Saturday, October 29, 2011

RSVP for the EMBRACE Virtual Launch Party

Party date: December 20, 2011
Where: online
What: A celebration of the release of EMBRACE

Here's How to Join the Party (pick one!):

Write your own post about embracing change.
Share a story like the ones above about embracing change. It can be something small, like a new hair style that helped you feel like a whole new person to something big like a new job or moving away from home for the first time. I’m hoping these posts will brighten everyone’s day as they get ready for the holidays.

2) Hop around the virtual party and just hang out.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What is it about fantasy?

With Halloween just around the corner, I thought it would be fun to chat about what draws me to fantasy and all things supernatural.

Growing up, one of my favorite movies was Escape to Witch Mountain. The original movie made in 1975, not the latest remake. For those who aren’t familiar with the story, it’s about two mysterious orphans, a brother and sister, who have extraordinary power and are chased by a scheming millionaire. When I was young, I was so intrigued with the idea of kids having powers that I asked my parents to buy me the book and I read that too. I used to fantasize about having powers of my own. I mean, how cool would it be to be able to move things with your mind?

Escape to Witch Mountain was only the beginning of my love for the unknown. To this day, my favorite genre is paranormal: vampires, witchcraft, angels, demons, gods and so on. I also believe that behind every myth there is a nugget of truth. But what truth could there be in vampires? While Bram Stoker brought us the story of Count Dracula and his journey to move from Transylvania to England, the legend of Dracula  goes back to the 1400s and Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler.  In fact, Bram Stoker’s inspiration behind Dracula was Vlad the Impaler.

Witchcraft dates back to before Christ and had often been thought of as dark or evil, but not all practitioners of magic dabbled in black magic. In fact, many used their powers to help others. From Merlin to the modern Wiccan, witchcraft is still very much alive. Okay, I’m not saying that I believe there are wizardry schools or people who can turn a mouse into a goblet or ride a broom through the sky (even though that would be totally cool). But I’m not going to rule out the ability to send some good luck to someone who needs it. Have you ever seen a penny and picked it up, maybe you chanted that all day you’ll have good luck. Maybe you searched for a four leaf clover or you wished upon a star. You would have been calling upon unseen forces for a little bit of good fortune. One last thought on the subject: many people wear jewelry to symbolize a belief or to protect them from evil. They believe these objects have power, therefore they do.

As far as angels, while I do believe in them. Is it that far of a leap to then believe in demons? If man can be good or evil, wouldn’t it stand to reason that higher powers could be one or the other too? Even though I have never seen an angel (at least not that I know of) I believe I have a guardian angel who worked a little (okay a lot of) overtime during my teen years.

I love stories that weave these creatures into our world and this is reflected in my writing. My debut novel, Embrace, is a story about a girl who discovers there are unseen forces in the world and she’ll need to embrace these forces to save her friends.

I think people like fantasy for different reasons. For me, it offers a brief escape from everyday life. In a paranormal romance, there is often an alluring and hard to resist male to fall for. In horror it’s the thrill of being scared, being on the edge of my seat rooting for the characters. How about you? Do you like fantasy and why?

I'm adding Omnific Publishing's Blog Bounce to this post. All authors are welcome to join:

If you are an author, click on "Get the Code Here" to get the link. Copy and paste that link in your blog post. Then hop right on and add your blog url to get added to the list.

If you are a reader, you get to bounce from blog to blog and meet some great new authors and maybe find some new books to read.

So everyone hop on and go for a bounce!

This is a Blog Hop!

You are next... Click here to enter
This list will close in 10 hrs, 23 min (10/27/2011 11:01 PM CST)

Click here for me details.

Friday, October 21, 2011


Thank God it's Friday, that pretty much sums up my feelings right now. It's been a busy week for me. Inbetween critiquing the mini synopses that goes in a query for the free critique offer I posted on Wednesday and work, I've been diligently working on a paranormal young adult novel that I'm getting more and more excited about as I revise it. I wanted to take a break from all that to hop on Omnific Publishing's blog bounce, though. All authors are welcome.  Click here for details.

