Musings of Caroline Leech

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Are you a Plotter or a Pantser?
by Caroline Leech

Plotter – a writer who likes to know where they’re headed before they set off

Pantser – a writer who flies by the seat of their pants and sees where the story takes them

Back when I first started writing fiction, I remember reading the Bible that is Stephen King’s “On Writing”. In it he says, “I won’t try to convince you that I’ve never plotted, any more than I’d try to convince you that I’ve never told a lie, but I do both as infrequently as possible.” I believed him, without question, that “plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible” and I sat down with a blank sheet of paper and basic idea, and I waited for a novel to appear on the page. Voila!

And words did appear on the page, lots of them, and on many other pages too. In fact, I had so many words that I became quite giddy with the excitement of the creativity and imagination pouring from me, until I stopped writing one day and went back to read through everything I’d written so far. It was only then that I realized that in all the wonderful prose I’d been producing, there was very little which actually moved the story forward. We all know that Plot Graph, don’t we? The one with the Exposition, Rising Action, Climax and Resolution? I discovered that almost four chapters and nine thousand words into my story, I was still at Exposition, like a marathon runner left jumping up and down doing warm-up exercises half an hour after all the other competitors have raced off at the starter’s gun. I had some lovely writing in terms of character outline and setting description, but there was still no hint of a plot path in sight yet. Basically, I had no idea where I was going.

So, while still respecting Mr. King’s wisdom, I decided that perhaps I needed to give myself some help to move forward, not so much strict step by step instructions, but something of a route map. That way, I wouldn’t wander too far off course, and I certainly wouldn’t languish at a standstill again. In that moment, I left my Pantser days behind and became an unashamed Plotter. Okay, an only-a-little-ashamed Plotter, since I love that romantic idea of letting a story write itself, but in reality, that’s just not me!

WAIT FOR ME, my debut YA historical novel which has just been published by Harper Teen, was plotted while I sat in a dentist’s office waiting room. I had had the idea for a World War Two story involving a German prisoner coming to work on a Scottish farm where a teenage girl lives. I had done my research, reading books and websites with posts from primary sources who remembered POWs and Land Girls on farms, and talking to my parents and their friends who lived through the war. I have never been so glad to have been kept waiting by a dentist, because during that time I scribbled note after note about possible events – crises and kisses about characters’ actions and reactions, and about what might happen in the end. I numbered each note to draw them into some kind of linear timeline, and then I rewrote the whole list in order. By the time I was called into see the dentist – almost 90 minutes after my appointment time in the end – my head was swimming with ideas for this new place and these new people.

After my checkup, I had lunch with a friend and asked if she wanted to hear my story. I read her along my scribbled plot path, and pointed her down the side trails where I thought the map might hold even more treasure, still to be unearthed. By the end, we had both teared up and my fingers were itching for my keyboard.

“Now you just have to write it,” she said.

And I did. Very quickly, in fact, since this story would be my first attempt at NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. Throughout that November, I found it so reassuring to know, every day when I sat down to write my 1,635 words, that I knew where I was trying to get to. Each chapter had a start point and an end point, and I had a vague idea of what lay between. Therefore, I didn’t waste time staring off into space wondering where to go next the route map was right there in front of me. Of course, the story grew and fattened as I wrote and revised it over the next few years, but the basic structure didn’t change much. Even now, the path set down on that first map is still traceable and I still have the notebook to prove it.

So if you think you’re a Pantser, but find yourself stuck in exposition, or go wandering so far off the story path so far you can’t find your way back, then why not experiment with being a Plotter for while? And you don’t need wait until your next dentist appointment to try it out, trust me, go start creating your route map right now.


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About Caroline

Caroline Leech is a Scottish writer who moved to Texas for an adventure ten years ago. Her debut novel for young adults, WAIT FOR ME, will be published in the USA by Harper Teen on January 31st. Set in Scotland towards the end of World War Two, the book tells the story of a girl’s friendship with a German prisoner of war who is sent to work on her father’s farm. Harper Teen will also publish Caroline’s second YA novel in early 2018. Caroline lives in Houston TX with her husband and three teenage children, and she can be found online at http://www.carolineleech.com and @carolinesblurb.

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Wait for Me

Wait For Me

The perfect blend of sweet romance and historical flavor, Wait for Me, from debut author Caroline Leech, brings a fresh new voice to a much-loved genre.

It’s 1945, and Lorna Anderson’s life on her father’s farm in Scotland consists of endless chores and rationing, knitting Red Cross scarves, and praying for an Allied victory. So when Paul Vogel, a German prisoner of war, is assigned as the new farmhand, Lorna is appalled. How can she possibly work alongside the enemy when her own brothers are risking their lives for their country?

But as Lorna reluctantly spends time with Paul, she feels herself changing. The more she learns about him—from his time in the war to his life back home in Germany—the more she sees the boy behind the soldier. Soon Lorna is battling her own warring heart. Loving Paul could mean losing her family and the life she’s always known. With tensions rising all around them, Lorna must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice before the end of the war determines their fate.

