Saturday, August 19, 2017

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 vampire, a fae prince and a mutant werewolf enter the bar. You may know the joke. This is a really different approach to a hook, and I think I like it. That's going to be highly subjective though.

But Claire doesn’t. Not when she travels through the States no one within the US calls it "the States." If you're sending to American agents you might want to rephrase with nothing but a suitcase of clothes and the memories from Chicago haunting her steps. Then, circumstances lead her to take the job of a doorkeeper to a mansion outside a small town, somewhere between Virginia and North Carolina. Technically, there's nothing between VA and NC so the mansion is either in one or the other.

And the mansion’s residents? There is Todd, the vampire who likes a good J.R. Ward book and marshmallows in his cup of blood. He likes to banter, a lot, with Elfas, the Fae Prince from the second floor who likes books by Karen Marie Moning and drinks lots of tea. Which comes from human waste. BLARGH. Holy crap I'm imagining his breath. Other than that, the literary allusions might be a little heavy here. Do all supernatural creatures read novels in their leisure time?

And there’s Jericho, the werewolf of the third floor who likes cooking and woodcarving. For him everything would be better if he wasn’t born in his wolf form and didn’t dread the moment the full moon touches him every month. Making a note here that this is the only creature for whom you have given an insight into their feelings rather than their preferred snack or reading material.

Claire also has to consider the cursed willow tree by the garden, as (and?) also the gargoyle named Fred who comes to life every night and guards the skies. Consider it in what way? She already took the job, right? The job couldn’t be worse, right?

Then a witch, named Mina appears, claiming that the curse around the house and the residents is failing. She is the only one who can save them and free them from the confines of the house. Or else, she’ll die losing her powers. Wait, I'm confused - the curse keeps them inside the house, so that sounds like a bad thing (curses generally are, right?) So if it's failing, why do they need saved and freed? And I'm confused about the tie between her powers and the curse.

Claire will have to work along with three creatures of pop culture and myth, help the witch break the spell and stop her growing feelings for Jericho. When her past from Chicago catches up with her? Well, things will become complicated for everyone.

THE OUTCASTS is a stand-alone Young Adult, Paranormal Romance of 67.323 words. It will appeal to readers of Rachel Hawkins, Julie Kagawa and Claudia Gray.

I’m a graduate student of History and Archaeology and I have participated in short story contests hosted by REUTS Publications. Two of my short stories will be published in the forthcoming anthology "Not-So-Local Legends of Triumph & Terror" by the same Publishing House. The first trilogy I’ve written is also published on Tapas.

I have also been a blogger/reviewer since 2013 with wide reading range of almost all genres, so I have a great deal of knowledge of the Young Adult market. I live in Greece and write novels in the genres of sci-fi, paranormal, romance and fantasy. The full manuscript of THE OUTCASTS is available upon request.

Good bio.

Right now what this query is doing is giving us the setting, but not much else in terms of plot. You hint at the beginning and the end that Chicago and things that went on there are going to be an element, but I don't know what happened there, or how it will tie into anything at all. Don't be coy in the query - things need to be laid out here.

Also, you say right away that Claire doesn't have a foot in the supernatural world, but she picks up this job and there's no reference whatsoever about her feelings or reactions to this new world. Is she scared? Shocked? Intrigued? Is she staying only because she doesn't have other options at first? It's clear at the end that she's all in - possibly for romantic reasons - but we need to know more about her initial reactions, and cause for remaining.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: THE DAZZLING HEIGHTS by Katharine McGee

New York City, 2118. A glittering vision of the future, where anything is possible – if you want it enough.

Manhattan is home to a thousand-story supertower, a beacon of futuristic glamour and high-tech luxury… and to millions of people living scandalous, secretive lives.

Leda is haunted by nightmares of what happened on the worst night of her life. She’s afraid the truth will get out – which is why she hires Watt, her very own hacker, to keep an eye on all of the witnesses for her. But what happens when their business relationship turns personal?

When Rylin receives a scholarship to an elite upper-floor school, her life transforms overnight. But being here also means seeing the boy she loves: the one whose heart she broke, and who broke hers in return.

Avery is grappling with the reality of her forbidden romance – is there anywhere in the world that’s safe for them to be together?

And then there’s Calliope, the mysterious, bohemian beauty who’s arrived in New York with a devious goal in mind – and too many secrets to count.

Here in the Tower, no one is safe – because someone is watching their every move, someone with revenge in mind. After all, in a world of such dazzling heights, you’re always only one step away from a devastating fall…

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Wednesday WOLF

I've got a collection of random information in my brain that makes me an awesome Trivial Pursuit partner, but is completely useless when it comes to real world application. Like say, job applications. I thought I'd share some of this random crap with you in the form of another acronym-ific series. I give you - Word Origins from Left Field - that's right, the WOLF. Er... ignore the fact that the "from" doesn't fit.

Dowager means a woman who holds the property and/or title of her deceased husband. The word comes from the Middle French douage, meaning a woman's marriage-portion.

It's not a huge hop, skip, or jump to see how the word dowry comes into play, then, is it?

And while it does indeed make one sound rather grand to use the word in reference to oneself, there's also the rather unfortunate (though, I assume, outdated) reference to dowager's hump, which is an outward curvature of the upper back due to osteoporosis.

