Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Welcome Wednesday: Author interview with Loretta Nyhan!

The day after her best friend's funeral, Breeda's parents pack her up, usher her into the car, and then drive out of Oregon without looking back. Breeda doesn't know why they left so urgently or why they're headed to Chicago—but she does know that it's against the rules to leave without consulting your Coven Leader. . . . It's a crime punishable by banishment.
All her family has is each other now, in a city that feels strange, unfamiliar, and dark. But when Breeda comes home on her first night in Chicago to find their apartment ransacked and only a bloody handprint left behind, she realizes that you can't outrun the craft.
As the final battle approaches, who can Breeda trust? There is no one to turn to—except the new allies she has found in an infamous coven for disgraced witches in Chicago. Breeda can’t deny that she’s drawn to Miro, a darkly mysterious witch from the coven, but might he, too, be touched by the dark?

Okay, seriously. How much are you dying to read these books now? I'm practically salivating. Typing this intro with one hand and reaching for my ereader with the other so I can download immediately.

As you've no doubt realized (because we have only clever readers here at Honestly YA) today we're visiting with Loretta Nyhan, author of THE WITCH COLLECTOR duology (<-- possibly not a read word, but it fits, right?)

1. We always start with the same curiosity: What book spoke to you most during your teen years?

Everything by Judy Blume—I think most women who grew up in the 80s would say the same. She educated us. I think I read ARE YOU THERE GOD, IT’S ME, MARGARET and WIFEY, her very adult novel, in the same year. That was a little…confusing. I probably wasn’t ready for any of it, but isn’t that how life usually happens?

2.  Do you have a book (or books) that you reread regularly? If yes, what book or film and why?

I regularly reread THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE by Audrey Niffenegger and THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP by John Irving. Both are examples of perfect storytelling. Also, if Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Pretty in Pink is on television, I stop whatever I’m doing and watch.

3. What YA novel or novels have you read recently that you most want all your friends to read?

I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of Leigh Bardugo’s SIEGE AND STORM—so, so good! I love the world Leigh’s created; it’s exotic and mesmerizing. Also, I always recommend Holly Black’s CURSE WORKERS series. She’s created such a compelling character with Cassel. There are only three books in the series—I wish there were at least double that.

4. What made you want to write teen fiction? Is there any link to the stories you read growing up?

Reading was as important as breathing when I was a teen (still is, sometimes). That time of life is exciting to write about because it’s wonderful and horrible and so very important in shaping who we ultimately become.

5. Tell us about THE WITCH COLLECTOR - part I of which released in April and Part II just this month. Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

I drive through a Chicago neighborhood called Logan Square on my way to work. One day, while stuck in traffic, I took in the gothic gray stones and black iron fences and thought, this is where the witches live. So I had a setting.

I’ve also been fascinated by the transition from human to supernatural being—for vampires and werewolves it’s usually very dramatic. I began to wonder why witches didn’t undergo some kind of process. In THE WITCH COLLECTOR, the process of a witch coming into her powers is volatile and dangerous. Nothing is predictable, and the witch suffers mentally and physically until she can control her powers. For Breeda Fergus, the main character in novel, this transition period is uniquely complicated, because she’s a different kind of witch. And that’s all I’m giving away!

 6. How much of your approach to these books required research and how much required creating a brand new world? Was there an intersection of the two?

My witches are closely tied to the natural world--spells require lots of herbs and essential oils and gemstones. I know a bit about that stuff, but I did need to do some research. As far as world-building goes, I grounded the story in a real place, but the rules of the witching world were mine.

7. The Barnes and Noble website calls WITCH COLLECTOR “perfect for fans of the Beautiful Creatures and Mortal Instruments series”. That must feel kind of awesome. Would you agree with the comparison? What books or TV shows would you add to that comparison or replace them with?

It’s so flattering to be compared to authors I love! I almost fell over when I read that. Agreeing with the comparison feels a little self-important, but I will say we all work hard to create believable paranormal worlds. I suppose if I had to compare THE WITCH COLLECTOR to anything, it would be mix-up of Charmed, The Craft, and an old-school, noir detective story.

8. We have a lot of aspiring authors here in the Honestly YA realm. Can you share with them a little about the publication journey of WITCH COLLECTOR?

Success in this business is often reliant on good timing. I was working on THE WITCH COLLECTOR when my agent, Joanna Volpe, happened to mention it to an editor who was looking for all things witchy. Jo sent it to her, she liked it, and it all worked out.

If I can give any publishing advice, it would be simply to work hard and not give up. I know that sounds trite, but it’s the truth. You might not sell your first book, or your second, or your fifth, but if you keep at it, you’ll get better and better, and more opportunities will appear. Also, get an agent. I can’t stress that enough.

