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

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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

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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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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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coverblacksoulsBlacksouls

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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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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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Musings of Jaye Robin Brown

eternaldreamers

FINDING THE FLAWS
by Jaye Robin Brown

We’ve all heard the phrase “to err is human”. That’s part of why, particularly in writing contemporary young adult fiction, it’s important to imbue your characters with flaw as well as shine. Characters should be on a journey, whether inward or outward, and somewhere along the way they must hit some road blocks. Otherwise they wouldn’t be believable.

So how do you find your character’s flaws while still making them someone the reader wants to travel along with for the ride? I think there a couple of factors involved to settle on flaws that feel most organic to your character.

Foremost is plot. What flaw can you give your character that will stymie them as they travel through the scenes? In Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit, Joanna is faced with having to hide her queerness to satisfy a request from her father. It was easy for me to see how she needed to mess up. She needed to believe she could spin half truths about herself without it affecting anyone around her. Of course, she was wrong and her over-confidence almost messed up everything. If I had written a backwoods adventure story, maybe my main character would have had recklessness issues that would lead them into larger danger. Or I might put a know-it-all in with a group of new, smart friends. What is the external flaw that will make the plot more difficult for your character?

Secondly, I think about what my character’s interior arc is. When Joanna agreed to go along with her dad, part of what she had going on deep inside was relief. If she could hide behind a false truth, then she’d never have to face the fear of rejection in her new environment. For her, this willingness to turtle away, meant she kept people at arm’s length and in turn, she ended up judging them as much as she feared their judgment.

And here is the MIND-BLOWING tidbit: the thing that is best about your character can ALSO be their flaw. Joanna Gordon sees the goodness in all and wants to be good for all. Which makes her a people pleaser. She sacrifices for her father in order to please him, to be good. But in sacrificing for him, she sacrifices herself in a way that’s not okay. Her want to please blinds her from seeing that he shouldn’t have asked to start with, and that perhaps the best and good thing to have done, would have been to stand up to him from the start. Then, her father could have found his own way to being his best self, rather than asking her to lie low for her senior year.

Human beings are complex. Things like fear and recklessness and over confidence can help us achieve greatness, but they can also hold us back. The trick in writing is to find a way to showcase these dual natures inside of us that fit with your character’s story. The thing propelling them forward can, in its deeper forms, also hold them back. Find your main character’s duality and you’ll discover their fullness! Let their particular story, guide you in your writing.


jaye-robin-brownAbout Jaye

Jaye Robin Brown, or Jro to her friends, has been many things in her life–jeweler, mediator, high school art teacher–but recently she’s taken the plunge into full-time writer life. She’s a Southerner at heart, by way of Alabama, then Atlanta, and for many years just outside of Asheville, but now she’s moved north for a bit of city living. Boston baby! And though she’d like to think brownstones might find a way into her fiction, she figures kudzu will always be what comes to her imagination first.

Her debut young adult novel, NO PLACE TO FALL, came out in the fall of 2014 from Harper Teen. It’s about dreams, singing, friendship, love, betrayal, family, and mistakes. It’s also a love song to small town girls and mountain music, both of which shape the area that Jaye now calls home. In April 2016, a companion novella, WILL’S STORY: A NO PLACE TO FALL NOVELLA, released from Epic Reads Impulse, a digital only imprint, and follows Will McKinney’s side of the story. Her sophomore novel, GEORGIA PEACHES AND OTHER FORBIDDEN FRUIT, released August 30, 2016, also from Harper Teen, and is the story of Jo Gordon, the out lesbian daughter of a moderate evangelical minister and what happens when he marries for the third time and they move from Atlanta to small-town Northern Georgia. It’s a love story and a look at the sometimes conundrum of having faith and being queer.

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Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit

Joanna Gordon has been out and proud for years, but when her popular radio evangelist father remarries and decides to move all three of them from Atlanta to the more conservative Rome, Georgia, he asks Jo to do the impossible: to lie low for the rest of her senior year. And Jo reluctantly agrees.

Although it is (mostly) much easier for Jo to fit in as a straight girl, things get complicated when she meets Mary Carlson, the oh-so-tempting sister of her new friend at school. But Jo couldn’t possibly think of breaking her promise to her dad. Even if she’s starting to fall for the girl. Even if there’s a chance Mary Carlson might be interested in her, too. Right?

