Monday, March 31, 2014

Characters Who Change By The End of the First Draft (or The Voices in Our Heads) by Jessica Therrien

Many writers will often speak of the voices in their heads. Writers, you know what I mean. Everyone else, go ahead and think I'm crazy, but I know I'm not the only one who has conversations with people who don't exist ;)

Sometimes characters become so real they take on lives of their own.

In my series, Children of the Gods, one of the characters who changed by the end of my first draft was Kara. She's a badass villain whose hard life has dictated the person she's become. She's done horrible things, but only because she's had to. In my head, she's Lyndsy Fonseca from Nikita.   

Kara was never intended to be anyone more than a roadblock in Elyse's way. If you've read my series, you know she's become much more than that.

When I was writing Oppression (Book 1) I would go to sleep at night running scenes in my head, and POP, there she was. I ended up writing her into scenes she was never supposed to be in. She was such a loud voice in my head, I couldn't ignore her. By the end, she had muscled her way up to main character status. I actually had to go back and do research to figure out which Greek god I could make her a descendant of. I hadn't planned that far ahead for her.

I’m not sure why certain characters take on lives of their own, but Kara certainly did. She took my book in a direction I never thought it would go, making her own decisions and invading scenes that weren't meant for her. In the end, I'm so grateful I have these crazy voices running through my head at night...without Kara, my book would be drastically different, and my readers wouldn't have one of their favorite characters. 

Turns out, a little crazy does a writer good :) 

Friday, March 28, 2014

How Rebecca Taylor’s Ascendant found a publisher

I am writing this blog post from my hotel room in Bologna Italy!

I have ALWAYS wanted to start a blog post with those words!

I’m here for the Bologna Children’s Book Fair on behalf of the literary agency I work for and in case you are wondering—how the heck does she get to go?? One of my jobs at the Nelson Agency is working to connect with foreign publishers in the Asian territories on titles the agency represents.

So—VERY EXCITING. I will be posting pictures and blogging more about my experience on my personal blog if you want to check it out. 

Anyway—this post is not supposed to be about the amazingness that is Bologna but the amazingness of connecting with a publisher that wants to publish your book. I like to say I took the long way around to hook up with Crescent Moon Press—two bottles of whiskey for the way. (For some reason the CUPS song is stuck in my head—traveling, jetlag, and the excitement of being in an amazing city does funny things to the brain.)

In November of 2010, I got the agent call. Emma had read Ascendant, loved it, and wanted to represent me. I was shocked, amazed, sooooo happy—finally EVERYTHING was happening. Right??

Well, turns out that getting an agent who loves your work is a brilliant step towards that writing career you’ve always dreamed of, but it’s only one step in the middle of many.

Many, many, many steps.

But in November of 2010, I was blissfully ignorant of just how steep the rest of the hike up Publishing Mountain was, so when Emma sent me the email in January of 2011 that said, “…your book is out on submission!” I was pretty positive I would be signing on the dotted line with a publisher within weeks. At most a couple of months, it can take some time, I reasoned—but definitely before summer of 2011. Yes, by June 2011 my book and I will have been brought into the warm protective folds of a publishing family.

I could weep for that ignorance.

And that’s not to say that it doesn’t happen, exactly that way, for some writers and some books—it just didn’t happen that way for me.

In a drawer in my office I have all my old day planners for the last five years or so. That planner from 2011 has a long list of publishers and the editors I was on submission to that year. While it’s true, I came acquisition-table-close with a couple of them, I ultimately never received an offer. In January of 2012, I bought a new planner and by June of that same year, the painful realization that I needed to let go had set it.

Except…for better or for worse, I couldn’t let go. Somewhere along the way I had started researching small presses and began to broaden my publishing horizons. Maybe the big six (because they were still the big six back then) didn’t want my book, but I suddenly realized there were other alternatives.

I sent Ascendant to Crescent Moon Press on a bright and sunny Monday in June, 2012. One week later, they told me they wanted to publish Ascendant AND the second book in that series, Midheaven.

Six big doors had slammed shut—but a window of opportunity had opened and—you better believe it—I shimmied through it.

Ascendant released the following year, June of 2013, and Midheaven (currently in the editing process) is scheduled to come out later this year.

