Saturday, October 31, 2009


Happy Halloween everyone!!! As a huge sugar-bug, Halloween is one of my very favorite holidays!! I am so looking forward to trick-or-treating with my three munchkins tonight in our new neighborhood and in fabulous weather. (The 60's!)

Okay, I have been thinking a lot about firsts lately. And by first I mean, your first agent, your first book deal, your first publisher, etc. In case you are not familiar with my history, I spent almost two years looking for an agent and then spent a year with that agent (and two different books) before I got a contract. By the time I got an agent, I was basically desperate enough that I probably would have taken any legit agent I could get. By the time I got published, I would have taken just about any legit publisher I could get. I know a lot of aspiring authors have felt and do feel the same way.

But maybe it's not that simple.

I owe my agent connection to luck. I will state that right out front. But because I did end up with my incredible, fabulous agent, she matched me with a wonderful editor and a house I could not be more happy with. But, also luck, I managed to get the idea for a genre I am more than happy to spend my whole career writing in. All of my firsts, set me on the path I want to be in. On the path that my fit my goals. But, what was not luck, is that when it became obvious that my book was not going to sell, I looked for another way to meet my goals. I wrote another book. It eventually lead me to the career I have now.

The reason I have been thinking about this is that I have been communicating with a lot of aspiring authors lately. And some of them have quite literally stumbled into great positions, some have settled for less than ideal positions, some are quite happy in positions I would not be happy with, and some are reaching that awful, gut-wrenching point of desperation that I am very familiar with.

I think that sometimes we don't realize how important those firsts are. Most authors tend to spend their careers in the genre they first break out in, and at the level at which they break out at. Bestsellers tend to continue being bestsellers (whether or not it's justified), mid-listers often talk about how hard it is to break out of the mid-list range, and it is surprisingly difficult to move from a small publisher to a big one. (I do want to point out some lovely exceptions: Maggie Steifvater, James Dashner, and Ally Carter--for genre--to name a few.) So it does happen, but it's generally the exception rather than the rule.

So what that first book is, can be so crucial. I think that sometimes you have to sit back and really examine your goals. And be honest. Not dreams, not fears, goals.

Here are some examples of goals I have heard in the last little while:

I just want to see my book on the shelf of a brick and mortar store.
I want to have copies of my book available for my family.
I want to win awards.
I want to make my living writing. Not a millionaire, but writing full-time.
I want to be a bestseller. Not necessarily THE bestseller, but A bestseller.
I want to publish a book a year. I don't really care about the money.
I have this one story inside me. I don't know that I will ever write another book.

What are YOUR goals? And what are you doing to make sure that your firsts are going to satisfy those goals?

I have a friend who wrote and published several books without an agent, and eventually, when she felt it was prudent, signed with an agent. Now, after several years, her agent is not meeting her requirements, and she is leaving her. Honestly, I think it's a good move, but I can't help but wonder (No offense! I know you know who you are!!) if her whole career could have been a bit different if, way back then, she had really put a lot of research into her agent choice and not signed with the first agent she contacted, just because she was nice. I suspect that because of all the books under her belt, she will not have trouble finding a new agent, but it can be really hard to break out of the track you have already established yourself to be on.

I had dinner with another friend the other night and about halfway through the conversation, I realized that her goals are not the same as mine were when I was in her position. She falls into the, I would like to see this book in stores, category. And the next realization struck me rather hard. It was that that's okay.

To be very honest, I have always had very high goals for myself. I wanted to be a very commercial author and write for a very broad audience. That was important to me, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. But that doesn't mean that is the path for every author.

