Saturday, November 1, 2014

MURDER OF MAGPIES Bloghop, Interview and Giveaway!

Displaying A-Murder-of-Magpies-Cover.pngHappy belated Halloween, everyone! What better way to celebrate Halloween than by sharing an exciting new release with a murderous theme? I'm excited to introduce you all to Sarah Bromley's debut novel A MURDER OF MAGPIES. I had the opportunity to ask Sarah a few questions about her writing process, her debut, and her words of wisdom for those of us still in the trenches. Hope you enjoy the interview, and don't forget to scroll to the bottom for a chance to win a copy!

How long did it take you to write A MURDER OF MAGPIES from start to finish?

It was roughly five or six months from start to finish, but I’ve revised it a number of times over the years to make it the story I always wanted it to be.

What was the inspiration for your story?

I have Romani on my mother’s side of the family, so certainly some of the superstitions I grew up with were part of the inspiration, and I’m fascinated by psychic abilities. All the women in my family have a kind of weird intuition about things and are very empathic, we tend to be able to feel things and know things we shouldn’t. It’s very odd, and that certainly played into developing Vayda and Jonah’s Mind Games.

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

It’s hard to pinpoint because there’s no one who looks exactly like what’s in my head, and what’s in my head won’t be what’s in a reader’s head. But when I have to pick, Ariel Winter from “Modern Family” is very Vayda-like and Landon Liboiron from “Hemlock Grove” is close to what I had in my mind for Ward.

Where's your favorite place to write?

I have two places: one is the screened-in porch behind my house where I can be outside, shaded, and stare at the woods, and the other is the antique desk I’ve rehabbed in my office. It’s covered with oddities like Victorian spectacles and poison bottles. I share my office with my daughter’s guinea pig, Annabel Lee, and there’s almost always one of my three dogs with me.

The cover is fantastic. 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? ;-)

Thank you! I love the cover and stare at it way more than I should! Early on, I was able to give input in some of the key themes of the book, and the designer came up with something that captures the overall atmosphere in the story. I ultimately picked the font from the ones we were kicking around. It’s rare to have some input, and I’d actually been an art student in college during my first semester, so I was thrilled.

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

Oh, Lord, yes. I put aside projects when I think I’ve learned what I was supposed to from them. Sometimes a story just doesn’t work. Sometimes it’s not the right time or market. Sometimes you don’t have the skill yet to tackle such a big idea … and the awesome thing about writing is that you can keep working at it and improving, maybe even come back to a project. I’m a very gut-based writer, so if it doesn’t “feel” right or the rhythm is somehow off, I can sense it.

I see you're represented by Miriam Kriss of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency. How long did you query, and how did you know she was "the one?"

I queried one book for roughly nine months before setting it aside after a disastrous revise and resubmit that I felt hurt the book’s integrity. Then I wrote a new book and queried it for about three months before my agent requested the full manuscript. Eleven days later, she emailed me to offer representation. It’s been four years, and I can’t imagine trusting my word gremlins to anyone else. Miriam is incredibly savvy, and she’s her authors’ biggest advocate. There’s such a level of trust and respect that needs to be present in an agent-author relationship, and we just clicked better than I did with any of the other agents.

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

You must have persistence and faith that your work is good and keep trying for it. Be open to criticism but incorporate only changes that truly resonate with you.

What did you learn from the publication process that surprised you?
How important it is to have author friends who have gone through this already because they are a steadying source of calm when you feel nervous. And you will be nervous. And elated. And grateful for the chance to have a dream made reality.

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

Thank you for having me!

Title: A Murder of Magpies
Publication date: October 28, 2014
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Sarah Bromley

Winter in Black Orchard, Wisconsin, is long and dark, and sixteen-year-old Vayda Silver prays the snow will keep the truth and secrecy of the last two years buried. Hiding from the past with her father and twin brother, Vayda knows the rules: never return to the town of her mother’s murder, and never work a Mind Game where someone might see.

No one can know the toll emotions take on Vayda, how emotion becomes energy in her hands, or how she can’t control the destruction she causes. But it’s not long before her powers can no longer be contained. The truth is dangerously close to being exposed, placing Vayda and her family at risk.

Until someone quiets the chaos inside her.

