Friday, July 29, 2016

1 Author Brent Hartinger on How to Put More Drive in Your Plot

We are thrilled to have multi-published author and screenwriter Brent Hartinger with us today. He's got a very meaty post for you all. This is one that you'll want to bookmark and refer to time and again as he breaks down the three-act structure and shows how it can be applied scene to scene. And as Brent has written twelve novels, I think he knows what he's talking about. Be sure to check out his newest release, Three Truths and a Lie, below. The blurb made me want to get it right away, and he's got an awesome trailer too!

Want More Drive in Your Plot?

Apply the Three-Act Structure to Each Chapter and Section!

by Brent Hartinger

According to Aristotle, every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

In other words, a story has a set-up (which introduces a protagonist, and his or her wants and needs, and also a specific plot goal); the rising action (with complicating factors and obstacles getting in the way of the character achieving his or her goal); and an ending (where the character's goal is met, or not, and the story is resolved in some interesting way).

Many modern stories are more complicated than this, but most still conform to this basic outline. We now call it the Three-Act Structure. (Some people get confused by this terminology, because unlike an actual play, the three acts are not the same length. The first and third acts are typically short, and the bulk of any "story" is in its second act.)

In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy desperately wants out of her dreary life on a Kansas farm (Act One). She is unexpectedly transported to Oz, but is determined to find a way home (Act Two). Finally, Dorothy does find a way back to Kansas, and realizes she was wrong to ever want to leave in the first place (Act Three).

For generations of writers and readers, this basic structure has made for very satisfying storytelling. At the start of the story, a question is asked. By the end of the story, that question is answered -- but hopefully not in a way that the audience expected.

The longer I write, and the more I study plot, the more I've come to the conclusion that the Three-Act Structure can be applied to more than just the overall story. In many cases, it can also be applied to individual chapters, even sections and scenes. (You might even say that the basic building block of all writing, the sentence, conforms to this pattern, with a noun [a starting point], a verb [an active, complicating factor], and an object [some kind of resolution]!).

If you have a plot that seems to be sagging, or if you're looking for more drive in your story in general, look for ways to apply the Three-Act Structure to each individual scene. But of course the structure will be a little different than your overall structure.

First, identify the point of the individual scene. How does it move the story forward? What specific role does it serve in your plot? If a scene plays no obvious role in your plot, ask yourself: Should it even be here?

As you continue to break down the scene, ask yourself: What specifically does the main character want here? Who or what is keeping him or her from getting it -- and why? One way or another, zero in on the central "conflict" of the scene. Conflict is inherently interesting -- it's what drives all plots. So build your scene around that central conflict.

Introduce that conflict as early as possible, and connect it to the description of the scene. Maybe a woman is having strange visions of the future, so she goes to visit a fortune-teller. She's desperate to be told that her visions are meaningless, and that her future will be just fine, but she's very skeptical of fortune-tellers. Right away, she notices that the fortune-teller's crystal ball is a cheap one, made in China. This could even be the opening of the chapter: "As she waited for the fortune-teller, Marlene picked up the crystal ball. The writing on the bottom said, Made in China."

Next, develop the central conflict of the scene in strange and unexpected ways. Make a point to give the scene rising tension. Meanwhile, continue to wrap the scene and its description around the central conflict.

In our example, the fortune-teller begins the reading, even as Marlene scoffs to herself how silly it is. But then the fortune-teller says something accurate -- too accurate to be a coincidence. Marlene has no choice but to start taking the reading more seriously. The cryptic warnings of the fortune-teller become increasingly dire. The candle on the table smokes heavily; outside, thunder rumbles, and it begins to rain. Finally, the fortune-teller's eyes widen in terror: she sees great tragedy, something even she did not expect!

Finally, "resolve" the central conflict of the scene in some interesting way. But since the overall conflict of the story must stay unresolved, the scene-resolution typically involves spinning the story off in some unpredictable new direction. The "scene" conflict is resolved, but the overall plot is not. So at the end of the scene, consider introducing the conflict that will be the focus of the next scene.

In our example, the fortune-teller has just warned Marlene of great tragedy. She is initially frightened, but then decides the reading has all been the set-up to a scam. Now Marlene is certain the fortune-teller will ask for a huge amount of money for some potion or spell that will somehow stave off the tragedy. But the fortune-teller doesn't ask for money; instead, she is so scared by her own vision that she pushes Marlene out of her house, slamming the door in her face. And the scene ends with Marlene standing in the rain outside the fortune-teller's house, more certain than ever that some great tragedy awaits in her future. But then she notices footsteps in the fresh mud underneath the fortune-teller's window. Someone was listening to the reading!

In other words, at the beginning of the scene, we asked a question: Are Marlene's visions real? By the end of the scene, we've answered that question, but not necessarily in a way that the reader expected: Yes, they're real -- and even worse than Marlene thought! Finally, before the scene is over, we've asked a new question: Who else knows about Marlene's visions -- and why?

Lather, rinse, and repeat, all the way to the end of your story, when your overall conflict is resolved too.

If your book lacks drive, the problem is probably somewhere in your structure. But when analyzing your structure, don't forget to look at the structure of your individual scenes.

About the Book:
THREE TRUTHS AND A LIE by Brent Hartinger

Deep in the heart of the forest, four friends gather for a weekend of fun.

Truth #1: Rob is thrilled about the weekend trip. It’s the perfect time for him to break out of his shell…to be the person he really, really wants to be.

Truth #2: Liam, Rob’s boyfriend, is nothing short of perfect. He’s everything Rob could have wanted. They’re perfect together. Perfect.

Truth #3: Mia has been Liam’s best friend for years…long before Rob came along. They get each other in a way Rob could never, will never, understand.

Truth #4: Galen, Mia’s boyfriend, is sweet, handsome, and incredibly charming. He’s the definition of a Golden Boy…even with the secrets up his sleeve.

One of these truths is a lie…and not everyone will live to find out which one it is.

