Musings of Nic Stone

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Get Out Of The Way
By Nic Stone

I didn’t think I could write fiction.

“I’m not creative or imaginative enough,” I said. “To come up with a whole story? What would I even write about? There’s just no way.”

The truth is I was scared. People who looked like me didn’t populate bestseller or required reading lists. They weren’t even in the books I read. Not in a way I could identify with at least. I wasn’t an escaped slave or a person deemed stupid because I spoke broken English or a guy falsely accused of a horrible crime (and then killed for it).

I was a book-loving black girl with a thirst for adventure who loved to tromp through the woods. That girl didn’t exist in books. So I didn’t think she could.

And since the story I knew best was my own, but my own clearly wasn’t what anyone wanted to read, I didn’t think I could write fiction. I couldn’t imagine being a little white kid slaying a dragon and saving the world–so I wasn’t imaginative enough. I couldn’t create a world where people like me didn’t actually exist–so I wasn’t creative enough.

But then something happened: the more I read, the emptier I felt. I could no longer ignore the lack of people who looked and lived like ME in the stuff I was reading.

And there WAS a story building in my bones, itching to get out. About a brown girl saving the day. I tried to ignore it, but the plot points and dialogue kept coming and coming. The story wouldn’t leave me alone.

So I decided to give it a shot. Put words, ideas, mental images to paper. Turns out I’d been wrong about myself. I COULD write fiction. I WAS– AM–imaginative enough, creative enough.

I just needed to get out of my own way.

Maybe you do, too.


13525503About Nic Stone

Nic Stone was born and raised in a suburb of Atlanta, GA, and the only thing she loves more than an adventure is a good story about one. After graduating from Spelman College, she worked extensively in teen mentoring and lived in Israel for a few years before returning to the US to write full-time. Growing up with a wide range of cultures, religions, and backgrounds, Stone strives to bring these diverse voices and stories to her work.

You can find her goofing off and/or fangirling over her husband and sons on most social media platforms

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24974996.jpgDear Martin

Justyce McAllister is top of his class, captain of the debate team, and set for the Ivy League next year—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. He is eventually released without charges (or an apology), but the incident has Justyce spooked. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood, he can’t seem to escape the scorn of his former peers or the attitude of his prep school classmates. The only exception: Sarah Jane, Justyce’s gorgeous—and white—debate partner he wishes he didn’t have a thing for.

Struggling to cope with it all, Justyce starts a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But do Dr. King’s teachings hold up in the modern world? Justyce isn’t so sure.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up. Way up. Much to the fury of the white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. And Justyce and Manny get caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack. The truth of what happened that night—some would kill to know. Justyce is dying to forget.

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Huge THANK YOU to Nic for getting this post in to us while on deadline! Your experience and encouragement to other writers is inspiring. We have all felt like we could not do something, when in actuality we can if we have more faith in ourselves.

As always, thank you to everyone who has participated in this feature! Your words and advice are always appreciated and we love you all for helping us.

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

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Musings of Maggie Ann Martin

eternaldreamers

5 Easy Ways to Build Your Author Platform
By Maggie Ann Martin

So. You’ve been told that building your author platform is important. But you have no idea where to start. I’m here to tell you that it’s not as daunting or scary as it might seem! Here are five easy ways to build a community around you and your book.

1. Create a book blog

I actually can’t stress this one enough. Sparking conversations about books within the genre you are writing is an amazing way to understand what your potential readers enjoy, and connect with them over mutually favorite books.

2. Join Twitter chats. Frequently.

There seems to be a new literary Twitter chat going on every day now. Find one that is relevant to readers or writers in your genre, and make your voice heard. Keep up with the connections that you’ve made during the Twitter chat by following them and adding them to Lists.

3. Curate Twitter Lists

I firmly stand behind the idea that Twitter Lists are the most beautiful and glorious feature that Twitter has to offer. Lists allow you to monitor conversations happening by a certain group of people. So, you could create a Twitter List of people who participated in a chat you were a part of, or you could start a list of potential agents that you’re interested in submitting to. Carve out a specific amount of time a week that you would go on and interact with people on these lists to keep up with these connections.

My Lists right now are: Bloggers, BookTubers, Bookstagramers, Agents, 2017 Debuts, Authors, and then various pitch competition lists. Some of these lists are public, but most of them are private lists that only I can see.  

4. Participate in a pitch competition

There are so many incredible authors being matched with agents every day through Twitter pitch competitions. Not only are they an awesome opportunity to get in front of reputable agents, but you’ll make loads of connections with other authors submitting their work for consideration. Some of my favorite pitch competitions that I’ve participated in are #PitchWars, #PitMad, and Sun vs. Snow (and there are SO MANY MORE).

5. Give something back to the community

If you’re really wanting to get engrained in a community, the best way to get to know fellow bloggers and authors is to host an event. This could be your own Twitter chat, a blog series (i.e. I hosted a blog series called Book Madness, which is basically March Madness for book characters), or buddy read with a group of people. So much of your support comes from online writing friends that you’ve met through any of the above ways.

And you don’t have to do all of these things at once! You won’t be able to build your entire author platform in one night. Gradually build up your participation within your writing community as you see fit, and as you have the time for.


MaggieAnnMartin2About Maggie Ann

Maggie Ann Martin hails from Iowa City, Iowa but moonlights as a New Yorker. She has a shiny new BA in English and Journalism from the University of Iowa, the most welcoming literary community in the world. When she is not writing, you can find her binge watching TV shows or passionately fangirling over fictional characters on the Internet. The Big F is her debut novel.