Unwanted. That’s all Ward Ravenscroft has ever been. To cope, he numbs the pain of rejection by denying himself emotions of any kind. Yet Vayda stirs something in him. He can’t explain the hold she has on him–inspiring him with both hope and fear. He claims not to scare easily, except he doesn’t know what her powers can do. Yet.

Just as Vadya and Ward draw closer, she finds the past isn’t so easily buried. And when it follows the Silvers to Black Orchard, it has murder in mind.


Displaying Sarah Bromley.jpgSarah Bromley lives near St. Louis with her husband, three children, and two dogs. She likes the quiet hours of morning when she can drink coffee in peace, stare into the woods behind her house, and wonder what monsters live there. When she’s not writing or wrangling small children, she can be found volunteering at a stable for disabled riders.

Link to raffle copter here

Monday, October 27, 2014

What's in a List

Can't believe how time flies and it's almost four months since I gave birth to the wee one.  Now I'm counting down the days till I go back to work which does unfortunately consist of some commute time. 

So, while I'm sad to leave the baby a few days a week (although in the perfectly capable hands of his grandma), I'm looking forward to the quiet time I'll have in the car and the many books on tape I'll devour. 

So the big dilemma now is..what to read? If you have any suggestions, please feel free to leave it in the comments section.  In the meantime, here are a few lists of "favourite books" that I found interesting.  

While they're not focused on YA, I think they do offer a window into how a few great minds think - and enjoy their spare time. 

Steve Jobs, Apple, Founder - Reading List (in no particular order)

1. King Lear by William Shakespeare
2. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
3. The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas by Dylan Thomas
4. Be Here Now by Ram Dass
5. Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe
6. Muculess Diet Healing System by Arnold Ehret
7. Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda
8. Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
9. The Innovator's Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen

Elon Musk, Tesla & SpaceX, Founder - Reading List (in no particular order)

1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
3. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson
4. Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson
5. Structures: Or Why Things Don't Fall Down by J.E. Gordon
6. Ignition! An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants by John D. Clark
7. Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom
8. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel
9. Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele

Finally, we have to have some YA influence - here's a list of books recommended by John Green (again in no particular order).  

1. The Uglies Series by Scott Westerfeld
2. Matched Trilogy by Ally Condie
3. Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth
4. The Book Thief by Markuz Zusak
5. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
6. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by A. Conan Doyle

For the complete list from John Green, click here

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Lessons on Writing I Learned from James Joyce

While the rest of the world may know it's fall because leaves are changing, I know it's fall because I'm teaching Joyce to my AP Literature class (and I have lighted a beloved "leaf" scented candle from Bath & Body Works). Since I'm in the Joyce mood, here are five of my favorite tricks the master stylist used you may want to play with if you're stuck in a rut or want to force more depth into your work.

1. The gnomon (often seen through his use of ellipses). At the start of Dubliners, he introduces the Euclidian term without definition, but it's a term/technique he'll use throughout the rest of that work and others. The gnomon is the shaded piece of the sundial. It's the missing piece that defines everything. The moment one person says "I love you" for the first time, and then ...

Joyce really understood how what is not said may be far more powerful than what is said, and uses ellipses to force the reader to...

2. Recurring motifs. While most writers will riff off a few motifs running throughout a work, Joyce composes symphonies. Each time a motif is brought back, a new layer of depth/complexity is added, and with so many motifs running simultaneously with their own arcs throughout a work (In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man there are probably hundreds from birds, to Priests, to Romantic poets, to the color green, to...) the symphony is constructed and subtle complexity is achieved. 

3. Euphony. The final passage of "The Dead" in Dubliners might be the most beautiful one ever written (if you haven't read it, do yourself a favor and read it!), and so much of that beauty is derived from its long vowel and repeated soft consonants. It's not just that it sounds pretty that matters, though, it's the placement. The story "The Dead" is a condemnation of Ireland's full political paralysis and what better way to leave the reader than to have been lulled to sleep himself. At the end of the second chapter of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the euphony takes on a different purpose. After a first establishing shot of a garden in the chapter, and a number of references to anticipating a falling away of innocence, the end of the chapter happens when protagonist is losing his virginity to a prostitute and the passage becomes engulfed with the soft s's not unlike the hiss of a snake. Brilliant, Joyce, so brilliant to drive home the final blow of a garden of Eden allusion with such temptingly euphonious hissing.