Amazon | Indiebound | Goodreads

About the Author:

Brent Hartinger is a novelist and screenwriter. His twelfth novel, Three Truths and a Lie, a twisty YA thriller with gay teens, is out now. Visit Brent online at

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

-- posted by S.P. Sipal, @HP4Writers

Thursday, July 28, 2016


Well, everyone, it's that time. We started Red Light/Green Light out with some amazing first lines and progressed to some even more amazing first pages and queries. Today, it is my great pleasure to announce the winner of the contest, who will receive a full request with editorial notes from our judging agent, Kelly Peterson. But first, Kelly asked if she could address all of our contestants, and she had this to say:

First off, I want to say that everyone who entered into this contest is amazing. You all are so talented and determined and if you keep trying and learning, you WILL succeed! You took the first step by wanting to learn and entering this competition. In addition, I have been offering feedback to those who didn't make it into the final rounds because it's the reason you all entered this contest. You came to be better than what you were before. Reach out to me if you would like some feedback. I may not get back to you until late next week, but don't hesitate to ask and discuss your first lines with me.

I seriously applaud every single one of you and encourage you to find amazing beta readers and CPs and gather as much editing notes and suggestions as you can because these only make you and your writing stronger. When you finally feel you're ready, (which may be never if you're anything like Marie Lu whose agent has to pry the manuscripts out of her hands) query me, ask me questions, find writing friends, and never be afraid to put yourself out there. You can do this. You will do this. You will find your path. Keep pushing. Keep chugging along. Have faith in your life and your happiness and please don't hesitate to contact me. You. Are. Wonderful.

On to the results that you're all skipping ahead to anyways...

I based my final decision off not only the contestants' synopses, but their writing as well. I put both their synopses and first pages together onto one document to make the best decision I could because goodness gracious, this was SO DIFFICULT! With that being said, I'd like to ask ALL FIVE OF THE FINAL CONTESTANTS to send me the first 50 pages of their manuscripts. Honestly, this was probably the most difficult decision I've had to make yet, so thank you guys for being amazing. I can't promise you that I will get to them within the next week or so, but I am trying to get through my query box by the end of September. Seriously, all five of you, send it on over!

(A note from your friendly contest coordinator: If you are one of the top 5 Red Light/Green contestants, you'll find Kelly's agency query information here. Please use the subject "Red Light/Green Light Request" in the subject line of your email, and attach your 50 pages as a Word document. Should you have any questions, feel free to reach out to myself-- laura.weymouth(at)hotmail(dot)com or to either Kelly or I on Twitter (@lauraeweymouth and @YAFantasyFan). We're always here to help.)

Now the part you've all been waiting for...

Deep breath... And the winner is...

MARKED by Lindsey Myhr!

So, Lindsey astounded me from the beginning because she has such a natural talent for writing. She caught my attention by talking about a loose thread... Seriously, a loose thread. WHO DOES THAT?! I knew that this woman has to have some crazy inborn talent in order to write like that, and I was correct after reading her first page, and I look forward to reading more! She starts with the smallest detail which enables her readers to not only be pulled into the story, but the scene. She then goes on to open up that small scene of a loose thread to encompass her main character in a way that shows the reader who she is and how she probably acts. This allows readers to begin to build a picture of her main character in their heads and starts to draw that reader in like a fish on a hook. You become entranced by her and her life, all because she was picking at a simple loose thread awkwardly. This is a perfect example of my first date analysis. You don't want to give away too much, or else the reader may run away, but be genuine and give them just enough to keep them coming back to know more. If you haven't read her first page, you should probably do so! 
(You can read Lindsey's first page, along with those of our top 10 contestants, here.)

Not only that, but her book intrigued me. Honestly, I first read the synopsis and was like, "Oh boy, this sounds a whole lot like quite a few books I know," but when I really analyzed it, her synopsis was more about how she felt she didn't belong anywhere and was an outcast. This isn't quite your normal story about an heir to the throne, warrior-like woman. This looks to be a story about a girl on her own, no help and no such luck, honestly working for everything that she has to get through in life and just trying to find her place in a world that seems to hate her no matter which way she turns. She's not given anything, and actually, it seems to me like she may turn out less than lucky anyways. It's almost like Red Queen meets Throne of Glass. It's not quite one or the other, but it finds a nice in between that can still fit in today's market. I love it! 

What intrigued me even more is that this manuscript is nothing like what I expected from the synopsis. I thought this was a YA high fantasy of some sort by reading the synopsis, and I might still be correct, but it came with a large twist. The main character isn't brash right out of the box, but is being treated as if she were upper class in an 1800's U.S.A. instead. It has this classic historical feel, with lace gloves, parasols and governesses galore, mixed with a little bit of magic. It's honestly a fascinating combination, as normally you'll find a more adventurous, extremely independent, and very brash young woman on her own in YA fantasy novels. You open up the manuscript and you find a girl who just wants to fit in and have some class. It's a nice change of pace!

On top of this, her grammar is on point, her descriptions are vivid and succinct, and her writing is extremely well crafted. I can tell that she put a lot of time into her entry and I hope that this shows through the rest of her manuscript. :) 

Overall, you all did so amazing and I'm so proud of every single one of you. Keep going and never give up that dream!

Congratulations, Lindsey! Please find me on Twitter to get my submission instructions.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

4 Write. Tell your story. Break the “Rules”

Who doesn't love a good excuse to break the rules? We are happy to welcome Kathleen Palm, currently working on her YA debut DOORS, here today as she speaks out on why breaking the rules can be good for your writing. 

"Because these ways of writing haven’t worked doesn’t mean that they can’t...Maybe your story works perfectly because you broke the rules."

Twelve years ago, when I began this journey of words, I wrote in a bubble. Just me and the story I wanted to tell. No outside I-know-better voices. No learned phrases of wisdom. No should’s and shouldn’ts or do’s and don’ts. 

Stress free creativity, no rules pinning me down. 

Because I the thought of being a writer never occurred to me, I never took a single writing course. So when I decided to be an author, I just did it. Why not? 

Writing was fun. Then…The thought of setting my words free in the wild crept into my mind. To be published! What a thought! A scary, fabulous thought.

