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My Favorite Indie in Delaware, OH!

Yes, that’s right. There’s a city called Delaware in the state of Ohio. And every time I say I’m going there (which is fairly often because it’s where the boyfriend lives) some fellow 1990’s alum says, “Hi… uh… I’m in… Delaware.” And If you don’t get that, you’re not really 90’s.

My indie is Fundamentals, a parent / teacher bookstore that caters entirely to children and young adult readers and learners. Fundamentals has been a huge supporter of mine since my debut. Not only have they hosted a signing for me at their store, but they’ve also handled off-site sales for me on two separate occasions, so far – hopefully with more to come in the future!

As an author I can tell that they are flexible, easygoing professionals who hand sell my book like true book lovers. I’ve been contacted by so many people online who tell me that the owner is the one who steered them to Not A Drop to Drink, and you can’t buy that kind of promotion.

As a reader I could spend hours in the store, browsing the shelves (for sure) but also just talking with the owner and staff. These people know books – they know what’s current, have an encyclopedic knowledge of what has gone before, and are keeping tabs on what will be here soon.

They know good books. And I am so glad that I know them.

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Writers Are Fueled by Coffee & Little Moments

I was never much of a coffee drinker until this year. Last Christmas I got a Keurig, even though I was only an occasional indulger. The Keurig was a gift, something that I was grateful for and thought might come in handy on the more sluggish Saturday mornings.

Then I used it.

Good God. Why had I been putting cream and sugar in coffee previous to this? Someone tell me? I think my mistake was that I hadn’t been drinking *good* coffee, and now I was. And boy… was I. After the holidays I moved the Keurig into my office at work to serve as an enticement to actually get up and go to work in the mornings. Even though I love my job, the alarm always jolts me out of a lovely unconsciousness into reality – a place all writers know is a pale shadow of our daydreams.

So the Keurig began to get more attention, everyday. I drink two or three cups a day now, and while I hate that I need it, I also love that I have that excuse every time I cram a K-cup in there. I’ll get a headache if I don’t. It’s the polar opposite of the No-Sugar-Tonight-Honey excuse.

The coffee also serves as a ritual that politely jolts me into writing. I get to work about an hour early everyday (by choice) and I take that hour to settle in, hit my social media, and write up the blog for the day before I become Librarian Mindy. Coffee = Writing and I’m not the only writer who subscribes to that specific mathematically questionable equation.

Even so, we’re not just wandering brains attached to a pile of pink tissue that filters coffee. We use that caffeine (and the brain) to produce stories about things that never happened to people that don’t exist. Yet we care deeply about them, and we hope to make others invest in their dramatic fake lives as well. It’s a tall order, but sometimes it works out.

NOT  A DROP TO DRINK has been out in the world for a little less than a month, and I’m already having those experiences where I meet readers who want to know more about my fake world. Is anything else going to happen there? How did I create this place? What about the names of these people that don’t exist, how did I pick them? And mostly, WHY DID I DO THAT?? WHY, WHY MINDY WHY!??!?

It’s lovely.

And it’s pretty much why I do it. I’m still on a tour-phase at the moment. Coffee, hotels, small towns, big cities, little gorgeous indies, sprawling new-paper-smell chains and long, meandering conversations with other writers are my life right now.

It’s a pretty awesome life.

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2K13 at SCBWI OH

Whew, that’s a lot of acronyms…but The Class of 2K13 is going to be at an event in Ohio next week. Well, six of us are! Here’s the rundown!



Reconnect – Recharge – Renew: N. Ohio SCBWI 11th Annual Conference

WHEN: Friday, September 20, 2013 2:00 PM –
Saturday, September 21, 2013 5:30 PM (Eastern Time)

WHERE: Cleveland Airport Sheraton
(216) 267-1500
5300 Riverside Drive
Cleveland, Ohio 44135

WHAT: Reconnect with old friends and make some new friends. You can never have enough acquaintances in this industry. The networking opportunities are AMAZING!!! Recharge and become motivated, educated and inspired with the presentations from experts in the field. Renew leaving the conference with new ideas or goals on making old ideas successful. Feel refreshed and ready to jump into your career of writing and/or illustrating for today’s youth.