4. Perspective/voice. In the collection of short stories Joyce uses to talk about Dublin's gradual loss of power, he begins in first person and after a selling out scene, he uses third person, removing the voice of the person and putting it in the hands of another. In his loose autobiography, Joyce uses a third-person that grows with the protagonist as though he's suggesting that there is no "all knowing" voice outside of oneself. He ends with diary entries once the character establishes his own "voice."

5. Structure. In Ulysses, Joyce overlays the structure/plot of The Odyssey/Ulysses onto an ordinary man on an ordinary day in Dublin. Brilliant. In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man he uses a chiasmus structure (ABCCBA) alluding to Biblical poetry, but also allowing for commentary on growth each time a scene is mirrored and a chance to put silence in the center to suggest that silence is the ultimate mirror. Such a cool perspective on an auto-biography. In Dubliners, he takes unconnected stories of average Dubliners to show the gradual loss of power/hope of the city--talking about political strategy via an ordinary domestic abuse victim (Eveline)--brilliant. Finnegan's Wake, too, in its re-telling of all the other stories in various forms driving home the repeated motif idea of our lives as a series of stories we're constantly re-telling/revising as we go. He's a master. End of story. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Writer's Resource: Revision and Editing Tips and Tricks From The Publishing World

When revising, it's easy to become desensitized to the words on the screen and miss typos.  Especially if you're writing from the same device, day after day, using the same font style and size.  While typos might not seem like a big deal, they can be the difference between coming across as a professional writer and coming across as an aspiring writer.  So before you hit send on that next partial or full request, here are a few tips and tricks to help you spot errors.

1. Review your manuscript on a different device.  

This will shake you out of your comfort zone and help you spot errors that you otherwise might have missed.  If you write on a desk top, consider reviewing on your ereader or tablet.  If you write on a tablet, shake it up and review from your phone.

2. Change the font.

Your eyes may be numb to your standard Times New Roman 12pt, so when proofing consider increasing to 14pt, change the color, or switch to Courier or another font you're less accustomed to.

3.  Read aloud. 

This is a great way to spot missing words that your mind auto-fills when reading.  It will also help you spot awkward sentences and unnatural dialogue.  Consider doing this with a critique partner for additional input.

4.  Increase the margin size.

You'll reduce the words on the page, which will make it easier for your brain to focus.

5. Highlight the text or add a background color.

Similar to changing the font color, changing the color around the font will shake up the way your brain processes the words.

6. Leverage text-to-speak software and apps. (Hint: the iPhone comes with one!)

Like reading aloud, this will help you find missing words and awkward sentences.  It's also a great option for people with long work commutes, as you can listen during your writing downtime and see how your story pacing is progressing.  Even better is that anyone with an iOS 5 already has text-to-speak capabilities.  Here is a handy video that shows you how to activate it.

7. Take a looong break.

You've heard me preach about the benefits of taking a Ross-and-Rachel-style break from manuscripts before, so I won't harp too much on this. But taking time away from a story will help you shake off your comfort with the words so you can spot the errors you previously read right through.

8.  Use beta readers and critique partners.

Another set of eyes is always a must before you send anything off to an agent or editor.

9. Only edit one chapter a day.

Avoid power-revising, and instead give yourself longer stretches of time to process fewer words.  Scour vs. skim. Your brain will thank you.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Taking Inspiration from Great First Lines

Did you know that Stephen King spends months, even years writing the first few lines of his novels? (Read the article in The Atlantic here.)

One of the things King says in the interview is this: "But there's one thing I'm sure about. An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this."

Just about every literary agent and editor I've ever heard speak agrees that first lines are vitally important in the modern literary world. This article from The Telegraph theorizes that this is largely due to the distractions of technology and the ability to "drop" a book and download another instantly if the first one doesn't grab you immediately.

So how do you make sure the first lines of your manuscript hook your readers? One of the best ways is to study examples of great ones from literature. Lines like "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." (1984) and "Marley was dead: to begin with." (A Christmas Carol) grab the reader instantly—you want to read on to find out why that would be, or why that would have been said like that. Check out an extensive list of great first lines here on Pub(lishing) Crawl.

If you need help getting your own first lines into shape, here are some online resources that may help: