Friday, May 27, 2016

0 Janice Warman, author of THE WORLD BENEATH, on taking all the advice you can get

We're thrilled to have Janice Warman join us to share more about her novel THE WORLD BENEATH.

Janice, what was your inspiration for writing THE WORLD BENEATH?

My inspiration for writing The World Beneath was twofold: First, to write a book that would inform and inspire children around the world about the evil system of apartheid – which happily is far in the past for them, but which like the Holocaust of the Second World War, should never be forgotten. I believe that like many classic children’s books (To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee comes immediately to mind), books can be a far more powerful way to teach history than a dry textbook. And second, the inspiration for Joshua came from the daughter of our housekeeper, Beauty, whose name I used for the maid in the book. Although her little girl didn’t live with her, she visited for a few days and I remember as a small child myself trying to teach her to read. It made me think how much Beauty must miss her when she went home to the Transkei, where her grandparents looked after her and her siblings. I was shocked that white children were given free schoolbooks, but that black children had to pay for them. Beauty worked so hard to feed and clothe children she hardly saw, and to pay for their school uniforms. Then, in 1976, my last year at school, the Soweto riots broke out, and it was devastating to hear of all the children who were shot and killed. The house in the book is really my house (although luckily the Malherbes were not my parents!) and we too had a Basset Hound called Betsy.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Take all the advice you can get. Share your writing. Do writing courses, join writers’ groups, carve out time for your writing, and give yourself a daily target (keep it low, so you will generally surpass it). Write everywhere - in coffee shops, on trains, planes and beaches. And never give up, no matter what life throws at you. I started out on a local paper in Sussex and then worked for national papers including The Guardian and The Observer, and had a previous non-fiction book published in 2007, so I wasn’t afraid of writing. But as John Lennon said, "Life is what happens when you are making other plans," and plenty of ‘life’ happened on the path to publication of The World Beneath. For financial reasons I had to work full-time and write The World Beneath and Class of 79, a non-fiction book about my fellow journalism students who fought apartheid, in my spare time - every evening, weekend, and holiday for four years, to meet the publishing deadlines. During that time I was extremely ill for six months. Most devastating, however, was the illness and death of my beloved mother, who lived far away in South Africa. My sister and I would fly out to see her at each crisis, and on the last occasion, she died an hour after I arrived. There is nothing to compare with the loss of a parent, and we both felt very guilty that we could not have been with her more in her hour of need. Then, in 2014, the year both books came out in the UK, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, although happily I am absolutely fine now. I would add that perhaps it might be wise to avoid accepting two publishing contracts at more or less the same time; however, that was just the way it happened for me!

What are you working on now?

Following the cancer I have made a big change in my life - giving up a career in business publishing for a Creative Writing PhD at Goldsmiths College in London. For the degree, I am working on another young adult novel, The Tree House, about a young boy who realizes that across the valley from his eyrie in the yew tree outside his house, there is a girl being held captive in a hidden cottage in the woods. Little does he realize that soon he and Lea will be on the run in a race against time to solve a family secret - a vicious attack in France that tore her family apart two years before. Are her mother and baby brother dead or alive? Who can they trust? I am also writing a literary thriller, The Escapist, the story of two women whose husbands are wife abusers: rich, beautiful Helen, and slight, fair Sarah, who disappears. Was she murdered by Steve? Can Helen escape? And who killed Steve, found dead in the road outside the village?

I am also planning another non-fiction book, Place of Hope, for which I will take a series of black-and-white portraits and record life stories in their own words of the inhabitants of a township in South Africa. The PhD is part-time so that I can work as a freelance journalist too. Having previously done a Creative Writing MA at the University of Sussex, where I wrote the first version of The World Beneath, I would recommend these degrees to aspiring writers. They provide the structure and discipline you need, plus the inspiration not only from your tutors but importantly, your fellow students.


The World Beneath
by Janice Warman
Released 5/24/2016

At the rise of South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle, a boy must face life decisions that test what he believes—and call for no turning back.

South Africa, 1976. Joshua lives with his mother in the maid’s room, in the backyard of their wealthy white employers’ house in the city by the sea. He doesn’t quite understand the events going on around him. But when he rescues a stranger and riots begin to sweep the country, Joshua has to face the world beneath—the world deep inside him—to make heartbreaking choices that will change his life forever. Genuine and quietly unflinching, this beautifully nuanced novel from a veteran journalist captures a child’s-eye view of the struggle that shaped a nation and riveted the world.

Purchase The World Beneath at Amazon
Purchase The World Beneath at IndieBound
View The World Beneath on Goodreads


6798586Janice Warman is a South African–born journalist whose career spans the Observer, the Guardian, the Spectator, the Daily Mail, and the BBC. She has published two nonfiction books for adults, including The Class of ’79, about three students who risked their lives to help abolish apartheid. She lives in England.


