Writing on Wednesday

Here’s a scene from my work in progress: Knightfall

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Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

Tenebris

The clock had always just struck thirteen in the realm of Tenebris. The fateful hour’s knell hanging suspended over the frozen wasteland in an ever-discordant chime. It was the type of sound that reverberated through a body, setting the teeth on edge before the blissful relief of the next note.

But that note had been stolen, along with the next heartbeat, the next breath, the very next moment. Unfortunate timing, really. The realm could have frozen mid-hour on a beautiful spring day instead of mid-chime on a winter’s night.

But just this once, perhaps the punishment fit the crime.

The only movement in the realm was the rustle of shadows returning to the palace. An ancient building forever caught in the act of turning to rubble. Spikes of flame that failed to flicker erupted from holes blasted from the fortress walls. Jagged pieces of stone hung just above the ground; suspended dust sparkled in the sky. Amidst the destruction, Queen Gethen had managed to carve out luxurious quarters for herself and her three remaining Grieves—four now.

Only the Grieve, Korova, awoke when Celeste Knight entered the human city of Befort, carrying with her a delicious slew of pain, sadness, fear, anger, and desperation so intense that it pierced the fog between realms for entire seconds before it blinked out, cloaked and shielded with an inelegant hand.

Korova closed his eyes, casting out his awareness to search the shadow realm for his fellow Grieves, but they were of course all present and seemed blissfully unaware of this latest development.

The Grieve’s too-pale lips stretched into a disturbingly wide grin as he pondered the amateurish shield crafted around the girl. “Interesting.”

When Celeste’s feelings pierced the realm again, Korova hastily crafted a shield of his own to cover the human town.

“Two can play this game.”  The Grieve pushed himself off the bed, sheets undisturbed for now and all eternity.

His awareness of Celeste blinked in with a wash of anger, but Korova was ready. He moved through the room, hand caressing a mirror that reflected the terrified face of a woman long since reduced to shadow, before shifting through the walls, moving toward her presence in a burst of unnatural speed.

Celeste blinked out.

Korova’s mouth stretched in a too-wide grin as he settled in to wait.

YASH Winners!

#YASH Young adult Scavenger Hunt

It’s official…the YA Scavenger Hunt is over for 2019. But not to worry gentle readers. We will be back in 2020 with even more thrilling new reads. As promised, here are the winning results of the contests. Congrats to the many winners! Note: Individual author contest information will be added as the day goes on. If you don’t see an author’s name listed yet, never fear. Simply check back for updates to this post during the week.

GRAND PRIZE WINNERS:

Gold Team: Secret Number-395 Winner-Jennifer Jackson
Purple Team: Secret Number-1184 Winner-Katherine B.
Red Team: Secret Number-762 Winner-Katie Thomas
Blue Team: Secret Number-1401 Winner-Brittany Cornett
Bonus Entry: Secret Number-98 Winner-Carol Coutts Siepka

AUTHOR CONTESTS:

KAITLIN BEVIS: The winner of my personal giveaway was Pam!

ABIGAIL JOHNSON: The winner of my personal giveaway was Brianna Clay.

A.G. HOWARD: Stain w/sprayed edges–Austin Atkins; Splintered notebook–Alyssa Skoog; Goblin mask–Trisa; Vampire brooch–Garima Ghiraiya; YA swag pack–Madeleine Bergroth; Limited edition swag pack–Kathryn Schroeder.

AMALIE HOWARD: Joy Flynn won a signed prize pack of the Aquarathi series.

AMBER R. DUELL: The winner of my personal giveaway–a Dream Keeper ebook + Dark Consort eARC– is Saray (I’m guessing Sarah Y, but it’s all one word in the Rafflecopter).

AMY FELLNER DOMINY: I ran a DOUBLE BOOK BONUS: Two winners each receive two of my YA novels. The winners are Noma Aguebor and Beverly Gordon.

AMY MCNULTY: I had a bonus YASH giveaway. A $25 Storiarts gift card. My winner was Suzannah C.

BREEANA SHIELDS: My giveaway was a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card and the winner was Neko Tatsujin.

BRENDA DRAKE: The winner of an autographed complete Library Jumpers series is Kaitlin Whanger.

C. LEE MCKENZIE: One signed paperback copy of Double Negative to Sheri Larson.

CAITLIN SANGSTER: Shelly Hammond won the personal giveaway for a copy of Last Star Burning.

