Monthly Archive: March 2015

March, briefly

March has been a pretty awesome month. For one thing, the weather has improved considerably, so I have been able to get outside for walks with my husband and dog and enjoy some long overdue sunshine. And to make things even better, this will go down the month I finally managed to find a happy medium behind plotting and pantsing.

champagne

Not just for special occasions.

Working on: For the most part, I have adhered to a schedule of at least 2K each day to get a first draft of my current YA contemporary WIP done. And I’m happy to say that I met my goal! Since this was the hardest first draft I’ve ever written, it’s also the one I’m the most proud of. I couldn’t just fly by the seat of my pants with this WIP, and learning to reconcile a plot with my pantsing tendencies has challenged me and pushed me to new limits as a writer. I now have 85K to reread, play with, and revise the heck out of. As much as I love the exhilarating freedom of a first draft, I also enjoy the deconstructive element of revising—breaking everything down, figuring out what isn’t working, and putting it back together as something even better.

Reading: I read two books that I absolutely loved this month, and both were 2015 releases. (This is shaping up to be a totally killer for reading!) The first was ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES by Jennifer Niven, which is equal parts touching, heartbreaking, and hopeful. I love that we get into the heads of both main characters, Finch and Violet. Finch, especially, is one of the most memorable characters I have read in a long time. I really enjoyed Jennifer Niven’s writing style, and I’ll definitely be picking up her other books.

I also binge-read Jasmine Warga’s debut novel, MY HEART AND OTHER BLACK HOLES. Binge-read because I could not put it down. This is a hugely moving, beautifully written debut that tackles very difficult subject matter with grace and humor. Aysel and Roman (aka FrozenRobot), the two main characters, feel very real: their personalities, struggles with depression, and the tragedies they have had to endure. Their relationship is unlike any other I have seen in other books, and I enjoyed seeing it develop and change as they start to break down each other’s walls.

Listening to: I’m an easily distracted person. (Evidenced by my many failed attempts to be one of those people who can write while a TV show plays in the background.) I’m finding out that I can’t write very effectively to music with lyrics either because the lyrics end up drowning out my thought process. So I have been listening to a lot of movie soundtracks lately. My very favorite soundtrack is AMERICAN BEAUTY, which has basically been on repeat for the past few weeks.

Well, that’s March in a nutshell! I’m really looking forward to taking this WIP and making it shine as April progresses. And speaking of shine, a bit more sunshine would be nice, too…

Foreign rights news!

Hi everyone! I’m thrilled to share the news that Russian rights to FIRSTS have been sold to AST. Huge thanks to the incredible Taryn Fagerness and my amazing agent, Kathleen Rushall!

I think this needs to be celebrated with a vodka cocktail… За здоровье!

RussianRights

SWEET MADNESS Cover Reveal & Giveaway!

Today, I’m thrilled to be part of the cover reveal for the incredible, chilling, and unforgettable SWEET MADNESS by Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie! You can read more about this YA Victorian horror below…

SWEET MADNESS

Coming September 18, 2015 from Merit Press

 

Lizzie Borden took an axe,

And gave her mother forty whacks.

When she saw what she had done,

She gave her father forty one.

 

BLURB: 

Who was Lizzie Borden? A confused young woman, or a cold-hearted killer? For generations, people all over the world have wondered how Andrew Borden and his second wife, Abby, met their gruesome deaths. Lizzie, Andrew’s younger daughter, was charged, but a jury took only 90 minutes to find her not guilty. In this retelling, the family maid, Bridget Sullivan, shines a compassionate light on a young woman oppressed by her cheap father and her ambitious stepmother. Was Lizzie mad, or was she driven to madness?

And without further ado, here’s the haunting, beautiful cover!

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SweetMadness

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Mark it to read on Goodreads

Preorder Sweet Madness:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

TrishaLeaverTrisha Leaver lives on Cape Cod with her husband, three children, and one rather irreverent black lab. She is a chronic daydreamer who prefers the cozy confines of her own imagination to the mundane routine of everyday life.  She writes Young Adult Contemporary fiction, Psychological Horror and Science Fiction and is published with FSG/ Macmillan, Flux/Llewellyn and Merit Press. To can learn more about Trisha’s books, upcoming shenanigans, and her quest to reel in the perfect tuna, please visit her website: www.trishaleaver.com

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LindsayCurrieLindsay Currie lives in Chicago with her three awesome children, husband, and a one hundred and sixty pound lap dog named Sam. She has an unnatural fondness for coffee, chocolate and things that go bump in the night. She spends her days curled up in the comfortable confines of her writing nook, penning young adult psychological horror, contemporary fiction and science-fiction and is published with Flux/Llewellyn, Merit Press and Spencer Hill Contemporary. Learn more about her at www.lindsaycurrie.com

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To celebrate, we are giving away four AMAZING books from our publisher Merit Press.

