Tuesday, September 19, 2017

I Have Another Book Coming Out!

I’m so excited to talk about my new novel. It’s called Monster, Human, Other. I love the cover.

Here's a bit about it:

Wren is human. Isaac is not. Having switched places at birth, they now live with each other’s families. Growing up among a different species is difficult—for Isaac, who has to keep many secrets, and for Wren, who is teased for her lousy human senses. They’re told it’s necessary, though. The exchange is the first step in an ambassador program meant to ensure peace.

But not everyone wants peace. There are creatures that live deep underground, coming up to the surface to feed. They have a plan to stir up trouble, and so far, it’s working. In the end, it’s up to Wren and Isaac to prevent a looming war and to save both their kinds.

The book is recommended for children ages 8 to 12, but I officially give permission to older people to read it, too. 

Edit: It's out now! You can order it at AmazonBarnes & Noble, or your local bookstore.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Make Your Own Voracan: A Fun and Easy Craft for Kids

Want your own voracan from Monster, Human, Other? Making one is easy. 


  • Styrofoam balls, about 1 to 2 inches in diameter. These can be found in the floral arrangement section of craft supply stores. The smooth surface type is easier to paint.
  • Toothpicks.
  • Paint. You'll need black paint, as well as any other colors you want for the eyes. 

  1. Stick toothpicks into a Styrofoam ball.
  2. Paint your voracan. 
  3. Wait for the paint to dry.

An adult should provide supervision and select paint that is appropriate for the age of the child. Beware of choking hazards for very young children. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Get an Autographed Copy of Monster, Human, Other: Pre-Order Offer

What's better than books? Autographed books!

To get your own autographed copy of Monster, Human, Other, pre-order the book through Vintage Books by September 18, 2017. Please mention this offer when placing your order. I can personalize my message if you include the name you want me to sign the book to when you place your order. 

If you pre-order the book elsewhere, you can still receive a signed bookplate. (This is simply an adhesive label you can put in the book.) Read the full rules and complete the form here on or before September 18, 2017, midnight Pacific Time.  

Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Monster, Human, Other Release Party

When: September 23 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Where: Vintage Books, 6613 E Mill Plain Blvd, Vancouver, WA 98661

Who: Monster, Human, Other is a middle grade novel aimed at children ages 8 to 12, but everyone is welcome at the release party. 

"Sympathetic and winning, Isaac and Wren star in alternating, fast-paced chapters until they come together for the exciting conclusion." — Kirkus

Laurel Gale is the author of Dead Boy and Monster, Human, Other. She lives with her husband and their ferrets in Vancouver, Washington. You can visit Laurel online at laurelgale.com or on Twitter at @Laurel_Gale.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Giving and Receiving Criticism: It's Not Just for Writers

Admit it. You don't like to be criticized. No, this isn't a criticism, so don't get defensive and close the browser. It's just a fact. No one likes to be criticized. 

As a writer, though, constructive criticism is the best way to improve. As a person, it's important, too. Whether we're trying to perfect our cupcake recipe, become a better friend, or write the next masterpiece, we could all benefit from learning how to give and receive criticism. 

Learn to give constructive feedback.

When you’re giving feedback, it’s easy to focus on the problems. After all, you want to help the other person improve. Only saying nice things might stroke someone's ego, but it won't lead to improvement. You're saying all that mean stuff out of the kindness of your heart. 

But while all positive feedback is unhelpful, all negative feedback is just as bad. 

Too much negativity can make people defensive. As writers, we might decide the critiquer is an idiot who doesn’t get our genius, because the alternative—that we’re really that bad—is too hard to accept. Or we will accept that we’re awful, and we’ll want to give up. Either way, we’re not encouraged to improve. 

Outside of writing, people are likely to react in the same basic ways. They'll either get angry or sad, and neither state is very productive.

So how should we give constructive feedback?

I’m a firm believer in the compliment sandwich. Point out something good, then something bad, and then something good again. This way, people will feel that they're doing okay and will be motivated to do even better.

You don’t always have to use this exact order, but you should strive for some balance. You should also make the compliments sincere. 

The compliments serve another purpose beyond the ego boost, too. It actually is helpful to know what we’re doing right. We need to know when something is working so we can keep doing it.

Learn to receive feedback.

If you feel yourself getting defensive when you get negative feedback, don’t worry. A little defensiveness is a natural human reaction.

