Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Guest Post: Anna Staniszewski

The Evolution of an UnFairy Tale Opening

You know what’s hard about writing a sequel? Pretty much everything! I thought writing My Very UnFairy Tale Life was a challenge, but the sequel, My Epic Fairy Tale Fail, was even harder. What I struggled with the most was the opening chapter. Why? Because there’s so much the first chapter of a sequel needs to do:

·         Grab the reader.
·         Re-introduce the characters.
·         Set up the conflict.

Etc, etc, etc.

The last thing you want to do is bore the reader. Alas, that’s exactly what my original opening did. Want proof? At the risk of totally embarrassing myself, here is the original opening page of My Epic Fairy Tale Fail:

You know all that “absence makes the heart grow fonder” stuff? It turns out it’s true. For years Melissa, Trish, and I hadn’t even spoken, and now we were like the Three Musketeers, only with smaller mustaches. As the three of us held a mini-golf tournament in my bedroom, along with my new friend (and fellow adventurer) Jasmine, I couldn’t stop smiling. My life finally felt normal. Well, almost.

     “Would anyone like a snack?” Aunt Evie said, poking her head into my bedroom. She was carrying a plate of cookies shaped like bones and fire hydrants which were clearly not for humans.

     Trish and Melissa both politely shook their heads and went back to practicing their swings, but Jasmine grinned and took one. I expected her to spit it out after one bite, but she just kept munching away as she leaned back on my bed. That was Jasmine. She’d been an adventurer longer than I had and nothing seemed to surprise her. I wondered if I’d ever be like that.

     “Your aunt doesn’t know, does she?” Jasmine asked after Aunt Evie had closed the door.

     “About my ‘secret identity’?” I shook my head. “I’ve wanted to tell her, but Dr. Bradley says I have to wait until the Committee gives me permission. Does your family know?”

     Jasmine grabbed another cookie. “Yeah, my mom was an adventurer years ago.”

     “Really?” said Trish, putting aside her golf club. Her ears always perked up at the mention of anything magic-related. “What happened? Why did she quit?”

     “When she found out she was having me, she thought it was too dangerous. She wasn’t thrilled when the Committee recruited me, but she said it was my choice.”

     I wondered what my parents would have said if they were still around when Anthony had appeared and promised me a life of magic and adventurer. I’d like to think they would have been thrilled, but I had no idea. My parents were pretty much strangers to me. Unless I figured out why they’d disappeared, I guess they’d stay that way.

I realized that the biggest issue with this opening was that I was trying too hard to fill it with information. I was so worried about catching readers up on what had happened in the last book that the humor and energy went right out the window.

Finally, based on a critique partner’s advice, I scrapped the original opening and just try to have fun with it. I decided to go for the James Bond-type opening that I used in the first book. In the first book it was unicorns. In the sequel, we start with mermaids. Here’s the final opening page:

If someone tells you that you’re being sent to a magical mermaid land, take my advice and spend the day at the aquarium instead. Then you can have a nice lunch, feed some dolphins, and not get caught in the middle of a merpeople war.

Mermaids are nothing like the gorgeous girls you see in movies. In reality, they’re bitter creatures who hate the water because it turns their skin pruney. Even though their tails don’t transform into legs, that doesn’t stop them from desperately wanting to live on land so they can spend their days basking in the sun. Which is why the Green Tails and the Blue Tails were fighting over an island the size of a school bus. And why I, Jenny the Adventurer, had been sent to stop them.

To be honest, I wasn’t doing a very good job so far. If I’d been on this mission alone, things probably would have been fine. But my bosses—the all-powerful and all-annoying Committee—didn’t trust me after I’d threatened to quit being an adventurer, so they’d found me a babysitter: Jasmine, the wimpiest girl in the universe.

After this, the fish start flying (literally) and Jenny has to save the day. I had so much fun writing this new opening—instead of focusing on filling readers in, I concentrated on letting Jenny tell the story in her snarky voice. I kept reminding myself that the background info could wait; I just needed to work in enough so readers wouldn’t be confused. Ultimately, I wanted them to enjoy the story from the start.

Now that I’m working on the third book in the series (due out in November) I’ve made sure to keep that same sense of fun in the opening. Of course, writing the third book in a series comes with its own challenges, but I’ll save those for another post. For now, I’m just focusing on telling Jenny’s story in a non-boring way. I don’t think she’d forgive me if I let her story put people to sleep.

Photobucket            Photobucket
Click on cover for buy links and more info about each book

Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. She was named the 2006-2007 Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library and a winner of the 2009 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award. Currently, Anna lives outside of Boston with her husband and their adopted black Labrador, Emma.
When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time teaching, reading, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. Her first novel, My Very UnFairy Tale Life, was released by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky in November 2011. The sequel, My Epic Fairy Tale Fail, is coming on March 1, 2013. Visit her at www.annastan.com.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Spotlight: Angela Brown, author of Neverlove

I met Angela Brown during a Platform Builders Campaign hosted by Rachel Harrie back in 2011. I've enjoyed following Angela's blog and was so excited when I saw that her novel Neverlove was being published. Today, I have the pleasure of having Angels here with me.

