Monday, December 21, 2015

Book Talk & Giveaway: THE KILLING JAR by Jennifer Bosworth

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.

Kenna didn't mean to kill the neighbor boy when she was a child, but his acts of cruelty towards animals drove her to do something she's never understood - draining his life force and leaving only a husk behind. The tragedy was never explained, except for a dire warning from her mother to never touch other people. Now seventeen, Kenna struggles with her feelings for her best guy pal, and the twin sister who is dying slowly - never touching either one of them.

When a home intruder takes the family by surprise, Kenna's power is the only thing that can save them - completely eradicating every living thing around the house in a mile wide radius as well. With the life force of everything she killed tearing through her, Kenna revives her mother and sister, restoring her sister to a state of health she's never enjoyed in her entire life.

With this new tragedy, her mother tells Kenna it's time for her to come clean, and drives her to Eclipse - a commune on the hillside that most people avoid. Well protected, secret, and completely insular, the people of Eclipse have always been a mystery - until Kenna's mom reveals she used to be one of them, and that the powers that made her one of their people have passed to Kenna.

Left at the commune with her grandmother, Kenna discovers a world of music and happiness, art and food, a world where she doesn't have to worry about not touching others anymore because her touch cannot hurt people like herself. But she's only seeing one side of the commune, and dark hints begin to reach her that not everything at Eclipse is as it seems.

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Friday, December 11, 2015

Book Talk & Giveaway: THICKER THAN WATER by Kelly Fiore

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.

CeCe knows she killed her brother, and nothing her court appointed therapist says is going to take that back. Her father won't speak to her, her stepmother has walked out, and the colleges that CeCe had been accepted to probably won't be interested anymore now that a murder charge has been added to her resume.

CeCe's life was on the right track - and so was her brother Cyrus's - until a soccer injury took him out of the sport that he loved. With a destroyed knee and unbearable pain, the pain medications he nursed an addiction for took his old friends away, bringing new ones into his circle - and CeCe's. With her brother angry and depressed, and her father allowing much-needed money to go for the drugs his son "needs," CeCe knows she'll have to take matters into her own hands if she wants to afford college classes after graduation.

Surely Cyrus won't notice a few missing pills, and the money she gets from them goes for a good cause. But once Cyrus gets clean the people she sells to want more, and she knows how to get it from a doctor who likes money more than morals - but that means bringing drugs back into her brother's reach.

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Saturday, December 5, 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.

Frannie is a teenager struggling with Huntington's disease, often missing school, friendless, scared. Francesca, on the other hand, is a hunter and custodian of ancient magical artifacts. An explanation of what Huntington's is might be in order here. Most people aren't going to be familiar. A line or two will do.

But Frannie and Francesca are the same girl.

It all started the night her father died of the same hereditary disease. Whenever Frannie closes her eyes, she wakes up on the other side of the world as Francesca, journeying through ancient monuments, darting through booby traps and racing against the many villains who wish to use the magical relics for their own gain. So is she in the REAL world when she does these things, or a fantas world?

As Frannie gradually loses her battle with HD, she finds herself traveling across the globe and spending more time as Francesca. You mean physically, emotionally, or mentally? She wouldn't mind being Francesca forever, but her grieving mother and best friend make it hard for her to let go. What would it mean for her to be Francesca forever? That's when she learns of the Cintamani Stone: The ancient wish stone hidden in a secret location in South East Asia. To save Frannie, Francesca must embark on her most dangerous adventure yet. Unless... she is just a figment of imagination in Frannie's down spiraling mind. Good sinker.

THE WISH STONE is a multicultural YA contemporary fantasy, complete at 60,000 words. STILL ALICE meets NARNIA, in which fairy tales and folklore help a teenage-girl's battle against Juvenile Onset Huntington's Disease.

Overall you've got a great base here. You need to get the explanatory notes above ironed out and I think you're in a good place.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Congrats To Our #PitchWars Mentee Kamerhe Lane!

I'm so excited to announce that our #PitchWars mentee Kamerhe Lane has signed with Adriann Ranta, of Foundry Literary!

My Pitch Wars partner Kate Karyus Quinn and I received almost 200 submissions when this year's contest began. We whittled them down over a period of days, found two manuscripts we wanted to work with, and dove in for the long haul of reading, re-writes, edits and emails.

I don't regret the time I've given to PitchWars. It's been lovely to relive the first-time experiences of publishing through someone else - refreshing the PitchWars entry page, checking the clock to see if the agent phone call has happened yet, glancing at the phone at stop lights to see if there's an email update.

Kamerhe is an amazing author, and her ms, THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOAN, is stellar!

I'm so thrilled to play a part in getting this out there, and especially pleased that she is now my agency sister.

Congrats, Kamerhe!

Book Talk & Giveaway - HALF IN LOVE WITH DEATH by Emily Ross

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.

