Writerly TV: Veronica Mars

In honor of the Veronica Mars Movie Kickstarter campaign, which completely took over my Twitter feed and my brain this morning, I thought I’d talk today about why I love Veronica Mars so much, and why I think it’s fabulous brainfood for writers.

I first discovered Veronica Mars after the series had ended. When it was airing, I had thought it looked like a silly, shallow high school show. OH THE REGRET.

Fortunately, while I was one of the reasons the show didn’t have a big enough audience to be renewed past a third season, the silver lining is that I could binge-watch the entire series on Netflix. I marathoned while at my parents’ house, watching “just one more episode” over and over while my kids chased each other around like crazed squirrels hyped up on sugar.

So why do I think this show is a must-watch for writers? Basically, it has everything. Relentless pacing. Layered characters. Plotting so tight you can bounce a quarter off it. Just the right amount of foreshadowing. Smart writing full of wit, charm, and emotion.

Yes, it’s a show about teens (although Veronica’s dad, Keith Mars, is one of my absolute favorite TV parents ever), and yes, it’s a show about crimes, but it’s so much more than either of those things. Even if you’re not into teen shows or noir, Veronica Mars has something for you. It has heart. It has sass. It has kissing and explosions and red herrings and one-liners.

Oh, and it’s Joss Whedon’s favorite show. If that means anything to you (which it should).

Granted, I think Season 1 is the best example of fabulousity, but even in the less-stellar second and third seasons, Veronica Mars could still serve up the spit-take laughs, the jaw-dropping twists, and the sucker-punch tearjerkers better than most other shows on TV.

If you’re a writer, or just a person who enjoys clever writing and a good whodunit, clear your schedule for Veronica Mars. You can even stream it online at The WB.

And I’m serious. You’ll need to clear your schedule. It’s that good.

Still on the fence? Here’s a fan-made trailer to convince you.

Guest Post: Social Media Faux Pas: Stop It. Just Stop It. (@LizCLong)

So I had this idea a couple weeks ago. I wanted to do a post on social media faux pas. All those things that authors and bloggers think they’re doing right, but is actually annoying and baaaaad. I’ve had a lot of items come across my Twitter dash and Facebook wall in the name of self-promotion that were, in a word,

So I wanted to help. I’m no expert, but I wanted to let people know when they were shooting themselves in the foot. That’s good information to have, right? I did some polls. I asked some friends. I got LOTS of suggestions.

And I wound up with way too much information for one post. So much so that it was overwhelming. So I asked the fabulous Liz Long to help me out.

If you don’t know Liz, she is the author of Gifted (read my review here), and by day she works as a social media editor, which means she is an expert on this very subject. (She laughed when I called her an expert, but it’s in her job description, so I’m pretty sure I win). Plus, she is an indie author who has a great book out in the world, and who is being smart and savvy about her own Internet marketing. So I could think of no better person than Liz to delve into this subject.

To be clear, I still intend on posting more about social media in the future, and how to harness its powers for good and not the Dark Side. Also, make sure to check out Liz’s blog, where she has several other super-informative posts on the subject. And check out Gifted, because it’s about superheroes in the circus and that is awesome.

Without further ado, here’s Liz!

Hi everyone! Huge thanks to Lauren for hosting me today – if you’re reading her blog, you’ve come to the right place because she is SO awesome and a terrific book blogger. Make sure to check out her reviews and fun posts – she’s a fellow nerd like me, so if you love superhero talk and good books, boy oh boy, you’re gonna have some fun browsing.

Anywho, today we’re discussing social media no-nos. As the social media editor of a magazine publishing company and an indie author who does all her own marketing, I see a lot of businesses and authors doing things online that are hurting their marketing more than helping – the problem is, you might not even realize you’re doing it. Here are 5 things you should cut out of your marketing plan.

  1. Automated Direct Messages

Twitter is my second favorite tool for business, but my number one tool for indie author marketing. I love connecting and meeting readers, authors, and nice, fun people who are potential new pals (note: I did not say networking and here’s why). You know that nice feeling you get when you log in to see you’ve got a few new followers? Don’t ruin it with an automated direct message. I’m not the only one who feels spammed when people do this – and you definitely should not send a message saying “Hi there, thanks – here’s a link to my book!” The honest truth? That sale tactic is rude and the quickest way to lose your new follower. Would you want someone jumping in your face, talking only about themselves and their products? No? Then don’t do it to others.