First, I want to share the beautiful cover and a little about the book with you.

by Angela Brown

Neverlove - For Abigail and Basil, there is a choice they both fear making.  Duty or love?  There can be only one.

Longer description:
For seventeen-year-old Abigail, one rash decision leads to an unexpected chance for redemption. At V'Salicus Academy, a unique institute where she trains to become an agent of heaven, she struggles with the pain of her past, the changes of the present and accepts a loveless future until her path – and heart – crosses with Basil’s.

Basil's off-chance slip of the tongue binds him to a life of servitude to the Devourer, the master of hell. His existence has no upside until a chance meeting with Abigail brings new perspective.

Keeping the truth of their present lives from each other brings disaster when secrets are brought to light and the life of Abigail’s mentor is put on the line.

Can Abigail and Basil save her mentor and salvage their love amid the chaos? Or will they lose it all, destined forever to NEVERLOVE?

Now, I hope you'll help me welcome Angela to my blog.

Cherie: Tell us about your novel, Neverlove, in your own words.
Angela: Neverlove is a dark upper YA, a story of second chances, forbidden love and hope in the least expected places. With paranormal, action and romance infused throughout, Neverlove makes for a great late night read.

Cherie: Where did you get the idea for your novel?
Angela: Neverlove is actually a novel written in response to reader interest in my Abby and Basil blog opera during the 2012 A to Z blogging challenge. The original idea for Abby and Basil was inspired by my obsession – erm – love of Adele’s song “Set Fire to the Rain.”

Cherie: What was your favorite (or most difficult) chapter to write?
Angela: Honestly, the very first chapter was both my favorite and most difficult chapter. It’s a confronting sequence dealing with very sensitive and dark content that includes a suicide attempt. To try and write about such things half-heartedly would be an insult to those who’ve dealt with these issues in their lives. So I tried my best to write things out understanding people deal with these issues in real life and respond in different ways as well.

Cherie: Can you share with us something about Abigail and Basil that we don’t learn about them from reading the book?
Angela: Hmmmm…something you don’t learn about Abigail and Basil in the book. I think I pretty much let things free flow about them as I write lol!!

Cherie: What are you working on now?
Angela: I have a few projects in the work, one being RIPPED TIES, a YA urban fantasy/dystopian. It’s a story of one girl’s discovery of her true heritage and her ability to destroy the world if her powers ever fell into the wrong hands.

Now that we know about your book and you as a writer, I have some fun questions for you. Try to answer in five words or less:

Favorite color? Purple

Secret crush? I LOVE Johnny Depp. If I were to meet him in person, I’d probably melt into a puddle of driveling idiocy, a seriously stammering fangirl or faint flat out lol!!

Are you a morning person or an evening person? An evening person. I’ve been working on having a more #bepositive attitude in the mornings, but I’m a work-in-progress lol!

Favorite author? C.S. Lewis and Tolkien still battle for this title

Favorite movie? LOTR trilogy, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Matrix would have to battle out for this title

Guilty pleasures that get you through the writing/revising process? Wild Cherry Pepsi and chocolate J

Thanks, Angela, for being here today!

Curl up with NEVERLOVE today

Author bio:
Born and raised in Little Rock, AR, Angela now calls Central Texas home.

Reading and writing have been lifelong passions. It was around the time she gave birth to her forever-love, nicknamed Chipmunk, that she really took writing seriously. After all, how could she teach her child to follow her dreams if she hadn't tried herself?

As a YA fantasy/sci-fi reader and author, she favors the magical, mysterious, the darker side of life...even harbors a secret fright for things that go bump in the night.

NEVERLOVE is a special project spawned from a blog-challenge-turned-blog-opera, 
the Abby and Basil affair. It is the first in the Shadow Jumpers series.

Find Angela

Friday, January 18, 2013

Cover Reveal: The Dragon Empire

I love dragons. Of course I love witches, vampires, faeries, demons, angels and everything else that encompasses the supernatural. It's my love for all these things that makes me very excited to be a part of the cover reveal for Heather McCorkle's upcoming epic fantasy, THE DRAGON EMPIRE.

The Dragon Empire 
by Heather McCorkle  
February 2013 / Compass Press
On Yacrana, dragons stand at the top of the evolutionary ladder instead of humans. Such an advanced species is not without its issues though.

There's trouble in the Dragon Empire, the kind that could start a war between dragons and the races of people. Hidden factions of dragons believe they should rule the lesser races, not simply stand aside and allow them to develop as they will. Having lived so long in peace, the Emperors turn a blind eye, many oblivious that such attitudes even exist.

