Archive by Author

Interview with Shelli Johannes, author of UNTRACEABLE + GIVEAWAY!

30 Nov

by Susan Dennard

You might have seen my book review for Untraceable on Sunday. If not, read it. This book is impressive–and its author, Shelli Johannes, is quite possibly even more impressive.

Why do I have such glowing praise for Shelli? Because she’s done something a lot of us are too scared to do: she has indie-published her debut novel.

But more importantly than that, Shelli has indie-published it right. She has approached it as a professional author who knows the industry, knows what readers want, and knows how to tell a damn good story.

If you want to hear more about her amazing and empowering journey, I suggest reading her blog series on it (which begins here). I was lucky enough to get an interview with Shelli about her publication process, and all I can say is: WOW. She is an inspiration to us all.

When you started writing Untraceable, what was the inspiration behind it?  A dream? A musical clip? Plain, old-fashioned brainstorming?

My husband came home one day from being in the remote woods for the weekend and said, “I was so far out–a terrorist camp could set up there and no one would ever know.”

The story started out called Grace Under Fire. And it was about terrorist cells in the wilderness (hides face from embarrassment). Years later, I got rid of the terrorist camp but kept Grace and the wilderness.

It actually came in the quarterfinals in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award of 2009. 1 of only 7 thrillers to make the list.

Wow–I did not know that about the Breakthrough Award! (Can’t say I’m surprised either ;)) And what a COOL way for a story to start…mine are always lame dreams, so I’m totally jealous.

What was the biggest challenge for you while writing UNTRACEABLE? 

Editing it. Back in 09, I remember agents HATING the terrorist angle but loving Grace and the overall setting (go figure :)) so I had to go back to the drawing board and rewrite the entire plot from scratch. I did that more than once. But that time was the hardest.

You’re taking a different, unique path for getting your book out there, and you’re really showing other writers how self-publish in a professional, and reader-focused manner. It’s obvious you care about your readers more than making some quick cash. When and why did you decide to indie-publish?

For a few reasons:

  1. I was tired of people telling me a contemporary thriller would not sell well to teens.
  2. I wanted to see if I could do it on my own and learn more about publishing process in general.
  3. I thought it would be fun to create my own thing my own way.

Because I was scared everyone would think I suck, I decided to blog about the process openly – the ups and the downs to see if I could help others decide if indie pubbing was right for them.

I also hear so much about the stigma of indie/self pubbing. I wanted to break through that barrier and create a high quality product I was proud of and show people that you can do it the right way.

Yeah, I think that stigma is starting to fade as more and more writers with high-quality stories take that route. All I can say is: GOOD FOR YOU! For having the courage and the determination to do this the “right way”.

Is there anything that, in hindsight, you wish you had done differently with UNTRACEABLE–either in the writing or publication process?

I’m having so much fun I wish I had done this a long time ago. I wish I had skipped all the unnecessary anxiety. But I believe everything happens for a reason and I am where I am supposed to be.

Too true–I’m a firm believer of that as well. What’s your next writing project? And do you think you’ll continue on the self-publication path with it?

I have a special edition of Untraceable coming out in Jan/Feb with a different ending. And I am putting out Grace 2 – called Uncontrollable early next summer.

Beyond that – I’m not sure. I have manuscripts that have almost been bought on my shelf. Who knows maybe I’ll pull another one out.

But I am writing a WIP that I would like to get an agent for down the road. I love the traditional pubbing process so I hope to do both someday when I am ready to jump back in the pit.

I think it’s so awesome that you’re interested in both approaches and that you want to try to tackle both. I would love to as well…one day…when I’m not so lazy.;) Honestly, though, writing all these books and self-promoting–it must take a lot of perseverance and hard work. What’s a typical writing day for you? 

I drop off my daughter at school around 8 and then hang with my son until I drop him off at preschool at 9. I spend about an hour on the Internet with emails, twitter, Facebook, catching up on blogs etc. I usually write from about 10-12ish. Then I catch up on emails again before I get my son at 1.

But this is not how it is all the time. Especially not right now.

Right now, I imagine your life is wrapped up in UNTRACEABLE promotion. In your spare time, though, what are you reading?

Just finished The Pledge by Kimberly Derting and Fracture by Megan Miranda.

And any final words of advice or inspiration? 

Don’t give up. Let go of you ego. And follow your heart.

Leave a comment below for a chance to win not only an ebook of Untraceable, but also a copy of Escape Velocity and an ARC of Promise the Night.

It’s open internationally, and we’ll announce our giveaway winner on FRIDAY! ALONG WITH OUR BIG NEWS!