I'll just take the money and title, please.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

AMONG THE RED STARS Author Gwen C. Katz On Illustrated YA Covers

I love talking to authors. Our experiences are so similar, yet so very different, that every one of us has a new story to share. Everyone says that the moment you get your cover it really hits you - you're an author. The cover is your story - and you - packaged for the world. So the process of the cover reveal can be slightly panic inducing. Does it fit your story? Is it what you hoped? Will it sell? With this in mind I put together the CRAP (Cover Reveal Anxiety Phase) Interview.

Today's guest for the CRAP is Gwen Kacz, writer, artist, game designer, part-time mad scientist (retired). Her debut novel, AMONG THE RED STARS, releases October 3rd from HarperTeen.


World War Two has shattered Valka’s homeland of Russia, and Valka is determined to help the effort. She knows her skills as a pilot rival the best of the men, so when an all-female aviation group forms, Valka is the first to sign up.

Flying has always meant freedom and exhilaration for Valka, but dropping bombs on German soldiers from a fragile canvas biplane is no joyride. The war is taking its toll on everyone, including the boy Valka grew up with, who is fighting for his life on the front lines. 

As the war intensifies and those around her fall, Valka must decide how much she is willing to risk to defend the skies she once called home.

Inspired by the true story of the airwomen the Nazis called Night Witches, Gwen C. Katz weaves a tale of strength and sacrifice, learning to fight for yourself, and the perils of a world at war. 

Did you have any pre-conceived notions about what you wanted your cover to look like?


I'm an artist myself, so I actually made a couple of mock covers just for fun while I was writing AMONG THE RED STARS.


Not totally amateurish, but it clearly needs work. It's too low-contrast, and it's obvious that I'm working with preexisting artwork that wasn't designed to fit the space. Also, artwork that looked great on my DeviantArt account was not necessarily cover quality. Later on I made a second one.



This one is nice and clean, but it doesn't communicate the basic information that this is a YA book about girls. No one would be able to tell what this book is about or who it's for based on this cover. Clearly I needed a professional designer.

How far in advance from your pub date did you start talking covers with your house?

About a year in advance, I think.

Did you have any input on your cover?

I was amazed at how much input I got! The designer actually emailed me to ask for photos of the planes and uniforms, so not only does it look amazing, it's all historically accurate, too.

One of my requests was that if Valka was on the cover, she should be facing forward. A lot of YA covers feature girls looking back over their shoulders, a pose that looks vulnerable and powerless. I wanted Valka to look like she was in control. I love the assertive pose she has on my cover!

How was your cover revealed to you?

I just got it in an email. There was some back and forth with tweaks, but the final cover is still very close to the original draft.

Was there an official "cover reveal" date for your art?

Yeah, I did a cover reveal on YA Books Central and it went great!

How far in advance of the reveal date were you aware of what your cover would look like?

It was a process, but I think we'd gotten the final draft nailed down about a month ahead.

Was it hard to keep it to yourself before the official release?

Of course! The cover reveal is really your first big book news after the deal announcement, so it's a very exciting moment. It was hard to be patient!

What surprised you most about the process?

I was completely surprised that they went with an illustrated cover. I love illustrated covers, but you really only see them in middle grade these days; YA usually goes for photo covers instead. So I didn't even ask for an illustrated cover. I was thrilled when that was what I got!

Any advice to other debut authors about how to handle cover art anxiety?

Remember that everyone involved wants to give your book the most amazing cover possible!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Join Me For An Online Character MasterClass!

Tonight I'll be joining the Wattpad4 lineup of authors doing master classes through a Google chat. I'll be live TONIGHT at 8PM Eastern on this channel!

I promise to wash my hair, and stuff.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: JANE UNLIMITED by Kristin Cashore

Jane has lived an ordinary life, raised by her aunt Magnolia—an adjunct professor and deep sea photographer. Jane counted on Magnolia to make the world feel expansive and to turn life into an adventure. But Aunt Magnolia was lost a few months ago in Antarctica on one of her expeditions.

Now, with no direction, a year out of high school, and obsessed with making umbrellas that look like her own dreams (but mostly just mourning her aunt), she is easily swept away by Kiran Thrash—a glamorous, capricious acquaintance who shows up and asks Jane to accompany her to a gala at her family's island mansion called Tu Reviens.

Jane remembers her aunt telling her: "If anyone ever invites to you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you'll go." With nothing but a trunkful of umbrella parts to her name, Jane ventures out to the Thrash estate. Then her story takes a turn, or rather, five turns. What Jane doesn't know is that Tu Reviens will offer her choices that can ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But at Tu Reviens, every choice comes with a reward, or a price.

Want to help me with mailing costs? I do giveaways at least once week, sometimes more. It can add up. If you feel so inclined as to donate a little to defray my mailing costs, it would be much appreciated! Donating has no impact on your chances of winning.

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Kes Trester On The Cover Process

I love talking to authors. Our experiences are so similar, yet so very different, that every one of us has a new story to share. Everyone says that the moment you get your cover it really hits you - you're an author. The cover is your story - and you - packaged for the world. So the process of the cover reveal can be slightly panic inducing. Does it fit your story? Is it what you hoped? Will it sell? With this in mind I put together the CRAP (Cover Reveal Anxiety Phase) Interview.

Today's guest for the CRAP is Kes Trester, a former feature film development executive, independent film producer, and television commercial producer. In an attempt to raise kids who could actually pick their mom out of a line up, Kes turned to writing full-time. Her contemporary novels for young adults are cinematic, fast-paced, and above all, fun.



Seventeen-year-old Riley Collins has grown up in some of the world’s most dangerous cities, learning political strategies from her ambassador dad and defensive skills from his security chief. The only thing they didn’t prepare her for: life as an American teenager.