  1. Complaining/Airing of the Grievances

This should be pretty straightforward, but I’m always surprised to see how many people constantly complain online. It’s my experience that people gravitate towards happy people – they like enthusiasm and a helpful, fun person. It’s one thing to tweet about how your silly husband burned dinner or your car broke down. But if you’re marketing yourself, unless your crowd is into the emo-scene, I recommend knocking off the woe-is-me play. Why would I want to go to someone’s website/social media if all they do is bitch about how they can’t get a traditional publishing deal or turn green with envy over other authors whose own hard work turned into a success? And remember the hoopla when authors turn crazy over a poor book blogger review? Take a deep breath, put on your big girl panties, and move on. Reacting to any of those things, constantly bitching about how things are SO unfair – it’s a turn-off! You want to focus on YOUR hard work and give readers great things see/watch/think about. If you’re constantly airing your junk, you’re going to eventually lose readers who grow tired of your complaining. They came to you to lose themselves in a story from their own real world problems. You don’t always have to be Susie Sunshine, but it’s in our best marketing interests to keep your focus on the readers.

  1. Selling, Selling, Selling (Or Me, Me, Me!)

This ties in with the automated messages thing, but I can’t stress enough how authors should not take this route. People despise the car salesman routine and if there is a person on my newsfeeds who constantly touts their work, but doesn’t support anyone or anything else, they get unfollowed. When in doubt, use the 80/20 rule: 20% can be about your work, while 80% of your status updates should be about something else – random musings, supporting other people, great links that benefit others. Sure, I’m interested in hearing about your books, but I also don’t want that to be the ONLY thing I know about you. Don’t be selfish or overly aggressive. You’ll lose readers, guaranteed.

  1. Taking on too many social sites

This is more for your own sanity than anything else. For my writing, I stick with four social media outlets: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads. I’m comfortable with all four sites, am reaching my target demographics, and can tie in a positive marketing campaign that links up easily with each other (for example, I’ve tied up my blog with these sites – one new post automatically goes up on all those sites at once to save me time; then I can spend any free time promoting that link on Twitter throughout the day – in between my random musings and helpful tips or retweets, of course). If you bite off more than you can chew by joining too many social sites because you feel you have to, you’re going to spend more time marketing or continuously updating your links and pages, which can get exhausting. Plus, you’re supposed to be putting out books. 99% of the time, authors gain more readers with more materials – if you spend all your time playing with your profile page instead of writing, you won’t have much to show off on said social pages, now will you?

  1. Ignoring the Fans

You know when you tweet someone and you’re all excited that you might hear back and then later you’re all disappointed that they never replied? (Keep in mind, I’m talking about one normal person, not a celebrity/TV show/major publisher.) Now flip it – what if you’re the one ignoring the tweets? If you’ve got thousands of fans, you might balk at this, but I say you need to take the time to do it – add an extra 20 minutes to the time you put into your schedule for marketing. “Oh no, too many people like me and want my opinion on something!” Dude. That’s a great problem to have! They took the time to think of you and (assuming it wasn’t a jerk comment) probably would be thrilled to hear back from someone they admire. It makes my day when someone I respect and like gets back to me with a reply – it makes me feel like they really value ME as their fan. Bottom line: Don’t forget your fans.  You’ve gotten as far as you have because of them and probably want them to hang around for as long as you’re putting books on the market.


Blog: http://lizclong.com

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Gifted-Donovan-Circus-Novel-ebook/dp/B007VT34J2/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1336675611&sr=8-2

Twitter: (Handle: @LizCLong) https://twitter.com/#!/LizCLong

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/lizclongauthor

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13601567-gifted

Review: The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen (@nielsenwriter @Scholastic)

It’s no big secret that I loved the first book of Jennifer Nielsen’s Ascendance Trilogy, The False Prince. So I was thrilled to finally get my hands on the sequel, The Runaway King. But would it be able to stand up to its predecessor? After all, one of my favorite things about The False Prince was the amazing twist ending, and I wasn’t sure if a sequel could hold up without a similar lightning-strike moment. Then again, if the characters and the story and the writing were still strong, did it need a twist? Maybe not.