This is no excuse for rudeness, though, especially when people are trying to help you.

The key is to avoid responding too quickly. Don’t try to defend yourself. Instead, say thanks, and give yourself some time to think about the feedback you’ve received.

This doesn't mean you can never respond. Sometimes it's helpful to discuss the issue in more depthto point out concerns you've had, to look at different solutions, or to request more detailed feedback. 

But even the most thick-skinned of us can get defensive from time to time. If you feel this happening, say thanks, and then be quiet. 

Remember, you’re under no obligation to take anyone's advice. You should still thank the well-meaning person for giving it to you. 

You can’t please everyone.

As any writer knows, if you give your manuscript to ten different people, you’re going to get ten different reactions, and some of the advice you receive is bound to be contradictory. One person might tell you the pacing is perfect but the characters are flat. Another person might tell you the character are great but the story lags.

So how do you know who to believe?

On the rare event that readers actually give you the same feedback, take it to heart. You don’t have to do exactly what they suggest, but you should accept that they've identified a real problem. Likewise, if everyone's telling you that you interrupt too much or you're cookies are too saltyyou probably want to heed this advice, too. 

When people don't agree, it’s your story, your life, so learn to trust your gut. Whose advice resonates with you? That’s probably the person you should listen to the most.

Also keep in mind that not all advice is equal. 

Sometimes I read reviews of books that, while honest, have more to do with the reviewer than the book. Did a reader complain that your horror novel is too scary? Or that you romance focuses too much on the love story? Maybe one guy doesn't like the main character because you named her Erin, and he's never met an Erin he didn't hate. 

No matter how amazing a book is, some people won’t like it. Just look at Goodreads for proof. I adore Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, widely considered a masterpiece, but it currently has 24,965 one-star reviews. That's a lot of people who disagree with me. 

Likewise, you can make the best guacamole in the world, but some people just don't like avocado. (Me, for instance.) And no matter how awesome you are, there will be people who just don't care to be your friend.

You can’t please everyone. Don’t try to. 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Reviews For MONSTER, HUMAN, OTHER Are Here

As a published author, I obviously have a very thick skin. I don't care about reviews. Even the snarkiest comments wouldn't bother me.

That's what I like to pretend, anyway. The truth is that with the release of my second book approaching, I've been nervously waiting for the reviews to start trickling in. And now they have.

These lines made me smile.

"Sympathetic and winning, Isaac and Wren star in alternating, fast-paced chapters until they come together for the exciting conclusion." — Kirkus

"The author cleverly uses the familiar changeling theme, allowing readers to explore their own feelings of being outsiders in their families and the worlds they inhabit." — School Library Journal

MONSTER, HUMAN, OTHER hits bookstores on September 19, 2017, so you can read it and form your own opinion then. If you're the impatient type (like me) you can
 pre-order it now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local bookstore. Pre-orders are awesome.

I nervously totally calmly await your review! 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Amazing School Visit

This week, I was thrilled to visit Chief Old Sun Elementary School in Siksika, just southeast of Calgary. It's by far the farthest I've traveled for a school visit! And it was worth it. One of the classes had read Dead Boy, and they selected the book for their big art project of the year. While I was there, I got to see them perform scenes from the book. It was absolutely amazing!

Here's a picture of one of the kids dressed up as Crow, wearing his Halloween costume.

And here's a picture of one of the kids dressed up as the monster from Dead Boy

Isn't the costume fantastic? They let me try it on. 

If you're interested in having me visit your school, email me at bylaurelgale@gmail.com. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Naming Characters and My Obsession with Birds

The main character in Dead Boy is a boy named Crow. One of the main characters in Monster, Human, Other is a girl named Wren. Can you tell I like birds? 

I'll be the first to admit that Crow's name is perhaps too fitting. A (more or less) dead boy beloved by his parents named Crow Darlingson? Yep. I like the name Crow. The birds are sometimes associated with death, but they're also intelligent and charming—just like Crow.

Of course, there is an obvious problem with naming a character after characteristics developed long after birth. Crow's parents did not know that he would become undead. They could have hoped he'd be clever, though, and sometimes people do end up fitting their names in curiously apt ways. Wikipedia has an article on this phenomenon, called aptronyms. The article gives many examples, including Michael Ball, a football player, and Amy Freeze, a meteorologist. I wouldn't want to name all my characters this way, but I'm happy with Crow's name.

