Author Olivia Boler

writing is fun
February 28th, 2015 by Olivia Boler

Lists for Lying in Bed

Unfortunately, last year two of my good friends were given cancer diagnoses. They do not know each other, although they have the same name. I’ll just tell it to you because it’s the most common women’s name of my generation and therefore lends a certain anonymity: Jennifer. You probably figured that out, right? So, anyway….Their cancers were different, but both required a lot of down time — not exactly an easy task for these couple of dynamos. We, their friends, sent them books to read and shows and movies to watch, or lists of such.

Variety is Key
Variety is key. High, low, middle. I started thinking about what I had read in 2014. A lot of children’s literature, since I’m diving into that arena with my own writing. A lot of independent novels and poetry, so the quality of the editing and writing was mixed. I also reread with my kids (Narnia, Harry Potter) and for the only book club I’ve ever really been a part of, the Classy Book Club — David Copperfield. Looking back at my ’14 list, here are my favorites in reverse chron order:
  • Golden State by Michelle Richmond
  • This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Pachett
  • Smile by Raina Telgemeir
  • Frog Music by Emma Donoghue
  • Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary
  • The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
  • Joy Street by Laura Foley
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  • Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (yes, I binged!)
  • Princess Posey and the New First Grader by Stephanie Greene
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey
  • Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot by Anna Branford
  • Midnight in Austenland (which I liked better than Austenland) by Shannon Hale
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  • Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
  • The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
  • Is Everyone Hanging Out with Me? by Mindy Kaling
  • Bridget Jones: Mad about the Boy by Helen Fielding
  • The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed
February is almost over, but already, I’m sticking to that diversity rule when it comes to what I read. It’s a good one. Don’t be afraid to read something out of your comfort zone, whether you prefer literary fiction or new adult. There’s no point in being snobby about a genre if you won’t at least give it a try. You might just fall in love with your next best thing.
By the way, both Jennifers are doing really well.
January 6th, 2015 by Olivia Boler

Stories About Sisters

There’s nothing I like more than starting a new year with some fresh publishing credits.

Yesterday was the launch of the SISTERS BORN, SISTERS FOUND anthology, edited by the esteemed Laura McHale Holland. I have two pieces in it—a poem and a brief memoir. The poem, “She Proves It,” is about one of my besties, Susan, whom I got to visit with over the holidays. We’ve been pals since 2nd grade, and still see each other at least twice a year, even though we live hundreds of miles from each other. She truly is my sister found.

Susan_and_Me
Susan and Me

My other piece is a memoir. “Greyhound Station,” is about my two half-sisters, Kathy and Sarah. We have the same father, and when we were kids, they would have to take the bus every other weekend to come see us. I have such fond memories of those times.

There are loads of other great stories and poems in the anthology by writers like Nellie Wong, Gwynn O’Gara, Daisy Hickman, and John Boe, who was actually one of my instructors at UC Davis. I hope you’ll check out the book. It’s available as an ebook and paperback. Click here to find out more.

Happy New Year! I wish you all a wonderful start to your 2015. Heck, let the whole year be amazing. Shouldn’t it be?

November 2nd, 2014 by Olivia Boler

Sugar Candy Skulls

OK, I fell off the blogging train (think a slow-moving chuck wagon). I was waiting…waiting for something interesting to happen. Here’s what actually did:

I’ve been in touch with a children’s literary agent, with whom I agreed to work exclusively on my chapter book series. This is huge—I don’t think I can do justice to how huge. I’ve worked so hard for this bit of validation: a respected agent, a professional in the field seeing potential in my work. It’s like my own mini-fireworks show—for about one minute.

Then it’s back to work. On to the next goal. The agent gave me these amazingly helpful writing exercises to do. They seriously opened my eyes to some important aspects about my main characters I hadn’t thought of before. Breakthrough Time led to…

A new project! Yes, I started drafting a second book in the series. Excitement! I’m about halfway done.

I joined SCBWI, and have been attending monthly goal-setting teas. It’s not a crit group. Instead, we each set personal goals for our individual projects and meet up to report back to the other members about our progress. The idea is to be accountable to others and not just yourself, so you won’t fall behind (like I did with this blog, ahem).

In January, two of my pieces will be published in the anthology Sisters Born, Sisters Found (ed. Laura McHale Holland, Wordforest), one poem and one personal essay. I’ll send more information after it launches, but you can preorder the book now by emailinginfo@wordforest.com. And thanks to all who contributed to the Pubslush event for the book.

Sisters Born, Sister Found Cover

 

That’s about it for now. I won’t take part in Nanowrimo this year since a children’s book is about 8,500 words. Unless I draft five other books in the series. Hey, it could happen, right?

Have a great Dia de los Muertos, folks.