Follow Rebecca here:

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dishing Secrets about January Black’s Cover

In the past 15 months, January Black’s cover has been called pretty, rich, mysterious, and ominous. One blogger, whose thing is to call out bad covers, posted it solely because of the bird. Some people just don’t like birds. Mostly, the response has been incredibly positive. Readers male and female, young and old have told me they love it. My husband loves it, and as a graphic designer and a 20-year Photoshop expert, he’s a tad bit opinionated.

But did I like it? (Taria, honey, if you’re reading this, please put down whatever beverage you’re drinking, lest you destroy something expensive.) Truthfully, not at first.

We judge books by their covers, but the book is not the cover. A book is the product of months, even years of hard work, of lost sleep, of time spent away from family and friends. And, while working on them, it’s impossible to not think about how it might look on a shelf with other books.

I created an account on Authonomy in 2010 and uploaded a Japanese Maple leaf I had drawn to go with the review chapters there. That was the cover for a year. After that, I worked on dozens of covers that included teen girls and boys, chess pieces, books, buildings with glass roofs, sunsets beyond open doors, and the decimal places of e. Jackson Rathbone was a favorite of mine for a while, even though I could never use it.

Basically, I had been thinking about the cover of January Black for more than two years when Taria Reed, who’s never read the book, received my cover information sheet. She worked solely on my requests, which I intentionally very vague, and the guidance of the publisher. Less than two weeks later, the finished product dropped into my inbox on December 31, 2012.

January Black’s kingdom has more in common with modern America than medieval Europe. I had never played with green or stone. I love the title font, but it is handwritten and Matty’s world is very digital, so I never would have chosen it. There are no iron gates in the story, and I don’t think I ever mentioned a bird.

It took three, maybe four seconds for me to get over the sense of it being a square peg in a round hole.

The cover provides the symbolism it should. The story is dense for YA, and suggests at a mysterious, of secrets lost under layers of something growing out of control. The bird, freedom, is small. He is unencumbered by his surroundings, but he also not very important to them. He can stay or go on a whim which is something I personally find distressing.

Mostly, the cover is beautiful, and it is sweetly romantic, both adjectives which have been applied to the story itself. Falling in love was inevitable, and I replied to Steph Murray at Crescent Moon Press to accept the cover about a minute later.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Questioning Your Sanity and Other Dark Secrets of Meeting Your Editing Deadline by Monica Ropal

1.   Stephen King says to “write with the door closed, and rewrite with the door open." This is sage. Especially when working with kids at home because a closed door will not keep them out, it just makes more noise when they come in and out every five minutes and will slowly drive you insane.

2.   When deep in to edits, make sure that everyone else knows that you don’t have time for hair appointments, doctor appointments, returning phone calls. Showering. This will save embarrassment later.

     3.   Keep the coffee pot on all day. Because I SAID KEEP IT ON

     4.   Have an escape plan. Keep all paths clear. To the bathroom. Because . . . see #3.

     5.   When finally breaking out of the editing cave to forage for food at the grocery, do not question lingering feelings of angst, longing, and heartbreak as you wander the aisles. These feelings are not yours, they are the feelings of your characters. No need to question your sanity, it’s just part of the process.

6.   Question your sanity.

7.   When you go to bed at night, leave your browser open. Because you might be back at one a.m. Because now you have insomnia. Awesome.

8.   Put all activities and social engagements on hold. And your gym membership. Because hahahahahaNO.

9.    Love your characters. Because it’s lonely in the editing cave.

  10.       Chocolate.

 Monica Ropal
The Body of Cooper McCay, Running Press Fall 2014



Bio: Monica Ropal lives in friendly Minnesota with her husband and three children--to whom she lovingly refers as her three-ring circus. In addition to writing and playing ringmaster, she works part-time as a Hospice Nurse. Her contemporary YA The Body of Cooper McCay is her first novel, and will be released by Running Press in the Spring of 2015

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Teaser Tuesday: Speak of the Devil by Shawna Romkey

It's Teaser Tuesday!

Take a look at my debut novel Speak of the Devil. It just turned one this month. To celebrate the book is on sale for one week only, and I have a fun rafflecopter you can enter below! Check out my book and the contest!

What happens when falling in love and falling from grace collide?

