Wednesday, May 27, 2015

reading roundup

I am in the middle of drafting a new project, and (as is my custom) I've gotten a bit stuck sorting out the stakes for my characters. So I've turned to reading, which usually helps unlock the creative side of my brain. Here's what I've been reading this weekend:

1. The Sky Is Everywhere

From Amazon: Adrift after her sister Bailey's sudden death, Lennie finds herself torn between quiet, seductive Toby—Bailey's boyfriend who shares her grief—and Joe, the new boy in town who bursts with life and musical genius. Each offers Lennie something she desperately needs... though she knows if the two of them collide her whole world will explode.

Join Lennie on this heartbreaking and hilarious journey of profound sorrow and mad love, as she makes colossal mistakes and colossal discoveries, as she traipses through band rooms and forest bedrooms and ultimately right into your heart.

I read this while visiting my friend's cabin at Fish Lake. The others went off to hike at Bryce and I stayed behind to read and write (I love Bryce, but I was in the mood for solitude.) Good thing, too, since there was some light ugly-crying during a particularly poignant scene. Highly recommended.

2. The Duff

From Amazon: Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper may not be the prettiest girl in her high school, but she has a loyal group of friends, a biting wit, and a spot-on BS detector. She's also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush, who calls Bianca the Duff--the designated ugly fat friend--of her crew.

But things aren't so great at home and Bianca, desperate for a distraction, ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn't such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she's falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

I won't lie, I was pretty disappointed by the movie. (It was fine, but don't hype something as the next Mean Girls unless it's actually funnier than Mean Girls -- the nostalgia gives MG the edge every time.) And it took me a few different tries to get into the book. But once I cracked the beginning, I was hooked.

Fair warning: If you loved the movie, just know that the only thing it has in common with the book are characters and premise. The plots are wildly different.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

the best date

Last week, Gentleman Caller came over to make me dinner. We realized, though, that his recipe was going to take an hour and a half, so we put all of his groceries in the fridge and walked up to the Middle Eastern restaurant by my house. It was raining so we crowded under one umbrella.

The restaurant was awesome, as always, and filled with golden light. Luckily we were able to be seated right away, even though we didn't have reservations. Afterward, we tried to stop at the bookstore on the way back to the house, but it was already closed. We decided to come back the next day and buy two books -- one for me, one for him, and then we'd swap once we were both done reading.

We went back to my house and watched World War Z with Spencer on the couch.

Oh, and one other thing.

Between Gentleman Caller coming over to my house, and us realizing we were too hungry for a home cooked dinner?

He proposed.

So that was the best date ever.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

the worst dates: a rundown

1. Root beer barrels

He kept dozens of root beer barrels (you know, those old-timey candies?) in his pockets. He'd finish sucking on one, immediately unwrap the next and pop it into his mouth. He never offered me a single one and kept them tucked into his cheek when we talked he just slurped around his root beer barrel spit.

2. The writer

I thought this one might be promising, because who doesn't want to hang out with fellow writers? As it turns out, though, dating them might be a bridge too far. When I told this guy I'd just finished a college-set romantic comedy, he openly rolled his eyes and said, "Aren't romantic comedies scraping the bottom of the literary barrel?"

3. The guy who bragged about sinking someone else's shot of getting into an MBA program.

4. The guy texted me to let me know he missed me after one date.

5. The special delivery

Once upon a time, I was in a sorority. As you may know from your own sorority days (or watching Legally Blonde), sororities hold dances once a semester. My sorority generally did a formal in the fall and a cocktail party in the spring.

The spring dance of my sophomore year, I found myself without a date so my cousin Alli and I decided to go stag together. On the drive there, my friend Sadie called and asked if her boyfriend (a Sigma Chi) could bring his friend as my date. I said sure.

Alli and I sat down to our dinners. Sadie, her date, and my "date" were nowhere to be found. They finally arrived forty-five minutes late with Sadie in tears. I pulled her into the bathroom and asked what was wrong.

"They stopped under an overpass and sold someone drugs!" she said. "I just had to sit in the car and watch!"

So that's how I ended up stuck at the Provo Country Club with a drug dealer.

6. The guy who I am fairly certain only pantomimed putting money in the bill fold, grabbed my hand, and dragged me out of the restaurant before the waitress came back.

7. The poly guy

This is another online scenario. I went out with this guy 3 or 4 times and he seemed great -- cute, smart, polite. On our first date, a random barista stopped by our table to tell us, "This may be weird, but you guys are an extremely good-looking couple." (Yes, I assume the guy asked the barista to say that when I wasn't around, BUT STILL.)

We were supposed to have dinner at my house one night when he texted me and asked if he could call me. This was worrisome, obviously, because people only call when there's something bad to be said -- and after 3 or 4 dates, there really can't be anything bad.

But it turned out, this guy was just confessing that he "wasn't a player," but he also "wasn't interested in monogamy." It took a few pointed questions to get him to admit that he wasn't merely saying he wanted to keep things casual -- he wanted me to be one of his many, many girlfriends.

Weirdly though, he didn't yet have ONE girlfriend, so talk about putting the cart before the horse.

Friday, May 1, 2015

interview: Patrick Muir and marketing

Next up on the interview series is Patrick Muir! Patrick and I went to college together and I highly recommend his advice. (I usually find myself asking for it every few months!)

Patrick has his MBA and has worked in marketing for several large corporations around the country. Patrick also spent several years in marketing with Shadow Mountain, a small publishing imprint that launches new authors and gets national distribution. James Dashner, Ally Condie, and Brandon Mull all started their careers with Shadow Mountain before getting picked up by larger publishers.

What was the most effective marketing strategy that a publisher could utilize?

Patrick: In my opinion the most effective strategy (whether at a small or large publishing company) is to gain distribution. The more book stores the product is sold in generally means more books will be sold.

What was the most effective marketing strategy that an AUTHOR could utilize?

Patrick: The most effective marketing strategy an author should focus on driving trial of their product. What I mean by driving trial is that the author should focus on tactics that get potential readers to sample the product.Those tactics should vary depending on the target audience and genre.  

For example, the author of The Happiness Project wrote a blog post everyday for a year about happiness. Readers could read sample her writing by reading her blog which translated into book sales. There are a ton of different tactics to drive trial. 

Is there anything you would tell a publisher or author to NOT do? 

Patrick: I would tell them not to schedule a book tour without investing significant resources into driving trial. A book tour is not a trial driving activity. Instead, it is an activity to connect with existing customers and further the relationship. 

If you were going to give an author fifteen minutes of your professional advice, what would you tell them to do?

Patrick: Ask yourself where in Barnes & Noble would my book sit, specifically? The reason to ask this question is to make sure you are creating a story for a niche audience. Don't try to write a book for everyone. It's easier to sell a book to an agent, publisher, and the end reader if the book fits into an existing customer group perfectly. 

If you have any questions for Patrick, leave them in the comments and I'll make sure he sees them! Thanks!