After an incident forces her to leave her Pakistani home, Riley is recruited by the State Department to attend Harrington Academy, one of the most elite boarding schools in Connecticut. The catch: she must use her tactical skills to covertly keep an eye on Hayden Frasier, the daughter of a tech billionaire whose new code-breaking spyware has the international intelligence community in an uproar.

Disturbing signs begin to appear that Riley’s assignment wasn’t the walk in the park she’d been promised. Now, Riley must fight for her life and Hayden’s, as those around her reveal themselves to be true friends or the ultimate betrayers.

Did you have any pre-conceived notions about what you wanted your cover to look like?

My book, A DANGEROUS YEAR, is fast-paced and action-packed (think “Alias” meets “Gossip Girl”) so the cover had to convey elements of action and romance. I also wanted colors and a font that were a bit playful, so readers would know this book is fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

How far in advance from your pub date did you start talking covers with your house?

Just after I signed my contract, which was about eighteen months before publication, I sent my publisher ten book covers I liked. I listed what I liked about each one, and even sent headshots of actors/models as visual references for the main characters.

Did you have any input on your cover?

As it turned out, I had a tremendous amount of input. The first two sets of cover mockups were, in my opinion, targeted to the adult fiction market. The Riley Collins series has crossover potential, but Riley is a 17-year-old high school senior. I was concerned about being overlooked by YA readers, and conveyed my reservations to the publisher. To my surprise and delight, they tossed the covers and brought in a new designer.

By the time we settled on the final cover, my publisher had presented me with seven distinctly different choices. Once we decided on the general design, they allowed me to influence color and edit the objects pictured on the cover. It was a long, stressful process, but I’m tremendously happy with the final image. 

How was your cover revealed to you?

Designing the cover was a three-month process with mockups sent at intervals. The “reveal” was the moment I saw the cover revised with my suggestions and realized the designer had nailed it.

Was there an official "cover reveal" date for your art?

The cover turned out so well, Hypable.com offered to do an exclusive cover reveal! 

How far in advance of the reveal date were you aware of what your cover would look like?

The cover was finalized about three weeks prior to the reveal.

Was it hard to keep it to yourself before the official release?

I had shown it to a few trusted friends for input, but I was dying to send it out into the world. It would be the first impression people would get of my book, and it was hard to keep it under wraps!

What surprised you most about the process?

The generosity of my publisher, and the respect I have been shown as a writer. The CEO of the imprint personally communicated with me during the design phase to insure I was satisfied with the direction of the cover.

Any advice to other debut authors about how to handle cover art anxiety?

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Carrie Fisher got stuck with the Princess Leia hair buns because she was afraid to tell George Lucas what she really thought. Don’t get stuck with hair buns. Politely and respectfully communicate your opinions. You’ve got nothing to lose.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Where I'll Be This Week!

I've got two events this week!

Tomorrow I will be at the Barnes and Noble in Akron, OH with fellow YA author Lisa Maxwell. Come see us at 7 PM for reading and signing!

On Wednesday, August 9th I will be at the Sandusky Library to talk about the inspiration behind NOT A DROP TO DRINK, as well as my other books. Find me there at 6 PM!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Book Talk & Giveaway: THE SUMMER THAT MELTED EVERYTHING by Tiffany McDaniel

Fielding Bliss has never forgotten the summer of 1984: the year a heat wave scorched Breathed, Ohio. The year he became friends with the devil.

Sal seems to appear out of nowhere - a bruised and tattered thirteen-year-old boy claiming to be the devil himself answering an invitation. Fielding Bliss, the son of a local prosecutor, brings him home where he's welcomed into the Bliss family, assuming he's a runaway from a nearby farm town.

When word spreads that the devil has come to Breathed, not everyone is happy to welcome this self-proclaimed fallen angel. Murmurs follow him and tensions rise, along with the temperature as an unbearable heat wave rolls into town right along with him. As strange accidents start to occur, riled by the feverish heat, some in the town start to believe that Sal is exactly who he claims to be. While the Bliss family wrestle with their own personal demons, a fanatic drives the town to the brink of a catastrophe that will change this sleepy Ohio backwater forever.

Don't miss my podcast episode featuring Tiffany, where she talks about eleven years of rejection, making sure that human emotion and characters trump the setting, being a female author who prefers to write dark themes, and the cons of using technology in your manuscript.




Want to help me with mailing costs? I do giveaways at least once week, sometimes more. It can add up. If you feel so inclined as to donate a little to defray my mailing costs, it would be much appreciated! Donating has no impact on your chances of winning.

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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Geoffrey Girard On Getting YA Into The Hands Of The Audience

Welcome to the SNOB - Second Novel Ominipresent 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 fellow Ohioan, Geoffrey Girard, who writes thrillers, historicals, and dark speculative fiction. Simon and Schuster published two Girard novels simultaneously in 2013: CAIN'S BLOOD, a techno thriller, and PROJECT CAIN, a companion novel for teen/YA readers which was nominated for a Bram Stoker award for "Superior Achievement in a Young Adult Novel."

Girard's short fiction has appeared in several best-selling anthologies and magazines, including Writers of the Future (a 2003 winner), Prime Codex, Aoife's Kiss, The Willows, Murky Depths, Apex Horror & Science Fiction Digest, and the Stoker-nominated Dark Faith anthology.

His newest, TRUTHERS, releases today from CarolRhoda!