And Monday’s giveaway winner (for a copy of PRETTY BONES) is

Nicole Steinhaus!

Email us at letthewordsflowblog (at) gmail (d0t) com with your mailing address!

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DARKER STILL Giveaway Winner!

24 Nov

Happy (American) Thanksgiving!

If you haven’t heard yet, we have BIG NEWS coming on the very near horizon. To build up the excitement for you guys, we’ll be wrapping up November with a bunch of giveaways!! ARCS galore!!

So keep your eyes peeled for the next one!

Now, to announce the winner of an ARC of Leanna Renee Hieber’s deliciously dark and romantic novel, Darker Still!

Kairee-Anne!!

Email us  letthewordsflowblog (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and we’ll ship this ARC to you ASAP!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

the ladies at Let the Words Flow

Big News Giveaway #2: DARKER STILL by Leanna Hieber

22 Nov

Hi everyone! It’s time for our second blog giveaway in preparation for our BIG NEWS.

Today, we’re giving away an ARC of Leanna  Renee Hieber’s DARKER STILL, the first book in the MAGIC MOST FOUL series.

Here’s the story:

The Picture of Dorian Gray meets Pride and Prejudice, with a dash of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

New York City, 1882. Seventeen-year-old Natalie Stewart’s latest obsession is a painting of the handsome British Lord Denbury. Something in his striking blue eyes calls to her. As his incredibly life-like gaze seems to follow her, Natalie gets the uneasy feeling that details of the painting keep changing…

Jonathan Denbury’s soul is trapped in the gilded painting by dark magic while his possessed body commits unspeakable crimes in the city slums. He must lure Natalie into the painting, for only together can they reverse the curse and free his damaged soul.

Sounds pretty freaking good, no? ALL YOU HAVE TO DO is

leave a comment for a chance to win!

🙂

It’s open internationally, and we’ll announce the winner on Thursday. Also, stay tuned for our next giveaway!

TEMPEST Winner!

18 Nov

Happy Friday!

If you didn’t read the post Wednesday, we have BIG NEWS coming on the very near horizon. To build up the excitement for you guys (‘cos WE’RE already excited!!), we’ll be doing a bunch of giveaways for the rest of this month!! ARCS galore!!

So keep your eyes peeled for the next one–it starts TODAY on Twitter. All you have to do is retweet about the giveaway to be entered! NOT HARD, huh?

Just head here and RETWEET!

Now, to announce the winner of an ARC of Julie Cross’s highly anticipated novel, Tempest!

Danielle!

Email us  letthewordsflowblog (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and we’ll ship this ARC to you ASAP!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

the ladies at Let the Words Flow

The Art of REwriting

9 Nov

by Susan Dennard

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It’s NaNoWriMo month.

In other words, it is currently hell-on-earth for many writers around the globe. A self-induced hell that anyone who isn’t participating in just CAN’T UNDERSTAND.

Yes, we clearly enjoy torture, but no, we are not insane. (Though, ask again in 3 weeks…)

Anyway, the purpose of this post is to soothe the minds of worried first-drafters. Everyone will tell you this (including Vahini, here on LTWF), and all I can do is reiterate:

It is okay to write crappy first draft.

In fact, we’re all expecting you too…because so will we.

And, if I’m REALLY HONEST with you, then I’ll just go ahead and share a little secret:

I’m a really bad writer.

Like, downright dreadful.

Here’s a quote that pretty much embodies me:

“More than half, maybe as much as two-thirds of my life as a writer is rewriting. I wouldn’t say I have a talent that’s special. It strikes me that I have an unusual kind of stamina.”

~John Irving

This is so, so, so me.

My first drafts are riddled with long pages of backstory and slow, unnecessary scenes in which characters (i.e. me) get to know each other. Every piece of dialogue has a tag–many of which are “snapped”, “hissed”, and “growled” (my characters, it would seem, are easily annoyed).

My first drafts are so bad, in fact, that I would rather be paper cut to death than share them with anyone. I’m serious–no one reads my first drafts. In fact, my crit partners are usually eyeballing third or even fourth drafts. It’s not just that I’m self-conscious about my prose–it’s that I am perfectly aware I can’t write well.

The issue is that my first drafts come out fast. We’re talking all my first drafts are NaNo-worthy, month-long passions of speed-typing.

I usually have a strong idea of the primary external plot, but I have zilch for my subplots or resonance. And as I write, my Muse strikes me with ideas for clever (or sometimes not-so-clever) threads to weave in.

By the time I finally reach the end of my book, the manuscript is what I (lovingly) like to as one giant clusterf***.

But you know what? That’s okay…

Because, by golly, I am one hell of a REwriter.