WHO: 2K13 Members:

•Kelly Barson, Author of 45 POUNDS (MORE OR LESS)
•Geoffrey Girard, Author of PROJECT CAIN
•Demitria Lunetta, Author of IN THE AFTER
•Mindy McGinnis, Author of NOT A DROP TO DRINK
•Jennifer McGowan, Author of MAID OF SECRETS
•Kate Karyus Quinn, Author of ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE

We will be doing a debut panel on Friday: From Finished Manuscript to First Book: A YA Debut-Author Tells All and a Query panel on Saturday.

There are a ton of other authors and panels, so come check it out! There’s still time to register so we hope to see you all there!



5 Things I Learned As A YA Debut

NOT A DROP TO DRINK hasn’t hit the shelves yet, but I’ve already learned so much in 2013. As we continue with our August theme of what we learned as debut authors, I can share what I’ve experienced so far – and maybe you”ll get an update after the Dark Days tour!

1) Writing a book is a lonely endeavor. Publishing it takes a team. From your cover art to the author photo to the QR code that the marketing folks put on your dust jacket, there are more people involved in your book than you can imagine. Some of them you’ll share emails with on an almost daily basis – especially as debut week looms – but there are also some whose names you may never know. It’s a team, a huge team. It’s your face on the jacket, but someone else made sure it was formatted properly.

2) People outside of publishing are going to ask you if your book is done yet. I’ve written a more extensive post on this subject over on the Book Pregnant blog, if you’re interested. You can’t expect people outside of the industry to understand how slowly this colossus moves. “Yes, it’s finished,”  you want to say. “It’s been finished for two years. I forget what happens in it.” Don’t say that. Or rather, just say the first part. Then smile.

3) Everyone else you know has written a book. Or wants to write a book. Or has an idea for a book. And they want to talk to you about it. Again, smiling is your best response. Don’t blow anybody off – remember how you felt when you were just putting pen to paper, and how much guts it probably took for them to even tell you about their book. Point them in the right direction as far as helpful websites and writers forums, but don’t start holding hands and baby-stepping them. It’s not your job.

4) We’re all big dorks here. And that’s the best part about this whole book thing. I’m not even released yet and I’ve already rubbed elbows with some major names – and they were super cool people. Even when you’re face to face with the coolest of the cool, remember that they love books. So you’ve got something in common.

5) Freaking out is for the weak. Yes, I am leaving for a national tour in less than a month. Yes, I just got my edit letter for my 2014 release and it needs to be back to the editor before tour time. Yes, I need to dive into the research for the 2015 release. Yes, I have three interviews that need answering in my inbox. Yes, I need to shoot two vlogs tomorrow. (This is all true, FYI) And what exactly is freaking out going to accomplish? My version of freaking out is to eat a doughnut and complain to my crit partner. That’s empty calories and wasted time. Focus. THEN DO IT.

Hopefully my five points of light will help some others along the debut path!



Why Go With A Traditional Publisher in the Age of Self-Publishing?

It’s a great question, and one that can turn the tension factor up a notch in a room that’s populated by both traditionally-published authors and self-published authors. Even internet chat rooms aren’t immune to the feeling of gee-I-hope-this-goes-okay when the topic comes up.

Inevitably there’s always someone who says that we all have to do what is “right for us as individuals,” or what “fits our own career paths and goals.” I think such phrases were probably bandied about at Hatfield and McCoy family picnics right before the six-shooters came out.

Does this mean I think that’s an incorrect statement? No.

I absolutely and totally think that every author does need to do what is best for them, but I would add that every author needs to be completely and totally aware of what each path holds before they go running down it.

A lot of people go the self-publishing route because it is faster, and they are in total control. In a sense, isn’t this an easier, better choice?

Easier in some senses, yes. There’s the gratification of getting your work “out there” much faster than in the trad-pub world. And – a major selling point for self-pubs – the revenue generated by your sales are yours. Not a publishing house’s. Not an agent’s. Yours. And hey, that’s great.

Yet it’s also harder in some senses. Cover design? Up to you. Copyediting? Pay somebody. And – the big one – Marketing? That’s on you, too. And that’s what trips me up, bigtime. Like I landed on my face and ended up with my two front teeth down in my lower intestine.