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

By the time the two CAIN books (PROJECT CAIN and CAIN’S BLOOD) were off to the publisher, I was already reading a dozen-plus books about 9/11 and all the conspiracy stuff and noodling over the characters and plot of what would become TRUTHERS. In short order, I had Katie and her dilemma of trying to figure out if dad is truly crazy (claiming she’s not his daughter but, rather, some kind of living proof to the “Inside-Job” 9/11 conspiracy) or if, possibly, he may know something about the truth of what happened that day. So, it was very easy to give myself over to that new world/story. Haven’t read PROJECT CAIN or CAIN’S BLOOD, or even thought about them – beyond promotional activities – since the last draft.

What’s proven fun/interesting, however, is how other people make it hard to leave behind the first novel. Readers and publishers and agents and friends, etc. ALL assume I’m totally into serial killers (the CAIN books are about famous serial killers) and that’s what they want to talk about at book events, or they’ll send me news links and pass on new books to read, etc. But, I haven’t given serial killers a real thought since I turned in those books five years ago. Since then, I’ve written about 9/11, eugenics, Scottish ghosts, WW2, and I’m now working on a nonfiction book set in feudal Japan. There’s other stuff already in my head, replacing the old.

I expect much of this year – the “TRUTHERS Year” – will be spent talking about 9/11 and various conspiracy theories, and while I’ll happily talk about all that with anyone who wants, I’ve secretly already moved on to feudal Japan. To be clear: it’s über cool when forensic psychologists and criminologists or old neighbors of the Dahmer family find me at book fairs and want to talk – that’s why you write! But, when we’re talking, for me, it’s like talking about old high school stories or, maybe, an ex-girlfriend. Fondly, some fun nostalgia, but not what’s driving/challenging me right now.

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

They happen simultaneously. I’d started writing/editing “next” books in the months leading up to the first books coming out and during the release, etc. Promotional stuff, when it has/had to be done, I mostly do/did at night while watching TV or a quick warmup exercise prior to writing. (For instance, I’m answering these questions for 15 minutes before tackling an outline for a new book I’ve got to get done.) I’ve also hired a virtual assistant to handle a lot of the nuts and bolts part of promotion (events, blog tours, school visits, contests, etc.). Part of what I’ve learned is knowing which “energies” should, or can, be diverted/delegated to others. Writing and editing and research is what I’m most interested in, and where I’m of most value. It’s a win-win. With every new project and experience, writers get a better idea of what they’re good at, what’s important artistically and professionally, etc. That’s different for each of us, and part of the fun is figuring out who you are as an artist/person; what matters to you. For instance, I most prefer school visits or working face-to-face with writers getting started in their career/craft. That’s the teacher in me. Social media, on the other hand, I’m no good at, don’t like, and do only enough to prove I exist in the universe. As for promotion in general, and its worth, I know authors who are simply amazing at it (they do everything you’re “supposed to”) and sell nothing and authors who suck at it and sell a ton. What’s that tell you? In any case, I am looking forward to getting out and talking about TRUTHERS this fall.

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

My YA novels, I’m still writing for my own students. PROJECT CAIN is an intro to serial killers. TRUTHERS is an intro to 9/11 and conspiracy theories. I know teens and young adults pretty well (spend most of my waking hours with them as a teacher) and have built a career around being able to make stuff interesting for them – whether my own sons, my students, or when presenting at some other high school or college or book event. That’s my audience. Writing YA fiction, in particular, can be somewhat difficult/frustrating because before you can get these books into the hands of the intended audience (who you’re really writing for), you first have to first get past gatekeepers – agents, editors, publishers, reviewers. All adults. Mostly well-educated “literary type” adults who have ideas about YA fiction that don’t necessarily always match what I’m finding success with 8 hours a day.  [NOT to be confused with librarians, who are fellow teachers and spend all day with young adults also]. I got a lot of “9/11? Too soon!” from many adults, when I was writing for some readers who literally weren’t alive when it happened. My goal was a balanced book that would intro young-adult readers to 9/11 and our escalating conspiracy culture, and it was quite gratifying when Publishers Weekly and the School Library Journal claimed TRUTHERS achieved that. Looking forward to seeing what YA readers think!

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

For sure, I’m more focused now. CAIN’S BLOOD took me a year to write. MARY ROSE (a thriller/ghost novel coming out this fall) took four months; and really less than three but I don’t want you to think it was rushed, so we’ll say four. I carved out additional time to write early morning I’d never used before which added 10-14 hours of writing a week. And on top of my usual weekend afternoon writing, I got quite serious at night often, skipping bad TV to head upstairs early and finish a chapter. As noted above, I also brought on some help to take care of the stuff I have no interest in. And THAT, is true time management.

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

Not making the mistake of waiting around this time to get the third book moving; or waiting for others to beg me for another book. Do that, and four years can go by in a hurry. When the CAIN books came out, I was like: Cool, well now Simon & Schuster will love my next thriller idea for adults and my next YA idea and I’ll publish there for the next twenty years. Ermm, OR: my agent will quit his agency (putting me in limbo for almost 6 months), both of my editors will move on to other companies (one leaving publishing completely!), the publisher who gave me a huge deal and specifically urged “get that second book done!” departs publishing without warning. Suddenly I was in a room of strangers, including “my” editor who told me she “didn’t like thrillers.” Now, thinking back, it’s funny. Four years ago, I was all: Ohhh, shit…

NY publishing can be a carousel and also super slow at the same time. I recently “made a deal” three months ago – no contract yet, and don’t expect a dime for another 3-4 months; the book won’t come out for two years. To that point, you – and you alone – gotta stay on top of your career and what’s up next. Everyone else is too busy, and moving at a different pace, and there are 10,000 writers ready to take your spot if that’s a problem. So. I’ve now got two books coming out in 2017 – TRUTHERS and this creepy paranormal/suspense novel: MARY ROSE. But am banging the drum almost daily to get the next three, four, five books lined up. The first time, I filled the huge gap of time between books with getting an MFA and putting out my debut short story collection. Which ain’t shabby, but still feel I wasted some creative years. This time out, I’m more focused on lining up the next deal and am borderline obnoxious (very dog-on-a-bone) about it with my agents and publishers. My aim being that a third YA comes out in 2018 or early 2019 – which sounds like ages from now but a mere blink in traditional publishing. Doesn’t mean it’ll happen, but it won’t be for lack of trying on my part.



