Here are some random questions about all the books I’ve written – a summer quiz extraordinaire! How many can you guess?
The full name of the member of the Crossbones who is not Ryan or Sarah.
The full name of the second person cured in Dark Eden.
The high school Faith Daniels attends in Pulse.
The first names of all four main characters in Trackers.
The names of the two cats in the Land of Elyon.
The title of the 3:15 story in which a certain insect reaches an unusual size.
The name of the flying squirrel in Elliot’s Park.
The title of chapter 10 in the first Floors book.
The name of the man who controls the Highlands in Atherton.
Jacob Fielding’s best friend in Thirteen Days to Midnight.
The country where the 39 Clues book I wrote takes place.
What are the names of the two villains who run the Silo in the last Atherton book?
What’s the name of the device Oh is strapped to in the basement of the bookstore?
What was the name of the tiny car Dan and Amy drove in the Black Circle?
What book does Will Besting read while trapped in the bomb shelter in Dark Eden?
What’s the name of the game played at the Five Stone Pillars in the Land of Elyon?
Name one complete phrase Mr. Nibbles can say in Elliot’s Park.
What are the names of all four devices the Trackers use?
What round object does Faith use as a weapon in a training session in Tremor?
What’s the name of the floor in the third Floors book that includes the Tree Dragon?
What’s the name of the haunted hotel Sarah visits in the third Skeleton Creek book?
What’s the name of the ghostly snowboard rider Adam and Dylan encounter in The Lift, a 3:15 story?
It’s a shame how negative the culture of reviews can be. I mentor several first time writers and received this email last week:
How do you deal with HORRIBLE, “you’re the worst author ever” reviews, full of NASTY mean things? How do you write a sequel when you know people out there HATE your work? I get lots of 5 stars, and then ill get these terrible ones, and I feel like they want to murder me.
The saddest thing about this email is that it came from someone who has real talent. They’ve worked incredibly hard. Many books by first time novelists have problems (mine did!), but patient readers realize that it’s a process – first time novels are often rough around the edges, but they almost all deliver on something important: a fresh voice. If you read a first time novelist and hate their book, constructive criticism is fine. But if you feel like totally trashing someone’s work online, my strong opinion is that you will hurt the writer a lot more than you probably think. Experienced writers are better at ignoring this garbage (though it still hurts when someone is mean!) – but the first timers take it hard.
If you’re a writer, especially a first time writer, here are five rules to live by when it comes to online reviews:
1. Don’t go looking for trouble.
Once you’re published you’re guaranteed to find terrible reviews of your book. Everyone gets them. There are plenty of mean spirited, awful reviews of my books. It’s tempting to go looking for the good ones, but reading the bad ones can really bring you down and mess with your confidence as a writer. So while it might seem like you’re going online to look for something good, you’re really looking for trouble. And if you go looking, you will find it.
Writers need to be on Amazon and Goodreads in order to do promotional work, so it’s not realistic to never visit these places again. But you can adhere to a rule I live by: never read online reviews or comments on Amazon, Goodreads, or BN.com. And be accountable to someone close to you (I’m accountable to my wife), because it ruins their day too when they have to deal with a whiny, depressed writer.
2. Be realistic about who is posting a mean spirited review and why.
I think most mean spirited reviews are written by one of three types of people: failed writers, know it alls, and outright jerks. A lot of personal garbage is wrapped up in many of these reviews, so you can’t really take them seriously. On the other hand, someone who just didn’t like your book and writes a reasonable review is more likely written by someone who reads a lot and just didn’t get what you were putting out there. Why they find it necessary to share this opinion with the rest of the world often has to do with promoting their own book blog. It’s fair game, but you don’t have to read it.
Understanding who is posting and why is especially true if you’re a young, first time novelist. A high percentage of people will go into the experience of reading a book by a person in their 20′s and assume it’s going to be awful. It’s a hard mountain to climb, and more readers should expect a bumpy ride with first time novelists and be nicer about the whole thing. Why these people read books by young writers to begin with is a mystery.