Author! Author! Blog Bounce

This is a Blog Hop!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Get a free critique on your mini synopsis...

Submissions now closed. 
A big thank you to everyone who participated.

Because this offer had a positive response, I'll post a similar offer in the future.

I thought it would be fun to do something to help fellow writers. I know how important it is to have a query letter that is well written and intriguing, something that will make your letter or email standout in a crowded inbox. I’m offering you the opportunity to get a free critique on your mini-synopsis.

What is a mini-synopsis? It’s the blurb in a query that summarizes your story in less than 200-words.

What’s the catch?
  1. Your submission is limited to 200-words. This mini-synopsis is for the query letter and should be a concise summary of your story.
  2. I would really appreciate it if you’d help me spread the word about this offer and about my blog.
  3. This is a limited time offer. Submissions will be open for three days or to the first ten people to respond, whichever comes first.

How can you participate?
  1. Send an email to [removed]    Check back for future offers.
  2. Put the words “Query blurb” in the subject line of your email.
  3. Include in the body of your email the title of your book, targeted audience, genre, and the mini-synopsis.

Your submission should look something like this:

     Title: The Chocolate Made Them Do It
     Audience: Young adults
     Genre: Romance

          Jessica swears it’s not her fault the entire football team now hangs on her every word or that Mike, 
     the hottest guy in school, won’t stop calling her. She used to be just another fourteen-year-old trying to 
     survive freshman year. That all ended when she shared a box of chocolate peanut clusters that she swiped 
     from the top shelf of her grandmother’s pantry…

     (My example is a little rough. I had chocolate on my mind when I wrote it.)

Before you reply, here is a little more information about me:

Q.  Who am I?
A.  I’m a fellow writer who would like to help others make their publishing dreams come true. I started writing about seven years ago. I’ve attended writing conferences and I’ve taken different courses to help improve my craft. My debut novel, Embrace, will be out this winter.

Q.  What can I offer you?
A.  A fresh set of eyes, for one. I can also let you know if something in your mini-synopsis is unclear.

Q.  Am I guaranteeing my comments will get your query letter out of the slush pile?
A.  I wish I could make a promise like that, but my response would be my opinion and you are free to take it or leave it as you see fit.

Q.  Then why bother?
A.  You only get one chance to impress an agent or an editor. Having a writer who is unfamiliar with your story review your mini-synopsis will help you to know if it’s ready for its targeted audience. Besides, what do you have to lose?

Q.  Should I be the only person who reads your mini-synopsis before you send your query?
A.  Definitely not. I believe in having several people critique my synopsis before I consider it done and I think you should do the same.

Your mini-synopsis will remain private as long as you submit to the email address above. At no time will I repost it on my blog or website. Responses will be sent directly to the submitter.

Now what are you waiting for?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Half Upon a Time: and life's no fairy tale for Jack

I met James Riley at a conference. He was under a very bright light. No kidding! The fairy tale gods were shining down on him and his books. (Okay, one of the overhead lights was pointing right at his chair and the lights were too high for anyone to adjust, but I’m glad about that or I may not have seen James in the crowd that was there.)

Half Upon a Time is a laugh-out-loud funny novel that I would recommend to anyone who loves to be transported to new worlds filled with adventure, magic and monsters to defeat. Boys are sure to relate to Jack who really could care less about saving a princess (come on, we all know how snooty royalty can be) and girls will love May, the sassy princess who fell from the sky.

Really, she falls from the sky and believe me, she’s just as surprised about this as Jack.