 

July 10th, 2014 by Olivia Boler

Thank You, Mary Rodgers

Yesterday, I learned of the author Mary Rodgers’ death (1931–2014) in the way I often get my news—through Entertainment Weekly. I’d just been talking about her a few weeks ago at the Book Passage Children’s Writers & Illustrators Conference during a workshop discussion about middle grade authors who inspired in us a desire to write middle grade fiction.
Laura Ingalls Wilder and Mary Rodgers—those were my heroines. Maybe I’ve written this before, but when I was 6 years old, my father gave me my first chapter books—Little House in the Big Woods and Freaky Friday. I remember it clearly, sitting at the kitchen table with him as he explained these books didn’t have as many pictures as the books we usually read (or any, in the case of Rodgers’ Freaky Friday), and that I would be reading them on my own. I was familiar with the TV show, Little House on the Prairie, of course. It was a favorite of my older sisters’, so naturally a favorite of mine.
I took the plunge—no Reading Rainbow required. Whenever I finished a Little House book, Dad would give me the next one. About a year and a half later, I’d made my way through the entire set.
I adored them, but the book I re-read over and over and over until the covers fell off and the spine broke, was Freaky Friday. I didn’t get it entirely, but I loved the concept—a girl switches places with her mother and gets to be an adult, but only for one day! It was magic in the modern world, and it was laugh-out-loud hilarious. As I got older and read it again and again, the jokes became clearer. And talk about voice! Annabel Andrews was my intro in how to speak Snark.

My childhood copy of Freaky Friday—see how it's all taped up?

My original copy of Freaky Friday from my kidhood. Only $1.50!

I put off watching the Jodie Foster movie (actually, I had no choice—the Internet didn’t exist, and the public library didn’t lend out movie reels) until it appeared on television one lucky evening. I remember thinking that the movie was OK, but nowhere as appealing or witty as the book, even though Rodgers wrote the screenplay. (The Lindsay Lohan–Jamie Lee Curtis rendering from 2003, was fine, too. Look, just read the book first. Trust me.)
The story was the first I knew of to deal with the comedy of body swapping. It’s been done so many times since then. I even wrote my own short story, published in a now defunct ezine, about a woman who one day mysteriously switches places with her high school nemesis. The idea of being able to walk around in someone else’s shoes while maintaining your own sense of self is very appealing. Isn’t that what reading fiction does? Mary Rodgers taught me that.
Confession time: I never bothered to get to know anything about her. (Again, no Internet and…no imagination?). As a kid, I read A Billion for Boris, but didn’t think to look up the rest of her oeuvre, although just the other day in the library, I almost borrowed Freaky Monday, then got distracted by something shiny—probably my kids. This morning, I looked her up on Wikipedia. I didn’t even know about her work as a musical composer. Looks like I have some more digging to do.
But first I’ll say, thank you. Thank you, Mary Rodgers. Freaky Friday fit my tween-age sensibilities to a T, and was one of the reasons I wanted to become a writer. It helped shape my identity in so many ways and opened up the world. That’s the responsibility of children’s books, and Ms. Rodgers did it well. I’m forever grateful.

June 19th, 2014 by Olivia Boler

A Writers’ Conference to Remember

I’m coming down from a cloud called the Book Passage Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference. It took some doing to get there, some wrangling of schedules and such. I want to thank my “Team,” as the big Hollywood stars do when accepting their Golden Globe statuettes.

To my husband Paul for having to cut out of work early to pick up the kids from camp.

To Paul’s boss Jim for letting him do it.

To my mom, for hosting my daughter for a sleepover, then shuttling her to the first day of a summer reading program (and for having to be the one to receive my daughter’s shocked accusation, “This is SUMMER SCHOOL! This isn’t FUN!!”).

To my in-laws for not only letting me spend the night so that Paul could have our one car at his disposal, but for also taking me out to a delicious dinner, AND picking me up and dropping me off at the conference.

See what I mean by Team? It takes a village to raise a writer.

I won’t go over everything I learned at the conference. I’m still grasping at the wisps of that cloud, and my brain is full of swirls. Here are some highlights:

  • Some literary agents think the new New Adult genre is a passing fad, while others take it seriously. For more on New Adult, see this primer at NA Alley.
  • If you want to know the differences between Middle Grade novels and Young Adult novels, take a look at the Harry Potter series, which moves from one to the other (the transition happens in Book #4, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). Thank you, Shirin Bridges of Goosebottom Books for that.
  • Show, Don’t Tell. That’s what writers are taught from day one. Not so fast! Author Lewis Buzbee says sometimes it’s OK to do a little telling (I agree with this). But don’t go overboard, especially if you’re a newer writer.
  • It’s OK to skip some of the seminars, especially if you’re a bit fried. Plus, you might make a new writing friend, get stunningly helpful advice from an editor who offers to look at your manuscript over yogurt and granola (thank you, Susan McCombs), or simply zone out over a bottomless glass of iced tea.
  • No doubt, Mac Barnett is as hilarious in person as he is on the page. And I love that he’s also a former camp counselor. Totally makes sense.
  • Children’s publishing is probably the friendliest of the publishing realms.

That’s it for now. The dates for next year’s conference are set if you’re interested, June 18 to 21, 2015.

Until next time, beautiful cloud!