3. Remember: everyone is a critic
As a published writer you are a member of a deeply maligned creative group (be thankful you’re not an actor!). The system is set up for haters to thrive – it is what it is – but they only win if you care. Don’t care!
And bad reviews can be good for you. Polarizing reviews can drive sales. You’re better off with 100 five star reviews and 100 one star reviews than you are with 200 three star reviews. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. People who love your book will fight for it even more in the face of mean reviews.
4. You have loyal fans and supporters, focus on them.
Your real fans will throw punches for you if you take care of them. True story.
5. A publisher didn’t choose you and your story because you couldn’t write.
It’s a long journey going from first novel to a career as a novelist. If you want to still be writing published books in 10 years, keep reminding yourself that you were chosen because you have the stuff and it’s up to you to keep getting better at your craft. Your first book is a beginning – there’s a lot of story left to tell.
As of 2013 there were more than 100,000 hours of streaming content on Netflix. Assuming you went overboard and spent an average of 5 hours a day watching Netflix, it would take you 54 years to watch everything. Who would have thought the day would come when, for ten bucks a month, we could have access to more screen content than we could consume on a screen in a lifetime? And that’s to say nothing of the almighty DVR, constantly recording between three and seven things I really must watch.
When I was growing up I worked for a week around the house to raise the money for a movie, and then got on my bike and rode five miles to the mall in order to see it. I waited very impatiently for Tuesday night’s episodes of Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley. If I could have watched five seasons of Fantasy Island in a handful of marathon sessions, I would have done it. Twice. And like any enjoyable habit, I would have repeated this entertaining process with more and more content.
Is it just me or have shows have gotten better at drawing us in, paying off cliff hangers faster, making us gasp, making us want to come back, pointing us to the next thing we’re going to love? It’s hard to quit a show once you get sucked in, and the habit of always having a show waiting for us at the end of the day is a real thing for most kids and teens and adults.
The only way this habit shifts to a book is if I have the willpower to choose a different path and stick to it over the long haul. It’s easier and more natural turning to my phone or my iPad for a show or a movie, and it’s all basically free and at my fingertips. Reading for an hour every day is way tougher than watching one episode of Breaking Bad.
So far in 2014 my habit has been to crawl into bed after two episodes of Dracula and crack open a book for the first time as my head hits the pillow. I fall asleep approximately 7 minutes later.
If reading is a priority in my life, a moral imperative, then I can’t get into a habit of making it the last thing I do at the end of an exhausting day.
I think I’ll make my 2014 resolution now: don’t watch a TV show or a movie until I’ve read for an hour every day.
We like – thanks SLJ!
The second book in this engrossing and suspense-filled dystopian trilogy picks up where the first title left off. Faith, still angry and looking to avenge the death of her best friend, is learning to use her supernatural abilities for the upcoming battle with villain Andre; his brutal wife, Gretchen; and their evil twin offspring Wade and Clara. In her corner, the teen has the calming influence of Dylan, her boyfriend and fellow second pulse (a person with a superpower that renders them nearly indestructible), and her nerdy, faithful pal Hawk. A scouting report reveals that the nefarious family is holed up in a maximum-security prison in Colorado. In a reverse tip of the Luke Skywalker hat, Dylan enters the compound to tell Andre that he is his biological father. Although the evildoer is noticeably softened, he cannot allow his son to dissuade him from his mysterious criminal plan. The conflict between the desolated Eastern states and the strictly government controlled Western states takes a backseat in this volume. Instead, the focus is on the main characters, along with their allies, as they attempt to save the world while dealing with secrets, lies, and their own personal limitations and weaknesses. The conclusion sets up an exciting, climactic confrontation in the final volume, for which fans will be eagerly awaiting.–Cindy Wall, Southington Library & Museum, CT
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