Warning – this review will contain spoilers from The False Prince. Proceed at your own risk.

The Plot (from Goodreads)

Just weeks after Jaron has taken the throne, an assassination attempt forces him into a deadly situation. Rumors of a coming war are winding their way between the castle walls, and Jaron feels the pressure quietly mounting within Carthya. Soon, it becomes clear that deserting the kingdom may be his only hope of saving it. But the further Jaron is forced to run from his identity, the more he wonders if it is possible to go too far. Will he ever be able to return home again? Or will he have to sacrifice his own life in order to save his kingdom?

My Thoughts

The Runaway King picks up almost immediately after The False Prince ends, which is both a good and a bad thing. Good because it plunges you straight into the action (and there is quite a bit of action in this one!); bad because if you’re like me and haven’t read TFP in nearly a year, it can be a little confusing to hit the ground running without time to catch your bearings. I might have had to go brush up on the last couple chapters of TFP before continuing on. But that’s okay. You know why? Because the last couple chapters of TFP are awesome.

All the big players from TFP are back in some capacity, as friends and conspirators and spies and villains. Jaron is still the same dangerously cocky youth pulled from the streets, but with a big exception: he is now the king. And the fate of his kingdom rests on his shoulders.

As in TFP, Jaron’s narration is the main driver of the story. If he was a girl, I’d say he’s sassy. Actually, who cares. He’s sassy. He is a swaggering, secretive, sassy boy with a savior complex and trust issues. He comes brimming with strengths and shortcomings, and a lot of the time, he is his own worst enemy. His convoluted plan probably does not need to be nearly as convoluted as it is, but since he’s determined not to show his hand to anyone — even those that could help him — he sets himself up for difficulty. It can be frustrating, especially as other characters are telling him this is a fault and he’s refusing to listen — but at the same time, it’s incredibly true to the character. Everything he does makes sense to him, and that’s the most I can ask from any character in any story.

The supporting characters came and went throughout the story. Probably one of the most important was Imogen, his friend from TFP. Her moments are some of my favorites, as she is smart and strong, yet isn’t afraid to use her perceived weakness as a female to her advantage. Her friendship with Jaron isn’t fair and isn’t balanced, and really, he doesn’t deserve her. Yet she’s there anyway, and he appreciates her for it, in his own way.

The action is plentiful, and there’s never that long of a break between tussles and sword fights. Jennifer Nielsen’s depiction of the action is vivid and allowed me to play the fights out in my head like a movie, which isn’t easy. I did find a couple of the scenes toward the end a bit far-fetched, but I’m willing to suspend my disbelief a bit. The things Jaron does are not impossible — I don’t think — just improbable. I can deal with improbable.

There’s only one character motivation head-scratcher moment, and it’s toward the end. A character switches sides, and it seemed a little too easy. It wasn’t nearly as large a twist as the first book in the series, but it was still unexpected, and I’m not sure it was foreshadowed sufficiently. It’s a fine line to walk, revealing enough details to make the twist believable, without tipping your hand. I feel like this book was almost there, but not quite.

However, those minor complaints aside, I still very much enjoyed this story. It’s the kind of book and series I imagine would get kids — boys and girls alike — excited about reading. It’s clever and funny and has enough action and heart to interest a wide variety of readers, with a fabulously well-developed protagonist and intelligent plotting. Whenever the conclusion to The Ascendance Trilogy hits shelves, you can bet I’ll be at the front of the line.

Throwback Thursday (March 7): Clueless/Emma

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books.

Here’s how it works:
  • Pick any bookish or literary-related media (or non-media item) released more than 5 years ago.
  • Write up a short summary (include the title, author, and cover art, if applicable) and an explanation of why you love it. Make sure to link back to The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books in your post.
  • Link up your post at The Housework Can Wait or Never Too Fond of Books.
  • Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list – or some other classic!

Feel free to grab the Throwback Thursday button code from the sidebar to use in your posts.

Thanks for participating, and we look forward to seeing which books you choose to remember!

