Friday, October 29, 2010

Just in Time for Halloween! UNEARTHLY ASYLUM, by PJ Bracegirdle!!!

It's that time again for all things creepy! My favorite time of year! In celebration, I'm reviewing a new middle-grade novel UNEARTHLY ASYLUM, by PJ Bracegirdle (provided by Simon & Schuster).

UNEARTHLY ASYLUM is the 2nd book in THE JOY OF SPOOKING series. But don't despair if you have yet to gobble up Book I, FIENDISH DEEDS. UNEARTHLY ASYLUM can stand on its own two feet! I had no problem digging into this book and Bracegirdle does a quick and seamless job of catching the reader up on what transpired in Book I.

Joy Wells isn't like most other girls - not that she much cares. Obsessed with famous horror writer E. A. Peugeot, Joy spends her time dressing up in a dead woman's tweeds and investigating paranormal activity around her hometown of Spooking. Meanwhile the mayor's assistant Mr. Octavio Phipps has also trained his sinister sights on the mysterious asylum. As Joy already knows, the embittered ex-punk rocker will stop at nothing in his nefarious quest to destroy her beloved town. When her pet frog Fizz becomes trapped behind the walls of a mental asylum, Joy must mount a rescue operation that brings her into conflict with Mr. Phipps again. Along with her brother Byron and their strange playmate Poppy, Joy soon uncovers mind-bending secrets straight from the pages of her favorite author. Can Joy get everyone out alive, or will they be trapped in the unearthly asylum forever?

The Writing. Bracegirdle is very literary. No spoon feeding in this book, which I love!

The Spooky Factor. This is perfect for readers who want to read under the covers with a flashlight. It's spooky enough to get kids' minds whirling with the supernatural, but not enough that they won't be able to get to sleep.

The Villain: Those of you who know me, know I love a well rounded villain! Bracegirdle's Mr. Phipps is just that. He has layers. You want to know more about him (for example, Phipps is an ex-punk rocker, which I think is pretty cool). Best of all, you love to hate him.

The Author: PJ is one cool cat! He has pretty much the craziest (creepiest) bio ever! He's worked in a haunted Scottish theatre and pushed laundry carts along dark tunnels under an insane asylum, just to name a few creepy jobs! You can find out more about him on his site at, along with the official JOY OF SPOOKING website,

Oh, and one last thing: There will be a 3rd book in the Joy of Spooking!! Go PJ!


xoxo -- Hilary

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Book Birthday Shout Out!!! THE BOY WHO HOWLED by Tim Power


Happy Book Birthday to Timothy Power, author of THE BOY WHO HOWLED (Bloomsbury USA Children's)!! My friend and fellow Project Mayhem blogger Tim Power finally gets to scream to the rooftops about his fantastic middle-grade debut!

Here is the scoop on The Boy Who Howled: As far back as Callum can really remember, he's been living in the Wild as the furless mascot of a wolf pack. But when his pack sends him back to live with his own kind—humans—fitting in is quite a challenge. He doesn't remember English very well, so he accidentally says his name is "Clam." He's spent most of his life eating fresh-killed elk, so dining with vegetarians is tricky. And when he tries to impress the Alpha student in the school cafeteria by stealing food, people seem offended!

A mix of wildness and humor, Timothy Power's inventive writing makes him a debut author to watch. And Callum's quest to find his place in a strange world will have readers rooting for him—when they're not howling with laughter.

Author Tim Power
Is he not a handsome devil??
In his AWESOME book!!!! Also, stop by the Project Mayhem blog and wish him and the Boy Who Howled a very merry birthday!!!

xoxo -- Hilary

Friday, October 15, 2010

Toot Your Horn Friday! What's in a name?

Killdeer from Nightshade City
Illustration by Omar Rayyan
It seems there are two camps when it comes to naming characters and books. One camp (my camp) loves it! The other camp can't stand making up names or titles.

For me, I think names are extremely important when it comes to my characters. I painstakingly pick each one out, some have a personal meaning (Vincent Nightshade, Vincent is my son's name), while others are purely for effect (if Killdeer doesn't sound evil to you, I don't know what does!). I think names are just as important as the world your characters exist in.

As for titles, I went back and forth briefly on what NIGHTSHADE CITY would be called. At one point, I really liked The Rats of Nightshade City or The Rats of Nightshade. My husband told me no way! He said Nightshade City has a lot more muscle to it and I should go with my first instinct. I think he was right... ;)

So, how about you? Do you think names are important? Do you think Harry Potter would have been as successful if he was Hank Putt? Would the Artemis Fowl series be such a hit if it were entitled Artie Feldstein? Would Redwall have wowed the world if it were called Cute Mice in an Abbey?

xoxo -- Hilary

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Guest Post: Author Janice Hardy's Query Quest!

