Sunday, March 24, 2013

a YA debut, revision help, and GIVEAWAYS!

I have a lot to share today: a wonderful new book, revision advice, and giveaways!

I’ll start with the wonderful book. The ARC of Emily Murdoch’s debut YA/Crossover novel, If You Find Me, sat in my reading pile for too many months. I wish I had read it earlier to join the chorus of admirers, but I’m squeaking in just in time – the novel releases this week. (With starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal!)  
At the end of this post, you’ll have a chance to comment to win my ARC. You’ll also find a link to read an interview with Emily and the blog tour stops for more chances to win her novel.  Trust me, she is such a warm and lovely person, you will immediately want to read her book. 

From the back cover:

There are some things you can’t leave behind…
A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and two strangers arrive. Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys.

Now, Carey must face the truth of why her mother abducted her ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go… a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.

My thoughts:
Lyrical, evocative, heart-wrenching. I was immediately swept up in the emotion and the mystery, and I feared the unfolding that came at the end. Because I am a writer and a social worker, I thought about the worst that could have happened, and truly hoped author-Emily wouldn't go there. I didn't want her to go there. But I know she had to. That might sound bleak, but ultimately this is a story of love, hope, and resilience.

This is also a great story to analyze from a writing perspective, especially the use of flashbacks.  Writers are taught to avoid the dreaded info-dump, to reveal in bits and pieces – never enough to slow the story down. 

I’ve struggled with this in my own writing, and I recently received some guidance from author Tim Wynne-Jones who is my mentor/instructor in an online writing class. Tim commented that I was holding back too much information from the reader.  I was attempting to build suspense, but instead it came across as coy.  I had briefly described a certain past incident, but Tim’s advice was to make that a longer, fully developed scene – even its own chapter.  Here’s one way to think of it: use small flashbacks that reveal character through action and dialogue, but use larger flashback scenes when important truths need to be revealed.

The best way to learn is to read books that do this well. If You Find Me is a great example, as well as Tim’s YA thriller, Blink and Caution.

* On Tuesday, I’ll be at Literary Rambles for Tip Tuesday sharing more of what I’ve learned from Tim Wynne-Jones. In the meantime, here are the programs where he teaches: 

Visit the unofficial blog by faculty members of the Vermont College of Fine Arts, MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults

**And finally, the GIVEAWAYS!

1. To win my ARC of If You Find Me, simply leave a comment below by Friday, April 5th.  U.S. and Canadian addresses only, and please include your email if it’s not listed on your Blogger profile.

2. To find the launch of the If You Find Me blog tour with more chances to win the book, go here:

3. It’s revision week at Deborah Halverson’s DearEditor blog. Stop by for a week’s worth of revision tips and opportunities to win a partial or full edit of your manuscript.

Good luck!
Kristin Lenz


Unknown said...

I still need to read Blink and Caution, it's been sitting on my TBR, and in my house, for too long. I will dig out for a spring break read! Thanks for the reminder.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for the great review, Kristin. You've got me wanting to read this for the story and to see how flashbacks are used effectively.

And looking forward to more of your tip on Tuesday.

Christine said...

Great review! I'm majoring in psychology and sociology, so this kind of book definitely appeals to me. It sounds amazing! :)

Joanne R. Fritz said...

I loved this book. I read it way back when it was called THE PATRON SAINT OF BEANS. Since I already have a copy, please don't enter me in the giveaway.

You described it perfectly with: "Lyrical, evocative, heart-wrenching."

That's excellent advice from Tim Wynne-Jones. Thanks for sharing it!

Ann Finkelstein said...

Great interview, Kristin. And I'll put "If You Find Me" on my to-read list - just in case I don't win.

Alyssa said...

Ohhh, what a great round-up! I haven't read Blink and Caution, but I do love a good thriller! It definitely sounds interesting, as does If You Find Me! I'm looking forward to getting a chance to read those two - maybe over spring break! Which, for me, starts on Friday :D

Thank you for the giveaway!

Alyssa <3
lilleetleet AT verizon DOT net

Suzi said...

I've seen If You Find Me around the blogosphere lately. I've added it to my TBR list; it sounds like a good one.

I'm curious to learn more about the flashback thing. I have a few stories I've written that take place in short time periods and rely on flashbacks and I've been wondering if it will work because of that. I'll have to go check out what Tim has to say about it.

Kristin Lenz said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, everyone. Now I'm starting to think of other books that are good examples of using flashbacks, and some of them are from YA Fusion authors. Katie McGarry has a major flashback scene in Pushing the Limits. And Kristen Simmons has talked about her revision process adding back story/flashback scenes in Article 5. This could be an entire post all by itself!

Anonymous said...

Looks like a great book. Thanks for hosting a giveaway. I also just read your post on "Literary Rambles" and really enjoyed it. Kind of wishing I were enrolled with such an instructor at Humber College! Great post :)

Jill A.

Danielle H. said...

Even if I don't win the copy of If You Find Me, I definitely want to read it and study it to improve my own manuscript. Thank you for the chance to win a copy of a great book!

Randy Bulla said...

Fascinating storyline. I'm intrigued to know more.

In the MG novel (w/graphics) I'm writing now, the 12 yr old protagonist doesn't have flashbacks. But the Father reveals a couple to him that changes his thinking completely.

Tammy Sparks said...

I've been dying to read this book! I've seen so many amazing reviews. Thanks so much for the giveaway!


Emily @ Falling For YA said...

Awesome review! I have heard a ton of good things about this book, can't wait to read it, it definitely seems like something that I would enjoy =)


Angie Kidd said...

Thanks for sharing this book Kristin. It seems serendipitous that you mentioned the dreaded "info dump." I just finished reading "It’s an Info Dump, But It Works" from Darcy Pattison's FICTION NOTES.

I've also been considering this in my own writing. With fantasy, it seems hard to get around it entirely, because you also want to make your world believable with details and sometimes backstory. It is nice to know that it can be done as long as it is weaved into the story in an engaging way. I guess some rules are made to be broken ;-)

Lindsay Smith said...

Thanks for sharing this, Kristin! I love these sorts of emotionally grueling books, and can't wait to get my hands on IF YOU FIND ME.

Tricia C. said...

I bought Blink and Caution for my son; I think I'm going to go snag it from his room and put it on the top of my pile. As an adoptive mom of kids who've been through some tough stuff, I have way too many ideas about what the girls in If You Find Me are dealing with. It sounds very well done and is one I definitely want to read. Thanks so much for bringing it to my attention and for sharing your ARC.

Angie Kidd said...

I forgot to mention that I found out you can read the first chapter on figment at