Friday, 31 August 2012

Dodgy Spies With An Awesome Prize: A 25 Page, Author Critique!

Today I'm hosting the final stop in Kelley York's HOLLOWED blog tour, and to say I'm ridiculously excited would be like saying— well, something equally accurate. Why? Because myself, Kelley and the fabulous Nyrae Dawn (author of five books, with more on the way and an interview coming up on this blog), are giving away a massive prize! And the best part is, it's interactive...

See, as you'll all know from the blog tour, Hollowed is not just an awesome New Adult novel. It's also a mystery, and so for this prize you'll need to do some sleuthing. First, get yourself a Sherlock Holmes hat and pipe (or if, like many writers, you're afraid of the outside world, simply imagine yourself in one).

OK so it's technically not a Sherlock Hat,
and the old man I stole it from didn't have a pipe,
but when your mystery-solving pose looks this good...

Next, check out the video interview I did with Kelley and answer the four super mysterious questions in the rafflecopter widget below (you'll earn five entries for each one you answer). To be extra sneaky and secretive we made sure the video can only be viewed here, so you better put on sunglasses before you watch it so no-one sees you.

Once you've got your answers, it's time to duck behind a newspaper and do some stalking. Follow us on twitter for one entry per twerson (yes, it's a word) and on our blogs for ten entries per blog.

And what do you get?

A 25 page critique from Kelley.
A signed ARC of Hushed. (It's her last one. Ever. I'd say that pretty much makes it an antiquity).
A signed Hushed bookmark. (Not that you'll need it, since you won't be able to stop reading).
An e-copy of Hollowed from Kelley.
An e-copy of Measuring Up from Nyrae.
And since I wanted to join in the spirit of giving, I'll throw in a good deed for you too. I'm no professional writer but I've been studying the publishing/writing industry for 3 years now to perfect my own work so I'd be happy to offer a beta read for you, or you could do a guest post on my blog to gain some potentially new viewers, or if you've got work coming out I can chip in to your publicity efforts. Whatever you like, I'd love to work something out. :)

The contest ends at the very mysterious and in no way suggested by rafflecopter time of 12:01 am, September 7. Happy sleuthing, and thank you so much to Kelley and Nyrae for giving me this opportunity, and to everyone for participating! (I mean, no-one. You were never here, right?)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, 24 August 2012

Better than Bingo at a Knitting Club Tea-party: A Review

G'day all, and happy weekend. Like most twenty-three-year-olds I'm spending my Friday night drinking tea, swaddling myself in my pinkest of old-lady dressing gowns and writing a book review, and I thought you might like to join me. Under the spotlight this week is Kelley York's newly released New Adult novel, HOLLOWED. And since I'm looking rather old and wise at the moment, I'll try and sound that way too.

Firstly, the novel is written in that damn-fangled new style called New Adult. I don't know what kids today think of such a thing, but I thoroughly enjoyed diving into a genre which features a new type of main character (i.e. a normal, independent teen with bills and jobs and vampire-fighting kittens). I also loved the fact that although this is a vampire story, there wasn't a trace of stereotypical vampirism. It was refreshing to see that characterization was more important, and that what the book lacked in fangs, it made up for in personalities and back-stories. I'd like to have seen some extra dimensions in a couple of members of the supporting cast but they were still thoroughly likeable in their simple way, and the entire novel was already rich and detailed enough as it was.

The plot in particular worked very well, especially from a writer's point of view. It was great to see the addition of layers and the continual increase in conflict and tension, as well as real examples of how to leave clues and build enough suspense to pull off a satisfying ending. I did guess one of the subplots, but there were so many twists throughout the storyline that I could never have been fully certain I was right. And what made me even happier than bingo night at a knitting club tea-party, is that I’ve rarely read books which ended with such a thorough sense of closure.

The world-building was also solid without bogging the reader down with too much description, and I really enjoyed the variety of settings - particularly the fascinating Old Town, which I'd love to visit. On top of that the editing was tight, thorough, and never once left me feeling like I was being told instead of shown or getting buried in an information dump. Kelley has great voice in her writing, whether that's through setting a scene or painting a character into life, and the entire novel reads like one of a real veteran in her craft. I've had my eye on another of Kelley's books for a long time now, so I was thrilled to receive my very own Hollowed ARC for review. And with my own personal score of eight out of ten, it turned out better than a pair of slippers and an early night.

Next week I'll be hosting Kelley, right here, for the final day of her Hollowed blog tour. I've got a mystery contest lined up, including a top secret video where we talk self-publishing, writing and book promotions, and more about New Adult. So hang on to your dentures, folks, because there'll be books and critiques and goodies galore to give away.

Update: Dodgy Spies With An Awesome Prize is now running, so sneak on over and check it out!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Query Workshop - Win A Seat!

Forgive me, I lied, you don't actually win a real seat. For one thing, literary agents rarely consider seat-ownership as a benchmark for requestable material. For another, my taste in home wares is appalling. However what I can offer you is the chance to win one of three query critiques from the fabulous Brenda Drake of Brenda Drake Writes… under the influence of coffee. And for those who've already perfected their query or are already promoting their work, there's lots of fun and learning too.