After dying in a car accident with her two best friends, Lily miraculously awakens to grief and guilt. She escapes to her dad’s to come to terms with the event and meets some people at her new school who seem all too eager to help her heal. Sliding deeper into sorrow and trying to fight her feelings for two of them, she finds out who…what they really are and that they are falling too.

Can she find the strength to move on from the past, reconcile her feelings for Luc, find a way to stop a divine war with fallen angels, and still pass the eleventh grade? 

Speak of the Devil is on sale for $2.99 until March 23!
SotD Sale banner

For a chance to win a 6 Kindle with wi-fi, plus some ebooks or an AWESOME swag pack enter the rafflecopter below!

You can read an excerpt from Speak of the Devil at

Shawna grew up around farms in the heart of Missouri but went to the University of Kansas, was raised in the US but now lives on the ocean in Nova Scotia with her husband, two sons, two rescue dogs and one overgrown puppy from hell. She’s a non-conformist who follows her heart.

She has her BA in creative writing from the University of Kansas where one of her plays was chosen by her creative writing professor to be produced locally, and two of her short stories were published in a university creative arts handbook.  She earned her MA in English from Central Missouri State University where she wrote a novel as her thesis.

She’s taught English at the university and secondary levels for close to twenty years and can’t quite fathom how all of her students have grown up, yet she’s managed to stay the same.  She’s a huge geek and fan of Xena, Buffy and all kick ass women, and loves to write stories that have strong female characters.

The second book in the series, The Devil Made Me Do It, will release in September.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Exploring the Darker Side of Pretty Dark Nothing

“Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.” ― Mark Twain

I don’t remember when they started—the dreams of faceless entities, of black figures standing by my bed whispering in the deep shadows of my childhood room. Sometimes I would wake from their dark grasp and find my six-year-old self standing at the end of my parent’s bed, or in the kitchen, or walking down the hallway. Other times I would suffer from sleep paralysis, trapped between dream and reality, a scream trapped in my throat.

Some nights, fear gripped me so tight I thought my lungs were being crushed under the weight of it. Books kept me company, kept me awake, kept me from falling into the arms of the monsters waiting for me on the other side of sleep as I huddled under the covers with a flashlight, stuffed animals standing guard around my bed.

A bible stayed tucked beneath my pillow, a cross around my neck, anything to ward off the evil stalking my dreams. The darkness both terrified and fascinated me and as I grew, I found myself drawn to all the shadowy terror my dreams were made of.

Childhood stories were replaced with novels by Christopher Pike, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Lois Duncan, and V.C.Andrews. My mother would often catch me reading non-fiction about the occult, hauntings, demons, tarot, spirit boards, anything mystical, but she never made me feel ashamed of my obsession. Perhaps she sensed I was seeking a way to make sense of it all, to rationalize the irrational. For how can you recognize the light if you don’t understand the darkness?

The more I shined a light on my darkness, the quicker the nightmares faded. I still don’t understand what caused them or what they meant, but one day they no longer held power over me. The fear may be gone, but the shadows of those nightmares have never truly left me. I guess it’s not surprising that those experiences, so vividly etched upon my imagination and tightly twined around my soul, would find their way into my own writing. With the sun watching my back and the darkness in front of me, I delved into the world of the tainted, broken, haunted — first with short stories and dark poetry and then into the novel that would become my debut, Pretty Dark Nothing.

In Pretty Dark Nothing, I wanted to write about a girl facing her own darkness. What would happen if her nightmares manifested in her reality and she was the only one who could see them? How would fear, the self-awareness that what she was seeing might be real, but shouldn’t be, affect her everyday life, her relationships, her ability to trust herself, to trust others, and to make decisions.

I chose demons as metaphors for the darkness that lives inside all of us, the personification of that still small voice inside that perpetuates negative thought and twists the truth. They feed on the darkness living inside humans and exploit and magnify the insecurities and self-doubt they find and use it to gain power and create chaos.

While I’ve never seen a live demon, I hope my night terrors have been put to good use, to create a story rich in creepy atmosphere and emotional brokenness. I admit that at times it’s been terrifying to conjure up old nightmares and pick at the scars of fear left on my psyche, to bleed some of my own darkness onto the page, but watching Quinn fight demons helped me remember to always be wary of my own.