Today is the day! A MAD, WICKED FOLLY hits the shelves in its new cover and in paperback form. There is some additional content including a Q & A by me and some book club discussion questions.

Many people have wondered why the cover change. Often the publisher chooses to make a change to appeal to a wider audience. My paperback publisher, Speak, chose a more literal cover, and I love it! The model is amazing and she reminds me of Vicky and her fiery personality.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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My book is a year old today and I thought I would chat a bit about what I learned about publishing during this year.  Also there’s a little advice mixed in.  Feel free to ask me questions in the comment section.

1. Publishing a book is an enormous endeavor and there’s really nothing to prepare you for what’s to come aside from experience.  Many of my friends and family thought my job was over once I signed the contract, but I knew from publishing three non-fiction books that my work was just beginning. Fiction edits, however, are much, much harder.  It’s more personal, for one.  After all the characters are created from the deepest part of you. You will go through many edits that will feel as though someone is pointing out personal flaws. You will feel freaked out and vulnerable. Copy edits, in particular, are excruciating.  Nits will be picked, plot holes will be poked, and characters called into question.  It’s normal to feel defensive and embarrassed, but really the editors are on your side and they are trying to help you create the best book you can.  Take their queries graciously and always thank them because the education you will receive is priceless. At the end of my editorial process I had learned so much about my writing and I grew into the author I wanted to be.

2. The months leading up to your pub date and after are going to be filled with anxiety and elation.  This is normal.  ARCs will be sent out, reviews will come in, and your Twitter followers will grow.  You’ll go to bed unable to sleep because you’re too excited.  You’ll go to bed unable to sleep because you’re too depressed.  Don’t worry. You are not going crazy.

3. You are now a public figure.  (I’ll wait while that soaks in a bit.) It matters not how well your book sells because you, my darling, are now in the public eye.  Anyone can say whatever they want to say about you.  They will take offense at something in your book, despise your characters, adore your characters, and maybe, if you’re lucky, do the fangirl thing (this is the best).  These are all wonderful things, even the yucky bits. My agent told me that the wider your audience, the more haters you will attract.  Also, people from your past may pop up and say crummy things about you or want something from you.  These are the costs of being published.  Take it or leave it.

4. Don’t expect to make a ton of money this first year.  In fact, do not crawl under the covers and refuse to come out when your first royalty statement comes in.  People (usually non-writer people) often think a book contract is lucrative.  This is because most of the authors they know of live in really cool mansions (read: Stephen King, JK Rowling, James Patterson) and live awesome lifestyles.  The truth is, most of us make about what a first year teacher makes (including yours truly). People don’t understand that your advance may be the only money your book earns, and that it might not even earn out.  They don’t understand that you only get paid twice a year, and you have no idea what that amount will be.  A slim to none royalty statement does not mean your book was a failure.  You wrote a book, got an agent, had it published.  All things that are nigh on impossible for the average Joe to accomplish.  Your job is to get back in your chair and write another book.  That well of creativity is deep and you know it.

5. Don’t expect your publisher’s publicist to do everything for you. I have a fabulous publicist at Viking but there was nothing in the budget for swag.  No biggie, I made my own.  I hired a local graphic art company who used the original art for my cover (ask your editor for this).  He made beautiful bookmarks for me.  I created a tie-in to my story, which is a Tennyson poem from a book that Will gives Vicky.  My father, an artist, recreated the illustration on the front and I copied the poem for the back.  I also made t-shirts with the illustration to sell and for giveaways on my site.  Jen Parrish, an amazing jewelry designer, made a custom necklace for me, which I gave away on my site.  Just a side note: Have your bookmarks printed on matte paper. It’s easier to sign them and the ink doesn’t smear.

A gift for you!

Swag

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Jen’s beautiful necklace

6. You are a debut author and you will not be sent on a whirlwind book tour.  Those are expensive and reserved for authors who sell many, many books.  Besides, your time is best spent writing that second novel.  (Read this awesome post by Shannon Hale about appearances and signings.)