9. You are also a Professor of Literature. What literary works - modern or classic - would you recommend to your students or our readers who want to become writers?

I always recommend Stephen King’s ON WRITING to anyone who wants to be a writer. It is the best book about the process that I’ve ever read.

I absolutely believe you must be a reader to be a writer; however, it’s most important to simply LIVE. Be observant. Watch. Listen. Experience. You don’t have to travel around the world or live in a yurt to find something to write about, but you do have to pay attention to what’s going on around you. See people. Really see them. Don’t live in a bubble.

10. What’s next for you?

In YA, I’m working on a murder mystery set in Chicago in 1881, ten years after the Great Fire. I also write women’s fiction. My novel, I’LL BE SEEING YOU, co-written with Suzanne Palmieri Hayes, comes out May 28. Suzy and I are currently working on another book together, set in the Roaring Twenties. I’m pretty busy, but it’s the best kind of busy.

ooh, I love the Roaring Twenties! We'll stop the questions here so you can get back to writing. Thanks so much for being with us today, Loretta!

Buy the books:
Barnes and Noble

Catch up with Loretta:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

When Imaginary Friends Become Real

Honestly YA welcomes Darcy Woods, a 2013 Golden Heart® finalist, and her special guest--her main character Wilamena Carlisle.  Take it away, Darcy!

I am all about fun. It’s the reason my favorite pair of shoes are polka dot espadrilles. So, when Kim MacCarron invited me to guest blog with the darlings at Honestly YA, my fun-o-meter went OFF THE HOOK. Yes, a thousand times, yes. And thank you for having me!

I promise not to break anything. I will try not to break anything.

For today’s post, I thought I’d shake (but not break) things up a bit. And nothing screams post-holiday-weekend fun like an interview. An interview?!? Um, yes…but a FUN one! Have you ever interviewed your main character? Or had your MC interview YOU? It’s a really enlightening exercise that always helps me establish who my character is and the line that defines us as two unique individuals—who just happen to timeshare a brain ;)

So in the spirit of demystifying each other, Wilamena Carlisle (my MC), and I, sat down for a chat. Caffeine was consumed. Here’s what happened…

Darcy Woods:         You know we’re a bunch of writers and we always like to know what people are reading. What are you reading right now, Wil?

Wilamena Carlisle:  THE ONLY ASTROLOGY BOOK YOU’LL EVER NEED by Joanna Martine Woolfolk.

DW: I’m making my “not surprised” face.

WC: (laughs) What about you?

DW: I recently finished THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT by Jennifer E. Smith—which I totally enjoyed! Now I’m starting MAID OF SECRETS by Jennifer McGowan. I’m only a couple chapters in and am hopelessly hooked!

WC: I can tell because you’re talking wildly with your hands.

DW: Gesticulating. Yes, I do that sometimes. Okay, next question, Wil. Tell us some of your loves.

WC: Oh my stars, there’re so many! Alright, well, in no particular order…astrology, music of all stripes and colors, 40’s vintage dresses, my bestie—Irina Dmitriyev, French fries from Curios (their seasoning salt is to DIE), and The Discovery Channel. Oh, wait, and also the Celestron NexStar 102 SLT Telescope—I’ve been lusting over that for months!

DW: Hmm, and yet I see an absence of those hot Walker boys from your “Love” list. Care to elaborate on that?

WC: Darcy, you are so Gemini it hurts. If you weren’t already the sign of the twins, then you would be the sign of the question mark because you question EVERYTHING.

DW: Guilty. Wait—how’d you know I was Gemini?!

WC: (smiles) It’s what I do. I have a knack for knowing people’s signs. I’m an Aquarius, which, like you, is an air sign…if you were curious.

DW: According to you I am always curious. (grins) Okay, how about dislikes? BTW, nice dodge on the guy question.

WC: Thanks. Hmm, well, I think thongs are the devil. Ooh, and clowns, I HATE clowns. Brussel sprouts too. What else?

DW: Didn’t you have a pants-wetting incident that involved clowns?

WC: Jupiter’s moons, if you breathe a word about that, I will tell everyone about your incident at Oktoberfest in Munich! (giggles deviously) It’s really good, too.

DW: Heh. Consider your secret safe with me. Okay, since you’re such a music enthusiast, what song’s burning a hole on your playlist right now? Mine’s currently grooving on Tip of the Tongue by The Donnis Trio.

WC: Oooh, good one! Well I’m slightly obsessed with Trying to Put Your Heart Back Together by Slow Runner. It’s playing as we speak.

DW: Ah, so it is. It’s kind of a sad song.

