Book Two, Books, Drawn In

NEWS!!! You ready for a cover reveal??

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I have been out of the blogosphere (is that still a word?) for a very long time. VERY long time. You may have noticed. BUT! I have big news!! Last night, I finally finally finally completed my rough draft and I am entering the editing phase! I’m thinking that I’ll be ready for a summer release! Whaaaaat? Super excited about this. Like, I can’t even tell you how excited.

So in honor of this major step in the process, I’m ready to do a cover reveal! My AMAZING cover artist, Leslie, has had this ready for me for quite some time and I feel like I’m finally living up to my part of this. 🙂

Oh! I just realized this is a title reveal too! So here’s the scoop on that…

I was pounding my head against a wall trying to come up with the title for my sequel to Drawn In. I was completely stuck on the idea that I wanted all 3 books to begin with “Drawn.” It just made sense. But a dear friend of mine interceded and compelled me to keep pushing for something stronger. I ignored her for a while. But then I realized that she was right. I was boxing myself in in a way that didn’t need to happen. And so I went back to square one and started re-imagining what it could be if I let myself out of that box. And I went back to the Prophecy in book one…

Hair of Fire, Eyes of Ice,

With her family she’s all alone.

She’s been drawn in to a time forgotten

But paper dreams will lead her home.

And there was my title. And I love it. It feels right, and it feels specific, and it feels like mine. And so I give you… the cover of A Time Forgotten.

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I’m in love with it. My favourite part is the small patch of starry sky shining through in the corner. SO beautiful! And do you notice the Spiral Spire there on the Citadel? And who is this reaching out, inviting you to join? Is this Alex? Is it Seth? Someone new? Hmmm…

Feel free to comment! I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Books

Author Interview: Tara St Pierre and her book “Just a Few Inches”

Hi there! I’ve been missing for a while working on some personal… shall we say projects? Sure. We’ll go with that. But I’m back! And today I’m so excited to tell you about a book I read recently. I don’t usually do the book promoting/reviewing thing on here, but I couldn’t resist with this one! The book is called Just a Few Inches and you can read my full review here.

JaFI cover

But more than that, I am thrilled to have its author, Tara St Pierre, on my blog with me today! I’m so so happy to get to support a fellow indie author! First, the blurb for the book so you have a bit of context…

All Carrie Roberts wants is to be a little bit smaller.

To fit into the perfect dress for the Valentine’s Day Dance. To look beautiful for her boyfriend, the school’s star basketball player. To keep his jealous ex-girlfriend, a rival cheerleader, away from him. And to be noticed by her classmates.

Exercising and dieting don’t work, but an advertisement for weight loss pills promises a quicker solution to her problem. As time runs out, she takes more than the recommended dose until she’s just a few inches slimmer. Heads turn when she arrives at the dance, and the wonderful night with her boyfriend is beyond what she dreamed it would be.

Days later, Carrie discovers that her body is changing in ways that should be impossible. While her doctor searches for a cure, she desperately turns to her friends and family for support. Everyone is noticing her now whether she likes it or not, and even the media is intrigued by her incredible story. Getting everything she once wanted has created new problems–problems that are growing more terrifying every day.

Because Carrie Roberts is shrinking.

Sounds so good, right? It is unique and thought-provoking, funny and touching… I really enjoyed it all around. And now… Tara!

Hi Tara! Thanks so much for joining me on my blog today!

Hi Sioux! Thanks for having me!

Just a Few Inches has such an interesting premise. What inspired you to write this book?

The original inspiration came from standing in the check-out line at a supermarket or drugstore. All those magazines with airbrushed cover photos made me wonder about the messages they send to young women. One had a cover story about some method to shrink your dress size. I remembered the Lily Tomlin movie The Incredible Shrinking Woman from my youth, and my brain created an interesting mash-up. I imagined a girl, struggling with her own perception of her body based on such conflicting images in the media. What if she tried one of those methods to shrink her dress size but instead of losing inches around her waist and hips, she lost them from her height? At that point, I was sure I had something unique. I hoped the simple speculative element of her shrinking would keep readers turning the pages while Carrie learned her lesson. I quickly realized that the only way to make it work was to write it from Carrie’s point of view. Not only would it help make her situation seem all the more real, but I could utilize her narration as social commentary while she internalizes what she learns from her own experience and from observing others.