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Check out a Rafflecopter giveaway and enter to win!

#SixteensBlogAbout: Luck

It’s Saint Patrick’s day today, which means green beer for some people, questionable green fashion choices for others, and for writers, a time to reflect on “the luck of the Irish.” This month, the Sweet Sixteens are blogging about luck, so what better day to write about it than the luckiest day of the year?

Irish

That I am.

Good or bad, luck plays a role in publishing. It’s part of the formula that turns your hand-scribbled notes or the Word document on your computer into something on a shelf in a bookstore, but it’s the one part we can’t control as writers, which makes it so elusive—and so maddening. You can work hard and write a great book, but for your work to find its way to an agent or an editor, a bit of luck has to be on your side too.

I think a lot of luck has to do with timing. If you’re a querying writer, you might have heard this before. An agent might love your work, but feel like it’s not right for her list at this time. Or maybe she has something too similar already. Maybe you wrote a book about a trend that’s getting harder and harder for agents to sell and editors to acquire. Perhaps you get told that your book doesn’t have what it takes to stand out in an already crowded market. (FYI: I heard this more than once before with the first NA book I queried, and those agents were right.)

If you’re getting these kinds of rejections, you might think it’s you. You might doubt yourself as a writer and wonder if you have anything unique to say, or if you should just stop trying altogether. You might be looking for a sign, something to tell you what to do.

Here’s a sign: whatever you do, don’t stop writing.

Because as much as timing sucks sometimes and you might think you have the worst luck in the world, there is something hugely important that you do have control over: whether or not you keep writing. So maybe your first book doesn’t work out, or your second or third. But if you keep writing and have faith in yourself and don’t give up, you will find the right path for your work.

And here’s another thing about luck. It can be in your favor, too. After you fall down and brush yourself off and stand up even taller, you’ll realize that you learned more than you gave yourself credit for. You’ll come to understand that you’re smarter than when you started. Your writing will get better and so will your choices. Maybe you’ll submit to an agent who really gets you, and you’ll count yourself so lucky to have her in your corner. Maybe that awesome agent will sell your book to your dream editor. And you’ll realize that all the supposed “bad luck” you experienced along the way wasn’t bad luck at all, but was actually the best thing that could have happened to you.

Case in point: I remember a time when I was querying the first book I ever wrote. I had been in the query trenches for more than six months and I was discouraged because although I had come pretty close to a “yes” with a few agents, I hadn’t been offered representation. I felt like a failure. But I picked myself up and wrote a second book. Then, I had this crazy idea that I just had to write, and that crazy idea turned into FIRSTS. Looking back, I think luck was on my side the whole time, with each rejection that trickled in. It sure didn’t feel that way when I was in the query trenches, but in hindsight, I can see that all those “no’s” led me to where I am now. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

Writers talk a lot about the path to publication. And no matter what stage you’re at—writing, revising, querying, entering a contest—guess what? You’re on it. You’re living your dream. And that, in itself, is an amazing accomplishment. As the Irish blessing goes, “may the wind be always at your back.”

An interview with Lori Goldstein, author of BECOMING JINN!

Today, I’m honored to have the talented, smart, and all-around wonderful Lori Goldstein on my blog. Lori’s debut YA contemporary fantasy, BECOMING JINN, comes out April 21, 2015 from Feiwel and Friends. BECOMING JINN is the story of Azra, whose genie powers awaken on her sixteenth birthday—but she soon learns that becoming Jinn comes at a cost.

BecomingJinn-203x300For those of you who don’t know, Lori was my mentor during Pitch Wars in 2014, and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now without her amazing guidance and support. Our relationship didn’t stop at Pitch Wars—Lori has been there for every step of my publication journey, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to celebrate the release of her debut.

One of the coolest things about having generous and talented writer friends like Lori is being able to ask questions about their writing process—what inspires them, what frustrates them, what motivates them. So Lori has graciously agreed to share her thoughts on how she conjured up JINN and more.

Hi Lori! Thanks for letting me pick your brain. With BECOMING JINN coming out just over a month from now (!), can you tell me a bit about your journey to publication?

