Debacle At The Arcade (and win a copy of Devon Delaney)

April 2, 2010

Confession time.

Kids kind of scare me.

I know. You’d think that since I write for them, I would love them. And I DO love them, I do! They just scare me. Babies, I’m okay with. Teenagers, totally fine. But say, from like the ages of 4-10? They’re just so unpredictable! You never know what they’re going to do. In fact, they could pretty much do anything.

Anyway, my niece is ten, so she is on the upper range of children I’m not afraid of. And she’s really cool. She likes to talk about all the same things I do, like tween books and the show Make It Or Break It and the merits of dangly earrings.

The other night, The Boy and I went over to baby-sit her and her sisters, and I took her out to the bookstore and the arcade. The bookstore was fun — we looked at the books and talked about the Diary of A Wimpy Kid movie, and looked at all those board games and magic kits and things that they have in the middle of the store.

Then we went to the arcade.

The Niece loves arcades. She thinks that maybe they are the best things ever. I like them, too, for the most part. I mean, what’s not to like? Games, tickets you can spend all night earning and then turn in for a pixie stick… it’s really fun for all.

We got there sort of toward the end of the night, so the place wasn’t busy at all. (Thank God there weren’t more people there, because if there were, what happened later could have been a lot more embarrassing.) The Niece went to work, playing games, earning tickets, etc. Finally, it was almost time to leave, so I told her she had fifteen minutes to use up the rest of her tokens.

And that’s when it happened.

The Niece put her quarter into a machine where the point of the game was to shoot it into these colorful slots — each slot earned you a different number of tickets. One red slot said “bonus” and it was like, the width of the token, pretty much impossible to get.

But The Niece did. Her token went flying into the tiny “bonus” slot, and tickets started pouring out of the machine.

“Wow!” I said. “That’s awesome!” We stood there smiling and watching the tickets, feeling smug and superior to this other little girl who was clutching her measly twenty tickets while she played skee-ball.

“Can I go play that?” The Niece asked after a couple of minutes. “While you gather up the tickets?”

“Sure,” I said. We didn’t have much time left, and I wanted her to be able to use up the rest of her tokens. She walked over to some other game that involved shooting balls into these cups that sort of looked like owls.

I picked up the line of tickets and started to fold them up. (They are those long lines of tickets, like you get sometimes for raffles.)

But the tickets kept coming. And coming. And coming. They started pooling around my feet, and people started to stare. I was folding them up as fast as I could, into little compact rectangles and then shoving them in my pockets. But my pockets filled up fast, and I couldn’t keep up with the tickets. I had nowhere to put them.

At one point, I looked up at the machine and it said “tickets remaining = 497”

A girl who worked there was vacuuming, and she gave me a dirty look as she passed by and almost vacuumed up my line of tickets. It was very embarrassing. Finally I stopped trying to fold them up and just gathered the whole mess up into my hands.

When The Niece returned, we looked around for the machine to put them in. Usually in arcades you feed your tickets into a machine, it counts them automatically, and then you get a receipt that has the number of tickets you have printed on it.

Not at this one.

“Excuse me?” I said to the teenage boy who was working the counter. “Where do we put these tickets?” I peeked at him over the mountain that was in my arms. “Do we… do we have to count them ourselves?” I was almost crying.

“No,” he said. “You put them in this bucket.”

He shoved a Dubble Bubble bucket across the counter at me, and I started trying to put the tickets in gently, figuring he had a machine back there to feed them into. But he didn’t! He grabbed the tickets and like SMUSHED them down into the bucket. He was very rough, actually.

Then he took the bucket and brought it back to this very shady looking scale in the back, set the bucket on it, and announced that we’d won 1050 tickets. It didn’t seem that scientific, but whatever.

The Niece picked out some prizes – this huge bouncy ball that bounced to the ceiling, and various pieces of candy. (That’s the thing about arcades – you spend the whole time earning all these tickets and then you get tricked into thinking these sorts of cheap little prizes are, like, the best things ever.)

Then we went home.

I am going to hang out with her again on Saturday, so maybe we’ll be back. But this time I’m totally going to play DDR.

And in celebration of tweens and DDR and arcades, anyone who leaves a comment on this entry will be entered to win a copy of DEVON DELANEY SHOULD TOTALLY KNOW BETTER. (Devon has been known to DDR once in a while, in between all her fake boyfriends.)