Hi Everyone! Today we have a very special guest, Janice Hardy, YA author of The Shifter and its newly released sequel, Blue Fire! Every author's road to finding an agent is unique and Janice has offered to share hers, which is very inspiring! So, take it away, Janice!

A few years ago, I wrote a book and queried eight agents. I got four manuscript requests and three offers of representation. (I know, you all hate me, but hang with me a little longer). If “The Shifter” had been the only book I’d ever queried, I would have thought this whole publishing thing was easy. But it was the fourth “real” book I’d ever written (written with the intent to try and sell). The other three didn’t go nearly so well. Like thirty form rejections each. Very few page requests. Certainly no fulls.

So what was different about this book?

For one, it was a better book. A lot of attention is placed on writing the perfect query letter, but truth is, the best query in the world can’t sell a book that isn’t working. With my first submission attempt, I never got past the query stage. My second attempt, I got a few page requests, but all were rejected (including the agent I would later sign with). Clearly something was wrong with the book, since the pages weren’t grabbing the reader. I revised and tried again, with the same results. By this time, I had a nice, thick file full of form rejections and a few encouraging words.

Then came “The Shifter.” I knew early on I had something better than I’d ever had before. It just felt different when I was writing it. I started to think I might have an actual shot, and – dare I say it – get a full manuscript request. That was really my goal at this point. I just wanted one more step forward in the process to prove to myself that I was making progress.

I didn’t want to make the same mistakes I’d made on those earlier books. I knew my query had to rock. I knew I had to send it to the right agents who might like my work.

I had no clue how to do any of that.

I figured the best place to start was to make a list of agents to submit to. I used and cross-referenced those names against Preditors & Editors. I cut any who had warnings, and wound up with 25 agents. Then I read agent blogs, especially those agents on my list. I Googled them to see what interviews they’d done or any articles they’d written. I checked out their client lists and read the books that seemed similar to mine. I was able to split my list into three parts based on this research. A) Agents who represented what I’d written, had sold a lot of books in my genre, and liked books like mine. B) Agents who represented what I’d written, had sold some books in my genre, and C) Agents who represented what I’d written and sold at least one book in my genre.

Now it was time to write that query.

I read everything I could find on writing successful queries. The most helpful advice came from Miss Snark and her Crap-O-Meter query contests. Seeing hundreds of real queries and reading her comments on what worked and what didn’t was an eye-opening experience. I started to get a feel for what a good query sounded like. Remarkably like cover copy on a book, but with details instead of being vague. So I went online and read cover copy of books in my genre. I analyzed the ones that grabbed me and made notes. I used the “here’s a person with a problem and here’s what they have to do to solve it” template and wrote my query.

And it was so-so.

I know this because at that time, an agent was doing a “post your query and I’ll give you feedback on it” session on her blog. I jumped at the chance and submitted mine. She had all kinds of issues with it. She couldn’t get behind the premise of the story (buying and selling pain) at all.


So I went back to the drawing board. This time, I focused more on the protagonist and what she needed to do, and less on world building. It felt much more interesting, because it was about a character with a problem, not “this is the book’s plot.”

Right about this time, one of the agents on my list announced she was doing a “Back to School” open query for YA. Writers could bypass the regular submission process if they had a YA book. Well, I had a YA book, I was ready to start submitting, so I sent it in. I figured this was a good time to send in the rest.

Then I saw another post online from another agent who was just starting to take on clients. She was working under a well-known agent on my B-list. I queried her as well, figuring she’d be more open to new writers since she was a new agent. And since she had a great agent mentoring her, I’d get the best of both worlds – experience and the need for new clients.

Both requested pages, then fulls. A third agent also asked for the full shortly thereafter (she was a standard snail mail query). I was ecstatic.

I was also just about to attend the Surrey International Writers Conference. Conveniently, several of my A-list agents were going to be there, so I’d be able to meet them and see what they were like. I got a pitch appointment with the last agent on my A-list and pitched her in person. She also asked for the full.

I was beyond excited at this point, and when I got home from the conference I had an offer of representation in my email. After the screaming and jumping for joy subsided, I contacted the other agents with my fulls and told them I’d gotten an offer. How much time did they need to read my manuscript? Was by X date long enough? They read them and got back to me. Three were interested in representing me, one passed, but wished me luck.

