Ridiculously Late Winner Post

My excuse reason for the lateness: insane amount of drafting. Insane.

Thankfully, the winner is abundantly lovely and gracious and forgiving.

So, without further ado, the winner of JB Lynn's Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman is:


Yay, Kim!!!!

Okay. Back to my writing cave. Send chocolate.

An Embarrassingly Late Interview with JB Lynn


So this fall has been kind of interesting. As soon as I found out that JB Lynn's second book FURTHER CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN was coming out  I e-mailed her and said I wanted to do an interview with her in October to celebrate its release because I lurrrrved the first book so much. Let it be known that JB got the questions back to me uber-promptly. Because she is awesome that way. Way before October. In fact, in the beginning of September. In fact, a few days after I found out I was pregnant.

Yep. I'm preggers. Total shocker. Didn't think it could happen the easy way. Due next spring. It was a rough first trimester. I'm not quite ready to talk about it yet. What I am ready to talk about is JB Lynn's awesome books.

Without further ado, my interview with the fabulous JB Lynn (And a giveaway at the end!):

K: Thank you so much for doing the interview! 

JB: Thanks so much for having me, Karen.

(Ooh, see! Also really polite.) First, can you tell me a little about the series?

CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN is about the adventures, or more appropriately, the misadventures of Maggie Lee.

She is not your average hitwoman. For one thing, she’s never killed anyone. For another, after hitting her head in the car accident that killed her sister, her new best friend is a talking lizard—a picky eater, obsessed with Wheel of Fortune, that only Maggie can hear.

In order to help her injured and orphaned niece get the best medical care possible, she reluctantly accepts a mobster’s lucrative job offer: major cash to kill his monstrous son-in-law.

Paired with Patrick Mulligan, a charming murder mentor (who happens to moonlight as a police detective), Maggie stumbles down her new career path, contending with self-doubt, three meddling aunts, a semi-psychic friend predicting her doom, and a day job she hates. Oh, and let’s not forget about Paul Kowalski, the sexy beat cop who could throw her ass in jail if he finds out what she’s up to.

FURTHER CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN is the sequel, which is due out in October. Maggie, Godzilla and the rest of the gang are back for more shenanigans.


I'm going to admit, I was a teensy bit leery at first when I read that one of the characters is a talking lizard. But by the end, Godzilla (he goes by "God" for short) was absolutely my favorite character! What gave you the idea to write him?

God is one of my favorite characters too!  Since the stories are told in first person point of view, I wanted to give Maggie someone to talk things out with as she embarked on this crazy new life. He’s her confidante, her conscience, her friend, and the character who challenges her core beliefs. He can say the most outrageous things, which are all the more funny since he’s a lizard.


Is there anything you found surprising about writing a sequel? Either good or bad (or both).

The good: I already knew most of the characters and I got the chance to develop some of the secondary characters more.

The bad: Readers loved the first book so much I was TERRIFIED that I couldn’t make the second book as good a read.

The ugly truth: I’ve always envisioned this story as a three-part series. (Well, truth be told, I actually have ideas sketched out for nine books, but I could see wrapping up most of the issues raised in Book 1 by the end of Book 3.) So FURTHER is the middle part of the story and middles are ALWAYS the toughest part of a book for me to write.


What does your writing process look like? Any specific rituals or tics...y'know, anything neurotic? (Ha! Do you see what I did there?)

Clever, how you’ve managed to ask if I’m neurotic. The answer is a resounding, YES! ;-)   I’m constantly convinced that what I’m writing is complete and utter garbage and no one is ever going to read it, and yet, I don’t give up writing. Crazy, right?

I’m a plotter. I won’t start a book without knowing how it ends. Before I begin to write, I plot out all the big moments or turning points on these crazy graphs that would make no sense to anyone else. I usually write my first drafts by hand, in purple ink, in a spiral notebook. When I get really stuck I cover my dining room table with my story laid out on index cards.

Okay, random question time:
What's the weirdest thing you've ever eaten?

I distinctly remember eating a lot of clover when I was a kid.

If you had to give up one product you use on a daily basis, what would you choose?

Ooooh, that’s a really tough question. Can I say each day’s third pot of coffee?

Cupcake or Ice Cream?

Pie!

Sherlock: Benedict Cumberbatch or Robert Downey Jr.?

Benedict. His accent is better.  Besides, I’m a huge fan of SHERLOCK’s producer Steven Moffat, for what he’s done with Doctor Who.

(See? How can you not love her?)

