Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.

The Whale Dreamer is about Kelley you want to avoid making a statement like this, and put more finesse into getting the hook front and center. It's the equivalent of a high schooler's report starting with "My paper is going to be about..." a young girl who is called to by the whales to surface something they have been protecting since the beginning of time…the dream of the future. This is interesting, but pretty vague. 

Morgaine, an elder blue whale, recognized you want to write the entire query in present tense that Kelley held a unique key to the universe, so on Kelley’s ninth birthday, Morgaine took her life. But when Kelley was resuscitated and began her second life, she discovered that she had become a passerby— a vortex that animals on their way to becoming extinct must pass through. That's definitely interesting. Kelley’s home was taken over with apparitions of wild animals ranging from frogs to lions, and while this was thrilling to Kelley, it was terrifying for her parents and sister. I'm intrigued but I don't understand why there are apparitions.

And then the whales started calling to Kelley "started" makes it sound like this is first contact, or the beginning of something, but this is the next phase, they showed up in her dreams , whenever she touched water, and even became visible in her school parking lot. How is this compelling when there are already apparitions taking over the house? Feels like a step backwards from tension rather than forward. The whales called because they wanted Kelley to join them in the ocean; but didn't she already? Wasn't it necessary for her to be in the water in the first place in order for Morgaine to kill her? because while on land she is a doorway to death, why would she be a doorway to death on land? in the ocean Kelley is the key to life in the universe. Why would this change if she's in the water? With the help of a gaggle of scientists how does she met them? Why would they help her? , Kelley convinces her parents to let her enter the world of the ocean so she can save the whales and is initiated into the whale counsel and told her true purpose... not to save the whales, but life as we know it. And then in walks fifteen year old May, another passerby, who has been studying and learning the true craft of how to keep all of the wisdom and intelligence of the animals on earth before they are lost forever.

While it's an interesting concept, the query is quite vague on how the magic system actually works here. You need to show that your world building can hold up for the duration of a novel.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Book Talk & Giveaway: LANDRY PARK by Bethany Hagen

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

Madeline Landry's fate has always been set. She will inherit Landry Park, passed on for generations since her ancestor developed supposedly safe, portable nuclear energy charges. To do her duty to her name, the gentry lifestyle, and the estate she loves, she needs to marry well - and behave.

Though Madeline's heart is tied to the land she loves, she feels an equally strong pull to attend university. Her domineering father will have nothing of it, and Madeline finds herself following the same routine - balls, parties, and looking down her nose at the working class.

But after she witnesses David Dana - supposedly the most gentrified of the gentry, and a boy she finds intolerable - help a working class girl who falls while carrying her nuclear charge, Madeline is forced to see both David and workers in a different light. Suddenly aware of the devastation her lavish lifestyle causes others - and the possibility that the famous Landry nuclear charges are not as safe as everyone says - Madeline's eyes are open to a new world... and the possibility that hers doesn't have to follow the path that has been set for her.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

New Interview Series - The SWAG (Shit We All Generate)

Today writers have to be more than just writers - love it or hate it, we are marketers as well. Most authors will agree that the creative part of the job is where we excel, the business and marketing side, slightly less. It’s lovely when the two can meet in the form of SWAG – Shit We All Generate. I’ve invited some published authors to share with us their secret to swag… little freebies that can sell a book longer after the author is no longer standing in front of a prospective reader. In order to create great swag, you have to be crafty – in more ways than one.

Today's guest for the SWAG is Demitria Lunetta, author of IN THE AFTER and IN THE END, both available now from HarperTeen, as well as the upcoming BAD BLOOD, coming in 2017 from Delacorte. Demitria is also an editor and contributing author to AMONG THE SHADOWS a dark YA anthology, available for pre-order now.

To help kickoff the SWAG, Demitiria is offering up a signed copy of IN THE AFTER, as well as her own (you guessed it) swag such as bookmarks, stickers and even a T-Shirt (size Ladies small)! I'm including a signed copy of NOT A DROP TO DRINK, and swag from various authors that I have lying around my house, including Kelly Fiore and RC Lewis. Want to see how other authors do it? Here's a chance at a grab bag of swag!

Finding something that represents your book and hasn’t been played out by a million authors before is difficult. What’s your swag?

Of course I have the standard bookmarks, stickers, and bookplates, but I also have notebooks, t-shirts, and tote bags.

How much money per piece did your swag cost out of pocket?

Bookmarks, stickers, and bookplates are pretty cheap…they’re only about five or six cents each (when you buy bulk.) The notebooks are a bit more expensive. I bought mini-pads and stuck a sticker on them…altogether those ended up being about 40 cents each. Shirts and totes are way more expensive, at about $12 a pop!

Do you find that swag helps you stand out at an event? Does your swag draw people to your table at an event or conference?