CM BOERS: My winners are: Wagering Home Paperback prize pack: Alison Weaver, Wagering Home Ebook: Morgane Gilson

COLLEEN HOUCK: Winners of a Colleen Houck book of their choice: Brian Bedard, Ayanami Faerudo, Nancy Storms, Daisy Burnett, & Shaina Pierce. Winner of the Tiger’s Dream signed set of hardbacks: Jessie Hopkins.

COURTNEY ALAMEDA: My winner is Anika ‘Pixie’ Crayon

DANIELLE STINSON: The winner of my giveaway Allisa White

EVA POHLER: Clarissa Hiciano was the winner of my personal YASH giveaway. She won a signed copy of The Gatekeeper’s Trilogy and a $25 Amazon gift card.

HEATHER MCKENZIE: Melissa Williams won a copy of RHAPSODY, Book 3 of The Nightmusic Trilogy

HELEN VIVIENNE FLETCHER: My personal giveaway winner was Brianna C.

JOSHUA BELLIN: My personal giveaway (the 3 books in the Ecosystem series), my winner: Jalyn McColgan.

JULIE ESHBAUGH: I ran a giveaway of a preorder of Crown of Oblivion on my blog. The winner is Adik (@Readinginthemorning.)

KAT ROSS: I gave away signed paperbacks of my Fourth Element Trilogy and the winner is Saray Hernandez

KATHLEEN BALDWIN: Amber Walker won a hardback of Harbor for the Nightingale.

KELSEY KETCH: I did a giveaway for 3 ebook copies of Daughter of Isis. The winners are Brittany, Crystal C., and Brianna C.

KRISTIN JACQUES: The winner of a signed copy of Marrow Charm was Britt Bryan!

LISH MCBRIDE: I gave away five copies of Pyromantic on my website. The winners are Shaina Pierce, Jennifer Jackson, Debra Larsen Branigan, Nicole Woodruff, and Anubha.

LIVIA BLACKBURNE: bonus giveaway winner during YASH: Desiree

SARA FUJIMURA: Shelly Hammond won a TANABATA WISH prize pack.

SARAH JUDE: Theresa S is the randomly chosen winner of the giveaway I ran for a signed hardcover copy of my book THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS.

SHANNON THOMPSON: Jessica Richert won a signed copy of The Timely Death Trilogy or the Bad Bloods series.

T. RAE MITCHELL: Emily Huff won the following Book Swag Prize Package:
(1) Fate & Finn Chibi Magnetic Bookmarks
(1) The Lunar Chronicles Coloring Book
(1) Fate’s Keep Keychain
(1) Signed Fate & Finn (by Gabriella Bujdoso) Bookplate

YVONNE VENTRESCA: Personal giveaway winner: Crystal

YA Scavenger Hunt

Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt! This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors…and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize–one lucky winner will receive one book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours!

Team

Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are SIX contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the Gold Team–but there is also a red team, a blue team, an orange team, and an indie team for a chance to win a whole different set of books!

If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE
 
Directions: Below, you’ll notice that I’ve listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the Gold Team, and then add them up (don’t worry, you can use a calculator!).
 
Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.
Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by October 6th, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.
SCAVENGER HUNT POST
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Today, I am hosting Constance Roberts on my website for the YA Scavenger Hunt!
Constance Roberts is a retired flight attendant who turned in her wings to stay at home with her adventurous daughter and to write. She and her husband live in St. Louis, Missouri where they spend the weekends playing board games with friends. If she’s not reading a book, she’s probably taking a picture of it. You can find her book photography on Instagram as @imagery.in.pages
 
Find out more information by checking out the Constance’s website or find more about the author’s book here!