First off, thank you so much for having me and for that lovely introduction. Being your mentor was a terrific experience because not only did I get to read a fantastic, unique, and bold new novel (coming in 2016!), but I also got to know you. And that’s one thing I will say about this journey to publication: meeting talented writers who become friends is the best part of this ride and one that I never expected. The community is welcoming and generous—and thank goodness for that! Because this journey is amazing, but it’s also scary and so much is unknown. Having other people to share it with and learn from is key!

As for the technical aspect of my road to publication, I worked on a manuscript for three years that essentially taught me how to write by letting me make mistakes—and I made many! By the time I started writing Becoming Jinn in the fall of 2012, I was able to write it in two months instead of three years. I entered many contests with it, lost a lot, received great feedback, revised, and was able to get my agent, Lucy Carson, in February of 2013. She had savvy insights into the manuscript and I revised for two months before going on submission in May of 2013. We sold in less than two weeks to Feiwel and Friends for Becoming Jinn and its sequel. It’s been a bit of a longer wait to publication than most, but I’ve had the chance to learn a lot in that time and feel – mildly – in control and prepared for what’s to come.

That’s a very inspiring story! How has your writing style and technique changed since you first started writing? Is there a certain routine you like to follow?

The biggest change is that I’m not a committed plotter. When I wrote my first manuscript, in addition to not having a clue what I was doing, I didn’t plan a thing. I figured the story would just “come to me.” And it did, over three long, grueling years during which I rewrote the novel from start to finish probably four or five times because I had no idea you needed to do more than have two people just chat with one another. That book was my education in writing. Combined with some great craft books and a course in novel planning, I changed gears before writing Becoming Jinn. I planned for a full month and had a 70-page outline before I began. I did character profiles, setting exercises, I went into the writing knowing so much about the world, which allowed me to write it fast. I consider that long outline essentially a very short draft of the book. My first draft is more like a second draft. It’s the only way I’ll write from now on. I know it doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s a good fit for me.

You have killer editing skills, as evidenced by the notes you made on the, um, first copy of FIRSTS I sent you. How has that affected you as a writer? Do you edit as you go, or wait till the initial draft is out of the way?

Well, thank you! I went to school for journalism, and I have been an editor, both content and copyeditor, for years, mostly nonfiction. Editing is second nature to me by now in terms of the nitty-gritty aspects, and I definitely edit as I go. I like to start each writing day by revising what I wrote the day before. I can’t move on until I feel the previous day’s work is in good shape. I find it really helpful for getting me into the zone; it takes me time to get into “writing mode,” and by rereading, tweaking, and changing the previous day’s material, I do double duty: I get into the zone faster than if I were starting to write from scratch and I remind myself of what I’ve just written, both in terms of plot and details like having just used certain words or turns of phrase so I can avoid them going forward in the new day’s work. I am not an “insert XYZ here” kind of writer. My brain doesn’t work that way.

We all have those days where we’re feeling less than inspired. What gets you out of a rut, or over a bad case of writer’s block?

Thinking helps me the most. But I can’t just sit in a chair and think. So I go for walks or swim, which I like to do for exercise. Those times when I’m alone with my thoughts are when I am the most creative and productive. I’ve worked through many a plot problem while in the pool or shower—waterproof notebooks come in very handy!

Waterproof notebooks? I need to get in on this! What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the writing process?

While I spend a lot of time plotting, I don’t enjoy it, especially at the start. I feel a lot of pressure to think creatively and while I know it will pay off in the writing, it’s not a fun task. However, the end of that process—when I have index cards lined up, type my notes into a long scene-by-scene outline, and sit down to actually write…well, that’s the payoff. I love that moment when it all comes together with real words and scenes.

What’s something surprising you have learned about yourself in the months leading up to JINN’s release?

I was just talking to my husband about this, actually. I never thought of myself as someone who’d be able to switch gears and turn on the marketing side of my brain. But I’m better at it than I would have thought. And by this I don’t just mean standing on the street corner and pushing my book into people’s hands, but I mean coming up with ways to promote it and story ideas to write for nonfiction publications, and doing all the research and outreach that’s involved whether it’s applying to festivals or conferences or looking for other opportunities. It’s a ton of work, and it leaves little time for writing, which is the downside. But it’s also more fun than I would have expected.

JINN is about genies and wishes. Speaking of wishes, what’s one thing you wish you could go back and tell yourself before you had an agent or a book deal?

Ooh, I love this question. I would like to tell myself that it’s not as hard as I think it is and to enjoy the ride as much as possible. When you love something so much—when something is so important to you—the highs are sky high and the lows are subterranean. I think it’s natural, but it sure doesn’t make the bumps in the road easy to get past. Thankfully, see my answer to number one. Writer friends are what get us through. Externally grateful to all of mine!

