Sunday, November 24, 2013

Meet Sharon Cameron--Win Books!

The lovely and talented Sharon Cameron joins us today to share her historical mystery adventures, The Dark Unwinding, and A Spark Unseen. In fact, she’s giving away a copy of each, so stick around for the details, but first, let’s meet Sharon.

According to her website Sharon has taught classical piano, raised a family, been a part-time genealogist, chaired a non-profit theater group, and continues to be a coordinator for the SCBWI Midsouth Fall Conference. Plus, you know, she writes books. I met her through the Midsouth conferences, and can tell you that she is one of the warmest, most energetic people in the building. Conference attendees also remark on her fabulous reading voice.

Sharon, thank you for joining us. I’d like to begin with your trailer.

It’s obvious you put a lot of work into this. Please tell us a little about the process of creating a trailer.
Thanks for all the kind words, Kurt! You’re right, the trailer was a ton of work, but really, really fun to create. I did the storyboard and staged most of the scenes, and Will Darnell of Modmonk Productions did the filming, editing, original music, sound, and…everything! We filmed in the Two Rivers Mansion here in Nashville, put the camera under a glass table and ran a hose pipe over it, built a Tesla coil in my office, and broke glass on my back patio (You wouldn’t believe how hard it can be to break a jar. We really should have made a blooper reel.) Many hours, but worth it to capture the spirit of the books.

There are a lot of historical details in these books. As a fan of analog science, I was struck by the automatons and the water mills, but there’s no denying that clothing plays a central role in setting the scenes and moving the plot. Can you tell us a little about your research?
Oh my. The problem here is going to be how to STOP answering your question. The science in the books was a huge research project. From clockwork to ship building to water management to the gasworks to you name it. All the machines in the book were either based on existing designs or imagined by me, and then designed by Philip Cameron (the husband). He created working schematics (like the swimming fish above), so we could know how the machines would sound, how long they would run, fuel sources, etc., etc. He also ordered chemicals that probably put us on a few FBI lists and created explosive gun cotton in our basement. (Note: Gun cotton does, indeed, smell terrible.)
But for the other, more day to day historic details, because I was already well versed in the time period, this was less research and more about making very careful choices. Clothing is a huge detail in any novel. The time period, a character’s economic status, their status within a community, the weather, background, personality, all this can all be stated with fashion. When Aunt Alice keeps Katharine in dresses of unflattering and uncomfortable cloth, this was a deliberate choice to not only show Aunt Alice’s personality, but the background of Katharine’s. And when Katharine chooses to leave off her ugly, tight dresses for the free-flowing, beautiful ones of her grandmother, it is a deliberate statement about what has changed inside her, and a foreshadowing of the choices she is about to make in her life. So very much a “show, don’t tell” kind of writing device that I enjoy playing with.

There comes a point in the first book where Katharine’s life gets unworldly enough that the reader really doesn’t know what is happening any more that she does, yet you had to show her actions without giving away the mystery. I’m curious as to how much those scenes evolved from your first draft.
I think ALL my scenes have evolved from my first drafts! But yes, a narrator that’s not completely reliable when the story is being told in first person is a very tricky thing. I had to go through those scenes many times, finding ways for Katharine to reasonably clue the reader while not being reasonably clued in herself. And of course to do that, the author (who knows all) has to figure out what clues a reader will and will not catch. This is where a really excellent critique group is gold.

There’s a bit of an homage to Oscar Wilde and P. G. Wodehouse in the books, yes? Could you suggest some period must-reads?
You noticed! I adore understated British silliness, and Oscar Wilde and P. G. Wodehouse are two of my favorites. I credit them both with my love of the tiresome, meddlesome aunt and tea served up with some snarky dialog. (For the record, none of my aunts are meddlesome and I try not to be snarky when I drink my tea.) When in need of a very Britishy laugh, I think everyone should read Heavy Weather by P.G. Wodehouse, and the Oscar Wilde plays The Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest. Another recommendation would be the BBC Wooster and Jeeves series (based on the books by P.G. Wodehouse), with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry. Love these!

I mentioned your reading voice. At the conference, you read the YA First Pages with considerable skill considering the fact that you haven’t seen the text before, and you’re reading it in front of the authors, who are, in a sense, being judged. Am I seeing a theater background at work?
Well, I did a little theater in high school (a VERY little) and I have a daughter who has grown up on the stage, so I’ve spent a lot of time around actors, but I’m not sure that gives me an official theater background! Though I really do love and appreciate theater, and try to support it on a local level. I was, however, a musician for many years, so I think maybe it’s my musical background that has more to do with reading aloud. I have always loved the tone and rhythm and sound of words, and the imagination they ignite. Very much like music.