Half Upon a Time
by James Riley
SYNOPSIS: Life’s no fairy tale for Jack. After all, his father's been missing ever since that incident with the beanstalk and the giant, and his grandfather keeps pushing him to get out and find a princess to rescue. Who'd want to rescue a snobby, entitled princess anyway? Especially one that falls out of the sky wearing a shirt that says "Punk Princess," and still denies she's royalty. In fact, May doesn't even believe in magic. Yeah, what's that about? May does need help though--a huntsman is chasing her, her grandmother has been kidnapped, and Jack thinks it’s all because of the Wicked Queen . . . mostly because May’s grandmother might just be the long-lost Snow White. Jack and May's thrillingly hilarious adventure combines all the classic stories—fractured as a broken magic mirror—into the first of an epic new series of novels for the ages.

After reading Half Upon a Time I wanted to tell anyone and everyone I could about the book. It’s just too good to keep to myself. James was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.

Cherie:  I understand that Half Upon a Time is your debut novel. Can you tell us a little about your journey, from signing with your agent to selling your first book?

James:  Sure! My novel's journey began in Virginia, just outside Washington, DC, as every debut novel journey does. From there, through a variety of plot holes and cliched twists, the journey ended in Los Angeles, having completed its character arc, and ready to move forward with a new appreciation for life. Also, I think there was a montage in there somewhere, preferably to The Killers "All These Things That I've Done." I think that'd really highlight how far I've come ... as in like 3000 miles. 

Writing-wise, Half Upon a Time was actually my third novel. The other two will forever be nameless and unpublished, according to a Department of Defense ruling. Trust me, it's better that way. Still, I learned from that ruling, kept at it (after a laughable amount of rejections from agents, followed by an unlaughable amount, then an actually kind of sad amount), and eventually lucked into an agent. Literally. It was pure luck that my future agent had heard publishers talking about looking for fairy tales just the day before receiving my pitch. If my story teaches anything, it's to never discount the power of luck. And hit Vegas soon afterwards, because you might be on a roll. 

After getting an agent, it was actually a much faster process to find a publisher who was interested, the inestimable Liesa Abrams at Aladdin. I think that means you can't estimate how great she is? Let's hope so, as that's what I wanted to say: I literally can't even begin to estimate her greatness. 

And the rest, as they say, is the present. 

Cherie You've had quite a ride! There's nothing wrong with having luck on your side. It's even better when the story you've written is exactly what publishers are looking for. Half Upon a Time is such a clever and fun twist to old fairy tales. Where did you get the idea for your novel?

James:  Unlike the rest of everyone, I grew up reading fairy tales as a kid. I know, weird how I'm the only one. My favorites were Ruth Manning-Sanders' A Book Of... series that collected fairy tales from around the world. There was just something amazing about stories where magic wasn't something mysterious, it was everyday life ... and it would eat you. With big teeth. I mean, BIG teeth. And obviously that seemed like a great place to start writing for children.

Also, I'm an enormous Disney fan (at least eight feet tall), and so many children have a foundation in fairy tales from the Disney movies, it seemed like almost a universally well-known place to start building a series.

Plus, if everyone thinks they know who the Big Bad Wolf or Little Red Riding Hood are, then you can subvert their expectations. And there's nothing quite so much fun as subverting things. 

Cherie:  I'm a huge fan of Disney too, although not so much the big teeth. You did such a wonderful job of weaving the different fairy tale characters into your story. Did you plan out each chapter before you began to write or did you start with the storyline/plot and just jump right into writing?

James:  I actually plotted out all four books in the Half Upon a Time series so I could set up the second, third and fourth books within the first. Spoiler alert: There are clues setting up the second, third and fourth books in the first. But other than the overall story, I generally left how they got from point A to point C (they often would overshoot point B) up to whatever happened naturally. And by naturally, I mean sitting at my computer for days on end, pounding hard on the keyboard in frustration. 

I'm kidding, that's how you break keyboards. I gently pounded on it instead. 

I'm a firm believer in editing later, honestly. When I'm doing a first draft, I give myself as much freedom as possible to just write, not editing at all as I go. I do go back and add notes in places where I need to change things, but otherwise, I save editing for future drafts. And by editing, sometimes I mean complete rewrites. Other people might call that rewriting, but I like to call it "NOOOOOOOOO, why won't this just WORK!!!!" It's easier that way. 

