Sunday, June 24, 2018

Behind Every One of My Published Books is the Story of How it Almost Didn't Happen

Hello, fellow lovers of YA!

I never got around to writing a release day post for A KISS IN THE DARK back in March, so I promised myself I'd put something together when I finally had the chance, because this book definitely deserves it.

In April, I flew back to my home state of Connecticut for a joint BUSTED/A KISS IN THE DARK launch party. What I told the crowd that night was this:

"Behind every one of my published books is the story of how it almost didn't happen."

Photo Credit: Michael Lello

Want proof? Read how LYM came to be published two years after going *off* submission here, and get the details on BUSTED's 5-year journey to publication here.

I've probably mentioned this before, but A KISS IN THE DARK was not supposed to be the second book in my 2-book contract with Simon Pulse. Book 2 was supposed to release in 2016, one year after LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE debuted. The story that originally got approved was a novella that I converted into a full-length novel. And that I should've just left alone, because no matter what I did to it, I hated it. So did my editor.

In the middle of rewrite #3 on this manuscript from hell, my editor left Pulse. I adored her, and I was devastated. It didn't help that I was weaning myself off antidepressants after a nasty battle with postpartum depression. Just the thought of trying to scale the mountain of agony that was this novel without her exhausted me. Sure enough, when my new editor contacted me, the verdict was this: either rewrite the story again, or start fresh with a new idea.

I was honestly relieved that someone had given me the option to walk away from this manuscript. That was how much I despised it. But now I had a whole new novel to write, so Book 2 was moved to 2017.

Turns out thinking up a new concept was the easy part. The story was partially inspired by a Superbowl commercial. (Hint: Audi)

Anyone else remember this???

The other factor in the inspiration equation was a blackout... that also occurred during the Superbowl. 

Superbowl XLVII (Photo found online)

All this football-related inspiration is pretty ironic, considering how little I watch or know about sports. But the titular kiss occurs during a football game, and the story includes flashback chapters that tie the identity of the mystery kisser to a fire that nearly destroyed Macy Atwood's best friend’s house – and was also the final straw in destroying their friendship. 

I go into more detail about the challenges of getting the earliest draft of KISS written here, but the long and short of it is this:

- The concept was approved on proposal, or a synopsis + 30 sample pages.

- The first draft was an 81,000-word mess. I had to hire a babysitter just to get it written.

- I'd written exactly what I'd detailed in the synopsis, and then got a 7-page edit letter from my editor asking me to rewrite the whole thing.

- Two major rewrites followed, in which I deleted two characters and approximately 40,000 words that would be rewritten from the ground up.

- Revisions were so intense that the pub date got moved once again - this time from 2017 to 2018.

I barely talked about this book publicly, because I honestly thought the pub date might be moved a third time, from 2018 to NEVER.

Luckily, I was wrong. All those edits paid off, and A KISS IN THE DARK turned into something I was really proud of.
On March 6, 2018, it became my 3rd published novel.

Photo Credit: Michael Lello
So there you have it, the story behind the story of A KISS IN THE DARK.

If you bought the book, THANK YOU! If you'd like to, it's available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target, etc.

If you reviewed the book, THANK YOU! Reviews are so important to a book's visibility, so if you're willing to leave a few lines ("there were words and I liked them" totally counts as a valid review) on Amazon or B and N 's website, I am truly grateful to you.

And if you're an aspiring author who thinks it's never going to happen for you, I leave you with the words I've been saying since my first book got its second chance all those years ago: You never know. No, really. You don't. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

New Books, New Giveaways!

Well, A KISS IN THE DARK officially became a published book 8 days ago, and I am finally getting the chance to sit down and write a blog post. HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY, KISS!

I'm planning to write a separate post along the lines of the Story Behind the Story piece I wrote for BUSTED, because KISS has its own tale of how it almost didn't happen. But today, I'm going to concentrate on celebrating - and on giving away free books!