Have you had a chance to read THE WORLD BENEATH yet? Do your stories draw on events from your childhood? Do you write in various places? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy reading,

Jocelyn, Shelly, Martina, Anisaa, Sam, Erin, Susan, Michelle, Laura, and Kristin

Thursday, May 26, 2016

0 Red Light/Green Light Contest Schedule & Resources For Crafting A Strong Opening

As you may remember from last week, on June 23rd we will be running another round of our Red Light/Green Light contest, in which participants will be judged on their opening lines. The fabulous Kelly Peterson of Corvisiero Literary is serving as our fearless judge, and the prize she's offered is a FULL request with general editorial notes. So if you want an agent's eyes and feedback on your entire MS, this is the contest to enter!

Our full schedule for this round of Red Light/Green Light will be as follows: 

June 23rd--Contest opens!

June 30th--50 first round participants announced, first sentences posted here on the AYAP blog

July 7th--25 second round participants announced, first and second sentences posted

July 14th--10 third round participants announced, first pages posted

July 21st--5 fourth round participants announced, 3 paragraph pitches posted

July 28th--Prize winner announced, along with a few words from Kelly on why she chose that entry

As you can see, Red Light/Green Light is scheduled to conveniently end prior to Pitch Wars, so if you're thinking about entering the Big One ;) your eligibility for Pitch Wars will NOT be adversely impacted by participating in Red Light/Green Light. In fact, Red Light/Green Light might help you shine up your opening in preparation for Pitch Wars entry!

Other dates to take note of include June 9th, when we will be hosting a live chat with agent Kelly Peterson here on Twitter. It will start at 9pm EST on the contest hashtag #GreenLightWIP. If you have any questions you'd like an agent's perspective on, this is an excellent opportunity to get them answered. Note: you do NOT need to participate in Red Light/Green Light in order to participate in the live chat.

On June 16th, we'll hold another live chat with Kelly, this time on Facebook. It will also begin at 9pm EST. Let your writer friends know, and we can't wait to see your great questions!

To help you prepare for the contest start date on June 23rd, I've compiled a list of resources to help you polish up those openings. An opening is the first impression your manuscript makes on the reader, and as such it's very important to get it right. It's often the most revised part of a novel--to date, the first chapter of the novel I'm querying has been revised over 25 times! Here are some of my favorite resources for creating an opening that grips your reader from the very first sentence...the list is certainly not exhaustive, but it should give you a great place to start.

 AYAP Resources For Crafting A Strong Opening

Inspired Openings Have A Distinct Personality On The Page

Author Lucy Connors discusses how to use the five senses in creating an opening with impact.

How To Hook An Agent: 16 Agents Share What Gets Them Reading
A discussion of what publishing industry professionals find compelling in opening pages.

Jacqueline Green's Checklist For Novel Openings
A seven part checklist to evaluate if your opening will rope a reader in. According to Jacqueline, if you can hit 3 out of 7, you're well on your way!

Five Thoughts On Inspired Openings And Five Brilliant Opening Pages
Points to consider while crafting your opening, and examples of books that got it right.

The Dos And Don'ts Of Great Openings
Five things NOT to do with your opening, and one very important thing TO do.

General Resources For Crafting A Strong Opening

How To Start A Novel
Holly Lisle on things you should do before you even draft that first sentence, to lay the groundwork for a solid opening.

7 Ways To Create A Killer Opening Line
Unpacking the format of many famous opening lines: does your opening line follow one of the above formulas?

7 Keys To Write The Perfect First Line
Truth, humor, surprise, voice: all can be conveyed by a well-crafted first line.

How To Write The Perfect First Page
Delivering on the promise of your first line throughout the first page and beyond.

How To Start A Novel: First Lines, First Paragraphs
On the natural segue from a great first line to great first paragraphs, with examples from the pros.

Practical Help For Perfecting First Pages

1st 5 Pages Workshop

If you've got your opening pages as shiny as possible on your own, it always helps to have additional feedback on them. That's why we started the 1st 5 Pages Workshop here at AYAP. It runs monthly, beginning on the first Saturday of each month, and is a great opportunity for you to work together with mentors who'll help you polish your opening pages until they sparkle. Details can be found here, but be aware that the workshop fills up very quickly.

YayYA Critique Hop

Run semi-annually by Rachel Stevenson, the YayYA critique hop is a fantastic way to get feedback from multiple writers on your opening pages. Space is limited, so watch Rachel's blog for opening dates. This hop comes highly recommended by yours truly--I've met some great writing friends through the YayYA critique hop, and was even introduced to one of my invaluable critique partners through it. Numerous participants from last summer's hop have gone on to find agents--definitely check this out!

I hope you found something above to help you with your opening chapter revisions. Can't wait to see those first lines come June 23rd! If you have some favorite writing resources I didn't mention, feel free to share them in the comments below, and as always...