Buy links USA – ISBN: 978-0062459886

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Buy links – UK – ISBN: 978-0008213398

Amazon UK | Waterstones


Thank you so much to Caroline for sharing your story with us! We definitely need an understanding that we, as writers, usually aren’t purely plotters or pantsers, but that we adapt to what we need. Some stories need more plotting, while others need some pantsing, and it will change for each project, each month, each day, and so on.

As always, a huge thank you to everyone who has participated in this feature. Your words never go unappreciated, and we are thankful more than you know!

We hope you have a wonderful rest of your week!

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Musings of Amanda Foody

eternaldreamers

Picking Yourself Back Up and Starting Over
by Amanda Foody

The publishing industry is competitive. As writers, we know that. We’ve been told that. We’ve experienced that. But that doesn’t mean that failing is any less heart-breaking, or terrifying, or discouraging.

And starting over…sometimes that seems even worse than the failure itself.

Three years ago, my first “real” manuscript went on submission. I say “real” because, even though it wasn’t technically the first book I’d written, it was the first book that people really noticed, that people got excited about. When I signed with an agent, people said, “Of course. That book is magic.” When I was getting interest on submission, people said, “Of course. Everyone knows that book will sell.” And when it didn’t sell, after numerous close calls and would-haves, no one was more shocked and devastated than I was.

I wish I could say that I immediately picked myself back up, dusted myself off, and finished my next magical manuscript. At the time, the only project I’d been writing was a companion novel to a book that I now couldn’t bear to think about (Pro-Tip: don’t do this). Everything about my career had been one hundred miles per hour, and very suddenly, I was nineteen years old, heart-broken, and at a total stand-still.

If this story sounds familiar to you, you are not alone. Nearly every writer has stared their own failure in eyes at least once. And it’s not easy, but you can pick yourself back up and start over. It took years, but I eventually did crawl out of my misery cave and, in more ways than one, grow up.

Here is what helped me and what hopefully can help you, too.

Step #1: Find your rebound. Learn something. Keep moving. Remind yourself that not everything you write needs to be magic because you are, in fact, a human being and not a machine. (Optional: Skip this step and move right to step two.)

First, I wrote another book, and it wasn’t at all like the Project-That-Must-Not-Be-Named. It was higher fantasy, with a big cast, and elemental magic–not the kind of books I personally have ever written. The story had some major flaws, but I did fall in love with my new characters. That helped. However, my agent didn’t see much promise in the project, and, after I’d written the entire book, I shelved it. It was another blow to my ego, but I had managed to write a book again. A rebound, if you will. (Happy ending: I gave the rebound WIP a makeover more to my style, it’s 500% better, and my new agent loves it, too.)

Step #2: Write a book, stare your initial failure in the eyes, and try again.

After that, I wrote another book. Since my last two projects had ultimately been rejected, I

decided to write something that 1) my agent loved from the start, and 2) that was totally different from anything else I’ve ever written. I succeeded. The project was strange from start to finish, but it was written, and, some people even told me, it might have also been magic.

Step ???

Bad news: I’d finished the maybe-magic project, but my agent wasn’t feeling it. Split amicably with agent. Move back four spaces (and three years).

This was arguably the ultimate low. But also the moment I’m either 1) most proud of, or 2) most embarrassed by. Because, after several more weeks of moping, I stayed up all night, revised my entire manuscript, and queried a bunch of new literary agents the next day. (There is a longer story associated with this, but I won’t go into it. All in all, there were some questionable decisions made that turned out not-so-bad. My actions here were not advisable.). I signed with a new agent two weeks later.

Step #3: Regain some confidence and celebrate your achievements. You have successfully picked yourself back up and started over…

…But this is it. The moment when it all collapsed. That failure you keep seeing in the corner of your bathroom mirror is starting to look more and more real.

Step #4: Ready your stance.

I used to do martial arts as a kid. There’s a special way to stand, feet spread out, posture straight, balanced distributed, so that if you get hit, you’re less likely to fall down. So you can take the blow.

Being two years older and a tiny bit wiser, I got into my ready stance, and from the moment my agent submitted the new project to publishers, I immediately starting writing a project to potentially replace it. I’d spent two years wallowing in misery Amanda-land, and I wasn’t going to let myself slow down this time.

This is where my advice ends, but not where the story concludes. There was a brief intermission on submission when I ate a lot of chocolate and played hundreds of hours of Civilizations V, but I’m not sure those coping methods are advisable.

Getting knocked down is terrible, and starting over is worse. It took me two years before I made it back to the same place, back on submission, and that was almost two years where I felt like a total failure, the one-hundred-mile-per-hour train that just couldn’t anymore. So, if you’ve ever had this happen to you or are worried that it might, you aren’t alone. It happens to the best of us. Keep everything in perspective.

It’s also important to note that, even though I didn’t mention the lovely cheerleaders I had in my friends, family, and critique partners, this journey will always feel like my own. I’m a firm believer that the only person who can pick you up is yourself. But surrounding yourself with support will make it that much easier. Tell your friends what you’re going through and keep them close.

And, to finish the story, there is a happy ending. A really happy ending, in fact. Two months into submission, I received a very exciting call from my agent that my book was magic after all and it was going to be published, and now that book, Daughter of the Burning City, is releasing from Harlequin TEEN on July 25, 2017. That was probably the second happiest day of my life.