Cherie:  My first thought: Yes! There are three more books to look forward to! My next thought: Definitely pound gently on your keyboard, we wouldn't want you not to be able to write. Thanks for sharing a little about your writing style. I found myself laughing out loud while I read Half Upon a Time, which earned me quite a few curious stares from my family, all of whom I told could read the book as soon as I was done. Are you naturally this funny or do you have others who inspired this wit?  

James:  Well, I wouldn't call it natural: I paid good money for any wit I have, and it's all virtually made of plastic anyway. Completely recyclable, but also completely unnatural. As for inspiration, I could list a few names ... Steve Martin, Woody Allen, Douglas Adams ... but I won't.  

Cherie:  After interviewing you, I’m going to have to disagree that you aren’t naturally witty. It not only shows in your writing, but in your responses too. (Insert big grin here - since blogger seems to hate my smileys.) As I read your story, I started to wonder what it would be like to walk around one of my favorite fairy tales. If you could be transported to any fairy tale, which would you choose and why?

James:  Oh, easy ... I'd want to be transported into King Midas's story RIGHT as he learns his lesson, and has no use for an entire kingdom full of gold. I'd be more than happy to help him with that. Of course, I'd need transportation back. I hope that's inherent in the question. If I have to go live somewhere permanently, I'd say Rip Van Winkle's story, because I could really use the sleep. 

Cherie:  Yes, you definitely get transportation back! I’ll even throw in an extremely huge trunk with wheels. You’ll need it for all that gold. I’m very excited to know that I’ll be able to join Jack and his friends next spring as they set out on a new adventure. Can you tell us a little about book two, Twice Upon a Time?

James:  Sure! Jack, May and Phillip get caught in a war between pirates and mermen, hunted by the Big Bad Wolf and a new mysterious villain, and get trapped in the Land of Never, where no one grows up and everyone can eat chocolate all day. ...OK, that last one is worse than it sounds, trust me. Oh, and we definitely for sure find out where May comes from. Trust me again. 

I'd love to tell you the title for the third book, but it might possibly spoil the end of Twice Upon a Time, so I'll keep quiet. For now. Dun dun dunnnnn.

Cherie:  I don’t know, never growing up and chocolate all day, I can’t see the downside of that. And since I hate spoilers, I'll forgive you for making me wait to find out the title of book three. Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? 

James:  Yup, thanks for hosting me here, Cherie! It's been fun!

Cherie:  It's truly been a pleasure to have you here! Thanks so much for being a part of my blog!

Want to know more about James Riley and his books, stop by  

Friday, October 7, 2011

Blog love to share

It's an honor to receive the following awards from Jessica Therrien. Jessica's blog is one of my favorites too, so make sure you check it out.

The Leibster Award. I received this award once before, but it's a pleasure to receive it again.

The One to Follow Award:

The Lovely Blog Award:

I really liked Jessica’s idea of paying these awards forward to my favorite Second Campaign Challenge posts and I’m so glad I kept a list. J

I'm passing all three awards to:

Jamie McHenry at Faeries Are Real
Brooke Busse at Paper Mountain
Angela Orlowski-Peart at Angela Orlowski-Peart
Alberta Ross at Alberta's Sefuty Chronicles

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Embrace, a teen novel: 74 days and counting!

I wanted to have a snazzy countdown clock to insert into this post, but since I'm having trouble with the snazzy part and also with inserting the script into my blog post, I had to settle for a standard countdown clock off to the right. The good news is that EMBRACE will be available in 74 short days from today. That's just in time for Christmas. Can't wait that long? Stop by my website,, and read the synopsis.

Need something awesome to read now, check out Omnific Publishing's .99 cent sale.

If you're a young adult writer, don't miss my post on Writing for a Young Adult Audience.

