Monday, April 30, 2012

Six Stupendous Series

Today I’m revealing a not-so-secret truth about myself: I love books in series. I also love books that stand alone, of course, but isn’t it great when you reach the last page of a wonderful book, only to discover that there’s another wonderful book where that came from? Another book set in the same world, possibly featuring the same characters, possibly even picking up where that first book left off? Some books don’t demand sequels or companion novels—they’re strongest on their own—but other stories pull us into their worlds and refuse to let us go, compelling us to stand in line at our local bookstore at midnight to get our desperate little hands on the next book in the series.

It’s true that I’m a little bit biased when it comes to series: My 2013 debut is the first novel in a planned trilogy. But my love of series books began long before my book deal. In my elementary school library, I checked out all of James Marshall’s Fox easy readers and read every Bobbsey Twins mystery I could find. After that, I found the Little House books, and the Alice books, and the Wayside School books, and (much later, not in my elementary school library) the Millennium Trilogy…. I could keep listing favorite series, but my hands would cramp up before I came anywhere close to telling you about all the books I love. Instead, though it kills me to be so selective, I’ll share with you three ongoing series I can’t wait to finish and three classic series you shouldn’t miss.

Three Ongoing Series I Can’t Wait to Finish:

1. The Montmaray Journals by Michelle Cooper
 This historical YA trilogy by Australian writer Michelle Cooper follows the FitzOsborne family—royal teenagers from the imaginary island kingdom of Montmaray—as they cope with adventure, politics, and romance at the outset of World War II. The first two books, A Brief History of Montmaray and The FitzOsbornes in Exile, are out now in the US, and the final book, The FitzOsbornes at War, comes out here in October. Fans of I Capture the Castle will love the main character, Sophie, and her friendly narrative style.

2. The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
I’m cheating a little here, because this brilliant and sweet middle grade series about a family of four sisters is partially a homage to another favorite series of mine, the magical adventures by Edward Eager. The three books about the Penderwicks don’t  have magic, but they do have spunky characters, humor, and plenty of good old-fashioned coziness. According to Jeanne Birdsall’s website, there will be 5 Penderwicks books in all.

3. The Cahill Witch Chronicles by Jessica Spotswood
We interviewed Apocalypsie Jessica Spotswood a few months ago when her debut novel, Born Wicked, came out, and I’m already dying for the next book in the series. I’m guessing that, like their predecessor, the sequels will involve witchcraft, fancy dresses, and True Love. Hurry up and get here, 2013, so I can find out what happens next!
Three Classic Series You Shouldn’t Miss:

1. The Hall Family Chronicles by Jane Langton
How is this series out of print? The Diamond in the Window and its sequels are fun fantasy adventures that were some of my favorites growing up. I hope you’ll be able to find them in your library or at used bookstores if you haven’t read them yet.

2. Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry
The Anastasia books are some of the funniest I’ve read, and I wish I lived next door to the Krupnik family. Anastasia pretends to own a sloop, color-codes her gerbils’ heads, accidentally signs up for tap-dancing lessons, dyes herself purple… you get the idea. Lots of people love Lois Lowry for The Giver and Number the Stars—and rightfully so—but her Anastasia series will always be my favorite.

3. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede
Patricia C. Wrede has written many series, and all of them are fantastic, but if I absolutely had to pick a favorite, I think I’d pick this one. The first book, Dealing with Dragons, introduces us to Princess Cimorene, who runs away from her boring kingdom and horrible suitors to become assistant and chef to the dragon Kazul. The four books in the series are perfect for anyone who likes to laugh, or for anyone who likes to eat Cherries Jubilee.

If you’ve read any of these series, or if you have a favorite series of your own to recommend, please let me know in the comments!

Caroline Carlson grew up in New England and now lives with her husband in western Pennsylvania. She earned an MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is an assistant editor of VCFA's literary journal, Hunger MountainCaroline is represented by Sarah Davies at the Greenhouse Literary Agency, and her debut middle grade novel, MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT, will be published by HarperCollins Children's Books in Summer 2013. You can find her on Twitter and on her remarkably lazy blog.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Revision: Out Loud and Proud

Experienced writers and writing teachers often recommend reading your work out loud as part of the revision process. They’re so right.

It may be a chore. It may make you hoarse. It may take a whole day—time you could have spent rewatching every episode of Freaks and Geeks. Do it anyway.