But to be published, I would need help. So, with my dreams clutched in my sweaty hands, I ventured deeper into the world of writing, taking classes on getting published and on telling a story, and subscribing to Writer’s Digest magazine. Ready for feedback on my manuscripts, I joined a writers’ group. Finally, I discovered the fabulous writing community of Twitter, who are my very favorite people, where I found critique partners and encouragement.

In gathering all this shiny new information, I learned that there are rules to writing and, more importantly, to getting published, should’s and shouldn’ts…do’s and don’ts. 

And holy moly, fellow wordians, I was doing the writing thing all wrong! As a new, unpublished writer, I listened to everything because I wanted my stories to be a real-live book. I wanted to do this wording thing right.

"So I tried to follow the rules, and, well…My stress-free creativity was crushed. Carefully navigating all the should’s and shouldn’ts steals a bit of the writing joy. It can be paralyzing." 

In the midst of trying to follow all the rules, and kinda losing my mind, I took a step back to breathe. I missed my bubble of ignorance-is-bliss-happiness where all I had to do was write. So I unwound the jumbled knot of rules, knocked down the walls of the box they had confined me in and stared at the remains.

To discover that they are opinions in disguise.

Don’t start your story with a dream. Show don’t tell. Never use passive voice. Never use prologues. Write middle grade in third person. Watch overuse of description and narrative. Start your story with action. Vampire and werewolf books aren’t selling. Sound familiar? 

All opinions. Somehow they became guidelines, then transformed into rules. Too many times have I seen authors write the words “but I was told I had to…”, “I was told I need to…”, “I should…”, “the idea I have won’t sell”. Doubt runs amok in the streets! Too many authors lose faith in their ideas, letting plot bunnies get away and allowing their stories to be affected by others.

Nopity. Nope. Nope. 

There is no “have to” or “should”, only your story and your words. 

"Now don’t get me wrong, these opinions exist for a reason, because they haven’t worked in the past."

Passive voice can slow the pace of the story, and BLAMM-O, reader is bored. Beginning with a dream can confuse or frustrate the reader. Not enough action in the opening scene and the reader will lose interest. Accept that many writers have tried these writing devices with little success. Know that because these attempts haven’t worked doesn’t mean they can’t work. 

Let me repeat. 

Because these ways of writing haven’t worked doesn’t mean that they can’t. 

When someone tells you you should or shouldn’t write one way or the other, stop and think. Maybe your story works perfectly because you broke the rules.

"Roam through the world of writing, check out the the opinions bombarding us from all angles, recognize what has and hasn’t worked, then shut yourself away. Go back to your bubble full of happiness and chuck the rules out the window."

Write your story the way it wants to be written. Listen to opinions, then let your heart guide you. Love your words. 

Write. Tell your story. Break the “Rules” and do it your way, a different way, a way that might change the writing world forever. Never limit yourself to writing based on all the opinions, all the “rules”. Take a step out of your bubble to learn what you can, but always go back into the bubble and forget everything. 

Now go forth and rock the writing world!


Kathleen Palm loves the weird, the scary, and the fantastical, believing that magic makes the world a fabulously strange place. Her kids, husband, cats, and dog add laughter and general chaos to her life, which includes writing, reading, and watching creepy television shows, featuring demons or time travel. 

An author with REUTS Publications, she is working on her debut YA fantasy DOORS. Her short stories DARK WOLF and TOGETHER can be found in the anthology FAIRLY TWISTED TALES FOR A HORRIBLY EVER AFTER. Her horror short story WHAT LURKS IN THE DARKNESS can be found in the anthology HALLOWEEN NIGHT: TRICK OR TREAT. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

2 A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter and the Lasting Impression of J.K. Rowling + Cursed Child & Boxset #Giveaway

One of my favorite things in the world is getting the opportunity to congratulate a fellow author on a truly remarkable achievement. And today is one of those days. There are countless books about good writing, but few that peel back the curtain on what makes a book beloved. A WRITER’S GUIDE TO HARRY POTTER is a treasure trove for writers and readers alike, filled with nuggets of insight into the characters, world, and techniques J.K. Rowling used to work her magic. It’s a resource I’ll go back to again and again! I read this many years ago as I was working on my first YA novel, and I've had the pleasure and honor of getting to read the newly revised and expanded version which is being released today. Believe me, it's even better, and it's something that every Harry Potter superfan and every writer will love to read. I know that I've learned a lot from this book, and I plan to read it again and again.

Without further ceremony, I'm going to turn today's post over to Susan for some insights about J.K. Rowling and the writing process.

A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter and the Lasting Impression of J.K. Rowling

by S.P. Sipal

Harry Potter made a lasting impression on JK Rowling. And, no, I'm not talking about the billions she made off of telling his story. I'm referring to something a little deeper and more emotional.

You've heard the story I'm sure, about how how Rowling met Harry while waiting on a train headed for Kings Cross in London. She didn't have anything to write with, and so she sat and pondered for the four hours while the train was delayed. In that time she asked herself questions that would in time form the plot of the story that was to enthrall fans around the world.

But Rowling did not rush to publish. She spent five years developing that story. Five years in which life happened. She lost her mother, a traumatic event that left a strong impression on the development of her series. Rowling moved from England to Portugal, where she married and had a baby. Then divorced. Back to the UK to Edinburgh, where she became a single mother living on the British welfare system.

Still, Harry kept her company. She worked on Philosopher's Stone diligently, through walks about town until her baby fall asleep, then scribbling madly in cafes. She took time, lots of it, devising all the backstory that she would throw into 15 versions of the first chapter and then relentlessly take out until there was nothing left but pure mystery. Time to create an intriguing antihero, Severus Snape, who would keep readers spellbound as to the nature of his loyalty for 7 complete books. Time to devise all the rules of magic that filled a world so fantastically fun, fans longed for their own letter to Hogwarts. Time for a plot so thoroughly thought-out that she could sprinkle Sirius Black's name into the first chapter of the first book though his story would not take place until the third.