Just take a look at these massacred pages from the very first REwrite of Something Strange and Deadly. (It was still in third person! HOW WEIRD.)

Ah, but one REwrite wasn’t enough. Here’s the same section during round 2 of a total REwrite:

So let’s lay out some ground rules about rewriting–some things you might want to come back to when NaNoWriMo wraps up and you find yourself crying maniacally in the corner.

The first key to rewriting is to NOT STRESS. You may have a disaster on your hands, but you can always, always clean that up.

You have a story now (something you didn’t have when you began). All you have to do is take what you wrote and make it WHAT YOU WANTED TO WRITE.

If you want to see why stress is a killer, then read this hilarious post by author Libba Bray. My favorite line?

…then Tim comes in, takes a look at the dirt and staples all over you, your bloodshot eyes and borderline psychotic grin, puts his finger to his mouth in a thoughtful way and says, “I’m concerned.” And you say, “No, Tim, it’ll all work out—I swear!” And you staple some fertilizer to the floor and laugh.

The second key to rewriting is to STAY ORGANIZED. Go in with a plan and that messy first draft will seem way less scary.

You are gonna TACKLE THIS BEAST TO THE GROUND, GOSH DARNIT.

Plus, if you need help figuring that “plan stuff” out, well, I’ve got an entire revisions series that you can work through.

The third and final key to rewriting is BICHOK. Get your Butt In that Chair, your Hands On that Keyboard (or pen, if you’re like me…making it BICHOP) and work! You need to max out your stamina and determination for all they’re worth.

Because eventually and with enough hard labor (and possibly tears–those have been known to happen), you can turn any horrible first draft into a masterpiece.

I mean, just look at what my tattered pages above became:

Yeah, that’s an ARC of my book–an ARC of my REwritten, multi-revised (at least 8 times by the end…probably more), crappy-first-draft-in-a-month BOOK.

And with a little elbow grease and drive, you, my friends, can do the same.

So what about you? Do you write clean first drafts or rely on re-writing to get your novel where it needs to be?

Story Threads and Resonance

17 Oct

by Susan Dennard

~~

Note:

This post has been UPDATED

and re-posted on

Pub(lishing) Crawl!

~~

Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. Her debut novel, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, is now available from HarperTeen. You can learn more about her on her blog or twitter.

Interview with Kiki Hamilton, author of THE FAERIE RING

3 Oct

by Susan Dennard

Guys, I am SO incredibly excited to be able to share this interview with you. Kiki gives some fantastic, thought-provoking answers, and…well…I haven’t exactly hidden the fact that I’m totally fangirling over her novel, The Faerie Ring.

If you want to read my review of this fantastic addition to YA fantasy, head here. Otherwise, onwards to the interview!

So, Kiki, when you started writing THE FAERIE RING, which came first for you: the characters or the plot?

The characters came to me first. Tiki was there and I knew she was a pickpocket. After she stole the Queen’s ring I suddenly thought – what if somebody else wanted the ring? And that’s when the faeries showed up.

Wow, I had the same experience with my own characters–they came first, and then I built in the plot. Very cool. When you sat down to write the novel, what was the biggest challenge for you?

To be honest, there wasn’t a hard part. The story just fell out of my head onto the page and I had to type as fast as I could to keep up!!!! However, I’ve had hard parts in other stories and there are a couple of things I do: 1) keep writing and see if I can get the momentum going again and figure I’ll fix any problems in revision. 2) Think up the worst possible thing that can happen to my main character and throw it in there, or 3) figure out where I got stuck – sometimes plots will take a wrong turn and if you go back and eliminate a scene, you can get things moving again.

Um, okay, I’m officially jealous. My first drafts are like giving birth…for 30+ days straight.  Once you had a finished book, what was your journey to publication like?

I think my experience has been pretty typical. THE FAERIE RING was actually my second book. An agent had requested a partial of my first book and I wrote TFR while I waited for her response. She asked for a revision on my first book and I mentioned I’d written a second book so she said send both back. At that point, (November 2008) the agent (Kate Schafer Testerman) offered to represent me and she went out first with THE FAERIE RING. We got close several times but it took about nine months to find the *right* editor at Tor.

And what a great fit it was! The end product for THE FAERIE RING was fantastic!  Now, as an eager fangirl, I have to know: What’s your next writing project?

I just finished writing a YA contemporary called THE LAST DANCE. That one just fell out of my head onto the page too. So much fun to write! I will probably write book 3 of THE FAERIE RING series this winter and I’m halfway through a historical kind-of steampunk fantasy right now.