Happy writing!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

4 Strong Female Characters No Longer Need to Prove Themselves

We're thrilled to have a post with that title--don't you agree? And we're honored to have Sara Wilson Etienne, the author of HARBINGER and LOTUS AND THORN join us today to explain how the battle of female characters needing to prove themselves has already been won. 

“My girls no longer spend their energy proving that they are “as good as””

For a long, long, loooooooong time, in order to kick ass our heroines had to prove themselves first. They had to cut their hair and stuff themselves into suits of armor. Or defy society’s patriarchal rules and become THE FIRST. These characters had to be faster, stronger, braver, and smarter than the boys. For years, the mantra of girl-power books went something like sharp-shooter Annie Oakley’s song in the musical Annie Get Your Gun… “I can do anything you can do, better. I can do anything better than you!”

I love these girls. I grew up cheering them on. Chanting their names. Wanting to BE them. But there’s a new girl in town. And I have to say… as a reader, a movie watcher, a writer, as an ass-kicking woman myself… I’m pretty freakin’ psyched about her.

I’m talking about Katniss. I’m talking about Rey from Star Wars. I’m talking about Furiosa from Mad Max. Just to name a few. Not only do these girls and women not feel the need to prove themselves to the men around them, they seem genuinely confused when men show up trying to save them.

Seeing these characters living comfortably in their own skin, with their own power, has shifted the way that I write my own stories. My girls no longer spend their energy proving that they are “as good as.” They are too busy battling sandstorms and plagues and magic.

Please do not misunderstand me. That is not to say that I ignore gender in my writing. In fact, it is the exact opposite. Once we stop having to prove ourselves, we stop having to deny or erase our gender identities. Being female becomes a unique and nuanced force… different for each character, for each community, for each story. And this shifts the conversation and the story dramatically.

Because the truth is.... “I can do anything”

For girls and women, there are still many, many obstacles in our path—within the real world and fiction—but the conversation is no longer CAN a woman do a “man’s job.” Women have. We have done the jobs and we have excelled at them. Proving the point is no longer the issue. We have entered the next phase of the discussion.

Women do not need to be men in disguise. We are our own beings. Our own characters. As a writer, it’s exciting to create a strong girl character who is not defined by her relationships with the men in her life. She’s not scarred by the father who rejected her or wished she was a boy. She’s not trying to be a guy. She’s not trying impress one or make one fall in love with her. There may be love, but it will be on her own terms and merely one of the adventures along the path.

My girl is a powerful young woman, like the ones living in the world today. Already certain in the knowledge that she has the ability to do anything and be anything. Certain that, yes, there will be obstacles in her way. But just as certain that she will use her strength and smarts to haul it out of the way, build a bridge over it, or blow the hell out of it. Because the truth is.... “I can do anything.” End of song.


Lotus and Thorn
by Sara Wilson Etienne
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Y
Released 6/7/2016

Ravaged by a plague known as Red Death, the planet Gabriel, a former colony of Earth, is a barren wasteland. Since being abandoned by Earth 500 years ago, resources are scarce and life is cheap. To stay alive, the survivors, the Citizens, scavenge the remains of a now dead city, trading for food with the resource-rich Curadores, the only other survivors on Gabriel. Every old computer, every piece of wire, every scrap of metal counts. To steal is the ultimate sin. So when tough-as-nails seventeen-year-old Leica is caught doing just that, she’s exiled and left to the mercy of Gabriel’s unforgiving desert for the rest of her life.

While in exile, Leica discovers a mysterious shuttle, which may not only lead her home, but even more impossible—reestablish contact with Earth. Then Red Death rears its head again, killing her entire work crew, leaving Leica all alone until a handsome Curador offers her refuge in the Dome—the only place on Gabriel untouched by Red Death, where a decadent and sultry life awaits. But there’s a catch: Leica can only enter the Dome as his concubine—his Kisaeng. When a rogue group of Citizens see their chance for revolution in Leica’s good fortune, she finds herself unraveling a deadly mystery with chilling answers to the true origin of Red Death and the reason Earth really abandoned them so long ago.

A richly imagined fantasy in the vein of Tamora Pierce, Lotus and Thorn, is a magnificent, epic adventure.

Purchase Lotus and Thorn at Amazon
Purchase Lotus and Thorn at IndieBound
View Lotus and Thorn on Goodreads


Sara Wilson Etienne went to school to become a marine biologist... but when her research transformed itself into a novel, she realized she loved fantasy more than fact. Now she enjoys combining both to create stories that ask "What if?"

Sara writes in Seattle alongside her artist husband and her two dogs. Her favorite days are spent disappearing into different universes, whether it's traveling with Dr. Who, popping into a parallel world with Diana Wynne Jones or Terry Pratchett, or writing her own stories. Or sometimes just taking a nap.