My Throwback this week is…

Clueless (1995) starring Alicia Silverstone, Paul Rudd, Stacey Dash, and Brittany Murphy

Based on the novel Emma by Jane Austen

When I first saw Clueless as a teenager, I had no idea it was based on a Jane Austen book. I also was kind of ashamed that I loved it as much as I did. On the surface, it’s a kind of superficial, vapid teen rom-com about equally superficial and vapid teens. But. BUT. It is also surprisingly thoughtful and introspective and sweet.

At least, it’s surprising until you realize it’s Jane Austen in disguise. And amazingly enough, it’s actually a fairly faithful adaptation. When I finally read Emma — years after my first — and second, and fifth, and eight — viewing of Clueless, I was honestly shocked that the Beverly Hills update follows the book so closely. I mean, aside from the fact that it’s in Beverly Hills, and it’s about Cher and Josh, not Emma and Mr. Knightly. And Josh is her ex-step-brother and not her neighbor. (Yeah, I know that sounds weird, but just go with it.)

In a nutshell, Clueless is the story of Cher Horowitz, who makes it her mission in life to matchmake the people around her while simultaneously making terrible and misguided decisions about her own love life. Her guidance is sometimes cringe-inducingly awful and sometimes she pushes her friends in the complete wrong direction, but it’s okay. It’s Jane Austen, and everyone finds their happiness in the end.

Clueless is available on Netflix and Emma is in your local library, or possibly on your bookshelf. Experience them together and feel the love.

This is a blog hop! Link your Throwback Thursday post below!

Top Ten Tuesday (March 5): Series I Want to Start

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! Today’s topic is one I have no trouble coming up with candidates for, because I just do not have enough time to read all the books I want to read. This doesn’t stop me from buying them — which is why half the books on my shelf are books I haven’t read yet — and I assume one day I will have read everything I want to read. But I may have to grow old and wrinkly first.

And then I’ll need someone to read to me, because my eyesight will be failing. Probably along with my sanity.

So there are many series I have started and not finished/continued yet. Most of which I plan to finish eventually. Sometimes I think back fondly on my pre-book-blogging days, when I could read a whole series in one fell swoop and then take my time to ponder the next thing I picked up. Now I feel like there are so many things I want to read, I don’t have the luxury of reading an entire series all together, because then when will I read the other books?

To be clear, the problem of too many good books is not a bad one to have. It’s why I keep buying more books. I want to read them ALL.

But anyway, for the purposes of this list, I won’t discuss the series where I’ve read the first book or two, but haven’t continued. These are all series where I have read none of the books, even though I really want to. Half of these are already on my bookshelf. Just waiting for the right time to plunge in.

And yes, in some cases, the reason I’m itching to read this series is because the author is awesome on Twitter. Proof that if you are awesome on Twitter, people like me will buy your books, even if we don’t have time to actually read them. I will link to the author’s Twitter profile, so you can follow them and experience their awesomeness too.

So here we go! (Yes, there is a LOT of fantasy on here. And what’s ridiculous is I do read a lot of fantasy. There’s just so much of it! I need to devote a year to just catching up on fantasy. And it would be a glorious year.)

Top Ten Series I’d Like To Start But Haven’t Yet

The Chemical Garden trilogy by Lauren DeStefano (Book 1: Wither)

 Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi (Book 1: Shatter Me)

The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa (Book 1: The Iron King)

The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta (Book 1: Finnikin of the Rock)

The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo (Book 1: Shadow and Bone)

The Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima (Book 1: The Demon King)

Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor (Book 1: Daughter of Smoke and Bone)

The Hex Hall series by Rachel Hawkins (Book 1: Hex Hall)

The Beautiful Creatures series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (Book 1: Beautiful Creatures)

Of Poseidon trilogy by Anna Banks (Book 1: Of Poseidon)

Fortunately, not all of these series are complete yet. Some are still on book one! So I’m not so very far behind. Except for the part where I probably will prioritize those last, and by the time I finally get around to them, the entire series will be out. But then I can consume them all in a glorious sleep-deprived three days of binge reading like I did with The Hunger Games.

Also, I now feel wholly inadequate as a reader and as a book blogger. Nothing like compiling a list of fabulous books that you haven’t had time to crack open yet to make you want to cancel the rest of March, and possibly April as well.

If you need me, I’ll be over here, in my bunker, buried under my TBR pile.