Even once her story was taking shape, Rowling did not act quickly. No, she delayed submissions while she pondered and plotted a seven-book series before even submitting the first. Like we're all told not to do.

Nor did things happen quickly for her once she submitted. Philosopher's Stone was rejected by agents before being acquired by Christopher Little. The story was then rejected by 12 publishers until finally landing at a small house. The first print run was only 500 books (some sources say 1000). Either way, Harry Potter did not get a big marketing push out of the publishing gate. He got his start the old-fashioned way--word of mouth from playground to playground.

When we see how far Harry and his headmistress have come, it's sometimes hard to believe that it took seven years to bring his story to life. And that the little orphan Boy-who-Lived has lived in JK Rowling's imagination now for 26 years. Over half her life.

This lengthy brew is in high contrast to what I see so often from authors around me... mostly myself. There is such a strong need within many of us to rush to publish that we sometimes put out work that is not our best. We often forget that the slower the cook, the more delicious the meat.

For myself, I believe that my rush to submit is the downside of being an optimist in a glass-half-empty publishing business. I'm always so hopeful, so positive of what excites me about my work, so confident in my ability to work hard and fix what's wrong that I forget that I'm sending my stories out to people who don't know me at all. Into slush piles with other writers as equally determined and hard-working. Into a very tight market that's flooded with wonderfully written and highly creative stories.

Publishing, though, has a way of slowing you down. I released the original version of A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter with my usual excellent timing, just as the Harry Potter fandom was winding down from the end of the last movie. Thus I've had several more years to deepen and sharpen the material in this book I've been working on now for twelve long years. Both virtually and physically, I've presented it at writing conferences and fan symposiums, at home and abroad, at schools and colleges. I've learned from the numerous fans and writers with whom I've been fortunate enough to meet along the way. I've slowly nurtured these ideas, and am thankful to Deep River Press for so skillfully and carefully publishing the updated and expanded 5th year anniversary edition.

Rowling thought Harry had wound down for her. She didn't plan to revisit his story. But the world she created had been such a part of her life for so long that she couldn't let it go completely....nor could her fans. So now she's revisiting it, nine years later. The stories have been once again brewing in her mind, though now she's taking her reader for a spin as she crosses into new formats and storylines.

I'm especially looking forward to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in the fall. With a new film trilogy to span four years, I believe fans are ensured that Rowling will be hiding as many clues and red herrings as she did in the original series. I'm preparing myself for the hunt to discover them all.

I'm also excited that we writers will have more to learn from Rowling herself. In writing this, I realize that in addition to all the other insights that I've shared in A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter about how she wove a spell over entire generations of readers, perhaps the greatest lesson she has to teach us is about taking the time to simmer our skills and stories.

If we want our stories to make a lasting impression on our reader, we have to first allow them to make a lasting impression within ourselves.

To celebrate the release of both A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter and JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I'm giving away a copy of Cursed Child + a complete paperback box set of the Harry Potter series! US mailing only

The same winner will receive ALL EIGHT BOOKS!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Book:
A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter
5th year anniversary edition! Expanded and improved.

Improve Your Writing with Harry Potter as Your Text!
The Harry Potter magic lives on as J.K. Rowling expands her wizarding world into new stories and formats. For five years, writers and fans from all continents have used A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter to delve beneath her pages' surface to discover the skill and artistry which created a story that enchanted audiences across generations. In this newly revised and expanded edition, S.P. Sipal takes you even deeper than before, exploring new techniques, and even peering into the artistic and marketing vision behind the upcoming Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

No matter your genre, this guide will help you strengthen your writing by virtually apprenticing under a bestselling mentor. Through fifteen lessons, discover the expert techniques Ms. Rowling employs which makes her series such a phenomenal success and which will help improve your own craft and style.

Topics include:

world building
mystery plotting
myths and archetypes
fan interaction
social media
and author-driven publishing and promotion.

Amazon | Indiebound | Goodreads

About the Author:

S.P. Sipal
Born and raised in North Carolina, Susan Sipal had to travel halfway across the world and return home to embrace her father and grandfather's penchant for telling a tall tale. After having lived with her husband in his homeland of Turkey for many years, she suddenly saw the world with new eyes and had to write about it. Perhaps it was the emptiness of the Library of Celsus at Ephesus that cried out to be refilled, or the myths surrounding the ancient Temple of Artemis, but she's been writing stories filled with myth and mystery ever since.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads


Monday, July 25, 2016

2 New Releases this week 7/25-7/31

Hey everyone, can you believe we only have one week of July left? Crazy how time flies by! Don't forget to check out all the awesome new releases this week and check if you won last week's giveaway!

Happy Reading,

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


A World Without You by Beth Revis: Austine D.
Little Black Dresses, Little White Lies by Laura Stampler: Jennifer L.


* * * *

by Sonya Mukherjee
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Released 7/26/2016

In a powerful and daring debut novel, Sonya Mukherjee shares the story of sisters Clara and Hailey, conjoined twins who are learning what it means to be truly extraordinary.

Seventeen-year-old conjoined twins Clara and Hailey have lived in the same small town their entire lives—no one stares at them anymore. But there are cracks in their quiet existence, and they’re slowly becoming more apparent. Clara and Hailey are at a crossroads. Clara wants to stay close to home, avoid all attention, and study the night sky. Hailey wants to travel the world, learn from great artists, and dance with mysterious boys. As high school graduation approaches, each twin must untangle her dreams from her sister’s, and figure out what it means to be her own person.

Told in alternating perspectives, this unconventional coming-of-age tale shows how dreams can break your heart—but the love between sisters can mend it.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Gemini?

My favorite thing about GEMINI is the way I saw aspects of myself coming out in each of my twin protagonists, despite their contrasts. Clara is shy, reserved, and insecure; some of her thoughts are sharp and sarcastic, but she usually doesn't say them out loud. Hailey is more rebellious and determined to live life on her own terms.

Recently, I was telling a friend who'd read GEMINI a story about one of my more rebellious moments in high school, and she said, "Wait. Were you Hailey in high school?" And I reflexively said, "No, I was Clara!" But then I stopped, thought for a second, and said, "I guess I was 80 percent Clara and 20 percent Hailey." The truth is, I wasn't really either of them; they are both their own people. But it was fun finding those connections with each of them.