JINN has a sequel, which is coming out in 2016! Can you tell me a bit about what you plan to work on next?

I have several story ideas that I’m working on now that JINN 2 is finished and in copy edits (yay!). Two are really speaking to me, and I’m exploring them both right now, but it’s too early to say which will be the one that steals my heart. But they are in the vein of JINN in that they are steeped in the contemporary world (which though JINN has magic in it, I very much consider it to have a contemporary feel). They will have both humor and deeper emotion like JINN. I’ll always write with some humor, but I think these two ideas might push me in ways that I’m very much looking forward to.

That’s so exciting! Thanks so much for taking the time to visit my blog, Lori. Are there any words of wisdom you’d offer to writers in the query trenches?

Don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t compare yourself to others, which is natural for all of us at every stage. But it really is the thing that will stop us from pursuing our dreams. You have to disconnect from that as much as possible. And you know what? We all give in to it at times. Let yourself, but then move on. And also, don’t be afraid to receive strong feedback on your work. If people didn’t tell me my first page wasn’t working or my query sucked—and if I didn’t accept that they were right—I’d have never moved on. You have to be able to evaluate your work subjectively, which is really hard. But if something’s not working, figure out why. Read craft books; research everything you can about writing a good query. That’s how you will be able to change and have success.

Thanks, Lori!

Thank you, Laurie! I cannot wait until FIRSTS is out in the world!

Lori-Goldstein-Author-2-200x300You can learn more about Lori and the world of Jinn by visiting www.lorigoldsteinbooks.com or follow Lori on Twitter @loriagoldstein! And if you preorder or buy Becoming Jinn before April 25, 2015, email Lori the receipt at becomingjinncontest@icloud.com and you’ll be entered into a raffle to win gift cards in the amount of $5-$50 to places like iTunes, Starbucks, Amazon, and more.

Want to know more about Lori’s writing process and Becoming Jinn? Join Lori for a Twitter chat hosted by New York Times best-selling author Anna Banks on Monday, March 23 at 8 pm EST!

On celebrating small victories

When you’re on the path to publication, the big milestones are easy to distinguish. Finishing a book. Getting an agent. Revising. Selling a book. If you’re a querying writer trying to get traditionally published, these are probably the goals you strive for. If you’re anything like me, you tell yourself to enjoy the writing part, to truly love creating stories, because it’s the only part you have any real control over.

Words to live by.

Words to live by.

And if you’re anything like me, you might sometimes find that advice annoyingly impossible to follow when all you can think about is what you haven’t accomplished yet.

A lot has happened in the past year. I was lucky enough to achieve the goals I had always dreamed of, and I’m still shocked sometimes that it’s all happening. But even though I couldn’t be happier with where I’m at now, I still have days where I forget to live in the moment because I’m too busy thinking ahead. Days where I fail to see my own progress. And that got me thinking about the importance of celebrating small victories.

As writers, we’re naturally our own biggest critics. We get frustrated when things don’t go our way. We get mad at ourselves if the words aren’t flowing as easily one day as they did before, and when we’re uninspired or have a case of writer’s block, we question if we’ve lost the ability to write entirely. (This happens to me more often than I’d like to admit.) And while those big goals are easy to celebrate, the smaller ones deserve some glory too. The ones we work at each day and forget to recognize as achievements at all.

Coming up with a title. Finishing a chapter. Fixing a plot hole. Fleshing out a secondary character. Not just adding words, but taking them away when it benefits the story. Learning a character’s voice. Figuring out a satisfying ending. Finding out how to weave a plot thread throughout your entire story. Conjuring up a perfect first kiss. Describing a delicious meal. Capturing the mood you were striving for. Creating a snappy dialogue exchange. Waking up in the middle of the night to write down a sentence fragment that changes everything.

These are among the milestones that we sometimes fail to acknowledge at all. These are parts of being a writer that we can easily take for granted because there’s something else, something bigger obscuring our vision. A brighter, glittering jewel blocking out the rest of the light. But I’m starting to believe, more and more, that the small victories need more credit. Because those bigger, brighter accomplishments are built on each word we write. They’re built on sentences and characters and dialogue and pure hard work. They’re constructed on those times we sit and stare at a gaping plot hole and spend hours figuring out how to fix it. They’re built on the days we don’t want to write at all, but somehow find the drive we need to put words on paper.

Not all goals are celebrated with champagne and much happy dancing (although those ones are undoubtedly very exciting and fun)! So many go by unnoticed, and this is something I’m trying to remedy this year. I want to recognize and enjoy the small things and see them for what they are: not small at all.

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