The happiest day of my life came a week later, when my publisher made a second offer on the very dusty, very tear-stained Book-That-Could-Not-Be-Named-But-Is-Now-Titled-Ace of Shades. Three years later, I finally get to allow myself to love it again. It’s expected publication date is in April 2018.

The end.


15269309About Amanda

Amanda Foody has always considered imagination to be our best attempt at magic. After spending her childhood longing to attend Hogwarts, she now loves to write about immersive settings and characters grappling with insurmountable destinies. She holds a Masters in Accountancy from Villanova University, and a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature from the College of William and Mary. Currently, she works as a tax accountant in Philadelphia, PA, surrounded by her many siblings and many books. DAUGHTER OF THE BURNING CITY, her first novel, will be published by Harlequin TEEN on July 25, 2017. Her second, ACE OF SHADES, will follow in April 2018.


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Daughter of the Burning City

A darkly irresistible new fantasy set in the infamous Gomorrah Festival, a traveling carnival of debauchery that caters to the strangest of dreams and desires.

Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

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Ace of Shades

Lady-to-be Enne Salta and card dealer Levi Glaisyer team up to find Enne’s missing mother in a city of casinos and gangsters, while Levi’s unraveling Ponzi Scheme and Enne’s dark secret threaten to destroy them both.

Pitched as Spirited Away meets Boardwalk Empire and Six of Crows

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Thank you so much, Amanda, for sharing your story with us! This is so inspiring, and as an agent, I understand this struggle as well. Falling in love with a book doesn’t always mean it will sell, but having hope that someone else will love it as much as you do can get you through those tough times. The industry is tough, but we are all tougher. =)

A special thank you to everyone who has participated in this feature! Your words are so needed and appreciated. We love hearing your stories and words of advice as you continue to help guide writers in all stages of the craft.

We hope you have a great rest of your day!

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TO CATCH A KILLER: Character Styles

HELLO! Welcome to the next stop on the blog tour for To Catch a Killer by Sheryl Scarborough.  Today we’ll take a look at some character styles. Erin Blake is always paying attention to details while thinking about where she was and whom she’s with, so it makes sense that she pays attention to what people are wearing.

We don’t know too much about Erin’s style other than a brief description of what she looks like.

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I decided to focus on Erin’s two best friends Spam and Lysa, whose styles are complete opposites. While Spam sports an eclectic sense of style, which matches her outgoing, eccentric, and tech savvy disposition; Lysa has more fashionable outfits thus matching her calmer, logical, yet unyielding persona.

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As I went back through descriptions I had marked with page flags, I noticed Sheryl would primarily describe 2 to 3 things Spam was wearing.  Most of the time it was the louder pieces of her wardrobe, so I enjoyed getting the chance to play around with her outfits. Below I highlight what items were actually in the book:

1. rainbow suspenders and matching over the knee socks
2. cowboy hat paired with light up disco ball earrings
3. everything was mentioned
4. black shorts jumper with sleeves rolled and red and black stripped leggings
5. bright red Wellington rain boots and matching red t-shirt
6. everything was mentioned
7. simple white full skirt prom dress and combat boots
*not pictured* clear vest made of bubble wrap held together by duct tape

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Lysa’s style is more straight forward and she wears the same type of outfits that always color coordinate.  She’s just as bold as Spam, but in a different way.

“She always wears a pair of crisply pressed designer jeans paired with hoodies, tanks Vans sneakers, and socks that all color-coordinate.”


To Catch a Killer

Erin Blake has one of those names. A name that, like Natalee Holloway or Elizabeth Smart, is inextricably linked to a grisly crime. As a toddler, Erin survived for three days alongside the corpse of her murdered mother, and the case—which remains unsolved—fascinated a nation. Her father’s identity unknown, Erin was taken in by her mother’s best friend and has become a relatively normal teen in spite of the looming questions about her past.

Fourteen years later, Erin is once again at the center of a brutal homicide when she finds the body of her biology teacher. When questioned by the police, Erin tells almost the whole truth, but never voices her suspicions that her mother’s killer has struck again in order to protect the casework she’s secretly doing on her own.

Inspired by her uncle, an FBI agent, Erin has ramped up her forensic hobby into a full-blown cold-case investigation. This new murder makes her certain she’s close to the truth, but when all the evidence starts to point the authorities straight to Erin, she turns to her longtime crush (and fellow suspect) Journey Michaels to help her crack the case before it’s too late.

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Sheryl Scarborough.jpgAbout Sheryl

SHERYL SCARBOROUGH is an award-winning writer for children’s television. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, lives in Washington state, and has always had an obsession with forensics. When she was twelve, her home was the target of a Peeping Tom. Sheryl diligently photographed his footprints and collected the candy wrappers he left behind. Unfortunately, he was never caught. But the desire to use evidence to solve a great mystery was sparked inside Scarborough all the same. To Catch a Killer is her debut.