When I read my work out loud, in an empty house, I catch all kinds of sticky spots I didn’t catch when reading silently.
  • Repeated words. It’s much easier to hear duplicated words when reading aloud. Today, I came upon a sentence that read: “I thought about writing about the track meet.” I’d read this sentence silently any number of times already, but it wasn’t until I read it out loud that I heard the two instances of “about.” Some repetition is valuable; this repetition was not.
  • Unnatural words. When reading aloud, you may sometimes say a word or phrase that’s different from the one written on the page. When this happens, ask yourself, Did the misreading actually improve the text? You may want to rephrase.
  • False notes. Not every writer tries to attain the musical heights reached by William Faulkner or Toni Morrison. Still, words and sentences do have sounds and rhythms, and there’s no better time to attend to them than when reading out loud.
  • Extraneous words. Reading aloud can help you hear and pare away fat—extraneous words that detract from your prose. Fatty spots feel empty on the tongue—non-nutritive. Catch them before the editor does.
  • Other rough spots. Reading aloud can help you find all sorts of other rough spots. They may be shifts in your narrator’s tone (as brief as a single word), or instances of just plain bad writing—words, images, or phrases that don’t reveal their true hideousness until you hear them read out loud.
Others (agents, editors, copyeditors, drivers of the recycling truck) will read your work-in-progress silently, but you’ll likely be the only one willing to read it out loud prior to publication. Do it now, so that when you’re doing a public reading someday, finished work in hand, you won’t be hearing those rough spots for the first time.


Elisabeth Dahl's first book, GENIE WISHES, an MG contemporary novel with line drawings, is due out from Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams Books, in the spring of 2013. She has just completed her second book, a novel for adults. Elisabeth lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with her family in a house that is, fortunately, hers alone for a few hours every day. You can find Elisabeth at her website, on her Facebook author page, and on Twitter (@Elisabeth Dahl). She is represented by Marissa Walsh of FinePrint Literary Management.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Apocalypse Now: An interview with Dan Haring, author of OLDSOUL

Today I am thrilled to welcome debut author Dan Haring to the blog! Dan is the author of OLDSOUL, an action-packed YA paranormal that will be available in the US from April 24th. 

Jason Gouvas doesn’t want to believe he has special abilities or that he's an Oldsoul - a vessel for the souls of people who have passed away, but the dead girl in his mind can be very persuasive. Her name is Erin, and through her Jason is able to access the knowledge and skills of the souls within him. And with a group of power-hungry immortals bent on destroying the Oldsouls and overthrowing humanity, he's going to need them all.

Publisher: Pendrell Publishing (April 24, 2012)

Hi Dan and welcome to the Lucky 13s blog. First let me say how much I enjoyed reading your book. OLDSOUL is a very unique take on Paranormal. Where did the idea come from?

Thank you. It basically started with the term “old soul”, meaning someone who is wise beyond their years. I decided that someone who had a bunch of dead people’s spirits living inside him might have reason to be considered an old soul. It was something that I didn't think had been done before, or at least if it had been, wasn't too common, and it just went from there.

The story is full of twists, turns and surprises. Did you plot the story in detail before writing, or was the writing a journey of discovery?

It was very much pantsed. I had a few vague ideas of where I wanted the story to go, and I would come up with certain events or things I wanted to happen along the way, but I never sat down and made an outline or anything. It might have saved me some trouble if I had, but it was also really fun to just write and see where the story took me.

Which was the most difficult scene for you to write?

I don't remember a scene in particular. But I wanted to keep it fast-paced, and at times it was hard getting exposition in there without being boring, especially in the beginning. Hopefully I did an okay job.

One of the characters I most enjoyed reading was Erin. How did you go about creating a character with no physical presence? Did you find it more challenging to characterize her than the others?

Thank you. She turned out to be my favorite character besides Jason. Since she was basically just a disembodied voice, I knew her personality had to come through in her dialog with Jason. I had a ton of fun playing them off each other. The story is told through Jason's POV, and she's always right there with him, so it was probably a little easier to characterize her than others because of that.

Does music inspire your writing? Does OLDSOUL have a playlist?

I usually listen to music while I write, and for OLDSOUL the albums I listened to most were Gaslight Anthem's "The '59 Sound" and American Steel's "Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts" as well as a bunch of Social Distortion.

Although the story ties up neatly at the end, there clearly lots of possibilities for sequels too (Erin’s past is particularly intriguing). Any plans for a sequel?

It's planned as a trilogy, and Erin's past will play heavily into book two. At least that's the plan. I'm still pantsing it...

I'm looking forward to reading the sequels! Finally, in the spirit of The Lucky 13s, do you have a favourite superstition?

Ooh, I have a couple. I never pick up a penny unless it's heads up. And I do the "star light, star bright" wish. And I make a wish whenever I see the clock read 11:11. I guess I'm pretty superstitious.

Thanks so much for stopping by to visit us Dan and congratulations on the launch of your debut novel.


Find out more about Dan on his website.
OLDSOUL on Goodreads
OLDSOUL on Facebook

Buy OLDSOUL on Amazon

This interview was conducted by Lucky 13s member Helen Douglas as part of an ongoing series of interviews with The Apocalypsies – YA, MG, and children’s book authors debuting in 2012.

At Long Last - The Cover Reveal of My Debut Novel, THE CULLING!

