Tag Archives: book tour

Planning a classroom visit

30 Apr

In my short time as a blog owner, I’m saddened to report that blogs do not, in fact, write about topical issues, proliferate themselves across the web, and then create thoughtful discussions in the comment sections on their own. (I have reported this to WordPress, though they seem to be slow to respond.)

Anyways. Picking up as though there hasn’t been a five month blogging gap…

Tomorrow, I’m doing my first classroom visit and I’m also discouraged to find that my initial Google search for “an author’s guide to planning a classroom visit” has not come up with a magical agenda to fill in with Spartacus-appropriate activities. Instead, I’m finding guides aimed at teachers and schools on how to prepare for said author’s visit. (Note: I certainly don’t expect banners–just someone to point me to the restroom if needed.)

I did find some simple notes on promoting your book at schools (more like, “You should try going to a school!”). That really wasn’t a huge help.

Instead, I spent time with a teaching friend and she gave me some great ideas. In addition to sharing where my ideas came from, she clarified that when kids want to know how something was written, this isn’t, “I rewrote it and sent it to my publisher and then he blah, blah, blah, blah…” but more of about where I physically wrote and how I kept myself organized and how I got in the mood for writing–and while I don’t know if my technique really is the best, I do know that I can prep myself to write about a scary circus situation faster than anyone I know.

In the mood...for writing.

In the mood…for writing.

And, of course, I’m going to share the books that inspired me, photos of all the coffee shops I wrote in…and photos of my cat helping me write. Duh.

She also told me to play it loose and casual. (Essentially saying that I shouldn’t read verbatim from a Power Point presentation–sad.)

Have you done a classroom visit before? How did you prepare–and how did it go?

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The Dud Reviewer

12 Jul

Always trust the tough critics.

First off, I have to share: the writing drought is over!!! Z and I tied the knot last weekend, so I can finally push aside all my foofy wedding crap and get down to the business of writing. Yay! However, I may start writing in my fluffy wedding dress as my new work-inspiration-wear. (In college it was a tiara, so this isn’t too far-fetched.)

The last blog idea that passed through my addled bride-brain before signing off from reality was a discussion over posting negative book reviews. I know I’m late to the party, but it’s a topic that’s both relevant to me as a writer and as a blogger. (All right, “as someone who has a blog.”)

In a nutshell, a blogger, The Prolific Novelista, was approached to do a review for an author’s book tour…and she ended up not liking it (check out the review on her blog and on Amazon). This response to her negative Amazon review has had me equal parts puzzled and flabbergasted:

“…after reading “No Remorse” as you claim, and found you didn’t care for it, why not just back out of the tour instead of using it as an opportunity to bad mouth another authors [sic] abilities? The classy thing to do would have been to back out.”

So, if you don’t like a book, you shouldn’t review it? Especially if you’ve been approached by the author/publicist/publisher?

(I have to admit, I wasn’t even aware that those blogs participating in book tours had the option to back out if they disliked the book. Every time I got a notification that a Spartacus review was up, I practically had a heart attack.)

The reason I don’t do book reviews on my blog stems from–well, mostly from me not reading as much as I should. But also I’m a coward each time I get into reviewing situations. I’d meet an author, buy a copy of their book, and promise to review it…only to find myself disliking it. But how could I say such things to someone who…well, saw my face? Signed my book? Said they’d visit my blog?? I couldn’t. Each time I started, I felt icky. (Many times I couldn’t even finish the book and I’d find myself swearing at the author, asking why they’d done this to me.) So instead of writing what I thought about it…I hid the books under my bed and hoped the author would forget the random promise of a stranger.

But what it gets down to is this: with so many books and eBooks and self-published books out there, how can we ever sort through all the awful to find the really great stories if we don’t have honest reviewers out there? If reviewers, even casual ones, refuse to review bad books–or simply gloss over books’ flaws–readers will find themselves buying and reading a ton of crappy books (that will end up unfinished and hidden under their beds).