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Major thanks to Lili and Diana over at Tor Teen!  Hope you all enjoyed seeing the different character styles!  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

MelissaSig

Musings of Mindee Arnett

eternaldreamers

World Building: The Importance of Active Decision Making
by Mindee Arnett

The longer I’ve been doing this writing thing, the more I’ve come to accept that most of the work involved is decision making. From the moment we settle on a story, we have to make choices about it—who the characters are, what the main conflict is, point of view, structure, and of course, what world it takes place in. Honestly, it’s rather daunting when you think about it, like standing at the foot of the mountain and staring up at the summit towering so high above you and seemingly out of reach. At least it’s daunting for me, and it’s why I’m primarily a discovery writer, as opposed to an outliner. I find it easier to focus on the climb right in front of me, taking it bit by bit.

But regardless of whether you’re a discovery writer or an outliner, we’re all in the business of making decisions. The key to good world building (and good writing in general) is learning to make active decisions as opposed to passive ones. Here’s “real life” example of the difference.

Passive decision:

Husband:   “Where do you want to eat?”
Wife:           “……”
Husband:   “What are you hungry for?”
Wife:           “What are you hungry for?”
Husband:   “….”
Wife:           “Oh look, there’s a Chipotle.”
Husband:   “Perfect.”

Active Decision:

Husband:   “Where do you want to eat?”

Wife:           “Hmmm, well I had Chipotle yesterday and you had Taco Bell on Monday, and I’m really in the mood for a hamburger.”

Husband:   “Okay, there’s a Five Guys ahead.”

Wife:            “Well, actually, why don’t we go down the road to the Red Robin? They’re having a special on hamburgers, and we could really use the savings right about now. Also, there are milkshakes.”

See the difference? In the first example the couple chooses a restaurant purely out of convenience and, presumably, a fondness for Chipotle. Oftentimes as writers, we do the same. We’re in a hurry to get the story out and it’s tempting to make decisions that don’t require a lot of thought or effort. We pick things that are familiar and conventions that are safe. However, making passive decisions like this is sure to result in thin and generic world building, (I would argue that this pitfall holds true for other parts of writing, too, including characters, conflict, and so on). Are you writing a fantasy set in medieval Europe? Nothing wrong with that per se, but do you know why you picked it? If your only answer to this question is that you have a fondness for medieval Europe, then you might have a problem.

Instead, make active decisions. The way to do this is by not stopping at the initial answer to a question but instead subjecting that answer to a series of deeper questions. If you can answer those deeper questions—I chose medieval Europe because my young main character has the magical ability to make plants grow, which is awesome, but will totally suck if he was born a serf and the lord of the manor discovers his ability and forces him to use it to bring him more wealth…etc. etc.—then you’re more likely to develop a world that isn’t generic but is instead a crucial piece of your story. One that has as much influence on the characters as the story events. That development only comes about by asking questions and making active decisions.

For example, in my upcoming YA fantasy, I’ve created a world that shares some similarities to Ancient Greece (emphasis on similarities as there are many things about it NOT like Ancient Greece). The reason I mined some aspects of this historical time has to do with the founding premise of the story. My main character, Kate, is a rider for the Relay, a royal courier service delivering mail across the country (think Pony Express here—and yes, this was the result of another active decision). Relay riding is a dangerous and deadly job thanks to a serious dragon problem in my imaginary world; when darkness falls, nightdrakes come out from underneath the ground and kill any human not behind the protection of the magically fortified city walls. Kate has to ride fast and make sure she gets inside.

The moment I decided on this setup—a kingdom populated by walled cities—I immediately had to make decisions about the political framework. How is this kingdom governed? Who rules here? I could’ve made an easy decision and gone with a standard medieval kingdom with the cities governed by dukes and other such nobility, all in service of the ruling family. On the surface, that might’ve worked, but it never would’ve stood up to the questioning process I described earlier. Instead I decided these cities needed to have formed independently before eventually uniting into one kingdom, under the rule of a high king. Hence, the city states of Ancient Greece became my starting off point. This process not only helped me figure out how my world works, but it provided me with loads of world building details to use later. None of the time and effort I spent making this active decision was wasted. By the end of it I had a basic understanding of the history of my world, what shaped it, and also how it shaped my characters.

This idea of active decision making isn’t just for the big picture stuff either. It applies to all the world building decisions you make, no matter how arbitrary. Do you have a scene where your cast of characters stop at the local tavern for food and wine? What kind of food do they eat? Where did the food come from? How much does it cost? How is it prepared/preserved/transported? In other words, don’t just settle for surface-level details. Question your details, get specific, go deeper, then write the results. It might be tiring, daunting, but it’s well worth it. Meaningful, specific details will make your world feel real to the reader. They don’t have to be big details. The little ones add up quickly and have big impact.

It’s like Aristotle said, “The only way to get to the universal is through the particular.”

So get particular and see what happens. You won’t regret it.


marnett_author_photo_original.jpegAbout Mindee

Mindee Arnett is the author of two young adult series: The Arkwell Academy Series, a contemporary fantasy, and the sci-fi thriller Avalon. Her next series is a high fantasy, soon to be announced. She lives on a horse farm in Ohio with her husband, two kids, a couple of dogs, and an undisclosed number of cats. When she’s not telling tales of magic, the supernatural, or outer space, she spends time riding horses and honing her first-person shooter gaming skills.

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The Nightmare Affair

Sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare.

Literally.

Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy, is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder.

Then Eli’s dream comes true.

Now Dusty has to follow the clues—both within Eli’s dreams and out of them—to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target.

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Avalon

A ragtag group of teenage mercenaries who crew the spaceship Avalon stumble upon a conspiracy that could threaten the entire galaxy in this fascinating and fast-paced sci-fi adventure from author Mindee Arnett.

Of the various star systems that make up the Confederation, most lie thousands of light-years from First Earth-and out here, no one is free. The agencies that govern the Confederation are as corrupt as the crime bosses who patrol it, and power is held by anyone with enough greed and ruthlessness to claim it. That power is derived from one thing: metatech, the devices that allow people to travel great distances faster than the speed of light.

Jeth Seagrave and his crew of teenage mercenaries have survived in this world by stealing unsecured metatech, and they’re damn good at it. Jeth doesn’t care about the politics or the law; all he cares about is earning enough money to buy back his parents’ ship, Avalon, from his crime-boss employer and getting himself and his sister, Lizzie, the heck out of Dodge. But when Jeth finds himself in possession of information that both the crime bosses and the government are willing to kill for, he is going to have to ask himself how far he’ll go to get the freedom he’s wanted for so long.

Avalon is the perfect fit for teens new to sci-fi as well as seasoned sci-fi readers looking for more books in the YA space-and a great match for fans of Joss Whedon’s cult hit show Firefly.

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Thank you so much, Mindee, for sharing the importance of decision making and your personal experiences.

A huge thank you to everyone who has participated in this feature! Your words never fall upon ungrateful minds. You are appreciated.

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Musings of Nicole Castroman

eternaldreamers

My Journey to Publication
by Nicole Castroman

I love to tell the story of how BLACKHEARTS sold. The journey for every author is different. I signed with my first literary agent in 2011. At that point, I’d written three (bad) manuscripts, but my fourth one did the trick. It didn’t sell, but I kept writing. Always be working on your next project. I cannot stress that enough. Not only does it improve your technique, but it keeps you from obsessing too much over the submissions process.

After about 18 months of working together, my agent and I decided to part ways. It happens. At the time, it was frustrating, but looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. I learned so much from her and really, in the end, things worked out for the best. I know several writers who have switched agents, for a number of reasons. It’s a part of the business and that’s exactly what this is. A business.

So, in August 2012, I was agentless. My husband suggested a family vacation to Charleston, SC to cheer me up. I love history and so I looked up everything there was to know about Charleston. I came across the fact that Blackbeard the pirate once held the entire city of Charleston hostage. That fascinated me, so I looked up more information and discovered that only the last two years of Blackbeard’s life are known.

It was believed he came from a wealthy family, because he could read and write. Some accounts have his last name listed as Drummond, although like most pirates, he changed his name to avoid dishonoring his family. Contrary to popular belief, there are no reports of him ever harming or killing anyone he took hostage. Instead, he used psychological intimidation to get what he wanted. He secured burning hemp ropes in his beard and beneath his hat, giving him the appearance of some large, smoking specter. He captured a French slave ship, freeing those on board and renaming it Queen Anne’s Revenge. Like I mentioned earlier, he held the entire city of Charleston, SC hostage. His only demand–medicine. Boom. Right there, BLACKHEARTS was born.

The words literally flew from my fingertips. I loved the characters and the story so much, it really was a joy to write. I’m not sure exactly how many queries I sent out, but I had several requests for partials and fulls. I signed with Adams Literary in January of 2013. It’s an honor to be part of their team.

But BLACKHEARTS didn’t sell immediately. It took a year before it sold to S&S. At the time, S&S only bought one book. Well, BLACKHEARTS hadn’t been out for a month and it went to a second printing. And S&S bought a sequel. Yay! BLACKSOULS comes out on April 11, 2017.

Can I please talk about both of my covers? I thought the cover to BLACKHEARTS was fabulous. But when I saw the cover for BLACKSOULS?!? It literally took my breath away! I couldn’t be happier.


Authorcolsmall.jpgAbout Nicole

Nicole was lucky enough to come with her very own best friend…she has a twin sister who can read her mind and finish her sentences for her.

At the age of 13, she went to Europe for the first time and it changed her life. She loves learning about different people, languages and cultures and speaks fluent German. She knows enough Spanish to get herself into trouble and can still read the Cyrillic alphabet from when she studied Russian.

She received her B.A. from Brigham Young University and has lived in Germany, Austria and two different places called Georgia. One is the country located on the Black Sea. The other is the state of Georgia where she now lives with her handsome husband and two beautiful children who continue to amaze her.

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coverBlackhearts

Blackbeard the pirate was known for striking fear in the hearts of the bravest of sailors. But once he was just a young man who dreamed of leaving his rigid life behind to chase adventure in faraway lands. Nothing could stop him—until he met the one girl who would change everything.

Edward “Teach” Drummond, son of one of Bristol’s richest merchants, has just returned from a year-long journey on the high seas to find his life in shambles. Betrothed to a girl he doesn’t love and sick of the high society he was born into, Teach dreams only of returning to the vast ocean he’d begun to call home. There’s just one problem: convincing his father to let him leave and never come back.