We see the book, first person, through Carrie’s eyes. It was fascinating to watch her shrink and see ordinary objects become challenges and even threats to her. How were you able to keep track of all of the specific height references?

Lots and lots of measuring! I measured the height of counters, sinks, doorknobs, tables, beds, clothing, various dolls, phones, and other common objects. I referenced growth charts for girls so I could compare Carrie to her sisters’ heights—but she wouldn’t perfectly match their sizes. For example, a toddler has a different overall shape than a teenager, so that would affect how clothes would fit. Using averages for a girl of Carrie’s starting height (5’8”), I created a spreadsheet to calculate her measurements (height, weight, waist, arm length, foot length—you name it) for every single day of her incredible journey. At that point, I matched situations to her height. For example, there’s a scene where she’s trapped in a closet, so she needed to be too short to use the doorknob effectively. I also used the spreadsheet to determine when she’d transition her clothing—from her younger sisters to infant clothes and ultimately to doll clothes.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book?

Trying to find the right balance between theme and plot. I didn’t want it to come across as too heavy-handed, yet I wanted Carrie to learn so much—to grow internally—as she shrank externally. It’s easy for her to regret her decision to take the pills early on because it’s doing something so incredibly terrifying to her. But along the way, I had her observe others (her younger sisters, her friends and classmates, even her mother and doctor) to try learning where—and when—our body image issues come from. Various heights allowed for different lessons. For example, some people claim the unreal dimensions of fashion dolls may be an early contributing factor to body image struggles in girls. Whether or not that’s true, I can’t say, but I could posit the question while Carrie was that tall.

It’s pretty clear that there are body image messages throughout the book, and they’re handled really well. (Having her want to be a journalist and using that to speak consciously about her issues was a really smart move, by the way!) Is there one Tweet- sized message you’d like to have us come away with?

Thank you! Since the media plays a part in our perception of body image, it made sense to make Carrie somewhat media savvy. She starts maintaining a blog about midway through the story, and she’d probably post on other social media sites too. This is a fewer-than-140-characters line from her blog (when she’s 2’ 2” tall) that I believe she’d Tweet out: “I’d much rather have a body—any body, at any size, even this one—than to shrink away to nothing and have no body whatsoever.”

What is a favorite line from Just a Few Inches? 

My absolute favorite line occurs at the very end of the story, but I don’t want to give anything like that away. Got to save something for the readers. 😉 I have so many other lines that I love for a variety of reasons, including the one above and this one (from when she’s 4’ 2” tall): Would I ever be that secure with what I was? And which of the labels—cheerleader, shrinking, or incredible—would I ultimately embrace?

And I have to ask… other than Carrie of course, who is your favorite character?

Definitely Evan. It was great to write someone so sweet and secure in who he was, even if he was shy at times. Also, I could incorporate some of my inner dorkiness into him. There are some scenes where he performs calculations about Carrie’s height or her trajectory in a cheering routine. I had to do the calculations myself in researching and developing the story, so why let them go to waste or keep them behind the scenes? His character gave me the opportunity to insert some of them into the storyline!

Are you working on other projects?

Actively working on? Well, not exactly. But I have written what may become the first chapter of a future project. Right now, it’s a scene with two boys eating pizza while one wants to discuss fractions and infinity. The conversation came to me one morning, so rather than lose it, I typed it out. I like the narrator’s voice, and I’ve started sketching out what his lecture is a defense mechanism for. Whether this will develop a later YA novel, I don’t know. It took a long time for me to complete Inches, so we’ll just have to wait and see!

And now… just for fun…

Chocolate or Vanilla?

Vanilla…which is interesting, considering at least one character in the story has quite the affinity for chocolate.

Apples or Oranges?

Apples…I don’t like citrus.

Disney or Universal?

Do I have to choose? Both are responsible for so much wonderful entertainment!

Superman or Iron Man?

Iron Man…love his snarkiness…and he’s got a cooler suit than Superman.

Movie theatre or Netflix?

Movie theatre…there’s something great about the shared experience of watching the story unfold as part of an audience that’s far better than watching it at home where you can pause it.

Winter or Summer?

Summer…long days, sunny weather, barbecues, beaches. What’s not to love?

Thanks Tara! I loved having you join me today. Now here ya go readers … go forth and read! Here’s the link (or click the cover above). And don’t forget to add it to your TBR list on GoodReads too. 

Books

Fast Five Friday strikes again!