Sara is the author of HARBINGER and LOTUS AND THORN.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

10 A Word of Inspiration for Every Writer Who Despairs

It is a thing universally acknowledged that a talented writer in possession of an excellent manuscript must be in want of an agent. But not for long.

I'm SO excited to spread the news that our own Erin Cashman, my beloved Erin, has a new agent for her brilliant high fantasy King Arthur retelling. She has signed with Caitie Flum at Liza Dawson after receiving several offers.

Erin is one of the best, hardest working, and most humble authors I have ever met. She has proved to me, once again, that if you have a solid manuscript, it will be picked up by an agent without any gimmicks or special access. Erin queried, she got tons of requests, and she got multiple offers.

This is truly how it happens, so if it isn't happening for you--yet--don't despair. Writing is a process. We have to learn our craft, and that takes time. It requires persistence, and a willingness to follow the rules, and an ability to learn when and how and why to break rules. It means writing with our hearts pouring out onto the page and believing in our books while being willing and able to see our work with a critical eye. It means listening as hard as we can to advice that will help to make it better, and it means seeking out learning opportunities. 

Most of all, it means continuing to live our lives out loud and believing that we have more than one manuscript in us--because no one book is ever the end.

Laini Taylor had an incredible article of Five Writing Tips in Publisher's Weekly yesterday. Read them all, but take this especially to heart:

"Be an unstoppable force. Write with an imaginary machete strapped to your thigh. This is not wishy-washy, polite, drinking-tea-with-your-pinkie-sticking-out stuff. It’s who you want to be, your most powerful self. Write your books. Finish them, then make them better. Find the way. No one will make this dream come true for you but you."

So. Be inspired. Be motivated. Cheer for Erin, and cheer for yourself if you are writing--whatever you are writing. 

Have a great week!

Monday, May 23, 2016

11 THREE Giveaways plus New Releases and Author Interviews for this week 5/23-5/29

Another week with three giveaways! Up for grabs this week is EXILE FOR DREAMERS, THE SAFEST LIES and 26 KISSES. Don't forget to browse and read about all this week's latest releases and enter the giveaway at the bottom.

Happy Reading,

Shelly, Lindsey, Martina, Jocelyn, Erin, Susan, Sam, Sarah, Sandra, Kristin, and Anisaa


* * * *

Exile for Dreamers
by Kathleen Baldwin
Full Series Giveaway
U.S. Only

Tor Teen
Released 5/24/2016

A School for Unusual Girls is the first captivating installment in the Stranje House series for young adults by award-winning author Kathleen Baldwin. #1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot calls this romantic Regency adventure "completely original and totally engrossing."

Tess can't run far enough or fast enough to escape the prophetic dreams that haunt her. Dreams bring nothing but death and grief, and Tess refuses to accept that she may be destined for the same madness that destroyed her mother. Until her disturbing dreams become the only means of saving Lord Ravencross, the man she loves, and her friends at Stranje House from Lady Daneska and her lover, the Ghost-agent of Napoleon, who has escaped from Elba. Can the young ladies of Stranje House prevail once more? Or is England destined to fall into the hands of the power-mad dictator?

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Exile for Dreamers?

I love that Tess is so incredibly athletic in a world where women were usually tame, mild-mannered, girly-girls. Her dreams are so stressful that she has to run in order to maintain her emotional balance.

Purchase Exile for Dreamers at Amazon
Purchase Exile for Dreamers at IndieBound
View Exile for Dreamers on Goodreads

* * * *

The Safest Lies
by Megan Miranda
Signed Hardcover Giveaway
U.S. Only

Crown Books for Young Readers
Released 5/24/2016

Can fear be inherited?

Kelsey was raised to see danger everywhere. Her mother hasn’t set foot outside their front door in seventeen years, since she escaped from her kidnappers with Kelsey growing inside her.

Kelsey knows she’s supposed to keep a low profile for their own protection, but that plan is shattered when she drives off a cliff and is rescued by volunteer firefighter and classmate Ryan Baker.

A few days later, she arrives home to face her greatest fear: her mother is missing. She and her mother have drilled for all contingencies—except this one. Luckily, Ryan is as skilled at emergency rescues as Kelsey is at escape and evasion.

To have a chance at a future, Kelsey will have to face all her darkest fears. Because someone is coming for her.

And the truth about the past may end up being the most dangerous thing of all.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about The Safest Lies?

THE SAFEST LIES is about a girl named Kelsey who has been raised to see the danger everywhere, by a mother who hasn’t left the house since Kelsey was born. So my favorite thing about the book was creating a house with this vision in mind—and then using it as the main setting for a thriller. At the beginning, Kelsey’s home is seen as a layer of protection, with gates, alarms, cameras, and a safe room; and then, as the story progresses, Kelsey has to find a way to use only those elements to either protect herself, fight back, or escape. I loved seeing Kelsey grow from a girl ruled by fear, to a girl who channels those fears into strengths.

