Monday, May 22, 2017

Barbara Claypole White On Writing Through Personal Tragedy

Barbara Claypole White author of The Unfinished Garden, The In Between Hour, The Perfect Son and Echoes of Family joined me to talk about finding inspiration for her fiction in real life, writing through personal tragedy and how to write characters with mental illnesses.

If the blog or podcast have been of any assistance to you in your writing life, I would very much appreciate monetary support so that I can continue to produce them. The crowdfunding site provides award tiers for donors at each level, starting at $1 a month.

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New episodes will go up every week! Please follow the podcast to be notified of each new episode, or subscribe through iTunes!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: THE HOLLOW GIRL by Hillary Monahan

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

Bethan is meant to follow in the footsteps of her Gran, to be the healer for her band of Romany people. With half of her face covered in a wine scar, Bethan is happy to fulfill that role, knowing that a good marriage would be hard to make. Then she meets Martyn, the farmer's son who sells their wares at the local market while she's selling charm pouches. Martyn doesn't mind her mark, or her Romany blood. He finds Bethan fascinating - and she doesn't mind the attention.

But when Silas - the chieftain's son - sees their flirtation, he's angry. Accustomed to having whatever wants, Silas has decided he wants Bethan - mostly because she's not interested. Silas and his friends attack Bethan and Martyn, raping her and beating Martyn nearly to death. When her Gran finds her, she has Bethan pull Martyn's last breath from his body and hold it in her own, explaining that there is a way to save him - and revenge herself - but it will mean setting aside their green magic for something much darker.

Broken and bruised, Bethan agrees, and sets out on a journey to avenge herself, and save the boy she loves.

Want to help me with all the mailing costs? I do giveaways at least once week, sometimes more. It can add up. If you feel so inclined as to donate a little to defray my mailing costs, it would be much appreciated! Donating has no impact on your chances of winning.


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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wednesday WOLF

I'm a nerd. In fact, I'm such a big nerd that I tend to look up word origins in my spare time because I'm fascinated by our language. The odder the origin, the better. I've got a collection of random information in my brain that makes me an awesome Trivial Pursuit partner, but is completely useless when it comes to real world application. Like say, job applications.

In any case, I thought I'd share some of this random crap with you in the form of the new acronym-ific series. I give you - Word Origins from Left Field - that's right, the WOLF! Er... ignore the fact that the "from" doesn't fit.

Ever wonder where that yummy old pile of crumbly, the Snickerdoodle, got its whimsical name? As with most word origins, there are a few different answers, so pick the one you like best. I'm going with the German one, because the mother country still has its hooks in my heart, and because it makes the most sense.

The Joy of Cooking attributes the cookie to Germany, suggesting that the name is a corruption of the German word schneckennudeln, a type of cinnamon dusted sweet roll.

Because of the holiday connections involved with the snickerdoodle, some think that the name originated from the Dutch language contraction of "Saint Nicholas."

My thoughts?

They taste good.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Kate Watson On Handling An Austen Retelling

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come to us like a lightning bolt, through the lyrics of a song, or in the fog of a dream. Ask any writer where their stories come from and you’ll get a myriad of answers, and in that vein I created the WHAT (What the Hell Are you Thinking?) interview. Always including in the WHAT is one random question to really dig down into the interviewees mind, and probably supply some illumination into my own as well.

Today's guest for the WHAT is Kate Watson  is a young adult writer, wife, mother of two, and the tenth of thirteen children. Originally from Canada, she attended college in the States and holds a BA in Philosophy. Seeking Mansfield (Flux) is her first novel, with a companion to follow. She is also a contributor to Eric Smith’s WELCOME HOME adoption anthology (along with Mindy!) coming fall of 2017 from Flux.

You can find Kate on her site, Facebook & Twitter.

Ideas for our books can come from just about anywhere, and sometimes even we can’t pinpoint exactly how or why. Did you have a specific origin point for your book?