Friday, July 28, 2017

Book Talk & Giveaway: DRESS CODES FOR SMALL TOWNS by Courtney Stevens

As the tomboy daughter of the town’s preacher, Billie McCaffrey has always struggled with fitting the mold of what everyone says she should be. She’d rather wear sweats, build furniture, and get into trouble with her solid group of friends: Woods, Mash, Davey, Fifty, and Janie Lee.

But when Janie Lee confesses to Billie that she’s in love with Woods, Billie’s filled with a nagging sadness as she realizes that she is also in love with Woods…and maybe with Janie Lee, too.

Always considered “one of the guys,” Billie doesn’t want anyone slapping a label on her sexuality before she can understand it herself. So she keeps her conflicting feelings to herself, for fear of ruining the group dynamic. Except it’s not just about keeping the peace, it’s about understanding love on her terms—this thing that has always been defined as a boy and a girl falling in love and living happily ever after. For Billie—a box-defying dynamo—it’s not that simple.

Want to help me with mailing costs? I do giveaways at least once week, sometimes more. It can add up. If you feel so inclined as to donate a little to defray my mailing costs, it would be much appreciated! Donating has no impact on your chances of winning.

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) I'm very grateful for the invention of Bluetooth technology. When I'm "writing" while I drive, (which includes gestures and speaking) people just think I'm swanky and up-to-date, not insane.

2) It's extremely difficult to hold your tongue perfectly still. Seriously. Go stand in front of mirror with your mouth hanging open and concentrate on your tongue. It moves. Even when you're telling it not to. Conclusion: your tongue is self-aware.

3) You cannot name the person you are in a relationship with on Facebook if they are not on Facebook. Isn't this an indicator of a cult? You shall not date someone outside of the group.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

GIVEN TO THE EARTH Cover Reveal & ARC Giveaway!

So excited to share the cover for GIVEN TO THE EARTH, the sequel to GIVEN TO THE SEA. Pop on over to Penguin Teen to see the cover and be sure to enter the giveaway below!



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Wednesday WOLF

I've got a collection of random information in my brain that makes me an awesome Trivial Pursuit partner, but is completely useless when it comes to real world application. Like say, job applications. I thought I'd share some of this random crap with you in the form of another acronym-ific series. I give you - Word Origins from Left Field - that's right, the WOLF. Er... ignore the fact that the "from" doesn't fit.

In the spirit of my editing hatchet, I found two fun wood-cutting idioms to play with today.

Ever see someone fly off the handle? I have, because I used to work in the public school systems, but even if you don't see temper tantrums on a daily basis you know what the phrase means. Someone in this state has lost control... and that's a fairly accurate description of what happens when the head of your axe flies off the handle. For those of you who aren't active wood-choppers, you can still appreciate the sudden loss of a counterweight, I'm sure. The first published use of "to fly off the handle" goes to Thomas Haliburton, in one of his Sam Slick shorts, The Attache: Or, Sam Slick In London, published 1844.

Writers - ever accomplished something in the nick of time? Sure you have. Any clue what that means? Again, this is a good old wood-chopping term. In case you don't know, if you ever want to hack your way through a particularly large piece of lumber it's smart to make a niche with your hatchet first, a small v-shaped groove that weakens that spot. The idea is to hit that niche again and again with your heavier implement, an axe or a maul. And while that makes sense, if you've ever tried to haul an axe or a maul over your head and then bring it down on a precise spot... well, it's not that easy. In fact, it's kind of a special skill reserved for farmer's daughters.

Ok, not really.

But in any case, that niche, or "nick," is a small area - or frame of time - to hit.

So good job if you manage it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Candace Ganger: Choosing Which Idea to Focus On And Write

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 Candace Ganger, a mother, blogger, and contributing writer for sites like Teen Vogue, TWLOHA, Bustle, Romper, XO Jane & Hello Giggles. She’s also an obsessive marathoner and continual worrier (yay!). Her debut YA novel, THE INEVITABLE COLLISION OF BIRDIE & BASH, will be out via St. Martin’s Griffin July 25th, 2017. Aside from having past lives as a singer, nanotechnology website editor, and world’s worst* vacuum sales rep, she’s also ghostwritten hundreds of projects for companies, best-selling fiction and award-winning nonfiction authors alike.

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?

I did. The inciting incident is loosely based on a tragedy that struck my family in 1979. There’s a newspaper clipping of the accident that’s always haunted me so I knew I had to re-write this story in a way that honors those affected by the tragedy. There came a day the idea wouldn’t leave me alone so I started tracking the skeletal bits of information and finally, sat down and with the opening line and a clear visual of the person speaking it, I sat down and wrote. That line will be in the book.

