Friday, February 28, 2014

Giveaway warning and countdown to A WHISPER IN TIME

The second book in the Whisper Falls trilogy is almost here. A Whisper In Time releases in 39 days!

With that in mind, I'm about to give away several copies of Whisper Falls (Book 1).

Let me make a quick comment about this trilogy.  My editors and I have tried hard to make it possible for someone to read the second book without reading the first. Most major plot twists from Book 1 get a sentence or two explanation in the sequel. So I don't think readers will be confused if they start with Book 2. (And, in fact, we asked a beta reader who had not read Book 1 to help us with that.)

However, I think it is best to read Whisper Falls before reading A Whisper In Time. The entire cast of characters is back. I build on the plot points. Even though there are no cliff-hangers in the first book, there were a handful of loose ends—little things you might be curious about.  Those loose ends become big problems in book 2.  Some of them are tied up, and some you'll have to wait until book 3 to see how they're resolved.

So stay tuned between now and the middle of March. I'll be giving away Whisper Falls in paperback (USA only) on Goodreads and as e-books through my blog.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Book-reading at Lady Jane's Salon RDU


Lady Jane's Salon Raleigh-Durham is moving!! 

Our new location is at ANOTHER BROKEN EGG CAFE in Morrisville inside the Park Place shopping complex - 1121 Market Center Drive, Morrisville NC 27560.

We are so excited about our new location!  And we hope you can be with us Wednesday, February 26th as we re-welcome Sabrina Jeffries, D.B Starler, and Elizabeth Langston.  (We were on the schedule for January, but it was snowed out.)

New York Times Bestselling Author - SABRINA JEFFRIES will read from WHEN THE ROGUE RETURNS, the latest release in her Duke's Men series...

D.B. STARLER will read from her short story GOOD GHOUL GONE BAD from Fireside Fiction Co. 

 And ELIZABETH LANGSTON will also read from her debut Young Adult release - WHISPER FALLS.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Reading books for a change

I read this weekend. Five books. Well, four and a half because I haven't finished the fifth one yet.

I read two of the books for pleasure. The first story was by my favorite author of contemporary romance. It just released a few days ago and I had to read it right away. (There are 200 books piled up on my e-reader app. This book jumped to the head of the pile.)

The second book was one I downloaded a week ago. It's a New Adult. I liked it a lot. The story was different and sweet and quietly lovely. I'd only intended to read the first few pages, but it hooked me.

The last three books... I was obligated to read them. I wouldn't have picked any of them by choice.

I belong to a writing group called Romance Writers of America. RWA. They have a contest for writers called The Ritas. This contest is like the Academy Awards for published authors.  It's the published book's version of an Oscar.

I was assigned eight entries for the Ritas. Since the scores are due in a week, I had to get those last three entries out of the way.  I'm judging my last entry tonight.

Even though it's an obligation, I don't mind.  Dozens of authors have helped me along the way.  I want to give back too. And I've discovered two new authors that I will likely continue to read.

Three of the entries are awful.  Two are good. Three are great.  It's been fun and unexpected.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Dead parents trope in YA fiction

At a reader con last summer, I sat on a panel of five YA authors. One of them commented that, of course, the protagonist's parents were dead because "the best YA books have heroes with dead parents."

Dead or missing parents is a fairly common trope in YA. The theory goes that, in order for a teen to make independent decisions and drive the flow of the story, a strong authority figure (i.e. the parent) cannot be present.
  • If both parents are dead, then the teen is essentially on his/her own.  Ergo, s/he can make all of the crazy, fearless, amazing decisions they want, unencumbered by adultly reason.
  • If one parent is dead, the living parent is likely distracted by grief, and the teen is left to deal with the story's conflict on their own.

I'm a parent. I think my daughters would tell you that they were raised in a functional, two-parent home *and* that they were still able to drive the flow of their stories. Honestly, one of the goals of good parenting is to create an environment where kids do exactly that—learn to take on conflict with confidence, courage, and compassion.

When I started writing the Whisper Falls series, I was determined to show that it was possible for an interesting, complicated hero to live in a functional family. I wrote Mark to have parents, grandparents, and a sister who pay plenty of positive attention to him. Yet he would still be in charge of his own story.