So let's do this. Here's how to win free books (mine, or ALL the books I've blurbed!):

I originally posted this on Release Day, but realized a few things shortly thereafter:
1) The 3/13 cutoff was not enough time
2) I didn't promote it enough and
3) There's no prize noted for reviewing A KISS IN THE DARK, or for reviewing both books. 

So here are the revised rules:

1) Leave a short review of BUSTED on Amazon or B & N for the chance to win a signed hardcover of A KISS IN THE DARK. 

~ OR~

Leave a short review of A KISS IN THE DARK on Amazon or B & N for the chance to win a signed paperback of BUSTED.

~ OR ~

Leave a short review of **both** A KISS IN THE DARK ~and~ BUSTED on Amazon or B & N for the chance to win ALL FOUR of the books I've blurbed:

HOW TO MAKE OUT by Brianna Shrum

LOVE SONGS AND OTHER LIES by Jessica Pennington (Preorder. Release Date 4/24/18)

THESE THINGS I'VE DONE by Rebecca Phillips

THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF US by Katy Upperman (Preorder. Release date July 31st) 

2) Once your review is posted (one or two honest sentences is plenty), either leave the link in a comment on this post, or tweet it to gmc511, or email it to gina(dot)ciocca(at)yahoo(dot)com, by 3/28
3) Winners will be announced on 3/29. 

Yes, international entries are okay. 
Yes, the review can be cross-posted from your Goodreads account (no plagiarizing, obvs).

And there you have it. Happy Reading and Reviewing!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Preorder Incentives for A KISS IN THE DARK!

I can not believe A KISS IN THE DARK's release day is only 6 weeks away!

You may have seen my previous post about the preorder incentive I'm running, but since BUSTED's time as a preorder is up (HAPPY 3 WEEK BIRTHDAY, BUSTED!) I've decided to reiterate the giveaway details in a separate post dedicated to KISS.

What? Doesn't everyone take their ARCs to locations from the story and do photo shoots?

EVERYONE who preorders A KISS IN THE DARK and emails  proof to gina(dot)ciocca(at)yahoo(dot)com by March 5, 2018 will receive swag:

All entries will then go into a drawing for a GRAND PRIZE, the winner of which will be announced on release day - March 6, 2018.

The grand prize pack includes:

- A custom notebook sporting A KISS IN THE DARK's cover
- swag
- A #nofilter compact mirror (a nod to the photography aspect of the story)
- A set of 5 Color Story lip glosses (in honor of Macy's lip gloss-obsessed best friend, Meredith)
- A sunset lake journal (because Macy loves to snap sunset photos of the lake in her neighborhood)
chocolate footballs (not pictured)
- Butter Rum Lifesavers (Macy's favorite candy, as we find out on page 53)
A 4-inch Superman decal (in honor of Macy and Ben's favorite superhero)
Football face tattoos (because Macy is a former cheerleader, and "football is no joke in the South.")

So the steps are:
1) Preorder from the site of your choice (including, but not limited to: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Target

2) Email me a screen shot of your order confirmation (gina(dot)ciocca(at)yahoo(dot)com)

3) Sit back and wait for free stuff to arrive in your mailbox.

That's literally it! And while you wait for your swag, you can add KISS to your Goodreads shelf here. You can also spread the word with these copy-and-paste-ready tweets:

Get awesome book swag + the chance to win a grand prize! Preorder A KISS IN THE DARK by @gmc511!

Preorder Incentive #Giveaway for @gmc511's A KISS IN THE DARK! Everyone gets swag + an entry for a grand prize. Details here:

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Story Behind the Story: Happy Release Day to BUSTED

Today is the day! My 2nd book, BUSTED is finally out in the world!

I love this book, y'all. I really love it. And I'm not exaggerating when I say that publication has been a loooong time coming. Those of you in the writing world know that almost nothing happens quickly here, and this book was no exception. Neither was my debut, LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE.

