YA Indie Carnival: Settings!

Today’s YA Indie Carnival post is about SETTINGS! And there’s nothing I like better in my book than my setting. (Well, that’s only a little true, but I do love it). Gifted‘s setting (if you couldn’t tell by the cover image to your right) takes place at the circus. It’s a really important part of the story, not only because Lucy runs away to live with them, but because it’s a main staple of the Gifted world. These beings, the creatures who can’t disguise themselves as normal, they hide within circus shows because people will think it’s fake. They feel safe inside the circus, where no one can find out their identities and they can be themselves with Donovan family. Then there’s the actual story of the Donovan Circus and its members as they pertain to Gifted history, which is a whole new ballgame. Moral of the story, settings and location are ridiculously important to any story, but it’s almost a character itself in Gifted.

For my research, I looked for different terms, old layouts of real circus grounds, and the real-deal lingo. When it came to the actual circus setting, however, I studied up by watching (and rewatching) the PBS documentary Circus to learn about how they set up their grounds. I also knew going in that I was only looking for inspiration; I couldn’t copy their grounds exactly because obviously my world has magic in it, so things are going to be tweaked. My characters would be nowhere without their settings, obviously. And within each story I write about the Donovan Circus, the main setting will stay the same despite their travels to different cities. I plan to show new sections of the grounds with each story, which in turn will introduce new characters specific to their roles there (which also means new gifts to learn!).

I wanted to give a little peek into the Donovan Circus and how the troupe operates. Lucy has just arrived to the circus and met her new roommate Delia. Lucy is returning to the circus for the first time in around 12 years, so I don’t blame her for being surprised by what she finds!

Gifted, a Donovan Novel excerpt:

“We passed the grouping of campers and continued through the maze. The campers were grouped behind the tents and booths, and I could hear the low buzz of people nearby. Workers had just finished getting up The Big Top tent, the main attraction where the performance occurred each night. It sat on the back corner of the lot, guarding the living area with its side entrance providing easy availability to the performers.

“This way,” Delia said. She motioned for me to follow her.

We followed the already worn walkway around a corner, where a sea of activity blinded me. Whereas the campers were quiet, the actual circus grounds thrived with members preparing for the day.

My senses hit overdrive—colors, smells, and sounds assaulted me. Costumes covered in sequins and feathers were traded off between artists; my nose detected popcorn machines, sawdust with hay, and sweat, both human and animal. And the sounds! It was so loud between the people yelling, animals’ screeches, and equipment in use to set up stands and booths. I would have to shout at Delia to be heard.

I suddenly became very aware of why Sheffield and Delia warned me against being surprised. People made no secret of their gifts in safe company. I saw another Runner dart in and out of the crowd while Levitators floated seamlessly between the bodies. Birds flew all over, carried messages or small objects such as tools or costume props. The air filled with sounds of conversation, animals protested their displeasure of cages, and men barked orders on the best way to get tents up fast.

My heart jumped when I saw two other male Firestarters walking together. One was dressed in half a clown costume. The other one flicked a lighter and began to juggle fireballs with the clown; they walked simultaneously as they tossed them back and forth to one another, gradually creating greater space between them. Walking five feet apart, they continued juggling and while most troupe members simply walked around them and rolled their eyes, a few walked through, seemingly oblivious to the fire whizzing past their heads.”

So there you have it, my vision of the Donovan Circus. Hope you enjoyed it and of course, there’s lots more setting in the rest of the book. I’m really excited to explore more within the grounds! It’s important that my setting drive my story sometimes. It’s up to the authors to take the readers on adventures, to escape within worlds we wouldn’t normally see. Hopefully we achieve that most days 🙂

Be sure to check out all the authors who participate in our YA Indie Carnival for their fantastic blogs and books!

Indie Marketing: Be the Turtle, Not the Hare

Gifted has been out for just over a week now and I feel like I’ve done a pretty bang-up job of not hovering over my computer screen, begging for reviews and sales numbers. In fact, I’m kinda the opposite, perhaps alarmingly laidback about it. I keep reading (and now repeating) that indie publishing, and with it the sales, is a marathon, not a race. I can sprint to the finish line as fast as I want, but that doesn’t mean anything will come of it. Even if I somehow made a thousand dollars in a month, that doesn’t prevent an immediate drop to nothing after the first month of release. It’s like a slow burn.