Definitely! People love free stuff, even bookmarks! Add a couple of notebooks and people are all about the swag. ☺ It also gives you the chance to engage with people as they’re grabbing your swag.

What do you think of big item swag pieces versus cheaper, yet more easily discarded swag like bookmarks?

Bookmarks are invaluable. Even though they’re cheap, they’re actually quite useful, and I’m not sure they’re so easily discarded. I’m always happy to get a bookmark and I have a drawer of them for easy use. The bigger ticket items are useful too, but it’s not always feasible to have loads of them. For the t-shirts I made sure they were soft and cute, so people would actually want to wear them. The totes I’ve only given out at my launch parties and I’ve actually seen people using them at other events, so they were definitely worth the hefty price tag.

What’s the most clever / best swag you've seen by another author?

Candy is always good! It gets people over to your table. I also already mentioned that I’m a sucker for bookmarks, so any unique bookmark will catch my attention, like something with an interesting charm dangling off the string, or even something shiny. I guess I have the attention span of a small child. ☺

Do you think swag helps sell books?

I think swag indirectly helps sell books. It acts as a reminder. It also gets your cover out there…the more exposure your book has the more people will buy it.


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Monday, August 24, 2015

Extra Content For IN A HANDFUL OF DUST Paperbacks & Giveaway!

I got my author copies of the paperback of IN A HANDFUL OF DUST over the weekend. There's nothing like a big box on your front porch sealed in tape that says NEW RELEASES, let me tell you. But I don't need 25 copies of my own book, either, so I thought I'd give away a few.

What does the paperback have to offer that the hardcover doesn't? 

Extra content! There's an essay from me about the research that went into DUST (more than you think - polio, dehydration and horse hooves, oh my!), a little about what went into writing a 2500+ mile road trip on foot (and keeping it interesting for the reader - not easy, mind you), as well as an original short story about Mother, titled To My Mother

There's also a sneak peak at A MADNESS SO DISCREET, so if you're getting antsy for that, this can tide you over.

The paperback of IN A HANDFUL OF DUST releases on September 8th - and is available for pre-order now (you know, in case you don't win.)


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Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.

A job assignment in Italy is just what Mike needs to advance his career and bring passion back to his marriage. What kind of job is this? What does Mike do for a living? His wife is the only woman in Atlanta not flirting with him, and what better place for romance than the Tuscan countryside? His hopes shatter when his Italian partner definitely need to know what the job is that he has a partner falls ill what impact does this have on the plot? and his family so he has kids? does nothing but fight. After his wife and daughter head home How long did they stay in Italy? And how does he feel about this?,  a stunning Tuscan beauty captures the attention of everyone on the train. Mike thinks the goddess will remain a fantasy – until she introduces herself as his new assistant. She promises romantic adventure, if Mike can forget the cost.

You definitely need to have genre information in here, as well as word count, etc. Right now I don't know if this is romance, erotica, or a do-the-right-thing tale. You've got brevity here, but almost to an extreme. You've got 300 words to play with, and room to do some expanding. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER by Rae Carson

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

Lee has always been able to feel gold - from the slightest coating of dust in riverbeds to the deepest veins in the earth, they call to her. Lee's gift has kept her family alive while others struggled, but their luck has raised suspicions. When her father and mother are killed by an uncle who knows of her talent, Lee flees to the only place she thinks she can survive - California.

Trains leave for the west every day, loaded with hopeful gold rushers. But with her family gone and her best friend weeks ahead of her on the trail, Lee has no one to travel with - and knows a lone girl will only be considered a burden. She chops her hair, binds her chest, and poses as a boy in order to be accepted as well as hide from the uncle who is coming across the prairie after her - and her gift.

The trail is hard, and not for everyone. Some of her companions are rough, and Lee guards her secrets - both of them - well. When she meets up with her friend in Independence, he's willing to help her hide her femininity, but it proves an effort for both of them as their feelings for each other grow. With danger on her heels and danger on the horizon, Lee has her hands full.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Fearless Fifteener Madeline Dyer On Sources Of Inspiration

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come to us like a lightning bolt, through the lyrics of a song, or in the fog of a dream. Ask any writer where their stories come from and you’ll get a myriad of answers, and in that vein I created the WHAT (What the Hell Are you Thinking?) interview. Always including in the WHAT is one random question to really dig down into the interviewees mind, and probably supply some illumination into my own as well.

Todays guest for the WHAT is Madeline Dyer, a fantasy and science fiction writer, who has a special love for all things dystopian, paranormal and ghostly. Her debut novel, UNTAMED, was published by Prizm Books in May 2015.

Ideas for our books can come from just about anywhere, and sometimes even we can’t pinpoint exactly how or why. Did you have a specific origin point for your book?