Purchase The Safest Lies at Amazon
Purchase The Safest Lies at IndieBound
View The Safest Lies on Goodreads

* * * *

26 Kisses
by Anna Michels
Hardcover Giveaway
U.S. Only

Simon Pulse
Released 5/24/2016

Kasie West meets Morgan Matson in this hilarious and heartwarming debut about a girl’s summer mission to get over her ex-boyfriend by kissing her way through the alphabet.

Getting dumped by her boyfriend is not how Veda planned on starting her summer. When Mark makes it clear that it’s over between them, Veda is heartbroken and humiliated—but, more importantly, she’s inspired. So she sets out on the love quest of a lifetime: use the summer to forget about Mark, to move on, and move up. All she has to do is kiss twenty-six boys with twenty-six different names—one for each letter of the alphabet.

From the top of the Ferris wheel at her hometown carnival to the sandy dunes of Lake Michigan, Veda takes every opportunity she can to add kisses (and boys) to her list, and soon the break-up doesn’t sting quite as much. But just when Veda thinks she has the whole kissing thing figured out, she meets someone who turns her world upside down.

Purchase 26 Kisses at Amazon
Purchase 26 Kisses at IndieBound
View 26 Kisses on Goodreads


* * * *

100 Days of Cake by Shari Goldhagen: Nicole S. & Kira B.
Circle of Jinn by Lori Goldstein: Emma M.
Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff: Kami C.


* * * *

The Hunt
by Megan Shepherd
Balzer + Bray
Released 5/24/2016

They’ve left the cage—but they’re not free yet.

After their failed escape attempt, Cora, Lucky, and Mali have been demoted to the lowest level of human captives and placed in a safari-themed environment called the Hunt, along with wild animals and other human outcasts. They must serve new Kindred masters—Cora as a lounge singer, Lucky as an animal wrangler, and Mali as a safari guide—and follow new rules or face dangerous consequences. Meanwhile, Nok and Rolf have been moved into an enormous dollhouse, observed around the clock by Kindred scientists interested in Nok’s pregnancy. And Leon, the only one who successfully escaped, has teamed up with villainous Mosca black-market traders.

The former inhabitants of the Cage are threatened on all fronts—and maybe worst of all, one of the Hunt’s Kindred safari guests begins to play a twisted game of cat and mouse with Cora. Separated and constantly under watch, she and the others must struggle to stay alive, never mind find a way back to each other. When Cassian secretly offers to train Cora to develop her psychic abilities—to prove the worthiness of humanity in a series of tests called the Gauntlet—she’ll have to decide fast if she dares to trust the Kindred who betrayed her, or if she can forge her own way to freedom.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about The Hunt?

Each book in the CAGE series puts a twist on the different types of relationships that exist between animals and humans--only in the world of THE CAGE, the humans are the ones behind bars, and the all-powerful alien Kindred are the ones pulling the strings. In the first book, THE CAGE, the kids found themselves in a "human zoo" where they were kept in a zoo-like habitat, forced to perform tricks, and were experimented on. In THE HUNT, the kids have left the cage but now find themselves the quarry in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse in a safari-type enclosure. This time, they're paired with actual wild animals taken from Earth just like them. I loved playing around with the concepts of hunted vs hunter.

Purchase The Hunt at Amazon
Purchase The Hunt at IndieBound
View The Hunt on Goodreads

* * * *

The World Beneath
by Janice Warman
Released 5/24/2016

At the rise of South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle, a boy must face life decisions that test what he believes—and call for no turning back.

South Africa, 1976. Joshua lives with his mother in the maid’s room, in the backyard of their wealthy white employers’ house in the city by the sea. He doesn’t quite understand the events going on around him. But when he rescues a stranger and riots begin to sweep the country, Joshua has to face the world beneath—the world deep inside him—to make heartbreaking choices that will change his life forever. Genuine and quietly unflinching, this beautifully nuanced novel from a veteran journalist captures a child’s-eye view of the struggle that shaped a nation and riveted the world.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about The World Beneath?

My favorite thing about The World Beneath is that it has given me the chance to tell the story of apartheid through a child’s eyes, at a pivotal moment in the country’s history - the Soweto uprising in 1976. Joshua is an extremely brave boy who risks his life to save the wounded freedom fighter he shelters in the garden. I grew up in South Africa as a privileged white child, surrounded by poverty and deprivation that I didn’t see, and it took me until my teenage years to realize the extent of the horror that was the system of apartheid. With this story, I hope to bring to children around the world the reality of life there in a way that a history book could not.

Purchase The World Beneath at Amazon
Purchase The World Beneath at IndieBound
View The World Beneath on Goodreads


* * * *

by M.G. Reyes
Katherine Tegen Books
Released 5/24/2016

There’s trouble in paradise. Six teens legally liberated from parental control—the bad boy, the good girl, the diva, the hustler, the rocker, and the nerd—all share a house in Venice Beach and they all have one thing in common: murder.

