Late to the Game

Hello, evening! Where did the day go? It’s been a busy day off for me, full of running errands and volunteering at my son’s elementary school (vision screenings of third graders can fill a day like nobody’s business!). So I am a bit late to blogging, today.

The Very Superstitious blog tour continues, with a great review over on the Writer’s Alley blog. Check it out here!

And if you haven’t picked up a copy, you can grab one right here. Proceeds benefit SPCA International!

Sorry to be so brief, but it is rather frigid here in Wisconsin and I must return to my pseudo-hibernation beneath a pile of blankets.

And I Tweet!

It’s day two of being a published author, and I have to tell you, it’s pretty cool! It’s still hard to believe this has really happened, but I’m loving it! The blog tour continues here, here, and here. Check it out!

Join me tonight for a Twitter chat with my fellow Very Superstitious anthology authors, hosted by YA Lit Chat. Just follow along with #yalitchat, and you can ask questions, learn more about the anthology authors and our stories, and win some cool stuff! The chat starts at 9:00 PM EST.

And send me good vibes for swift fingers!

Anthology Launch

The day has arrived! I am now, officially, a published author!

My publisher, Month9Books, has released this year’s charity anthology, Very Superstitious: Myths, Legends and Tales of Superstition, which benefits SPCA International. My short story, Midhalla, is a creepy twist on the superstition surrounding opening umbrellas indoors.

It is a pleasure to be a part of an anthology that benefits a good cause, and to be included among the works of such fantastic authors!

And I’m published! Hooray!

So grab your copy today, and check out today’s stop on the blog tour, which can be found here.

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T-Minus One!

One week from today, I will be a published author! My short story, Midhalla, is part of this year’s Month9Books annual charity anthology, which releases October 15th. Proceeds from this year’s anthology, Very Superstitious: Myths, Legends and Tales of Superstition, will benefit SPCA International. 

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Head on over to Chapter by Chapter to check out the blog tour schedule! You can find it here.

One more week! And two more months until my debut novel, Life, A.D. hits the shelves!

 

 

Teaching and Learning

I’ve discovered a great new way to learn about writing and the craft of storytelling: teach it to fourth graders.

I recently volunteered to lead an afterschool club at my son’s school, and when they learned I am a soon-to-be-published author, they asked me to run a “storytelling” club.

Fun!

I jumped in with both feet, enthusiastic to share my love of writing with eager kids.

And then I realized I’d have to be organized, and detailed, submit a lesson plan each week, and find a way to keep a group of fourth graders occupied and engaged for an hour and a half, after a long day of school.

Gulp.

I started planning. Where to begin? What goes into storytelling? What are the fundamentals? I was all set to go with analyzing Harry Potter using Freytag’s five-part narrative structure. My husband (a few credits shy of his Master’s in education) felt I might have set my expectations a teensy bit too high.

So Aristotle’s beginning, middle, and end it would be. I was banking on all the kids being familiar with Harry Potter. I came up with games we could play, trying to discover ways to make my club as fun and relatable as possible. I had plenty of material to cover for my first session, I figured, so in I happily went in yesterday afternoon, ready to run my club like a pro!

Hitch in the road number one hit me before we even got started. All of the children gathered in the cafeteria for snack and recess before we were to go off to our clubs, and when my son (age five) realized he was not in my club…well, it got a bit ugly. Tears, wailing, begging to go home.

“But you’re in the Sports All-Stars Club!” I told him with great enthusiasm. “You get to play soccer!”

“Why don’t you want me in your club?” he wailed.

“We talked about this last night, and this morning, too,” I tried to explain. “My club is for older kids.”

“Don’t you want to be with me?” he sobbed.

Oh, boy.

Fortunately, his Kindergarten teacher is an absolute gem, and stayed with him until he calmed down, after I promised he only had to try his club just this once, and if he didn’t like it, he wouldn’t have to go again. “Because we made a commitment,” I told him as I left to sit across the cafeteria with my club.

Fast forward to club time. We get in our classroom, my eager students ready to go. And by eager, I mean…mostly. One boy was clearly there as a time-filler. “Do we have to do all this stuff?” he moaned as I asked them to circle up the chairs so we could have a group discussion. “This is dumb.”

I smiled and promised he’d have fun if he just gave it a try, and began to launch into my prepared speech about the fundamentals of storytelling. Not a complete sentence had passed my lips when four hands shot into the air.

“Are we going to be published?” asked one boy, beaming with excitement, practically bouncing out of his seat.

“Um, well, getting published is a long, complex process.” I told him. “We could self-publish our short stories in an anthology, if you’d like,” I offered.

Frowns.

“You mean we’re not going to get a publisher to put our stories in the bookstores?” he said.

“Well…”

You got a publisher, right?” asked the girl sitting next to him.

“I did. But it took a very long time.”

“How long?” she asked.

I thought for a moment. “I started writing my book in 2008, and worked on it off and on for a few years before really committing to writing it. I got my publishing offer last year. So that was four years.”