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WHAT IF PINOCCHIO WAS A GIRL?
Just before senior year, Penny’s car was struck by a drunk driver. Her body was beyond repair, but her mind was saved by a powerful benefactor attempting to blur the moral lines between medical science and technology.
Penny now lives as an Automa alongside others whose consciousnesses were uploaded into elite cyborgs. Together they work and perform at the prestigious Monstro Theater in Amsterdam. Though she is forbidden to leave the theater for ten years, Penny is granted every luxury her heart desires. Any skill or information she wishes can be downloaded in seconds – except the precious memories of her life before.
Despite longing for knowledge of her past, Penny makes the most of her confinement with her new companions. After an outsider exposes the truth, Penny realizes she’s been strung up in a web of lies. She wants to trust what she feels she’s known all along, but doing so would force her to face an impossible choice.When the truth catches up, it doesn’t let go without a fight.
STRUNG is a standalone novel in the Twisted Fairy Tales series. Amazon Link | Goodreads Link

Bonus Content

 

Music is a big part of Penny’s story. She is an Automa, which means her consciousness lives inside a high-tech robot. She looks just like you and me, but she lacks senses such as smell and taste. She lives along side other Automas who work as performers in Monstro Theater. Many of the songs on this playlist are actually mentioned in the book, as songs they have performed to or happen to be playing during a scene. Just for fun, I’ve listed a few below.

 

Build The Robots by Dr. Steel – This is the first song on the playlist because, well, it’s a fun song about Robots. Dr. Steel is an artist from the early 2000’s who incorporated steampunk sounds into his music and this song just fit as an opener for the story.

Lampshades On Fire by Modest Mouse – Penny and her dance troupe are rehearsing this number in the first scene of the book. In the performance they are dancing around an airship, about to embark on a new world.

Bury A Friend by Billie Eilish – I love this song because with it’s sharp sounds and whispered lyrics it really illustrates Penny’s struggle with figuring out who she is (since she can’t remember) and where she fits in this new body and new life.

Telephone by Lady Gaga – Penny and her best Automa friend, Cleo, kill this song on karaoke.
 
Tessellate by Alt-J – This song is very much the “mood” for the love story in STRUNG. I won’t say much else so I don’t give anything away.
Click on THIS LINK to hear more and check out the STRUNG Playlist on Spotify
Don’t forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of books by me, Constance Roberts, and more! To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 2. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the gold team and you’ll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!

CONTINUE THE HUNT
 
To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author! Don’t forget to 
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Bonus Giveaway
As a thank you for visiting my blog and participating in YASH, I’m offering an additional giveaway. Comment below with the book you’re currently reading for an opportunity to win an audiocopy of my very first novel, Persephone!
 
 
 

 

 

Announcing the 2019 Fall YASH Teams!

I’m very excited to be a part of Team Gold this season. Check out the amazing books that will be featured during the 2019 YA Scavenger Hunt. This season I’ll be announcing two very special projects, showing you the first glimpse of a brand new cover, and you’ll get to read some never before released bonus material from a bonus chapter of the Tiger Series! Get ready to hunt, people. It’s going to be a good one. 😉

Why Mental Heath Matters in Fiction

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When I was twelve, a well meaning adult asked if I could live one of my favorite books, which would I choose? In a true moment of epiphany, I realized just how horrible the lives of book characters were.

Authors put their characters through hell. It’s not cruelty. The journey to hell and back is a long established station along the heroes journey. To see a character arc progress, you have to see a character at their lowest.

But the YA books of the past only showed the journey, not the effects. The character’s were “resilient” and “strong.” They could pick themselves up off the floor, put on a cheerful smile, and carry on with their lives as though pieces hadn’t just been ripped out of them.

I know now that this was a trope left over from the days of Victorian children’s literature, when a child’s innate goodness was enough to spare them, if not from the cruelty of the world, than from its lingering effects. Female protagonists in particular have long been expected to “rise above” the worst.

But rather than inspiring twelve-year-old me, I remember feeling this moment of intense defeat. I could never be that person. I knew I wasn’t the type of person who was “strong enough” to survive the life and trials of a protagonist with a smile on my face.

I found myself chasing flawed protagonists. And not the kind who overcame their flaws and became literal angels and paragons of goodness (looking at you Vampire Diaries), but protagonists with flaws that spidered and cracked when pressure was put on them, but didn’t break.

I wanted to– needed to– know it was possible to survive protagonist level changes without being perfect. Because my much more minor problems were changing me, only I didn’t like who I was turning into. In fact, I kind of hated her.

I was needy and desperate in a way my protagonists never were. I was lonely no matter how many people were around me. I craved attention in a way no heroine ever had. And I felt like I was breaking in a way no protagonist ever would.

Twelve-year-old me might not have been dealing with the fate of the entire world. But I was dealing with a hellish school environment. I had two friends, but they weren’t normal friendships. They were toxic, co-dependent things. The result of being friends, not due to common interest, but because we were backed into the same corner by a popular group that routinely wrote us notes explaining how much better the world would be if we freaks would just kill ourselves.