After a streak of hookups, heartbreaks, and bad decisions, the housemates’ once perfect life is falling apart. One is caught in a forbidden romance with a Hollywood hearttrob while another puts her dreams on the line for one little kiss. One harbors a dark truth that could save a life while another’s risky business puts all their lives on the line. And before they know it, the friends are fighting like family.

But when an uninvited houseguest and a deadly accident entangle them in a conspiracy none of them saw coming, pulling together is the only way out. Alone, none of them can cover up the lies. Together, none of them can be trusted.

Packed with conspiracies, intrigue, and scandalous romance, this gripping sequel told from multiple perspectives will have readers suspecting them all.

Purchase Incriminated at Amazon
Purchase Incriminated at IndieBound
View Incriminated on Goodreads

* * * *

Outrun the Moon
by Stacey Lee
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Y
Released 5/24/2016

San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty in Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare’s School for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare’s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance through a mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch of spoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong—until disaster strikes.

On April 18, an historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy’s home and school. With martial law in effect, she is forced to wait with her classmates for their families in a temporary park encampment. Mercy can't sit by while they wait for the Army to bring help. Fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, yet Mercy still has the 'bossy' cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenaged girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?

Purchase Outrun the Moon at Amazon
Purchase Outrun the Moon at IndieBound
View Outrun the Moon on Goodreads

* * * *

The Last Star
by Rick Yancey
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Released 5/24/2016

We’re here, then we’re gone, and that was true before they came. That’s always been true. The Others didn’t invent death; they just perfected it. Gave death a face to put back in our face, because they knew that was the only way to crush us. It won’t end on any continent or ocean, no mountain or plain, jungle or desert. It will end where it began, where it had been from the beginning, on the battlefield of the last beating human heart.

Master storyteller Rick Yancey invokes triumph, loss, and unrelenting action as the fate of the planet is decided in the conclusion to this epic series.

Purchase The Last Star at Amazon
Purchase The Last Star at IndieBound
View The Last Star on Goodreads

Sunday, May 22, 2016

0 Shari Goldhagen, author of 100 DAYS OF CAKE, on inventing everything about your characters

We're delighted to have Shari Goldhagen join us to share more about her latest novel 100 DAYS OF CAKE.

Shari, what scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? 

I don’t know that it’s a specific scene, but when I started the book, I found that I was super intimidated to write about Molly’s depression and anxiety. For one thing reading about someone who’s depressed can be a bummer—and it was important to me that the book be fun!

I was also terrified of offending people or having a bunch of psychologists issuing warnings about the book. Mental health issues affect so many people and they can be pretty charged. I knew what my own experiences were like, but I didn’t want to put out the “wrong” message to young adults.

Finally I just took a deep breath and said, well, screw it! This isn’t a treatment manual and I’m not a doctor (if I were, I would definitely advise against crushing on your shrink). It’s a novel, so I’m way more interested in Molly’s character traits than any specifics of various DSM-5 conditions. It was really liberating . . . but I wouldn’t be shocked if there was a little hate mail.

0 Laurent Linn, author of DRAW THE LINE, on writing a novel being like sculpting

We're thrilled to have Laurent Linn stop by to tell us more about his debut novel DRAW THE LINE.

Laurent, what scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

Many scenes were hard to write, either craft-wise or emotionally. But by far the most difficult was writing the hate crime scene. Without giving too much away, a horrible hate crime occurs that puts my main character, Adrian, unwillingly in the middle of the situation.

In order to be true to the emotions of all the characters, as well as make the reader feel like they are in Adrian's shoes, I had to completely “go there” emotionally. I'm not a violent person and don't understand what would make someone truly hurt another person in real life. But, to write a truthful scene on all levels, I had to put myself in the bully’s head as well, to understand his motivations, which impact the rest of the book in big ways. I can’t say I “love” that scene, simply because it’s necessarily brutal, but I am proud I was able to go out of my comfort zone to craft that part of the story.

0 Holly Schindler, author of SPARK, on doing something writing-related every day

SPARK is the latest novel from Holly Schindler, and we're excited to have her here to chat about writing.

Holly, what book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

It’s not a book so much as it’s an experience, I think. Theater nuts should love SPARK. This is truly a book about the magic of the theater. Those who know what it’s like to be transformed as the curtain rises will interact with SPARK in a different way than those who perhaps haven’t had the same experience.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I don’t work well in a public place. I do have a home office, and get a ton of work done there. But my favorite place to work is outside, on my deck. There’s something about being outside—without the constraints of any walls—that allows my mind to roam free. And there’s also the added benefit of being away from the TV, the phone, etc.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

0 Lori Goldstein, author of CIRCLE OF JINN, on cutting yourself a break

CIRCLE OF JINN is book two in the Becoming Jinn series, and we're pleased to have Lori Goldstein swing by to share more about it.