Marketing is HARD. I mean hard like learning how to ice skate on your nose-hairs is hard. I’ve been blogging over at Writer, Writer Pants on Fire for over two years. I do book reviews, author interviews, ARC giveaways, query critiques, agent features and offer oh-so-interesting-snippets of my real life. I blog at least five days a week. It’s work of the brain-squeezing type. And I have less than 600 followers (and I love all less-than-600 of you, don’t get me wrong).

tweet. I have a Facebook author page. I’m a volunteer moderator at AgentQuery Connect. I participate in the group blogs The Lucky 13sFriday the ThirteenersThe League of Extraordinary WritersFrom the Write Angle and Book Pregnant. I have a Pinterest board for NOT A DROP TO DRINK comprised of my own photography. I make vlogs. I do everything any socially-networking minded person can do and still have time to write.

And I’m not a household name by any stretch of the imagination. Granted – I don’t have a product to actually sell at the moment. DRINK won’t be releasing until September 24th.

But I did participate in a group anthology called SPRING FEVERS from the independent publisher The Elephant’s Bookshelf. I can come off as not flattering myself when I say that it’s pretty darn good, as I’m not the only author in the book. I used every avenue mentioned above to help promote SPRING FEVERS, as did my fellow authors in the collection. The e-book is even offered for free on Kindle.

I’m not going to tell you how many downloads we have, but I will say that it breaks my heart and leaves me in awe of people that succeed in self-publishing. Truly in awe.

This is why going the trad-pub route was right for me. I can’t think outside the box when it comes to promotion and marketing. The sheer number of blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and self-published books available makes me want to burrow into a hole and hope for the best as opposed to standing up and proving that I’m different from them in a really new and awesome way.

With the marketing department of a traditional publishing house behind me I don’t have to do that. And that’s good because I can’t do that. It’s not what I’m made for.

I don’t mind signing away the money (and yes, the rights too!) that I gave my house when we went into contract because they’re offering me something I don’t have – a massive built-in following, shelf space in major retailers, an art department to make my cover, and who knows what kind of marketing that I couldn’t finance in a million years of working as a high-school librarian.

And I’m offering them something they don’t have – my book. I look at is as win-win.

But other people cringe at exactly the same thing I welcome with open arms, and that’s why self-publishing exists, and why it’s very popular. It’s also lucrative… for some.

I can’t remember who, but awhile back an agent tweeted that self-publishing is not a guaranteed money-making success anymore than being trad-pubbed automatically means you’re going to be the next Stephen King. The vast majority of trad-pubbed authors also have a day job. I’m willing to bet the same is true for self-pubs.

We’re not all that different. And I really wish all of us could just go ahead and accept that. Some authors are willing to make certain sacrifices, while others would rather sacrifice something else.

And that’s totally cool. We don’t get to tell each other which sacrifices are the right ones.

I see a lot of polite head-butting, a lot of agreeing to disagree. What bothers me is that if we all insist that the grass is greener on our side of the fence, pretty soon the vast amount of bile that’s being spread on both sides is going to kill all the grass, everywhere.

One Smart Thing I Did to Sell NOT A DROP TO DRINK

You’re going to not like me a whole lot after you read this. The answer to one smart thing I did that helped sell my debut novel is that I re-routed my entire life.

I don’t necessarily recommend this approach.

Immediately after college I realized that I was overeducated and unemployable. Well, not quite unemployable. I spent the first two years post-college continuing to work in the job that had eaten my weekends during college… a retail job at Hallmark. Now, retail kind of sucks regardless of where you are, but me selling highly fragile things in a Kindness+10 environment was about to melt my cerebellum.

Let me place you in the timeline – Harry Potter had recently exploded. The Goblet of Fire was hitting shelves- no, wait. It wasn’t hitting the shelves because it was never making it to any. The fourth in the Potter series was going from backroom boxes to customer hands without a rest in between for it’s 3″ thick spine.

The rest of the retail world had figured out pretty quick that this was a goldmine deeper than Gringotts, and everybody wanted to stick their finger it, Hallmark included. We had some pretty fun stuff, Hogwarts mugs, Gryffindor banners and the like – but the coolest thing we had was our own whopping two copies of Goblet of Fire. Now, I hadn’t bought into the magic yet (you can read the story of my resistance here), but I was about to experience something even cooler than a quidditch match at high noon.

My Hallmark was next to a Kroger, and we had people pop in every now and then after grocery shopping just to sniff candles. More often, couples or families split the shopping to get done more quickly so that they could go home and burn the candles there instead. One day a worn out grandma who had finished her grocery shopping didn’t feel she had the energy after unloading them to come into the store and pick out some cards. So she sent her grandson instead.

There has never in the history of Hallmark been a 4th grade boy absolutely thrilled to be in that store at that moment.