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Friday again already? How did this happen? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining – I love me some Fridays! Okay, so here we go. Today’s topic is Top Five Favourite Authors. This one is tricky, folks. Too many years, books, genres, memories… how to decide? So I think for me, the key is just to go with my gut and don’t over think this (as I am often wont to do). Knowing that there are many many many more hiding behind the scenes, here are my top five favourite authors. In no particular order.

1. A.A. Milne. Author of Winnie the Pooh and the House at Pooh Corner. You would think that this is a throwback from childhood influences, but really, these are still some of my favourite books. Not only are they full of wisdom and complex thoughts hidden in simple stories, but A A Milne taught me how to play with language & to not be intimidated by the simplicity of words. (By the way, A A stands for Alan Alexander, in case you wanted a little trivia with your blog reading.)

pooh

2. Stephen R Lawhead. I suppose when you’ve read every book an author has written, it only makes sense to list them among your favourites. The first books I read of his were a trilogy called the Song of Albion (the first book is the Paradise War). They’re a beautiful blend of reality and mythology, magic and religion. Fantastic characters, world-building, they’ve got the works. A few great stand alone books are Byzantium and Patrick. 

paradise war

3. Margaret George. She writes historical fiction in the form of ginormous 1000 page opuses. My personal go-to is Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles but a very very close second is the Memoirs of Cleopatra. I love historical fiction as a general rule, but hers are on a whole other level.

mary queen of scots

4. Veronica Roth. This is bound to be a controversial answer, since she only has one trilogy out in the world and no one knows what will be next. But I’m confident. Divergent pulled me in so thoroughly and still, years later, has not released its hold on me. I keep all three books in my desk at work because I loan them out so often. I have the calendar of movie photos over my desk (okay, mainly for pictures of Theo James, but still…). And so, she gets a place in my top five.

divergent book

5. Tamora Pierce. When I was in junior high, I stumbled upon the Alanna series. It changed my life. I’ve read several of her books since then, and always enjoy them. But those books hold a special place in my heart. A girl disguising herself as a boy to join the army, learning to fight with a sword and face her fears and foes head-on… it sounds formulaic today, but at the time, in my little tween brain, it was revolutionary. It started me on a path of seeking out fantasy books and strong female characters. And look at that, [undisclosed number of] years later, here I am writing a light fantasy book with a strong female main character. I’d definitely call that influential.

alanna

Okay, so lots of others I love who didn’t make the list, and through no other reason than I didn’t happen to think of them at the moment. But this is a good sampling, for sure. And there we go! Who are your faves?

Books, Writing

Indie Inspiration

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A while back I posted about switching my publishing role models. I mean, if I’m looking to self-publish, then I shouldn’t be looking to the career arcs of Veronica Roths and Suzanne Collinses and JK Rowlings. They are great role models in many ways, I’m sure, but comparing their meteoric rise to what a regular human can expect to achieve is a bit disheartening. So instead, I started looking to amazing indie authors for inspiration. The two that immediately came to mind were Sarah J Maas and Kate Avery Ellison. I love their work, and while they’ve had vastly different career paths, both are very encouraging to me as I start out.

Well, one of those inspiring authors has inspired me yet again. Kate Avery Ellison has just released a new book. I know, nothing all that amazing about that for a publishing author, right? But wait… here’s the story. She is currently writing a YA series based on Atlantis mythology called Secrets of Itlantis (find the first one here). The third one was just released in August of this year, so it’s brand spankin’ new. In fact, all three books of the trilogy were released this year. But book three? That’s not the book I’m talking about. No, somehow in between writing books two and three, she came across a draft of an older manuscript that she’d never published. So she took it back out, dusted it off, gave it some TLC and now voila! Book.

gift of poison

 

And that, my friends, is inspirational to me. I’ve been working for three years to get one book in shape to publish (granted, it’s my first and there is quite a steep learning curve, but still…), and here she is publishing an entire trilogy PLUS an old WIP all in one year.

Is it okay to say that I want to be her when I grow up?

Books, Writing

Breaking the Rules, or Who Made These Rules Anyway??

breaking-the-rules

 

I read a book last week that really messed with my head. Okay, so there were some clues … the book was called We Were Liars after all. I went into it expecting some mind games, maybe an unreliable narrator or some misinformation along the way. But in spite of going into it expecting that, it still messed with my head. But this post isn’t about that book (even though I think I’m recommending it – it was so beautifully written; the language was simple and poetic and unexpected and so gorgeous I just wanted to weep at the beauty of it). But it left me in a funk. You know, the kind where you can’t bring yourself to pick up a new book for a few days because (for better or worse) you’re still stuck in the world of the last book? Yeah, that funk.