The contest will run through Sunday, and I’ll pick and post the winner on Monday.

More later,

Posted by Lauren @ 10:17 am | 15 Comments  

Evolution of A Cover (Part Two)

April 1, 2010

Yesterday I blogged about ACES UP, and how and why the cover got changed.

Next up? WATCH ME.

In 2005, I sold my first novel, about a girl named Ally Cavanaugh who tries out for a reality TV show called In The House, which will broadcast her first semester at college. She figures she has no chance of getting cast, because she’s the most normal girl in the world, and everyone knows those shows only want people that are kind of wacky.

But to her surprise, she DOES get cast and (shocker) – ends up in a house full of crazies. She realizes later that she was chosen because she has a long distance boyfriend, and the producers are totally hoping that her relationship will fall apart. Add a hot new roommate named Drew who’s always there when she needs him, and the fact that her boyfriend can watch her every move on TV, and you have a recipe for tons of scandals.

Here is the original title and cover:

I loved this cover. It was my very first cover EVER, and I had been waiting and waiting to get a cover for one of my books ever since I’d started writing. Getting a cover is one of the first times your book actually seems “real” and I can still remember the moment when I opened that email from my editor.

The title, however, I wasn’t so sure about. Originally I had been calling this book IN THE HOUSE after the name of the show that Ally goes on. Everyone agreed it had to be changed, but when they suggested REALITY CHICK, I just didn’t know if I liked it. Something about the word “chick.” But I also realized that I’m a writer, not a marketer. And everyone at Simon Pulse loved it, and all my friends loved it, and eventually I ended up liking it, too.

The book came out in the summer of 2006, and did its time in stores. But with the success of TWO-WAY STREET, the amazing team at Simon Pulse decided that there should be a reissue.

This time, they thought we should make the cover not so reality-tv focused, and try to show that the book is a lot about Ally’s journey, her new friends and fun, and the fact that she’s sort of torn between two boys. They didn’t want focus so much on the reality TV show angle, or the college freshmen angle, since college YAs don’t usually do as well as those set in high school.

Therefore, the back cover copy got changed from this:

All-hour study fests . . . all-night parties . . .

Going away to college means total independence and freedom. Unless of course your freshman year is taped and televised for all the world to watch. On uncensored cable.

Sweet and normal Ally Cavanaugh is one of five freshpeople shacking up on In the House, a reality show filmed on her college campus. (As if school isn’t panic-inducing enough!) The cameras stalk her like paparazzi, but they also capture the fun that is new friends, old crushes, and learning to live on your own. Sure, the camera adds ten pounds, but with the freshman fifteen a given anyway, who cares? Ally’s got bigger issues — like how her long-distance bf can watch her loopy late-night “episode” with a certain housemate. . . .

Freshman year on film.

It’s outrageous.

It’s juicy.

And like all good reality TV,

it’s impossible to turn off.

To this:

She thinks she has nothing to hide?

Ally has everything under control. She’s about to move into a house full of strangers and have her life broadcast to the world, but as long as she still has her long-distance boyfriend, Corey, nothing can go wrong. Nothing, that is, until Ally starts spending time with her housemate Drew, the hot and sensitive guy who always seems to be around when she needs someone the most.

As suspicions and lies start pulling Ally and Corey apart, she’s not sure if she can trust anyone, not even herself. Ally is about to learn the hard way that life is what happens when everyone is looking, and it doesn’t always capture her good side….

We also went back and forth on titles (note: I am HORRIBLE with titles), and finally someone at S&S came up with WATCH ME, which I LOVED on lots of different levels. There’s the obvious – that people can watch her – but also it’s just really catchy and gives it a little sass, which I felt fit Ally’s personality and character arc through the book.

And here was the new cover:

I thought it was striking — it was actually one of my favorite covers ever. I loved everything about it – the colors, the image, everything.

Then we heard from Barnes and Noble.  They felt that the image didn’t really tell you what the book was about, and had dark overtones. The book is a fun, light story, so I definitely agreed with all of that. But I was also a little disappointed, because I loved this cover so much, that I was sure I wouldn’t be able to love a new cover even close to as much. (Kind of like kids.)

And then the incredible designer at S&S came up with this:

And this will be the cover!!!