“That’s a long time,” chimed in another girl.

“It is,” I said with a nod. “Since you guys were in Kindergarten, right?”

This back and forth went on for a good half-hour before I got us back on track. We talked about Harry Potter; we discussed protagonists (main characters!), we talked about antagonists (Voldemort!) And they loved it. Hooray! I gave them Paul Bunyan stories I had printed out and cut up, and had them try and put the stories back together in the right order.

We played seven-word sentence in which we picked seven random letters and formed sentences. My favorite? GWRHAFC: George Washington rides horses and fights crocodiles.

And guess what?  Mister “this is dumb” had the most fun of all.

With the time we had left after games, I had the kids start to work on their short stories. I asked them to come up with their protagonist. Who is he or she? What do they like to do? Where do they live? What are their favorite foods? Who are their friends?

One of the girls asked me the name of my book, and the name of the anthology my short story is in. She ran off to a corner and began to work. When our time was up, she handed me this:

Image And my heart completely melted.

Yesterday I learned a lot, the most important point being this: if you can’t explain a subject to fourth graders, you probably don’t really understand it yourself. And if you talk to kids in a fun, relatable way, they will listen. What a great exercise in reflection and comprehension this was for me. I can safely say I got as much, probably more, out of our first club day as the kids did. I can’t wait for our next meeting.

You want to get better as a writer? Find an opportunity like this. You’ll learn so much.

And you might even get yourself a fan.

Hop on the Blog Train!

So here’s the latest thing in my orbit: blog tours.

Very Superstitious: Myths, Legends and Tales of Superstition, my publisher’s annual charity anthology, is about to be released. This means the contributing authors (including me!) are gearing up for the promotional blog tour.

This is all brand new territory to me. And it’s so cool! But it’s kind of weird, too. I mean, the guest blogging part, I get. It’s not a huge leap to go from the sporadic blogging of which I partake to a guest post on an awesome blog (or two).

However, a few nights ago I received my first interview questions. And that’s the weird part; the part I’m still trying to wrap my brain around. Someone wants to interview me, and other people will (presumably) want to read it.

So now I have to try and be interesting. I will do my best.

I have to tell you, it’s pretty cool being the wide-eyed optimist, seeing the publishing world for the first time. Granted, being the successful, veteran author sounds extremely appealing, but I am content to enjoy the ride that is new-authordom, and take in all the sights.

Stay tuned, and be sure to add Very Superstitious to your “want to read” shelf on Goodreads! This year, the anthology benefits SPCA International.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18157997-very-superstitious

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The Pressure’s On

The road to publication is long, to be sure. From inspiration to printed page, the journey can span years. For me, the goal is growing nearer, no longer a dot on the horizon. What began as a glimmer of an idea that came to me in 2006 is now an actual book, just a few short months from hitting the shelves.

It seems I learn something new about publishing on a near-daily basis.

What I’ve just learned is that the going is slow until it isn’t.

Huh?

What I mean is, the time seems to crawl along, until one day when it hits you: I will be published, soon. Everything seems to speed up, and your brain (if you’re anything like me) goes into super freak-out mode.

In less than one month, the short story I wrote for my publisher’s annual charity anthology will be out, and come December 10th, my debut novel, Life, A.D. will hit the shelves!

This. Is. Awesome.

And a bit scary.

Review copies of Very Superstitious are going out, bringing me to freak-out point number one: People I don’t know are/will very soon be reading my short story.

I know.

You’re thinking, but isn’t that the POINT of publishing?

Yes, it is.

But now that it’s actually happening, it’s a bit intimidating.

I’ve always written for more than just myself. From the start, I’ve written with an audience in mind, picturing the reader following along, and, hopefully, getting swept up in the worlds I’ve created.

And now I will actually have an audience. Large or small, a multitude or a few, people will be reading what I’ve written.

And all I can do is wait and hope. Hope that the work I’ve put in will pay off, and that the words I’ve written are satisfying and engaging. Hope that I did enough, that I won’t let my readers down, that they will fall in love with my characters like I have. Hope that my publisher was right to put their faith in me.

No pressure like the kind that’s self-inflicted, right?

But I know how lucky I am. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I’m Baaaaack!

Hello!

My absence from blogging (let’s call it a sabbatical, shall we? It sounds more dignified that way) might give the impression that I’ve vanished, but, in fact, I’m just a soon-to-be published author who is…not so great…at taking on all that encompasses. You see, getting a publishing deal, especially a multi-book deal, doesn’t mean you can just kick back and say “Whew! Done!” It’s more like “And now the real work begins!” There are rewrites, edits, sequels to write…the list goes on. And on. It’s awesome. And scary. And nerve-wracking. And awesome.

Not that I’m complaining, because wouldn’t that be obnoxious? I count my lucky stars every day, and as my release now makes its rapid approach, I find myself still in awe of how incredibly fortunate I am to have this opportunity.