Besides being a writer, JB Lynn is a compulsive reader, a runner (of sorts), an enthusiastic cook (who doesn't get the appeal of the Food Network), and someone who has an irresistible urge to eavesdrop at all times.
For more information about JB and her books, visit: http://jblynn.com



To (belatedly) celebrate Further Confessions' release, I will be giving away a copy of Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman to one lucky reader. All you need to do is leave a comment with your e-mail address and the most neurotic thing you've ever done. :)



Let The Merriment Begin

Some people trim the tree the day after Thanksgiving.
Others watch a slew of holiday films while they nosh on leftover turkey.
Well, it's not an Akins Christmas until we watch this:

Why I Love YA

by Karen Akins

Seriously. I feel like I'm about to start a high school essay, but isn't that kind of apropos?

For me, the love of YA is actually more of a newfound thing. I didn't read YA back in my teen years (not that there was as much to choose from). Back in the 90's, this was my idea of YA:
And there is NOTHING wrong with Sweet Valley High. Or any contemporary long-running series. Don't get me wrong. I just discovered Jane Austen and Agatha Christie and the Brontes in ninth grade, and they kind of got a hammerhold on my heart. (Still have one.)

It wasn't until I was 9 months pregnant with the Pea that I rediscovered YA. IN THE MOST TRAUMATIC WAY POSSIBLE. One of my friends suggested I read the Twilight series (the fourth book was about to come out). I trusted her taste, so I said, "Sure, why not?"

And, yes, I got sucked into the story. Into the characters. It was fun, putting myself in Bella's shoes and reliving those raw teenage emotions again.

And then out comes Book 4.

Did I mention I was 9 months pregnant with my first child?

My first child that I was about to GIVE BIRTH TO.

I pretty much called my friend the second I was done reading the hybrid-vampire-baby-worst-c-section-ever scene and screamed, "What the WHAT??"

And she reassured me that despite the fact that he was indeed draining every drop of energy out of me like a hybrid-vampire-baby, the Pea was not actually a hybrid-vampire-baby. (He was, however, 10 freaking pounds at birth.)

And then the Pea arrived and he didn't sleep a lot. Which meant I didn't sleep a lot. And he was ten pounds, which meant he wanted to eat ALL THE TIME.

So I picked up another YA book while I was feeding him.

And I loved that one. And another. And another.

I loved the pace. I loved the energy and the undercurrent of hope.

Then I said, "Hey, I've always had story ideas swirling around in my head...what if I actually tried to write a book?"

So I did.

And, that, dear friends, is why I love YA.
<3

Also, I love Beth Revis. And I love Beth Revis's books.

And I LOVE her giveaways.

Edgy? Clean? Writing Across Genre Divides

Y'all, y'all, y'all. I cannot tell you how excited I am to interview the fabulous Laurel Garver today! She's a longtime bloggy friend, incredibly talented, and she's in the middle of a blog tour (or ramble, as she likes to call it) to celebrate the release of her book Never Gone. (Not to be confused with the 2005 Backstreet Boys album)

When we were discussing what topic to cover, I jumped all over this one. Every writer I know whose faith is central in their life struggles with this issue at one time or another. I've known CBA writers who are frustrated because their work was deemed too secular, and general market writers who are frustrated because they have to sneak in any faith issues. Today, Laurel agreed to talk about her personal journey finding a balance. And I'm going to stop talking because she says it so much better than I can:

What is your novel Never Gone about?
A grieving teen believes her dead father has come back as a ghost to help her reconcile with her estranged mother.
That’s my most brief synopsis. My favorite synopsis is the trailer (Karen's note: mine, too):
How did this story lead you to cross genre boundaries?
This is a grief story that happens to involve a ghost. So there's a supernatural element, even though my overall approach is like most YA contemporary issue books, including a romantic subplot. As I wrote, I found it impossible not to address the spiritual questions that always come up when a person is grieving — about the nature of life and of a higher power. I also don’t shy away from the authentic emotional rawness of feeling bereft and furious about the loss. The trouble is, secular publishers want the ghosts and grit without God, while religious publishers want God without the grit and ghosts.

What has your experience been with genre divides?
Mash-ups have become the new trend in YA literature, according to this article in Publisher’s Weekly. Increasingly readers (and publishers) are interested in books that cross former genre divides, especially if it involves some fantastical element.
But there are some divides publishers will not yet cross. The secular vs. Christian market divide remains a huge one. The more I’ve researched, the more I see sides becoming polarized. It’s rare to see people of faith portrayed positively in secular books, or if they are, the spiritual content is downplayed. You might have a single mention of a character attending church, but little evidence that faith informs how they think or live the other six days of the week. On the other side, Christian publishers’ already-strict content guidelines are becoming even more rigid, as evidenced in this article from a Christianity Today blog.