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

Surprisingly, I had no trouble with this story even in the early draft. And though things changed a bit from that draft, the characters came to me fully developed in a flash. They already had these nuances I couldn’t ignore so really, I tried to listen to what they told me. I’ve never had this happen before or since with any other story. I attribute this to the core of the story burning a hole in my soul. Like if I didn’t write it in this way, my family could maybe never heal.

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

Yes. In fact, I had to cut a whole thread after a reader (an agent, actually) pointed out some things to strengthen it. I revised the entire book in 3 days and have barely touched it since (aside from a few editorial fixes). The biggest thing for me to let go of, though, is the changing of my ending. I felt it should go one way, while the end result will have something different. Perhaps that will be released separately at some point ☺

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

Oh, gosh. This is a running joke with everyone who works with me. I always have a million ideas going on at once but because of my OCD and anxiety, I have difficulty making decisions so I need someone to step in and say “listen—you’re going to work on this now, and this next.” Otherwise, I’ll start several projects that may or may not make it to the end. Like right now, I have 5 projects happening. I like to stay busy to keep up with my brain and writing helps me calm the voices.

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

Again, I basically have to have someone tell me which one to focus on. Sometimes there’s a story eating at me for some time. Maybe it’s only a general idea or a piece of the puzzle so I’ll stew about it for days, weeks, months even, until I feel it complete enough to sit down and devote my full attention to. I write a wide range of things so I’m never lacking for a subject (just the ability to commit)!

I always, always, always empty my bladder before I start writing. Nothing stops short a burst creativity like a burst of urine. Do you have any “musts” before you sit down to write? 

I like The Food Network on TV as background noise. A latte is preferred and my water. Other than that, if my youngest (4 yo) is napping or at pre-k and my eldest (9 yo) is keeping busy, I’m good to go.

Monday, July 24, 2017

This Week In My World & 23 Signed Books Giveaway!

I started a new jigsaw puzzle.

Honestly, there are actually a lot of really exciting things going on in my world but... I can't necessarily talk about them right now. I'll have news for you when I'm able to share!

And seriously, I did start a new jigsaw puzzle.

I've started to use Tumblr as a dream journal. People are always asking me what it's like inside my head. I always say it's the soundtrack to Beetlejuice in there, but if you'd like more insight, follow my Tumblr.

There's a new podcast episode for you to listen to. It's the roundup episode for the month of July, as well as an explanation of H.R. 1695 - the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act. If you're a writer, you should probably be aware of what it is, why it's happening, and what it means for you. As always, if you find the podcast or this blog helpful, please consider becoming a supporter.

The podcast will be taking a break for the month of August, but there are 21 episodes with writers from all walks and genres - YA, MG, memoir, historical, adult - there's an ep for you.



In the meantime, definitely checkout this humongous giveaway. Win a signed GIVEN TO THE SEA and A MADNESS SO DISCREET plus 21 other books!



And, because I have a few ARCs of THIS DARKNESS MINE that landed in my lap recently, I suppose I will do a giveaway. 



Want to help me with mailing costs? I do giveaways at least once week, sometimes more. It can add up. If you feel so inclined as to donate a little to defray my mailing costs, it would be much appreciated! Donating has no impact on your chances of winning.

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Book Talk & Giveaway: HOW TO DISAPPEAR by Sharon Huss Roat

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.

Vicky Decker has perfected the art of hiding in plain sight, quietly navigating the halls of her high school undetected except by her best (and only) friend, Jenna. But when Jenna moves away, Vicky’s isolation becomes unbearable.

So she decides to invent a social life by Photoshopping herself into other people’s pictures, posting them on Instagram under the screen name Vicurious. Instantly, she begins to get followers, so she adds herself to more photos from all over the world with all types of people. And as Vicurious’s online followers multiply, Vicky realizes she can make a whole life for herself without ever leaving her bedroom. But the more followers she finds online, the clearer it becomes that there are a lot of people out there who feel like her— #alone and #ignored in real life.

To help them, and herself, Vicky must find the courage to face her fear of being “seen,” because only then can she stop living vicariously and truly bring the magic of Vicurious to life.

Want to help me with mailing costs? I do giveaways at least once week, sometimes more. It can add up. If you feel so inclined as to donate a little to defray my mailing costs, it would be much appreciated! Donating has no impact on your chances of winning.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

PitchWars! What To Know About Me As A Mentor


Yes, it's true. I'm going to be co-mentoring again this year with Kate Karyus Quinn for PitchWars!

What is PitchWars? For those who don't know, check out this post on Brenda Drake's site. It's got all the info you need.

If you're interested in having me for a mentor, there are some things you need to be aware of. First off, I'm not here to make you feel good about yourself. You have friends for that, and probably a mom too. I'm a tough love mentor. I believe that my job is to make you better, and compliments don't make you improve. Criticism does. And I've got that in spades.

I will say nice things to you when you deserve them.

But for every kind word there will be three to five points that I think need work, and I won't hesitate to point them out. Be ready for that. Be cool with it. Embrace the monster that is having me for a mentor.

What am I looking for?

Kate and I both write dark, edgy YA. We also both write across genres, so neither one of us is looking or any specific genre to mentor. We want that ever-elusive element called voice. We're okay with sex. We're okay with violence. We're okay with language. However, none of those things can exist only for shock value. Do it well, do it right, and we'll notice you.

However, any eroticism of rape is completely off the table.

Kate and I will also be offering query and first page critiques to those who apply for us as mentors, but are not chosen. These will be posted on our blogs, so you must be okay with the criticism being out there, online, if you agree to the query and first page critique.