Here it is, the cover of the first book in my Post-Apocalyptic Young Adult "Torch Keeper" series, THE CULLING:

It's been a long time coming, ten years if you start counting from the time I first dreamed of writing a novel and actually getting it published. I must say, this has been the most fun part of the entire process so far!

Just to give you a little overview, on March 2, 2012, my Editor, Brian Farrey at Flux Books, sent me a nifty email jam-packed with all sorts of tidbits regarding a Launch Meeting (Sounds REALLY Official). At that meeting, my then-titled book, The Torch Keeper, was to be the guest of honor, something to do with title changes (Boo!) and soliciting cover ideas from me (Yay!). Needless to say, within a day or two, I had flooded poor Brian with enough cover samples and descriptions to put Amazon out of business. What can I say? I like to be thorough.

Once the meeting took place on March 13, 2012, I was happy to learn that the "Launch People" decided on an alternate title I had suggested, THE CULLING, and were going to use "The Torch Keeper" as the title to the series! So I got to have my cake and eat it, too! Not only that, but they decided on the cover direction based on my samples and communications with Brian, as well. All I had to do was wait several months for the Art Department to come up with something.

Imagine my surprise when, on April 10, 2012, less than a month later, I received an unexpected email surprise! (No, not some Royal Prince in Nigeria bequeathing his wealth to me). It was the first Cover Composite ("Comp" for those in the industry "Know." ;-) My fingers were trembling as I read the email on my phone. At first it was very strange, seeing someone else's interpretation of my ideas on a cover. Uh, maybe because I opened it on my phone and couldn't make out the image that well.

Needless to say, by the time I got to a computer and opened up the picture, I was thrilled that they'd captured the look and feel of the novel quite simply and effectively. The comp was made up of photos that would later be given to an illustrator to photo illustrate (i.e. use the photos as the basis for the illustrations).

After giving Brian a few suggestions regarding what my main character should be wearing, providing other details to add to the tunnel, and recommending the best restaurants to eat at in SOBE (okay not the latter), I expected it would be a couple of more months before I got the next version.

Not exactly. It seems like the Art Department is composed of some very industrious eager beavers (Not to be confused with the Kardashians) and on April 20, a mere ten days later, I received a beautiful rendering of my cover that floored me with its awesomeness! The dark, creepy, gritty mood was PERFECT, as was the rendering of my main character, Lucian Spark, who, after what he suffers and endures in the novel, looked almost as battered and bloodied as a Black Friday Walmart customer.

Five days later, I received the final version of the cover that you see here, complete with added tag line, courtesy of moi. Unlike the above picture, the title on the actual book will be rendered utilizing fluorescent ink to really make it "POP" on the shelves with that futuristic glow. To add the book to your Goodreads Reading list, click here.

This cover represents a labor of love, complete with all the frustration and elation of writing and selling the novel and I'm proud to have my name so prominently displayed on it. It was a long hard road, and I sometimes felt like Lucian standing at the mouth of that dark, creepy, long and winding tunnel, not knowing what awaited at the other end. For me, I was able to find something wonderful once I got there. As for Lucian, you'll have to read the book to find out ;-)

Steven dos Santos is represented by Ginger Knowlton of Curtis Brown, LTD. He loves movies, particularly ones about things that go bump in the night, as well as sci-fi and fantasy. Chocolate, Cheesecake, and Happy Endings are nice, too! When not glued to his computer coming up with innovative ways to torture his characters, Steven can be found skulking away on his website, amassing an army on facebook, and sending unanswered tweets to celebrities who, for some inexplicable reason, choose to ignore him on twitter. His debut novel, THE CULLING - The Torch Keeper Book One, a Young Adult Post-Apocalyptic thriller, will be published by FLUX Books in early 2013.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

APOCALYPSE NOW: Interview with Jennifer Shaw Wolf Author of BREAKING BEAUTIFUL

APOCALYPSE NOW: Interview with Jennifer Shaw Wolf, author of BREAKING BEAUTIFUL

You must be so excited about your debut! Can you tell us a bit about your road to publication-- anything from abandoned non-published books, to your agent search, to finding the right home for your debut. 

My road to publication in a nutshell (maybe a big nutshell)
I wrote a lot when I was younger, then I spent many years not writing (except in my head) while I raised my kids. I decided that I’d waited long enough so in April 2008 I just decided to sit down and do it. I wrote for fun, with no aspirations of publication and within about eight weeks (with encouragement from my sister and my teenage niece) I had finished my first novel. I sent it off to my sister-in-law who is a published author, and started on a sequel. She told me what I needed to change, I finished the sequel, revised, started querying, started taking writing classes, and I joined a critique group, and SCBWI. 