You want to release a book a year to a loyal audience and maybe be nominated (and perhaps win!) awards? Maybe a small publisher is perfect for you. Do you seriously want to be a bestseller and anything less would be disheartening? Then you probably shouldn't sign with a small publisher. It *probably* will not help you reach that particular goal. I could go on endlessly with more examples. (But I won't.;))

It's really hard for us as writers to be honest and objective about our work. I remember the first time this summer that my agent meh-ed a story idea I thought was really great. I was wounded! It took me several days to realize she was right. Is it still a decent idea? Probably. Is it too literary and obscure for my current goals? Yes. And since my agent's job is to help me reach my goals, she was right to suggest I put it to the side. And I have.

But it's even harder when you don't have an agent to tell you hard truths. It means you have to tell yourself.

So if you are reaching that point of desperation, and you are starting to think you are willing to take anything, even if it is not going to help you reach your goals, can I suggest something?

Take a step back, realize this is a long-term journey. And write another book.

I'll say it again.

Write another book.

I have never, ever heard an author express regrets that they wrote another book. (Generally that is synonymous with, "I wrote a BETTER book.") But I am starting to hear a lot of regrets that authors did NOT write another book. That they rode their MS into the ground, that they signed with an agent they didn't actually want instead of writing a book that could get a better one, that they signed with a tiny publisher just to get their book out there, even though they hoped to do better.

I empathize! I do!! I wrote three and a half books before I wrote Wings. Shelving the book that got me an agent, but not a publisher, was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

And it was worth it.

Don't settle.

Not everyone is going to be a bestseller/lead title/ next big things/etc. That's not the point. But whatever your personal goals are, don't settle for less just because the other option is shelving your book and trying again. Those firsts are so important. Make them the right firsts.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Links for everyone!:D

Okay, some fun things lately; I was asked by my lovely friend Saundra Mitchell to do a write-up about a brush with the supernatural. Problem is, I've never had one!! So, being the dirty-rotten liar that I am, I decided to write the ghost story I wish had happened to me. It's a bunch of lies mixed up with a bunch of truth, and I really had fun writing it! You can check it out here!

Secondly, Leave A Mark is auctioning off a copy of my book. This is a very special copy though. Basically, I have gone through and made notes in the margins throughout the whole book. Sometimes just a comment about writing it, sometimes further insights, and--in a couple of places--little spoilers.:) I don't normally link to places to buy my book, but this is a charity auction and every single dollar that is bid goes right to First Book, a really great book charity. Plus I have had so much fun "leaving my mark" on this copy of the book. So if you are interested, you can check it out here!

Also, I am coming to Chicago in December! I will have more details soon, but the Debs are doing several nation-wide appearances and I've signed up for the Chicago stop! I will be there with about five other Debs and we are doing two appearances in the greater Chicago area. So stay tuned for more details about that!

This is not a public thing, but I am going to a Boys and Girls Club tomorrow for a faerie tea party! I suspect there will be many fun pics to share when I get back! Also, so I don't forget, sometime in the next day or two, I will be posting about firsts, and how important they are in the writing industry.

Till then, Ciao!!!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Messages and Brainwashing and Graffiti, Oh My!

Welcome back to blog tour! I am so excited to be presenting you with CANDOR by Pam Bachorz today! I "met" (online) Pam probably a year ago . . . maybe a year and a half . . . and ever since I found out what CANDOR was about, I have been dying to read it! I was very glad to get an ARC of it shortly after BEA (thanks Elizabeth Law!!) and dove right in! Here is a bit about CANDOR: Oscar Banks has everything under control. In a town where his father brainwashes everyone, he’s found a way to secretly fight the subliminal Messages. He’s got them all fooled: Oscar’s the top student and the best-behaved teen in town. Nobody knows he’s made his own Messages to deprogram his brain. But then Nia Silva moves to Candor, and Oscar falls in love. He must choose whether to let Nia be lost to brainwashing—or to sacrifice himself.

And look at that cover. Isn't it awesome?!?!

