Thursday, April 17, 2014

OF BREAKABLE THINGS: blog hop, interview & giveaway!

You guys, I'm sooo excited to share my interview with A. Lynden Rolland, the author of OF BREAKABLE THINGS (released April 8, 2014). As if that cover wasn't enough to make you want to read, the story sounds amazing.  Check out the interview below, and don't forget to scroll to the bottom for a chance to win your very own copy.

Book cover for OF BREAKABLE THINGS, a novel
How long did it take you to write OF BREAKABLE THINGS from start to finish?

Well … *clasps hands together* that’s the funny part. I never set out to publish Of Breakable Things. I just had some time and a story in my head, so I didn’t plot it out. I just wrote and wrote until the story was finished. The initial version was about 800 pages! My best friend asked to read it, and although I doubt she read all 800 pages, she liked the gist of it. We started googling how to become published, and whoa. If I knew then what I know now I would have taken up knitting or something. The first version took about a year to write. I spent the next year editing (and chopping it in half), and then I began submitting to agents. So, I guess the solid answer would be two years.

What was the inspiration for OF BREAKABLE THINGS?

I can’t pinpoint one thing, but I had this idea that wouldn’t leave me alone. I thought about how much we love things. How much we hate things. How much knowledge we gain in a lifetime. I couldn’t imagine that when the body died, that all of the mental energy just … disappeared. So I started thinking that maybe those emotions and that intelligence could come alive into a projection of a person.

Then I needed people. I needed a girl who would die prematurely, to be physically breakable. And once I began researching Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (vascular EDS if we want to get specific), Alex came alive in my mind. And Chase just appeared there beside her one day, holding her hand. Chase’s brothers kind of elbowed their way into the story after that. They’re pushy.

If you had your pick, what movie star(s) would you pick to play the main character(s)?

I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to blast some music and surf the internet for pictures. I enjoyed the hours it took me to find the faces matching the ones in my head, especially the boys. All of them are older now, but their teen pictures are perfect.


Alex is shorter, and her hair is a bit darker, but everything else is perfect especially the big eyes.

Of Breakable Things, by A. Lynden Rolland

There are four Lasalle brothers, and they all look similar, but Chase (the youngest) and Kaleb (the oldest) look like a young Rob Lowe:

Of Breakable Things, by A. Lynden Rolland

I’ll throw in this one too. I know you won’t complain:

Of Breakable Things, by A. Lynden Rolland

Jonas and Gabe, the middle brothers, are more serious. The picture below of James Dean reminds me of Jonas, who is rougher around the edges.

Of Breakable Things, by A. Lynden Rolland

Gabe is the bookworm, so let’s use James Dean with some frames.

Of Breakable Things, by A. Lynden Rolland

Where's your favorite place to write?

I’m a regular at my local Barnes and Noble. It’s usually pretty quiet in the cafĂ©. Also, there’s a beautiful store downtown in Annapolis with old books, wine, and coffee. It’s great, but parking is a nightmare, and I stress about things like that. So, usually I write in my office at my house because I have notes pinned to the walls and the desk and the chair and the door. All over. It’s a mess and I love it.

The cover is beautiful.  How much input did you get to put into the design?  And tell the truth - how many times a day do you stare at it? ;-)

HAHA! Thank you! I was asked originally what I envisioned for the cover. Broken glass. Maybe part of a face. Or a reflection in the glass. I had the opportunity to see a few of the ideas, and I was completely enamored by what was then a black and white image (it would later become the cover). I’m thrilled it was picked because I didn’t want something ethereal. Alex’s life was hard. Her illness was hard. Her death was hard. Her afterlife is no walk in the park either. That face has a great story to tell, and I hope readers think so, too. I hope they pick it up!

Do you have any trunked manuscripts?  If so, how did you know it was time to move on?

A few, yes. I can usually tell after a few pages if the writing is going well or not. If I’m getting bored or restless writing it, a reader will feel the same way. Some ideas are so much fun, and I just can’t get into the characters. I never throw away anything though. One day it might work.

