Monday, February 29, 2016

Mid-Career Monday: Staying at THE LAST PLACE ON EARTH with Carol Snow

For those YA readers also reading adult books, please discover CAROL SNOW. Here I'm celebrating her latest young adult novel but Carol has been racking up rave reviews and populating "best" lists in both YA and contemporary women's fiction since bursting onto the publishing scene in 2008. So, I asked her...

At this point in your writing career, how do you choose (or plan) your next writing project? And, are you ever torn between young adult and adult writing projects?


Recently, while pissing around on social media when I should have been writing* I came across Henry Miller’s Eleven Commandments of Writing. I can’t** verify that Henry Miller*** actually wrote these rules; they may well have originated from an especially creative Pinterest user, though I doubt it****. In any event – and I’ll stop with the asterisks***** -- three of the rules (which, in my humble opinion, could have been condensed to one, leaving him with a more manageable nine commandments), spoke to me, and to your question:

  1. Work on one thing at a time until finished.
  2. Start no more new books, add no more new material to "Black Spring."
  3. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.

For me, the biggest challenge isn’t deciding what book I want to write next; it is focusing on the project at hand. There is a kind of honeymoon phase whenever I start a book. It is going to be the Best! Thing! Ever! And then … about a hundred pages in … it is the Worst. Thing. Ever. I’ve lost the momentum, yet the end is nowhere in sight. At this point, some new idea inevitably starts lighting up my brain, and the temptation, like a serial dater, is to dump the current project and move on to the next one, flush with the certainty that it will be the Best! Thing! Ever!

I’ve been writing for a long time now (THE LAST PLACE ON EARTH is my ninth published book), so, when I am looking for new book ideas, I have a lot (too many) to choose from. I’ll typically choose YA-versus-adult based on market concerns (i.e., if an editor wants to work with me or if I feel I’ve gone too long without producing something for a segment of my readers). But choosing which story to pursue can be tough and generally involves writing some sample chapters to see if I can find a voice, outlining story arcs, and talking to my agent. After that, I try to forget the books I want to write and focus on the project at hand. And Pinterest.

*This describes much of my waking hours.
** am too lazy to
*** philistine alert -- I’ve never read him
****more likely WordPress
*****It seems like there should be a different plural. Asterises?

*Adding my own asterisk here just to say, SEE THE WORDPLAY in this blog post title now?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Mid-Career Mondays: Charging through fear with VERONICA ROSSI

RIDERS, Veronica Rossi's follow-up to her New York Times Best-Selling UNDER THE NEVER SKY series, hit the shelves last week. It's an action-packed thriller that takes by the biblical notion of Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse for high-intensity ride involving secret military divisions, the supernatural and an awesome mystery.

SO, I asked her...What is it like to move on from a best-selling series and set your sights on a new project? How did you choose your next writing adventure? What advice do you have for other authors faced with saying goodbye to beloved series characters?

It was actually rather scary to move on because RIDERS is pretty different from the UNDER THE NEVER SKY series and I was worried about disappointing fans. Ultimately, RIDERS was the book I needed to write at the time, so I did. I suppose you could say that I made a decision to write for myself first, and for the market (fans, publishers) second. I felt a lot of doubt about the path I chose, and still do, but I’m also really proud of myself for following my artistic compass. I never want fear to stop me from making creative decisions, so that involves being brave. It involves working really hard at accepting any outcome. I’ve become extremely philosophical lately about what “failures” and “mistakes” mean. That’s just been what I’ve need to embrace at this point in my writing career. The idea that it’s a journey. And that as long as you’re on the journey, you’re okay. 

RIDERS was a book that I just had to write, even though I worried it wouldn't sell. As I’ve mentioned, it’s a departure for me and there aren’t a lot of male point-of-view characters in YA, particularly on the fantasy end of the spectrum. But I loved the main character, and the idea of exploring the horsemen - War, Death, Famine and Conquest - as metaphors. Also, I’ve always loved military fiction, and I was inspired by a biography I’d read a few years ago that moved me called FEARLESS. Lots of reasons, really. But I generally think a book picks me more than the other way around. If I become obsessed with the idea, then I know I have to take it on.