More often, names will reflect the parents' personalities. Are the parents conventional? Give the character a conventional name. Are the parents more out there? Come up with a unique name. Do the parents love to travel? Maybe something like Paris, London or Sahara will work nicely.

Names can also reflect the culture of the character, whether it's a real-world culture or a fantasy one. Wren's name fits the naming conventions of the non-human family that's raising her. 

The age of the character is important, too. When I'm coming up with names, I often consult lists of baby names, like the ones from the Social Security Administration. The trick is not to use the current year's most popular names. Instead, figure out when your character was born, and use a name from that year's list. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

I Have a Facebook Page!

I now have a Facebook page.

Yes, this means that until now, I have not been on Facebook. I know, I know. I might as well have been living on the moon. 

You can see my Facebook page here. I don't know how often I'll update it, but I'll try to post any exciting news as well as events that are open to the public. For more frequent updates, follow me on Twitter. I'm also on Quora and GoodReads

It seems like a lot, but I'm still only scratching the surface of social media options available. 

As a writer, I want to connect to readers, and of course I also need to promote my book. But I need time to write, too, and I'm not talking about status updates. From my conversations with other writers, I know I'm not the only one who struggles with this. 

But that doesn't mean I can't do social media. It just means I have to learn how to manage my time there. It's worth it because, as I said, I really do want to be accessible to readers. 

And that means being on Facebook.  

Many people depend on Facebook to connect with others and to keep track of events, so after a long time of putting it off, I've added Facebook to my list of social media sites. Who knows? Maybe I'll love it.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Should You Write or Procrastinate? Let the Flowchart Decide!

You're at your computer, ready to write some killer pages. But the internet's right there, tempting you with games to play, social media to check, and pictures of cute animals to "aww" at. Should you buckle down and get to work this second, or should you procrastinate a little? Use this flowchart to find out.

Monday, February 6, 2017

How to Plan Your Novel: Plotting Versus Pantsing

There are two basic ways to write a novel: you can plot it or you can pants it. If you plot your novel, you work out the plot before you start writing. If you pants your novel, you start writing with an idea in mind but without a developed plot. You write by the seat of your pants. You wing it. You improvise.

It’s best to think of these two options as opposite ends of a spectrum. Your personal style may lie somewhere in between. It could even vary from project to project.

There are pros and cons to each side.

Plotting your novel ahead of time means you don’t have to worry about writing yourself into a corner. You’re far less likely to realize you need to cut fifty pages or eliminate a character. Foreshadowing is much easier when you know what’s coming. Although you’ll still have revise your work—there’s no way to avoid that—the revisions will generally be less intensive and less painful if your manuscript was plotted ahead of time.

If you’re a published writer and want to pitch your agent or editor before you’ve finished a project, plotting is essential. Yes, your plot may change a bit as you go, but you need something substantial to show others.

But pantsing has some advantages, too. Some people don’t like plotting and will drag their feet through the process. They may find that discovering the story as they write is what keeps the passion for the project alive. Once they’ve plotted it, they know the story, and they’re no longer interested in working on it.

Other writers may opt for pantsing because they want their characters to dictate the story. If writers force their characters to follow pre-determined plots, some of the decisions and motivations may seem unnatural and, well, forced.

My debut book, Dead Boy, was pantsed. I started with an idea for the character and a few vague ideas for the plot, but I didn’t know how the story would end, and much of the middle was pretty hazy, too. I was working on the project for fun after another project fell apart. I had a lot of passion for it, but not much else.

This resulted some pretty major revisions as I figured out the plot. Characters changed. Backstories got replaced. It was a lot of work, and I think it would have been easier if I’d done more plotting ahead of time.

These days, when I start a new project, I write a summary. It’s usually around one to two pages long and tells the story from beginning to end.  It may include some subplots, but not all. It includes most major developments, but the order is flexible.

As I write the project, I adjust the summary as needed. By the time I’m about fifty pages into my project, I’ve worked out any issues, and the summary is finalized. At this point, I’m confident in the story, and I have fifty pages and a summary to show others.

I’m not going to tell you how you need to write your novel. Writing is an art form, and each artist approaches it differently. If plotting works for you, great. If pantsing works for you, keep it up. If you’re having trouble, though, it’s smart to look at other options, including something in the middle.