Normally, I can’t pinpoint exactly where my ideas come from—usually, they come from a mixture of things… but with UNTAMED I do have a specific origin point: the music video for ‘La La La’ by Naughty Boy featuring Sam Smith. More specifically, it was a scene in this video, where I saw what I interpreted as a human heart being sold at a market (whether it was actually a pig’s heart, I’m not sure) and I just thought what if people can buy emotions at an everyday market like that (as a human heart can represent love, passion, commitment, etc.)? And that’s where the idea came from really. Of course, it soon grew into something much, much bigger, as I combined it with research and imagination. 

Once the original concept existed, how did you build a plot around it?

So, once I had this premise worked out—that people would be able to buy the emotions they wanted to feel—I started thinking about characters. For me, characters always drive the plot, so once I’d created a handful of characters that I absolutely fell in love with, the plot came pretty fast. At this point, I started on the world-building, and decided I wanted a strong dystopian regime in place that tried to eradicate all negative emotions—at the expense of humanity. And I also wanted conflict. A lot of conflict. From then on, the plot just grew and grew, thanks to my characters and their actions. 

Have you ever had the plot firmly in place, only to find it changing as the story moved from your mind to paper?

Yes! This happens quite a lot. I’m just trying to think back to when I was writing the first draft of UNTAMED… there were quite a few plot points that changed dramatically when I went from my plan to the first draft. Mainly, these changes were caused by the characters not doing what I wanted. They all had different ideas, and a couple of them reacted totally different to how I expected, throwing the story off in a whole new direction. 

But most of my big changes occur when I’m going from the first draft to the second. Usually, by the time I’ve finished the first draft, I know the characters really well, and I’ve got loads of ideas about what needs changing. With UNTAMED, one of the major changes was who the love interest of my main character was going to be; another character just wasn’t happy about my plans at all—to the extent that the original love interest got written out in the second draft. 

And these changes happen all the time! I’m currently working on book two in the Untamed Series, FRAGMENTED, and I’ve just finished rewriting a massive section. It still leads to the same place, but uses different means to get there that are more appropriate to the characters and the story.

Do story ideas come to you often, or is fresh material hard to come by?

I always seem to have ideas! And I can’t type fast enough! 

I’m currently actively working on three different projects (the next two Untamed books, and a new dystopian novel for adults), and I’m feeling a bit overloaded by just how much motivation and inspiration I have. Sure, I have days where I can’t be bothered to write and the thought of sitting down with my laptop again fills me with dread—but at the same time, I want to write, I need to. And when I have, I feel a lot better. It’s addictive. 

How do you choose which story to write next, if you’ve got more than one percolating?

Ah, now this is something I still haven’t quite perfected. I always seem to be overrun with ideas, and tend to work on more than one story at a time—though, even then I always have one main one. Still, it gets a bit hectic, and I keep separate notebooks for each project so I don’t mix my ideas up. At the moment, I’m working on Untamed book two (as my main project), and then writing scenes and bits and pieces of Untamed book three, and my new work-in-progress.

I tend to just go with the story that I want to write that day. Unless I’m on a deadline! 

Sometimes the perfect word eludes me. If I can’t come up with it in the moment I usually write something in ALL CAPS like A GREAT WORD HERE and move on to catch it later in revision. Do you roll with the flow, or go find that word right away?

I do the ALL CAPS THING all the time! And you know what? I’m so glad I’m not the only one! I think that if I stopped every time I couldn’t find the perfect word, I’d definitely disrupt the flow of the story—particularly if it’s the first draft. And I’ve found I work best when I get the first draft down as quickly as possible. I completed draft one of UNTAMED in around 24 days, then spent the following 18 months fixing things, rewriting and revising, and working through edits with the lovely editor my publisher assigned me. 

So yeah, my first drafts tend to resemble a bit of a patchwork really. They’re filled with notes, comments, highlighted sections that need rewriting and lots of capitalized reminders. 

Anyway, the later drafts are for finding the perfect words, right? I usually don’t allow myself to start editing, changing words or doing major research (unless it’s absolutely necessary) until I’ve finished a draft for fear of disrupting the rhythm I’ve created. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

AMONG THE SHADOWS Available for Pre-Order & Signed Swag Giveaway!

Most writers have a couple of short stories banging around their heads, and no good place to put them. In a lot of ways shorts are harder to write than novels, and difficult to place because publishers don't necessarily want to produce anthologies.

Luckily twelve other awesome YA authors with darker sides have that same problem - little stories with nowhere to go. We've banded together to self-publish AMONG THE SHADOWS: 13 STORIES OF DARKNESS AND LIGHT - the e-book is available for pre-order now!

AMONG THE SHADOWS releases in a month and we're having a giveaway for 5 paperback copies (plus signed swag!) and 5 digital copies. The swag bundle includes signed bookmarks by Beth Revis, Joelle Charbonneau, Kelly Fiore, Mindy McGinnis, Lydia Kang, Kate Karyus Quinn, and Demitria Lunetta! There are also some extra goodies like postcards, bookplates, stickers, and more!