How did the issue impact your publishing path?
I realized that a wide no-man’s land has opened in the publishing landscape — where works by authors like Charles Williams, Evelyn Waugh, Walker Percy, Susan Howatch, and others used to be welcome. Their stories don’t shy away from the darker aspects of life, and because of that, the faith expressed is more profound because of its willingness to get dirty.
Today, this gap is largely being filled by small presses and self-published authors. Coming to grips with that reality was something of a grieving process for me. I concluded that walking away from both sides — essentially refusing to take sides — seemed for me the best way to be faithful to the kinds of stories I’m called to tell.

You call Never Gone’s genre “YA edgy inspirational.” What does that mean?
It means Christian in outlook, but with mature, challenging situations. “Edgy” here is not what mainstream publishers mean by the term — they’re generally talking content and language that would earn an R rating if it were a film. My story is “edgy” compared to other books in the Christian book market. It breaks a lot of their rules. My main character Danielle is Anglican, not nondenominational. Several chapters are set in an English pub, the hub of village life. The teen characters don’t imbibe alcohol, but the adults do.

Does that mean Never Gone is actually clean YA?
It depends on what you mean by “clean.” If you mean no foul language, graphic violence, drug use, underage drinking, or sex, then yes. By those standards, it’s cleaner than most mainstream contemporary YA, including Sarah Dessen’s books or even Sara Zarr’s.
But if by “clean,” you mean “Could I give it to a precocious eleven-year-old?” then I’d have to say maybe not (depends on the kid, and how protective the parents). The story is intended for ages 14 and up because it deals with difficult emotions, as well as tough situations in Danielle’s family. Dani also does some risky, foolish things and deals with predatory men. At its heart, the story encourages kids to understand their parents as complete people, with complex pasts that shape who they are now—an idea not quite developmentally appropriate for elementary-aged kids.

Laurel Garver is a magazine editor, professor’s wife and mom to an energetic fourth grader. An indie film enthusiast and incurable Anglophile, she enjoys geeking out about Harry Potter and Dr. Who, playing word games, singing, and mentoring teens at her church.
Add Never Gone on Goodreads. Read a sample chapter.
It is available as an ebook and a paperback at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, CreateSpace.

GO TEAM MARINI!

It's my favorite time of the year.

That's right. Baker's Dozen Agent Auction time

The actual auction may not be until December, but it's never too early to practice my twitter-chanting (& taunting) skills. And I'm not trying to put down any of the other fine agents on the line-up, but...just remember...Victoria Marini...she may be small, but she's feisty!

The Three Ninja Pigs

Oh. My. Goodness.

How excited am I about this book's release?
Answer: Very.

And the reasons are thus:
1.) Corey Rosen Schwartz rocks. She was one of my first online writer friends, and she is just one of the sweetest, most encouraging, nicest people ever. Also. She writes a mean picture book. And she rhymes really well.

2.) It's illustrated by Dan Santat, and I adore his illustrations.

3.) Female Ninja Pig. Enough said.

4.) The Pea is going to love it. It combines so many of his favorite things. Rhyme. Puns. Ninjas. Pigs.

5.) This book trailer

In Which I Sadly Do Not Have Gangnam Style

Not sure if you've seen this one, but, boy hoody, it's worth a peek:


Actual conversation with Hubbykins after watching it (bear in mind he works in digital marketing):
H: You need to blog about Gangnam Style. It's a huge trend right now.

Me: It's weird.

H: Or you could teach the Pea how to dance the Gangnam Style dance and post it. It would go viral.

Me: I don't want our child to go viral.

H: The local FOX station would at least pick it up.

Me: I can think of a lot better ways to get on the local FOX station. (Actually, I can't. But it doesn't take much to get on our local FOX station.)

H: At least talk about why you think it went viral.

Me: Umm, they posted the weirdest music video ever and...yet you can't tear your eyes away from the bizarreness.

I do think it would be funny to tape someone watching it for the first time and post that. Bonus points to anyone who vlogs that! 


Random Acts of Publicity Day 2: The Wicked and The Just

Little known fact about me: I only took one English class in college. And it was my lowest grade. (There's actually a humorous story behind it, but I won't get into it now.)

Suffice it to say, if I could go back and change my major from Psychology to something else, I would. 

No, not English.