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TheBigFColorAbout THE BIG F

Danielle effed up. Big time.
Danielle’s plans for the future were pretty easy to figure out… until she failed senior English and her single college application was denied. Suddenly she’s in hot water with very few options, because honestly who applies to a safety school when their mom is a semi-famous “college psychic”?!

Determined to get her life back on track, Danielle enrolls in her hometown community college with a plan: pass her English class and get back into Ohio State and her mother’s good graces. Romance isn’t on her radar… until she reconnects with her childhood crush and golden-boy-next-door, Luke.

Between family drama, first love and finding her own way, Danielle can’t help but feel a little overwhelmed. Thankfully she has her friendship with the snarky and frustratingly attractive Porter, her coworker at the campus bookstore, to push her to experience new things and help keep her afloat.One thing’s for sure: This time, failure’s not an option.

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Thank you Maggie for compiling a quick list of suggestions for new authors! It can get overwhelming when you’re first starting out. We know our readers appreciate the time you took to share your experiences!

As always, thank you to everyone who has participated in this feature! Your words and advice are always happily devoured, and we love you all for helping us.

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

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Musings of Misa Sugiura

eternaldreamers

 

Beyond the Spark: Building a Romance That Sticks
by Misa Sugiura

I’ve read romances where the main character wonders to themselves why they’re so drawn to this other person, and all I can think is, “Good question.” The love interest may have intense brown eyes, luscious lips, and a smokin’ hot body, but beyond that, I can’t figure out the attraction, either. The two may have met cute, shared a toe-curling kiss, been involuntarily pressed against each other in a small, confined space…and for some reason it still doesn’t work.

Yes, physical attraction is the thing that readers glom onto. It’s sexy, literally. It jumps off the page and is the easiest and most fun thing to write (for me, anyway). But it’s just kindling. It lights up quickly and burns brightly, but it’s useless if you don’t have anything more substantial to feed the flame.

An obvious and easy way to do this is to give your pair a common interest. They both like music (Eleanor and Park). They both like Oreos (Simon and the Homo Sapiens Agenda). They’re both computer geeks (When Dimple Met Rishi). You can go a bit deeper with a common trauma or a common goal (The Empress of a Thousand Skies). But you can’t stop there. It’s like adding sticks to your kindling—it’s better, but not enough. “Things-in-Common” works with these romances because they all have something more.

To build an authentic connection that goes beyond the initial spark-and-catch, each character has to offer something the other admires, and something the other needs and is willing to pursue. They need to be flawed—perhaps even drawn/propelled toward each other because of their flaws as well as their strengths. They need to complement each other and bring out the best in each other.

One popular and lovely example of this is in Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Simon and Blue’s relationship is non-physical for most of the book—and yet they still have amazing chemistry. Yes, they both love Oreos. Yes, they both love Harry Potter. But as their wonderful emails illustrate, they stimulate each other intellectually, they make each other laugh, and they provide for each other an empathetic listener—they become partners who talk honestly about themselves, their fears, and their desires. That is what makes them fall for each other without ever laying eyes on each other. Without a single stuck-in-a-tight-space-together moment.

In order for the characters to be attracted to each other on that level—in order for them to be able to show off their strengths and discover their intellectual and personal compatibility, to confess their deepest desires and fears—they each need to have those things. They need to be fully human, multi-layered, interesting characters without the other. Otherwise, why bother?

So unless the theme of your story is mad hookups (which, hey—that’s cool, too), the eyes, hair, the abs, and the smoldering looks should be just the kindling (or the…uh…tinder, if you will). In the best romances, the author shows us not just the attraction between two bodies, but the attraction between two souls—not just how the characters are hot for each other, but also why they are good for each other.

For a romance that sticks with your readers, you need sturdier stuff like commonalities and parity, and substantial emotional, intellectual, psychological, and/or spiritual strengths and weaknesses. Which is to say, finally, if you want to get your lovebirds to fall in for each other in a way that sticks with your readers, you need to put in the hard work of crafting carefully constructed characters with emotional depth and real stakes. (Though don’t forget the kissing.)


static1.squarespace.comAbout Misa

Misa Sugiura is the author of It’s Not Like It’s A Secret (HarperTeen, May 2017). She was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, but now lives under a giant oak tree in Silicon Valley.

 

 

 

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INLIAScoverHCCatalog.jpegIt’s Not Like It’s A Secret

Sana Kiyohara has too many secrets. Some are small, like how it bothers her when her friends don’t invite her to their parties. Some are big, like the fact that her father may be having an affair. And then there’s the one that she can barely admit to herself–the one about how she might have a crush on her best friend.

When Sana and her family move to California, she begins to wonder if it’s finally time for some honesty, especially after she meets Jamie Ramirez. Jamie is beautiful and smart and unlike anyone Sana’s ever known. There are just a few problems: Sana’s friends don’t trust Jamie’s crowd; Jamie’s friends clearly don’t want her around anyway; and a sweet guy named Caleb seems to have more-than-friendly feelings for her. Meanwhile, her dad’s affair is becoming too obvious to ignore.

Sana always figured that the hardest thing would be to tell people that she wants to date a girl, but as she quickly learns, that part is easy…what comes after it, though, is a whole lot more complicated.

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Thank you so much to Misa for your amazing words of advice! Building a romance can be so difficult, even in reality. We all struggle with building relationships so it’s hard to write in a perfectly imperfect one in our manuscripts. I’m sure your advice will stick with so many people!

A huge thank you to everyone who has participated in this feature. Your words do wonders for those of us who are stumbling through writing everyday. Thank you.

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

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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.


 caroline-leech-medium-close-red-credit-priscilla-dickson

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

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

Goodreads


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.


claire-legrand-author-photo-800x1205

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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