will need to send a query letter off to publishers and/or agents to get their attention in hopes they'll read your entire manuscript, love it, and represent you. Sounds pretty simple, but there's a format to follow, expectations, and things you should do to to increase your chances. The letter itself is in white and the explanations are in red.

Dear AGENT'S NAME (unless they specify not to send it to one person),

What happens if bees go extinct? In the not so distant future, scientifically modified Emlyn and Ace find themselves thrown into the role of saviors on a perilous mission where their tenuous relationship could save or destroy mankind. (This is your pitch/hook, so sum up the premise, plot, and main characters in a couple sentences. Imagine you must sell the book with only this statement. I spent the most time on this, revising, revising, revising).

Recently, Evernight Teen published my story “Dare” in the Kissed Anthology. (This can appear later, but I wanted them to recognize me as one of their authors from the start) Let me now introduce you to Apidae, a completed YA dystopian romance novel of 55,000 words imbued with eco-fiction and sci-fi themes. (This is standard. Up front they need to know the genre, length, and the sub-genres might make them see it as unique and worth reading) Since as long as she could remember, Emlyn Apidae had always known she was different. A life as a rebel orphan on the run, a governmental agency constantly after her, and her weird relationship to her kindred species, bees, all set her apart from others. That is until she meets Ace, the cocky walking weapon who is just like her, and apparently the one person mentioned in her mother’s last words. Ace, after a stint as a double agent, finally is united with the girl who is his destiny and mission, only to find her beautiful but prickly. Due to their toxic venom, she is the only woman he can ever have a life with and him for her, only Emlyn doesn’t seem to like ultimatums and secrets even less. As the war between rebels and the corrupt government closes in, Ace is bent on self-sacrifice for love and revenge, while Emlyn must choose between her heart and the future of mankind. (This is the synopsis part, quite difficult to condense hundreds of pages to a paragraph, so start small and add details later. Here, I gave everything you need to know without spoilers, subplots, or other characters. I let the reader get to know the two protagonists, their situation--complications and plot--and a vague climax that makes the readers want to know the ending.)

Blending a teenage love story into seemingly hopeless settings and a nonstop action filled plot seems an arduous task, but having BA’s in English, Dramatic Arts, and an MA in English, gives me a vast background of knowledge of character and world building. I’ve published two shorter works, “A Jaded Life” (in Literary Journal Circumambulations) and “Dare” (in Evernight Teen’s Kissed Anthology), and I am also a college English Lecturer. (This is your resume. You only put what you think is relevant to writing. From my experience, they love to hear about degrees in English, and a list of formerly published works is a necessity. If you don't have any, think about working on smaller works to be published on websites, anthologies, literary magazines, popular magazines, etc. Previous works prove that you have what it takes and they'll feel confident taking a chance on you) I strongly believe in the effectiveness of publicity through social media and blogging; however, I am looking for representation in the center of the publishing world to champion my full-length manuscripts. It would be a pleasure to work with an established publishing company such as PUBLISHING CO/AGENCY which truly fosters a welcoming community of authors and staff. It would be a pleasure to extend the relationship already fostered with your company. (Here, you butter them up a bit through researching their site, company, and/or agent. I didn't do much here but remind them they knew me and worked with me. What could go here is flattering them through facts of famous authors they represent, bestselling books they represent, etc. Do your research. Make sure it is personalized for that person or company. You could tell them your book would pair well with their interest in quirky fantasy, for example, if that is true).

I look forward to hearing from you soon and humbly thank you for your time. (Here you might want to add some phrasing asking if you can send them your full-length manuscript or something in addition to whatever they asked for with this query. Pay attention to their submissions website. My publisher asked for the entire manuscript, so there was no need to ask. Some ask for first 3 chapters, 50 pages, a 2 page synopsis, etc. If they do not ask for the entire thing, then ask them if they want it.)


Lisa Borne Graves

(Put in all your links; if you don't employ social media, set it up, as publishers and agents expect you to employ it. If you are serious about your writing, buy a domain name. They're pretty cheap. If you are published, create author pages and link them.)


Overall, this is probably the sixth query letter I've drafted. The first one I based off of other authors' letters and helpful blogs. I also had a published colleague edit my first one for me which really helped tremendously. By the third one, it became much easier. If you struggle, that is completely normal. A lot of authors complain about queries. I don't mind it so much. I write them as soon as I'm finished the rough draft for two reasons: the story is fresh in my mind and so I have time to perfect it, editing it as I edit my stories.
If the query sparked your interest, you can buy the novel here.

Birth Announcement: It's a Book! World, meet Apidae

Birth Announcement: 

It's a Book! 
World, meet Apidae

I am overjoyed to bring to you my debut novel, Apidae, which was released November 30th. You can purchase a digital version here and a print version here.

First, the best feeling ever--okay, well the second best since the first is getting your novel accepted for publication--is seeing the cover. I try not to have any expectations about the cover and refuse to let myself picture it. I trust in those who the experts, the graphic designers. I have a feeling, I'd accept any cover as long as it wasn't cheesy, but when I opened the mockup of my novel, Jay Aheer (Evernight Teen Publishing's graphic designer) did not disappoint. I absolutely love the cover. The hint of characters at the bottom is just what I wanted since it still allows the readers to picture the characters how they see them. The warm color palate and the hint of the background alludes to the setting of a pivotal scene (no spoilers). I love the font which is very computer-like which is fitting as part of the story hinges on the transportation of sensitive data. The colors are warm and yet dry and brittle, like the lingering hope in the desolate world I've created. The bees help explain the's perfect!
Also, as part of marketing, I decided to make a commercial. Not having used PowerPoint in this way before (totally rethinking lesson plans now that I got creative), I was at a loss of how to use music, find properly sized photos, etc. all while trying not to break copyright laws. I tried to go the easy route. I found a very helpful man out there who has made template commercials for authors and downloaded one free. I had planned to change a couple things to make it fit for my book but found at first it was difficult. It took me a while to get the hang of it and then I wouldn't stop perfecting it. I had way too much fun making this ... in the beginning, that is.

Had this puppy ready to go but when I transferred it into movie format, the sound was lost. I tried multiple things, Googled the subject to death and there was no solution (except really long-winded, ridiculous fixes). I tried Windows Movie Maker which said it was free and made a great ad with music, but you can't download without paying. Should've seen that one coming. So I decided to upload the video into iMovie instead. Then I realized that iMovies has a much slower pace for graphics than PowerPoint which made it painfully long. Lots of cropping happened and I was sad to see some of the transition graphics go but timing was more important than pizzazz. Next, the music selection was extremely limited to be honest. I searched and found apps to download royalty free music to transfer into iTunes, but nothing worked. Last, I simply went on iTunes and searched for royalty free music, bought a song for 99 cents and uploaded that. Here is the result.

Some pointers:
  1. Find an already made template that is fitting for you
  2. Search for websites with free, copyright-free photos. Pexels is one I like to use.
  3. The same as number two for music. iTunes is very useful.
  4. Play around with apps' features. I perfected it in PowerPoint or so I thought when I got to iMovies.
  5. Make it yours. It's a way to get your book out there but also shows a bit about your personality.
  6. Research and play around first. I wish I did a practice run for fun because it became time consuming and frustrating.
In all, the creation was fun, the technology was hindering, but the end result was worth it.


Tales in Publishing: Query example

Tales in Publishing:  Query example I'm sharing my successful query to others in hopes it exemplifies what to do and helps other au...