However, it was necessary to get these authority figures out of the way, at least some of the time. So I had Sister move nearly 2000 miles away, reportedly for graduate school. The partially-empty nest distracts Mom from monitoring what her 17-year-old son is doing. With Dad on business trips, Mark has a loving family that is focused away from him long enough that he can navigate through the plot with independence.

It's interesting that my efforts to avoid this trope have received (indirectly) the most criticism.
  • A couple of reviews have found the subplots in Mark's normal life to detract from the overall story. Yet, if his family and friends were watching him closely, he would've had a much harder time getting involved with Susanna. And if I hadn't addressed their inattention at all, readers would've wondered why.
  • *Mild spoiler*: One reviewer mentioned that she were surprised at how receptive Mark's family was to Susanna. I was surprised at that comment. Maybe my circle of friends is strange, but I know of several families who have fostered stray kids (officially or unofficially.) I've even done that myself—offered a refuge for a few months to a young woman who needed a safe place to stay while she figured out what to do next.

This post isn't an attempt to slam tropes or reviews. I need both. They make me a better writer because they make me think.  Still, they've pushed me to look at my other books and consider how I use the dead parent trope in them.
  • I Wish is a completely new book, releasing in November 2014. The heroine has a dysfunctional mother, a dead father, and a dead stepfather. The hero is a supernatural being with a strong league of friends (but no parents since supernatural beings aren't "born"). So, yeah, I've embraced the dead parent trope here.
  • Leaving Eden (working title) is a book I've recently finished. (It hasn't sold yet.) The hero has a nurturing family. The heroine has a wonderful stepmother, a problematic father, and a thankfully-absent biological mother. In this book, their families are a huge part of the conflict (think Romeo & Juliet). If the parents had been dead, there would've been no story.

Trust me. It's hard to parent teens. I want to write about parent-child relationships with honesty, respect, and realism. But I think I can do that—write a good YA—with characters that come from all kinds of families. Even the best parents will be flawed, but they don't have to be dead for their children to be free.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Winter wonderland nurtures writing

The east coast of the United States is in the grips of a massive winter storm.  I live in North Carolina, and we're not used to this kind of frozen precipitation. It is typical to see an inch (2-3 cm) of snow each winter. We had that much in January. In the past 4 hours, we've acquired 5 inches, and now ice is falling on top of it.

This is crazy weather.

Lane in front of Elizabeth's house

For a writer, this is perfect writing weather. I'm curled up with a cup of tea, half-listening to the newscasters, praying for the drivers who have not made it home yet, and pondering how to start my next, shiny-new book.

Keep safe, everyone. In the battle between car and icy roads, the ice usually wins!

Monday, February 3, 2014

My first fan letter

I have received my first fan letter. It was written by the 20-something granddaughter of a long-time colleague and friend. (I suspect I've known him about as long as she's been alive.)

Sarah received a copy of my book for Christmas. I'm not sure what she must've thought as she opened that gift. (Really, Grandpa? A book?) She tells me (through her letter) that she has not read much for pleasure in recent years.

I totally get that. My two daughters struggled with the same problem in middle- and high-school. Novels assigned to them in English classes were often long, slow-paced, and boring. It frustrated me as a parent because, while I understood the goal of having kids cover 'the classics,' I hated that my girls were so turned off by books that they simply stopped reading.

Fan letter from Sarah

Sarah says that Whisper Falls helped her experience the joys of reading. Wow. I'm delighted, honored, and humbled to learn that she feels that way.

I won't copy her entire letter here (because I love it and I don't like to share. :) But there are a few quotes I don't think she'd mind if I passed along.

"For the first time in my life while reading, I laughed, cried, got angry, felt warm inside ... I didn't want it to end."

"While I was reading the book, I seemed to realize how much we take for granted, such as ice cream, a warm bath, and a bed with sheets and blankets. I lay in the bed now, thankful for all that I have ..."

"It was amazing to me that I could get so involved in words on a piece of paper, but it felt great."

Sarah's letter made me a little teary-eyed when I read it this morning. It makes me teary-eyed now.  It's thrilling to know that she enjoyed this book and that she wants to read more.

Most authors don't make all that much money on their stories. 85% of us have to show up at our day jobs to afford to keep writing. But we do it anyway, because we are compensated in ways too glorious to miss. Like our first fan letters.

Thank you, Sarah. Readers like you are the reason I write.