WC: But the melody is upbeat! Like underneath the sad, hope is always lurking, you know?

DW: When I grow up I want to be like you.

WC: Aren’t you like twice my age?

DW: (coughs) Um, I think there’s time for one last question. What is a supernova? I figure it’s important since it’s in the title of the story.

WC: Simply put, a supernova is the explosion of a dying star. For a short time it can outshine an entire galaxy, and is a billion times more luminous than the sun. They’re pretty rare, though.

DW: (whistles) Yowsa, that’s some exit. So, have you ever seen one?

WC: A supernova? Um…(grins) I think they should read the book and find out.

DW: Clever girl.

Thanks for joining us, but now I have to ask, (because I am Gemini), have YOU ever interviewed your MC? If so, did you gain anything from the experience?  Do you have any other tricks for connecting with your characters? 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Surviving "F"ailure

I'm kicking off a new cycle this week, "Surviving 'F'ailure." And well, I've had a lot of experience with both failing and surviving as a writer. Over the years, I've tried a lot of things that don't work. But recently, I've stumbled across a few things that help keep me going in the face of rejection.

1. Hope

I didn't use to hope. In the past, the second I hit "send" on a submission, I would immediately tell myself that the story wasn't any good, anyway. I'm sure nobody will like it, and I may as well start expecting the rejections now because that's all I'm ever going to get.

If I expected the worst, I thought I could somehow protect myself from getting hurt. Well, you know what? When the rejections came, it still hurt. Shooting myself down before anybody else didn't do a thing except make me feel badly about myself.

Last year, I had a change of heart. I was PROUD of my book, I'd worked hard on it, and I felt like I would be short-changing myself and my story if I didn't allow myself to hope.

So now I indulge in crazy dreams -- seven-figure deals and international book tours and movie premieres. I made outlandish predictions to my friends: we would sell our books to the same editor at the same house on the same day. The rejections still come, sure. And they still hurt. But in the meantime, I'm having fun. And that's the whole point. If we can't have fun in the process, why do it at all?

2. "This is an odd story."

Recently, I had a contest judge say to me, "This is an odd story." Um...thanks? I guess? This statement is a version of the "This is interesting"  comment where you can't tell if it's a compliment or an insult. Or a little of both.

After turning the words over in my head, I decided to take them as a compliment. First, I'll never know what the judge meant, so I might as well interpret it positively. But more importantly, in such a saturated marketplace, where manuscripts are being rejected for "not standing out," I think it is good to be different. It's an advantage to be -- dare I say it? -- odd.

So these days, when the fear of failure sets in, I tell myself that I am the only one who can write this manuscript. Out of all the talented, hard-working, multi-published, prize-winning authors in this world, the only person who can tell this story the way it should be told Because it is an odd story. Because it is unique to my vision. Because these characters live in my heart.

So if I believe that this story needs to be told, and I'm the only one to tell it... well, failure is simply not an option.

3. Friends

The single most important thing that makes failure easier to bear? Friends.

Friends who want your success (almost) as much as they want their own.
Friends who will toast mojitos with you over good news -- or send cyber chockies over bad news.
Friends whom you can text and email every single day to report your word count -- or lack thereof.
Friends who make you feel like a winner, even when it seems the rest of the world thinks you're a failure.

I know friends like these don't come along every day, and I feel blessed to have mine. (Thank you, Group of Awesome!)

So those are some of the techniques I use to survive failure. Tell me. What are some of yours?


Friday, May 24, 2013

I Love One Direction, and I'm Not Afraid to Admit it!

Harry Styles.  Liam Payne.  Zayn Malik.  Louis Tomlinson.  Niall Horan.  Yep, I can name them all.

Confession time:  Yes, I'm a grown up, and yes, I love One Direction.  There, I said it.  Truthfully, I'm rather proud of my status as a Directioner (oh, yeah...I can toss out terms like "Directioner," "Directionater," "The lads," etc., with practiced ease).

First, you should know that I have two daughters, ages 12 and 13.  One of them is a serious Directioner (and the other likes them a lot, but not in the obsessive way her sister does).  She became aware of the lads early on, watching every single clip from X-Factor UK on YouTube, and I watched some of them with her.  Mostly because I can identify--I was similarly obsessed with New Kids on the Block back in the day.  But...guess what?  One Direction is...gasp...better than NKOTB.  Yes, I said it.  And I stand by it!  I mean, c'mon...we all know that Jonathan mostly just stood there woodenly, neither a great singer nor dancer.  And Danny...well, he could dance, but not sing.  Donnie was a good rapper and had the most charisma, IMO, but it was really Jordan and Joe with the true singing talent.  NKOTB was mostly about the "show"--choreographed dance routines.  Don't get me wrong, they were (and still are) fun. But One Direction?  They're better.