You know several talented authors, including a few with debut novels in the works. Care to drop a name or two we should look for in the coming year?
Absolutely! Courtney Steven’s Faking Normal is coming in February 25, 2014, and Tracy Barrett’s The Stepsister’s Tale in July, 2014 from Harlequin, Teen. Jessica Young’s second picture book, Spy Guy, will publish spring of 2015 with Harcourt, and in winter of 2015, David Arnold’s debut Mosquitoland will hit the shelves from Penguin. I live in SUCH a talented town!

Speaking of future projects, let’s finish with your next novel, Rook, which comes out in 2015. According to your website, it’s “a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel set in the future, which chronicles a Sunken City gone mad, an unwanted betrothal, and 13 innocents who will die unless a legend can save them.” That’s quite a setup, and I imagine you had to do some new and exciting research. Can you share a few details?
Sure! I love archaeology, and have always been fascinated with the idea of when we, the people of 2013, will be the ancient and vanished past, studied like we now study the Romans or the Incas. I’ve also always been amazed by the repeating patterns of history. So the setting for Rook is a time where our world has vanished and become the stuff of myths, and unbeknownst to the people involved, history has actually repeated itself through a dark age and into a new enlightenment. But really it’s about corsets and swords and beheadings and spies during a second French Revolution, in a Paris that has collapsed into its catacombs and been rebuilt. And did I mention corsets and sword fights? Lots of those.
So my research for this has been very odd. All about what would be, instead of what was, but based very much on what was, because that was what worked for us before! Currently learning about biodegradable plastics, methods for making fireworks, religion during the French Revolution, what would happen if we didn’t have flood control on the Thames, free climbing buildings, and strange and interesting ways to hide a dagger.

Again, my thanks to Sharon for taking the time, and for sharing her books.  We’ll be giving the set to one lucky winner.  Read on for details on the prize and how to enter.

 The Dark Unwinding

When Katharine Tulman's inheritance is called into question by the rumor that her eccentric uncle is squandering away the family fortune, she is sent to his estate to have him committed to an asylum. But instead of a lunatic, Katharine discovers a genius inventor with his own set of rules, who employs a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London.
Katharine is now torn between protecting her own inheritance and preserving the peculiar community she grows to care for deeply. And her choices are made even more complicated by a handsome apprentice, a secretive student, and fears for her own sanity.
As the mysteries of the estate begin to unravel, it is clear that not only is her uncle's world at stake, but also the state of England as Katharine knows it.

A Spark Unseen

The thrilling sequel to Sharon Cameron's blockbuster gothic steampunk romance, The Dark Unwinding, will captivate readers anew with mystery and intrigue aplenty.

When Katharine Tulman wakes in the middle of the night and accidentally foils a kidnapping attempt on her uncle, she realizes that Stranwyne Keep is no longer safe for Uncle Tully and his genius inventions. She flees to Paris, where she hopes to remain undetected and also find the mysterious and handsome Lane, who is suspected to be dead.

But the search for Lane is not easy, and Katharine soon finds herself embroiled in a maze of political intrigue. And with unexpected enemies and allies at every turn, Katharine will have to figure out who, if anyone, she can trust to protect her uncle from danger once and for all.

Filled with deadly twists, whispering romance, and heart-stopping suspense, this sequel to The Dark Unwinding whisks readers off on another thrilling adventure.

Please comment below to be considered for the drawing. Extra points offered for posting about the contest on Facebook or Twitter (please include mention of this in your comment). Email MUST be included in the comment to be considered. Open to US and Canadian entries only—apologies. Contest closes at midnight EST on 12/1/13.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Nobody ever said the road to publication would be a quick, smooth, pothole-less trip, but wow, the last few months and weeks before release are pretty intense! Lucky me, I’ve had the privilege of sharing this journey with three very special ladies—first, Katie McGarry, who I’ve been fortunate to call my friend and critique partner for the past four years. Also, the amazing Elizabeth Langston and Chanel Cleeton who I met and soon came to adore at the RWA conference last summer—introduced by our amazing agent, Kevan Lyon of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.

I recently spoke with each of them to see how they are holding up so close to their release dates and here’s what they had to say…

First up in just two short days—November 19, 2013!
Elizabeth Langston, author of YA Historical Fiction novel, WHISPER FALLS.

 Waiting for my release day has been scary, distracting, and crazy slow. Sometimes it feels like it will never get here...not all that different from awaiting my first baby.”