And even though the pub stories of BUSTED and LYM sort of intertwine, BUSTED has it's own unique path to publication, and it's one that I feel is worth sharing. So here goes:

In early 2013, LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE had been on sub for about a year, and hopes for publication were dwindling. If you haven't read LYM's pub story, you can do so here, but this is the abridged version: John (my agent) and I came very close to book deals with two different publishers, but those deals ultimately didn't pan out. The feedback that we seemed to keep getting was that LYM was "too quiet." Editors wanted something with a bigger "hook," and a bolder premise.

So, while I was devastated at the thought of  LYM never making it to a bookshelf, I was determined to write a book that would.

One morning, while driving to my job (I was living in Connecticut and working full time then), the hosts of the radio morning show I listened to on 106.1 were talking about a woman who suspected her boyfriend of cheating, and had hired a private investigator to catch him in the act. Instead, the PI and the boyfriend ended up falling for each other.

I remember thinking, "If I could put a YA spin on THAT, no one would ever call it 'quiet.'"

The setting, the story, and the characters began to take shape inside my head. I started to get excited. And then I had a phone call with John to discuss the fate of LYM, and where to go next. I told him about a few ideas I was mulling over. I saved the concept of BUSTED for last. And when I explained it to him, he said, "Write that one."

And so I did. Or I started to, anyway.

In early November of 2012, we had accepted an offer from my husband's job to relocate from Connecticut to Georgia. And THEN, after saying, "It's probably never going to happen" following a 4-year struggle with infertility, I found out I was pregnant.

Between the stress of the move and my brain's utter refusal to be creative while I was pregnant, progress on BUSTED stalled.

We drove down to GA in June of 2013. I was 8 months pregnant, swollen, and exhausted. When my son was born, I sunk into a pit of rock-bottom postpartum depression. I honestly thought I would never put words on the page again. I felt useless, worthless, and utterly hopeless.

My mother and sister came down to Georgia and got the ball rolling on my recovery. They helped me with my son, made phone calls to my insurance company on my behalf, and helped me do all the simple things that had become insurmountable tasks since I'd given birth. When they left, my mother-in-law flew down for two weeks.

But the real change in me started to happen when my husband's aunt came to stay with us. As someone who struggled with depression herself, she had taken one look at me following the birth of my son, and knew that something was very wrong. She packed her bags and left her own husband and daughter in Connecticut so that she could live with us in Georgia for five whole weeks.

I still get teary-eyed talking about this, because I am in awe that someone could be so selfless. When I'd get up for my son's 6 a.m. feeding, she'd take him and tell me to go back to sleep. During the day, she'd send me up to my office and tell me to write, insisting she had everything under control. And did she ever. She'd walk my fussy baby around the house, singing to him, rocking him, feeding him. She'd bring him outside and walk him around our neighborhood in the stroller. At night she'd make dinner, and I can't even count the number of times I'd go to fold laundry, only to find it already done.

BUSTED's Dedication 
It felt so good to have someone treat my writing like it mattered. I don't think anyone else truly understood how much I needed to find that part of myself again, how I just didn't feel like me when I couldn't create. And with so many stressors off my plate, I was finally able to get back into the head space of Gina the Writer. My creative muscles were stiff and in need of a good stretch, but I sat down in front of my lap top, determined to finish BUSTED.

I didn't get to write THE END during the five weeks while my aunt was here. But I made a ton of progress, and that was good enough.

By February of 2014, BUSTED was more or less done. And then I got the news that LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE was being resurrected for sub by Sara Sargent at Simon Pulse. Thirty-four days later, Pulse offered me a 2-book contract.

With LYM back on the table for publication, BUSTED took a backseat yet again. I put it aside and focused my energy on revising LYM.

In all honesty, I kind of assumed that BUSTED would be my book 2 in the two-book contract with Pulse. When all the hullabaloo of revising and promoting LYM died down, I submitted BUSTED to Pulse.

And... they passed on it.

Needless to say, I was disappointed. But I was determined that BUSTED would find a home somewhere, and I told John I wanted to go on submission with it. So he sent me an edit letter full of revision suggestions to implement first.

