Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Moment That Makes It All Worth It

If you'll all allow me a quick moment of self-indulgence . . . I'd like to (humbly and in a very ladylike fashion) tell you all that my very first novel is now OUT IN PRINT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now, for anyone who's ever struggled through the ins and outs of the publishing world, even for a minute, you know a little bit of what I'm feeling right now.

After first writing my novel; then editing it; re-writing it; deciding that I hated every word of it, scrapping the entire thing, starting from scratch, recovering an earlier draft and editing THAT, and then finally deciding it was something worth being called a book, I then got my first eye-opening moment of "you mean I have to do all of THAT just to be a real, honest-to-God author??!?!?!" when I started researching how to get published online.

So then I resigned myself to the mulitple thousand queries and query letters, editing THOSE, and then dealing with rejection after rejection after rejection from every agent I sent them out to.

Anyone feeling my frustration yet???

To say that I was excited when I finally got that fateful email from Solstice Publishing saying that they wanted my novel would be the understatement of the century. I literally danced around my living room for a solid hour. Then; when the e-book version of my book came into being, I thought I'd never felt more accomplished in my whole life.

Oh, but now . . .

Now that there is a tangible, read-able, smell-able book version of the novel that consumed my life for so long . . . .

Guys--there are just NO words.

There is only dancing like an idiot around one's living room, screaming nonsensical syllables and feeling completely on top of the world.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Freak Out! (Yourself and Others)

As fall creeps closer and as I continue to draft the final book in the Nevermore trilogy, I find myself mulling more and more over the things that scare me. I do this partly because such things fascinate me, as the same musings must have also fascinated Mr. Poe all those years ago. I do this also in an effort to capture the essence of fright. Like a ghost hunter might try to snap a photo of an unseen specter, I like to find my fears, capture them, and do my best to take a closer look as to why they freak me out so much.

If I expose myself to the dark then, hopefully, I can use my fight to frighten others (my audience, namely.)

And a good fright is something we all need every once and a while, don’t you think? Of course, if you’re like me, you could do with a good healthy scare every evening.

Wasn’t it Eleanor Roosevelt who advised us to “do something every day that scares you?”

As if writing wasn’t a frightening enough venture.   

If you’re writing horror fiction, a ghost story, a murder mystery or if you just like to pepper in a freak-out fest here and there, here are few things that I have found that tend to make me want to sleep with the lights on.

Betrayal of the Familiar.

Stephen King is a master at this. With books like Christine, Cell and The Shining, Mr. King takes everyday items and like a car, a cellphone or places like an empty hallway in a well-established hotel, and transforms an interaction with them into a terrifying encounter.

When we pick up a telephone, we expect to be able to make a call. When it rings and we pick it up, we assume the person on the other end is alive and breathing. Unless they aren’t.

Antiques from a local shop are lovely to bring home. If such items were cursed, we would never guess. At least not until it was too late.

 Mirrors can show us not only what we look like on the outside, but perhaps also how we may appear in the spirit realm—if we appear at all.

When I think about something in my everyday life turning against me, it freaks me out, but it also makes me grin in that “mwa ha ha” sort of way because, as a writer, I can use that fear to manufacture ideas and distill it down into my own concoction that might just get your goat, too.

After all, I’m fairly certain that if the black and white photograph I have in my office of death dancing with a maiden began to come to live and move on its own, I would run out of my house screaming.

And I’m also pretty sure that, unless you’re Jason or Grant from the Ghost Hunters, that little incident would freak you out, too.    

The Unknown

If we don’t understand something, that instantly makes it scarier. Think about the movie The Village. The first time I saw that movie, I got a terrifying thrill. When I saw it again, I enjoyed the film just as much, but I have to admit that its ability to terrify me was gone. I attribute this to the fact that I knew the film’s secret, the mystery was gone and I had my answers. So I think in this instance, the scriptwriters did a masterful job of withholding information.

As a writer, it’s a good idea to know the answers to why and how, even when it comes to the supernatural characters such as ghosts and demons. If you can withhold some of the details to the end, however, this can often amp up the terror factor quite a lot and help create suspense.  