Or each other.

Whatever, as long as we were gone so they didn’t have to look at our ugly faces anymore.

They called us poor and verbally ripped to pieces everything we wore, every hair cut, every tiny thing we might have enjoyed choosing, they called us lesbians because we sat too close together, they called us weird because of the books we read, they called us traitors because we weren’t from the south, they called us hideous and flinched every time we looked at them straight on, they never put hands on us (because the one time a boy snapped my bra strap, my friend drop kicked him), but they spent every moment of every day tearing us down.

And it wasn’t making me a better person. I wasn’t smiling through my trauma, minor in comparison though it was.

I didn’t find my refuge in books. YA hadn’t matured yet to that point, yet. I found my solace in Sailor Moon. The reason I loved her was because she was allowed to have flaws. She could cry and be a brat and it never got better. She had the same kind of weird, love-hate friendship with Sailor Mars that I did with my friend. The same kind of strange hero worship friendship with Sailor Venus. For once, I could see myself in fiction.

I’m not exaggerating when I say it saved my life.

It couldn’t have just been me who saw this lack, because over the next few years, there was a shift in young adult fiction. When Harry Potter saw Cedric die, his newly awoken determination to destroy Voldemort wasn’t a healthy thing. He was obviously traumatized, and he dealt with it by lashing out and getting angry.

Katniss Everdeen experienced PTSD after a situation that would give literally any human PTSD.

Holly Black’s characters dived into the nitty gritty underworld and let themselves enjoy the escape from the hell that was their normal lives.

These characters would have made such a difference to me growing up, so when it came time to write my own stories, I knew my characters had to deal with their trauma in authentic ways. Even if it was hard to write.

Persephone survives the events of her trilogy, but she isn’t left unmarked by them. She has nightmares, she has issues she needs to work through. Aphrodite has panic attacks. Tess experiences disassociation and traumatic flashbacks. And in my work in progress, Celeste struggles with uncontrollable outbursts of anger and depression. Their issues are not the story, and they don’t get magically resolved by the last page. It’s just a part of who they are and it influences how they deal with the events of the story.

It wasn’t easy to write characters who found realistic ways to cope with their trauma. It took time and research and frankly, a mental toll. But I will never forget the day I didn’t feel “strong enough” to be a protagonist in the books I read to escape my day to day life. And I never want my books to be the reason someone feels that way.

So, dear readers, please know that you are not weak if you don’t pick yourself up off the ground, force a smile to your face, and radiate positivity. You are not less if you aren’t a never ending fountain of kindness and good feelings, even to, or especially to, those who have hurt you. You are not failing if you reach out for help.

Thank you so much to Eva Pohler for including me on this World Suicide Prevention Day campaign. Please check out the rest of the stories that will be posted over the next several days. And come by and talk with myself and the other authors in our live facebook event on September 10th.

We’d love to talk to you.

 

 

 

Book Lover’s Unite for World Suicide Prevention Day

The first annual Book Lover’s Unite for World Suicide Prevention Day Tour will kick off on Sunday, September 1st and will culminate in a twelve-hour Facebook Live Event on World Suicide Prevention Day, Spetember 10th.

The purpose of this event is to spread mental health awareness among the book community, eradicate the stigmas associated with mental health, share our individual journeys in an accepting community, discuss books that effectively represent mental health issues, and raise money for the International Association for Suicide Prevention.

Here is our exciting tour line-up (Tap the images):

September 1st:

 

September 2nd:

Description Writing Challenge

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Before we could talk too much about description and imagery, we had to have descriptions to pull from. Writing Excuses’ Mary Robinette Kowal had a great prompt, that, while sometimes infuriating, is an absolute must for any writer to try.

The campers were taken to a garden on campus, and had to write a description of our setting for thirty minutes non-stop. Pens moving across the page the entire time. The first five to ten minutes are pretty easy, but after that, you need to dig deep, expand your senses, and really get creative.

It’s a fantastic exercise that feels a little like running. It’s not so bad when you start, then halfway through you hit this moment of “I’ve got nothing left,” but when you push through it, you hit your stride and discover an entirely new layer to describing things.