The little guy literally grew roots and stood in front of the display for a moment with his mouth hanging open, then turned to the counter. “You… have… the… fourth… book,” he said. And we ignorant store workers just kind of stood there staring back at him to which he tried again, a little louder. “You. Have. The. Fourth. Harry. Potter.”

I affirmed that we did and grabbed it like he was afraid it was going to apparate out of sight, ran up to the counter and jammed it into my hands.

“Please, please, please can you put this under the counter for me until I get back?? I have to run out to the car and ask my Grandma if she’ll buy it for me and I don’t want anyone to get it while I’m out there. Please!”

I looked around the store (absolutely empty, by the way, not a lot of book-grabbers in the neighborhood) and said of course I would, and the little dude sprinted out to Grandma. It was as good thing there were no cars coming because he was so intent on getting there and back again that he didn’t check first. Grandma was happy to buy it for him, and he was so happy to have found it that he totally forgot to buy her sympathy card and had to come back inside five minutes later to do so.

But I don’t think he minded.

After he’d left I turned to the lady I was working with and said,

“If she hadn’t been able to buy that for him, I was going to.”

Co-worker: “Really? That’s like a $25.00 book.”

Me: “I don’t care. I can’t stand to see a kid wanting a book and not able to have one.”

Co-worker: “Hmmm…. have you ever thought about  being a librarian?”

Oddly enough – I hadn’t. But it seemed like a pretty good fit, right? So shortly after that when a position in a 7-12 public school opened up I applied, and got the job. And that pesky little paragraph at the bottom of your query letter where your author bio is supposed to go? Instead of saying, “I work at a Hallmark selling cards and breaking stuff,” it said –

“I’m a YA librarian, which means I spend 40 hours a week with my target audience and am immersed in the market.”

Yeah… which one sounds better to you?

Mindy Weighs In On Violence In NOT A DROP TO DRINK

The authors of The Class of 2k13 are blogging this month about age appropriateness of our books. I’ve already talked about the levels of sex, violence and language in NOT A DROP TO DRINK in vlog format, but I wanted to elaborate on the violence aspect.

NOT A DROP TO DRINK is labeled as appropriate for ages 14 and up, which I agree with. I also believe that there are probably thousands of 12 and 13 year olds that are mature enough to read my book and understand that the violence being handed out serves a means to an end within the story arc that lands squarely in the Violence is Not Cool camp.

Recently a friend of mine read my ARC, and her 13-year-old son snagged it off her dresser, reading it in two days. He loved it, and his mother shared this with me in regards to the trickier topics involved therein:

We talked about the violence and mention of rape, you know, just to have it in the open, and he didn’t take any of it out of context at all. So, from that standpoint, I think the maturity level comes into play.

I was so pleased to hear this. Of all the groups of people in the world, a 13 year old boy wasn’t walking away from my book thinking that shooting people was awesome. Thank God. However, would all adolescent boys (and girls!) react this way? I can’t say that for sure, because I’m not on a casual conversation basis with all of them.

As a librarian and a writer, I think the best approach for NOT A DROP TO DRINK wanna-be readers under the age of 14 is to have parents or an educator read it first and make the judgement call as to whether it’s appropriate for their maturity level. I’d much rather have an adult decide this before their child / student reads it, as opposed to after the fact.

And who knows – I might pick up a few adult fans, too! 😉

Mindy’s Playlist for NOT A DROP TO DRINK

We’ve been talking music this month on our book blog, and while I don’t listen to music while I write, I definitely find inspiration in certain tunes.

Very often I’ll hear a song and think that it fits a certain character’s personality, or that it stands as a good mood setter for the book in general. If a song resonates deeply with me it can even serve as a tool to help fill in backstory for a character.

NOT A DROP TO DRINK has a rather varied playlist. The first example will help illuminate a character that some readers might find hard to connect with. Mother is the only human Lynn has even spoken to, and Mother’s entire life revolves around teaching her daughter to survive – no matter what. She’s a feral mother, a no-holds-barred guardian of her young. The song Rocks & Water by Deb Talan set me back the first time I caught it on Pandora. The refrain particularly applies to Mother:

I will be rocks, I will be water
I will leave this to my daughter:
Lift your head up in the wind
When you feel yourself grow colder
Wrap the night around your shoulders
And I will be with you even then
Even when I cannot see your face anymore.