When I was in about my millionth (maybe not that many) revision of my first novel with many rejections under my belt, I kept getting distracted by a story born of a writing prompt I did as part of my writing class. I finally broke down and wrote that one in about eight weeks. I took it to my critique group, did a little bit of revising and then sent that one out as a query at the end of April of 2010. This one really felt different than the other stories I’d written more “ready” or something. By the end of July I had four offers of representation from agents. I spent a week in agony chose Sara Megibow with Nelson Literary, (I’m still thrilled with that choice.) did some more tweaking and went on submission in September. BREAKING BEAUTIFUL (then TIGERSEYE) ended up in the hands of Mary Kate Castellani at Walker and she acquired it and spent the next six months helping me make it better.

Ironically, BREAKING BEAUTIFUL will come out almost exactly four years after I first decided to get back to writing and two years after I finished the manuscript.   

How did you celebrate the sale of your first novel? And how are you celebrating the release of BREAKING BEAUTIFUL?

I never get sick, but for some reason I have always been sick when good book news comes out. I was sick the day Sara called me to say that BREAKING BEAUTIFUL had sold. I celebrated by getting a hot chocolate with my daughter as I took her to school, then I think I took a nap.

To celebrate the release of BREAKING BEAUTIFUL I had a launch party on release day, April 24th, at Fireside Bookstore, a small, but wonderful indie bookstore. There was music and cake and swag and lots of celebrating. I will also be participating in the Inside Story at Mockingbird books in Seattle with some other local authors on Wednesday, April 25th. On Saturday, April 28th I’m doing an author panel at the Tumwater library in Tumwater, Washington. That’s one way to celebrate all week long!

Your book has elements of a thriller and a mystery, as well as a dark contemporary. How did you decide to write this particular book? And what are you working on next? Do you play on staying in this genre of YA, and is it also what you primarily read? 

BREAKING BEAUTIFUL was actually a lot different than the other two I wrote before it. I hadn’t considered writing a mystery and didn’t feel like I was a “dark” writer, but that’s how it came out. If I go back to what I read growing up though, I see a lot of mysteries, and a lot of dark things like Poe.

My next book, currently titled SHARDS OF GLASS is also dark and a mystery. It’s slated to come out from Walker in September 2013. I like the dark, contemporary, mystery genre, and I have a couple of other ideas along those lines, so I’m happy with that for now. Someday I would like to see my YA romance published, and I have another YA contemporary that isn’t a mystery that I would like to go somewhere with in the future.

I primarily read YA, but not necessarily just dark mysteries. I read lots of contemporary YA, but I also enjoy fantasy, historical fiction, and even some Science Fiction. I love to read, and rarely meet a book I don’t like. 

I'd love to hear about your day-to-day life as a writer-- when do you write, where do you write, and what's your favorite part of the process-- do you love coming up with an idea, opening a new draft, working on the puzzle that is the revision process, or some other part of the long journey of writing a novel?

I used to write everywhere and anywhere I had the chance to. I still do to some extent, but now that I have deadlines and things like that, I set my writing time in the morning to make sure it happens. I’m a big multi-tasker so I often write on my treadmill while I walk.

Ideas are my favorite thing to come up with. I usually come up with great ideas in the middle of something else I should be working on. I’ve learned to write a little bit and then file those ideas away for future stories. I never discount them, after all, BREAKING BEAUTIFUL was the story that was distracting me from the revisions I was supposed to be doing.

I read in your bio that you grew up on a farm! How cool! Do you think that background has influenced your writing? Any plans to write a YA novel set in a farm setting? 

SHARDS OF GLASS (the novel I just sold) is set in a similar setting to where I grew up. The idea came when I was home and I remembered a murder that had taken place in my little town when I was about eleven years old. However, it isn’t set in my home town, nor is it more than loosely based on that murder. I have other ideas that are more uniquely set where I grew up, but so far I haven’t gotten to those yet.

Congratulations on selling your next book! Can you tell us a little more about it? How was the process different-- both in writing and in the road to publication-- than your debut? 

Thank you! I’m very excited about it. SHARDS OF GLASS is about Jaycee who starts her summer with her first real kiss and the murder of her best friend, Rachel. To the police, the case seems pretty cut and dried, but Jaycee is haunted by the message Rachel left for her and the memory of something that happened to both of them the summer before, something they swore to keep secret.

This path to publication was totally different. Walker had an option on my next novel and they were so great to work with me on this one. I tossed ideas back and forth with my editor for about eight months before SHARDS was sold on proposal. The scary thing about selling on proposal is that it’s sold before the manuscript is finished. That means I have to write it on deadline, no getting distracted by other ideas. I also know it has to be good the first time around so I’ve spent a lot more time outlining and figuring out plots and pacing.

Lastly, The Lucky 13s love superstitions. Do you have any, writing or otherwise?

As I said, BREAKING BEAUTIFUL was originally called TIGERSEYE because the main character has a tigerseye stone she keeps with her for courage. For our anniversary after I finished that manuscript, my husband gave me a tigerseye stone on a silver chain. I wear it all the time, but I especially have to have it on when I write.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

APOCALYPSE NOW: An Interview with Sarvenaz Tash, author of THE MAPMAKER AND THE GHOST

Happy book birthday to my good pal Sarvenaz Tash  whose Middle Grade adventure, THE MAPMAKER AND THE GHOST, arrives in bookstores today!

