Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Protect Yourself

Have you ever Googled yourself or something you wrote, only to find that your content was on someone else's site, and it ranked higher than yours?

You're not alone. And Google is trying to do something about these "scraper" sites.

Matt Cutts, head of the webspam team at Google, tweeted this on Friday:

The link in his tweet takes you to a form that says:

"Google is testing algorithmic changes for scraper sites (especially blog scrapers). We are asking for examples, and may use data you submit to test and improve our algorithms." 
Provide the URL for your original content as well as the URL for the scraper site. But keep in mind,  this link doesn't flag the site's content. To make the alternate site go away you'll have to report a copyright infringement.

Yes, it's a bit of work. But in the long run, you'll help Google better monitor the content thieves AND you'll be protecting your work. Definitely worth the time.


And now, the winner of RIPPLE by Mandy Hubbard is:

Congrats, Susan!!! Email me with your snail mail address and I'll get this book out to you.

Check back next week for another fabulous giveaway. Trust me, you'll want this book. I won't tell you the title, but I will say that when Echo from the Book Loft put it in my hands, I literally started squealing. It's the lead title for Penguin's fall releases and it's already been optioned for a movie. It doesn't come out until November, but you'll have a chance to win a copy here.

Enough hints? Check back next week to see if you're right!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Amazing Summer Reads

Some people, when they are stressed, go for the chocolate. I tend to bake. And read. In the months of June, July and August, I have baked cheesecake, cookies, baguettes, challah, and countless other treats that my skinny jeans are already protesting about. I've also read 42 books. Yeah. It's been quite the binge. At least the reading binge won't show up on my hips :P

I've discovered some fantastic books this summer, and one that I'm going to give away. Read on for your chance to win.

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
Published March 2010 by Bantam

I adored this book.

Set in a quirky North Carolina town, these characters are as rich and tasty as the southern barbecue they all enjoy. Told from alternating viewpoints, the novel follows Julia, who left as a teenager and returned after her father died to run his restaurant, and Emily, a teenager sent to live with a grandfather she's never met in a town she'd never heard of until her mother died. Secret pasts, mysterious lights and forbidden friendships keep the story moving along. But the beautiful descriptions and palpable emotions of every character made me slow down to savor each page. The touch of magical realism (and romance) didn't hurt either.

Even though The Girl Who Chased the Moon is marketed to adults, I can see it having crossover appeal. And certainly, readers who enjoy paranormal YA will be more open to the fantastical elements of this story. One of my favorite books of the summer. I'll be reading everything this author has written.

Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez
Expected Publication October 2011

So much to love about this book!

Jessica Martinez does an excellent job of capturing the intensity of child prodigy musicians. Carmen is feisty, ready to push beyond the boundaries and expectations her equally intense stage mother has set. While she's drawn to Jeremy, her own competitive streak pushes her to make hard choices.

I fell for these characters right away and sacrificed sleep to finish the book. It was incredibly readable and an exciting glimpse into the world of competitive classical musicians. I couldn't give it the full five stars because a couple of turning points pulled me out of the story. Completely. But maybe that's just me. And in spite of that, I still highly recommend this book. I'm looking forward to reading whatever Jessica Martinez publishes next.

The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon
Published May 2011

This is another book that I think has crossover appeal, though it's not a YA. Told in alternating viewpoints in third person, I wasn't sure if I would feel close to the characters from that distance. I did. 

I loved seeing how much these characters evolved because of a short encounter that changed their lives. Beautiful story, beautiful writing. I loved everything about Beautiful Girl.

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John
Published November 2010

I don't know how I even managed to stumble across this book, but I'm so glad I did. Great characters with depth, great premise (Deaf girl managing a band? Hello!) and wonderfully realistic situations. To top it off, it's set in one of my favorite places: Seattle, the birthplace of grunge and Jimi Hendrix (and  both play an important part in the story).

Piper is a wonderful character, full of determination, pride, intelligence and humor. I love how the band comes together, how they grow together. Definitely made me want to plug in an amp and start wailing to Nirvana :D

Brilliant book.

The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni
Published March 2010

Another story featuring a high school rock band. (I must have a thing for these!) I checked this book out from the library and loved it so much I had to buy my own copy. The weird and wonderful characters aren't just randomly odd for the sake being eccentric. These are fully realized people, delightfully complex and full of all the strange foibles that make us human. Set in Iowa, this coming of age story borrows philosophy from Buckminster Fuller and several punk rock gods. Yeah, it sounds strange. But trust me, the book is awesome.

This was Bognanni's debut novel. I can't wait to read what he comes up with next. 

And now, the book I'm giving away my ARC of...

Ripple by Mandy Hubbard
Published July 2011

Lexi suffers from a curse, handed down for generations, that turns her into a siren on her 16th birthday. Unaware of the power of her voice, she accidentally kills someone and ends up shunned by all her former friends. Things start to change when a new boy shows up at school, and one of her old friends reaches out to her. Soon Lexi is torn between keeping her secret and walking away from love. Talk about a deadly love triangle...

You can read my full review at Shelf Awareness for Readers.

If you'd like to win my copy of Ripple, leave a comment. You have through August 29 to enter.