And holy smokes, was this revision massive.

Massive, but spot-on, as John's suggestions tend to be. So, I went back to the drawing board. By September of 2015, BUSTED was a brand-new and improved teen spy story, and it finally went on sub to editors.

I'm going to be perfectly honest here - I had no faith that BUSTED would sell. The market seemed to be cooling on contemporary romance, and I was afraid we'd waited too long. Not to mention that after the two-year process that selling LYM had turned into, I certainly wasn't thinking that just one month after going out on sub, I'd get an email from John saying that Annette Pollert-Morgan at Sourcebooks had read and loved BUSTED, and wanted to have a phone conversation with me about it.

But that's exactly what happened. I set up a call with Annette for later that week. I loved her, and she loved my book. I knew that BUSTED had found a home.

And today, five years after this story's journey first began, it's finally where it belongs - on bookshelves, and in the hands of readers. 

First sighting of BUSTED in the wild, at Milford
Barnes and Noble with my mom and son.

If you'd like to support BUSTED today, here are ways to do so: 

Leave a review on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. The more reviews a book has, the greater its visibility on the site, so please consider sharing the love! This includes cross-posting reviews from Goodreads or your blog.

- Buy the book. Reviews are fantastic, but authors need sales, too. BUSTED can be purchased from Amazon, Target, Barnes and Noble, and IndieBound.
***** And if you purchase it today, I will accept it as a last-minute entry toward my preorder campaign.***** You will receive swag, and your name will be entered in a drawing for a grand prize that will be announced TONIGHT. Details here:

- Tweet/Instagram about the book. Two easy, totally free ways to help an author out. Snap a pic of your copy of BUSTED, or a copy in the wild, tag me on Twitter (gmc511) or Instagram (gmciocca), and I will love you forever.
Don't have access to a copy? Post one of these ready-to-Insta images:

Or, you can use these handy, ready-to-tweet blurbs:

Happy book birthday to @gmc511's BUSTED! Pick up this "tale of mystery, deception, and romance like no other," out today from @SourcebooksFire!

Oh, snap! BUSTED is out in the world via @SourcebooksFire ! Order your copy today for the chance to win awesome swag and goodies from @gmc511!

Looking for a "funny, fast-paced novel" that "shines?" Pick up @gmc511's BUSTED, out today from @SourcebooksFire!

- Ask your local library to carry the book. This can usually be done online, no fuss, no muss. Every means of getting books into readers' hands helps.

- Check out the blogs on BUSTED's blog tour, and enter the Rafflecopter giveaway

Lastly, if you've already supported BUSTED in any of these ways, or are planning to, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for caring, thank you for allowing my little stories to be part of your life. You will never know how much this means to me.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Everywhere You Can Win BUSTED!

So, as you may already know, my novel BUSTED comes out on January 2nd - just FOUR DAYS from today!

In honor of the big day, there are several sites you can visit for the chance to win a copy of BUSTED, or BUSTED-related goodies, or excerpts from the book.

Which sites? Well, I'm glad you asked. It just so happens there is a BUSTED blog tour, and each stop has access to a Rafflecopter giveaway courtesy of SourcebooksFire:

Bookish Delights Blog (Includes an excerpt from Chapter 5!)

Books and Munches Blog

Snarky Yet Satisfying Blog (Includes an excerpt from Chapter 12!)

Two Fangs About It Blog

You can also enter to win one of 3 copies of BUSTED in this Goodreads giveaway until January 1st.

And, of course, if you've preordered BUSTED or A KISS IN THE DARK, I want to send you swag, and put you in a drawing for one of two themed prized packs. Click here for details.

Meanwhile, if you'd rather pick up your copy in the store, it's already on the shelf in Barnes and Noble! I signed some copies in the Milford, CT store today, and I'll be stalking -- er, signing -- some more at the Alpharetta store when I get back to Georgia.