So now I’m gearing up for the “What the heck do I do now?” phase of my publishing journey. I have to get myself out there. Schedule signings and appearances, start helping with the promotion of my book, figure out how many ARCs I’ll actually need, come up with contests and giveaways…

And blog. My poor, neglected blog.

So here I am, with a promise that I will, starting now, get back into the swing of things.

There are lots of exciting things to come, so I hope you’ll join me!

R.I.P. Dez

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This is an odd day for me.

When I wrote the first words of what would become my debut novel, Life, A.D., I clicked on the little calendar that hangs out on my taskbar, looked ahead a couple of years, and chose April 13th, 2013. And here it is.

I don’t remember exactly why I zeroed in on this particular date, but it must have been a combination of factors.

For one, spring is underway, in its early, tantalizing state with the promise of warm days to come. It’s a time of renewal and rebirth, a vivid backdrop for what I had planned.

Another factor must have been its close proximity to the end of the school year. For graduating seniors, it’s a time when everything is finally coming together. Adulthood lies just ahead; college, independence, the future you’ve been planning—it’s all there on the near horizon.

For my protagonist, Dez Donnelly, today is the day that changes everything.

It’s the day she dies.

I recently visited the remote stretch of road, not far from my house, where the scene has always played out in my mind. I stopped the car, got out, and took some photos. I crouched down on the shoulder of the road and put my hand to the ground, letting the cold seep into my fingers. And I thought of Dez.

It was quiet, remote, and lonely. There was not another car or person to be seen. But for the birds in the trees, I was completely alone, just as she was while life slipped from her grasp. I thought about how those final moments must have been for her. In my mind I was torn between thoughts of she isn’t even a real person, and sorrow.

That same day, still a bit shaken by this odd experience, I sent the photo to my publisher with the title RIP Dez. She replied quickly, expressing how sad it made her. We were both surprised by our reaction to the photo, and to my experience.

It’s funny how this young woman, a creation of my imagination, could take up residence in our hearts like she has.

So today I think of her, as I never really had before. This semi-randomly chosen date has arrived, and Dez has an incredible journey ahead of her.

My publisher, Month9Books, has given their kind permission for me to share this exclusive sneak-peek of my debut novel, Life, A.D., coming December 2013.

The world around me is fuzzy.

I’m lying on the ground, and my face is wet. I blink. Drawing in a shot of frigid air, I shudder at the sensation of a million needles in my throat. Pain sets fire to my leg, and shoots up my spine. My left arm is numb, useless. And my right arm is—gone? Mangled?

I don’t know.

Don’t panic. The fear grows and festers, running toxic through my bloodstream like a virus.

My breath comes in short, desperate gasps, which grow strained with each inhalation. The drumbeat rhythm of my heart pounds against my chest, sending mini-shockwaves to my fingers and toes.

A gentle breeze kisses my cheek, turning my thoughts to Aaron.

I jerk my head off the ground. A scream escapes my lips as burning pain engulfs my every molecule. I fight to move. My unresponsive limbs refuse to help me shift position.

I need help.

Thoughts drift through my mind, pulling me in a thousand directions. Panic steals my concentration and threatens to drag me away. I cry out, fighting against hopelessness. My own distant echo bouncing back at me is the only reply.

Blackness creeps into the edges of my vision, sending my labored breathing into overdrive.

I’m going to die here.

“Somebody, please…” I gag on blood and saliva. My voice is unrecognizable, deep and gurgling.

Where am I?

I lift my head again, fighting against the pain and panic in a frantic effort to get my bearings. I’m lying on the side of the road by a forest. Only the tiniest of buds peek from the trees and shrubs, and after staring at them for a bit, I swear I can see them shiver. I, too, tremble, cold and shaken.

A chickadee sings out its springtime call from a nearby tree, whistling “sweet weather,” and waiting for a reply. A crunch of snow from the nearby forest signals a passing animal, its footfalls soft, cautious.

Frost is still rooted in the ground, and the sky refuses to allow sunshine through the thick layer of haze above. There is a freshness to the air. Renewal, is it? That must be what people mean when they say “it smells like spring.”

The deserted stretch of highway offers little hope; the animals and forest the only witnesses as life slips from my grasp.

No one is coming.

The black advances. My vision retreats. I’m getting colder, the numbness spreading down my body from my arms.

The sound of my ringtone snaps me back to reality. Where’s my phone? My teeth clench in agony. I manage to turn my head.

How did I get here?

The phone is well out of reach—ten feet or so away, ringing despite being under the crumpled remains of the overturned car. What’s left of my mangled right arm flops into view. My mind retreats, resisting the image—twisted, bloodied, the flesh ripped from the visible bones of my forearm.

My outstretched fingers refuse to budge, even to escape the slow-motion pool of red creeping toward them.

My ragged breathing accelerates, my heart races, and I do something I’ve never done before: I pray.

Stay calm.

Survive.

The sound of a distant whistle breaks through my raspy, disjointed plea for mercy, for life.

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