Following her parents’ deaths, Anne Barrett is left penniless and soon to be homeless. Though she’s barely worked a day in her life, Anne is forced to take a job as a maid in the home of Master Drummond. Lonely days stretch into weeks, and Anne longs for escape. How will she ever realize her dream of sailing to Curaçao—where her mother was born—when she’s stuck in England?

From the moment Teach and Anne meet, they set the world ablaze. Drawn to each other, they’re trapped by society and their own circumstances. Faced with an impossible choice, they must decide to chase their dreams and go, or follow their hearts and stay.

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Nicole Castroman brings the dangerous pirate ports of the Caribbean to life in this vibrant sequel to Blackhearts—the reimagined origin story of history’s most infamous pirate, Blackbeard.

Edward “Teach” Drummond is setting sail to the Caribbean as first mate on the most celebrated merchant ship in the British fleet—until he rebels against his captain. Mutiny is a capital offense and Teach knows it could cost him his life, but he believes it worth the risk in order to save his crew from the attacking Spanish ships.

Sailing on the same blue waters, Anne barely avoids the Spanish attack, making it safely to Nassau. But lawless criminals, corrupt politics, and dangerous intentions fill the crowded streets of this Caribbean port. Soon, Anne discovers that the man entrusted to keep the peace is quite possibly the most treacherous of them all—and he just happens to hold Teach’s fate in his terrifying hands.

Life and death hang in the balance when Teach and Anne are given a dangerous mission. It’s a mission that will test their love, loyalty and devotion, forcing them down a path neither one could have ever imagined.

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Thank you so much, Nicole, for sharing your story with us! It’s so important to never give up hope, and to understand that everyone reaches success at different times and different ways.

A huge thank you to everyone who has participated in this feature! Your words never fall upon ungrateful minds. You are appreciated.

We hope you have a great rest of your week!

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Waiting on Wednesday: Empress of a Thousand Skies

waitingonwednesday

The book pick for this week’s wow sounds amazing! I know I can’t wait to read it and luckily it’s not that far away!

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Title: Empress of a Thousand Skies

Author: Rhoda Belleza

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Science Fiction

Page Count: 344

Release Date: February 7th, 2017

Summary:

Empress
Rhee, also known as Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an, is the sole surviving heir to a powerful dynasty. She’ll stop at nothing to avenge her family and claim her throne.

Fugitive
Aly has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. But when he’s falsely accused of killing Rhee, he’s forced to prove his innocence to save his reputation – and his life.

Madman
With planets on the brink of war, Rhee and Aly are thrown together to confront a ruthless evil that threatens the fate of the entire galaxy.

A saga of vengeance, warfare, and the true meaning of legacy.

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About the Author:

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Rhoda Belleza was raised in Los Angeles, where she grew up writing XFiles fanfiction and stuffing her face with avocados. When she’s not writing, Rhoda obsesses over nail art tutorials, watches kung fu movies, and sews together crooked things that pass for clothes. She’s a children’s editor at a publishing house and writes from a sunny Brooklyn apartment stuffed far too many bikes and far too many shoes. Empress of a Thousand Skies is her debut novel.

TTT: Illustrated Books We Love

toptentuesday

hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week is all about the visuals, from graphic novels to manga to picture books!  We decided to do a combination of all the illustrated books!

  

Lauren’s Picks


1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (illustrated)


2. Percy Jackson Graphic Novels


3. Black Cat by Kentaro Yabuki


4. Oh The Places You’ll Go by Dr Seuss


5. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S Lewis

 
 

Melissa’s Picks


1. Elephant and Piggie We Are In a Book by Mo Willems


2. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers (Niece was obssessed with this)


3. Press Here by Hervé Tullet  (Anoter of Niece’s favorites)


4. Sailor Moon manga by Naoko Takeuchi


5. Fruits Basket

 
 

Kelly’s Picks


1. Go the F**k to Sleep by Adam Mansbasch


2. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang


3. Biscuit by Alyssa Satin Capucilli


4. Creole by Stephan Cosgrove


5. The Absolutely True Dairy of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie


What are some of your favorite illustrated books? Let us know in the comments below!!

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Musings of Jennifer Donnelly

eternaldreamers

On Conquering Writer’s Block
by Jennifer Donnelly

A question I get asked a lot is this one: How do you handle Writer’s Block?

Here’s my answer: Writer’s Block is like the monster under the bed – it only exists if you think it does.

I don’t believe in it. In fact, I think the whole concept is baloney. Evil baloney. It scares writers, especially young ones, and makes them think they’re powerless victims of some huge, ugly force outside of their control. It sets up an expectation of failure.

Writing, like a lot of things, is hard and frustrating. Getting from a lovely, sparkly, beguiling little wisp of an idea to a finished novel takes dirty, ugly, faith-shaking work, and lots of it.

Struggling, coming up blank, getting stuck…that stuff isn’t writer’s block. It’s normal.

False starts, dead ends, plot holes you could drive a Zamboni through…normal.

The stack of scribbled pages on your desk, the five unfinished drafts on your computer, the hopeless print-out in a box on the floor of your closet…that, too, is normal.