Despite being only an architect class, emerald dragon, Grendar is willing to risk banishment and death to stop that which his rulers refuse to see. The hope of peace lies not within the scaled breast of a dragon however, but within the hands of a group of people. But if the hidden factions have their way, these people won’t live to fulfill such a destiny. With a reluctant seer at his side, Grendar must leave his precious Empire for the outside world to save those that will one day save his kind. 

Cover designed by CP Design.

To add The Dragon Empire to your TBR list click here

Heather McCorkle
I am an author of fantasy, in all its many sub-genres. Living green, saving endangered species, helping other writers, and supporting fabulous authors are a few of my passions. I am also a volunteer for the IS Foundation which works to make the world a greener place. When I'm not volunteering, writing, or surfing my social networking sites, I can be found on the slopes, the hiking trails, or on horseback. As a native Oregonian, I enjoy the outdoors almost as much as the worlds I create on the pages. No need to travel to the Great Northwest though, you can find me here, on my blog, and Monday night's on Twitter where I co-moderate the #WritersRoad chat.

Find Heather McCorkle

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Musings about my "break" from writing

Before the holidays I had given the first couple of chapters to my critique partners, received excellent feedback, revised. Repeated the whole process. Revised again. You know how that goes. I think I got the first ten or fifteen pages very close to right, which is a great feeling. (I'll know soon if my CP agree.) But after the last set of changes I had to take a break from that novel. I had read the beginning so many times, cut pages, moved scenes, got rid of everything that annoyed my CP (yeah,  I'm sorry to say there were a few things that just didn't work and I love my CP for helping me to see why) that I was afraid I wasn't looking at it objectively anymore. I knew I needed time to forget the story.

Normally, I'd jump to another project, but at this time I have two novels out on submission and my current WIP. This left me with the dilemma of what to do with my writing time. I kept telling myself I should catch up on my ever growing TBR list, but I like to read at night and I had plenty of time off during the holidays to write. I also have a few novel sitting on my hard drive waiting for me to come back to them. I decided to read through a YA novel I'd first written in 2007. I don't think I intentionally shelved this one. I still love the premise and the characters. The last time I put this one aside was because I had sold a novel. I must have known I'd be away from it for awhile, because I had noted exactly what I had been changing and where I'd left off at the top of the Word doc.

What started out as an I'll just read through this novel for fun turned into me rewriting more than half the chapters. I even set myself a deadline for when I had to be done tinkering with it (because I really wanted to get back to my other project). I'm happy to say I made it. I should have known I'd end up making major revisions. I have a MG story in a similar situation as this YA novel, and the last time I read through it for fun I added 10,000 words. I may never subs these novels. They may end up being the side projects that keep me going when I'm on "break", because I obviously don't do breaks like normal people.

Do you have novels waiting for you to come to them? Pet projects you fiddle with in between other projects?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Interview with L.S. Murphy, author of Reaper

Congratulations to L.S. Murphy on the release of her debut novel, REAPER! And I'm very excited to have her on my blog today.

by LS Murphy
Publisher: J. Taylor Publisher

There’s no way sixteen year old Quincy Amarante will become the fifth grim reaper. None. Not over her shiny blue Mustang. Her Jimmy Choos. Or her dead body.

She’s supposed to enjoy her sophomore year, not learn about some freaky future Destiny says she has no choice but to fulfill.

It doesn’t take long for Quincy to realize the only way out of the game is to play along especially since Death can find her anyway, anywhere, anytime. And does.

Like when she’s reassuring her friends she wants nothing to do with former best friend Ben Moorland, who’s returned from god-knows-where, and fails. Miserably.

Instead of maintaining her coveted popularity status, Quincy’s goes down like the Titanic.
Maybe … just maybe … that’s okay.

It seems, perhaps, becoming a grim reaper isn’t just about the dead but more about a much needed shift in Quincy’s priorities—from who she thinks she wants to be to who she really is.

Please help me welcome Linda!

Cherie: Tell us about your novel, Reaper, in your own words.
Linda: Reaper is about sixteen-year-old Quincy Amarante who learns her destiny is to become a grim reaper.

She doesn’t take the news well.

Cherie:  I can imagine that discovering you’re destiny is to become a grim reaper would put a damper on ones plans for the future. What is your writing process like?
Linda: My writing is sporadic because of the demands of a family and a full-time job. I make time to write whenever I can, often stealing moments for word sprints or getting up at four in the morning for an hour or two of quiet.

Cherie: Where did you get the idea for your novel?
Linda: The idea for Reaper came from the a what if question. What if the popular mean girl found out she was going to become a grim reaper?