That's right, fun and learning. As if a seat has anything on that.

To get involved, check out our chat on building an author platform by creating a successful blog, AKA Interview With A Blog-pire, and leave a comment. Brenda will pick three winners and announce them on her blog on August 22, so don't forget to drop by again in a couple of days. And stay tuned for more interviews too - I'm planning to irritate a whole series of successful bloggers about how they built such effective online presences, so there'll be fun and learning and hopefully more giveaways to come.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Interview With A Blog-pire

First things first, I accept that blog-pire isn't a word. Second things first, I want to start today’s post with an oath: I never sit at my computer hitting refresh on my blog stats tracker, hoping that a thousand new hits will magically appear in the time it takes my page to reload.

I swear.

Anyway, while I was at my computer a few days ago, working away on my synopsis and definitely not even looking at my stats dashboard, I had an idea. Why not interview successful bloggers on how they’ve built up their platform so well? Brilliant? My mum thinks so. And so without further ado, I present an interview with Brenda Drake, creator of Brenda Drake Writes… under the influence of coffee.

Recognise it? You should, because it's a wealth of inspiration for any aspiring blogger. Her latest contest, posted only hours ago, already has nearly 200 entries. She has 986 followers on Google Friend Connect and Networked Blogs. And her page-views are sitting at a tidy one-hundred-and-sixty-four-thousand, four-hundred-and-seven! I can’t even say that number aloud without needing to stop for a breather. So how does she do it? Brenda, you tell us…

Thanks Kat. I hadn't a clue what to do when I first started blogging. That first year, I think I only posted nine times. But during that time, I read and commented on other blogs -- followed and gained followers. I happened upon blogfests and participated in some and held some of mine own. I hosted a contest to generate more followers, and found I enjoyed them. I loved the excitement and how the community came together to help each other with their work. That's when I decided to dedicate my efforts to holding contests and workshops.

Running contests are a lot of work, but the rewards are amazing. I remember how nervous I was to show anyone my work when I first came out of my writing cave, but I had entered contests and each time I made it into them, I felt that maybe my writing really didn't suck that bad. When you enter a contest, you don't have to tell anyone you joined, especially if you don't make the cut. But when you make the cut, you feel your work is finally good enough.

I do give away books sometimes in between contests and workshops for writers who've asked. I think caring and being genuine helps to get followers coming back. Offering things your followers can use or learn from is the key. Most importantly, posting frequently is important. I've skipped over blogs and never gone back to them because they hadn't posted in months. I follow back. You reap what you sow.

People always ask how I got agents to participate in contests. It's really simple, I ask. I use a catchy (non-spammer type) email to pique their interests, and they really are kind and will usually answer. Also, it helps when the contest has a fun concept and if you generate buzz for the contest. Once they join in, I brag and praise them on Twitter and my blog.

Awesome – I bet my four followers are rushing out to try it now! Anyway in that first year, did you gain many followers from just commenting on other blogs? Or did you have to interact with people and let them know you'd followed them and find that some followed you back?

I did, but it was slow moving. I never told anyone I followed them. I would just follow and comment on their recent post. Most times, they followed back. I'm less likely to follow a blog if I have to do it by email. My email gets clogged. I prefer having a linky to sign up on. That way I can go through my Blogger feed or my Networked Blogs feed, skim the titles, and read the posts that interest me. Making it convenient for your readers is key. 

Did you have many followers when you started running your own blogfests? If not, how did you get people involved?

I first participated in others' blogfests. I'd follow everyone in the blogfest and comment on their entry. When I felt I had enough followers, I ran my own blogfest. It was during my blogfests that I noticed a spike of participants when I had them enter something from their manuscripts. Writers love to get help with their writing, I do, anyway. I soon offered prizes and my follower list grew.

Did you learn any specific tricks about what makes a good contest? 

I think the buzz. You have to get the buzz going on Twitter and any social media where you have friends/followers. I tweet about my contests during prime times and thank whoever retweets. Except lately, some of my contests generate so many retweets I can't possibly thank everyone or I'll bug my followers. So I'll do a blanket 'thank you'. I try to be gracious and humble. And, if I have time and know the answer, I'll help writers out.

And finally, you tell me you’ve got your own book coming out in 2014. Care to give us a quick blurb?

Sure. LIBRARY JUMPERS is about sixteen-year-old, Gia Kearns, who discovers that with a simple flip of a page she can transport into any library of her choosing, thus thrusting her into a Mystik world, hidden behind the bookcases of the greatest libraries in the world, where evil abounds, secrets unfold, and mortals are running out of time.

Wow, wow, wow. Can I just say I already want to live in that book? Best of luck, and thank you for your wise words today. To anyone reading this, feel free to post any questions and I’ll chase up the answers. I'm also planning a series of interviews with other successful bloggers, so stay tuned for more. And if you can help me spread the word, I'll love you all to the end of days!