And THERE'S MORE -- if you'd like a first 500 word critique from me, I'm happy to do that. Comment on this blog post and I'll randomly choose a winner one week from this post going live. Be sure to leave your email address in the comment so that I can get a hold of you if you win.

A great way to learn more about Kate and I as writers and people is to listen to the debut episode of my podcast, Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire. Kate was my first guest, and you can easily garner a lot about us from listening in. The podcast is for aspiring and established writers, so if you like that first episode, keep on listening. It's free, and you can learn a lot.



And WHAT ELSE?! I am doing a giveaway below for an ARC of my October release, THIS DARKNESS MINE. Enter to win, and be sure to check out ALL of the #PitchWars Mentors below!

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Jennifer Fenn On Finding Inspiration In Real Life

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 Jennifer Fenn, author of FLIGHT RISK. She is a graduate of Lycoming College and Rosemont College's MFA 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?

My book was inspired by a true story, that of Colton Harris Moore, aka “The Barefoot Bandit.” When I first became aware of Harris Moore’s story in 2010, he was still on the run from law enforcement after stealing several planes. I was fascinated by this story immediately. While I knew what he was doing was dangerous and illegal, a large part of me did not want to see him caught. I’m a mom, a former teacher and a law-abiding citizen, so I was very interested in exploring what about Harris Moore made me so sympathetic toward him. I first wrote a fictional piece inspired by his story in the form of a flash fiction piece. A year or so later, I was teaching “Maniac Magee” in my 7th grade classroom. The rhyme Jerry Spinelli created about his main character on the first page of that book gave a new layer of meaning to the story I already had percolating in my mind: how are legends and folk heroes created in our media-saturated society? Both the appeal of the anti-hero and that question drove the creation of my novel “Flight Risk.”  

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

I’m a “pantser,” but I nearly always write my endings first, and that was the case with “Flight Risk.” I had a particular image, that of a giant, “lollipop” moon as seen from the pilot’s seat of a stolen plane. I knew I wanted to end with that and wrote it first. I also knew I wanted to work with multiple points of view, so I began writing scenes in several different voices. Basically, if there’s a scene I’m pumped to write, I write it, no matter where it exists in the story chronologically. Then I have to work to connect my scenes to create a coherent structure.  

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

Yes, particularly as someone who rarely outlines. I find that to be the most satisfying, magical part of writing—when suddenly I’m typing a scene that I didn’t know was coming!!  

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

Story ideas come to me often enough, but unless I can envision an ending, I rarely pursue them further. As I’ve said, I don’t outline, but I need a destination on the map!  

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

Usually, one story starts to interest me more than another. Another thing I always do is ‘soundtrack’ my stories. Creating a playlist to go with a work in progress helps me determine the story’s mood and really inspires me. If a playlist starts to emerge for a particular idea, that’s become, for me, a sign that it could be a keeper.  

I always, always, always empty my bladder before I start writing. Nothing stops short a burst creativity like a burst of urine. Do you have any “musts” before you sit down to write? 

As the mother of a small child, I’ve learned to not be as choosey about the conditions under which I write. I’ve written with my newborn daughter napping on top of me, in the car on family vacations, and recently knocked out 19 pages in a Target café. Flexibility has become a part of my style!

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Thing Or Two In My Life

Last week I stayed in a dome in the middle of nowhere that had been built in preparation for the fallout of Y2K (which didn't happen, but they still got a pretty cool second home out of the deal). Staying there with no cell service, no wi-fi, and no TV was a good experience. I recommend being unplugged to anyone that might need a mental reset.

I'm back in the land of the busy this week, and wanted to keep everyone up to date on what's going on with me.

I got advance copies of GIVEN TO THE EARTH! They are gorgeous... and I'll be sharing a sneak peek of the cover for anyone who supports me on Patreon on the $5 dollar level this month.

At that level you get a monthly update video in which I'll share what's been up with me lately, and know in advance what ARCs I'll be giving away on the blog (I've got some really awesome ones lined up for August), and also who my upcoming podcast guests will be. You can also feel free to ask me any questions that you might like to have answered - about publishing, writing, my books, or whatever you'd like - and I'll answer them in the video.


In other news, I will be appearing at the WizardWorld ComicCon in Columbus August 4-6. I have two panels and will be selling and signing GIVEN TO THE SEA at the con all three days. I don't know where my table is, but if you're there and curious shoot me a tweet and I should know once I'm on the floor where my table will be located.


Last week I was the guest on the podcast About The Author with Kristen Flowers from 96.5 KOIT out in the Bay area. I talked about my publishing journey, the research methods I used while writing A MADNESS SO DISCREET, and a little bit about my writing process. 



My own podcast, Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire, was featured on Podbean last week. I've got lots of new followers, and if it's led you here to the blog - awesome! Today's ep features guest Jody Casella, author of the YA novel THIN SPACE, and regional director of the Central/Southern Ohio chapter of SCBWI. Jody joined me to talk about MFA’s, querying as an already published writer, the benefits of joining SCBWI - the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators - and how attending book festivals geared for readers can also be beneficial to writers.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

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.

Everyone wants to control the most powerful magical being alive. Too bad she's escaped her universe, Coronam, and spent the past eight years pretending to be human. Until she's caught. Hmm... I feel like I need to know who caught her, and why?

Now, sixteen year old Selena Bennet is living in her former palace once again, this time as a prisoner. Her only chance of getting out: convincing her captors they've found the wrong girl. To do that, she must pretend her memory's been erased – something that could only happen to a human. I think I need to know why she left in the first place, and why it's so important to have her back. Also, is the memory erasing thing a common tact used by the citizens / soldiers of Coronam? It seems like an odd plan otherwise. 