May 2nd, 2014 by Olivia Boler

Back to Book Passage

This summer, I’ll be returning to the Book Passage Children’s Writers & Illustrators Conference. I am really excited for this, and looking forward to some inspiration. Ever since my writing group broke up, almost a year ago now, I’ve been working in isolation—the writer’s usual state. Being surrounded by other people with a positive vibe—that’s what the Book Passage writing conferences are all about.

Logo by Book Passage CWIC

 

They offer two other conferences—one for mystery writers, and another for travel writers and photographers. Marin County is a beautiful part of Northern California, just outside of San Francisco. It’s a lovely, warm place to spend a long weekend—great food, great people, and lots and lots of books. I can’t wait!

 

April 25th, 2014 by Olivia Boler

Why Does KDP Hate Me?

Unfortunately, there was a snafu with my Kindle Direct Publishing account, and my special sale was cut short today. I hope to have it up again, but here’s what I take away from the experience:

When I decided to independently publish my novel, I went with Smashwords first because they have a wide distribution, not just on their own website but also with other major retailers—iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, etc….They don’t have a deal with Amazon, so I put up my book there later, unaware that Amazon had this KDP Direct program. What is it? Basically, if you publish your ebook exclusively with Amazon, you can do a couple of promos. One is a free giveaway of your book, run for up to 5 days. The other is discounting your book, again for 5 days. You also apparently get a slice of some profit-sharing that I only vaguely understand because I find such things tedious, even though they’re important.

I hesitated to take my book off Smashwords. They are great to indie authors, and they don’t ask for exclusivity. But sales had become non-existent, and I wanted to get some traction and exposure, that would be simple to run and not too time consuming. I took the book down and signed up for KDP Select. That was a mistake. I should have waited a couple of weeks because it takes a while for all of Smashwords’ partners to take down your book from their websites. KDP immediately sent me a warning. They have creepy crawlers out there, just looking for you to mess up.

When I was sure that I was in the clear, I went ahead and put the book up for free in March. It was great! Tons of downloads. Then, yesterday, because KDP has some kind of time constraint on when you can offer the Kindle Countdown Deal (the discount), I put the ebook up for 99 cents. Yay!

This afternoon, I got another robot-like email from KDP that “our records indicate that we previously informed you that submitting non-exclusive content to KDP Select is not acceptable and may result in loss of KDP Select benefits” and “as a result of repeat violations of the KDP Select exclusivity requirement, we have removed all of your books from the KDP Select program. Your titles remain available in the Kindle Store.”

WTF!?! (Deep, calming breaths. But why is it suddenly so hot in my brain???)

They sent a link (so helpful!) to the offending site, and sure enough, there’s my book on a French site—FNAC, actually, where I used to go shopping when I lived in Paris 20 years ago. How do I like them pommes? Not very much.

I contacted Smashwords about this, and got an immediate (human!) email response. They are going to work on getting this down, and they didn’t even call me a traitor for leaving them. Sniff, sniff!

Back on Amazon, my discount promo was taken down within an hour.

So, word to the wise, if you want to play with KDP, go ahead, but take advantage of KDP Select before you upload to Smashwords. Your iTunes, B&N, etc. friends will grumble, but it will definitely save your grief and time.

April 24th, 2014 by Olivia Boler

Kindle Countdown Deal

I’m putting on my retail cap to tell you that from now through April 30, 2014 (that’s a Wednesday), the Kindle version of The Flower Bowl Spell is only 99 cents. That’s 2 bucks off the regular price, a 67% discount. What a deal! So tell your friends to buy up and enjoy the wonders of Wiccan Memphis Zhang and her crazy supporting cast members.

Click here to go straight to The Flower Bowl Spell Amazon page. Happy reading!

March 24th, 2014 by Olivia Boler

Underground Book Reviews

I’m happy to report that during the recent Kindle Free Promo last week, almost 3,200 copies of The Flower Bowl Spell were downloaded! Not all of these were from the United States and UK, although those were the two biggest supporters of this little adventure. What’s exciting is the fact there has been an uptick in “real” sales of the e-book version post-promo, not a huge amount, but a bigger surge than I’ve seen in many months.

Another exciting tidbit is that there’s a new review of the book on Underground Book Reviews, an online magazine written for and by indie authors. It’s always nice when someone approaches you about running a review or interview about your book, rather than chasing down the opportunities. I want to thank Candi Sary for shining a light on TFBS. I understand the magazine is pretty selective about the reviews they publish, and only posts one per week, so their site is nice and uncluttered. Check out Candi’s own award-winning novel, Black Crow White Lie, “the story of young Carson Calley who discovers he has the curious ability to heal people.”

Happy reading…and a Happy Monday to you as well.

 

March 16th, 2014 by Olivia Boler

Free Book Promo for Kindle

Just a quick post to let you know that today is the first day of a 5-day promotion. Download a free copy of The Flower Bowl Spell to your Kindle. Already, the book has reached the #5 spot in the category of Free Books about Witches or Wizards, and #442 overall! That is pretty exciting. Thanks to those  who’ve downloaded a copy, and I hope you like it enough to leave feedback on Goodreads, on Amazon, or wherever you may roam.