I’m a Jane Austen fanatic, and a few years ago, I was rereading Mansfield Park and thinking about how it doesn’t translate to the modern era like Austen’s other works do. The main character, Fanny Price, doesn’t make a lot of sense to modern readers (not to mention the whole cousins in love thing, which is pretty tough to get over in any era, because ew). So as I was rereading the book, I kept wondering how it could be updated to resonate with a 21st Century audience. SEEKING MANSFIELD is my attempt to modernize this much-overlooked classic.

Also, full disclosure: Henry Crawford is one of my favorite Austen men. There’s a distinct possibility that I simply wanted to write (modern) Henry Crawford fan fiction.

Once the original concept existed, how did you build a plot around it?

Retelling anything is tricky, because you get one camp of readers wanting the story to follow the original, and you get another camp wanting something fresh. So before I wrote the plot, I knew I needed to understand my characters, independent of their Austen correlatives. I spent a lot of time researching them and getting to know them. After that, I figured out how my story needed to end, and I outlined some major plot points that I thought would get me there. I wrote the first draft of SEEKING MANFIELD with Mansfield Park right beside me for direction. But after that first draft was done, I closed the original and edited and made copious changes based on my characters and their individual arcs.

Have you ever had the plot firmly in place, only to find it changing as the story moved from your mind to paper?

I can’t say I ever have a plot firmly in place. I’m a destination writer—I always know how the story will end (and I’ve yet to be surprised by an ending). But I rarely know how it will happen, even though I create decent outlines in advance of any project. I love doing research, and it’s often in the course of researching something that I realize the story needs to take a different direction than expected, because that research helps me uncover more about my characters. I’m incapable of forcing a plot on my characters. They really run the show. 

Do story ideas come to you often, or is fresh material hard to come by?

Ideas come to me pretty often, sometimes when I’m doing something productive, like reading, but frequently when I’m occupied with mundane tasks, like showering or doing dishes (it should be noted that I never get ideas while folding laundry, because folding laundry is evil and inherently uninspiring). Recently, I even had a dream that ended up being a surprisingly fleshed out, John Green-esque novel. My dreams are typically absolute nonsense, like Freddy Kruger living in my closet, but he’s like a nice Freddy Kruger and he cries when I tell him to leave me alone so I can sleep, and stuff (not kidding on that one, btw). But this idea was solid enough that I actually wrote it down. We’ll see if it makes it into the rotation someday.

How do you choose which story to write next, if you’ve got more than one percolating?

Anytime I get an idea, I jot everything down that comes to me about it, and then I return to whatever else I’m working on at the time. My mind ruminates on those ideas in the background until there’s sort of a survival-of-the-fittest/fight club moment and one wins out. It’s all very violent, and sometimes I feel bad for those poor ideas that got bludgeoned and left for ruin in my brain. But that’s evolution, you know?

Writing can be completely exhausting. Like riding in a car, there’s no reason why but it totally drains me physically. I usually take a nap if I’ve been writing for more than an hour. Do you have to recharge after a writing session? 

Writing is all about momentum for me. If I haven’t written for a while, it’s really hard to get back in the habit. But if I’m in author-mode, writing acts like a jolt of caffeine. When I’m on a roll, I’ll find that I start writing at 9 PM and can easily go till 1 AM without batting an eye. In those instances, I have a hard time shutting my brain off because I’m so eager to live in the story.

Monday, May 15, 2017

New Podcast Ep & Where I'll Be This Week! (Also $1.99 E-Book!)

Lots going on this week! First off, there is a new episode of the Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire podcast available. This week's guest is Alyssa Palombo, historical fiction author of The Violinist of Venice and The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence. Alyssa joined me to talk about querying a novel that wasn't ready yet, immersing herself in the time period of her characters, the shifting standards of beauty from age to age, and how to balance blogging and writing fiction.