If you spot it in the wild, please tweet a pic to me at gmc511. I love seeing them!

Happy Reading!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Preorder Incentive Campaigns for BUSTED and A KISS IN THE DARK!

I can not believe that BUSTED comes out 4 weeks from tomorrow(!!!), or that A KISS IN THE DARK will release just 9 weeks after that.

I'm super excited about these stories, and I hope y'all are excited too. I know that when it comes to books, choices are vast and budgets are tight, and this is exactly why I've decided to do a preorder campaign for both novels. I chose a few super cute prizes that are significant to each book, and I'd love to see them in the hands of ravenous reader. So....

Here's how it works:

- Everyone who preorders* BUSTED ~OR~ A KISS IN THE DARK will receive swag (bookmarks, postcards, etc.)

- Everyone who preorders* BUSTED ~AND~ A KISS IN THE DARK will receive swag PLUS a paperback copy of LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE (if you already have LYM, you may choose a different YA paperback)
*and follows instructions for providing proof

- All entries will go into a drawing for one of two grand prize packs


This prize pack includes:
- a custom notebook sporting BUSTED's cover
- swag
- Aztec hot chocolate mix (in honor of the scene on page 90)
- 50/50 double sided colored pencils (a nod to Marisa's sketches)
- A top secret spy kit that includes an invisible ink pen, rear-view spy glass, magnifying glass, fake mustache, and a notebook
- A Magic Frosted Forest Yankee candle (in honor of the tree farm where TJ works, which Marisa nicknames "Narnia")
- "Oh snap" camera stickers (see page 48 + the cover for why these are utterly perfect)
- chocolate footballs
- 10 Cherry Blossom Classic Camera charms (a nod to Marisa's love of making jewelry)


This prize pack includes:
- A custom notebook sporting A KISS IN THE DARK's cover
- swag
- A #nofilter compact mirror (a nod to the photography aspect of the story)
- A set of 5 Color Story I <3 3="" glosses="" i="" lip="" nbsp="" pink="">(in honor of Macy's lip gloss-obsessed best friend, Meredith)
- A sunset lake journal (because Macy loves to snap sunset photos of the lake in her neighborhood)
- chocolate footballs (not pictured)
- Butter Rum Lifesavers (Macy's favorite candy, as we find out on page 53)
- A 4-inch Superman decal (in honor of Macy and Ben's favorite superhero)
- Football face tattoos (because Macy is a former cheerleader, and "football is no joke in the South.")

How To Enter

1) Preorder one or both books from the site of your choice (See above for prize tiers)

2) Email proof of purchase to gina(dot)ciocca(at)yahoo(dot)com
  - Please include the address to which you would like your swag/prize shipped

3) Receive swag, become eligible to win a prize pack.

4) That's literally it.

**Winner of the BUSTED prize pack will be chosen on January 1st. All entrants will remain in the drawing for A KISS IN THE DARK's prize pack until the campaign ends on March 5th, 2018.**

In the mean time, PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD about the contest! Here are some copy-and-paste-ready tweets for your sharing convenience:

Get awesome book swag + the chance to win one of two prize packs! Preorder BUSTED and/or A KISS IN THE DARK by @gmc511!

Preorder Incentive #Giveaway for @gmc511's BUSTED and A KISS IN THE DARK! Everyone gets swag + an entry for 1 of 2 grand prizes. Details here:  

If there are any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments or find me on Twitter. Good luck!

Friday, October 13, 2017

YA Scavenger Hunt Winners!

Thank you so much to everyone who participated in the YA Scavenger Hunt!

Winners, including the winners of my bonus giveaways, are listed here:

If you didn't win, but still want a copy of BUSTED (Sourcebooks Fire, 1-2-18), you can:

And here are the links for A KISS IN THE DARK (Simon Pulse, 3-6-18):

Add it to your Goodreads shelf
Preorder it on Amazon
Preorder it at Barnes and Noble

Stay tuned for more bookish giveaways in the very near future!