Back in Coronam, Selena learns a lot has changed since she was still the princess. She's spent the last eight years trying to disassociate herself with the homeland that now hates her, but what she discovers may no longer make going back an option. Selena is the only one strong enough to start another war, and it might just be time to fight. Again, we need to know her motivation for leaving, and why they hate her now. Also, I'm not sure I'd put so much emphasis on the plan being try to convince people she's the wrong person, if she then has to turn around and convince people to follow her into a war. Seems like really shaky logic, and a very abrupt change of heart, which will make agents wonder if the text suffers because of the flip-flop.

Coronam's Lost is a YA fantasy completed at 92,000 words, and is available upon request. It will appeal to lovers of strong, female characters, political and moral issues, as well as readers who enjoyed Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, The Young Elites by Marie Lu and Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. I've attended creative writing classes, and am a member of SCBWI.

So you say it has these things - strong female characters, political and moral issues - but I don't see them in the query. I see a girl who ran away from responsibility (why?) then flip-flops on what she wants (stay or go?) and a war against... ? and for... ? I have no idea. Get those things in the query.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Book Talk & Giveaway: THESE THINGS I'VE DONE by Rebecca Phillips

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.

Dara's first day back at her old school after a year away is nerve wracking - and not because she doesn't know what to wear. Everyone believes she killed her best friend, Aubrey - and over a boy, of all things. When Aubrey fell (or was she pushed?) in front of a truck, she died instantly, leaving Dara with the consequences.

A year living with her aunt and uncle and receiving therapy has helped clear her head. Returning to her old school to graduate is something she feels she has to do. But that means coming face to face with all of her old friends, as well as the person who has the most cause to hate her - Ethan, Aubrey's little brother.

But Ethan - of all people - actually defends her from the taunts in the hallway, though she doesn't recognize him at first. The skinny kid she knew has grown into something else, someone she might even be attracted to - if that didn't mean one more, final, betrayal of her best friend.

Want to help me with mailing costs? I do giveaways at least once week, sometimes more. It can add up. If you feel so inclined as to donate a little to defray my mailing costs, it would be much appreciated! Donating has no impact on your chances of winning.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Melanie Crowder On Writing For Yourself

Welcome to the SNOB - Second Novel Ominipresent 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 Melanie Crowder, author of many books for young readers including PARCHED, A NEARER MOON, and her newest, AN UNINTERRUPTED VIEW OF THE SKY

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

The hardest thing was getting out of the form and voice of my first YA. In Audacity, my protagonist was such a force, and by the time I had finished revisions, the verse novel form was like second nature to me. But I had no interest in writing the same book, only with different characters in a different situation, so I really had to yank myself out of that first book so I could give An Uninterrupted View of the Sky the space to be its own story.

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

Really early on. There are two philosophies here—one where you devote months and sometimes years to promoting one book, banking on the first’s success to propel the second into even greater success, and another where you launch the one (of course doing every last thing your publicist asks of you) and then let go, freeing up the creative space for something new.

I chose the second. I’m happiest when I’m working on that next book, so that’s where I put my energy.

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

My stories are for my readers, but I write for me. It’s become a huge part of who I am. When I have a productive writing day, I feel good about myself and my place in the world. When I don’t I’m a little like a runner who takes a day off and then feels sluggish as a result. There is nothing else that fills me up like writing does. So yes, I write for me.

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

Absolutely. Correspondence with editors, publicists, and the school and library team. Social media. Bookkeeping and taxes. School visits. Award acceptance speeches to write and banquets to attend. Conferences keynotes to deliver and book festivals to gear up for.

All of this takes energy, and it takes time. (Of course, some of it is much more fun than other parts. Yes, taxes, I’m looking at you.)

I have found that scheduling myself to prioritize writing time is essential. I try to stay off email and social media until the late morning, after I’ve had time to work on my story. If I’m traveling, I try to plan for a day of reading when I get home to replenish my energy and inspiration.

I don’t have the luxury of writing a book and setting it aside for months to simmer anymore like I did before I was published. My deadlines won’t allow for it. So that means I need to be disciplined with my time and I also need to take care of my creative energy. If I let myself become too depleted, my stories will suffer. And no amount of writing “business” is worth that.

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

I think the biggest difference was that my editor and I were familiar with one another this time around. Audacity’s success set a really high bar for An Uninterrupted View of the Sky, but it also gave us a great foundation to build upon.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Lots Going On!

There is a lot going on in my life online right now, which of course means it's the perfect time for me to disappear to a hideaway in the woods with no internet connection.

First off, don't miss the newest podcast episode featuring Middle Grade author and playwright Tara Dairman. Tara talks about how to use social media when your target audience may not necessarily be online, and how writing plays influences her fiction, as well as the value of contests when you're in the query trenches.



What else is going on with me?

GIVEN TO THE SEA has been released on audio book! With performances by Monika Felice Smith, Robbie Daymond, Alex McKenna, and Sunil Malhotra, it's a winner. If you're looking for something to do over the next eleven hours or so, give it a listen.

If you want to read a physical book instead and think that getting books before their publication date is cool, check out this giveaway of THIS DARKNESS MINE on Goodreads.

And lastly, if you follow me on Instagram you'll notice that I've been doing an Instagram challenge for #Pitchwars on there. Writing advice, pictures of cats, more about me... who knows what all is going to end up on there.