As far as leaving behind beloved characters, it hasn’t been an issue for me. I can always revisit them in books. And if I really miss them, I can write my own fan-fiction :)


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

WRITING TIP: Understanding Your Own Plotting Technique

The farther I journey down this path of WRITER-LIFE, trying to grow as an author, the more I appreciate the value of critique groups, of reading good books, and of being a forever-student of the craft.

Recently, I came up with a new manuscript idea that didn't fit into the verse mode (or even the first-person narrative form) which I have employed in the past. So, to help flesh out my idea, I signed up for a WRITING CLASS with the inimitable Katherine Grace Bond.  The class is called THE PLOT THICKENS and my goal was to work up a plot outline of more breadth and depth than I had ever done before. The class is amazing--full of fantastic theories and tips and great advice and wonderful classmates. Nonetheless, I began to feel anxious about doing the assignments. So, I did what I always do: I wrote about THAT.

And I discovered something AMAZING. What I am learning from this class is not so much that I can turn myself from a "pantser" into a  geniune, organized "plotter" (small sigh of regret) but HOW to come to a deeper understanding of my own hybrid plotting-and-writing technique and find ways to make it better. I figured out how to turn my character maps into layers of a story map. I discovered MANY more questions I should be asking to connect the threads of character with solid plot.

I suppose the most important tip I want to share is that it is ALWAYS VALUABLE to reach out, to listen and to learn from other writers at all levels. In the end, it is the best way to improve, and more importantly, to continue to love your craft.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

I'm on Instagram!

Thanks to technical assistance from my 15-year-old (and because Twitter seems to have decided to devolve into Facebook), I've decided to join up. I am also participating in the Instagram #AuthorLifeMonth fun. Hope to see you in the cyberverse!

Looking for more authors and publishers on Instagram? 

Monday, February 8, 2016

VOICE IN YOUR NOVEL: Free Writing Workshop at Woodinville Library this Saturday!

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2016, 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Woodinville Library, 17105 Avondale Road NE, Woodinville, WA

The next class in this FREE series of writing workshops 
will be taught by yours truly!

A great book needs a strong plot, great characters and evocative settings, of course. But after that, it's the elusive element of VOICE that elevates a manuscript from ordinary to extraordinary. Learn what that means and how to find the best VOICE for your novel in this intense, round table style workshop PACKED with writing exercises. Bring paper & pencil!

This workshop open to writers in grades 7 to adult. Registration is not required but, if you're so inclined or want more details, visit Woodinville Library Program Information Page. I love this topic and am looking forward to a great session of learning and sharing our views on VOICE. I hope to see you there!

Monday, February 1, 2016

The year of reviewing mid-career novels

The publishing world is a sea of debuts. I remember those heady days myself. Before one had a sales record, an Amazon ranking, and a head full of doubts. Before one realized how many debuts pub each year and how few sophomore novels get bound between covers. But it can be done. Head down, rump glued to desk chair, fingers on keyboard, coffee at the ready. Despite the odds, you CAN rediscover the faith or naivte or (to speak plain) balls to write another book. In my case, I feel like the second was better than the first. I feel like I keep learning, getting stronger, getting braver. So, in honor of my jaded-yet-inexplicably-hopeful perspective on this TOUGH business, I have decided to commit this year here on the website to reading and reviewing SECOND, THIRD, FOURTH novels--mid-career novels--books published by folks who've been in the trenches for decades, putting out their best work, keeping the faith. 

Any chance you could join me? 

Don't get me wrong. Debuts are sexy and exciting. Some are amazing (er, Harry Potter?!). But, maybe a couple of times this year, pick up a title by Lisa Schroeder, Suzanne Young, Barbara Dee, or John Corey Whaley. See what these seasoned veterans have to offer--see how they've honed their craft writing THOUSANDS of pages. 

And, if you can spare a moment, do us a MAJOR SOLID and share your thoughts (good or bad) on Amazon, B&N, Goodreads or whatever. Tell the interwebs we exist and, maybe, that we're pretty damn good.

To prove up, here's a third book that'll knock your socks off. 
Gorgeous, powerful, essential. True.

You can find (or review) this book HERE.