Another song I want to mention in connection with NOT A DROP TO DRINK is Thistle & Weeds by Mumford & Sons. So much about this song fits my story. The imagery is bleak, there’s a not-so-subtle plea for rain throughout, along with the allusion to bullets falling from the sky- something Lynn herself has been the source of for more than a few thirsty travelers over the years. But hope is also threaded throughout the song, a feeling that redemption might be out of reach right now, but won’t be forever. These lyrics in particular grabbed me the first time I heard it:

Look over your hills and be still
The sky above us shoots to kill
Rain down, rain down on me

But I will hold on, I will hold on…

And lastly I want to mention a song that fellow 2k13 member Lydia Kang associates with her book as well. Waiting For The End by Linkin Park has a very defiant feel to it, something that Lynn understands perfectly. She spends everyday assuming that she could die any minute. She controls every element of her life that she can, but her world is a violent one, and no one knows what the next day will bring.

Waiting for the end to come
Wishing I had strength to stand
This is not what I had planned
It’s out of my control.

These three songs together do a great job of painting both the setting for my book and the personalities of two of the main female characters, Lynn & Mother. I hope that hearing them gets you geared up for the release of NOT A DROP TO DRINK on September 10, 2013!


As a YA librarian I unpack boxes of new titles regularly. It’s been a distinct advantage to me as an author because I know what’s been done, how it’s been done, and how I can do it differently.

My very first reaction when I picked up THE HUNGER GAMES was like a battle between my reader and author selves. My reader-self was so excited she wanted to take the day off work and cuddle up in a corner. My writer-self was miffed because she didn’t think of that first. What a glorious idea! What fantastic not-so-preachy diatribe against violence in the media! What a hell of a page turner!

And… I didn’t write it. And now I never could because it would be a knock-off, a not-so-original idea that someone else had first and I tried to emulate.

So I shelved my disappointment in myself and kept hacking away at the urban fantasy that was already outdated, while I waited for the flash of inspiration that would become NOT A DROP TO DRINK.

In an earlier post I talked about how my novel is like a mashup between THE HUNGER GAMES and LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, but today I want to talk about how it’s different from both of those titles.

While I loved THE HUNGER GAMES, I was much more involved in the survival aspects of the book than the Sci-Fi elements. Sure, the tracker jackers were awesome, and the mockingjay is symbolic, but I liked watching Katniss survive with her bow and wits more than anything. My character is like that. Lynn survives in a world where water cannot be had at any price, and protecting her own means paying with a lack of conscience. Unlike Katniss, she’s killing to survive, but not to protect anyone other than herself. Katniss wants to win to protect her family and provide for them; Lynn kills to protect herself. Katniss was born with a conscience; Lynn has to learn the difference between right and wrong in order to grow as a character.

And how is NOT A DROP TO DRINK different from LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE? Well, let’s just say Laura might have been a saucy little girl but I don’t remember her ever shooting Pa’s gun, or even wanting to. Surviving against nature and environmental threats is a common theme, but the Wilder family had a warm fire and a family to rely on. Imagine Laura paranoid in her log house, Pa’s gun loaded and cocked at the ready, not waiting for the person at the door to announce themselves before taking aim.

Yeah… that’s how it’s different.

Comparable Titles for NOT A DROP TO DRINK

Pitching books is part of what I do as a librarian. Pitching my own book never ceases to make me feel like a bit of a used car salesman. Talking about comp titles works well for me because I feel like I’m saying, “Look, you like cars. You already own one. I’m just saying you should look at this one and see if you like the way it drives.”

My editor shared with me a fantastic pitch line for NOT A DROP TO DRINK – “Little House on the Prairie on steroids.” And yeah, that about sums it up. The biggest theme in DRINK is survival – against the elements, against human enemies, and against our own loss of humanity as we struggle to stay alive in both body and soul while living in a harsh world.

I think THE HUNGER GAMES has a lot of these same elements. Katniss needs to survive, but she’s not in it for glory or fame, she is in fact flustered by these side effects. She’s in it to survive in order to provide for her sister, and return to her family. Katniss jumps into the games with a heart already in place, whereas my main character needs to grow her heart in a harsh world where the soil is… well, a bit dry.

I don’t have a cover yet so I can’t give you a pretty equation ending with it, but I can provide something equally fun.

Don’t miss my giveaway! I’m supporting my Class of 2k13 mentor, Lynne Kelly and giving away her debut CHAINED – find the giveaway here!

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