From Sarvenaz's website: "Goldenrod Moram loves nothing better than a good quest. Intrepid, curious, and full of a well-honed sense of adventure, she decides to start her own exploring team fashioned after her idols, the explorers Lewis and Clark, and to map the forest right behind her home. This task is complicated, however, by a series of unique events—a chance encounter with a mysterious old lady has her searching for a legendary blue rose. Another encounter lands her in the middle of a ragtag gang of brilliant troublemakers. And when she stumbles upon none other than the ghost of Meriwether Lewis himself, Goldenrod knows this will be anything but an ordinary summer...or an ordinary quest."

I adored this book and jumped at the chance to interview Sarv. On to the questions!

Goldenrod Moram is a fantastic protagonist with a one-of-a-kind name. How'd you come up with it? Do Goldenrod and a young Sarvenaz have any traits in common?

Her name came to me in a dream (I know, how very Stephenie Meyer of me!). I vividly saw this girl named Goldenrod Moram and when I woke up I wondered what kind of a girl would have that name. It immediately sounded like a fairy tale name to me, and I thought it’d be interesting if it were instead the name of a real, adventurous girl who was annoyed by this fact.

I am named after a tree and Goldenrod is named after a flower. She has a brother who's named after a tree and I have a sister who's named after the flower. But, the funny thing is, I didn't put those connections together until well after I had written those characters and was on the third or fourth draft. Other than that, we don’t have too much in common. Goldenrod is a lot braver and spunkier than I am.

Were you interested in Lewis and Clark when you were a kid? What drew you to mapmaking as a topic?

You know, I actually have no sense of direction at all. I will be going in the wrong direction about 95% of the time and will have to turn around. I think maps are beautiful but I never got much practical use out of them when I was a kid.

The mapmaking was one of those rare inspirational things that just hit me out of nowhere. When I was working on Goldenrod's character, I knew she needed a hobby and mapmaking just came to me. It's especially weird that it happened that way because her hobby ended up informing so much of the story.

How much research did you do on the Corps of Discovery Expedition / Lewis and Clark? Did you research before starting the book, or did you perform "fill in the blank" research during the writing process?

I definitely didn't do research before I started writing the book because Lewis & Clark were nowhere to be found in the early drafts of the story (and there was no ghost either!) Slowly, as it began to dawn on me how important Goldenrod's mapmaking was going to be, that's when putting Lewis & Clark in there seemed like a natural progression. By then I had the basic skeleton of the story, so it was a lot of  "fill in the blank" researching. What I loved about it was that sometimes I would get stuck plot-wise, and then go find out some fascinating true fact about the expedition that would put me back on track. It was a surprising and very fun way to write.

Goldenrod's relationship with her younger brother Birch is realistic, humorous, and poignant. Did you draw on your own relationship with your younger sister for it, or make it up entirely?

I definitely drew from my own relationship with my younger sister. We're very close and we spent a lot of time playing together when we were kids. In fact, she's the first name you'll see on my dedication page (the second is my cousin who lived with us when we were young and was our other playmate). I was very inspired by the memories I had of the three of us had going on our made-up adventures in our backyard. Only Goldenrod and Birch get to have a real adventure.

The Gross-Out Gang is an excellent, diverse, three-dimensional group of kids. Did you chart out their personality traits before writing, or get to know them as the story progressed?

I did chart out their personalities before writing. They came to me on the same day that Goldenrod Moram's name did. So, originally, that's all I knew about the story: an adventurous girl named Goldenrod and a group of nefarious kids that she somehow comes across. As you might be able to tell, I had a lot of fun coming up with their nicknames and quirks (possibly too much fun). I actually had to cut one out because there were just too many to keep track of – and it rather broke my heart, to tell you the truth. His name was Thistle Ears and he had really long ear hair.

Several characters are not who they seem to be at first (which reminded me a bit of The Westing Game). Did you outline these reveals in advance, or surprise yourself while writing?

I think I'll die happy now for having a book I wrote be compared to the brilliance that is The Westing Game. So thank you for that!

This book went through a crazy amount of drafts. 28 by my last count. Some of those drafts involved minor changes and some huge, sweeping ones (like adding in a ghost that popped up in the title). I think most of the twists and turns and reveals came through those drafts. Except for one major one that I knew from the get-go…of course, I can't tell you which one it is without spoiling the book. I’ll just say it's probably the biggest twist.

You've mentioned your respect for JK Rowling on your blog. Who, if any, other authors influenced you, and/or inspired you to write a Middle Grade adventure story?

Definitely Roald Dahl. I was obsessed with his books as a kid, and I think his dark, twisty humor is in some ways all over this book. You mentioned Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game, and that book along with E.L. Konigsburg's From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler definitely influenced the adventure/mystery side of the story.