Instead, I’m biding my time, hopefully building relationships with bloggers through email and Twitter and quietly promoting the Amazon link here and there on Twitter and Facebook. It’s not that I’m not aggressive–I could be if I wanted to–but I don’t want to come off annoying, especially considering this is my first book and I’m brand new to the game. I want to genuinely talk to people on Twitter, not shove my book on them. I’m hoping that reviews (both from blogs and Amazon) will back me up, speak up for me when I don’t want to be pushy. I want to take my time because I’m smart enough to realize it takes time.

Because I did my marketing plan after I finished the book, I think some things went out of order. In which case, I’ve learned my lesson for the next books. I’ve contacted tons of bloggers and gifted many, many Kindle copies or mailed out paperbacks and I suppose I should’ve done this weeks before the official book release. But because I’m trying to be a turtle and not a hare, I’m taking it in stride. I know next time to contact beforehand and in this case, now the hard part is waiting. On the plus side, out of the many, many fantastic bloggers I’ve emailed, only a couple have turned me down (and only because their TBR piles were outta control), while most have immediately jumped on my offer with an enthusiastic approach to the story. Some reviewers warn me it might not be until July or August until they can review it, but I still hook them up with excitement–if they’re willing to do a review, I’m more than happy to accomodate. The way I see it, even if my sales or marketing had dropped a little over the summer (because it’s been out for a while or I’m working on new stuff), then their new reviews later on can possibly spark interest again and help me push it out there to new readers.

I did an interview with Lauren from The Housework Can Wait and one of the questions was, “What’s the hard part of publishing?” Honestly, it’s the waiting game and not in the sense you might think. Sure, it’s nerve-wracking to think of all these people reading my book. My fear doesn’t stem from waiting for a bad review–I’m going to deal with bad reviews with a shrug of the shoulder and perhaps a stiff drink that evening, but with an understanding that not everyone will like it (and on days it gets me particularly down, I’ve heard reading the 1-star reviews for even the bestsellers is sort of an eye-opener to take it in stride). The hard part with the waiting is literally just that–the waiting to hear one way or another. The waiting while knowing (hoping?) people are laughing, rolling their eyes, and cheering for my characters. I’m not a patient person (and usually read a book in a few hours at one sitting, something I know not everyone has time for), so this has certainly been a lesson for me.

Luckily, I’ve been distracted by other things, like working on book 2 of the Donovan Circus adventures, as well as a YA title I’m really excited about. I’m staying busy even without constantly refreshing my sales page and honestly, I kinda refuse to be a slave to the numbers anyway. I don’t want to be “that girl” that forgets to actually write and do other things because she’s glued to the sales. No, thanks.

In all honesty, and I’ve stated this before, I’m not in it for the money. I’m in it to have a book published. It’s freaking awesome that I look on Amazon and find my name next to a novel. The more my friends exclaim over it, the more amazed I am that I did it–I completed a bucket list item and put my story out there for the world to read. That’s sort of what I’ve always wanted since I was a kid, so I consider it a success, even if I only sell ten books. The best part is, I’m getting such nice feedback and ratings that it might actually stand a shot at selling even twenty or thirty books maybe!

My first 2 blogger reviews are listed below–Heather and Lauren were so great to help me with this, especially on short notice. They both practically dropped everything (including what they were already reading) because my story intrigued them and turns out I don’t suck! They’ve both been so kind to assure me how much they enjoyed it and help promote it for me. I’m so grateful to them!! It’s such a nice feeling, to know people got along with my characters as much as I do (and even want to be friends with them as much as I do!).

Gifted Review on Soleful Reader – 4/5 Heels

Gifted Review on The Housework Can Wait – Graded “B”

On tomorrow’s YA Indie Carnival, it’s all about Mom for Mother’s Day weekend! And at some point soon, I’ll be addressing the “New Adult” genre debate (in case you didn’t guess, I’m in support of this new movement).  And of course, more character interviews and news about Gifted. Happy Thursday!

Author Interview (Writers): Michelle Muto

And we’re back! Today’s author interview is again with the amazing Michelle Muto, author of The Book of Lost Souls and Don’t Fear the Reaper. To read the review of Book of Lost Souls, please read here. And pretty soon I’ll have a review up for Don’t Fear the Reaper, too! In the meantime, let’s ask Michelle her advice for indie publishing and other fun information!

What was your process for your book from creation to publication? How long did this take?

I loosely outlined the story, then built character profiles for the main group before sitting down to write the first draft. Several revisions followed since The Book of Lost Souls was under consideration from a NY agency for a well over a year. But, in the end, another writer decided to write a story about a teen witch and that ended that. The Book of Lost Souls was trunked for months before I decided to go indie, so from the first draft to publication was well over two years.