I love it! I think it looks a lot more modern than the original, and it really gives you a sense that it’s a fun story about a girl finding her way instead of “omg, hi, this is a reality tv book.”

It will be out on July 6th, and I can’t wait….

(Next up, Part Three which will focus on ONE NIGHT THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING, although that might take a couple more weeks, since there are still tweaks being made. So before that I will probably blog about how I took my niece to an arcade and she won some kind of impossible-to-get bonus on this one machine and then ran off to spend her tokens and left me to gather up the tickets that were pooling at my feet while people stared.)

Posted by Lauren @ 11:35 am | 3 Comments  

Evolution Of A Cover (Part One)

March 31, 2010

So I have three YA books coming out this summer – ONE NIGHT THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING, ACES UP, and the rerelease of Reality Chick, which will be called WATCH ME.

All three books are getting new covers.

I know! What are the chances? (Actually, I guess a lot since covers get changed all the time. But still! Three for three!)

I love all three new covers more than their originals, which is crazy, seeing as how I thought the original ONE NIGHT cover was especially amazing.

I thought I’d post each cover here, and talk about how the cover was changed, and the reasons for the changes.

First, ACES UP.

This book is about a girl named Shannon who lies about her age so she can get a job waitressing at a local casino. While she’s there, she gets caught up in this scandalous undercover poker ring led by this super sexy guy named Cole. She has a lot of other stuff going on, too, like a crazy boss, a dad who’s out of work, and the fact that her best guy friend (well, until they almost kissed) Max and his new girlfriend are creating all sorts of drama for her. (Including more almost kisses.)

Here was the original cover:

Honestly, I thought it was just okay. I didn’t love it, because to me, it seemed very poker. And, yes, it IS a poker book, but I was afraid that people who DIDN’T like poker wouldn’t pick it up because they’d think it’s was just a story about gambling and casinos. The romance is a huge part of the story, and I felt like that kind of got lost with this cover. Also, I wasn’t thrilled with the feathers on the boa, which I thought were a little bit old-fashioned, and are never featured in the story.

I loved the red, though, (I think I actually heard somewhere that red covers sell better than any other color?) and Delacorte’s thinking was that teens have a certain fascination with casinos, and so this cover would appeal to them. I started liking it more as time went on, and figured it was different enough from my usual covers (read: pink and girly) that it would stand out from ONE NIGHT and WATCH ME, which are coming out around the same time.

Then we heard back from my editor, with some requests from the buyer at Barnes and Noble. (Note: If you don’t know, the buyers at big accounts – usually B&N, since they’re the biggest – can have an impact on the cover. If a buyer is going to up an order because of a cover change, or not carry the book at all because they don’t like the cover, the publisher usually tries to accommodate their request.)

In this case, the buyer thought it would be a good idea to make this cover look more like the cover for TWO-WAY STREET:

His feeling was that TWO-WAY STREET had done so well, and had such a contemporary, sexy look, that the ACES UP cover would do better if updated. He also requested a tagline calling me out as the author of TWO-WAY STREET.

So Delacorte came up with this:

I liked this one better a lot better than the original. Even though the tweaks were small, I thought it made a huge difference. The font is more modern, and I liked that it linked me to TWO-WAY STREET – I hoped this would make people who liked TWO-WAY STREET pick it up, even if they thought it was a poker book.

The boa was still a bit much for my taste, but overall I was really happy with these updates.

Then, a couple of weeks later, we got word that B&N felt the cover still wasn’t working. They talked about the TWO-WAY STREET cover again, how it made it clear that there was a relationship between the guy and the girl. (The TWO-WAY STREET cover is a wraparound, and the back shows a guy trying to fix the car.)

So Delacorte went back to the drawing board and came up with this:

And this will be the cover! I really love, love, love it. I think it’s so cute and really shows that there’s a lot of romance (even though the story does center around gambling, and my MC does get herself in a lot more trouble than my heroines are used to.)

I feel so fortunate that my wonderful editor Stephanie Elliott and the team at Random House were willing to keep at it.

Tomorrow? The cover for WATCH ME, and why that one’s changing not only covers (twice!) but titles…

More later,

Posted by Lauren @ 9:23 am | 8 Comments  

How I Stole A Vacuum From Some People

March 22, 2010

So last weekend we got a new vacuum. I know, that’s really lame.