Purchase Gemini at Amazon
Purchase Gemini at IndieBound
View Gemini on Goodreads


* * * *

How to Hang a Witch
by Adriana Mather
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Released 7/26/2016

For fans of Conversion and Mean Girls, comes a debut novel where the trials of high school start to feel like a modern day witch hunt for a teen with all the wrong connections to Salem’s past.

Salem, Massachusetts, is the site of the infamous witch trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials and almost immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves The Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were?

If dealing with that weren't enough, Sam also comes face to face with a real live (well technically dead) ghost. A handsome, angry ghost who wants Sam to stop touching his stuff. But soon Sam discovers she is at the center of a centuries old curse affecting anyone with ties to the trials. Sam must come to terms with the ghost and find a way to work with the Descendants to stop a deadly cycle that has been going on since the first accused witch was hanged. If any town should have learned its lesson, it's Salem. But history may be about to repeat itself.

Purchase How to Hang a Witch at Amazon
Purchase How to Hang a Witch at IndieBound
View How to Hang a Witch on Goodreads

* * * *

Invisible Monsters
by Joshua McCune
Greenwillow Books; Reprint edition
Released 7/26/2016

In this sequel to Talker 25, which Publishers Weekly said “packs a significant punch,” Joshua McCune once again keeps readers on the edge of their seats with a gritty and masterful reimagining of popular dragon fantasy set in a militant future.

Set in a not-too-distant future where dragon wars have shaped society, the battle between the dragon resistance and government forces escalates in Joshua McCune’s thrilling and heart-pounding sequel to Talker 25. Finally free after spending three months locked in a secret government facility, where she was forced to torture and assassinate dragons for the popular television series Kissing Dragons, all Melissa Callahan wants is a quiet recovery. Hiding in an Alaskan cave with fellow escapee Allie (known as Talker 21), Melissa does her best to stay out of the dragon politics. However, when a group of rebels called the Diocletians discovers their hideout and captures Allie, Melissa soon realizes she must finally choose who she’s fighting for—the humans or the dragons.

Purchase Invisible Monsters at Amazon
Purchase Invisible Monsters at IndieBound
View Invisible Monsters on Goodreads

* * * *

by Martin Stewart
Viking Books for Young Readers
Released 7/26/2016

A stunning debut perfect for fans of Patrick Ness and Neil Gaiman!

The Danék is a wild, treacherous river, and the Fobisher family has tended it for generations—clearing it of ice and weed, making sure boats can get through, and fishing corpses from its bleak depths. Wulliam’s father, the current Riverkeep, is proud of this work. Wull dreads it. And in one week, when he comes of age, he will have to take over.

Then the unthinkable happens. While recovering a drowned man, Wull’s father is pulled under—and when he emerges, he is no longer himself. A dark spirit possesses him, devouring him from the inside. In an instant, Wull is Riverkeep. And he must care for his father, too.

When he hears that a cure for his father lurks in the belly of a great sea-dwelling beast known as the mormorach, he embarks on an epic journey down the river that his family has so long protected—but never explored. Along the way, he faces death in any number of ways, meets people and creatures touched by magic and madness and alchemy, and finds courage he never knew he possessed.

Martin Stewart's debut novel is an astonishing blend of the literary, the comedic, and the emotionally resonant. In a sentence, it's The Wizard of Oz as told by Patrick Ness. It marks the beginning of a remarkable career.

Purchase Riverkeep at Amazon
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View Riverkeep on Goodreads

* * * *

What the Dead Want
by Norah Olson
Katherine Tegen Books
Released 7/26/2016

16-year-old Gretchen takes photographs to understand the world around her, a passion her mother Mona fostered and encouraged when she was still around. Since her mom disappeared years ago, Gretchen and her dad have lived on their own in New York City, haunted by Mona’s absence.

When Gretchen’s great aunt Esther calls unexpectedly to tell her that she has inherited the pre-Civil War mansion on her mother’s side of the family in upstate New York, Gretchen understands nothing except that her aunt needs her help. But what she finds there is beyond her imagination. The house is crumbling apart, filled with stacks of papers and journals from decades, even centuries past, and it’s crawling with rodents. It’s also full of secrets and a legacy of racism and violence so reprehensible that the ghosts of the past are exacting revenge on the living.

Somehow the mystery of Mona’s disappearance and the atrocities that happened on the land during the Civil War are inextricably intertwined, and it’s up to Gretchen to figure out how…before even more lives are lost.

Purchase What the Dead Want at Amazon
Purchase What the Dead Want at IndieBound
View What the Dead Want on Goodreads

Saturday, July 23, 2016

1 Beth Revis, author of A WORLD WITHOUT YOU, on pushing yourself to make it personal

We're thrilled to have Beth Revis join us to share more about her latest novel A WORLD WITHOUT YOU.

Beth, what was your inspiration for writing A WORLD WITHOUT YOU?
The story originally started as a time travel story--it was all about a boy trying to save his girlfriend stuck in the past. And the original idea was to tell the story through a mix of narrative and found documents, journals, transcripts, etc. But through time, the story evolved into a story about a time travel adventure to a twisted story about mental health, familial relationships, love, and more. But the original seed was always time travel.

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?

The hardest scene for me to write was actually not a single scene, but all the chapters from the sister Phoebe's point of view. In my original draft, she didn't have a narrative voice. That was something that evolved as the story developed, and it was extraordinarily difficult to write in her point of view because it was so personal to me. I'm not Phoebe, but a lot of her experiences are mine. There are some parallels between us, and those moments where what she is going through and saying is the same as what I went through and said...that was the hardest to write. But also the truest, and I'm glad that I was able go there in my writing.