Okay, and here is a bit about Pam, who I actually got to meet at BEA, and she has as lovely a personality as she does a face! Pam Bachorz grew up in a small town in the Adirondack foothills, where she participated in every possible performance group and assiduously avoided any threat of athletic activity. Pam attended college in Boston and finally decided she was finished after earning four degrees. Her mother is not happy that Pam’s degrees are stored under her bed.

Pam lives just outside Washington, DC with her husband and their son. She likes to read books not aimed at her age group, go to museums and theater performances, and watch far too much television. She even goes jogging. Reluctantly.

As far as she knows, Pam has never been brainwashed. Or maybe that’s just what she’s supposed to say.

Pam was kind enough to cyber-sit down with me to do our Feasty Five! So here we go!

AP: My dear Pam, welcome to the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Pam: *blinks*

AP: Oh sorry, wrong cue card. Welcome to Apparently! Let's talk about Oscar. What kind of soda would Oscar drink?

PB: Soda? No soda allowed in Candor, Florida! It has no nutritious value! Oscar gets six ounces of OJ every day at breakfast; his father marks the side of the OJ container with a pencil to make sure Oscar doesn't sneak extra.

AP: Okay, I admit that I have been waiting to post that answer for ages, because the reason my main character drinks soda is because, for her, it does have nutritional value.:D But Oscar has to be forgiven for being human, I guess.;) What is Oscar's favorite kind of flower? How about yours?

PB: Oscar loves lilacs because that's the scent his love, Nia, wears. I picked lilacs for Nia because they're one of my favorite flowers, and also because they don't thrive in Florida (just like Nia). When I moved from Florida to Maryland, we planted a lilac in the backyard!

AP: I adore lilacs. Does Oscar believe in magic? Do you?

PB: We've never talked about it, Oscar and me, but I don't think he's a big believer in magic. He's a believer in himself and his cleverness, more.

Me, I'm a big believer in magic. Someday I'm going to write a big exciting book filled with magic. Or maybe a small creepy paranoid one. Either way... there WILL be magic.

AP: *laugh* Nice. Okay, let's move away from Oscar and focus on the really important issue: Superman or Batman?

PB: Batman. He's cool because he does all his superhero stuff with zero super powers. Plus I like all the broodiness.

AP: Fair enough. Give us one line from your book. You don't even have to give it context.

PB: A little something from my main character, Oscar:
"But I’d seen his bank balance—all the buyers have to give that information to my father, including their kids’ accounts—and I knew he could be worth my time. "

AP: *squeals* I love that line! Pam, thanks for being here, readers, this is an awesome book and it is one of the first wave of books out from Egmont, a publisher that recently started up in the US (it has been popular in the UK, IIRC) and is off to a flying start with novels like Candle Man and an awesome book I will be spotlighting later next month, The Dark Divine, by Bree DeSpain. I've been impressed by them, and CANDOR certainly didn't let me down. You don't often see present-day dystopias, but this is a good one. And though Nia is not the point-of-view character, you will love her!

You can visit Pam at her website, it's lovely and orange!! And something extra fun, you can visit the Candor, FL website and see what kind of advertising Oscar's dad may have used to woo parents into moving to his town! Check it out HERE!


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Streotypical Stereotypes??

Prepare for a long, rather rambly, slightly rant-y post. You've been warned.

Several days ago, my husband stumbled across another author's great blog entry on bucking gender (both genders) stereotypes. My husband was delighted to find, in his words, a blogger so clearly "intelligent and academic!" So he dived in and joined the conversation.

Only to have it suggested that his input was unwelcome because he is male.

I kid you not.

So after a few pert words, he took his shovel and pail and left them to their tea-party.

But since I actually like boys here at my playground (Hi James! Hi David! Hi Graham!) I really did want to look at some of these issues in a nice, neutral marketplace of ideas.