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No Place to Fall

No Place to Fall

Amber Vaughn is a good girl. She sings solos at church, babysits her nephew after school, and spends every Friday night hanging out at her best friend Devon’s house. It’s only when Amber goes exploring in the woods near her home, singing camp songs with the hikers she meets on the Appalachian Trail, that she feels free—and when the bigger world feels just a little bit more in reach.

When Amber learns about an audition at the North Carolina School of the Arts, she decides that her dream—to sing on bigger stages—could also be her ticket to a new life. Devon’s older (and unavailable) brother, Will, helps Amber prepare for her one chance to try out for the hypercompetitive arts school. But the more time Will and Amber spend together, the more complicated their relationship becomes . . . and Amber starts to wonder if she’s such a good girl, after all.

Then, in an afternoon, the bottom drops out of her family’s world—and Amber is faced with an impossible choice between her promise as an artist and the people she loves. Amber always thought she knew what a good girl would do. But between “right” and “wrong,” there’s a whole world of possibilities.

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A big thank you to Jaye for writing this article! Even as an agent, editing is still hard, especially when you’ve looked at and read that manuscript over, and over, and over again. These tips can definitely help, and we thank you so much for opening up and being a great inspiration to new writers every where!

As always, a huge thank you to all who have participated in this feature. We love Musings, and you all are helping so many new writers complete their first books, continue fighting for their shot at being published, and just keep the hope. Your time and your words don’t go unappreciated!

We hope you have a wonderful rest of your week!

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Musings of Destiny Soria

eternaldreamers

How to Rescue Your NaNoWriMo Novel:
A Study in the Virtues of Chocolate and Fizzy Drinks
by Destiny Soria

It’s December. You’ve had a whole month’s worth of distance from the 50,000 words that consumed your entire November. You open the document. Depending on whether your proverbial glass is half-full or half-empty, you start reading with either gleeful abandon or miserable trepidation. Regardless, I can promise you that the conclusion you’ll reach by the end (or in the most cases, by the end of the third chapter) is that this is utter and complete garbage, and you’ve wasted thirty days of your life, and oh the horror, etc. etc. ad nauseam. If your conclusion is none of these things, then congratulations you’ve achieved the highest level of ascendency, continue onward to fame and fortune. Or possibly you are sloshing about in a state of egg nog-induced delirium and should maybe take a nap before proceeding.

As for the rest of us, those poor souls leading their lives of quiet desperation at just how terrible we are at writing, we are faced with a choice. Option #1: Bury the “novel” in a folder so deep in the bowels of your computer that it will never again see the light of day. Option #2: Dust off the red pen and get to work.

For those of you who choose Option #1, I commend you for a draft well-finished. Carry on without shame to the “Third” section of this post.

For those of you who choose Option #2, you have a long and lonely road ahead, full of weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Unless you like editing better than drafting, in which case, the hard part is over!)

I’ve won NaNoWriMo five times, so I consider myself fairly seasoned in that regard. But I’ve only revised one of those winners (heavy air quotes) into a real actual novel—my debut Iron Cast. So in the NaNo revision department, I’m in the same boat as most of you, and probably several strokes behind those who are more dedicated than I. All the same, I’ve got a few tips that helped me survive my miserable trepidation (oh yes, my glass is always half-empty) and salvage a novel from the wreckage.

First

Go easy on yourself. You wrote a novel! In thirty days! No matter how terrible it is, that’s an accomplishment worth celebrating. I recommend chocolate and a fizzy drink. And while you’re treating yourself, take a few minutes to write down everything that works in this draft. It can be as broad as a plot twist you’re proud of or as specific as a witty line of dialogue that you love. I promise the manuscript, no matter how disjointed or rambling, is peppered with these gems. Having them written out will not only help you during revisions, but it will also remind you how awesome you are.

Second

Find the revision process that works best for you—not what you think is the “right” or “best” process. I’ve known authors who covered a wall with every beat of the novel on note cards before they even touch the first sentence, and I’ve known authors who start at Page 1 and revise/rewrite everything in order. And if you’ve revised novels before, what worked then might not necessarily work for you this time. Don’t be afraid to branch out if your tried and true methods aren’t quite so true anymore. Here’s my personal process, which might be worth trying if you’re not sure what works for you:

-I set my critique group loose on the draft. Sometimes I have an idea of what I want to keep/change, but mostly I just let them tell me what they think is working or not and what characters/concepts they wanted to see more or less. Nothing’s off limits.