So then two nights ago, I decided it was time to get out of the funk and pick a new book. Based on some reviews I’d read, I decided to give Shadow and Bone a try. It’s the first in a trilogy (or larger series? I’m not sure) and the third just came out, so there’s been lots of buzz about it lately and I thought I’d see what the hype is about. And I have to admit, I was completely hooked after the Prologue. Completely. I loved the intrigue and the implied darkness and the world-building right off the bat. And the stakes … so inspiring to my current predicament with my own writing. I mean, the main character is in love with her best friend and he has no idea. STAKES. She is small and scrawny but part of an army, joined by magical beings called the Grisha who are led by the mysterious Darkling. STAKES. And she is en route to a crossing of a perilous, otherworldly desert known as the Unsea which may or may not kill her and her entire travelling party. STAKES. All of this before Chapter Four, and all of this isn’t even The Thing. (There are no spoilers here, by the way – I think all of this and more is in the back cover description.)

So I started thinking… how do I incorporate these kinds of stakes into my own writing? When was I first hooked? What was it that grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let me go? And the answer: it was the Prologue.

And THEN I started thinking … Hang on. A Prologue?? But what about The Rules?

You know the rules, right?

  1. No bright light
  2. Don’t get them wet
  3. NEVER feed them after midnight

No wait, those are the wrong rules. But these are no less familiar, I’m sure, to those of us tackling our first novel. How to start that all important first chapter:

  1. Don’t start with your character waking up
  2. Don’t describe your narrator by having them look into a mirror
  3. Don’t use that crutch known as a prologue

So those are the rules, don’t break them or there will be severe Gremlin-like consequences, right? SO WRONG! I’m sure that they’re good rules, and they’re there for a reason. You have to know the rules before you can break them, and all that. But seriously … Let’s look at each of those for a second.

Don’t start with your character waking up. Anyone remember a little book called the Hunger Games? Yeah, it starts with Katniss waking up. She realizes that Prim is missing, and we immediately see how her instinct to protect her little sister will drive the rest of the story. It works.

Don’t describe your narrator  by having them look into a mirror. I can see how this could be over-used, or cliche, or just lazy. But maybe you recall Divergent (another favourite of mine), and the opening scene where Tris’s mother is cutting her hair. The use of the mirror is unique for them in their household because they’re Abnegation and it’s the only time during the year when she gets to see herself. And so, breaking this rule WORKS.

Don’t use a Prologue. The first example that comes to mind in breaking this rule is Twilight. Every book in the series begins with a Prologue. But since that series as a whole has fallen into disfavor, the much better example is the aforementioned Shadow and Bone. The Prologue sets up the world so beautifully, and we immediately see the bond between Alina and Mal before they’re older and soldiers and about to be ripped apart. It works.

So who made these rules? Why do we abide by them when clearly they are meant to be broken? Obviously, with the right story and the right hook, they are not the immediate turn-offs that we’re led to believe they are. But aren’t we supposed to have the right story and the right hook regardless of how we open chapter one? YES! So what’s the big deal here?

BREAK THE RULES! Tell your story the way you need to tell it and forget the rest. Let the critics be critics, it’s what they do anyway. At least you’ll get to write your novel the way you know it needs to be written. The way no one else can do it, even if you have to make your own rules.

Books, Writing

Bring on the Orcs?

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I’ve had trouble classifying my novel from the start, and have had several missteps. I started out thinking it was sci-fi, which was a mistake entirely. Then I realized that time travel is classified as a fantasy element, not sci-fi, but the rest of my novel takes place in modern day California. This led me to call it “contemporary YA with a fantasy twist.” And then I started trying to justify(or clarify?) that even more with “contemporary YA with a light fantasy time-travel twist.” That’s a lot of words and it starts to sound like I’m apologizing for my genre before I even get the plot out.

So. Here’s the thing … if I up the ante on the time travel bit, then can I call it a “Fantasy” novel?