0 Thank You to the Mentors and Participants of the July 1st 5 Pages Workshop!

Congratulations to all of the participants who worked so hard during our July 1st 5 Pages Writing Workshop! We had such a nice group of talented writers. So talented, in fact, that there were 2 workshop winners! And a big thanks to our wonderful guest mentors, author Amy Nichols and agent Tanusri Prasanna. Both provided fantastic critiques. And as always, thank you to our talented and fabulous permanent mentors, who read, comment, and cheer on our participants every month!

Since many of our mentors are also mentors for Pitch Wars, we are taking a hiatus for August. The workshop will open again on Saturday, September 3rd. And if you have a finished manuscript, do consider entering Pitch Wars – run by our lovely 1st 5 Pages Mentor, Brenda Drake. For those unfamiliar with Pitch Wars, it’s a contest where published/agented authors, editors, or interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer critiques on how to make the manuscript shine. The mentor also critiques his/her writer’s pitch and query letter to get it ready for the agent round. Submissions are open from August 3-5. You can learn more here.

Happy Writing (and revising!)


Friday, July 22, 2016

3 Lois Metzger, author of Change Places with Me, on Learning from the Youngest of Writers + #Giveaway

We are thrilled to have acclaimed author Lois Metzger to share with us today some charming examples of what she learned when she taught writing to a group of kittens...that is, children! Lois is celebrating the release of her newest book, Change Places with Me. She's giving away two copies of her book, US only, so be sure to check it out below, as well as her awesome trailer!

“Telling the Story” by Lois Metzger, author of Change Places with Me

Not long ago I taught an after-school writing workshop at Jefferson Market, my local public library in Greenwich Village, New York City. The class was set up to meet once a week for six weeks, with each week focusing on a different aspect of writing. The idea was that, at the end of six weeks, the students would have completed their own original short stories. I was told the workshop would be for ages 12 to 18.

I worked out a curriculum, the most basic of the basics: Week 1: setting, Week 2: character, Week 3: dialogue, Week 4: voice, Week 5: structure, and Week 6: sharing the stories with everyone else.

The set-up of each class would be as follows: we’d start out talking about, for example, setting. How do you get people to experience a place they’re only reading about? There would then be a brief writing exercise, followed by reading aloud what they’d written (if they felt comfortable doing so). I always had a back-up exercise in case something didn’t go well.

When I showed up my first day, I was greeted by a roomful of nine-year-olds. OMG, I thought, they are like kittens. What am I going to do with my carefully prepared curriculum?

Answer: I didn’t have to change a thing. They understood it all.

For “setting,” they had to describe an identified place using at least three of the five senses, and the rest of us had to guess the place. After some initial self-consciousness and self-doubt (something any writer of any age has at one time or another, or all the time), they came up with vivid descriptions:

I hear thunder rumble in the sky.
Sweet raspberries stain my tongue.

For “character,” they had to come up with “20 Questions” for a person they’d invented, and then answer the questions for that person. Again the self-consciousness and self-doubt snuck up, the worry that they wouldn’t be able to do it or that it would “come out lame” (again, something every writer worries about). After we all came up with a few examples of questions, the answers came more easily and actually told you something about the writer and/or character:

What is your favorite movie? “The Sea and its Mysteries” (made-up movie).
What makes you happy? Skylar has a dog and 7 fish that she loves with all her heart.

For “dialogue,” they teamed up with a partner and wrote a scene between their characters from the week before. At first, they weren’t sure how to begin, so we decided to start with a secret that one of them had, and a story opened up:

“I have a secret that I’m not going to tell you,” Skylar said.
“Well I have a secret too!” Ashley said.
“That’s OK! I know your secrets!!!”
“I’ll find out your secret, Skylar. Actually Madison told me. She said you are really a cat.”
“It’s true.”
“Wow, cool secret.”

Despite the resurfacing of self-consciousness and self-doubt, I never had to resort to the back-up exercise (a pass-along story, where you hand out pieces of paper with first lines and each person writes the next line before passing it on).

It was Week 4 that I was particularly concerned about: “voice.”

I asked them to think of something that had happened to them; it could be small and insignificant, or life-changing. One kid said, “My dog got lost and we were scared coyotes got him, but he was okay.” Another said, “I had a fight with my best friend.”

I told them that instead of writing down that particular experience in the “I” voice, to use the “she” or “he” voice, explaining that it was called the “third-person voice.”

This was the one time I wasn’t so sure things would go well. The kids would be confused; they wouldn’t know what I was talking about; they would sit staring at the blank page.

What happened totally floored me.

They started writing with no hesitation. And kept going.

Usually, during the “writing” part of the class, I walked around to see if anybody had a question she or he wanted to ask privately, quietly, in a whisper. This time no one signaled me over. I lingered near a couple of kids, asked, “Everything okay?” They motioned for me to go away. “Anybody need help? No? Okay, well, I’m here… you? No? Okay…” Finally I went back to my seat and just sat there.

When it was time to stop writing, they asked for several more minutes. When it came time to read, they all wanted to go first. Usually a few of the shy ones would say, “I’d like to go last” or “next-to-last.”

This exercise had opened the floodgates. Something about writing in the third-person allowed them to treat an actual event as though it had happened to someone else, which silenced the self-criticism. They were simply reporting it:

She saw the brick wall speeding closer to her. Then she saw black. She opened her eyes to find herself laying in the grass of the field. Her friends and a teacher were looking at her from above. She felt a sharp pain in her nose and her forehead was sticky. To see what the stickiness was, she felt her forehead. To her surprise her palm was stained with blood.

Week 5, we talked about “structure”—beginning, middle and end—and some kind of change in at least one character. The kids jotted down ideas for the short stories they would write at home. And a week later, when they read them aloud, they were justifiably proud of these short stories, real stories.

Sometimes when I get stuck, full of self-consciousness and self-doubt that it’ll all come out lame, I bring myself back to the most basic of the basics. I try making descriptions better with more sensory information. I ask my characters questions and let them answer. I create a scene, dialogue only, between two characters who haven’t yet had their own private conversation. If I’m writing in first person, I switch to third-person—the voice that made it so much easier for my nine-year-olds to start writing and not want to stop, even when the time was up.