I'd change it to History.

Love history. More specifically, I love hearing the personal stories that, when you weave them all together, make up history.

So how could I pass up this little dandy when I walked past? 

I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but come on! It's beautiful. And then I flipped it open to the beginning, and the voice popped right off the page. 

The blurb (from Goodreads): 
Cecily’s father has ruined her life. He’s moving them to occupied Wales, where the king needs good strong Englishmen to keep down the vicious Welshmen. At least Cecily will finally be the lady of the house.

Gwenhwyfar knows all about that house. Once she dreamed of being the lady there herself, until the English destroyed the lives of everyone she knows. Now she must wait hand and foot on this bratty English girl.

While Cecily struggles to find her place amongst the snobby English landowners, Gwenhwyfar struggles just to survive. And outside the city walls, tensions are rising ever higher—until finally they must reach the breaking point.

The story is heartwrenching and uplifting and nailbiting and hopeful all in one swoop.

And this is the fun part...the author, J. Anderson Coats is a fellow MSFV success story! You can find The Wicked and the Just on Goodreads here.


Random Acts of Publicity Week

Hey, everyone! It's that time of year again. Random Acts of Publicity Week! Think Random Acts of Kindness, but with authors. And books. And lots of tweeting.

Darcy Pattison started this a few years ago, and you can read about it here on her blog. One of the things I love about it is that it focuses on debut and mid-list authors. And the other thing I love is that it's random. The person isn't expecting it (may not even know about it), but it might lead one more reader to them. Also. I'm kind of Captain Random, so there you go.

First up, a YA novel that just came out by debut writer Alex Morel, Survive. Honestly, I went into it not knowing anything but what was on the flap copy. Couldn't. Put. It. Down. It was one of those rare books that I read in one day. Very fast pace, and the premise was so simple yet so compelling. The main character, Jane, survives a horrible plane crash in a frozen wilderness. The twist? She survived it because she was in the airplane's bathroom trying to take her own life.

I have to agree with the flap. It really is "a tale of love, courage, and the indomitable power of hope."

But you don't have to take my word for it!

I love getting all Levar Burton.

The World's Latest LA 2012 SCBWI Summer Conference Post

Yeah. Just now getting around to it. There are no words for how busy life has been lately. And nothing dramatic. Just. Life. To top it all off, I just caught a cold from the Pea. Insert whiny sounds here.

But it really would be a crying shame to not share some of the smart juice that got squeezed out of the SCBWI speakers' mind-grapes. A cookie for any of my readers who can identify the origin of that reference. 

And so I give you Karen's Top 7 SCBWI Words of Wisdom (I honestly just put a ___ there and will go back and fill in the number later):

Only kill off characters that people care about. - Sara Shepard

Be curious. Be aware. Be open. - Karen Cushman

Don't ever give the reader a good stopping point. - Jay Asher

Having no book trailer is better than having a bad book trailer. - Sara Wilson Etienne

Tell the truth. - Karen Cushman

If you don't write to entertain yourself, you won't entertain anyone else. - Lee Wardlaw

**Everything that came out of her mouth** - Ruta Supetys (Seriously, every time the woman got up to speak, little truth nuggets flung out of her lips and rained down over the audience.)

For me, the biggest value of the conference was getting to spend time with writer friends, new and old. I love that feeling of meeting people face-to-face for the first time who I've only ever known online and not hesitating for one millisecond to throw my arms around them in a big hug. I'm looking at you, Morgan and Stacey!

It's an amazing feeling to be surrounded by over a thousand people who get you.

The Lucky 13s

I'm officially in The Lucky 13s! Know the super-secret handshake and everything. (That's not true at all. It's a super-secret High 5.) Already, I've been blown away by this wonderful pack of writers.

You can go follow us on Twitter here. I plan to highlight some of my fellow 13ers over the upcoming year. Any burning questions you want me to ask in interviews?

The Perils of Writing in the Future

The other day, I had an appointment to get my teeth cleaned. I love my hygienist, Barbara. She's rooted me on (ha! pun intended) since I first told her, in a sheepish (and probably garbled) voice, that I was a writer. The last time I saw her, I'd just signed with my agent, so it was beyond crazycakes to get to tell her that my book had sold.

Before I left, she made me promise one thing: Don't make the villain a dentist. They get a bad rap as it is in media. And she's right. One of my favorite songs from Little Shop of Horrors is You'll be a Dentist.


But I digress.

I assured her that no dentists were slandered in the writing of my book. But I do actually mention them. I needed to think of a profession that will still be around in 200 years (where most of the book is set), and, hey, people will still have teeth.