Now I had the tough job of making a choice. All three were fabulous agents, so I really couldn’t have chosen wrong, but I wanted the one that was the best fit for me and my book. I spoke to them, listened to what they thought about the book, and made my decision. (The fabulous Kristin Nelson)

The entire querying to signing process took six weeks. The agent I signed with (the one I pitched) took ten days. This is why they say don’t query until your manuscript is as good as it can be, because you never know how quickly you might need to send it to someone. When it happens, it can happen fast.

The process was easy compared to my earlier submissions, but if I hadn’t gone through that and made my newbie mistakes, I doubt I would have put in the effort or had the skills to write the book and the query that got me my agent. Whenever I’d get rejected, I tried hard not to tell myself I wasn’t good enough. It was, “I’m not good enough yet.” That slight change in thinking made it easier to pick myself up and keep going.

And the only way to get ahead is to keep moving forward. Even if it’s one small step at a time.

About Blue Fire:
Part fugitive, part hero, fifteen-year-old Nya is barely staying ahead of the Duke of Baseer’s trackers. Wanted for a crime she didn’t mean to commit, she risks capture to protect every Taker she can find, determined to prevent the Duke from using them in his fiendish experiments. But resolve isn’t enough to protect any of them, and Nya soon realizes that the only way to keep them all out of the Duke’s clutches is to flee Geveg. Unfortunately, the Duke’s best tracker has other ideas.

Nya finds herself trapped in the last place she ever wanted to be, forced to trust the last people she ever thought she could. More is at stake than just the people of Geveg, and the closer she gets to uncovering the Duke’s plan, the more she discovers how critical she is to his victory. To save Geveg, she just might have to save Baseer—if she doesn’t destroy it first.

Janice Hardy Bio:
A long-time fantasy reader, Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy THE HEALING WARS, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her books include THE SHIFTER, and BLUE FIRE from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. She lives in Georgia with her husband, three cats and one very nervous freshwater eel.

Find Janice at:
The Other Side of the Story Blog:

Janice, thanks for sharing your road to finding an agent! We are so excited about your new release!!! I can't wait to get reading!

xoxo -- Hilary

Friday, October 8, 2010

INDIE LIMELIGHT -- Old Towne Books in Oswego, IL!

I was honored and thrilled when Old Towne Books & Tea in Oswego, IL (western suburb of Chicago) offered to host the Nightshade City book launch party (this Saturday)! My husband and I stopped by a couple weeks back to drop off a few things (like my ginormous Nightshade City poster!) and of course check the place out!

Well, it did NOT disappoint! It's a lovely house converted into a store in the downtown area of Oswego. The two owners we met, Joe and Mary, couldn't have been more gracious. Joe took me around the store and his eyes lit up as soon as he started talking about his love of books and how happy we was to be able to share them with others! He's also a huge fan of Redwall, so it was pretty cool to see all the rodents already lining Old Towne's shelves! ;)

Old Towne Books & Tea
 Old Towne has a fantastic kid's section, which I know my daughter could spend hours in! They made the store exceptionally cozy and welcoming. Along with their vast selection of new books, they also have a huge used books section at amazing prices--my husband might have attacked these while we were there!

Old Towne has hosted some amazing authors, among them, Kristen Walker, author of A Match Made in High School, and I know you all know her!

So, if you live in the Chicagoland area, I highly suggest you check out Old Towne Books. Not only do they have a great selection, but they know their stuff! They are bookavores, like the rest of us and absolutely love what they do!

I will be at Old Towne Books & Tea this Saturday, October 9th, from 2-6pm! I will be signing copies of Nightshade City (of course!!) and will also be passing out fun book swag and Halloween treats for the kids! If you live in the area, please come say "hi!" and grab some rice crispy treats and candy corn!!! See how I lure you in with my tasty wares?? ;)

xoxo -- Hilary

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Signed Nightshade City winner is JM Need!!!!!!!!!!

JM, YOU WON!! Please email me your name and address and a signed copy of NIGHTSHADE CITY will be on its way to you next week!!!! w00t!!! Thanks to all who took part in the fun!!!! ;)

xoxo -- Hilary

Friday, October 1, 2010


Finally!!! The rats have arrived!!! In honor of their arrival, I'm giving out 2 signed copies of NIGHTSHADE CITY! One here and one on the PROJECT MAYHEM blog! So, you have 2 brilliant chances to win! To enter, follow each blog if you don't already and leave a comment telling me your favorite book of all time!!! That's it!! Contest ends at midnight tonight!
I love you guys and thanks so much for
your support!!! I can finally relax now--NOT!!! ;)
xoxo -- Hilary