I have two appearances this week. Tuesday, May 16th @ 6PM I will be at the Barberton Public Library to discuss Blood, Brains & Lobotomies. By that I mean I'll be discussing A Madness So Discreet. Learn about how doctors treated brain injuries in the 1890’s and the different aspects of care for the mentally ill – for better or for worse. Also included is a brief history of The Athens Lunatic Asylum, the setting for the novel.

I will also be at the Strongsville Branch of the Cuyahoga County Library on Wednesday May 17 @ 7 PM, where I'll be discussing the many different threads and inspirations that came together to become Given to the Sea, my first fantasy.

And - the e-book of A Madness So Discreet is still only $1.99!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.    

Warrior, wizard, slave: no matter how powerful Andre Hawthorne becomes, he knows only death can set him free. Not a bad hook, but the last part of the sentence feels like it's shading the first three words as ascending levels of power, but I feel like the last noun cancels that out? He is the property of Mara Tsaryov, the ruthless Witch of Shadowfall, named for the Lithuanian forest where she was born. Mara bought Andre as a child, bonded him to her with magic, trained him to guard and protect her—and now that he’s grown into a charismatic young man, Mara has fallen in love with him. So he's a slave in the sense that he's her servant and unable to unbond from her because of magic? Also, is Mara ageless or is she a cougar? But in 1790, an aristocrat of New Russia would never permit herself to fall in love with a black slave, a living piece of her property who doesn’t even desire her. Mara despises her feelings, and she longs to kill Andre to rid herself of her shame. Interesting. I think you can get these ideas across in less words though. Look for easy cuts, or different phrasing.

But this particular slave is too useful for Mara to kill, and her political schemes would be impossible without Andre’s skills. His magic protects her chateaux in the Carpathians, Mara’s favorite home and the seat of her power. Frustrated with Andre’s indifference, Mara decides to enhance her physical appearance, and dress to inspire his lust, in order to regain control of herself, and of him.

So when a gifted seamstress in Kiev loses her husband, and must sell herself into slavery to keep her family safe, Mara is only too happy to acquire this slave. A Mongolian witch raised by Cossacks, Sienna Katyev will never be as powerful as Mara—but Sienna has her own kind of indomitable strength. As she works alongside Andre inside Mara’s chateaux, the two become friends, and then lovers. If Mara knew how they felt, she would kill Sienna, so Andre begins using his magic to free her. The more secrets Andre must keep from Mara, the more perilous freeing Sienna becomes, as political intrigue and love bring Andre toward a violent confrontation he knows he can’t win.

The Shadowfall Witch (100,000 words) will appeal to fans of historical fantasy such as Juliet Marillier’s Heart’s Blood and Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.

This is actually quite good, just overly wordy. You also mention multiple times a political intrigue that sounds like it supplies a lot of the pacing (just guessing) but I have no idea what that might be. Right now it reads like a magical realism historical romance, which, while that's really cool, you need to hint more about what exactly that is, without lengthening the query by much. I made some slash throughs above as examples of where you can cut wording and still maintain your meaning. Look for similar places in the query, make the cuts, then get the political angle in there with a sentence or two.

Your word count raises questions about length. While your genre allows for such a hefty WC, the fact that there are multiple examples of unnecessary wording in your query, I have to wonder if the same is true of the manuscript. Read through it with this in mind to trim down that WC.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: WHEN I AM THROUGH WITH YOU by Stephanie Kuehn

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

Ben Gibson has always been pretty sure that he doesn't deserve his girlfriend, Rose. When she goes away for six weeks to Lima, he worries that things will be different between them - and they are, but Ben doesn't think it's anything they can't get through. 

Then a school hiking trip goes terribly wrong. Strangers show up in their campsite, a student brings along a gun, and one of Ben's blinding migraines takes over. Someone ends up dead, and someone else killed them - Ben knows all about it, and now that everything is over, all he has is time. 

So he'll tell you exactly what happened.

Want to help me with all the mailing costs? I do giveaways at least once week, sometimes more. It can add up. If you feel so inclined as to donate a little to defray my mailing costs, it would be much appreciated! Donating has no impact on your chances of winning.


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