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Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.

If Tim Burton mixed Coraline and The Labyrinth together as a steampunk novel set in the Southwest, it would read something like HOUSE OF GEARS. Cool mashup.

Seventeen-year-old Juliet Loew's father and stepmother despair of a daughter who spends her time playing the cello, reading, and making monster-dolls for her little sister, Eustacia. Her parents tell her the cucuy - the bogeymen she models the dolls after - are dangerous monsters to be feared, but Juliet can't bring herself to believe it. After all, her older brother is a cucuy...which is one reason her parents like to pretend he's dead. But when a strange cucuy kidnaps Eustacia, their brother is nowhere to be found, and Juliet will have to rescue Eustacia all on her own. So far this is really good - you've got a lot of information here, but it's all well-written and engaging.

Her quest uncovers another life in the cucuys' steam-and-aether powered, nix the comma, yeah it's a long sentence but the comma messes it up clockwork world that Juliet doesn't remember - because her memories have been stolen by the people she thought she could trust. While trying to rescue her sister and regain her memories, she discovers a life of imaginary friends made real; family secrets stretching back centuries; a war to preserve the balance of light and dark in the human world; and forbidden friendship and love with Miss Locket P. Pick and Don Tomãs Scorpion, leaders of the resistance, who cast long and achingly familiar shadows across Juliet's forgotten past. Unsure who to trust (including herself), in the end Juliet will have to choose between her family and the fate of both worlds, and she'll have to decide if everything she's ever believed about herself is a lie. Again, you've got a lot of information in here but it's delivered well and in a flowing manner. I think it's great!

Entwining Southwestern steam- and clockpunk and historical dark fantasy, HOUSE OF GEARS loosely retells a beautifully nightmarish YA Cinderella in 121,000 words Your word count is high. Even for fantasy (which has wiggle room for world building) this is a long book to try to debut with (with a touch of genderbent "Sleeping Beauty" as well as several fractured fairytales and legends from Mexican, Judaic, and Slavic folklore) where Cinderella and the prince have known each other all their lives, Cinderella loves her stepsister, and the fairy godmothers and Prince Charming are nightmare creatures of Judeo-Hispanic legend. I'd say in this para you're actually muddying waters a little bit when that's the opposite of your intent. What you're trying to do is take a familiar tale and turn it on it's head with these comparisons, but you've already got three pop culture references in your intro -- to layer on quite a few more only lends to confusion. On the other hand I do like the touches of different cultures' folklore, yet I think they are still putting a little too much icing on the cake. I'd stick with what you've got in the first two paras and call it a day.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Huge First Chapter Critique Giveaway From #PitchWars Mentors!

Some of the #PitchWars mentors, including me, are hosting a chapter-critique Rafflecopter Giveaway! Anyone can enter. It starts at midnight tonight and will run until September 4, 2015! 

Here’s the list of mentors that will participate giving a chapter critique:

Brenda Drake: TOUCHING FATE, THIEF OF LIES.
Mónica B. Wagner: FROSH: FIRST BLUSH.
Kate Brauning: HOW WE FALL.
Emily Martin: THE YEAR WE FELL APART.
N.K. Traver: DUPLICITY.
Helene Dunbar: WHAT REMAINS.
Joy McCullough-Carranza: supporting Laura’s Shovan book, THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY.
J.A. Souders: RENEGADE~REVELATIONS~REBELLION         
Elizabeth Briggs: MORE THAN MUSIC, MORE THAN COMICS, MORE THAN FASHION.
Kelly Siskind: CHASING CRAZY.
Trisha Leaver: THE SECRETS WE KEEP.
Jaye Robin Brown: NO PLACE TO FALL, WILL'S STORY: A No Place To Fall Novella.
Michelle Hauck: GRUDGING: BIRTH OF SAINTS, KINDAR'S CURE.
K.T. Hannah: CHAMELEON.
Stacey Graham: HAUNTED STUFF: Demonic Dolls, Screaming Skulls, and Other Creepy Collectibles.
Lee Gjertsen Malone: THE LAST BOY AT ST. EDITH'S.
Sarah Nicolas: DRAGONS ARE PEOPLE, TOO.
Brighton Walsh: CAGED IN WINTER, TESSA EVER AFTER, CAPTIVE, EXPOSED.
Stacey Trombley: NAKED. 
Kate Karyus Quinn: (DON'T YOU) FORGET ABOUT ME, ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE, DOWN WITH THE SHINE.
Mindy McGinnis: NOT A DROP TO DRINK, IN A HANDFUL OF DUST, A MADNESS SO DISCREET


WIN A CHAPTER CRITIQUE FROM BRENDA DRAKE

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WIN A CHAPTER CRITIQUE FROM KATE BRAUNING

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WIN A CHAPTER CRITIQUE FROM ELIZABETH BRIGGS

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WIN A CHAPTER CRITIQUE FROM MINDY MCGINNIS

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Book Talk & Giveaway: SEA OF SHADOWS by Kelley Armstrong

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

The worst criminals have always been sent to the Forest of the Dead, where the long winters and dark shadows serve justice, and the twin Keeper and Seeker return to collect and appease their souls in the spring. Moria and Ashyn have done their jobs dutifully for years, but something is different this time. Souls will not be quieted, and creatures that have only populated fairy tales seem to be lurking among the trees.