While training for a mountain bike race, high-school senior Mark Lewis spots a mysterious girl dressed in odd clothing, standing behind a waterfall in the woods near his North Carolina home. When she comments on the strange machine that he rides, he suspects something isn't right. When Susanna claims to be an indentured servant from 1796, he wonders if she's crazy. Yet he feels compelled to find out more.
Mark enters a "long-distance" relationship with Susanna through the shimmering and temperamental barrier of Whisper Falls. Curious about her world, Mark combs through history to learn about the brutal life she's trapped in. But knowledge can be dangerous. Soon he must choose between the risk of changing history—or dooming the girl he can't stop thinking about to a lifetime of misery.

Next up is my book in exactly 8 days—November 25, 2013:
Colette Ballard, author of YA Romantic Suspense novel, Running On Empty.

“While it’s super cool finally counting down in single-digits days instead of weeks or months, it is nerve-wracking and intense. There’s been lots of random dry-heaving, sleepless nights, and worrying. If I were to be graded on my waiting skills, I would certainly get an F, for failure or freak or fraidy-cat… But for all my shortcomings, maybe I’d get a P for pursuit, perseverance, and oh…published.” J

What does it feel like when you die— in those final moments? Do you feel the physical pain, or just the pain of your regrets? What does it feel like when you realize you can’t answer these questions because you’re not the victim?
     You’re the killer.
River Daniels lives an ordinary life as a high school junior growing up in the confines of rural Texas until her boyfriend’s brutal attack leaves her both a murderer and a fugitive. When River’s closest girlfriends come to her aid, they make a hasty decision to not only help her, but leave their own troubled lives behind and join in her escape. The girls manage to elude police for months, but with every near-miss, River’s life spirals further out of control, until she finally hits rock bottom. Realizing she must stop endangering her friends and find evidence proving she acted in self-defense, the girls decide to make a risky return to Texas. Her return means more than facing her ugly past, she must also face the one person she was protecting the night her world caved in, the guy she has loved for as long as she can remember.       

In only 9 days is—November 26, 2013!
Katie McGarry, author of YA Romance novel, CRASH INTO YOU:

"Gearing for release day brings on a myriad of emotions. I'm excited and nervous and
happy and nervous. It's an absolutely thrilling time!"

The girl with straight As, designer clothes and the perfect life—that's who people expect Rachel Young to be. So the private-school junior keeps secrets from her wealthy parents and overbearing brothers…and she's just added two more to the list. One involves racing strangers down dark country roads in her Mustang GT. The other? Seventeen-year-old Isaiah Walker—a guy she has no business even talking to. But when the foster kid with the tattoos and intense gray eyes comes to her rescue, she can't get him out of her mind. 
Isaiah has secrets, too. About where he lives, and how he really feels about Rachel. The last thing he needs is to get tangled up with a rich girl who wants to slum it on the south side for kicks—no matter how angelic she might look. 
But when their shared love of street racing puts both their lives in jeopardy, they have six weeks to come up with a way out. Six weeks to discover just how far they'll go to save each other. 

And last but not least, in less than three months—February 1st, 2014:
Chanel Cleeton, author of NA Romance novel, I SEE LONDON:

"For me waiting on my release feels a bit like being a kid on the night before Christmas.  You're excited, a little bit anxious, a little impatient.  Plus, you may have a hard time sleeping:) The waiting can be tough, but the best part is knowing you have something you've been dreaming about, just around the corner."

Chanel’s cover is yet to be released so I inserted her lovely picture insteadJ

When a small town girl moves to London to attend an exclusive international university— where college parties are hosted at nightclubs and beer bongs are replaced by bottles of champagne— she is caught between the hot British guy who is everything she always wanted and the Lebanese playboy she can’t resist.

So the point of this post is that in every aspect of this business it’s nice to know you’re not alone. Reach out to each other when things are tough, lean on each other, learn from each other. But equally important, take time to celebrate each other’s accomplishments no matter what stage of the game you’re in!!! J

I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts on awaiting release dates, revisions, cover reveals, or contest news if that’s where you are!

All our books can be found on Goodreads at:

Also, it’s not too late to catch the last few days of Katie’s blog tour, and the beginning of mine! For more info:

Monday, November 11, 2013

Brave Enough to Suck

I met Shari Becker a few years ago at the Highlights Foundation Whole Novel Workshop.  It was a week of inspiration and deep writing, and we've kept in touch ever since even though we live in different states. The writing/publication path is so bumpy, it helps to share the ride with someone who truly understands.  Someone to commiserate with, and someone to kick you into gear.  Shari joins YA Fusion today with a guest post.  Read on, and you'll understand why I admire her and appreciate our friendship.

Are you brave enough to suck?