7. Book signings can be nerve-wracking so be prepared. Have a few standard messages ready.  If you’re signing for young adults, ask them what they do or what they like, etc., and try to wrap that into your message. Buy yourself some ultra-fine sharpies, color coordinated is nice.  FYI, traditionally the page you sign is the title page.

8. Treat all bloggers equally.  I don’t care how popular a blogger is or how many followers they have.  If someone wants to interview me, I’m thrilled and honored.  So give every blogger who reaches out to you a consideration.  You don’t have to say yes to everyone but I did and I don’t regret it.  I’ve had nothing but fun and was treated with nothing but respect.  Bloggers are your friends, by the way. This is largely a hobby for them and they spend a lot of time promoting and discussing books.  They are also some of the nicest people I’ve ever met and I’ve made some very good friends.

9. Throw yourself a book party, dammit.  Don’t be shy.  You are a debutante only once, so go for it.  Spend some of that advance and do it up right.  Here is what I did: I rented a few hours in a train station turned party space, bought wine, beer, and sodas, canapés and cupcakes from Costco, and recorded music on CDs that reflected my book’s theme. I invited the local newspapers and pinned up flyers.   I rented costumes from a theatre store and had two young friends dress as suffragettes.  They handed out bookmarks, temporary tattoos and other swag. My brother and husband tended bar and my mom and sister laid out the food. Barnes & Noble did my book sales and I even had t-shirts printed up to sell.  Most of all, I bought a really beautiful 50s style dress with a big poofy skirt—you gotta look nice, people.  I signed books all night long, chatted with friends, and danced a little with my husband. I was really nervous about signing books so I had people sign a journal while I signed their book, just to take a little of the pressure off.  They wrote so many sweet things and I have a nice memento of that evening and a record of who was there.  I wanted to do a reading but I truly did not have time. I didn’t expect it but there were presents, too.  My aunt sent me a lovely bunch of flowers, my writer friends gave me little trinkets, and my family bought me mermaid themed gifts.

Art by Aunt Shirley

Art by Aunt Shirley

My dad and a couple of suffragettes

My dad and a couple of suffragettes

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10. Do not obsessively check GoodReads and Amazon, or Google your book.  Most mean, troll-y reviews come out just before your book is published and about two months after, so avoid, avoid.  There are GoodReads reviewers that have gained a huge following from writing snarky reviews complete with GIFs.  These will hurt if you let them.  These will carve deep groves in your sensitive writer-ly soul, if you let them.  Do not heed the advice about growing thick skin.  Thick skin is for rhinos and elephants.  You need a thin skin if you’re going to be a writer.  If you’re not sensitive how will you be able to write?  So get out that sunscreen, protect yourself from the harmful rays of negative reviews. DO NOT READ THEM.  I repeat.  DO NOT READ THEM.  No good can come of it. Your psyche has no understanding of trolls and will take their words seriously.

For your reading pleasure, the following is a collection of real GoodReads reviews written about bestselling authors:

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

WHAT. THE. FUCK. WHAT. THE. FUCK. WHAT. THE. FUCK. WHAT. THE. FUCK. WHAT. THE. FUCK. WHAT. THE. FUCK. WHAT. THE. FUCK. WHAT. THE. FUCK. WHAT. THE. FUCK. WHAT. THE. FUCK. WHAT. THE. FUCK. WHAT. THE. FUCK. WHAT. THE. FUCK. WHAT. THE. FUCK. WHAT. THE. FUCK. WHAT. THE. FUCK. WHAT. THE. FUCK. WHAT. THE. FUCK. WHAT. THE. FUCK. WHAT. THE. FUCK. WHAT. THE. FUCK. WHAT. THE. FUCK. WHAT. THE. FUCK. WHAT. THE. FUCK.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling

I’m not going to comment on the literary shortcomings of this book, the clichés, the painfully long narrative, the fact that the characters will not think about an issue for months, but then suddenly it becomes important again. Smarter people than me have already said all this.

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

Those of us who don’t relate to Holden see in him a self-absorbed whiner, and in Salinger, a one-trick-pony who lucked into performing his trick at a time when some large fraction of America happened to be in the right collective frame of mind to perceive this boring twaddle as subversive and meaningful.

