Let’s get right to the point: I NEED YOUR HELP.
Stepping Stones is nominated for the 2016 RONE Awards hosted by InD’tale Magazine. The only way to win? Fan votes. Yes, you. YOU decide my future.
You only need 3 things to vote.
- You must register for an account on InD’tale. This takes only a few seconds and allows you to vote in any of their competitions. Do so HERE.
- You must select Stepping Stones from the YA Paranormal List. It’s at the top of the list in the third category! (And, I mean, you don’t HAVE to choose Stepping Stones, but it would certainly warm my little heart!)
- SHARE this with everyone you know. Votes are the only way to win, and while I like to think I’m surrounded by a plethora of people at all times, it might be a slight fabrication of my mind. Share your friends with me! And in turn, share me with your friends. Well…this got awkward.
Do a girl a solid. Help Stepping Stones win and I’ll love you forever.
All the best,
History Is All You Left Me – Adam Silvera
Available: January 17, 2017 from Soho Teen
I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Adam at BEA this year. He was by far my favorite signing. He’s personable, humble, and so SO kind. If you ever have a chance to meet him or go to a signing, DO IT. He’s SO GREAT.
I should note that out of the 140 ARCs I picked up from BEA, History Is All You Left Me is the one I chose to read first. Because, it’s Adam Silvera guys. And his writing is gold.
History Is All You Left Me follows Griffin, a seventeen-year-old boy from NYC who has just lost the love of his life. Twice. Theo was Griffin’s first. First love, first sexual encounter, first everything. The early stages of their relationship is remarkably sweet and will leave the reader full of butterfly feelings.
You know from line one that this book will rip your heart out in the best possible Adam-Silvera-imagined way. The writing is raw, gritty, and impossibly real. The characters are written so beautifully flawed that they could be anyone. I’ll admit it, I wanted to cry from page 13 on.
Take Griffin, for example, our OCD narrator. He suffers from compulsions that force him to count things (in even numbers) and always walk or sit to the left of someone. What I like about him is that he’s imperfect, but through the other characters, we see how loveable he is. This seems to be a direct representation of life that anyone (especially those with low self-esteem) can appreciate. Though we are flawed, we still deserve to be loved. Throughout the book Griffin struggles to overcome his compulsions which leads to tons of anxiety. I loved the patience and concern the other characters displayed for him, even though sometimes their well-intentioned actions were not at all what he needed.
The characters make mistakes. Many, MANY mistakes. Sometimes I found myself hoping they’d make more, just because I knew I’d do the same thing in the same situation. Adam Silvera is remarkable in that way. He can boil down every human emotion and infuse it in the tiniest details until it’s powerful…almost a character in its own right. It will leave the reader with a profound sensation of being understood, something I’ve never really experienced in books until Adam Silvera took my reader heart by storm.
History Is All You Left Me is not a happy story, but it is a hopeful one. Silvera doesn’t shy away from anything—not sex, not mental health, not socioeconomic issues. He writes dangerously, which is perhaps why we love him and exactly what the contemporary YA genre has needed all along.
5 GIANT stars for History Is All You Left Me.
I sit before my computer in a confusing state of satisfaction and sadness. The earliest files in my hard drive for Reflection Pond date back to early 2012, though I think the actual writing started in 2011. There are dozens and dozens of files, if not hundreds. In the grand scheme of writing, four or five years for three books is not a long time, I realize that, but those years defined who I am as a writer. I began the series scared, uncertain of my own capabilities, and I’ve emerged from the other side more confident, more sure of myself and the risks I’m willing to take in my stories.
Today is the release day for Torch Rock, Book 3 in the Reflection Pond Series, the final installment of Callie and Rowan’s story. Much like me, the characters have gone on a journey to find their strength, to heal, and I’m deeply satisfied with this ending. I hope you, my readers, find it just as enjoyable as I do. I’ve already been asked if I’ll ever return to Callie and Rowan’s world, to expand on the secondary characters in the story, to follow the seeds of possibility I left strewn throughout the final novel. The truth is, I don’t know. I do have some bonus content, deleted scenes and such that may become available at some point. But right now, the end is justified, and I like the idea of readers creating their own possible futures for Rowan and Callie. The characters we love live on inside of us, and I hope some parts of Callie and Rowan live on in each of you.