-Keeping my critique group’s comments in mind, I write out a list of all the changes I want to make, big and small. Obviously it’s not an exhaustive list at this point, and for every item I cross off, I usually end up adding two more. But for me lists are much easier to tackle than 50K+ words all at once.

-I make changes chronologically, chapter by chapter. I know a lot of writers who prefer to start with big picture and work their way down to small. There’s any number of ways to do it, but the important thing is that you dive in. The most daunting part of the editing process is actually starting. Once you’ve gotten that over with, the rest is much easier.

-Once all the items on my list are crossed off, I consider my second draft complete. If possible, I take a break for a couple weeks to clear my mind. The third draft involves more hard-hitting edits—usually a lot of cutting and being sad about the things I’m cutting. I might have another critique partner give their thoughts at this stage too, just to make sure everything is cohesive.

Third

Have some more chocolate and fizzy drink. You earned it.

Fourth

Once your draft is fighting fit, you can move on to the next stage of the never-ending publishing process (assuming that’s what you want, of course). If you’re looking for tips on what to do next, Live, Love, Read has got you covered. (Personally, I recommend the posts by Ava Jae, Rebecca Podos, and Elise Kova.) No matter what stage you’re in—querying, submission, crying under the kitchen table—the important thing to remember is that you did the thing! You did the thing that almost everyone you meet in your entire life is going to tell you they wish they could do, and that is finish a novel. I salute you.


Headshot_small.jpgAbout Destiny

Destiny Soria grew up in a tiny town in Alabama that you’ve never heard of, where she spent her summers playing with sticks in the woods and exploring such distinguished careers as Forest Bandit, Wayward Orphan, and Woodland Fairy Princess. After college, she ran away to New Zealand for seven months and only pretended to be a character from Lord of the Rings on special occasions. Nowadays she lives and works in the shadow of the mighty Vulcan in Birmingham, AL.

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Iron Cast

Iron Cast

In 1919, Ada Navarra—the intrepid daughter of immigrants—and Corinne Wells—a spunky, devil-may-care heiress—make an unlikely pair. But at the Cast Iron nightclub in Boston, anything and everything is possible. At night, on stage together, the two best friends, whose “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art, weave magic under the employ of Johnny Dervish, the club’s owner and a notorious gangster. By day, Ada and Corinne use these same skills to con the city’s elite in an attempt to keep the club afloat.

When a “job” goes awry and Ada is imprisoned, she realizes they’re on the precipice of danger. Only Corinne—her partner in crime—can break her out of Haversham Asylum. But once Ada is out, they face betrayal at every turn.

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Thank you so much, Destiny, for this wonderful post! You are just the sweetest for being a reader of Musings, as well! Plus, who doesn’t love chocolate and fizzy drinks?! You’re amazing, just like your book!

Thank you so much to everyone who is a part of Musings. Your words of advice never go unnoticed and unappreciated.

We hope you all have an amazing rest of your week!

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Musings of Audrey Greathouse

eternaldreamers

Pattern Matching: Creating Unity in Stories
by Audrey Greathouse

Intelligence is often portrayed as a logical and analytical skill, but humans are really very emotional creatures whose intelligence has evolved and is exercised through the practice of matching patterns. So much of our knowledge comes from what we recognize, and our ability to detect similarities to previous stimuli when confronted by new stimuli, whether that is physical, social, or intellectual in nature.

But what implication does this have for writing and reading stories?

Because it is so key to our survival, our brains love matching patterns, even in fictive realities. We love a dramatic reveal that brings back a character we had almost forgotten about, multiple storylines slowly woven together, or a mystery that pulls all preceding clues together. Whether the narrative is linear or nonlinear, readers want a sense that every new chapter is inexorably linked to the preceding content.

All of this is encompassed by the literary element of unity, an element which is embedded in every other aspect of your book. Characters must be consistent, plots must be cohesive, and diction must conform to the style you are writing in. One of the best ways to achieve this, however, is by thinking in terms of patterns.