And one of my own:

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

Oh, what was that? I’m sorry. Did your clothes accidentally fall off by themselves? Were you wearing the emperor’s new clothes? Oh, wait, no. You took off your clothes to prove that you’re the equal of all the male artists despite the fact that the thought of stripping naked makes you want to run away in terror. If they jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?… Despite the book’s premise of feminism and freeing oneself from society’s boundaries, this book failed to execute the message. I did not like it, and I absolutely hated the main character.

11. DO NOT.  I repeat. DO NOT RESPOND to mean reviews.  Do not have your posse respond either.  Everyone has a right to say or think what they want about your book.  It’s their right.  Refer to item 3 above.  You are now a public figure.  Do not engage, stalk, or contact reviewers to try to change their minds.  You can, however, talk to other writers, your family, editor and agent about it, if you have to. Just don’t make your gripes public.

12. Do respond to good reviews on Twitter with a thank you, or at least a favorite, especially if they tweet at you.  That’s just good manners, after all.

13. Engage with your readers that reach out to you.  Especially now when you’re building a readership. It doesn’t take long to reply and let them know how much you appreciate their words.  This, to me, is most important to young adults who often look up to writers and may have writing aspirations of their own.  I adore my readers and it means so much to me when they write.  I mean, after all, these are teenagers and young adults.  They have better things to do but instead they sat down and wrote an email or letter to tell me how much the story meant to them.  Nothing can compare with how happy that makes me.  This is why I write.  As an added bonus, many of these readers are now my friends. I truly, truly care about them.

14. Be thankful and humble.  You are on an amazing journey. You get to tell stories and touch people’s lives.  What an honor.  What an absolute honor. Oh, and congratulations!

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Although I will not be doing a formal signing at ALA at the end of the month, I will be there, ready and willing to sign books if you have them.  If not, I will be packing bookmarks, which I will happily sign for you.  I plan on wandering the halls, hanging out with friends, and searching the crowd for Twitter pals I’ve always wanted to meet in real life.  I would LOVE to meet you so if you want a signed bookmark or want to hang out for a wee bit or just want to say hi, tweet at me and I’ll let you know where in the vastness that is the McCormick Place I am.  (If there’s cake, chances are I’m there.).  Please don’t feel shy about saying hello or asking me questions.  I really would love to meet you.  And if we’ve chatted on Twitter or met before please remind me who you are. I have the memory of a sieve, especially while I’m in revisions, which I am at the moment.  Also I am kind of shy and large crowds overwhelm me sometimes so I might have a slightly freaked out look on my face.  Also I don’t get out much so I may remind you of an overzealous puppy.

So…can’t wait to see you all at ALA!

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Hi All,

Rachel Silberman, one of the hosts of the awesome YouTube channel RayKayBooks, is doing the neatest author scavenger hunt. There are four different hunts, and I’m in the contemporary/historical segment, which is the third one.  There are so many, many neat prizes and you won’t want to miss it. I’m giving away a hardback copy of A MAD, WICKED FOLLY and a 30 minute Skype visit!  I will show you around the farm (if I can keep the goats from eating my phone) and we can chat about whatever you’d like.  It ends on January 7th so get going.  All the deets are here: RayKayBooks.

Also I am still giving away signed bookmarks and a page from Will’s book with original art from my father.  The giveaway ends on the 15th so if you want one send me your address through the contact me form and I’ll send it out to you!

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Barnes and Noble is selling loads of signed books today so I thought I would do a little virtual signing of my own.  Contact me through this link  with your mailing address and I will send you a signed bookmark made out to whomever you like and a page from the book Will gave Vicky, which includes original art from my father and the Tennyson poem, The Mermaid.  I’m happy to sign as many as you need while supplies last.  Offer expires on the 15th of December and is open to domestic and international readers. Happy Holidays!

A gift for you!

A gift for you!

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I will never forget the first time I saw a field of poppies in full bloom.  I was living in England at the time and I was on my way to Bath with a friend.  We took the scenic route through to Stonehenge and as we crested a hill the view opened up and there it was: a massive field of red poppies.