To bring this all around to me (of course), this feeds back into my previous post, which was about my first negative review. With all of Spartacus’s shortcomings in the front of my mind, I was utterly terrified of negative reviews. But when the first one appeared, it was actually a relief. I mean, sure, family and friends and fans can review your book, but it’s the luke-warm reviews that set me at ease. “Ah! They see the flaws and yet they still have positive things to say!” Those are the reviews that make me want to read a book (or watch a movie or buy something off Amazon). I want to see that the reviewer has the ability to think critically. Give me five in-depth 4-star reviews over ten bland 5-star reviews any day.

(Just to undermine that entire last paragraph, I do have to say that my husband’s book [my husband!!!] really is worth every one of its twenty-one 5-star reviews. I’m jealous, dammit, but it’s true.)

The Prolific Novelista links to another blog, The Midnight Garden, that recaps a very similar situation, in which the blogger was attacked online for her negative reviews. This blogger’s conclusion is this:

“…if readers can’t trust me to tell the truth about a book I didn’t like, they will never trust my opinions about the books I love. Books should stand or fall on their own merits–and I, for one, know that my fellow readers are intelligent enough to make up their own minds, no matter what I say.”

I couldn’t agree more. But…despite this, I still can’t bring myself to do it. Luckily, there are people out there with spines, though, writing 1 and 2 star reviews, to keep us readers well-informed. That being said, if you see the rare review on my blog, rest-assured I’m not feeding you a watered-down opinion; it’s probably something I love that I can’t wait to share.

And with that being said, if you are a literary female type with a soft spot for 1950’s female beatniks abroad, I can’t recommend Elaine Dundy’s The Dud Avocado enough. But don’t take my word for it

‘Tis the season…

1 Dec

So, it’s December and officially time to panic. You have just three weekends to try to cram a year’s worth of thoughtfulness into a single gift. Ugh…and a card. AND WRAP IT (brothers/male readers: a paper grocery bag with the receipt still in it is NOT WRAPPING PAPER). Oh, the humanity…

Luckily, I’ve been kind enough to create a list of last-minute gift ideas for those of you who were thinking about giving your younger sister nothing but a bag of old mushy fruit again…

Top holiday gifts of 2011:

  1. A Giant, Radio Controlled Flying Shark
    I was about to organize the gifts according to “who”…you know, Moms, Dads, siblings, co-workers, etc., but I said screw that. Who doesn’t want a remote-controlled 4’7″ inflatable flying shark? The title of this video says it all.

…Okay, so I didn’t gather any more Top Holiday Gifts beyond that. However, I do think that about sums up what’s on most people’s wish lists, whether they knew to ask for it or not.

But if your loved ones are afraid of sharks, there is one other thing I’m recommending for friends and family, besides boatloads of inflatable sharks: a boatload of Spartacus and the Circus of Shadows‘s.*

Yeah, I said it–don’t say you didn’t see it coming! And I don’t feel bad about saying it either because think about it: if you gotta buy someone something AND you gotta buy ME something–might as well hit two birds with one stone, right? I promise I won’t ask you for an inflatable shark if you buy a book for a friend (besides, I bought myself three of the sharks already). Oooh, that means, you buying my book is MY gift to YOU. I love how this is all working out.

Now I won’t have to wrap anything except those special Christmas orders

Aaannnd, if you’re in the neighborhood….:


 I’ll be signing books at
St. John’s Booksellers on Sunday, Dec. 4!

There will be no sharks, but there will be lion tattoos.

* * * * * *

Sure, there is, uh, one shark in Spartacus. But he’s really mostly a man. But kinda a shark. And really, there aren’t any pictures of him…well, besides this one…and another I can’t show for copyright reasons. But–hey, you can’t go through life being scared of things! When I was little I was scared of…well, I mean I could imagine being scared of, oh, say the apocalypse or something. Of course, I wasn’t, but I’m just saying I can see how someone might be.

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