During a disastrous attempt to perform their duty the twins end up separated from each other, and return home hoping to find each other. Instead, the each arrive at different times to discover their father murdered, their town destroyed. Everyone has been killed except the children - who are missing.

Each girl has their own companions - Moria an imperial guard who has always had more pride than strictly necessary, and Ashyn, a thief, one of the damned who survived the winter in the forest. With their spirit animals and unlikely friends by the sides, each girl sets out to the capital city to report that there is something dark on the horizon, and even they can't say for sure what.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Lydia Kang On The Value of Down Time While Marketing

Welcome to another acronym-ific writer-centric interview series, the SNOB (Second Novel Omnipresent Blues). Whether you’re under contract or trying to snag another deal, you’re a professional now, with the pressures of a published novelist compounded with the still-present nagging self-doubt of the noobie. How to deal?

Today's guest for the SNOB is Lydia Kang, author of CONTROL and CATALYST. Lydia is an author of young adult fiction, poetry, and narrative non-fiction. She graduated from Columbia University and New York University School of Medicine, completing her residency and chief residency at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. She is a practicing physician who has gained a reputation for helping fellow writers achieve medical accuracy in fiction. She believes in science and knocking on wood, and currently lives in Omaha with her husband and three children.

Is it hard to leave behind the first novel and focus on the second?

For me, my second novel (Catalyst) was the sequel and end to the series. So in some ways, I didn’t leave the first novel (Control) behind at all, because it was a continuum. But one of the hardest things was trying to focus on creating the new novel under the constraints of the world building I’d established in the first book. There were times when I’d tied my own hands regarding plot issues, and that was a pain. The other hard thing was trying to amp up the oomph as far as character development and world building. There are a lot of things that are resolved at the end of Control; the challenge was how to reopen a character arc that was different and not redundant, and create a story that touched on some of the best elements in Control but make them fresh and different in Catalyst.

At what point do you start diverting your energies from promoting your debut and writing / polishing / editing your second?

I started writing Catalyst as soon as the book deal for Control happened. I had a one book deal, so there was zero guarantee that Catalyst would be acquired, and that was a huge amount of uncertain stress on me. I wrote the majority of the book when I realized I had made a huge plot mistake (one of the main characters never showed up and that was a big no-no). So then I had to rewrite it.

There was a two year gap between the acquisition of Control and its publication date. In that first year, I wrote Catalyst and it was acquired. During that year leading up to Control’s release date, I was promoting a lot. Then, three weeks before Control debuted, I had to revise Catalyst with a 7 week turnaround, because my editor and I simultaneously decided that Catalyst should be the end of the series, instead of book two of a trilogy. So I had to massively revise it again and smoosh book three into Catalyst to complete the duology. It was incredibly stressful to revise on that tight of a turnaround and promote at the same time! I don’t know how I survived.

Your first book landed an agent and an editor, and hopefully some fans. Who are you writing the second one for? Them, or yourself?

For my fans, my editor, and for me. I put an enormous amount of pressure to make Catalyst work in the story arc with Control, feel new and fresh, but still be familiar. It was a learning process and there was no surprise that I had to revise it so many times to make it happen. I made a lot of mistakes.

Is there a new balance of time management to address once you’re a professional author?

Definitely. But if anything, I’ve learned to slow down a bit and enjoy my life more. I’ve traveled a lot promoting both books. And though I was thrilled to go to events I’d only dreamed of, like Comic Con in San Diego, teen book festivals around the country, school visits, TLA, ALA, and RT, I also learned that I’m far more of an introvert than I realized. So my down time is really important to me now.

What did you do differently the second time around, with the perspective of a published author?

I focused on keeping a gauge on my energy levels and lean on my family and author friends when I’ve been stressed out. This can be a lonely, isolating profession at times and my family and friends have been tremendous in supporting me. Also, instead of my experiences blitzing by in the shininess of new experiences, I was able to take a larger look at things, slow down a bit, and enjoy them more. :)

Friday, August 7, 2015

Book Talk & Giveaway: DEATH SWORN by Leah Cypress

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

Ileni is the only girl living among the secret sect of assassins, deep beneath the caves of their world. Sent by her people to teach them how to wield magic, she must keep her own secret as deep as the caves they live in - her own magic, once powerful, has faded to almost nothing. She's not even sure the protective spells she weaves around the entrance to her room can keep her safe from her lethally trained students.