Beverly Cleary and Ann M. Martin were also big influences on me, simply because (along with Roald Dahl) they wrote middle grade books that made me a reader for life. For that reason alone, I will always love middle grade.

Are you doing anything special to celebrate your book's release?

There will be a book release party on Saturday, April 28 at BookCourt in Brooklyn, NY. If you're in the neighborhood, do consider dropping by! There will be a very short reading, a Q&A session, a signing session and – most importantly – cupcakes.

Since we're the Lucky 13s, we have to ask: Do you have any good luck charms or believe in any superstitions?

I’ve had a stuffed Abu (from Aladdin) since I was young and it's been with me at every dorm and apartment I've ever been at. I've been known to still hug him when I'm having a particularly rough day. Don't judge!

Huge congratulations on your debut novel, Sarvenaz, and thanks for stopping by!

Sarvenaz Tash was born in Tehran, Iran and grew up on Long Island, NY. She received her BFA in Film and Television from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. This means she got to spend most of college running around and making movies (it was a lot of fun). She has dabbled in all sorts of writing including screenwriting, copywriting, and professional tweeting. Sarvenaz currently lives in Brooklyn, NY. The Mapmaker and the Ghost is her debut novel.

You can purchase THE MAPMAKER AND THE GHOST here:
Books of Wonder (signed copy)

Monday, April 23, 2012

How Would You Make Go Fish Romantic?

What makes a scene romantic?






Let's take a very basic conversation surrounding the card game Go Fish and add a little spark.

The following characters are completely made up for this exercise. So I'm not going to get in depth on background etc, because it doesn't exist. But for the sake of basics, they are sixteen and playing Go Fish in a rec room of sorts.

 Kara: "You gotta an Ace?"

Gauge: "Nope. Fives?"

Kara: Hands over card.

Gauge: "Sevens?"

Kara: "What?"

Gauge: Laughs maniacally.

Kara: "You're cheating."

Gauge: "You're cute."

The dialogue by itself isn't anything to write home about. There isn't anything spectacular about the scene. So, how do we take an everyday scene and make it romantic?

We add body language. Beats. Rhythm. Voice. Tension.
Because I like writing first person POV, I'm going to use the dialogue above and attack it from Kara's POV.

                I pretend to consider the cards in my hand like this game of Go Fish is important. Like I really care about winning. Um, hello? Gauge Myers is sitting across from me. My childhood, never got over him, crush. Breathe normal. Don't blush. I worry my lip. "You gotta an Ace?"

                He grins and shakes his head no. "Go fish."

                My bangs brush across my forehead as I lean down to grab yet another card from the stack. I lean back into the bean bag and try to find a natural looking position that is also flattering.

                He leans in toward me. "You gotta five?"

                "Ugh." I snatch the five from my mountain of cards and toss it over.

                He throws his match down and I swear his eyes sparkle. The dimple in his chin shows as he makes a come-on motion with his fingers. "Hand over your seven."


                Gauge throws back his head and laughs so hard his face is red. He wipes tears from the corners of his eyes.

                Incredulous, I laugh and whack at his leg. "Cheater."

                Then I realize I touched him. I pull back. Heat flushes across my face. It starts with my cheeks and spreads to my ears. I duck my head, hoping my bangs will hide my blush.

                He reaches over and brushes them out of my face.

                Every inch of skin he touched is warm and I try to focus as I hold my breath.

                He tilts his head and says, "You're cute when you're nervous."

 This new and improved scene shows how you can take something very basic and make it come alive with details, pacing, and beats. Sometimes it's more about the beats surrounding dialogue and what you don't say that creates tension.

Beats - The action connected before or after dialogue.
If I had a bunch of exposition before, "What?," the natural pacing of the reaction/scene would be off.

Body language - thinks about what people do when they're nervous, flirting, having fun etc. People naturally lean into conversations/people they are attracted to etc.
The fact that she holds her breath adds tension. It ups the stakes. We can feel her nervousness.

Voice - what makes this writing and these characters yours

Rhythm - is showed through syntax, grammar, and diction. It is what creates the flow of the scene. In a fast paced scene, Jane Austen length sentences don't normally match the pace. There are of course exceptions to this, but in general, quicker pacing can sometimes demand pithy sentences. But variety is also necessary...

Tension - is critical to scenes. It can be emotional, physical, unspoken, or verbal etc. At the end of the day, it needs to exist.

The use of little details like the dimple in his chin helps the reader picture him naturally in the scene without a laundry list of description that takes us out of the moment.

 When writing a romantic scene, it helps to consider the following questions.

·         Is there a back and forth?

·         Where is the tension?

·         What's unspoken?

·         How does this add to the plot?

·         How does this advance/impede their relationship?

·         Is this necessary?

·         What does this reveal about my characters?