We'll start with a story that you may have seen if you follow me on twitter. Last week I was at the airport waiting at the curb for my mom to pick me up. Two men (looked like a father and grown son) were also waiting. A pretty blonde woman starts to drive by, sees him, and pulls in at a sharp angle. The man (husband, I assume) gestures for her to pull up into the enormous empty space in front of her and says, "Pull forward!" The woman gets this utterly, completely vapid look on her face, I see her "get it," she giggles rather insipidly, and pulls forward. . . . about twenty feet. The husband's shoulders slump a little as he picks up his bags and mutters, "Not that far," and tromps after her. The father follows and in response to the little giggles that went through the crowd says, "She's pregnant." Everyone surrounding me goes, "Ahhhh."

What?? How is that justification?? Talk about perpetuating a stereotype that is completely false! She's not being a moron because she's pregnant, she's just a "dumb blonde," pregnant or not.

Don't get mad at me yet. I know I vilified one stereotype and used the other. I'll come back to this.

One of the issues that my hubby brought up that was instantly misunderstood and attacked, was the question, is it always wrong to write stereotypical characters? He may as well have asked, is it always wrong to ritually sacrifice children? But if I were writing the above scene into a story, would it be my responsibility to change the woman's hair color to brown so that I was not perpetuating the "dumb blonde" stereotype? But she was blonde! Is it politically incorrect for me to change that?

The word "stereotype" is pretty much always used in the pejorative sense. Why is that? Well, no one wants to be defined by a stereotype, and no one wants to read a book that is drowning in clichés. But there is very little you can do that someone else can't use to stereotype you--especially in high school, in my opinion. How often are the valedictorian and the captain of the football team the same person? How many members of the chess team are finalists in the Junior Miss pageant? How often is the fastest runner on the cross-country team one of the chain-smoking bad boys?

Never say never! But let's say... rarely. Sometimes (except maybe the chain-smoking bad boy!;)), but not often. Call it cliques, call it social borders, but if you see a high schooler walking down the hallway, and guess what their extra-curricular activities are based solely on their appearance, you will often be right.

So why do we abhor them so much, in life and in writing? Don't we write about real life? Certainly, if we don't like a stereotype that is being applied to us, it's good to remember that it is possible to cross those boundaries--even to cut them down. And teenagers especially will often do things with no more reason than to "be different," because that is part of understanding who we are! But I think a lot of people have become so fixated on bucking gender stereotypes that main characters who "buck stereotypes" have become their own cliché.

Like if I hold up a book and say, "This is a kick-a$$ chick book," you instantly know what I am talking about. And so the idea that we can "never" write stereotypes, seems like one of a million other "never" rules. It can't always be true--it must be a stereotype!

I think maybe what people really mean when they say don't write stereotypes, is to make strong, unique characters. See, that is a phrase I can live with. Because sometimes the interesting story IS a character who resides within a stereotype. I recently read the ARC of a book called A Match Made in High School by Kristin Walker, out next year. It is hilarious! I loved it! However, as time passes, the character who really sticks with me is a side character. She is every cheerleading stereotype you could imagine. She is popular, blonde, skinny, mean, slutty. She is a cookie cutter. I should not like her! The author sets you up not to like her. But as the book went on, she became redeemed in my eyes.

**MINOR SIDEPLOT SPOILER ALERT** Not because you see her soft side, or because she changes. In fact, the only real vulnerability you see is from her boyfriend's point of view, which is--at least somewhat--biased. But the character you really get to see is the boyfriend. Despite being quite cruel at the beginning, you come to realize that he really is just a show-off with a good heart, and he loves this cheerleader. I thought the author was setting things up for the well-rounded boyfriend to leave the two-dimensional cheerleader for the main character. But he doesn't, he keeps loving her, and because he does, the reader does too. If this cheerleader had not been such a stereotype, it would not have been nearly so compelling of a story line.**END SPOILER**