Rafflecopter Giveaway:

US Only:
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About the Book:
Rose has changed. She still lives in the same neighborhood and goes to the same high school with the same group of kids, but when she woke up today, something was a little different. Her clothes and her hair don’t suit her anymore. The dogs who live upstairs are no longer a terror. She wants to throw a party—this from a girl who hardly ever spoke to her classmates. There’s no more sadness in her life; she’s bursting with happiness.

But something still feels wrong to Rose. Because until very recently, she was an entirely different person—a person who’s still there inside her, just beneath the thinnest layer of skin.

Amazon | Indiebound | Goodreads

About the Author:

Lois Metzger was born in Queens, New York City. Three of her five young-adult novels take place in Belle Heights, an invented Queens neighborhood that is boring on purpose to stand in stark contrast to the dramatic life of her characters. She has also written two non-fiction books about the Holocaust, and has edited five anthologies of original short stories. She lives near Washington Square Park in New York with her husband and son, and where the view out the back window is right out of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window.”

Please visit her website at
and on Facebook and Twitter @MetzgerLois
Also on Goodreads

 -- posted by SP Sipal, @HP4Writers

Thursday, July 21, 2016

0 Announcing the Top Five Finalists for the Red Light/Green Light Contest

We've made it to the second last round, so next week--July 28th--we'll be announcing the winner of a full request with general editorial notes from agent Kelly Peterson. You've all entered some fantastic work, and I encourage you to continue pursuing ways to get your writing out there. At the beginning of August, we'll be hosting another First 5 Pages Workshop here at AYAP, which affords those who get in a chance to workshop their openings with industry professionals. In addition to that, PitchWars begins August 3rd and I strongly urge all of you who entered Red Light/Green Light to submit your manuscripts there!

With that, I am pleased to announce our Top Five Red Light/Green Light entries, for which you'll be reading queries today.

Kyra Palmer

Seventeen-year-old Char wouldn't mind being science lab partners with the hottest guy in school if he hadn't terrorized her childhood. As if depending on a partner for half her grade wasn't bad enough. Now Jasper is all grown up and armed with wicked charisma. His ponytail yanking antics have evolved into a rap sheet. One that proves his heart isn't gold, it's rotting. Keeping a safe distance sitting two feet away from him and his infuriating arrogance turns out to be impossible for even a single day.

Char stands up to Jasper and embarrasses him in a public display, triggering a dangerous challenge of one-upmanship. Too stubborn to walk away, she believes she can win. It isn't long before their back and forth game of getting even ricochets out of control. The consequences
expose his still beating heart, and spark an ember in hers she can't put out. As the line between predator and prey fades, all rules and caution go up in smoke. He trusts and confides in her too much for someone he claims is a toy.

Jasper getting arrested brings all playing to an abrupt halt. Suddenly love and grades aren't the only things at risk as he holds Char responsible and lures her into a trap. Pitted against him in a fight for her life, she’s alone with no witnesses and no one to save her. Losing her heart and failing class isn't an option, but neither is being the one who goes home in a body bag.

Lindsey Myhr

Something black is spreading across seventeen year old Catia's shoulder. It started as a bruise from her illegal swordfighting lessons, but she doesn’t know why it’s growing or taking the shape of a bird. Catia searches for answers and uncovers the shocking truth: the bird mark means that she was born in the warrior kingdom of Hawkwind – her Empire’s sworn enemy – and also identifies her as the heir to its throne. 

When Empire knights start torturing Hawkwind fugitives, Catia’s birthright promises death. She doesn’t belong anywhere – not in the Empire, and certainly not in Hawkwind, where the tyrant who killed her parents sits on her rightful throne. Catia knows her survival depends on staying hidden, but when the Empire’s Prince Ryland catches her dueling, her anonymity disappears. In one horrible moment, he also sees her mark. 

Trusting Ryland with her secret is dangerous, but the more time she spends with him, the more she can’t resist falling for him. But when he betrays her and her secret is publicly revealed, Catia has nothing left but a mark on her shoulder and a noose with her name on it. Suddenly her only chance of survival means escaping to Hawkwind – and killing the tyrant who destroyed her kingdom.

Nicholas Kelly

If Jane had to list the things on her mind, helping her family survive the coming winter would come first. A close second would be her dream of catching a glimpse of the stars that no one on her planet has seen for more than 500 years. Coming in third would be her hatred and fear of the Echelon, the masters who rule the galaxy, hid the stars, and genetically engineered her ancestors. The Echelon shoots to number one the night starships arrive in her village. One ship presses Jane into service. The other takes her brother, her sister, and all the village’s children away for an unimaginably dark purpose.

Condemned to servitude under the harsh, unforgiving, and young Captain Dullahon, Jane fears she will never see her family again. Working in the bowels of the ship she discovers that her shipmates have rebellious spirits and have been waiting for the perfect time to mutiny. They find out Jane has unusual talents that prove useful in a fix: a gift for working with the ship’s strangely lifelike engine and a striking resemblance to Captain Dullahon. As they struggle to escape the Echelon and survive in space, Jane and her new mates face disaster, the deaths of loved ones, and treacherous space pirates who know a secret to the origins of Jane’s people. Jane faces a crucial choice: help her friends unlock the truth of their hidden past or risk everything to save her family.

S.Q. Eries

The Games at Olympia have ever been a competition of men–until Cynisca enters her chariot.

Seventeen-year-old Cynisca is the awkward princess in the Spartan Royal House. Unlike her savvy siblings, her only talents lie in horsemanship, and to her politically minded relatives, she's useless. But everything changes when her crippled brother abruptly inherits the throne. Controversy erupts, and when an anti-royalist publicly insults the new king, Cynisca snaps. A hostile exchange leads to a racing challenge, and Cynisca trounces the scoffer. That gives the king an idea: demonstrate royal authority by having Cynisca defeat his detractors in the great Olympic chariot race.

Cynisca jumps at the chance. For her, it's a rare opportunity to make her family proud. But the stakes–Olympic glory and unparalleled clout–are enormous. Moreover, no woman has ever dared enter the Games. With hostility from officials and entrants alike, the journey to Olympia may prove more treacherous than any track Cynisca's raced.