·         Does the tension build?

It's fun to play around with making the mundane romantic. If you were to take this scene, how would you make it your own? What would you do to make Go Fish romantic?

What are your fave tips for writing believable/fun romance scenes?

Friday, April 20, 2012

My BFF is a Real Nightmare

So the topic for this blog is “Would I be friends with the Main Character of my debut novel The NightmareAffair?”

And here’s my answer: I certainly hope so!

Why you ask? Well, I can understand your doubt. It is true that Dusty Everhart is a literal Nightmare, a magical being who must feed on the dreams of others. And it is true that Nightmares have a certain reputation for doing harm, but all of that is just hurtful stereotyping. You know, like saying all ghosts are really scary. There’re always exceptions. Like Casper. And Anna (who can be scary, but only sometimes). And Bobby, of course (if you don’t understand this reference, don’t worry about it. If you do, then all right!)  

So once you get past the potential-for-evil thing, there are many reasons why being friends with Dusty would be cool. But to keep things short and sweet, I’ll focus on my top 3.

1.       Dusty can do magic

Um, hello? Does there really need to be any other reason than that? However, in the interest of full disclosure I must warn you that Dusty’s magic can be a bit unpredictable. For example, she accidentally sets fire to her best friend’s hair in gym class.

2.       Dusty suffers from smartass-itis

This is something we have in common. I too suffer from smartmouth disease as does my mom, my grandmother, and my big sister. In my family, we express affection through sarcasm. Dusty would fit right in.

3.       With Dusty, it’s always an adventure

This one is a no-brainer, considering she is the MC, and if her life wasn’t adventurous that would be kind of boring. But still, even minus the whole “tracking down a killer by following clues in her crush’s dream,” her life is adventuresome. There are surprises around every corner. I mean, just try to imagine what went down in that gym class.

Mindee Arnett is the debut author of THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR, a Contemporary Fantasy coming Winter 2013 from Tor Teen. She's addicted to jumping horses and telling tales of magic and the macabre. You can find her on Twitter and at her website.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Apocalypse Now: An Interview with SLATED author Teri Terry

Today I am thrilled to welcome debut author Teri Terry! Teri is the author of SLATED, an awesome YA dystopian novel that will be available in the UK on May 3rd.

 About SLATED:   

Kyla’s memory has been erased,
her personality wiped blank,
her memories lost for ever.

She’s been Slated.

The government claims she was a terrorist, and that they are giving her a second chance - as long as she plays by their rules. But echoes of the past whisper in Kyla’s mind. Someone is lying to her, and nothing is as it seems. Who can she trust in her search for the truth?

Teri, I'd love to hear a little about you and the writing journey that led you to SLATED.

I’ve been writing forever (warning: I am prone to exaggeration). Well perhaps change that to I’ve been making up stories forever, and that is probably accurate. I’ve always just glanced at the almost disasters you see every day, and instantly had about a hundred ‘what if’s’ floating through my brain: what if  that car didn’t brake hard just then, what if that safety harness snaps, what if that boy doesn’t control his temper, what if…
OK they are all a little dark. My Barbies had adventures, believe me.

Writing-wise, it took me a while to embrace the dark side. I was convinced I wanted to write uplifting tales – probably to get away from my runaway imaginings of woe. Before Slated there were eight other novels that didn’t make it through the publishing gauntlet, and many more started. Most began with a happy story line, and…changed.

Slated was dark from the beginning. It quite literally began with a dream.

So one of the things that I loved about SLATED is that it takes place in a future that is not all that dissimilar from our current time. In writing a futuristic dystopian novel like this did you make a conscious choice to keep your characters grounded in a more recognizable world and do you think in some ways that makes your story even more chilling?

As a reader, if a fictional world is one I can recognize and relate to, if I can see myself where the character lives, it all feels more real and frightening when things are wrong or go that way. Yet in the case of Slated, I can’t really say it was a conscious choice. The story found me. 

I thought the cover of SLATED (at least for the ARC I received) is stunning and amazingly powerful in its simplicity. The black/gray mix of colors really reflected the characters inside the book. Every time I thought that a character was "good" or "bad" something would twist to change that perception. And, of course, Kyla, the main character, makes the most shifts because the reader is constantly trying to figure out - along with her- who she really is and once was. Was this a conscious decision on your part?

I love the ARC cover Orchard came up with, and the final one even more! I can’t take any credit for the ARC but did have a little input into the final cover of Slated (I blogged about the cover here:

With my supporting cast of characters it was very much a conscious choice to give them light and shade. I very specifically didn’t want to have all the adult characters be bad or indifferent as you see in some dystopian tales – life isn’t that black and white. Good people sometimes do bad things; bad people sometimes do good. And with Kyla she doesn’t know who she is, so how can the reader?

What were some of the hardest scenes to write in SLATED?
What was the most fun?