In case you don't know the band's history, they all auditioned individually for UK's X-Factor television show.  They didn't know one another beforehand, and they hail from across England (and Ireland).  They each made it through to the show--in other words, all five were good enough singers to make it onto the show.  And then Simon Cowell decided to put the five lads together into a group.  Suddenly, they were One Direction.  Allow me to say, Simon Cowell is brilliant.  They continued through the competition right down to the finals.  In the end, they came in third (**trivia:  can anyone here name the two solo artists who beat them?!**) but it didn't really matter because their fan base was already so huge that it was pretty clear that they were going to be big stars.  I'm think Simon's record label was already working on their first album before X-Factor was even over.

After X-Factor, their first single dropped--What Makes You Beautiful--and the rest is pretty much history.

My husband and I took our daughters to see them at the band's first New York concert--at the (fairly small) Beacon Theater.  Seriously, I have never heard the kind of audience shrieking that I heard that night (not even at those NKOTB concerts I went to back in the day).  It was so loud that I found myself covering my ears at some points.  Still, it was awesome.  No choreographed dance routines--in fact, they don't dance at all.  They sing.  They move around the stage.  They connect with their audience.  And even then, it was obvious that they were on the cusp of something really, really big.  I'm glad we got see them then, before they moved onto huge arena shows.

So...why do I love them?

1) They are talented singers.  Really.  All five of them, I kid you not.

2)  They seem like genuinely nice guys.  If you watch the X-Factor episodes, there's one thing you hear over and over from all the judges:  "These are genuinely nice lads.  They are nice/respectful to everyone they come in contact with here on X-Factor, right down to the maintenance staff."  Even now, with all their overnight fame, you still hear this same refrain repeated over and over again by everyone who comes in contact with them.

3)  They are...ahem...nice to look at, too.  Okay, I'll come out and say it--they're hot.  I mean, have you looked at Zayn???  Dude is beyond gorgeous, though personally, I'm a Harry gal (I try to forget the fact that I'm old enough to be his mum).  But they're *all* cute, each in their own way.  Daughter #1 is all about Louis; it's Niall for daughter #2.  There's a lad for everyone's tastes....

4) Their fan base is fun.  I mean, go to YouTube and watch "The Adventurous Adventures of One Direction."  You'll see what I mean.  And if not for Directioners, I wouldn't have heard of Ed Sheeran so early on (for those who don't know, Sheeran wrote a song for 1D's first album -- and then later for their 2nd, too -- and I guess they've been pals ever since).  Also, there's all kinds of fun "insider" jokes/sayings you can get in on:  Carrots.  Onesies.  Larry Stylinson.  No, Jimmy protested.  How many R's are there?  Inbetweeners Dance.  Pat the dog, screw the lightbulb.

So, c'mon....if you're not already a One Direction fan, why not give the lads a listen?  Watch THIS VIDEO, sing along.  And when you're done, report back and let me know what you thought--and/or who's your favorite lad.

CONTEST ALERT:  Everyone who comments below will be entered in a random drawing for a paperback copy of my book HAVEN (the first book in the Winterhaven trilogy) *OR* One Direction's debut CD, Up All Night  *OR* a pre-order (e-book or print) of my upcoming book, ETERNAL (the final book in the Winterhaven trilogy).  Winner's choice!  Yes, open internationally!  I will draw the winner's name on May 31st at noon, EDT.  Good luck!

**answer:  Matt Cardle and Rebecca Ferguson, aka...who?**

--Kristi Cook

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


It's our privilege here at Honestly YA to introduce Holly Bodger, a 2013 Golden Heart® finalist!  She's talking about confessions!  Take it away, Holly!

I have a confession: earlier this year, I choked. I’d wanted to be a writer since I was five years old and had been actively writing novels for seven years. For the first couple of these years, I was still learning how to write. For the next couple, I was trying to get an agent. And for the final few, I had an agent and was trying to get published. Most people would think I was getting closer and closer to the prize, but I wasn’t. The more I tried to get published, the harder I tried to get published. I couldn’t just write anymore. I had to think. Has it been done before? Will an editor buy it? Is it a dead genre? Is it a trendy genre? Is the dialogue stiff or cliché? Am I telling, not showing? Does my character have a goal? Is it too preachy? Does my antagonist have a motive? Is my main character likeable? Will a reader buy it? Will the book store put it on display in the front or would they bury it in the back next to the Suzanne Somers clear out? And on, and on. The result was me staring blankly at a screen. I could come up with ideas but I had a hard time getting past the noise.