I want to thank everyone who has stood beside me as I completed these books, especially those who encouraged me and listened to my issues (over and over again for weeks, months, and years). You know who you are. Thank you to the bloggers, reviewers, and every fan who has contacted me. Your support and enthusiasm always puts a smile on my face. Huge thank yous to my early readers, ARC reviewers, and everyone who has been cheering on Callie from the beginning. A big thanks to my designer Julia at Bioblossom Creative, who always, always exceeds my expectations with her beautiful covers. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
The entire series is available on Amazon. If you want some music to read to, check out the playlists I’ve created for Reflection Pond and Torch Rock. And when you’re done reading, please leave a review, even if it’s just an I liked it!
I think as children we look at the world with an innocent wonder. The people surrounding us are meant to be trusted, not suspected. As we grow into adulthood, that wonder and trust is challenged by experience. We get hurt. We have our emotions taunted, our decisions questioned, and we learn that the world is not a safe place. It’s not even a welcoming place.
When I wrote Reflection Pond, Callie’s childhood shaped her character into someone I consider unwaveringly strong. She’s not flawless, but a road map of scars from every experience that nearly broke her. Nearly being the imperative word. She’s a survivor, she’s cautious, and though she’s suffered terrible abuse, she still holds that childlike wonder that the world, in general, isn’t a despicable place.
Throughout the series, Callie’s fragile trust is challenged. She learns that family is not synonymous with love and sometimes friendship come from the most unlikely of places. Most importantly, she realizes that trusting others is nowhere near as important as trusting yourself. I won’t give away the ending of Torch Rock (which releases April 26th! Preorder here.), but I will say that Callie in the final installment is miles away from the scared girl who fell through the Reflection Pond.
Callie’s character is based in part on my own experiences. I’ve seen betrayal firsthand. I’ve breathed it and lived it. It took time and no small amount of tears, but I found a way to drag myself off my bathroom floor and overcome devastation. There isn’t a recipe for climbing out of an emotional hole like that, you only have to have the determination to know that this isn’t the end. After all, if you’re reading this you’ve already survived every bad day you’ve had. Look at you! 100% success rate.
A lot of people have said they can’t relate to Callie or connect with her. Perhaps this has something to do with her horrific past. Violence and abuse leave marks on you. Though hidden, these marks admit you to a private survivors club. Maybe relating to her comes with a price. Maybe I’d rather you couldn’t relate.
I’m proud of Callie. I know that readers love a strong female character, someone who takes no shit and kicks ass. But Callie isn’t that character. Sure, she can fight. Sure, she has cool faerie powers. But Callie’s real strength comes from her unwavering belief that she will find her place in this world, no matter how many times she has to pull herself to her feet.
I think, at the end of the day, regardless of our differing pasts, that’s all any of us hope for.
Today I come to you with exciting news! Not only do I have a cover for the final Reflection Pond book, TORCH ROCK, I also have an amazing STEPPING STONES update.
First things first. TORCH ROCK will release April 26, 2016. It’s bittersweet. I’m so happy that I told Callie and Rowan’s story, but it feels like I’m leaving old friends behind to focus on new projects. But! The end isn’t here quite yet. Take a look at that gorgeous cover and dangerous blurb!
War is coming, and she takes no prisoners.
Faced with an impending battle Eirensae cannot win alone, Rowan journeys to Macántacht to seek allegiance from its leader. The City of Honor is beautiful, still untouched by conflict, and full of surprises that bring Callie’s darkest experiences to the surface.
With her friends’ lives at stake, Callie must confront her past, and accept help from a faerie whose face torments her memories. Reconciling the power beneath her skin has never been more painful.
Amid persistent threats from Fraeburdh, an old enemy reemerges with deadly force. Even with Macántacht fighting beside her and Rowan at her back, the odds are insurmountable. Callie’s biggest trial will come not on a blood-soaked battlefield, but in the quiet moments when she must choose.
Lastly, I’m working on revamping my blog and it comes with AWESOME READER PERKS. Click on About the Author to find out what I mean. (Here’s a hint…it has the word FREE in it.)
All the best,
Yesterday I attended an amazing conference hosted by Writer’s Digest featuring Chuck Sambuchino as the speaker. If you’re not familiar with Chuck’s work, YOU SHOULD BE. I’ve been using Writer’s Digest, and Chuck’s blog specifically for YEARS. You’ll find all kinds of good stuff over there about writing queries, querying agents, and even which agents are brand new and building their lists. I’ll wait while you explore.