Historical steampunk. Clearly you and I were meant to hang out at some point (I don’t mean that in a creepy fan-stalker way…er…not completely, at least). As a fellow historical/steampunk/fantasy writer, I am very curious what a typical writing day looks like for you?

It varies. I have to spend a lot more time with marketing now, so that takes up an enormous chunk of my day. Also, I’m a mom to a teenage girl so I spend a lot of time with her. Plus the cooking ,cleaning, laundry business. Yuk. But I write something almost every day – seven days a week. I do that instead of watch TV.

ME TOO! No TV, and 7 days a week of work. (I stand by my hanging-out declaration!) Do you have a critique partner or beta reader?

Yes, I have a couple of people who I trade manuscripts with.

As do most professionals, I think. And, when do you decide your book is ready for your agent’s/editor’s eyes?

It depends on the feedback I get from my crit partners. If their suggestions aren’t huge, then I know I’m close.

That’s a pretty good approach, methinks. So, now that I’ve finished THE FAERIE RING and am searching for my next read, I have to know: what are YOU reading?

I’m reading an ARC of Laini Taylor’s DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE.

ACK! That’s at the top of my TBR list! (These similarities are uncanny, Kiki. ;)) Now, before we wrap this interview up, do you have any final words of advice or inspiration?

If writing is your dream than you can never give up. The industry is VERY competitive and you have to go into it knowing that rejection is not personal. It will take time to sell your book. You might not sell your first book. (I didn’t.) One editor / agent will love a story and the next won’t. It’s subjective. But stick to it and write for the love of telling a story. There’s a lot to learn about writing and you will be well-served to take classes, join critique groups and attend writing conferences. Always be open to revising to improve the story and never give up!!

Ain’t that the truth? Never give up, never surrender! (Any Galaxy Quest fans out there? Anyone, anyone?)

Thank you so much, Kiki, for taking the time out of your busy, laundry/cooking/writing-filled life ( 😉 ) to answer my questions, and I can’t wait to more of your books in stores. (Um, and more Rieker–can you possibly give me some more of him too?)

AND NOW, to announce our giveaway winners…

Yeah, you read that right. I said winnerS, plural. There was such an overwhelming response to our giveaway last Friday, we decided to hand out TWO copies of The Faerie Ring. Because we had several people with the same name leave comments, we’ve put the date and comment time in parentheses.

And the winners are:

Amity (10/2 4:10 PM)

and

Victoria (9/30 8:04 AM)