Lori, what scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

There is a scene toward the end of CIRCLE OF JINN that may be my favorite over both books. It’s an incredibly emotional scene between Azra, the main character, and her best friend, Henry. It is where everything they’ve been through together reaches a pivotal point, culminating in decisions by each of them that are heart-wrenching to make and yet speak to how much they care about each other and what they’ve both come to learn in the process of Azra becoming a Jinn. Themes of love, family, and sacrifice are all inherent in this scene and it was very emotional for me to write, but I’m incredibly proud of it and it still brings a tear to my eye when I read it.

1 Lily Anderson, author of THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN ME IS YOU, on writing a story you want to read

We're excited to have Lily Anderson here to give us the scoop about her debut novel THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN ME IS YOU.

Lily, what was your inspiration for writing THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN ME IS YOU?

I’m a school librarian. When I started writing THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN ME IS YOU, I was working in an elementary school that had 900 students from kindergarten to eighth grade. I was really blown away by the fact that they were so passionate about things that grown-ups consider to be part of nerd culture—Star Wars, Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Marvel movies, DC movies, Lord of the Rings. It was so intrinsic to who they all were and I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like for them to get to high school, not knowing that fandoms were something we used to have to hide under a bushel.

0 Jenny Martin, author of MARKED, on the critical space that lives between the lines

MARKED is the sequel to TRACKED, and we're thrilled to have Jenny Martin stop by to tell us more about it.

Jenny, what scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

There was an earlier scene—one with Phee and Mary—that I’m really proud of. Phee gets the chance to acknowledge how deeply she loves her, how much she’s learned from her, and how much strength she’s drawn from her foster mother. It was a tough scene to get right, but I’m really happy with it, and with the message it sends about family.

The scene I’m most proud of? Again, probably the tear-jerking scene in chapter-thirty four. I think it makes me cry the hardest, and it captured everything I wanted to say. I hope readers feel the same.

As for the scene I love the most…it’s probably the scene in the flight simulator, before Phee makes a pivotal choice, setting the course for the rest of her journey. That scene…feels like a whole story unto itself. In that one scene, there’s action (some of the most intense I’ve ever written), discovery, tension, romance, comfort, sorrow, and even a little hope.

2 Paula Stokes, author of GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE, on practicing better self-care

We're delighted to have Paula Stokes with us to chat about her latest novel GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE.

Paula, what book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE is a great choice for fans of Tamara Ireland Stone's EVERY LAST WORD, Morgan Matson's SINCE YOU'VE BEEN GONE, Miranda Kenneally's BREATHE, ANNIE, BREATHE, and Kerri Winfrey's LOVE AND OTHER ALIEN EXPERIENCES.

How long did you work on GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE?

GATU is the fastest I've ever gone from concept to publication. I got the idea in February of 2014, pitched it in March, sold it in May, and started writing in July. I spent about ten weeks on the first draft and then sent it to beta-readers for a month while I worked on another project. Then I revised GATU in November and sent it to my editor in December. Then, about one year after pitching it, the real work (AKA editorial revision) began. I re-wrote almost half the book in April and May of 2015 and we went to copy-edits at the beginning of June. So the total elapsed time was about a year, but half of that was me writing and revising and the other half was when crit partners or my editor had the manuscript.

Friday, May 20, 2016

0 Tips for Increasing Conflict by Eileen Cook

Conflict. Can never get too little of it in real life. Can never get enough of it in a novel. Perhaps that is why it is so difficult for some of us to write strong conflict into our stories. Fortunately, multi-published Eileen Cook joins us today to share some insight on how to intensify the conflict for our poor characters. She is also celebrating the upcoming release of her newest book, WITH MALICE. Check it out at the end of the post!

Tips for Increasing Conflict, a Craft of Writing Post by Eileen Cook

In real life we might avoid conflict, but as readers we seek it out. We want to see characters in difficult situations, because trying to figure out how they will get themselves out is what keeps us turning pages. Common feedback we get as writers from editors and agents is that a story is missing enough conflict. No conflict = no story.

At the most basic level conflict is what gets in the way of your characters getting what they want. They may want love, to find a magical ring, to beat the vampire king, to solve a murder, or climb a mountain. If they can obtain that goal with no challenges then you have a very short story. A boring one. There are two types of conflict: Internal and External. Let’s explore how to increase both of these.

External Conflict is what is in the way of your character in the outside world. This may be a villain, a monster, or even a close friend who also happens to want the same goal. Here are some prompts to help you look for places in your manuscript to make the conflict even higher.