I see from your website bio that you have an agent.  How long did you query, and how did you know she was "the one?"

I racked up a lot of rejections. I keep them in a computer file marked with an inappropriate word. Queries are so, so agonizing to write and my pitch was really lacking. I worked on it for months. Then, I got a few bites. I received some great criticism. I wrote and rewrote and revised and reworked. I know it’s been said again and again, but it only takes one person (and maybe a little luck). My agent, Rachael Dugas, found the manuscript in a pile left by a former agent. She was the one because she understood my vision for who I wanted the characters to be, and what I wanted that afterworld to be.

Any words of wisdom you can share with writers still working their way through the query trenches?

Enroll in workshops. I took a query workshop taught online by Kristin Nelson, and after that, I signed with Rachael.

What did you learn from the publication process that surprised you?

So. Many. Writers.

It really is so competitive. That’s why it’s difficult to land an agent. That’s why it’s tough to find an editor who hasn’t heard a pitch similar to yours.

On the plus side, networking with other authors has been inspiring. Writers are an odd breed, and it’s wonderful to be around people who are similar to me.

Congrats on the launch of your book, and thanks for the time!

Thank you so much for having me! Your questions were fabulous. Readers can find me online here:

Goodreads |  Twitter |  Facebook  |  Website

About Of Breakable Things:
Book cover for OF BREAKABLE THINGS, a novel
A captivating debut about the fragility of life, love, and perspective.

Alex Ash was born broken. Living with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is like living on death row, but she is willing to fight for her frail life as long as it includes the boy next door. Chase has always held the pieces of her together, but when he dies tragically, Alex’s unfavorable fate becomes a blessing in disguise.

Faced with a choice, she finds herself in a peculiar world where rooms can absorb emotions and secrets are buried six feet under. Among limitless minds, envious spirits, and soulless banshees, Alex hardly rests in peace.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

National Poetry Month!!!

As a way to celebrate National Poetry Month, I've been posting quick poetry lectures online for my students (flipping my classroom a bit), and I'm finding that the more I read poetry out loud, the more lyrical my prose writing becomes (still not as lyrical as I'd like, of course, but better). Anyway...I encourage you all to celebrate in your own way, but I highly recommend that it is out loud and often. You just might be surprised at the euphonious results that trickle down into your own writing.

Here is a link to one of my ridiculous video lectures on Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken" (an interpretation for high school students where I am sure to add a side note they rightfully mocked about not taking heroin) in case anyone has that much time on his hands. :).

aka Miss M.

Monday, April 14, 2014

YA Book Pick: THE RULES by Stacey Kade

Once a month, we choose an outstanding YA book to review. We want to spotlight books of interest to aspiring writers, as well as highlight some of our favorite books and authors!

This month's Book Pick is THE RULES by Stacey Kade.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

1. Never trust anyone.

2. Remember they are always searching.

3. Don’t get involved.

4. Keep your head down.

5. Don’t fall in love.

Five simple rules. Ariane Tucker has followed them since the night she escaped from the genetics lab where she was created, the result of combining human and extraterrestrial DNA. Ariane’s survival—and that of her adoptive father—depends on her ability to blend in among the full-blooded humans in a small Wisconsin town, to hide in plain sight at her high school from those who seek to recover their lost (and expensive) “project.”

But when a cruel prank at school goes awry, it puts her in the path of Zane Bradshaw, the police chief’s son and someone who sees too much. Someone who really sees her. After years of trying to be invisible, Ariane finds the attention frightening—and utterly intoxicating. Suddenly, nothing is simple anymore, especially not the rules…

First Line: "I have a dead girl's name."

What a first line.  It says a lot and raises significant questions.  First and foremost: Why does she have a dead girl's name? It's stated very matter of fact and gives us some insight into Ariane's character.  She's very logical and straight forward - exactly what you would expect from a human/alien hybrid.