And it's time for Omnific Publishing's Blog Bounce. See below to join the fun.

Today's the Author, Author Blog Bounce!
All authors are welcome to join & hop along.

To find out more about the bounce, click here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Writing for a young adults audience

Not too long ago I had a post on writing for a middle grade audience. But what about teens?

I really enjoy reading books targeted for young adults, so it’s no surprise that I also enjoy writing for this age group. Teens are passionate readers, many falling in love with their favorite characters. Authors who are able to capture a teen’s voice also capture their readers’ hearts.

Teen novel often delve into tough subjects like absentee parents, drinking and even suicide. You’ll notice the characters in these stories are exploring how they fit in with their peers whereas in middle grade they were figuring out how they fit into the world.

Readers of young adult typically range from 14 all the way up to adult. Although many adults are reading young adult novels, you can’t set out to write the next big crossover book and I don’t feel you should try to do this. If you are writing a young adult novel, then write it for teens. This is your targeted audience.

In young adult, your main character’s age is going to depend on who they are and what conflicts they will face along the way. Getting to know your mc is the first step. So how does a writer get to know a fictional character? Why, by listening to them, or course. 

Some ways of doing this are:
  • Have your mc write a letter either to you or to a supporting character in the story.
  • Sit down and write about them. This can be anything: a big event in their life, how they spent summer vacation, a typical day. What you write may not end up in the story, but it will help you get to know who your characters are.
  • Create character sheets that not only includes basic features (age, color of eyes, etc.), but notes fears, allergies, likes and dislikes. Answer questions like “I love my mom, but …”  “My dad always…”  “I wish…” and  “If I could change one thing…” 

Completing these exercises will help bring out your main character's voice. I believe that voice is everything in a teen novel. Unfortunately, there is no right or wrong formula for creating voice, but if you have a strong and unique voice your writing will stand out from others. And if your characters don’t sound like a teenager, you’re going to lose your readers.

What is voice? It’s word choice, style and reflection. It’s seeing the world through a teen’s eyes. To help bring out your mc’s voice, bring things back to them. For instance, a character may comment on a poster they have hanging in their bedroom: I can’t believe I still have that unicorn poster on the wall. Or they may notice that a person’s eyes are the same green as their grandmothers.

To improve the authenticity of your character’s voice, visit places where teens hang out. Observe their actions, body language and speech. Take a notepad with you and jot down what they do and say. Okay, this may seem a little creepy, but as a writer we watch people all the time anyway and I’m not suggesting you sit across from them with a notepad and pen like you’re directing the scene. Blend in. Have a cup of coffee and a book in front of you. Wear headphones with no music. Attend high school sports, plays and other events that are open to the public.

This brings me to the last part of my notes. Plot. The first thing I'd like to say is...

Hook is not plot. Hook is what draws your reader in.
Plot is what carries your reader from page one to the end of the book.

I have this in my middle grade notes, but since it applies to young adult too, I felt it was worth repeating.

So how do you develop plot? You think about what is important to teens the same age as your mc. Then, you ask yourself if the conflicts make sense to a person of fourteen or sixteen, etc.

Things to remember when writing for young adults:
  • Teens are not dumber than adults. They've just had less life experiences.
  • Teens are complex.
  • Include inner monologue.
  • It’s okay for things not to be black and white. There can be gray areas in young adult.
  • Your character should grow during the course of his or her story.

Things to avoid:
  • Stay away from trendy teen-speak. This changes quickly and will date your novel.
  • Don’t be vague. Your story can’t be absent of details.
  • Don’t chase trends, meaning don’t set out to write a vampire book just because that is the current hot selling trend. Do write what you know and enjoy reading yourself. Trust me, if you don’t like fantasy or dystopian or historical fiction you’re not going to be able to write it well because your story won’t be coming from the heart.

I hope you found some of my notes helpful. If you have any tips you’d like to share, I’d love to hear them.