Cherie: I love playing the What if game. The best ideas can come from it. Which chapter did you find to be the most difficult to write?
Linda: The first chapter was very difficult simply because of the time it took to get it just right. There are a few chapters that were incredibly difficult to write emotionally. I’ll let you figure those out on your own. J

Cherie: Can you share with us something about Quincy that we don’t learn about them from reading the book?
Linda: Quincy Amarante means Fifth Unfading.

Cherie: What are you working on now?
Linda: I’m currently working on a YA contemporary novel about a city girl who is forced to move to a small Iowa town. She meets a hot cowboy who has a dark secret.

Cherie: You can’t go wrong with a hot cowboy! Now that we know about your book and you as a writer, I have some fun questions for you. Try to answer in five words or less: 

Favorite color?

Secret crush? (It can be anyone real or fictional.)
My crushes aren’t secret. I let my hubby know all about them. J So my current not-so-secret crush is Daemon Black from the Lux series.

Do you believe in love at first sight?
I want to believe in love at first sight, but I don’t know if that’s really possible

Have you ever experienced that head-over-heels, tingly, have-to-get-to-know-someone feeling yourself?
Yep, I married him.

Who are you drawn to the good guy or the bad guy?
Good guy with a bad streak.

What’s the first thing you notice about a guy?
His eyes.

If you had all the money and time in the world, where would your dream vacation be?

Are you a morning person or an evening person?

Favorite author?
Kurt Vonnegut.

Favorite place to write?
My office in the basement.

What book are you the most excited to read?
Indigo Spell by Richelle Mead
Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare
Senshi by Cole Gibsen
Shades of Earth by Beth Revis
(I have a lot more!)

Are there any types of books you don’t read?
I rarely read non-fiction.

Thanks, Linda, for being here today, and I wish you much success on your novel!

Bio: L.S. Murphy lives in the Greater St. Louis area where she watches Cardinals baseball, reads every book she can find, and weaves tales for teens and adults. When not doing all of the above, she tends to The Bean (aka her daughter), her husband and a menagerie of pets. “A Reason to Stay”, a contemporary romance novella, is available as of November 2, 2012. Reaper is her debut young adult novel and will be released on January 7th, 2013.

She is a co-rep for the Southern Illinois region of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and a member of the St. Louis Writer’s Guild.

Find L.S. Murphy

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Book Reviewers

Feature Friday is a new feature dedicated to amazing and wonderful book bloggers. It's a way for readers and authors to get to know the ladies and gentlemen behind the blogs. If you're a book reviewer and would like to be featured, please email me at cheriecolyerwriter(at)gmail(dot)com.

Jessica Porter from Crossroad reviews: Reviews Adult, New Teen, Teen/YA, Children's books
Elena from Bookish Temptations: Enjoys contemproty romance, new adult, young adult, historical fiction, erotica, paranormal and the classics
Joana from Always Jo Art: Young Adult, Adult
Lee, Ally Melissa from Rally the Readers: Paranormal, fantasy, dystopian, historical fiction
Lisa from Bookworm Lisa: Enjoys books with a good plot and setting
Sonia from SBookLover: Everything with the exception of paranormal and historical fiction
Toni from My Book Addiction: Favorite categories: New Adult, YA, MG. See review policy for favorite genres.
Valerie from Stuck in Books: Her tastes change, but at the time of the interview urban fantasy, YA, new adult
Veronica Rundell from V's Reads: Young Adult, Adult

If you're an author or a reader, stop back every Friday to meet a new blogger.

Please note: Book reviewers' tastes may change, so be sure to stop by their blogs for the latest update an what books they enjoy and also to read their review guidelines. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

IWSG Beginning a new year

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time to talk about insecurities. Before I do that, I’d like to thank Alex Cavanaugh for hosting this wonderful meme. If you'd like to learn more about it, just click on his name.

Happy New Year! I hope you had an amazing holiday season!

The great thing about a new year is that we get a chance to start fresh, set new goals, and reflect on our accomplishments. 2012 was a good year for me, and I’m hoping 2013 is even better. This would probably be a perfect time to make the New Year’s resolution that in 2013 I’m not going to be insecure. Sounds great, doesn't it? But I know that isn't a realistic goal. After all, no one sets out to be insecure. It just sort of happens.

So in 2013 I vow to use my insecurities to help me work harder. I’m going to try to spin them into something good. This has worked for me before. For example, when I lacked confidence in my writing, I took courses and attended conferences to help me improve my craft. When I feel there’s something lacking in a novel I’m working on, I reach out to my critique partners and beta readers for advice. By doing this I've been able to use my insecurities to become a better writer. So, if I start to obsess over the things I’m insecure about, I’m going to try to remember to hit pause and to find a way to turn that insecurity into something positive.

And if by chance that doesn't work, well chocolate always helps. J

How do you deal with your insecurities?