This year I was fortunate enough to sell my first young adult novel. This process is neither easy nor painless. I shed many tears, had many sleepless nights, and paced hallways trying to push through writer’s block. Six months in, I scrapped my entire first attempt and rewrote the whole manuscript keeping only the core idea.

“Close” rejections stung. “I was totally hooked, but it was too similar to other books on my list.” Or, “Really great writing, but I just didn’t connect with it enough.” But it only takes one editor to love your story, and I was fortunate to find her.

The experience taught me a ton about the publishing industry and the writing process. It’s been a humbling journey. I’d love to share with you some of the lessons I learned over the past two years, writing this debut novel. I’m going to start with the one I think was most impactful --

I simply could not write my best work until I was brave enough to suck. I had to understand that even though I’d spent 10 years working on my writing, even though I had an agent, even though I had two published picture books, and even though I had worked for Nickelodeon and a Disney company, I still had so much to learn.

Two years ago I joined a fabulous critique group with super-talented writers. I came in cocky, I’ll admit. But the talent in my group was exceptional and standards were high. The writers were funny and poetic. Their grammar was better than mine. Their pacing was better than mine. They studied and honed, and they had put in hours of time and effort that I simply had not.

I had a huge wake up call: they were better than me, and I had a lot to learn from each of them.

Now of course this is all relative. I HAVE been writing for a long time. I’m not a novice. My work is certainly good enough to have an agent, but it isn’t always good enough for a slam-dunk sell.

The members of my critique group were intense, intent on publishing in a way that was hungry and pragmatic. There was no room for “good enough.”

Everyone knew that some part of their submission was going to be lousy. It was going to need rewriting. Maybe a lot. It was not good enough for publication … yet. I went to every critique group knowing I was going to get a beating, and the wounds would sting. They pushed and asked tough questions.

Another member of our critique group, who joined at the same time as I did, dropped out after just a few meetings because we critiqued too harshly. We did not stroke her ego. She was positive that her manuscript was perfect just the way it was. It wasn’t. Some parts were great, some needed real work. She was unwilling to accept her sucky-ness while I decided to embrace mine.

Success in this field (in my opinion) means understanding that writing is a process, and none of us are “there” yet. Heck, we may never get “there.” The point is to keep trying to be better. To keep trying to be your personal best. To exceed your own expectations, but to know that if you ever believe you’ve gotten “there,” you’ve probably reached the wrong destination.

To be fair, some part of this crazy business really is luck. It’s finding that one editor who loves your story enough to publish it. You have no shot at being lucky, though, if you aren’t hard on yourself. My critique group was fierce. Fierce about not accepting sub-par work from ourselves or each other. Fierce about being the best we could be. Fiercely honest about understanding the industry: what would sell and what likely wouldn't.

I just started working on a new novel, and I’m already pacing the hallways because I know it’s not nearly good enough yet. I know huge chunks need rewriting. I have to find the bravery – the courage – to accept that it sucks, and the resolve to work my tail off to make it better.

Monday, November 4, 2013


We’ve been focused on crafting useful posts, and the weeks keep flying by, but I’m taking a minute to push the pause button to reflect on where we’ve been.  Katie McGarry started the YA Fusion group blog in the spring of 2011 as a debut author.  Fast forward to today, and Katie’s debut novel, Pushing the Limits, was just selected as a YALSA 2013 Teens' Top Ten, her second novel, Dare You To, has been nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award, and her third novel, Crash Into You, is about to be released!

Congrats, Katie, and thank you for pulling all of us together into this supportive blog team!  

Over the past two years, we’ve grown to a team of 13 and celebrated more book birthdays and good news.  Some members have needed to pull back as they juggle work and family responsibilities, and we’re excited to welcome two new contributors, Shari Becker and Amber Hart.

Shari's YA debut, The Stellow Project, is scheduled for spring 2015 from Skyscape (Amazon's YA imprint).  Amber's YA novel, Before You, will be published by Kensington in spring 2014.  Shari and Amber will start with guest posts and join our regular schedule as they find a balance with all of their author responsibilities. 

Halloween fun is behind us, and I’m looking forward to the winter holidays.  It’s easy to get swept along in the rush of the season, but I’m going to try to slow down and make time to express gratitude.  My yoga teacher ends each class by asking us to think of something we are grateful for.  I love the website for their articles such as, The Neuroscience of Why Gratitude Makes Us Healthier.  You can sign up for inspiration and a 21 Day Gratitude challenge here:

To express our gratitude to our readers, YA Fusion will have a December giveaway of some of our favorite books and new releases.  Until then, here's a sneak peak:

Have a great week and good luck to everyone participating in NaNoWriMo!

Kristin Lenz