And she needs them to work - the two sorcerers sent before her died in mysterious ways, and part of her mission here is to discover what happened to them. If the dark and secretive leader of the assassins knew she were lurking in shadows late at night to discover the truth, her life would be forfeit. Meanwhile, she discovers great magical talent in a few of her students, even though she can only walk them through exercises while she tries to hide her own waning magic from them

With her students growing suspicious and her feelings for the assassin assigned to protect her becoming confusing, Ileni only has so much time before her fate - and the fate of her people - is decided.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Emma Pass On Using The Newspaper For Inspiration

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come to us like a lightning bolt, through the lyrics of a song, or in the fog of a dream. Ask any writer where their stories come from and you’ll get a myriad of answers, and in that vein I created the WHAT (What the Hell Are you Thinking?) interview. Always including in the WHAT is one random question to really dig down into the interviewees mind, and probably supply some illumination into my own as well.

Today's guest for the WHAT is Emma Pass, who grew up at an environmental studies centre near London, went to art school in Cornwall and now lives in the north-east Midlands, UK. Her YA dystopian thrillers ACID and THE FEARLESS, are available now.

Ideas for our books can come from just about anywhere, and sometimes even we can’t pinpoint exactly how or why. Did you have a specific origin point for your book?

With THE FEARLESS, definitely. I attended a workshop run by UK YA author Julie Bertagna, and she was talking about how she got her ideas. She handed out some newspaper articles as examples, and the one I got was about a pill being developed to stop soldiers suffering from PTSD. I started wondering what would happen if there was a pill that didn't just stop you being affected psychologically by traumatic events, but stopped you feeling fear altogether – along with any capacity for empathy or love. What would it do to people? How would they behave?

Once the original concept existed, how did you build a plot around it?

I started to think about how people might be forced to take this drug against their will, until vast numbers of them – now called 'The Fearless' - were invading every country in the world, forcing the drug on everyone else. It would be a bit like a zombie invasion, only far scarier as these people were still alive, with the capacity to think and plan. I imagined a small group of survivors, and what their lives might be like post-invasion. Living among them was a teenage girl, Cass. What would happen if her little brother, the only family she had left, was taken by the Fearless, and everyone else was too afraid to help her get him back? What choices would she have to make? What journey would she go on? Would she be able to survive? I've always loved post-apocalyptic, disaster stories that ask 'what would you do?', so this was my perfect opportunity to write my own.

Have you ever had the plot firmly in place, only to find it changing as the story moved from your mind to paper?

Always! I'm not much of a planner so I don't generally have the plot firmly in place before I start a first draft. Too much planning bores me, so I like to write and discover the story as I go along – and it always surprises me! I do have to do a lot of editing with subsequent drafts, though, but I love editing (yeah, I'm weird!), so that's OK.

Do story ideas come to you often, or is fresh material hard to come by?

I don't have millions of story ideas at any one time, but there are always a few brewing. I find the one way not to get ideas is to try and consciously think them up. Instead, I try to be receptive to unusual things I might see or hear or read (OK, so that's a fancy way of saying I'm nosy, but you have to be if you're a writer, right?). Eventually, they might turn into an idea, which might turn into a story…

How do you choose which story to write next, if you’ve got more than one percolating?

I generally have one idea which is more 'ready' than the others – I might have a vague idea of the ending, or the characters might start speaking to me and insist that I write their story now. Sometimes, though, I just have to start writing and see – and if the story isn't ready, I soon find out! I don't consider it wasted, though, as I know I can come back to it another time.

I write best when it’s raining outside. Do you have a favorite weather to write with?

I like sunny days the best, because I can sit outside and look at the garden and daydream – an essential part of my writing process!

Monday, August 3, 2015

I'll Tell You What I Want (What I Really, Really Want) #PitchWars


It's time for #PitchWars... and if you're pitching I might be interested in catching (but don't roll too far with that little analogy).

So here's the deal with #PitchWars. The possibly super-powered Brenda Drake organizes this awesome contest that connects aspiring writers with mentors (like me!) and then we work together scrubbing and shining the aspiring author's manuscript until it is so stinking sparkly that agents will fight for the right to call it their own. For more info and to be part of the contest YOU MUST go to Brenda Drake's blog.

This year I am co-mentoring with fellow YA author Kate Karyus Quinn, an amazingly talented author  who has written ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE, (DON'T YOU) FORGET ABOUT ME, and the upcoming DOWN WITH THE SHINE. What are we looking for in our mentees?

First of all...