What great books have you read this summer? I'm off to bake some banana bread :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Free Education

Let's face it: there are plenty of books, conferences and classes designed to separate writers from the small amount of cash in their pockets. But every once in a while, something comes along that's worth far more than you have to pay. This week, there are two great resources for writers that you should take advantage of.

Write on Con 
This FREE online conference, now in its second year, started yesterday with an amazing lineup of presenters like Holly Root, Jay Asher and Shelley Moore Thomas. There's plenty more to come in the next few days, including live chats you won't want to miss. The full schedule is here.

Portable MFA in Creative Writing
How many times have you daydreamed about pursuing an MFA? Well here's your chance to download a virtual version from the New York Writer's Workshop. The ebook has chapters on fiction, personal essays and memoir, magazine writing, poetry and playwriting, written by NYWW instructors. And for a limited time, you can download your own FREE copy from either Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Know of any other good educational resources for writers? Tell me in the comments!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Find Your Way Back

My garage. Big fun.
I have been banging my head on the wall for the last week. And not just because I'm tired of packing boxes, and searching real estate listings, and filling out loan documents.

I've been struggling with the next chapter in my novel. I put my characters in a situation that makes sense, but they aren't doing what I want them to do. They're meandering, saying inane things and generally, being rather boring.

Now this is a first draft. So to a certain extent, I've given myself permission to plow through and not have everything be perfect. But up until this point, everything has been going pretty smoothly and this draft was turning out much cleaner than I thought it would. Which makes it very frustrating that my characters would choose to screw things up now, in chapter 10!

I know where the story ends. I know what has to happen in my climax. I even know what's going to happen in chapter 11. In fact, the next chapter is mostly written. But this chapter? So. Frustrating.

What do you do when your story gets off track? And how do you find your way back?

And just for fun, a few links:

Summer Camp for Bookish Kids
Oh, to be 12 and spending a summer with Lauren Oliver, Gordon Korman and 13 other amazing authors. Why wasn't this sort of thing available when I was younger?

Hunger Games Photos
Have you seen these? I'm trying not to get excited because the movie can't possibly be as good as the book is in my mind. But these stills make me optimistic. I'll definitely be seeing it when it's released.

Another Self-Publishing Success Story
British writing team Louise Voss and Mark Edwards scored a four-book deal with HarperFiction after their Kindle UK e-book sold more than 50,000 copies in June. What they need to do is write a how-to manual for all of us who want to know how on earth they managed that many sales!

Oh, and for those who are interested, the deal on the house in Santa Ynez fell through. Thank goodness. Because we ended up getting the perfect house in "downtown" Los Olivos -- a cute Victorian town of about 1,000 people, ten minutes from our house in Solvang. Los Olivos Sherrie? Uh, no. Guess I'll just have to be Sherrie Petersen for now. 

Here's a link to the Los Olivos website. Check it out. You'll fall in love. And yes, you can come visit. :D

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Solvang No More

Kirk Irwin photo
Yep, it's official. We're packing up, selling our house and moving about five miles east of here to the sleepy town of Santa Ynez. And somehow, Santa Ynez Sherrie doesn't have the same ring as Solvang Sherrie. *sigh* I might actually have to start using my real name. Hmm...

While Solvang is known as the Danish Capital of America (you knew that, right? *grin*) Santa Ynez is known for its beautiful horse ranches, vineyards and wineries. It's the heart of Santa Barbara County Wine Country. Of course, I don't own a horse ranch and I don't know much about wine. I'm just, you know, a struggling writer currently obsessed with throwing out as much as possible so I don't have to move it.

But, just because I'm not paying as much attention, doesn't mean things aren't happening in the publishing world. Here are just a few of the things that caught my notice in the past week:

Free E-Books
Everybody wants to get something for nothing and this website highlights some of the titles you can legally download every day (via Galley Cat). (Don't get me started on the whole book pirating thing.) This week's featured title: Hello Kitty Must Die by Angela Choi. Sounds interesting, no? Also still free (but only available for Kindle) Stealing Jake by Pam Hillman.

Best Book Deal Ever
Jane Austen's unfinished novel, The Watsons, sold at auction for £993,250 (about 1.5 million). Note to whoever ponied up the cash: I've got several unfinished novels and I'm willing to cut a much less expensive deal.

Shelf Awareness for Readers
Speaking of good deals, I'm now a book reviewer for Shelf Awareness (getting paid to read books=awesome deal for me!) and they're giving away a hardcover of The Most Dangerous Thing by Laura Lippman. Sign up here to enter the contest. Follow this link to read my review of Ripple by Mandy Hubbard.

Night of the Giving Dead
And just in case you were wondering, Carrie Harris raised more than $7000 with her book launch / fundraiser for the Mott Children's Hospital. Yay Carrie! And yay for those of you who bid on items, donated items, and scored some sweet deals. I snagged a t-shirt and signed copy of Hold Me Closer Necromancer by Australian author Lish McBride. Woo-hoo!

And that's about it from me. Some empty boxes are calling my name. Stupid things won't shut up! Ugh. Hope you're all having a more relaxing summer than we are...
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