"But I don't know that they'll need dentists," she said.

What?

It turns out that researchers are developing a cavity vaccine. AND they're working on GROWING NEW TEETH.

Whattity What?

Elizabeth Spann Craig has a great post about the perils of dating your book. But I've run into the opposite problem. How do you decide what will be around in 200 years if you aren't sure what will make the cut in 10 years? In 2? It's hard to imagine up some technical marvel that isn't probably brewing away in Apple Labs as we speak.

I had two rules of thumb:
1.) If it's been around for at least 200 years, it will probably be here in another 200 years. (With exceptions, of course, if technology already seems to be headed in a different direction.)
2.) Extrapolate, but consider where humanity might draw the line. (Especially where there are already rumblings.)

Okay, and a third rule:
3.) Have fun with it. I loved dreaming some crazy stuff up, but at the end of the day...or the millenium...people are people. It's the characters that drive the story, not the gadgets. (Although, there are a few gadgets I came up with that I want NOW.)

Oh, and go hug a dentist.

SCBWI LA Conference

A post is coming. I swear. The Top Ten best pieces of advice I received at the conference.

As soon as I can sort through the laundry and figure out which end is up.

Suffice it to say, an awesome time was had by all. Old friends were hugged. New friends were made.

I'm kind of counting down the seconds until next year.

Hey, I Think I Used To Know a Girl Named Karen Akins

It's been a crazy, crazy month. First, we went on a little road trip to Hotlanta. Very fun. Very hot. I think I may have already mentioned it, but I'm too lazy to go check. Next, the Pea had his adenoids out. As far as surgeries go, not too bad. Apparently, one of the side effects is bad dragon-flame-inducing breath. Cram three weeks of swim lessons into the nooks and crannies of said month, and that was pretty much my July.

Also. Got my author pics taken, and I can't wait to share them with you. Jonna Nixon of Red House Photography took them. She's a friend from high school, and our kiddos are right around the same age, and I just adore her. If you want a sneak preview, you can go check out her website here. I'm so indecisive, though. She's taken shots of the Pea before, and I literally beat my head against a wall trying to choose between the different shots. I think I'll put it up for a vote.

Oh, and I got a killer computer virus in there to boot. No, really. My computer was dead. But Collin Allen of UrbanLAN brought it back from the dead. (If you're from the NWA area, I can't recommend him enough. He was incredible in how quickly and completely he cured my sick little laptop.) Apparently, it was a root something virus that is really, really, really bad.

But now it's all better and I want to talk about happier things. Like LA SCBWI. I'll be there. I am ridiculously excited to see old friends and  meet new ones and learn and be inspired and, well, it's kind of like Writer Geek Camp.

Anybody else going?

There and Back Again

Hoo boy. I've been in Hotlanta for the past week visiting Hubbykins' family. It was fun. It was hot. There were sparklers and sprinklers. What's not to love? But I'm glad to be home.

I don't have much on the news front to share. I'm drafting, which is fun. Especially fun as I'm digging back into my novel's world for the first time in months and with a fresh story. Fun! (Don't worry though, I'm coming up with deviously delightful ways to torture my characters anew.)

In the meantime, if you missed it like I did in my travel cave, check out this awesomesauce interview/conversation between kt literary agent Kate Schafer Testerman and her clients Elizabeth Briggs, Krista Van Dolzer, and Susan Adrian, who each signed with her within a short little span of each other. The interview is in four parts across all their blogs, so click on their names in order to go to each part.

Happy Agent's Day!

Without a doubt, I have the most hardworking, enthusiastic, encouraging, positive, genuinely nice agent in the business. And she's also a bull dog negotiator. THANK YOU, Victoria, for taking a shot on me and my story. You are lovely and then some. **throws confetti**

You know what's coming.

You know you do.

ELAINE DANCE!
I'll do this in person for you someday, and it will mesmerize you.

An Open Letter to Pinterest

This is going to be the teensiest bit of a rant. Completely non-writing related. (Although I did work hard, dang hard, to write a strong female protagonist for my novel. And I wrote her that way to encourage female readers that it is a good thing to be strong and smart and funny and geeky.)

I'm new to Pinterest, and the vast majority of the content is funny and cool and inspiring and swoonworthy. But, come on, ladies, STOP pinning pictures of yourself in little lace panties to show off your rock-hard abs. There are only two reasons you would do such a thing. 1.) To make other women jealous. Or 2.) To make men you'll never meet drool. 