Can you imagine your characters as patterns? Start with their motivation: can you distill their motives down to a simple statement of character that can be applied to all their actions and dialogue? If your character is angry because he is poor, and determined to get rich at any cost, this gives you a basic formula with which you can build his emotional and physical responses to any plot event.

Of course, if we left character development at that, we’d have a very one-dimensional character. We need more motives, more personality… but these should stem from the initial pattern. Perhaps, being drawn to wealth, he falls in love with a rich girl and we see a softer side of this character. Maybe his exasperation with poverty transforms, at times, into a feeling of worthlessness or profound ambition. Envision backstory for your character (even if you only ever hint at it within the story) so you understand where his motivation comes from and so you can create concrete images to demonstrate his character. We can imagine his mother fell sick and passed away because his family could not pay medical bills, or his father gambled their money away, and these details better show (instead of tell) why he is angry.

But let’s dig deeper still. Let’s say he remembers his mother laying in bed in her favorite yellow dress and how her coughing sounded like cats yowling in the night. From that moment on you have arrows of imagery and metaphor in your storytelling quiver. Yellow and cats yowling are both concrete images, and can become patterns if you return to them. If the mother also grew daffodils in her garden, she becomes better associated with yellow, and for the rest of the book the color yellow has an emotional meaning unique to your story. You can manipulate this to remind the reader of the character’s mother, or the root of his motivation. Let your character notice yellow things. Put yellow objects in your story when you want to illustrate something about his emotional state. And, when he is suffering, let him hear cats yowling in the alley.

As soon as you hit writer’s block, the first place you should look for inspiration is earlier in the manuscript. What have you introduced—maybe never intending to use—that you can bring back to forward your plot? What little helpful tools have you already embedded in your character’s world? Never invent a new minor character for something an existing minor character can do. Rather, bring back what you have already established and give your reader the pleasure of recognizing it—the sensation of running into an old friend again unexpectedly.

The result will be a tight story and a sense of unity among your characters that is possible only in the realm of fiction. Real life is never so poetic. Many aspiring writers shy away from repetition, afraid that they will seem redundant or too novelistic. While this is a pitfall to be aware of, many writers go too far in the other direction. Writing is a limitless canvass, the most expansive of all sandbox games. The goal is not to take full advantage of this, but rather to take artful advantage of it.

When designing your story, remember Chekhov’s Gun: “Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”

The converse is also true. Introduce nothing when you need it, always before. Go back and hang all your guns on the wall before anyone needs to shoot someone. The more you reference or allude to elements that will become important, the more natural it will seem when they come into play. Whatever elements you introduce, whether they are characters, props, or plot points, remember to make patterns out of them. Nothing is single-use in a story. Your language conveys physical actions and images as well as their emotional implications. Don’t forget to capitalize on those emotional implications and bring them back to the forefront of the reader’s attention whenever possible. If the protagonist stumbles onto his estranged father playing poker in a bar, it will only be as powerful as the emotions, as the patterns, you have already established. Give your readers things to pay attention to. Engage their minds the same way life does: by showing them patterns and relying on them to experience the joy of discovery and sense of familiarity as they match them.


PhotoGreathouse.jpgAbout Audrey

Audrey is the author of the bestselling YA fantasy novel The Neverland Wars and it’s sequel, The Piper’s Price, coming 2/21/2017. Native to Seattle, she can usually be found somewhere along the west coast. Her hobbies include writing and wishing she was writing, however, she has also been known to play piano and eat fire when she can’t find a pen.

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The Neverland Wars

Magic can do a lot―give you flight, show you mermaids, help you taste the stars, and… solve the budget crisis? That’s what the grown-ups will do with it if they ever make it to Neverland to steal its magic and bring their children home.

However, Gwen doesn’t know this. She’s just a sixteen-year-old girl with a place on the debate team and a powerful crush on Jay, the soon-to-be homecoming king. She doesn’t know her little sister could actually run away with Peter Pan, or that she might have to chase after her to bring her home safe. Gwen will find out though―and when she does, she’ll discover she’s in the middle of a looming war between Neverland and reality.

She’ll be out of place as a teenager in Neverland, but she won’t be the only one. Peter Pan’s constant treks back to the mainland have slowly aged him into adolescence as well. Soon, Gwen will have to decide whether she’s going to join impish, playful Peter in his fight for eternal youth… or if she’s going to scramble back to reality in time for the homecoming dance.