And Kate does too, so we're definitely looking for mentees who write YA. Beyond that... well, Kate and I are eclectic readers. Here's a link to my Goodreads Read Shelf so that you can see what I've been cramming my brain with lately, but the truth is that if you have a good voice and compelling character building, the genre is secondary to me.

Fantasy, SF, contemporary, historical - I honestly don't care. I will read anything that I think is well executed, and if I think I can help you make it even better, awesome.

So you might be thinking... Yeah of course I think my book is well-written, with a great voice and compelling characters and awesome execution. So, clearly we were meant to be together. Well, not necessarily. I like my stuff a little darker, my characters a little edgier. I have no problem with sex, violence, and other shadowy such goings-ons as long as they're necessary to the plot and not tossed in there for shock value. 

So if you've got something you think might be a little much for other mentors, or maybe an ms you're not sure you want your mom to read we might be a good fit!

That's what I want from YOU!

But what can you expect from ME?

If I'm your mentor, be aware that I'm not a fan of empty compliments. I'm not going to litter your ms with happy thoughts about how awesome you are. What I will do is let you know when something really stands out to me - a turn of phrase, or spot-on characterization that is above the norm. If you wow me, I'll let you know.

What about the bad? First off, I am never, ever, going to tell you that you suck and need to give up. I recently re-read my very first novel, and a critical person might have told that Mindy she sucked and should give up. And they wouldn't have been without reason to think so - trust me, that ms is absolutely terrible. 

So, with that in mind, be aware I'm not going to tear you or your ms down for the sake of tearing you down. Every ding I put in it is there for a reason, and it's meant to help you improve. I will ding it. I'll dent it. Be aware of that, and be ready for it if you want to be my mentee. Compliments feel good, but they don't make you any better as a writer.

You can also check out the query critique I did on Brenda Drake's blog in June for an idea of how I work. 

You will get line by line comments from me - some of them very long-winded because that's how I roll. You'll also get an overall thoughts, more than likely long-winded. I'll give you ideas about how I think you can make improvements, but by no means should my word be the golden rule. You don't write like me, you write like you -- and that's what makes your writing yours

There are already plenty of books in the world from me - NOT A DROP TO DRINK, IN A HANDFUL OF DUST, the upcoming A MADNESS SO DISCREET. I'll also have a contemporary out in 2016, THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES, and the beginning of a fantasy series coming in the Spring of 2017 from Putnam, GIVEN TO THE SEA

There's also a very awesome collection of short stories that Kate and I (along with eleven other very talented YA authors) contributed to, titled AMONG THE SHADOWS: 13 STORIES OF DARKNESS & LIGHT.

If you think Kate and I are your style definitely submit to us. Be aware that while we only choose one mentee to work with extensively, we will offer a query and first page critique to those who submit to us but are not chosen. If you are not chosen as our mentee and are interested in a critique, after the lists go up email us (kate.min.pitchwars(at)gmail.com) and let us know you'd like your entry to be publicly critiqued and we'll add you to the queue. First come, first served but we'll try to get through all of them before the agent round in November.

To see a list of all the #PitchWars Mentors, visit Brenda Drake's blog! Or - scroll to the bottom of this post past the Rafflecopter!

If you think I sound like the kind of mentor you might want, check me out in social media ways to see if we might be a good fit personality wise. I'm all over the place, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and even YouTube.

And because you might want to do those things, it wouldn't hurt to give you the added benefit of a giveaway while you're at it. Enter the Rafflecopter below to win ARCs of my mentor-partner Kate Karyus Quinn's upcoming DOWN WITH THE SHINE and my October release, A MADNESS SO DISCREET, along with an e-copy of AMONG THE SHADOWS.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