Conflict Location/Time: Try and have the conflict happen in the most uncomfortable place and time possible for your characters: in the middle of a school hallway, at work, or in the middle of their solo at the band concert. If your character is about to discover that their boyfriend is cheating on them, when is the worst time for them to get that news? Where is the worst place? Who is the worst person to tell them?

Let the conflict build: Let characters stew until they suddenly explode with emotion. Instead of stating clearly what issue you want to have addressed, have your fictional characters dance around the real issue. There is nothing like confusion to make conflict more difficult and increase the chance of misunderstandings.

Loss of Emotional Control: Instead of listening and reflecting on what is said, allow your characters to lash out, even before they might fully understand the situation. Because they are already formulating a response instead of listening, they increase the chance that they misunderstand what the other person is trying to say or do. Conflict is raised one step at a time, and the more emotional the characters become the more likely they quickly move up these steps. This increases the chance they will say something they’ll regret.

Use Accusations: In real life we encourage people to focus on the situation, not the people. Fiction should follow the opposite behavior. Characters should use “you statements” not “I statements.” You statements put people on the defensive, such as, “you always do this!” I statements are personal and less accusatory, “I feel hurt when this happens.” In real life we often confuse what someone does with what it might mean. We turn: “You didn’t invite me to go with you for dinner” becomes “you don’t want to be my BFF anymore, you want to hang out with them instead!” What meanings does your character put on things that happen?

Make the risk matter: What happens if your character doesn’t get what they want? In some cases the conflict is life or death- I need to stop the bad guy or he will blow up the world. But in many stories the risk isn’t real life or death, but it should feel like it to the character involved. If your character’s goal is to get a part in the school play, why does that matter to them so much? Often the goal is a placeholder for a bigger issue. For example:if I get a part in the play I will finally have my mom’s approval. What does your character think they might lose if they don’t win the conflict?

Internal Conflict is what is happening inside of your character that keeps them from moving toward their goal. A common saying is that we are often our own worst enemy. This is the idea that we often sabotage our own goals. Here are some things to consider when attempting to raise internal conflict.

Wound/Trauma: Many of us have something that happened to us (often when we’re quite young) that shapes how we see the world. Maybe we had a parent pass away, or moved a lot and had difficulty making friends, or had something about our appearance that led to people making fun of us. Even when we think we may have moved on from whatever that traumatic experience was- we still carry around that baggage. If you had a huge nose that made kids tease you – even once you had surgery for a new nose and are stunningly beautiful- you may be very shy and feel that you are unattractive. What baggage does your character carry around? How do they see themselves compared to how others see them?

Internal Debate: If we know what we want it seems it should be simple in most cases to go after that thing and yet it’s not. The truth is that many of us are conflicted. We want both sides of a situation. For example: we want to be thin and fit, but we also want a cupcake. We want to be a couple, but we also want to be independent. We want to stop the bad guy from blowing up the planet, but we also want to be safe. Think about what your character wants,then think of the exact opposite thing. Is there a way to show how your character may want a bit of both?

Doubt: One of the biggest challenges to reaching our goals is the fear that we don’t have what it takes to reach that objective, or that we don’t “deserve” to get our goal. What does your character worry about when no one else is around? What do they tell themselves about their own abilities?

Hopefully these tips will give you something to consider as you try and increase the conflict in your own stories. While this might make your characters miserable (at least until they get to their happy ending) it will keep readers turning the page.

About the Book:
Eileen Cook’s new book WITH MALICE will be in stores June 7, 2016

For fans of We Were Liars and The Girl on the Train comes a chilling, addictive psychological thriller about a teenage girl who cannot remember the last six weeks of her life.

Eighteen-year-old Jill Charron's senior trip to Italy was supposed to be the adventure of a lifetime. And then the accident happened. Waking up in a hospital room, her leg in a cast, stitches in her face, and a big blank canvas where the last 6 weeks should be, Jill comes to discover she was involved in a fatal accident in her travels abroad. She was jetted home by her affluent father in order to receive quality care. Care that includes a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident...wasn't an accident. Wondering not just what happened but what she did, Jill tries to piece together the events of the past six weeks before she loses her thin hold on her once-perfect life.

* "Cinematic scene breaks and propulsive reveals will keep the pages furiously turning in this slow-burning but explosive thriller."
            –Booklist, STARRED review

Amazon | Indiebound | Goodreads

About the Author:

Eileen Cook is a multi-published author with her novels appearing in eight different languages. Her books have been optioned for film and TV. She spent most of her teen years wishing she were someone else or somewhere else, which is great training for a writer. Her newest book, WITH MALICE, will be out in June 2016. She’s an instructor/mentor with the Simon Fraser University Writer’s Studio Program.

You can read more about Eileen, her books, and the things that strike her as funny at Eileen lives in Vancouver with her husband and two very naughty dogs and no longer wishes to be anyone or anywhere else.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

-- posted by Susan Sipal, @HP4Writers