I decided I needed a short break. I wanted to enter the Golden Heart® and I didn’t want to think about original concepts and dead genres and all that stuff. I wanted to write a book full of characters I loved and so I did. I took my favorite teen movie (Cruel Intentions) and I flipped it over. I moved the characters to an Art School and made the sibling rivalry between two girls, instead of a boy and girl. But I didn’t want a pretty, rich girl for the main character. I wanted a geeky band girl with crazy hair and a penchant for falling on her ass. For the boy, I wanted an artist; the kind who’s afraid to give away his heart and yet shows it every day in his paintings. The kind who paints his heart the way I was trying to write mine. Without thought. Without inhibition.

After I finished this book, I tried to return to my regular self but I couldn’t do it. So I stopped cold. I left my agent and the Big Publishing goal and decided to take some time to think about my options. Should I give up? Change genres? Blog? Self publish? I still hadn’t decided which path to take when I found out I’d been nominated for a Golden Heart. I took this as a sign. My problem was not that I wasn’t good enough; it was that I was trying too hard to fit into someone else’s definition of good and I’m not someone else. I’m me.

The next time you wonder if you should write the book that’s in your heart, remember this: Great artists are the exception, not the norm. If you want to be exceptional, don’t follow the crowd.

Follow you.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Fab Friday: Allie Burton's The Sure Thing and ATLANTIS RIPTIDE Giveaway!

Happy Friday Everyone! It's the end of the workweek so you know what that means--we've got an awesome giveaway for our beloved readers. In fact, we've got TWO awesome giveaways this week, two digital copies of ATLANTIS RIPTIDE a great new YA by Allie Burton. But before we get to givin' Allie's got a great story to share about the Worst Advice she ever received. Take it away, Allie!

The Sure Thing
By Allie Burton

Thanks to Lea Nolan and the rest of the writers at Honestly YA for hosting!

The worst advice I ever received was to go for the guaranteed outcome or Sure Thing. At times I followed this advice and at other times I threw caution to the wind and went for what I wanted. The thing that was unattainable, difficult to get, or unusual and exciting.

The Saturday Night Date Sure Thing: I had a long-term steady boyfriend in high school. I loved him but knew we wouldn’t stay together and get married. There were too many things I wanted to do in life. My friends thought I was nuts. I had a guaranteed date every Saturday night, a date for Homecoming and Prom. I had a Sure Thing, why mess it up?

Well, first because I ended up breaking his heart. Second, because I missed out on experiences other girls had including flirting at parties, the excitement of waiting for a guy’s call, and eventual heartbreak.

The Summer Job Sure Thing: I come from a large family with two brothers and three sisters. All of my sisters worked at a local deli. It was a good job and paid well. Getting a position there was a Sure Thing for me. And I took the job.

But I wanted more. I wanted different. I wanted exciting. So, I applied to the local police department to be a bike cop. There were only six positions. And guess what, I got one of them. I spent the summer outside, riding my bike forty hours a week. Best summer ever! And I was in the best shape ever!

The If-You-Don’t-Try-You-Won’t-Be-Disappointed Sure Thing: My brothers were athletes. My older sisters not so much. The Sure Thing was to keep my part-time job at the deli instead of quitting to try-out for the tennis team. I had no real practice or training. No lessons.

But I wanted to be part of a team in high school. So, I worked my butt off the summer before sophomore year and tried out for the team. I didn’t make it. The next summer, I worked harder and went to summer practice with the team. I made the JV team my junior year. By senior year, I was the first doubles team, but still on JV. I never got my Varsity letter but I did take a chance and I did make a team. And great friends in the process.

The College Choice Sure Thing: My parents couldn’t afford to pay for college so I went to the local community college my first year. I was majoring in Fashion Design with the intent to design costumes for the stage. The courses were a good foundation but none of these people were going anywhere.

So, I put together a portfolio and applied to art school to study costuming. Now, I’m not a good artist but I was accepted and attended for a year. I decided this wasn’t for me either. I should’ve done the Sure Thing and lived at home while deciding what to do with my life.

But, I took another huge risk and moved to California. I got a job at a deli (see the earlier Sure Thing paid off by helping me to get this job), and went back to school. Two months before I could move into the residence hall I had to leave my apartment, so I found a way to camp in the state parks for the summer. (This is where I got the idea for my character Pearl in ATLANTIS RIPTIDE to live in a campground. I’d done all the research when I was in college.)

All big risks—not a single Sure Thing. If I hadn’t taken those risks I never would’ve met my husband and decided I wanted to be a writer.

Which brings me to my last Sure Thing.

The Career Choice Sure Thing: I wanted to be a writer, but the chances of being successful were slim and I had rent and bills to pay. So, I did the Sure Thing and graduated with a degree in advertising and public relations. I had a great career in that field and I enjoyed it, for the most part.