When I think Fantasy, I think dragons. I think fairies and swords and trolls and magic. I love all those things and they will play a bigger role in my next book (already planning that one – can’t wait), but they are not in this book’s world. I don’t want people to pick it up thinking “Ooo! Fantasy! Bring on the Orcs!” and end up disappointed because it’s not any kind of High Fantasy. I know that there’s a distinction between High Fantasy and Light Fantasy, but I have yet to see Light Fantasy as an accepted genre. So what do I call it?

I looked up Kirsten Gier’s Ruby Red trilogy on to find out how that is classified since it’s also a time-travel story based in contemporary times. I couldn’t find an actual genre label. What I found was this… “Kerstin Gier’s Ruby Red is young adult novel full of fantasy and romance.” Granted, she also has a main character that talks to ghosts who don’t know they’re ghosts, and has a sassy gargoyle that follows her around, which are definite Fantasy elements which I don’t have. But we both share the time-travel device and the romance (which I’ve never thought to capitalize on, but my book has just as much romance as Gier’s does).

So there’s the real question. Can I label my book as simply “Fantasy” or do I need to clarify that with more descriptive words? I think I’m having a genre identity crisis.

Books, Writing

Desperately Seeking Closure (…or not?)

the-end

My book ends on a cliff-hanger. This is not a new development, nor is it an accident. I’ve asked around and looked at some opinion polls, including one I conducted myself on the QueryTracker boards, and I know that there are many mixed opinions out there. Some say that it’s lazy. Some say that they are manipulative. Some say they love the suspense of them.

Obviously, I fall into that third category because I have always intended to leave book one open. When I think of successful cliff-hangers, I immediately think of a trilogy that most people I come across haven’t heard of (but it’s one of my all-time favourites for so many reasons). And here they are:

stephen-lawhead-song-of-albion-trilogy

The Paradise War trilogy by Stephen R Lawhead. I can’t adequately express my love for these books, but the main point for this post is the ending of the second book. It ends on the BEST cliff-hanger I have ever read, and it is one of the things that inspired me to use that device in my own work. There is no warning, no apology, explanation… it ends with a jaw-dropping pulse-racing moment and it just DROPS you. (Keep in mind that when I read it, the third book was still a year away from its pub date – talk about torture!) A little difference, of course, is that he is a master storyteller, and I am writing my debut novel. Something to aspire to, for sure, but what if I’m not there yet?

And that’s what I’m now wondering. Am I being lazy with my ending? I certainly don’t feel like that’s what I’m doing. I want to tell a bigger story than one novel, and I love ending in a way that leaves you thirsty for the next installment.

But then I read the ending of Divergent. Or Pivot Point. They’re both the beginning of trilogies, and their stories continue past the endings of these books. But while they leave a few questions open, they don’t end on cliff-hangers. They end. They have satisfying endings in and of themselves, even while you’re waiting for the rest of the story. You want to keep reading because of the world, or the characters, or the bigger story that’s ongoing. But if you stopped reading after that first book, you’d be okay. You’d have a story that felt complete.

So which is better?

Books

I Heart Swag!!

What is better than getting a new book? Well, two things… Getting a FREE new book, and getting a great book that comes with a FREE GIFT! Um, yes please!!

So recently, I saw a post on Twitter to pre-purchase a book and get a free keychain. The keychain is adorable, and the book is one I was DYING for anyway, so that was a no-brainer. The book is The One by Kiera Cass; it’s the final book of the trilogy that also includes The Selection and The Elite (as well as two novellas). I absolutely loved both of the first two books and was waiting eagerly for the third (which did not disappoint, now that I’ve finished it – such a great, fun, easy read… perfect for summer!). I highly recommend it, and you can find it here (but promise me you’ll read them in order!). So here’s what my keychain looks like:

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Cute, right? Logo with great font, silver tiara charm … so sweet.

And my second bit of “swag” was for entering a Twitter contest. All I had to do was ask a question of author Jennifer Ellision (which was such a pleasure to discuss her new book with her!) … and I won! I guess I kind of led with that, so not really a lead-up there, but still, it was exciting! And this is what I got from Jennifer…

photo 1

Isn’t that a gorgeous cover??? Serious cover envy going on here. And not only did she send me the book, but also a magnet (which went promptly onto my fridge) and a pin! Let me tell you, it was pretty sweet. I haven’t gotten to dive into the book yet, but it is SO next on my list – how can I resist? You can find your own (not quite as free, but still beautiful) copy here.

And that’s my week! 🙂