1. Kes Trester (co-mentoring with Jennifer Hawkins)
2. Mindy McGinnis (co-mentoring with Kate Karyus Quinn)
3. N.K. Traver
4. Kristin B. Wright
5. Laura Heffernan
6. Mary Ann Marlowe
7. Joy McCullough-Carranza
8. Lisa Lewis-Tyre
9. Jenni L. Walsh (co-mentoring with Trisha Leaver)
10. Sarah Glenn Marsh
11. Julie C. Dao
12. Kellye Garrett
13. K.T. Hanna
14. Jessie Devine
15. Rosalyn Eves
16. Jami Nord
17. Samantha Joyce
18. Helene Dunbar
19. Jenna Lehne
20. Linsey Miller
21. Jessica Vitalis
22. Stacey Graham
23. Dan Koboldt
24. Brighton Walsh
25. Kate Brauning
26. Lisa Maxwell
27. Wendy Spinale
28. Sarah Cannon
29. L.L. McKinney
30. Juliana Brandt
31. Scarlett Cole
32. Hayley Stone
33. Jennifer Blackwood
34. Kendra Young
35. S.P. McConnell
36. Nikki Roberti
37. Emmie Mears
38. Lori Goldstein (co-mentoring with Chelsea Bobulski)
39. Jennifer Hawkins (co-mentoring with Kes Trester)
40. Elizabeth Briggs
41. Ron Walters (co-mentoring with Meredith McCardle)
42. Fiona McLaren (co-mentoring with Dionne McCulloch)
43. S.M. Johnston (co-mentoring with Stacey Nash)
44. Max Wirestone
45. Jaye Robin Brown
46. Molly Lee
47. Rachel Lynn Solomon
48. J.C. Nelson
49. Holly Faur
50. Sonia Hartl
51. Natasha Raulerson
52. Marty Mayberry
53. J.C. Davis
54. Rebecca Wells
55. Michelle Hauck
56. Tabitha Martin
57. Rebecca Petruck
58. Sarah Henning
59. Alex White
60. Jeanmarie Anaya
61. Laura Salter
62. Wade Albert White
63. Brooks Benjamin
64. Margarita Montimore
65. Megan Grimit
66. Charlie Holmberg
67. Diana Gallager
68. Stefanie Wass
69. Tamara Mataya
70. Rebecca Sky
71. Kara Seal
72. Lee Gjertsen Malone
73. Katie Bucklein
74. Kevin A Springer
75. Brianna Shrum
76. Kate Karyus Quinn (co-mentoring with Mindy McGinnis)
77. Kim Graff
78. Emily Martin
79. Trisha Leaver (co-mentoring with Jenni Walsh)
80. Kim Long
81. Catherine Scully
82. Stacey Trombley
83. Stephanie Scott (co-mentoring with Valerie Cole)
84. Valerie Cole (co-mentoring with Stephanie Scott)
85. Lizzy Charles
86. Dannie Morin (co-mentoring with Alexandra Alessandri)
87. Kate Foster
88. Elly Blake
89. Julie Sondra Decker
90. Lady Lioness
91. Susan Gray Foster (co-mentoring with Monica Bustamante Wagner_
92. Kelly Calabrese
93. Sarah Nicolas
94. Kelly Siskind
95. Roselle Kaes
96. Monica Bustamante Wagner (co-mentoring with Susan Gray Foster)
97. Renee Ahdieh (co-mentoring with Traci Chee)
98. Traci Chee (co-mentoring with Renee Ahdieh)
99. Janet B. Taylor
100. Jessie Humphries (co-mentoring with Mara Rae)
101. Lynnette Labelle
102. Erica M. Chapman
103. Summer Spence
104. Marieke Nijkamp
105. Meredith McCardle (co-mentoring with Ron Walters)
106. Thomas Torre
107. Phil Stamper
108. J.A. Souders

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Cover Reveal for Vicki Leigh's FIND ME IF YOU DARE!

Today I get to reveal the cover for fellow Ohio author Vicki Leigh's FIND ME IF YOU DARE the sequel to CATCH ME WHEN I FALL. Vicki is running an awesome giveaway on her Tumblr to celebrate the reveal, so definitely check that out!


They may have won the first battle, but the Apocalypse has just begun.

Five weeks have passed since the battle that left Rome and Columbus in ruins. Sheltered in the hidden city of Caelum, Daniel and Kayla train alongside over one hundred Magus and Protectors, hoping that their unified ranks will be enough to take down their greatest threat yet: Richard, his followers, and his horde of Nightmares. Then a fallen comrade is returned to Caelum with a message carved into his chest and a note referencing the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and Daniel knows their time for training is over.

Finally understanding Richard’s plans for Kayla and the three other Magus born on Halloween, Daniel and the rest of Caelum’s volunteers scout the U.S. in a desperate attempt to stop their enemy before he can unleash his first Horseman. But when massive attacks claim thousands of lives, people all over the world begin to fall ill—including those Daniel and Kayla care about the most.

With the Horseman of Pestilence released, Daniel knows it’s time to step aside and let Kayla take the lead. Only she has the power to rival her father’s. But when Richard’s plot turns out to be darker than they imagined, their fight is met with more death and destruction—and an enemy who might be unbeatable, after all.

Don't forget to check out Vicki's Tumblr for a chance to win all this awesome stuff:

  • 20 copies of CATCH ME WHEN I FALL (Book One of the Dreamcatcher Series)
  • a signed copy of CITY LOVE by Susane Colasanti
  • a The Vampire Diaries wall poster of Damon Salvatore
  • a copy of SHADOW STUDY by Maria V. Snyder
  • 5 handmade dream catchers
  • a poster of the SORCERER HEIR series, signed by Cinda Chima
  • 2 posters of the cover of DOON, signed by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon. 
  • a poster of the cover of DAMSEL DISTRESSED, signed by Kelsey Macke
  • a poster of Melissa Lander's ALIENATED cover