All this stuff doesn’t mean your story is doomed. It doesn’t mean you suck. What it means is that you haven’t thought your essay or term paper or novel through properly and you’ve stalled out because of it.

I’m on my thirteenth novel and I still stall out. A lot. I get stuck. There are times when I want to scream and yell and sweep everything off my desk. But I don’t. Because I can’t. Writing is my art; it’s also my livelihood. I have contracts and deadlines and I need to meet them if I want to paid.

This is how I get unstuck...

I move away from my computer screen.

I get a stack of blank white paper. (I use the backs of old manuscripts.)

And a good pen.

Then I sit down and start writing out questions on what’s wrong with my story. The more specific, the better. Such as: Why is my main character two-dimensional? Why is my dialogue flat? Why is the love scene in Chapter Four a total joke?

Sometimes I can’t be specific. Because I don’t know what’s wrong. When that happens, I write this question: Why does this entire book suck?

And then I wait, and think about my question. Maybe for seconds. Maybe for minutes. And then it’s like there’s a Ouija Board in my head, and it starts spelling out the answers. Sometimes they come slowly. Sometimes fast. Either way, I write them all down.

There seems to be something about getting away from my computer screen and applying ink to paper that allows me to identify the problems with my story, and find the answers.

This method might work for you, or you might have to find your own way out of a stall, but as you do, know this: nothing controls your progress but you. Look inside your own head, not under the bed.

© Jennifer Donnelly 2017


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About Jennifer

Jennifer Donnelly is an award-winning, best-selling author of books for young adults and adults, including the Waterfire Saga: DEEP BLUE, ROGUE WAVE, DARK TIDE, and SEA SPELL. Her other young adult novels include These Shallow Graves, Revolution, and A Northern Light, winner of Britain’s prestigious Carnegie Medal, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Literature, and a Michael L. Printz Honor. She has also written Humble Pie, a picture book, and the adult novels The Tea Rose, The Winter Rose, and The Wild Rose. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley. You can visit her at jenniferdonnelly.com, or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @jenwritesbooks.

Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


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Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book

Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book (On sale January 31) is an enchanting original story set in the world of the upcoming Walt Disney Studios film, Beauty and the Beast.

Smart, bookish Belle, a captive in the Beast’s castle, has become accustomed to her new home and has befriended its inhabitants. When she comes upon Nevermore, an enchanted book unlike anything else she has seen in the castle, Belle finds herself pulled into its pages and transported to a world of glamour and intrigue. The adventures Belle has always imagined, the dreams she was forced to give up when she became a prisoner, seem within reach again.

The charming and mysterious characters Belle meets in within the pages of Nevermore offer her sparkling conversation, a life of dazzling Parisian luxury, and even a reunion she never thought possible. Here Belle can have everything she has ever wished for. But what about her friends in the Beast’s castle? Can Belle trust her new companions inside the pages Nevermore? Is Nevermore’s world even real? Belle must uncover the truth about the book, before she loses herself in it forever.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound


Thank you so much to Jennifer for sparing your time to write this wonderful piece of advice! We all need to step away from the computer once in a while, and I think I’m going to be trying something very close to this tactic next time I get stuck! =)

As always, a special thank you to everyone who has contributed to this feature. Your advice never falls on unappreciative ears. Your words mean so much more than you know. Thank you!

We hope everyone has a wonderful rest of your week!

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TTT: Freebie – Series We Need to Start

toptentuesday

hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Whoops kind of slacked on Top Ten Tuesday last week and this week. Sorry guys!! Without further ado, here’s our list of series we still need to start!

Lauren’s Picks

The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows series by Leigh Bardugo

The Witchlands series by Susan Dennard

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

The Wrath and the Dawn series by Renee Ahdieh

Something Strange and Deadly series by Susan Dennard

Melissa’s Picks

Protector of the Small series by Tamora Pierce

The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman

Jackaby series by William Ritter

Curse Workers series by Holly Black

Abhorsen series by Garth Nix

The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer


Are there any here that you still need to start? Let us know in the comments below!

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Musings of Claire Legrand

eternaldreamers

Don’t Be Afraid To Take Time For Yourself (and Your Words)
by Claire Legrand

I love being part of the writing community. I’ve been active on Twitter since 2009, and I blogged pretty steadily for a few years, too. Via social media I’ve met amazing people and forged some incredible friendships. I’ve also learned a lot—about the publishing industry, the writing craft, the experiences of marginalized communities, and how to better articulate my thoughts about my own mental illness.

For any human being, existing as part of a community is healthy. For a writer, it’s essential. Writing can be a fulfilling—but lonely—endeavor. We need friends and writing partners around us who understand why we do this, who understand the sacrifice and the discipline and the brain-twisting work that goes into creating a book. We need fresh eyes on our words, to ensure they haven’t become too precious. We need friends within the community to reach out and let us know when we’ve screwed up, when they need a hug, when we need a hug.

But sometimes? Sometimes, being part of a community can feel noisy, even overwhelming. Sometimes you need a break from the hustle and bustle of social media.