I would recommend any writers take the time to do this for each setting their manuscript or short features, because it will give you vibrant, less obvious descriptions to pull from throughout your story.

In all seriousness, give it a try.

Using Blocking to Change the Meaning of Dialogue

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

Yesterday, my creative writing campers practiced writing a short story entirely in dialogue. Good dialogue should tell you more than the words the character is trying to say. It should give us insight into the character, their situation, their setting, and their relationship to the topic and the person they’re speaking with. The voices should be distinct enough not to require tagging (in a dialogue only story).

Tagging is great, but often writers rely on it to convey how something is being said, or to provide redundant information.

“What did you say?” she asked provides absolutely no additional information compared to… “What…” she whispered, murder gleaming in her eyes, “do you mean?” where we get mood and inflection.

Like all things in writing, variety is king. Sometimes, you just need a , she said, to move the conversation along and clarify who is speaking. But when every line of dialogue ends the same way, you have a problem.

Ideally, every bit of exposition added to the dialogue should convey more information or new insight. Consider the difference between.

“I’m just hungry.”

And

“I’m just hungry,” she sobbed. She couldn’t seem to take her eyes off the pulsing blue vein on the softest part of his neck.

In addition to getting insight into what the character is feeling, suddenly the words take on a new meaning.

So today’s exercise was to take their dialogue only story, and use blocking (how the characters move within their space and what they interact with) to change the meaning of every single line.

I had some amazing results. Want to try? Share your exercise in the comments below.

Stories Told in Dialogue

Dialogue

This week’s creative writing camp is all about economy of language. I’m hoping to teach my students to give every word multiple jobs.

The most overt example of this is dialogue.

Good dialogue should tell the reader more than the words the speaker is saying. You should be able to tell who is talking, what they think of who they’re speaking to, how they feel about what they’re saying, and get a feel for their personality while they’re at it.

For an example, we looked at the story “They’re Made Out of Meat,” by Terri Bisson. Without a single description or tag, the Bisson constructed a rudimentary setting, goal, worldview, and character dynamic. We know the two beings speaking are co-workers, we can tell one out ranks the other, but we also know they’re friendly beyond their work roles because of the way they speak to each other.

Of course once they read a story entirely in dialogue, they had to write one of their own. Every student wrote their own story, and the students had to guess the setting, who was speaking, relationships to one another, and attitudes toward their topic.

Want to give it a try? Post your dialogue story in the comments below.

 

 

Random Plot Generator

Writing Resources, #amwriting

In Creative Writing Camp today, my students were challenged to firmly ground the reader in the story in three sentences that convey the setting, goal, and character.

It’s a super fun exercise that everyone should try (credit to the idea from Writing ExcusesMary Robinette Kowal who had a tweet about healthcare go viral this week).

Step 1: Go to Random Plot Generator

Step 2: Choose a Main Character, a Setting, and a Situation

Step 3: Set the scene in three sentences.

Step 4: Change only the setting and write it again

Step 5: Change only the character and try it again

Step 6: Change only the situation and try it again

Here were mine from today.

Scenario 1: A foolish man in his thirties at the fair being left for good.

So maybe he should have told her about the motion sickness before sitting next to her on the tilt-a-whirl, but how was he supposed to know it would both tilt and whirl? 

“Forget my number,” she snarled, slinging chunks of his birthday dinner off her designer dress.

Whatever, it was still an improvement from his thirty-second birthday when he’d gone scuba diving with the piranhas. 

Scenario 2: A foolish man in a castle being left for good.

The young king watched impassively as his wife bared her neck for the guillotine, trying to figure out why she looked so upset. If she’d given birth to a son instead of a daughter, this wouldn’t be happening. Next time, he’d find a woman approaching her forties; with age came wisdom, and with wisdom, sons. 

Scenario 3: A naive old man in a castle being left for good.

The king was flirting with his wife again, but Old-Man Bob wasn’t worried. His young, beautiful wife had a stable life without all the problems riches brought with them. Surely she’d reject the King’s advances. 

Scenario 4: A naive old man in a castle giving a dog a home.

Old man Bob squinted his eyes at the puppy dragging an elk out of the castle moat. “Here boy,” he whistled as the puppy bared teeth the size of his arm at him and left out an earth trembling growl. “Let’s get you in out of the cold.”

Want to give it a try? Post your 3 sentence scene in the comments below.