 

The poppy (Papaver rhoeas), or corn poppy, as most people know, is the memorial flower of veterans.  In many countries, especially in England, the flower is given out or sold by charities to be worn on Veterans Day (called Remembrance Sunday in Great Britain).  Farmers consider the corn poppy, however beautiful, a weed.  Possessed of a pepper pot shaped seedpod, the corn poppy only needs a little breeze to shake its millions of tiny seeds everywhere.  The seeds can lie dormant for years, just waiting for the right conditions.  In World War I the soil disturbances—trenching and bombing—provided this, bringing long-buried seeds to the surface, and soon the poppies covered the barren soil with beauty—a place of death had sprung to life.

The corn poppy became a remembrance symbol when Canadian Colonel John McCrae wrote a poem that described the poppies shortly after his friend and former student, Alexis Helmer, was buried.

McCrae threw the poem away, but an officer dug it out and sent it to the press in England where it was published by Punch magazine in December 1915.

In Flanders Fields by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1818)

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

 

We are the Dead.  Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

 

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

 

In 1918 Moina Michael, an American YWCA worker read McCrae’s poem in a Ladies Home Journal and was inspired by the last part of the poem: ‘if you break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders Fields.’ She decided to always wear a poppy.  The notion spread, and today paper poppies are made and sold, raising funds for veterans every year.

 

When I saw the field in full bloom that day, I remembered Colonel McCrae’s poem, and I thought about the power of writing and how it can help us deal with our emotions through terrible times.  I thought about how our words can continue to touch people long after we’re dead.  McCrae found beauty, humanity, and meaning after the horrible aftermath of Ypres through this astonishing poem. The Flanders Field poem still makes me cry each time I read it.  And I can’t look at a red poppy without thinking of our veterans and how much they’ve given us, and what we owe them.  What we will always owe them. Such is the power of words.

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I’m so thrilled to be able to share the new paperback cover to A MAD, WICKED FOLLY, which will be released June 2, 2015, complete with some extra content. There’s something really magical about seeing your cover for the first time, and it’s equally exciting to see what the designers come up with for the paperback.  Penguin’s art department is incredibly talented and so I knew the artists at my paperback publisher, Speak, would do an amazing job.  Dana Bergman, my pb editor, wanted to make sure to remain authentic to the book, hence the Edwardian-era details on the girl’s clothing. I absolutely love this cover.  It reminds of Vicky, standing defiantly, unwilling to abandon her dream of becoming an artist.  So what do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Yesterday I had the pleasure of being on a Sex and Violence in YA lit panel with two of my  Corsets, Cutlasses, and Candlesticks blog sisters, Katherine Longshore and Jennifer McGowan.  It was hosted by the very fab teen librarian Karen Jensen via her Teen Librarian’s Toolbox.  We talked about all sorts of interesting things and got to see one another’s work spaces.  Also you get to hear the dulcet tones of my hounds-from-hell  as the UPS guy shows up.  Bonus! Anyway, check it out.

Also, today, Karen posted this really kind review of A MAD, WICKED FOLLY.  Thanks so much, Karen!

 

 

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I admit it.  I get a little thrill of happiness whenever an author I admire talks to me.  For instance, I chatted with Elizabeth Wein on Twitter about Code Name Verity while I was reading the book in England.  And that time when I talked to Miranda Kenneally and Gail Carriger about random stuff.  And when I bonded with Tiffany Reisz over horses.  You can keep your actors and singers; authors are the ones I love to meet.  Which is why I pretty much flipped out when a Twitter friend, Amanda Pedulla, told me she’d noticed Diana Gabaldon had thanked me in her acknowledgments in her latest book, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. 