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The Piper’s Price

Peter is plotting his retaliation against the latest bombing. Neverland needs an army, and Peter Pan is certain children will join him once they know what is at stake. The lost boys and girls are planning an invasion in suburbia to recruit, but in order to deliver their message, they will need the help of an old and dangerous associate—the infamous Pied Piper.

Hunting him down will require a spy in in the real world, and Gwen soon finds herself in charge of locating the Piper and cutting an uncertain deal with him. She isn’t sure if Peter trusts her that much, or if he’s just trying to keep her away from him in Neverland. Are they friends, or just allies? But Peter might not even matter now that she’s nearly home and meeting with Jay again.

The Piper isn’t the only one hiding from the adults’ war on magic though, and when Gwen goes back to reality, she’ll have to confront one of Peter’s oldest friends… and one of his earliest enemies.

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Thank you so much Audrey for such an insightful post! Pattern matching is actually really difficult for most writers, esepcially when you’re trying to figure out sub-plots, point of views, and multiple characters. Sometimes it just doesn’t gel, but it will eventually. =) Thank you for your extremely thoughtful advice on this not so talked about obstacle!

As always, thank you so much to everyone who has been a part of this feature. Your words of advice and support mean so much to those who are struggling through their writing. Thank you!

Have a wonderful rest of your week, and Happy New Year to those who celebrate! =)

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Musings of Erin Summerill

eternaldreamers

8 GREAT WRITING RULES
by Erin Summerill

I recently was asked to speak at a local high school about my debut novel Ever The Hunted. After I shared my publication story, most of the questions that came from the students were about my writing process. Like them, I remembered the years when I was so eager to learn about publishing. Like my goldendoodle salivates for bone, I would sit in the front row at writing conferences, listening to authors speak about their writing process. I eagerly waited for a morsel of knowledge that would help me break into the world of publishing. Or at the very least, help me write something that was publication worthy. So I started collecting tips and pieces of information that helped me get a better handle on my novel writing.

Now that I’m practically sitting on the eve of my debut’s release, I can honestly say that the writing rules I’ve lived by have helped me on my road to publication. If you’re an aspiring author, or a seasoned writer maybe you’ll have a set of your own rules. But maybe, my 8 Great Writing Rules will give you something more to think about.

1. Give your reader a reason to turn the first page…and then the next.

Keep the stakes high in a novel, making each page a page-turner.

2. Trash it.

If the scene isn’t working, throw it out and start again. This can apply to a whole novel. If it’s not working, don’t be afraid to trash it.

3. Make it come to life.

The setting in every scene needs to feel real and lifelike. Make the reader feel like they’re walking through the pages of your book, breathing the air of your world, and feeling the atmosphere you created. Show, show, show. Don’t tell.

4. Know your theme.

Know what the character’s are learning in the book, and weave that lesson into the core of the novel.

5. When you’re done editing, edit some more.

6. Write. Write one sentence a day. Maybe it’ll turn into a paragraph, or a page, or a chapter. But at least write one sentence a day.

7. Accept criticism as the tool used to carve you into the best storyteller you can be.

8. READ.


About Erin

Erin Summerill was born in England. After spending years bouncing between Air Force bases in Hawaii, England, and California, her family settled in Utah, where Erin graduated with a B.A. in English from Brigham Young University. She had aspirations to write the next great American novel, but writing proved tougher than she first thought. So she grabbed a Nikon and became a professional photographer while crafting manuscript after manuscript. The scenic detour of shooting weddings across the United States, as well as internationally, provided world-building inspiration. It gave her the vision to draft her debut YA fantasy, EVER THE HUNTED. Now when she isn’t writing, or shooting a wedding, she’s chasing her four kids, two dogs, one cat, and five chickens. This could be why she downs massive amounts of Coke Zero and Hot tamales.

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Ever the Hunted (Clash of Kingdoms, #1)

Ever the Hunted
Releases December 27th!

Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound | Book Depository


Thank you so much to Erin for these wonderful writing tips! Sometimes we all just need to hear it straight and find guidelines to go by when we’re stuck or down-hearted. We so appreciate your time and are thankful for your wonderful words of advice!

Thank you to everyone who has participated in this feature. Your amazing advice doesn’t go unheard, and you all are helping more writers than you could ever know!

Have a wonderful rest of your week and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!!!!

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