When Caroline's troubled older sister disappears into the Tucson desert one night, everyone is quick to accuse her boyfriend Tony. But Caroline believes Jess has run off to California, lured by the eternal summers of 1960 and promises of flower children. With her parents too shattered to contribute much more than new kitchen curtains as a coping mechanism, Caroline decides to take matters into her own hands.

Tony his own stories about what Jess wanted, and where she was headed that night, some of them dovetailing with what Caroline knows about her sister, and some not. Every time she meets with him to learn more, she finds herself staring a little longer into his blue eyes, and spending more time with the older group of kids her sister hung out with.

With their own secret road trip to find Jess scheduled and her suitcase packed, Caroline tries to ignore her doubts - and all the stories she's heard about another blonde girl disappearing, who also had ties to Tony. Inspired by the disturbing case of Charles Schmid, ‘the Pied Piper of Tucson’ HALF IN LOVE WITH DEATH is a heartfelt thriller that never lets up.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Debut Author Emily Ross On 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 Emily Ross, author of HALF IN LOVE WITH DEATH, for which she received a 2014 Massachusetts Cultural Council finalist award in fiction. Her fiction and nonfiction have been published in Boston Magazine, Menda City Review, and The Smoking Poet. She is an editor and contributor at Dead Darlings, a website dedicated to discussing the craft of novel writing. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and the University of Massachusetts Boston, and is a 2012 graduate of Grub Street’s Novel Incubator program.

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? 

Yes I do. I was having trouble plotting my novel when my sister suggested I turn to a true crime for inspiration and not just any crime. She confided in me that when she was 12 she’d been obsessed with the case of Charles Schmid, ‘the Pied Piper of Tucson.’ Schmid was a charismatic young man who murdered three teenage girls, and buried them in the Arizona desert. Two of his victims were sisters. I was surprised to be hearing about this crime that took place in the sixties, for the first time now from my own sister. I had to look deeper into this case.

I learned that Schmid had been very popular with Tucson teens and had lots of girlfriends. Some of the material about him read more like an episode of Gossip Girl, than the thoughts of a serial killer. Photos from an old Life Magazine article from 1966 showed him to be a handsome guy who didn’t look like a murderer. In fact he didn’t look all that different from kids I’d hung out with in high school. One of the many aspects of this case that disturbed me was that some of Schmid’s friends had known about the murders and didn’t tell anyone. I began thinking about how little I understood about my own friends as a teen, and how blindly I’d counted on love to solve everything. Slowly a story emerged about secrets, lies, and a girl who falls for someone who may not be what he seems.

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

Researching this crime gave me a broad arc for my story and a sense of events that could happen. It also helped me to develop my main characters. I decided to tell the story from the point of view of a girl whose older sister goes missing, and based my protagonist loosely on Wendy Fritz, Schmid’s youngest victim. I was drawn to a photo I found of her. She looked so innocent and uncertain, and reminded me of myself at that age. Other than this photo though there was almost no information on her. Ultimately this turned out to be a good thing because it freed me to tell a story that was quite different from the case. But I didn’t leave my original concept entirely behind. I wove many details from the crime into my book, sometimes without even realizing it.

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

I usually don’t start with the plot firmly in place. I wish I did. Rather I have a vague idea of the major plot points and the ending, but things change a lot as I write a draft. I’m okay with that as long as I keep heading in the right general direction. But revising my novel was a painful process with lots of wrong turns. For my next novel I’d like to have the plot firmly in place before I start. We’ll see…

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

A lot of vague story ideas float through my mind but they’re more like bits of a story, a line, an image, a voice. Sometimes when I write it feels like I'm making a collage out of all these little pieces of things. I have to figure out what connects them and how they fit together, but I usually don't start to see the connections until I’m well into a draft. Even then I stumble around in the dark hoping that a story will emerge from all the bits and pieces. The strange thing is that it often does.

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

I’m pretty indecisive so choosing what to write next is hard for me. Right now I have two novel ideas bouncing around in my head. One is about a teenage girl who aspires to be a video game designer. It will require a lot of research, since I don’t even play video games. The other is about dance teams, something I’m a little more familiar with. To help myself decide I often just start writing to see if the idea holds my interest. If I find myself writing lots of pages, that’s usually the story I choose to write next. If that doesn’t work I have also been known to arbitrarily choose one of my ideas and force myself to stick with it for a while to see if I can make it work.

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’m a bit obsessive so I try to find the word right away. I look it up in an online thesaurus or Google things like word for [fill in vague phrase]. But I rarely find the perfect word that way so then I do my best to roll with flow (difficult as that is), and add a comment in my draft that says, COME BACK. Usually the word will come to me later when I’m in the shower or at the grocery store or in some other awkward situation that makes it difficult to write it down.

Look for a giveaway of HALF IN LOVE WITH DEATH on Friday!