Please. Stop. Because 1.) Don't be that woman. And 2.) Don't be that woman either. Most of those men are husbands or boyfriends already.

Okay. Rant over. Carry on, my lovely readers. (And might I add, I know none of you are these pinners.)

Why We Need Book Snobs

My uncle owns the Dickson Street Bookshop. It's something of a local treasure. (Locals, are we agreed?) He specializes in used, rare, and out-of-print books, specifically literature, poetry, and Irish Studies. He loves books.
photo from their Facebook site
No, really. He loves books. This is but a teensy fraction of the store.

He is a book snob. (Don't worry. He avoids the internet. Also, he would agree with me.) I have actually been at his house looking through one of his books in his personal library, which is pretty staggering on its own, only to have him take the book out of my hands and say, "No. Read this." Now, he doesn't do this to his customers. Hmm...actually that might not be true. He doesn't do it to new customers. But he has strong opinions and he's not afraid to share them.

It doesn't mean that he won't stock pop fiction or pulp fiction or stuff that rolls his eyes. That stuff sells and he sells it. And this isn't a post to bash any genre. My book is YA sci-fi. It's light and fluffy and whimsical. I can tell you right now that it won't be my uncle's cuppa, personally. And he'll turn books away. Not for reasons of  his own taste but for reasons of a glutted market or something he just doesn't think will sell.

Lately, I've read a lot of posts accusing agents and publishers of being nothing more than "gatekeepers" and "tastemakers," as if these were slurs flung from the very gates of Hell. Most of these have been in the traditional vs. self-publishing debate. Now, I am in no way, shape, or form saying that everything traditionally published is wonderful or that everything self-published is not. This isn't really about that at all.

But I will say this. I cringe at the day when indie bookstores and libraries are obsolete. Do you know what my uncle (and his staff) would recommend you read? James Joyce. Iain Pears. Oscar Wilde. Osamu Dazai. Xaviera Hollander. Max Brooks.- (These last few are just from their status updates.)

Do you know what Amazon recommends that I read? An amalgamation of books that are statistically similar to titles I've searched for. They don't care if it's good or bad. No, seriously. They. Don't. Care. I'm not bashing Amazon. I hope my titles will sell well there, and I buy from Amazon. But if I really want to shop for a book, I go to a bookstore or library and ask the tastemakers what they recommend, see what they're actually investing their money in and stocking. I'm not a lemming who will read whatever book someone places in my hand, but come on! There's value in that.

I cringe at the day when editors aren't able to fall hard for a manuscript and buy it because they love it and they think others will love it. I think there's value in the gatekeepers. Do I think that current models will have to change and change fast to avoid obsolescence? Heck, yes! But I shudder inside when I read angry, gleeful posts about "The Big 6" falling.

Yes, customers will make out like bandits. When books are valued at 99 cents, that will happen. And, yes, a tiny percentage of authors may make out like bandits. The same small percentage that make out like bandits with traditional publishers. But I don't think society will benefit from the destruction of tastemakers. Sometimes, I think society needs a crotchety old uncle telling us what to read.

Wait A Minute, Mr. Postman!

Hey, there! I'm setting up my mailing list for futurey stuff, like official release dates, cover reveals, giveaways, and such. I promise not to abuse it (let's be honest--I'm pretty lazy, so it will have to be pretty big news for me to send out a newsletter), and I'll never share your e-mail with anyone. Pinky swear. You can sign up in the upper right corner of the blog or use this form link: Subscribe to my newsletter
 
Now I'm going to have the Postman song that we sang at camp stuck in my head. For the rest of my life. 

If You Feel Like You've Been Hearing "No" A Lot Lately

Just remember that you haven't been hearing it as much as Worf does on Star Trek TNG.  
As always, thank you, Mental Floss.

(And here's to some more "Yes!")

Interview at Krista Van Dolzer's Place

So head on over to Mother. Write. (Repeat.) if you want to know juicy details about my querying process. (Or if you're researching agents and want to know what Victoria Marini is looking for in a manuscript.)

Also, yes, I did have specific crit partners in mind when I wrote the advice about that (towards the end of the interview). One of my toughest CP's isn't even a writer. She's an avid reader, though, and she asks HARD questions. I need that. Plus, she loves to brainstorm, which is fun. 

And my kissy-face-love-love critter would be the always lovely Mandy Silberstein. *waves* She literally draws hearts all over my pages. She's so encouraging. And y'know what? I need that, too. Plus, if Mandy mentions something that needs changing, I don't even consult my brain. I change it.