While a lot of the conference discussed things I already knew, I did take some notes to bring back for you guys. Not only was Chuck Sambuchino awesome, I participated in “Writer’s Got Talent,” where a panel of agents read the first page of manuscripts and critiqued them. But we’ll get to that later.
Let’s talk about queries first. Everyone who’s ever queried knows how much writing a query SUCKS. As in, sucks the life out of your soul. It’s hard work choosing the right words. Agonizing, even. So while I won’t reiterate everything Chuck said (he has books for that kind of thing), I will hit on a few important points that I wrote down regarding query writing.
- Intro – Get in and get out quickly.
- Use the first sentence to give the technical details of your work. Genre, word count, title. Giving the genre first tells the agent how to feel about the query. (Don’t use a hook. Usually a hook is confusing and not explained until later anyway. Using an intro is the safest, most harmless method.)
- The second sentence is the reason you are contacting the agent. (Saw them at a conference, you read that they like super-secret spy thrillers on their blog, etc.) Side note—don’t say you’re contacting them because they rep BIGGEST BEST SELLING BOOK. Chuck suggests that you look farther down in their list and choose a book that wasn’t a best seller, but that the agent likely loves anyway. This will make you stand out because everyone else is using the best seller.
- Pitch –
- 3-10 sentences (Think back cover of a book.)
- DO NOT reveal the ending.
- Use specifics. Do not use language that has more than one meaning. (Don’t be vague or use cliché “suspense” tropes.)
- Read the back of debuts at the bookstore and see what language draws you in. Apply this to your query.
- Use evocative language that will “paint a picture” and help the agent know the tone of your work.
- Beware of subplots, extra characters, and proper names. Try to limit the number of names you use in the query, especially if they’re hard to understand (unusual, foreign, made up for sci-fi). Mention ONLY the main characters.
- Don’t say “My novel is…(funny, heartfelt, terrifying).” Show it within the query by using the right words to evoke a response.
- Some random things I wrote down –
- What does the character desire?
- What things go wrong?
- Layers of conflict.
- What happens if the character fails?
- Bio –
- Mention any serious and well-known writing groups. (SCBWI, for example.)
- Notable and relevant awards you’ve received. (Nothing from high school, please.)
- Any job where you’ve been paid to write, even if it was a long time ago. You don’t have to say it happened twenty years ago, just that you were a columnist at such and such a place.
- Don’t say it’s your first novel.
- Only pitch ONE THING at a time.
- Don’t mention how long it took you to write. Four weeks sounds bad. So does 10 years.
- Don’t use rhetorical questions. They sound silly and so do you.
The agent panel was immensely interesting and informative. Chuck read the first pages aloud and had the agents raise their hands when they would’ve stopped reading if this first page were a submission. Holy massacre! Sometimes we made it a few sentences, sometimes a few paragraphs. Very few authors had their first page read all the way to the end. This showed me that even though many of us think we’re ready to query, we’re nowhere near that final perfect submission. It also proved that agents read subjectively. Where one agent would raise their hand, another wouldn’t. Where one agent would love a particular turn of phrase, another found it cliché. (Want to know how my first page did? Ask in a comment and I’ll fess up!)
The biggest DON’TS the agents mentioned regarding the opening scene of a novel –
- Don’t use a phone call.
- Don’t have the main character waking up in the morning.
- Don’t use a description of the weather.
- Don’t use a dream.
- Don’t use a prologue. Some agents say ABSOLUTELY NOT to prologues. Better to be safe than sorry.
So what do you do? Put your character in the MIDDLE of an event or situation. Start with ACTION.
Later, Chuck told us not to fall victim to the TWO BIGGEST mistakes that get authors rejected. (And yes, I wrote them down for you.)
- The book starts too slow and is boring. (Start in the middle of something.)
- Too much info dump.
- Telling not showing.
- Back story.
- Explaining the character motivation.
You want to give just enough that the reader isn’t confused because what you DON’T say is more interesting that what you DO. The unknown will keep the reader (or agent!) turning pages.
While I learned many more things from Chuck (he’s a FANTASTIC speaker), one last point really stuck out to me.
AS AN AUTHOR, SO MUCH IS OUTSIDE OF YOUR CONTROL.
This is true about So. Many. Things. Whether an agent will like your query or first pages. Whether they’ll pass or decide to give you a call. Whether you’ll actually sell your book even if you get an agent. Edits. The cover. The first run. Even if you self-publish, you don’t know if readers will like your story.
The most important thing you can do is WRITE THE BEST THING YOU CAN. (And be patient.)
All the best,