But there were always stories inside my head. Characters who wanted to come out and play. Plots with twists even I didn’t see coming.

So, now I’m a writer. My first book releases next week. I don’t know if my stories will sell or if I’ll be successful. It’s a risk. But it’s exciting, and a little scary. And it’s not a Sure Thing.

What was the Sure Thing you gave up and are you glad you did?

Allie Burton didn’t realize having so many jobs would become great research material for the stories she writes. She has been everything from a fitting room attendant to a bike police officer to a professional mascot escort. She has lived on three continents and in four states and has studied art, fashion design, marine biology, and advertising.

When her kids asked, “when are you going to write a story we can read?” she switched from adult novels to Young Adult and Middle Grade and hasn’t looked back.

Allie is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, Romance Writers of America including the Young Adult, Dallas Area Romance Writers and Heart of the Rockies chapters. She is also a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Currently, she lives in Colorado with her husband and two children. Find out more at her website, follow her on Twitter, or on Facebook

Atlantis Riptide
Lost Daughters of Atlantis Book 1
Sixteen-year-old Pearl Poseidon ran away from the circus tired of her adoptive parents’ abuse of her special skills. As a runaway, she craves anonymity but when she saves a small boy from drowning she draws attention to herself and her special abilities. Boardwalk employee and aspiring investigative reporter, Chase Thomas, helps her with the rescue and witnesses her amazing dive.
Now, he has questions. And so do the police.  
Unbeknownst to Pearl, a battle rages under the Pacific between Loyal and Non-Loyal Atlantean forces and each side wants to use her powers for their cause. Will the commotion in the ocean expose her secrets to the world? Will Chase’s reporter-determination ruin their chance for a real relationship? Will staying near the ocean she loves catapult into a battle royale?

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Welcome Wednesday: Karen Avivi’s Worst Advice: Force Yourself to Fast Draft

You have to write a book a year to be successful. Wait, make that two books a year, four books a year... The number of books per year that you must write keeps increasing.

When I mentioned to a writer friend that I wasn’t sure how I’d ever be able to write multiple books in a year, she said I had to learn how to fast draft. It seemed like a good idea. I’d done NaNoWriMo before, so I knew I could handle intense writing with a set deadline. I signed up for a fast-drafting class that involved checking in every day and being chastised by the moderator if you fell behind. 

It was horrible. I was in a constant state of panic, writing gibberish just so I could get my pages done and go to bed. I don’t know why I thought fast-drafting would work for me. I prefer endurance sports to sprints, I like baking better than stir frying, and I don’t pull all-nighters to get things done. For NaNoWriMo, my word counts were up and down, with some days high, and some low, but I kept myself on track my way and finished well before the deadline.

Fast-drafting reminded me of two bosses I had who couldn’t work until the deadline was on top of us. I suspect it was because it gave them an excuse: “We did this in three days, so considering the circumstances, it’s pretty good.” Ugh.

At the end of two weeks of fast drafting I had 30,000 words but I couldn’t even call it a bad first draft. Reading it over, I could feel the frustration and misery in every word.

I extracted notes about characters and plot points that I thought might be usable, put the rest aside and poured a tub. After a long soak I had an outline. That outline is now blossoming into a novel at a reasonable pace with weekly goals.

While I agree that you need to set and respect word count goals, you also need to be in your zone to produce your best work. If your zone is a state of panic with daily deadlines, then fast-draft away. But if you’re like me and you need to be relaxed for the words to flow, then adding stress and pressure will not help you reach your word count.

Writing faster is about being efficient, knowing yourself and respecting your process. The fast-draft method works for many people and is definitely worth trying, but it wasn’t for me. My advice is to try it but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t wind up with a book at the end. Find your own path to productivity. 

Has anyone else tried fast-drafting? Did it work for you?

Karen Avivi is never bored. If the weather is nice, it’s almost impossible for her to stay inside. Karen has tried surfing, skydiving, scuba diving, stunt classes, archery, winter camping, orienteering, mountaineering, mountain biking, and she even attempted a bike ramp once but it didn’t end well. If she’s not reading or writing, she’s usually planning a new adventure. Learn more on her website, visit her on Facebook, or Goodreads.

Karen’s contemporary YA novel Shredded is now available as an ebook and in print. Drop into the world of girls’ freestyle BMX for an action-packed summer road trip adventure.