We Have A Winner!!

I used Random.org to pick the winner of the Full Manuscript Critique from me and Three Chapter Critique from Victoria Marini.

And that winner is...
(I'll e-mail you, Plamena with further instructions.)

This has been an amazing experience for me. I have to tell you, I was blown away by the generosity of you guys. Guess what! Shelli and Justin are almost 2/3 of the way to meeting their fundraising goal! (And if you want to laugh and cry a little but end up feeling totally encouraged which is what always seems to happen when I'm with Shelli go read her post about adopting here.)

Anyhoo, I truly have been wowed by the response to this. And I want to say a little thank you to everyone who gave. SO I would love to give everyone who donated a first page critique! I'll e-mail everyone further instructions on that as well. If you donated and don't receive the e-mail from me within 48 hours, please check your spam box, then send me an e-mail at karen.d.akins (at) gmail (dot) com.

Last Day to Enter

Happy June! If you haven't already, take a minute to go enter my Share the Lubov Critique Giveaway. Bulgarian name, great cause.

And also, I want to give a shout-out to my sister. Do you ever love someone else's work so much, and it just kills you that others don't know about it? Well, I'm remedying that right now. Take this picture for example. Which I just went and ripped off her portfolio without asking so...((waves hi to sister))

I love that it's one illustration, and she's not even telling a story with it, but you can tell there's a story behind it. And I can't help but fall in love with Harold.

Yeee!!!

Check it out! I did an interview with my critique partner Elizabeth Briggs over at her blog Liz Writes. She. Is. Crazypantsawesomesauce.

And now I need to go get the Pea ready for a Chick-fil-A playdate with his sweet little spitfire friend K. She's pretty much his favorite person in the entire world. When we say bedtime prayers, he always thanks God for K first thing. They've been in the same Kids Day Out class for two years straight, and last Monday was his last day of school. On the drive home, I said, "We should do a playdate with K soon." The Pea's response, "Why don't you call her mommy right now?" And then this morning, I asked him what he wanted to wear, and he said, "My Lego shoes. I think K will like them.

It's Like...

That thing when you fall in love with your WIP all over again and suddenly your characters have sprouted personalities.

Also, if you haven't yet, go enter my Share The Lubov critique giveaway here. Go. Go!

Share the Lubov Critique Giveaway

Funny story. I actually had this giveaway planned before I knew about my book deal. Then everything kind of exploded for about a week there, so I postponed for that reason. Then, I thought, hey, this will be a great way to celebrate after my announcement, so I postponed for that reason. Now the timing is perfect. (Oh, and don't worry, I know this giveaway is tailored to writers, but there will be many more celebrations and giveaways to come.):

Since I first started writing, I've wanted to use my writing to make a difference. Not just by entertaining or encouraging people with my stories, but a real and tangible difference.

How about bringing an orphan home?

For those of you who don't know, I have a huge heart for adoption. Before I  had the Pea, I was the regional director of a non-profit adoption agency. I had the amazing privilege of working with adoptive families and children and birthmothers. 

The other day, I got an e-mail from my dear friend Shelli. She and her husband are adopting from Bulgaria. So...here's the thing. International adoption is expensive. Dang expensive. And they are in a unique position, fundraising-wise. They actually live in Asia and work for a non-profit organization called The Starfish Project, which helps to empower exploited women. (Seriously, check out their jewelry line here. It goes to a great cause!) So Shelli and Justin are not only raising funds for their adoption, they also raise their own salary.

Anyway, I really love win-win situations. I thought about it and realized I had a total win-win right in front of me. How I could help Shelli raise funds for their adoption AND help another writer at the same time.

I give you the SHARE THE LUBOV Critique Giveaway (As Karen just found out As everyone knows, Lubov means Love in Bulgarian.)

Here's how it works.

I'm giving away a FULL MG/YA MANUSCRIPT CRITIQUE*

To enter:
1.) You must fill in the form.
2.)You must share this contest in some way (tweet, blog, facebook, skywriting) and leave a link.
3.) You can also make a tax-deductible donation to Shelli & Justin's adoption fund for 20 EXTRA ENTRIES. (Note: You are *not* required to make a donation to participate, but...ummmm...20 EXTRA ENTRIES, people! Also. You're HELPING AN ORPHAN. There's no minimum donation amount, but every bit helps.)

Wait a minute.

THERE IS MORE!