Highlights: If you're looking for a full fledged sci-fi psychological thriller, this may be a bit of a light read but what it lacks in science, it makes up in character drama.  The story is written from the POV of both Ariane and Zane and while set in the future, offers a very contemporary feel.  But that doesn't mean it's not complete with a few twists and turns that will keep you engaged till the end. 

While THE RULES veers from true sci-fi, it offers new readers interested in the genre a chance to ease themselves into something that's more than just a present day young adult romance. 

A Good Read For: For those who enjoy light YA quick reads with a touch of sci-fi.  Also for those YA writers looking for examples of stories with multiple viewpoints and plot twists.  Check out Lauren's review of MIND GAMES by Kiersten White to move on up in the sci-fi psychological thriller world.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Editing: Cutting Down Your Word Count

"It is perfectly okay to write garbage--as long as you edit brilliantly."
-C.J. Cherryh

Today's post was inspired by two things. First, this blog post from literary agent Suzie Townsend on cutting down a too-bloated word count. And second, the fact that I just hit 92,000 words on the first draft of my YA contemporary/adventure novel... that I was planning to keep around 70,000 words. 

During the editing process, I'm going to cut a few subplots, which will help some. But what about the little things that contribute to bloated word counts? They add up faster than you might think.

Here's a list of things to check when you're trying to get your word count down:

1. Redundant phrases, ideas, or thoughts. Example: "He flew forward in his chair." We presumably already know he's sitting in a chair, so the italicized part of the sentence is redundant and could be eliminated.

2. Unnecessary dialogue tags. If it's clear from context who's doing the speaking, you don't need a "he said." It's only two words, but what if you could cut one or two of these from every page? That adds up quickly over a 200-300 page manuscript.

3. Spelling things out for the reader. This goes back to the good old "show, don't tell" adage. If you show a character's fear through his reaction to innocent noises, there's no need to then tell the reader that he's feeling scared. This is an area where most writers can cut ruthlessly.
4. Descriptive words and phrases. Look for adjectives, adverbs, and overlong descriptions of minor characters or settings. Some specific words to watch out for: actually, basically, seemed, just, really. The nice thing is that it's easy to do a word search on modern word processors.

For more strategies on how to cut big chunks of your manuscript's word count, check out these great blog posts:

Lighten Up! Cutting Down Your Word Count from Janice Hardy's Fiction University

Monday, April 7, 2014

Villain of the Month: Elsa?

Last week I had a slumber party with my little nieces and finally saw the much-discussed Disney flick, Frozen. Instantly, I was compelled to read up on the screenwriter and original story. Apparently (according the very reliable Wikipedia) Disney had been unsuccessfully trying to find a way to work the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale The Snow Queen into a film, but the Snow Queen was a villain, and they were having a tough time humanizing her. 

Jennifer Lee
Enter Jennifer Lee. The talented co-writer on Wreck It Ralph had popped onto the Disney writing scene after going back to school (Columbia) when she was 30. After working on the Frozen script, she was moved up to a director credit, the first female director of an animated film at a major house. Under her hand, the powerful female "villain" became both not-so-villainous, and not-so-desperate for a man to take care of her (a much-mocked motif in earlier Disney films).

I think it's worthwhile to take a minute to appreciate the strength of the story behind the story here. 

Kudos (and thank you) to Jennifer Lee for taking the powerful-woman-is-villain cliche and turning it into a powerful-woman-is-hero ideal for kids today. 

And a lesson for all my lovely writer friends out there, by examining the villains of our society we expose the things we fear. Some of those cliche villains/fears are dark and horrible and need to remain the things we fear, but as writers, we have the opportunity to explore what it is actually most corrosive to our society. We have the opportunity to turn the cliche villains of oppression/voicelessness/etc. into omens of hope. And maybe I'm overstepping here, but as writers, I don't think it's just our opportunity, but our moral obligation.

Thanks again, Jennifer Lee.

If you have the time, I highly recommend reading some of her interviews. Fascinating person. From Pop Sugar:, with her co-director on Den of Geek, and if you want to watch CBS's take, here it is.

And I know I'm late to the party on this one so I'd love to hear all of your thoughts as well.