But I WANTED ONE. That goes to show how old I am getting. (But maybe not, since I also became totally excited that GIMME A CALL by Sarah Mlynowski and THE CARRIE DIARIES by Candace Bushnell are coming out on the same day. Also sometimes when I am in Justice with my niece, I really wish they made the clothes in there in grown-up sizes.)


I looked up reviews for vacuums on the internet, since the last two vacuums I bought were just whatever was pretty and cheap, which is not a very effective way to buy a vacuum. It results in vacuums, like, dying and clogging and making very horrible noises and then spitting dirt back out all over your floor.

So I googled and searched and scoured, and found a lot of good reviews for this one:

It is a Shark Vac and it says it “never loses suction.”

Which sounds fab. But of course I was a little suspicious, because a lot of the reviews I saw were left by people who had posted only ONE review. Also most of them used the same phrases, like “this is for people who want a Dyson but don’t want to spend the money!” Which meant nothing to me, but I could kind of glean that people who are in the know about vacuums are just falling all over themselves for an expensive, shiny new Dyson. Also all of the reviews had user names likes “HappyWithVacInNY” which is very suspect.

I knew these reviews were probably left by people who work at Shark. Still, I was intrigued.

I made The Boy come with me to Target, which he didn’t really want to do, because he hates vacuum shopping. (And clothes shopping and grocery shopping and any kind of shopping really except for book and DVD shopping.)

When we got there, I immediately spotted the Shark! And there was a floor model you could push around Target!

“Oh, look!” I said to The Boy, pushing around the floor model. “This is the one that got all those good reviews online!”

“So we’ll get this one,” The Boy said. He was ready to go because we had already been there for one minute and thirty seconds.

“No, I want to look at all of them,” I said. I mean, I couldn’t be swayed that easily. I wanted to check ALL of them out before I committed.

Then I noticed there was another couple there, too, looking at the vacuums. It was kind of nice, actually, like a “look at us, all in this together, trying to find a good vacuum, la la la.”

I wandered down to the other end of the aisle. I picked up a few more vacuums, one that said it was great at picking up dog hair. We don’t have a dog, but we do have guinea pigs, and also, maybe we will have a dog someday. (At that point, I was looking for a vacuum that I felt could be an investment in our future.)

And that’s when it happened.

The lady from the other couple PICKED UP THE PURPLE SHARK VAC! (Note: Purple wasn’t really my reason for wanting it, but it’s a bonus. I mean, how cute!)

And then she said, “Oh, honey, how about this one? It’s light, right?” She started pushing it all around. I watched her out of the corner of my eye and realized:

SHE ONLY WANTED IT BECAUSE I SAID IT HAD GOOD REVIEWS! She was totally trying to rip off my research!

And there was only one purple Shark that never loses suction left!

I had to do something.

So I said, “Maybe we should just get this one,” really loud to The Boy. “Since this is the one that got good reviews.”

I started pushing around a random vacuum. It was a big lie. I had no idea if that one was good or not.

Then I wandered a few feet away and waited. The lady immediately glommed onto the one I just said had good reviews (aka The Lie Vacuum), and I swooped in and grabbed the beautiful purple Shark that never loses suction and dropped it in the cart.

When we were safely out of earshot, I proudly told The Boy what I did.

He wasn’t impressed. He said, “That’s kind of sad, those people seemed nice.”

So then I felt kind of guilty. And I thought maybe the Shark Vac that never loses suction would punish me when I got home by being made of fail. But it’s amazing! It’s so powerful that it leads you around the room by itself, almost.

Still, though.

I do hope those other people found a good vacuum…. (Sort of.)

More later

Posted by Lauren @ 6:26 am | 2 Comments  

A couple quick updates…

March 18, 2010

My new tween book coming October 5, 2010!

Also, HAILEY TWITCH IS NOT A SNITCH comes out on May 1st. If you’re a blogger that would like a review copy, please leave a comment with your email address, or drop me a line at lauren (at) laurenbarnholdt (dot) (com) so that I can pass it along to my publicist. You can find out more about Hailey here.

Back later with a proper update, including how I almost fainted while getting blood drawn (I’m squeamish!), and how I stole a vacuum from these people at Target (they were totally trying to steal it from me first)…..

Posted by Lauren @ 6:11 am | 1 Comment