So I have one of the coolest, nicest agents in the world. No, really. She's amazing-pants. And she has amazing insights. And she offered to up the ante a little. So not only will you win a full manuscript critique from me, you will win a FIRST THREE CHAPTERS CRITIQUE FROM VICTORIA MARINI

**Insert squealing because that is what you should be doing**

To make a donation, go to this link. When prompted, you need to designate "For the child to be adopted to Justin and Shelli Jones." (Note: This is a faith-based adoption fund. If that's problematic for you, just let me know, and we can arrange for a different donation option.)
Seriously. Do you need more cuteness incentive?

This contest will close 11:59 p.m. Friday June 1st, and I'll announce a winner the following Monday.

*As noted above, this contest is for MG/YA manuscripts only, up to 75K word count (but if yours is over 75K, still feel free to enter, I just may not be able to provide detailed comments over the 75K mark). This contest is open to all sub-genres except for high fantasy (because I'm just not the person to critique it...sorry), really scary horror with, like, demons or the occult (because I get nightmares), and erotica (because...y'know what? If you're writing MG or YA erotica, we need to have a little chat). This critique will be most helpful to you if your manuscript has already been revised and polished, NOT a first draft. You can take your time in getting it to me. :) I'm happy to answer any questions in the comments section.




Oh, and I have my Facebook Author page set up! You can go Like it here.

Thanks, Mom!

Well, I think my deal news is finally real to my mom. (I'm still in a little bit of shock, myself.) I've kept her updated all along the way, and she's been, y'know, very mom-like about it. Encouraging, happy for me, etc.

Then when I got the offer, I explained it was with St. Martin's Press, an imprint of Macmillan. She'd heard of Macmillan, of course, and she's an avid reader, especially of legal thrillers, but she doesn't pay attention to things like imprints or even publishers. She follows authors. So I thought about some of her favs. The conversation went down like this:

Me: Well, let's see, they've published several of Lisa Scottoline's books.
Mom: (((silence)))
Me: Isn't she one of the authors you really li--
Mom: LISA SCOTTOLINE???
Me: Yes.
Mom: I've read everything she's written. I love her.
Me: You love me more. (((pause))) Right?

I have a giveaway planned to celebrate starting tomorrow, and I promise you do not want to miss it.

You'll come back to celebrate with me? (((pause))) Right?

So...This Happened.


Who has two thumbs and a book deal? THIS GIRL! (Totally tried to get the Pea to pose for a picture with his thumbs up, but he was having none of it.)

In case you can't read it, it says:
 Karen Akins's LOOP, in which a time traveler accidentally brings a boy from the past into the 23rd century, only to discover he's already in love with her future self and is keeping his own set of secrets, pitched as HEIST SOCIETY meets BACK TO THE FUTURE, to Terra Layton at St. Martin's, in a two-book deal, by Victoria Marini at Gelfman Schneider (world).

If you want the long story of how I wrote said story, you can go here.

To be honest, this has all happened so fast that it's still setting in. I'll be sitting at my computer working one minute and then all of a sudden, I'll scream, "I'm going to have a book! With a cover!" And then I'll go back to typing. It's a good thing the Pea is the only one listening.

Wait just a second. Outburst coming...ST. MARTIN'S PRESS! I AM FLAILING AROUND LIKE A MUPPET!!

And don't get me started on my editor. Squee!!! My editor. Terra is ah-mazing! When we chatted on the phone, I felt like I couldn't string two coherent thoughts together, but somehow I didn't scare her away. And she even talked me into watching my first episode of Dr. Who (okay, I may not have stopped at one). Yes, I realize that it's ridiculous that I haven't seen it before now. Good gravy, I am in such excellent hands. And my story's in excellent hands. The whole team there.  ST. MARTIN'S!! MORE FLAILING!!

Oh, and this is so cool...Terra actually peeked in on the Baker's Dozen Auction (where I initially connected with Victoria) and she jotted down LOOP as one of the projects that she thought sounded great. She found the post-it note yesterday afternoon. Ha! It was meant to be.

I am. Just. So. Thankful. 

Okay, one final picture of a kitten riding a unicorn, and then I'm done.


The Writer's Voice

So...yeah. I'm not even going to pretend to be neutral, folks. I'm cheering for this entry. And this entry. (And you should, too. Because they're full of awesome.)

It Is Monday.

And you know what that means around here. 
Sherlock on my iPad PBS Player during lunch. Ahh, yeah!

Not Much To Say

My apologies that I've been so quiet lately. There always seem to be one of two reasons why I don't blog often enough. Either too much stuff on my plate or not enough.

I'll let you, my astute readers, guess which one it is.