I’m going to combine these two questions! I was really worried about writing the action scenes – not something I’ve done much of before. For example, without giving too much away, think ‘big scary dog’. It took me ages to write that one, but once I got into it, it was fine. All those years of over-active imaginings of tales of woe finally paid off.

Not to give anything away, but the end of SLATED definitely suggests that there is a sequel coming soon. Is there anything you can tell readers who will be eager to read more?

I’m half way through the second draft of book 2: Fractured. It is a roller coaster for Kyla, who has to make a stand for what she believes in…once she works out what that is. There is a seriously badass boy in it, and a nice one or two to make things confusing. There is more action and the stakes are high… enough said. It will be out in May 2013 in the UK and Australia.

Finally, in the tradition of the Lucky 13s, do you have a favorite superstition?

I’m not a very superstitious person, but I do have a few quirks with stationery. I can’t write in notebooks smaller than A4. I just can’t squeeze my imagination onto little itty bits of paper.
And I always have a notebook that is unique to each story, and if I haven’t found the right notebook for a particular story, or haven’t got it with me – I can’t write. I might break the rule now and then if I think of a particularly wonderful line or idea and have to jot it down when the notebook isn’t to hand…but it just feels wrong.
Once I get going I’m on the laptop, but all my planning, character sketches, idea maps and getting unstuck happens in the designated notebook. And I must have one of my favourite blue gel pens or I can’t even start.

Author Bio:

Teri Terry has lived in France, Canada, Australia and England at more addresses than she can count, acquiring three degrees, a selection of passports and a silly name along the way. Moving constantly as a child, teenager and also as an adult has kept Teri on the outside looking in much of her life. It has given her an obsession with characters like Kyla in Slated, who don't belong or find themselves in unfamiliar places.
Teri recently left her job with Buck's libraries to write full-time and complete her research MA on depictions of terrorism in young adult literature. She blogs on Demention: a group blog with Julie Bertagna and Julienne Durber on all things dark and dystopian in YA fiction,
Teri’s website:; the Slated website:; Facebook page:; Twitter @TeriTerryWrites

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Living With Doubt

I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian family. Doubt was not welcome. God answered all questions. And if He seemed busy or distracted on a certain day or subject, there was always a platitude to serve in His absence, “Wait on God,” “Be patient with God,” or my favorite, the ambiguous and very spooky, “Maybe He’s given His answer.”

If I doubted, and I did doubt, I did it silently…and always with the sick feeling in my stomach that I was doing something very wrong. Questioning one thing just led to questioning another, and another, and I quickly became sure of nothing. Doubt gave me anxiety depression, nightmares, insomnia, and strangely, my life as a writer.

Not knowing stuff is uncomfortable and admitting you don’t know it most often leads to thought. Constant thought is like warm, wet dirt for a writer’s ideas. My brain is overflowing with wet dirt! As one of our Luckies, Emma Pass said, “I never feel as if what I've done is good enough; instead, I feel as if I could do better and that there's always something more to learn." Another Lucky, Rachele Alpine pointed out the very real dangers of existing solely in a state of doubt, “But I also think that there needs to come a time when I let go of that doubt and instead hold onto trust. I need to trust and believe in myself and my writing. If I didn't turn my doubt to trust, I don't think I'd have ever taken the steps I did (sending my manuscript to agents, revising for submissions, giving my revisions to my editors...). If I let doubt stay with me all the time, then I'd never be able to take leaps!”

“Trusting yourself, believing in yourself,” as Rachele wrote, are awesome skills I haven’t fully developed. That warm, wet dirt of constant thought that on one hand helps grow ideas, on the other hand, keeps me quite stuck. So how do you leap out of mud? It is possible. I’ve done it.

Sometimes you can’t wait until you've overcome the issues in your life - you need to find a way around them. A trick I’ve learned in knowing when to submit work when I am unsure if it’s ready is how fast I can read it. If I can read quickly through my writing, I know that I’ve gotten to a certain point, possibly a point where an editor might be interested. And of course, now, my fantastic agent, Kerry Sparks, helps me with this part. I have built help aids into my life to make up for the trust and self-possession that I don’t feel.

Doubt helped to create a writer out of me, however it isn’t likely that it will be much of a help creating the great salesperson that I’ll need to become in the next year as my book, “Sunny Sweet is Going to be So Sorry,” heads toward print. It’s a huge concern of mine. So far in my life I’ve found ways around my doubt, or in the least, ways to work under its crushing-ness. It’s interesting that many of the things in life that made us writers are also the things that stop us from becoming successful at it. Will my constant uncertainty be the thing that robs me of one of the only things that I have been certain of most of my life, wanting to be a writer?

I doubt it.

Jennifer Mann's debut novel, SUNNY SWEET IS GOING TO BE SO SORRY, will be published by Bloomsbury in Spring of 2013. Jennifer is represented by Kerry Sparks of Levine Greenberg. Find Jennifer on Twitter and at her website.