Shannon Thompson

Instead of fight or flight, sixteen-year-old Amea mastered both. A Wing Chun fighter and an avid jogger, no one would guess Amea also has narcolepsy and an unworldly secret.

As a child, Amea witnessed a murder—a murder in a dream world—and so did her two closest friends. Childhood nonsense, according to their parents, but one afternoon, Amea’s best friend claims to know the truth. Two days later, he goes missing and leaves his father’s murdered body behind along with cryptic clues for her to follow. Chasing him is her worst mistake.

When Amea’s narcolepsy thrusts her into Dreammare—a shadowy dreamscape where nightmares are people, princes need saving, and spirits steal our subconscious—she falls into a coastal castle town threatened by a thousand-year war. A war led by the very friend she chased. Torn between her deranged friendship and the castle holding all the answers to her cursed past, Amea teams up with a shy prince, a warrior consort, a romantic nightmare, and a conniving spirit to save her loved ones from the land of dreams or succumb to madness herself.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

8 Why You Shouldn't Give Up—Even When That Voice In The Back Of Your Mind Tells You Too

This week we're thrilled to welcome new author, Ashley Graham, as she takes a minute to talk to us today about the power of persistence. Her debut YA Science Fiction novel, ALL THE STARS LEFT BEHIND, releases in 2018 with Entangled Teen.

"I would like to talk about persistence and why you shouldn't give up—even when that voice in the back of your mind tells you to."

As writers, our experiences with rejection seem to feel that much more agonizingly personal. And you know what? It’s okay to let yourself feel, really feel. But don’t let it discourage you, because this industry is so subjective. All it takes is one yes. One yes out of hundreds of nos makes all the difference.

Take me, for example! I did not plan on becoming a writer. Oh, I made up stories—some I wrote down, others were acted out as plays (sorry, sisters!)—but my dream was to morph into a modern day female Daniel Jackson from Stargate. I even started taking the university course that would help me get into Egyptology at the University of Cairo.

"I did not plan on becoming a writer."

Life happened though, and I didn’t follow that dream. I did, however, live in Europe, get married, and start a family. My husband’s job took us from Norway to Los Angeles, where we still live. I spent my days raising our son, and my nights watching Firefly…or Battlestar Galactica…or (insert scifi show title here). Then one day I had this story idea. I jotted it down and the simple idea suddenly turned into a complex story.

My experience from “writer who has NO idea what she's doing” to “contracted author who has NO idea what she's doing” started off relatively well. I wrote a book that I wanted to read; it had a kick butt heroine and aliens and swoony kisses. A girl with a disability who accepted it, proved she’s capable of anything. Including saving the universe.

"My experience from “writer who has NO idea what she's doing” to “contracted author who has NO idea what she's doing” started off relatively well."

I finished it in a month (thank you, Camp NaNo!), including revisions, and was looking into finding an agent when I discovered Pitch Wars on Twitter. I submitted my query, had a few mentors ask for the full manuscript, and was rejected. I didn't get in. And I was going to toss in the towel—then one of the mentors emailed me. She said she didn't choose my manuscript because it was query-ready. She encouraged me to start querying agents straight away.

So, once my list of agents was complete, I queried. I got a LOT of rejections. All of the 127 or so agents I queried said no. (There were a handful of full and partial requests in there, but in the end, they all declined.) Every agent in North America, and the United Kingdom, who accepted YA SFF said no. Almost all of the rejections, whether full, partial, or strictly from the query, said something along these lines: “YA scifi is a hard sell right now, and I don’t feel this manuscript stands out enough to take a risk.”

"All of the 127 or so agents...Every agent in North America, and the United Kingdom, who accepted YA SFF said no."

I. Was. Devastated. Tear-your-heart-out, cry-under-the-covers, never-gonna-write-again devastated. I wanted to send my manuscript to the recycle bin, then permanently erase it from my computer. I wanted to give up. I re-watched every Stargate SG-1 episode. I cried—alone and to my writer friends. I read, a LOT.

And you know, it’s okay. Deep down, I needed that time to regroup. I started writing again, but somehow, everything I wrote morphed into science fiction. Which wasn’t selling now. I hate to admit it—I thought maybe I’m not cut out for the publishing world. Maybe I’m a mediocre writer in a sea of educated literary geniuses, just trying to hold my head above the water. Maybe I should take this experience and file it under “Oh well, you tried.” After all, my day job takes up a lot of time, energy, and patience. Being the primary parent and homeschooling a child with special needs isn’t easy.

"There was actually an earthquake here the EXACT MOMENT I hit submit...I might have screamed (I definitely screamed)."

I threw myself into teaching my son. Then I got an email. It was an offer from Entangled. I completely forgot that I had submitted to them late one night. (There was actually an earthquake here the EXACT MOMENT I hit submit.) I think I reread that email a hundred times before I actually reacted. And every particle around me buzzed with my excitement. I might have screamed (I definitely screamed).

Now here I am, a girl who barely finished high school, a girl with a neurological disorder, a girl who doesn’t know what she’s doing, with a manuscript that will be a book; a real, paper book. In my hands. On bookshelves. If I had given up, I would not be able to say that. And yes, it takes me longer to process and understand things than someone without Chiari T1, but the point is, persistence and perseverance are more than words in a dictionary—they are ways of life.

"Persistence and perseverance are more than words in a dictionary—they are ways of life."


Ashley Graham lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son. She was born in Canada, has lived in the United Kingdom and Norway, and has worked in busy offices, dusty shipping warehouses, quaint English pubs, and Michelin starred Scottish kitchens. 

Ashley lives with Chiari Malformation type 1, a neurological disorder that causes debilitating migraines, constant headaches, muscle weakness, hearing loss, distorted vision, hair loss, and many more uncomfortable and painful symptoms. She wears a wig, which is way better than her bio hair.

Her debut novel, ALL THE STARS LEFT BEHIND, releases in 2018 from Entangled Teen. 

                                                            -posted by Michelle Taylor-