I sometimes get really frustrated with all the "rules" and "responsibilities" and "politics" that everyone likes to perpetuate around the web in the writing community. We are "supposed" to make our female characters strong and confident! But I mention that Laurel knows she's pretty and some readers assume that means she is "stuck up." We are supposed to present diversity, but despite Tamani being dark-haired and dark-skinned (there is no "race" as such among faeries, just appearances), some readers see blonde Laurel and say I am equating goodness with light hair and skin. (Aren't there good blondes in this world too?) And on the other side of the spectrum, some people think that it is unbelievable that Laurel comes in and attracts the "hottest guy in the school," and I am like, uh . . . really? You think the science geek is the hottest guy in the school? No one is ever going to be one hundred percent happy with your text--but what's more, people will stereotype your characters in ways you never intended.

So what do we, as writers, do? Honestly, I think the way to go about this is to go old school. Just write the story that wants to be told. If your main character is ethnic/gay/female/handicapped/whatever, great, but if that's the most interesting thing about their story, you may be writing yourself into a cliché! And definitely don't write in token ethnic/gay/female/handicapped/whatever characters--people will see through that. Rather, focus on writing unique characters in an interesting story, and remember that doing the "stereotypical" thing can be just as "unexpected" as being a rebel!

I'm going to wrap up (yes, really, I'm ending it now) with a quote from Neal Stephenson that I think applies to SO many aspects of life (and was rebuffed in the blog entry because, yes, Neal Stephenson is a boy so his input doesn't count). At the end of a book called Diamond Age a young woman is asked by a mentor-figure whether she will “conform or rebel,” and she answers, “Neither . . . . Both ways are simple-minded--they are only for people who cannot cope with contradiction and ambiguity.”

So when faced with this litany of rules that I am expected to follow, I ask myself, will I follow them, or refuse? And, like the girl in Diamond Age, I reply, neither. I will follow when I see fit, and break away when I feel necessary. In that, I feel I am more free to tell the best story.

Hehe, you made it to the end, eh? I'm impressed!


Monday, October 19, 2009

Tryouts and Crushes and Secrets, Oh My!

Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, get on up, it's Blog Tour time!!!! Cool Readings!!!!!

Yes, yes, I am teh lame.:D But welcome back to DebsTour 2009! Tonight we have the lovely Lauren Bjorkman with her new book MY INVENTED LIFE, shown here. *gestures all Vanna White-ly to the left. . . no, the other left* This book definitely wins one of my top favorite covers award. Something about it, I don't know. But anyway, here's a bit about MIL! Roz and Eva are sisters, close friends, and fierce rivals. Roz fantasizes about snagging the lead in the school play and sexy skate god Bryan as her boyfriend. Sadly a few obstacles stand between her and her dreams. For one, Eva is the more talented actress. And Bryan happens to be Eva’s boyfriend. But is Eva having a secret love affair with a girl? Inquiring minds need to know.

Roz prides herself on random acts of insanity. In one such act, she invents a girlfriend of her own to encourage Eva to open up. The plan backfires, and Roz finds herself neck deep in her invented life. When Roz meets a mercurial boy with a big problem, she begins to understand the complex feelings beneath the labels. And she gets a second chance to earn Eva’s trust.

I have not yet gotten a chance to read this one, but it is on the top of my TBR pile as soon as I finish up my edits. (It's my re-ward.:D)

And a bit about the fab Lauren: I grew up on a sailboat, sharing the tiny forecastle with my sister and the sail bags. We are still friends. Visiting exotic lands continues to be a big part of my life. I once learned how to make bread in Yemen Bedouin style. I’ve played Hacky Sack with children in Thailand. My passion for travel is second only to my love for books because take me to every world imaginable. I live in Taos, New Mexico with my husband, two sons, a cat that thinks he’s a dog, and another cat that thinks he’s a rabbit.

Mmmm, you lost me at "I grew up on a sailboat." Have I mentioned I am rather obsessed with boats? I love boats.

Ahem. Okay, without further ado, here is Lauren with our Feasty Five!

AP: What kind of soda does your MC drink?