You’re the Crazy One

This is a great scare tactic for fiction and one that Poe himself used quite often with such tales as The Tell-Tale Heart, The Imp of the Perverse, William Wilson and The Black Cat.

As a society, we fear insanity in others and we fear its manifestation in ourselves, too. It gets even creepier when we don’t see it coming.

Stephen King’s Secret Window is an excellent example of how this can work in fiction. Of course, the greatness of Hitchcock’s example in the ever famous Psycho goes without saying.

  I love this tactic because, at its essence, it explores the fear we harbor of ourselves, someone we think we know better than anyone. When we realize don’t know ourselves however, or we discover some frightening aspect of our shadow side, we freak out the people closest to us as well as ourselves. Or we just freak out period.

Think Carrie. Think of Willow from Buffy and Jekyll and Hyde, too. What about Gollum?

Take your hero and think about what would be her breaking point. What would happen if you took her there? What would happen if you pushed her to the brink? What would she become?

What about you? What frightens you most and have you ever used that fear to create a story or character?

Sunday, August 12, 2012


One of my critique partners just returned from her first two weeks of a low-residency Creative Writing MFA program. She’s studying YA writing specifically and raved about how her first taste of life in the program was the most incredible experience I've ever had, period.”

For years, I’ve flipped back and forth concerning the idea of getting my MFA in creative writing. I’ve always talked myself out of it by saying, “Well, I don’t really want to teach. I just want to write, and people who get their MFAs in creative writing want to teach creative writing.”

Of course, then my friend fresh out of her first residency stint says that most people in her program are published authors who just want to get better at their craft. Some teach, but many don’t care to.

So there goes that theory, and there goes the rumbling of my indecision again. 

I mean, there are perks that come with the MFA route – being able to sink deeply into the craft of writing; being surrounded by people as passionate about writing as myself; having the unending support of extremely knowledgeable faculty; furthering my contacts in the publishing world. And if I ever did want to teach, well, I’ll have that diploma.

Still, can I get much of that from other sources? There are a slew of online courses that focus on writing the YA novel or one aspect of writing. Conferences and workshops offer contact with publishing insiders. My various critique groups give me encouragement and keep me accountable and on a production schedule. But, most importantly, as writer Stephanie Vanderslice wrote recently while weighing the pros and cons of MFA work, “An MFA Program cannot…lead directly to a cushy job teaching creative writing or to a wildly successful publishing career a la Stephen King or Chuck Palahniuk (neither of whom attended one, anyway).”* Which means even with an MFA, I still have to do the legwork – write, revise, submit, hope.

So I go round and round. One day, I may take the plunge and head back to school for that creative writing Master’s, but until then, I’ll enviously soak in every detail my friend throws my way of her thrilling, mind-blowing time on campus, and, when I see her bleary-eyed from staying up until 3 a.m. to finish her homework, I’ll be briefly thankful for my current non-MFA path.

How many of you have gotten your creative writing MFA or have considered it? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!

*Vanderslice, Stephanie, So You Want to Get an MFA?: An Open Letter to My Students

Monday, August 6, 2012

Jennifer Armentrout's Onyx

We have exciting news!!!!

Fellow YA Fusioner Jennifer Armentrout’s next book, Onyx (Book 2 in the Lux Series), is scheduled to be released on August 14th.

And do you want to hear something more exciting? You can read the first two chapters if you go to her website:

Here is a description of Onyx from Jennifer’s website:

 Thanks to his alien mojo, Daemon’s determined to prove what he feels for me is more than a product of our bizarro connection. So I’ve sworn him off, even though he’s running more hot than cold these days. But we’ve got bigger problems.

The Department of Defense is here. If they ever find out what Daemon can do and that we're linked, I’m a goner. So is he. And there's this new boy in school who’s got a secret of his own. He knows what’s happened to me and he can help, but to do so, I have to lie to Daemon and stay away from him. Like that's possible. Against all common sense, I'm falling for Daemon. Hard.

I’ve seen someone who shouldn’t be alive. And I have to tell Daemon, even though I know he’s never going to stop searching until he gets the truth. What happened to his brother? Who betrayed him? And what does the DOD want from them—from me?

Congratulations Jennifer! We are so proud of you!