“I would have preferred handlebars in the gut. At least when that happened I definitely saw it coming.”
Josie Peters thinks she’ll do anything to qualify for the Ultimate BMX freestyle event the summer before her senior year. She can handle road trips and rail grinds, but when flashy rider R.T. Torres tempts her with an easy way in, his overpowering world threatens to send Josie spinning out of control.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How A Zebra Landed Me in the Golden Heart® Contest…

Honestly YA is pleased to welcome Sheri Adkins, a 2013 Golden Heart® finalist, so she can tell us a little bit about her book and her ideas.  Take it away, Sheri!

Okay, what's with the zebra?   

It’s funny how seemingly unrelated things can connect events in our lives.  Several years ago I was listening to the radio in my car.  Being the mom of teenagers, I rarely get to choose what is blaring through the speakers and often I’m too distracted by the million things running through my head to really listen anyway.  But this particular day a story came on the radio news about a massive wreck near San Francisco.  A zebra had escaped a local zoo and made its way onto a highway there, resulting in a massive pile–up.  Though, of course, that isn’t funny in the least, I couldn’t help but think about how odd that would be…and yes, in my warped mind, a bit funny too.  Imagine, driving along on your normal route to work or school or wherever you were headed and—POW!—out of nowhere a zebra trots across the road. 
The captured zebra...

I knew I had to put that in a book somewhere!

            I’d been wanting to write a Young Adult Romance with the flavor of the John Hughes movies I had loved so much as a teen. I’d tried and tried to think of a quirky, all-in-one-day plot that would still have enough meat to it that it would sustain through an entire novel. I’d been struggling to come up with anything. Until this fateful day when I heard about the zebra. What if it were a teen driving?  I thought to myself, “Hmmm… what would be the absolute worst time for a teen to have an accident?”  Well, when she’s taken her parents’ car without asking, of course. And what would make that even worse? If the car was really expensive and difficult to repair, like a rare, classic car. So then I had to think, “What would compel this teen to take her parents’ car, knowing she would get in more trouble than she can imagine if she’s caught.”  And it had to be funny too, in that John Hughes way…

            And so the premise for my Golden Heart manuscript was born.  From a zebra.

            MIRANDA PERRY’S IMPORTED PROM DATE is about a type-A senior who has spent her entire high school life trying to reach perfection: class president, National Honor Society, Valedictorian—any distinction she can claim on a college app, she has garnered.  But when her boyfriend (and all-around god of the school) breaks up with her a week before prom, she is devastated, bested, defeated.  But she’d never let him know that. When he walks into the library with his new date on his arm, Miranda inadvertently claims she has a date that’s way better than him anyway.  Which would have felt great…if it wasn’t a lie.  Long story short: she turns to her best friend, Baxter, for help and ends up “importing” the gorgeous Italian guy that Baxter had stayed with as an exchange student.  But when Miranda wakes up on Prom Day to find her car is dead in the driveway—and her parents are out of town on business that couldn’t be cancelled—she has no choice but to take her dad’s classic convertible to the airport to pick up her prom date.

Insert Zebra.  Hijinks ensue. Happily Ever After looms in the distance. 

I was thrilled and honored to get the fateful call telling me that this story had finaled in  one of the most prestigious contest for unpublished writers, the GOLDEN HEART®.  (For a list of all finalists, go to and scroll down to the Golden Heart Finalists®) Thank you to RWA® for hosting the contest each year. I can’t tell you how excited I was that morning to learn that I was a finalist once again, especially since I adore this story so very much.  I had a wonderful time writing it and I truly hope I was able to capture the fun, witty, zany feel of the Hughes movies.  Not that anyone could ever touch his true genius, but if I even came close to the essence of what those movies meant to me, then I am happy.
John Hughes

By the way, the day I heard that odd tale of the zebra-escape on the radio, I came home and Googled it to get the facts straight.  Turns out, this happens about once a year somewhere in America… so not as rare an occurrence as one might think.  Zebras must be as determined as my pets!

            So, what about you?  Do you have a particular favorite movie of John Hughes? If you’re a writer, do you ever have stories born out of a quirky fact you happened to hear in passing? Or, best of all, what’s the strangest thing to ever run out in front of you while driving—anyone ever swerve to miss an escaped zoo animal???

(Please post! Even if it’s only to say Hi! I am just desperate enough to beg for bloggers to make me feel better about myself…)

Sheri Adkins, represented by Cori Deyoe at
3 Seas Literary

Monday, May 13, 2013

Don't Add Spice to the Story!

by Kimberly MacCarron

It was hard to think of the worst advice I’ve ever received.  There was probably a ton of it through the years, but I’m a bit on the hardheaded side.  Unless it lines up with what I want to do in the first place, I don’t generally take it.
I guess the worst advice (or maybe the best, depending on the circumstance) I’ve been given that would also influence my life today would be:  Don’t Add Spice to the Story!