LB: BlueSky. Roz's mom is into everything organic. But then again Roz might sneak out to the Zip-Stop for a Dr. Pepper later.

AP: Dr. Pepper's not organic? Huh, who knew. What is your MC's favorite kind of flower? How about yours?

LB: Yellow roses. I especially love ginger flowers woven into a lei.

AP: I *think* that is a first for both those answers. Does your MC believe in magic? Do you?

LB: Yes! and Yes! Roz is particularly addicted to online ouija.

AP: With enthusiasm! Gotta love it! Superman or Batman?

LB: Batman. Superman is too good.

AP: Too good? Explain.

LB: *helpless shrug*

AP: I guess it really doesn't have to make sense.:D Give us one line from your book. You don't even have to give it context.:)

LB: "I'm not one to give up, especially when common sense dictates I should."

AP: My kind of woman! Whoo-hoo!

Okay, Lauren's book is out in stores now and you can visit her at her awesome website! (There are pictures of boats!!! I'm just sayin'.)

Thanks for stopping by, Lauren!!! (Whose name I keep trying to mis-type as Laurel . . . I wonder why . . .:D)


Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I am in the revision cave. My kids are sick. I think I'm coming down with it too.

But I didn't want to leave you hanging!

More next week, I promise.


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Mazes and Grievers and Wicked, Oh My!

We have a guest on DebsTour today. Well, considering his book, he's probably more of an intruder, but hey, you say po-TAY-to, I say Pa-TAH-to.:D

So welcome to the blog tour James Dashner and his new book, out today, THE MAZE RUNNER. A book that is better than mine.;)

Here's a bit about The Maze Runner: When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

*Aprilynne's note: Seriously, people, Hunger Games has got nothing on The Maze Runner. Incredible book!!*

And a bit about James: James Dashner lives and writes in Utah.

Wait, wait, is that all we've got? *scratchy whisper* Seriously? That's all it says on Amazon? *rolls eyes* AmazonFAIL! Looks like it's time for . . . COLOR IT UP GIRL!!!!!

Okay, James Dashner bio Aprilynne style. *Ahem*

The first time I met James I was late to a luncheon in which James was bet five bucks by the illustrious Sara Zarr that he could not finish a rather ginormous Cobb salad. By the time I arrived James was a bit fatter, a little green, and five dollars richer. That is pretty much James in a nutshell. Raised in Georgia, James now lives in Utah with his wife and four really cute kids. He is the author of six other books and loves Mountain Dew and Cheese. Not necessarily in that order.

His greatest accomplishment to date is being friends with me.

See! That's way better.:D

Okay, James was kind enough to answer my Feasty Five, so away we go!

AP: What kind of soda does your MC drink?

JD: Apocalyptic Dew.

AP: *blinkblink* Funny, I don't remember that in the book. Hmmmm. What is your MC's favorite kind of flower? How about yours?

JD: Venus Fly Traps. Me? Venus Fly Traps.

AP: *long silence* This is what I get for asking a guy . . . who writes about a guy . . . a question about flowers. Let's pretend that question didn't happen. Next! Does your MC believe in magic? Do you?

JD: He absolutely does not believe in magic. I, however, do.

AP: *warm fuzzies* Awwwwwww. Superman or Batman?

JD: Batman doesn't even have any powers! But Batman movies trounce Superman movies. Hmm. I refuse to answer!

AP: CHEATER!!!! I'm going to give you one more chance to make a real decision.

JD: *silence*

AP: *Evil Eye*

JD: *moar silence*

AP: *grumble* Fine, Mr. Decisionally Challenged. Give us one line from your book. You don't even have to give it context.

JD: "Everything is going to change."

AP: Good that!! (Read the book, you'll laugh at me later.;)) Thanks you James for Guest-Deb-Touring with us!

You can find James' incoherent ramblings at and you can order The Maze Runner here. Better yet, go see James on tour!