Thanks to everyone who participated, and will the winners please email susan (at) susandennard (dot) com with their mailing addresses.

~~~

Kiki Hamilton is the debut author of The Faerie Ring (Tor Teen, 2011), and you can find out more about her on her blog, twitter, or facebook.

Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She is repped by Sara Kendall of NCLit, and her debut, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, will be available from Harper Children’s in 2012. You can learn more about her on her blog or twitter.

Giveaway! Win a copy of THE FAERIE RING!

30 Sep

To prepare for an upcoming interview with author Kiki Hamilton, we’re giving away a copy of her debut YA fantasy, THE FAERIE RING!

Debut novelist Kiki Hamilton takes readers from the gritty slums and glittering ballrooms of Victorian London to the beguiling but menacing Otherworld of the Fey in this spellbinding tale of romance, suspense, and danger. 

The year is 1871, and Tiki has been making a home for herself and her family of orphans in a deserted hideaway adjoining Charing Cross Station in central London. Their only means of survival is by picking pockets. One December night, Tiki steals a ring, and sets off a chain of events that could lead to all-out war with the Fey. For the ring belongs to Queen Victoria, and it binds the rulers of England and the realm of Faerie to peace. With the ring missing, a rebel group of faeries hopes to break the treaty with dark magic and blood—Tiki’s blood.

Unbeknownst to Tiki, she is being watched—and protected—by Rieker, a fellow thief who suspects she is involved in the disappearance of the ring. Rieker has secrets of his own, and Tiki is not all that she appears to be. Her very existence haunts Prince Leopold, the Queen’s son, who is driven to know more about the mysterious mark that encircles her wrist.

Prince, pauper, and thief—all must work together to secure the treaty…

I (Sooz) have read it, and let me tell you guys: it’s awesome. I’ll have a full review coming on Sunday on my personal blog, but the general lowdown is this:

This is one of those books you want to read curled up in your bed while the blustery wind blows outside.

It’s just got that atmosphere–you know the one I mean. That feel of cold and magic and high stakes and romance. It’s a definite must-read for fantasy lovers everywhere.

So if you’re interested in winning a copy, leave a comment below! The giveaway is open internationally, and we’ll announce our winner on Monday after the Kiki Hamilton interview.

Differents Types of Romance, or My Love For You Can’t Be Labeled

21 Sep

by Susan Dennard
~~

When it comes to romance in YA (or really any novel), how the romantically-involved characters first meet is dictated very much by the type of romance you want to create. For example, what’s wrong with this picture:

Scene 1: Boy meets girl. They meet eyes; their hearts skip a beat. He comes over and is ridiculously swoon-worthy.

Scene 2: Boy picks on girl. She retorts with her own insults, and soon they’re quarreling.

Yeah, those two scenes sound like two different kinds of romance, don’t they? Scene 1 fits with #1 below, and scene 2 is more of a #2 from the list.

We may think our love is indefinable and vast and SO WONDERFUL it can’t be squeezed into a label, but…the truth is, like most plots, there is a little bit of formula to romance.*

*Note: romance–like any plot–doesn’t have to follow a formula. It just often does because those formulas WORK. Formulas give the reader expectations, and expectations heighten the tension by transforming the question from, “Is their the potential for love?” to “WHEN WHEN WHEN WILL IT HAPPEN? Just KISS already!” The plot keeps the characters apart when we know they belong together, and that builds a natural tension into the story.

Here are just a few examples of romantic plot lines and what’s needed when the characters first meet:

1. Love-at-first-sight? Then you’ll want some visceral reactions that show the heroine/hero’s initial reactions. Sex appeal, yes, but not explicitly so. A heroine might find her mouth dry and her stomach fluttery, and she might think about how good looking the hero is. Or maybe she’s just wondering why she is so compelled to speak to/see/be near this guy… She doesn’t know, but the reader does! (Ex: Hereafter by Tara Hudson)

2. It could be an “I HATE YOU” to “You’re not so bad” to “I luuurve you” romance. Then, the hero & heroine will probably get off on the wrong foot, immediately argue, and then kinda want to kill each other. Personally, I’m a fan of these romances (oh, Mr. Darcy, how I love thee!), and Something Strange and Deadly has some of this. The visceral reactions/attraction will come later, and that pesky hate thing is a great barrier to the final admission of feelings. (Ex: Star Wars, Han Solo and Princess Leia—best romance EVER!)

3. Maybe it’s a friendship-to-love romance. In that case, we’ll see the hero/heroine as Just A Friend, and we’ll move through the story as the MC figures out his/her true feelings. Again, the visceral reactions/attraction will develop as the story goes along. (Ex: The False Princess by Eilis O’Neal, The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting)

4. It could also be a long term crush turned to love if the MC has always loved the hero/heroine, or vice versa. When we first see the love interest, we also first see how the MC feels. If the MC desperately wants to kiss the boy, then the reader wants her to too–and we’ve gotta keep turning pages until it happens. (Ex: You Wish Mandy Hubbard, Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver)

5. Or it could just be a slow, natural relationship. The characters meet, find each other attractive perhaps, and their romance grows from there. The meet up will have just a slight element of attraction or maybe none at all until a few scenes later. (Ex: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White, Unearthly by Cynthia Hand)

What other romance meet-ups can you come up with? Please share!

~~~

Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She is repped by Sara Kendall of NCLit, and her debut, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, will be available from Harper Children’s in 2012. You can learn more about her on her blog or twitter.

One Book To Rule Them All

14 Sep

by Susan Dennard

~~

One book to rule them in all, and in the greatness bind them!

So, I got this idea from Molly O’Neill’s blog, and it’s such a COOL thing to think about, I wanted to share it here. That is:

If you could only ever publish one book (or one more), what would that book be about?

She calls it the One Book To Rule Them All (it’s a LORD OF THE RINGS reference, btw), and I knew instantly what mine would be. Which in turn, made me stop and consider why that one book isn’t the book I’ve already written or plan to write next.

The answer is pretty straightforward: I’m a coward. I fear I can’t do the concept or the genre justice. I fear that I do not have the skills needed to execute what I would want to be my crowning story.

And no, I won’t tell you what that idea is–what my One Book To Rule Them All is about. Suffice it to say it would be middle grade and so deliciously magical (though with no actual magic or fantasy in it) and brimming with atmosphere you would think about it long after you close its covers.

Well…that’s my dream about it anyway. Clearly, I don’t consider myself up to the task of actually producing that. YET.

What about you? Do you have an idea for that One Book To Rule Them All? Or do you even have an idea like that in mind? If so, what keeps you from writing it now–or have you written it?

~~~

Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She is repped by Sara Kendall of NCLit, and her debut, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, will be available from Harper Children’s in 2012. You can learn more about her on her blog or twitter.