Now, I’m sure you’re all wondering what that means.  I won’t sugarcoat this.  When I was a kid, I lied.  A lot.   

My mom lived her life vicariously through me, and that’s a lot of responsibility to heap on a young girl’s shoulders.  She lived to hear my stories about school and friends, but how exciting is elementary school?  Not very. 

Now, all my stories started with facts.  They were based on facts.  Just the final tale wasn’t a true reflection of the actual event.  Yes… I lied.  I told you that!   

If we had a fire drill at school, in another girl’s story, we went outside and then came back in.  My story usually had people running in various states of panic, kids getting lost and hiding under tables. Oh, my, there was a lot of drama going into the telling too.  Don’t get me started with my hand gestures and body language.  And I’m not even Italian!

My mom slowly—maybe a little too slowly—picked up on my special art form, and she would ask, “Kimberly, are you adding spice to the story?”  Then I would nod and look away.  Or sometimes I even lied about that.  Because if the end story was super duper good in my head, I had to let it out.  The story had to be told!

I didn’t have much money growing up, but apparently I had enough to have a complete circus come to my house.  I’m not sure why the other kids believed that one.   Then there was this time I saw this tiny little monkey in the Guinness Book of World Records.  He reminded me of that stuffed koala bear whose arms attached to the end of my pencil.  Oh, my God!  I wanted that Pygmy Marmoset!  I dreamed of the little fellow.  I showed all the kids at school the picture and then told them that I had one.   I went on and on about my cute little Pygmy.  How much he loved me and would climb right up my thumb and attach himself there.

Then Show and Tell Day came.  My turn up to bat.  I needed a Pygmy Marmoset, stat! 

I went home and told my mom about the lie I told (because by this time she was in on my super-secret power) and I needed her help to get me out of it.  At that time I thought my mom would do anything for me, and she probably would have.  Unfortunately that didn’t include a quick jaunt to the Amazon and overnight transport of my record-holding friend.  Most people would own up to their lies.  Be a better person and all that jazz.  I calmly went into school and told an outrageous story about climate issues not being good for my tiny teeny friend, and he sadly passed. But I was able to show them the decorated shoebox where he lived those last few hours.

This “story-telling” gift I managed to make for myself came with lots of problems though.  Although my mom understood, kids really didn’t get that I was telling a story without much fact.  Who knew that was important at that tender age?   But I loved being the center of attention when I told a story.  I loved that people couldn’t walk away.  I loved that wide-eyed I-can’t-even-believe-this-happened look. 
And God help the poor girl who actually had a truthful story that was better than my imaginary one.  

On a trip to an all-day Girl Scout camp, this girl started talking about how she had ridden horses before.  Well, that got everyone’s attention.  We all listened.  I thought about the horse I used to ride at Camp Kon-O-Kwee, where I used to go to summer camp.  I thought about my favorite and what it would be like to own her.  For her to be my very own horse.  So, I stole that other girl’s spotlight lickety-split with these words:  “I HAVE a horse.  Her name is Misty.”

Yes, folks.  I told that busload of overly excited girls that I had a horse.  To make matters worse, my mom had driven to the camp to chaperone for the day, so when Colleen Lynch ran over to my mom and said, “I didn’t even know Kim had a horse,” that ball of lies sat uncomfortable-like in the pit of my stomach.

My mom smiled, nodded and looked away.  By that time Colleen had found something extremely exciting—like the leather braided bracelet station and took off.  My mom gave me THE LOOK and mumbled to me, “Yeah, neither did I.” 

These harmless stories went on and on until the sixth grade where I ventured into rumor about real people.  And that’s where my story isn’t funny anymore.  The girl who made out with this one guy didn’t really do that and I knew it, but I said it anyway.  And I ended up creating a huge mess for myself that wouldn’t go away since she lived right next door.  It was ugly.  It was, in fact, so ugly that I ended up going to an entirely different school.  My mom enrolled me in this Christian school, and I made a pact with myself that my fibbing days were at an end. 

When I started the new school, I turned over a new leaf.  I didn’t add spice to the stories anymore, and I felt this hole inside me.  I wondered what it meant that I felt lonely without the lies.  Then I realized I was lonely because I just wanted to tell a story. 

And my writing days were born.  In the comfort of my room I could make up all kinds of stories and put them down on paper where they would never hurt anyone.  Where nobody would know the stories weren’t real.  They were real to me.

In a way, I’m still a liar.  I still make up stories and switch facts around to suit my needs, but now it’s considered a profession.  Go figure.

I’m off to add spice to another story—a written one.  I guess that’s advice I never followed either.  That’s such a shock…

Kimberly MacCarron