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A little background is in order here.  Diana Gabaldon is my favorite writer.  Hands down.  If you don’t know already, she writes the immensely fabulous Outlander series, which is about Claire Randall, a woman from the 1940s, who falls through standing stones while on her honeymoon in Scotland and lands in the 1800s.  She’s taken captive by a band of Scottish highlanders, and while she’s trying to work out what’s going on, she meets a young injured highlander named Jamie Fraser.  Because she was a nurse during WWII, she’s able to fix his dislocated shoulder and then later his stab wounds.  The two become friends and then…well, you’ll have to read them.  These books…these wonderful books… I adore them.  Diana is a fabulous storyteller and she does not hold back.  She has a flare for weaving history in the narrative and bringing each character to life, even the smallest walk-ons.  I’ve long admired these traits in her writing and I work hard to do the same in my own.  Diana’s writing also made me fall in love with the British Isles, and it was partly because of the Outlander series that I headed to England and ended up meeting my husband.

I had the enormous pleasure of meeting Diana in 2000.  I went to a Highland festival in San Diego and I had no idea that she’d be there signing her books.  And there she was, manning the booth all by herself, and we got to chat for a little bit.  I told her I wrote magazine articles and I working on fiction in my free time.  She signed a book for me thusly:

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So from time to time I talked to her through her blog and on her writing forum and found her to be a very kind person, generous with her knowledge, and funny, to boot.  I knew I wanted to be that kind of writer, too.  When Random House and Penguin merged, my first thought wasn’t how that merger would affect me as a writer, but how happy I was that Diana and I were in the same publishing house now.

Those of you who know me know that I write for farm magazines, and I’ve written a chicken breed profile magabook.  A couple of years ago, I happened to mention a chicken breed called the Scots Dumpy on Diana’s blog.  She responded saying she was really enchanted with the breed.  I thought it would end there, but then one Saturday night this June while I was working on my latest work in progress, I got the aforementioned tweet from Amanda.  I fast forwarded through my Written in my Own Heart’s Blood copy on my Kindle and found it:

From the acknowledgements in Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon

Thrilled? Yes, I was.  In fact I was fangirl flailing to the point of hyperventilating.  I also loved how she incorporated the Scots Dumpy into her story.

I want to thank you, Diana Gabaldon, for entertaining me and inspiring me for many years.  I’m glad I could give something back to you, even if it was something as small as a chicken.  I hope one day I can thank you in person. And by the way, your latest book is so, so, so good. I loved each and every page.

For those of you wondering what in the heck is so special about a chicken that it caught Diana Gabaldon’s attention, here is the information about the Scots Dumpy from my book Guide to Chicken Breeds.

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People recognize the cheerful, biddable Scots Dumpy by its very short legs, which have earned the breed several unflattering nicknames, including “Crawlers” and “Creepers.” The breed’s legs result from what has been called a “creeper gene” that can cause chicks to die in the shell before hatching if combined with other certain genes.  The Scots Dumpy offers a quiet, placid breed that enjoys free ranging; handlers should monitor its diet, however, as this slow-moving bird gains weight quickly.  Chicks need special feeders and water drinkers to account for their short stature.  The breed is better suited to warm, dry climates; close proximity to cold, wet ground can lead to sickness.  The hen is a great layer of white eggs and can be used to rear the chicks of other flow.  Because of its large size, the Scots Dumpy does not fly.

One of only two breeds developed in Scotland, the ancient Scots Dumpy warned Scots and Picts of incoming Roman attacks during the early medieval period.  Fanciers began exhibiting the breed in 1852.  The Scots Dumpy nearly reached extinction during the mid-19th century; fortunately, a pure line was discovered in Kenya in 1973.  Lady Violet Carnegie had brought the flock to Kenya in 1902 and it was reimported to the United Kingdom to boost decreasing numbers.  A bantam variety of the breed was developed in 1912, just after the Scots Dumpy Club was formed.

Some breeders describe the Scots Dumpy body type as “boatlike.” The breed’s carriage should appear “heavy with a waddling gait,” according to the Scots Dumpy Club.  The rooster has long, flowing tail feathers.  The most commonly seen plumage types include Cuckoo and Black varieties; however Blue, Splash and a very rare white also exist.  The shanks of the Black variety look slate to black; they appear white in the remaining varieties.  The breed’s medium, upright, single comb, wattles and earlobes are red.  The Scots Dumpy rooster weights up to 7 pounds; the hen weights 6 pounds.  Bantams weight 1½ to 1¾ pounds.

 

 

 

 

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