Would you recommend self-publishing to aspiring indie authors?

I think it’s a personal choice. I’m not pro one and against the other. I do think that all authors should carefully weigh their options. And never sign away their rights, should they decide to go the traditional route. Get a intellectual property lawyer to look over any contracts.

How the hell do you balance everything? Family, friends, everyday activities, work, AND writing?

Not well, if you ask my husband. Sleepless nights? Tumbleweeds the size of rabbits in the house from time to time? Lots of dinners just thrown together, that’s for sure.

I have three series rambling around in my head (Ivy, Reaper, a new/old one one), plus one stand-alone novel. It’s pretty crazy right now.

Tell us how the book cover came into existence—was it a hands on process, did you know the initial look you wanted, etc?

I was new to indie land and had no idea what I really wanted. A book, something mysterious – but everything else? No clue. I spent days looking through photos and artwork before stumbling across the current cover picture. Lucky for me, I also discovered my cover designer, Sam Torode, who helped with the final product.

What do you think every writer should know?

That you are never the writer that you will be tomorrow. Practice, practice, practice. Always look to improve your craft.

What are the next big plans for you in regards to your writing?

Finish the book at hand, revise an older manuscript, and stay busy with Ivy’s next novel – oh, and Reaper’s new book, too.

Michelle, thanks again for being a part of this and helping out with such great answers! You can buy her books “The Book of Lost Souls” and “Don’t Fear the Reaper” on Amazon and be sure to give her a review and let everyone know what you think!


Author Interview (Readers): Michelle Muto

Today we’re interviewing Michelle Muto, the author of The Book of Souls and Don’t Fear the Reaper. If you’d like to read my review on the fantastic Book of Souls book, please check that out here. And now without further ado!

What was your inspiration behind The Book of Souls?

I wanted something fun to read. I recall that the great Toni Morrison once said, “If you want to read something that hasn’t yet been written, you must write it.”

Who would play Ivy? Nick? Raven and Shayde? And especially Spike the lizard turned human?
Maybe Scarlett Johansen for Ivy.

I’m not too sure who’d play everyone else. I’d LOVE to hear who readers think would play Spike. I need some gorgeous guy who’s a bit off the wall funny in a naïve sort of way.

(Blogger’s Note: Because Spike is cute and blonde and because I watched a cute, blonde kid in a movie last night, my vote’s on “X-Men: First Class” actor, Lucas Till, who played Havok. He’s adorable and by my research (and by that I mean Google), he seems like a fun kid who can show off a silly side. Let’s show a photo:)

What do you think makes Ivy different from other teen witches?

I’d say that the whole story has a lighter, more fun feel to it. So much YA is dark these days. I wanted Ivy’s story to be unusual, a little crazy.

Please, oh please, explain Devlin (the cutest supernatural pet ever)—your inspiration, your favorite passage he’s in, if you can include him in all your other books…

He’s going to be in ALL of Ivy’s stories. The inspiration is actually my own dog, Ronan. Well, except for the fire breathing part, he’s darn close to Devlin himself. I had already dubbed Ronan a Beezlepup years ago. He’s always into mischief. Favorite passage? I think my favorite is when Devlin is hiding under the bed when Spike first disappeared from the guest bedroom. Or, maybe the scene where he’s trying to get Midnight down from the tree.

Without giving anything away, what’s your favorite passage from the book?

The scene at the end when Ivy and Nick’s walk out of the building together.

Do you have more plans for Ivy and her friends?

I do! Things have gotten a little more serious in Northwick, but don’t worry. There is still a lot of craziness from the crew.

Where can readers find their own copy?

Currently, they can find it on Amazon (who has it on exclusive until the end of April. Then, Ivy and company will be available on B&N and even iTunes!

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Book-Lost-Souls-ebook/dp/B004QWZ8LO
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Book-Souls-MacTavish-Novels-ebook/dp/B004QWZ8LO
Print versions outside the US – CreateSpace: https://www.createspace.com/3711611

Readers can always connect with me on:
Twitter: http://twitter.com/MichelleMuto
FB: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Michelle-Muto-Author-Page/154882381238003
My Blog: http://michellemuto.wordpress.com/

(She’s also on Goodreads here)

Michelle, thanks for agreeing to be on my blog! I can’t wait to read the next installment for the Ivy MacTavish series, in addition to “Don’t Fear the Reaper” and all your other great books. Don’t forget, we’ll have her author interview for writers up on Friday so check back for Michelle’s indie publishing tips as well as her advice to every aspiring author.