One of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve ever gotten is to “keep your eyes on your own paper.” But that is difficult to do when you’re plugged in to multiple social media platforms every day. You can’t help but see what everyone else is working on and accomplishing. You can’t help but measure yourself against the achievements of others. And that takes time and energy away from the central work of, you know, actually writing your book.

As important as community is, it’s equally important to step away from it when you need to. If you’re anything like me, you suffer from a severe case of FOMO. That is, Fear Of Missing Out. I’m on a social media hiatus right now, and sometimes my brain screams at me, “For the love of everything holy, get back on Twitter right now! You’ll miss out on A Thing! You’re not being a responsible and vocal member of the community! You’ll lose followers! People will forget about you! Your book sales will plummet!”

But aside from those moments of FOMO guilt and panic? My hiatus has been a blessing. In addition to working my part-time jobs, I’m writing thousands of words per day. My head is clearer; my chest isn’t quite as clenched with fear that I’m not writing quickly enough, or selling enough books, or that I’m not clever enough on Twitter, or that I don’t have the right number of followers. All that noise—it’s not there right now. And without it? I can focus on the work. And the work is the thing.

I miss being a part of the active daily community online. Sometimes I feel guilty for not being there. But I also know that I needed to do this, for myself and for my manuscript. I needed to unplug, to step back, to close the door. Not forever, but for a while. I needed help keeping my eyes on my own paper, at least until I type “the end” on this first draft. (Drafting, by the way, is the worrrrst.)

And you know what? That’s okay.

In Some Kind of Happiness, Finley learns that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it. In real life, I have learned that it’s okay to step away when you need it, for your own sake and for the sake of your work. Please don’t be afraid to sign off and unplug. Embrace that peace and quiet. Use it to hone your focus. Use it to read, refill that creative well, and focus on making your words the best words they can be.

That’s the greatest thing about the writing community—everyone gets it. We’re all on this wild creative journey together. And we’ll all be there, happy to see you, when you get back.


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About Claire

Claire Legrand used to be a musician until she realized she couldn’t stop thinking about the stories in her head. Now she is a writer and former librarian living in central New Jersey (although her heart will always live in her home state of Texas).

Her first novel is The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, one of the New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing in 2012. She is also the author of The Year of Shadows, a ghost story for middle grade readers; and Winterspell, a young adult re-telling of The Nutcracker. She is also the author of Some Kind of Happiness, a middle grade novel about mental illness, family secrets, and the power of storytelling, which was one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2016. Her latest novel, Foxheart, is a classic fantasy-adventure and a 2016 Junior Library Guild selection. She is one of the four authors behind The Cabinet of Curiosities, an anthology of dark middle grade short fiction that was a Junior Library Guild selection, a Bank Street Best Book, and among the New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing in 2014.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads


Foxheart

Orphan. Thief. Witch.

Twelve-year-old Quicksilver dreams of becoming the greatest thief in the Star Lands. With her faithful dog and partner-in-crime Fox, she’s well on her way—even if that constantly lands them both in trouble. It’s a lonesome life, sleeping on rooftops and stealing food for dinner, but Quicksilver doesn’t mind. When you’re alone, no one can hurt you. Or abandon you.

But the seemingly peaceful Star Lands are full of danger. Witches still exist—although the powerful Wolf King and his seven wolves have been hunting them for years. Thankfully, his bloody work is almost complete. Soon the Star Lands will be safe, free of the witches and their dark magic.

Then one day a strange old woman and her scruffy dog arrive in Quicksilver’s town and perform extraordinary magic. Real magic—forbidden and dangerous. Magic Quicksilver is desperate to learn. With magic like that, she could steal anything her heart desires. She could even find her parents.

But the old woman is not what she seems, and soon Quicksilver has to decide—will she stay at home and remain a thief? Or will she embark upon the adventure of a lifetime and become a legend?

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Some Kind of Happiness

THINGS FINLEY HART DOESN’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT

• Her parents, who are having problems. (But they pretend like they’re not.)
• Being sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer.
• Never having met said grandparents.
• Her blue days—when life feels overwhelming, and it’s hard to keep her head up. (This happens a lot.)

Finley’s only retreat is the Everwood, a forest kingdom that exists in the pages of her notebook. Until she discovers the endless woods behind her grandparents’ house and realizes the Everwood is real–and holds more mysteries than she’d ever imagined, including a family of pirates that she isn’t allowed to talk to, trees covered in ash, and a strange old wizard living in a house made of bones.

With the help of her cousins, Finley sets out on a mission to save the dying Everwood and uncover its secrets. But as the mysteries pile up and the frightening sadness inside her grows, Finley realizes that if she wants to save the Everwood, she’ll first have to save herself.

Reality and fantasy collide in this powerful, heartfelt novel about family, depression, and the power of imagination.

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Claire, thank you so much for taking the time to write this article and discuss the effects of social media and the outside world on your own mental and writing health. Interacting with other people through any portal can be over whelming, tiresome, and sometimes even draining. We all need to take some time for ourselves now and again, refresh, and get away from the world in order to find our love and/or gift of writing again.

As always, thank you so much to everyone who participates in this feature. Your words never fall on unappreciative ears. You’re helping so many new writers!

We hope you all have a wonderful rest of your week!

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