STEPPING STONES – A LOOK BACK (PART 1/3)

Stepping Stones - FinalIn anticipation of Stepping Stones’ release this month, I dug into my archives and found the original manuscript that started it all. I’ll admit it: It’s terrible. I should be embarrassed to show you this, but in hindsight, it’s incredible to see how far I’ve come as a writer and what I’ve learned along the way. And because my opinion isn’t enough, I convinced the wonderful Stephanie Keyes (of The Star Child fame) and Hannah R. Goodman (Founder and Editor of Sucker Literary and All the Way YA) to give their opinions. What follows is a pretty accurate depiction of what it’s like to be a new writer, and some perfect examples of What. Not. To. Do.

There will be three versions of Stepping Stones, the one below, a rewrite, and then the final version that’ll publish later this month. (In reality, there are several more versions than this. For the sake of time, we’re only looking at three.) Just for sticking around and enduring, you’ll be rewarded with a sneak peek at the first scene of the book.

It’s my hope that showing Stepping Stones in various states of—how do I put it gently? Hot mess? Deconstruction? Editing?—will help other writers realize that we’ve all been there and sometimes it takes a village to make a manuscript what it should be. Feel free to chime in below and leave some comments or horror stories.

STEPPING STONES VERSION ONE – 2009

I had known this day would come, but I had tried to repress it. I had heard the hushed arguing, noticed my mother spending more and more time ‘at work’. I didn’t know if that was just an excuse, or if it was true, but at this point, it didn’t matter anymore. My bedroom was the only place that didn’t feel claustrophobic. The rest of the house seemed to have thick walls that pushed the agony back on you, so I spent a lot of time in my room.

Between my mom’s angry looks shot at my dad and his blatant refusal to acknowledge the situation, I was going crazy. I couldn’t figure out where it had all gone wrong, but my mom was very, very unhappy, and my dad, well he was just faking ambivalence.

KACEY: Wow. I don’t even know where to start with this opening. First of all, the HADS! Jeesh. So many of them. Cut as many HADS as you can. It’s a useless, clunky word that automatically makes your writing passive. Take the first sentence: I had known this day would come, but I had tried to repress it. Though I tried to repress it, I knew this day would come. <This is more immediate and eliminates all those ugly HADS.  

This is a terrible place to start a novel. There isn’t any action, it’s just a character sitting in her room whining about how terrible her life is. We don’t care about her at this point, so we don’t want to listen to her whine. We want to see something HAPPEN!

Onna’s narrative sounds likes a poorly done voiceover at the opening of a movie where they need to catch the viewer up quick.

HANNAH: My first thought is, where and when are we in time and space? I want to see stuff, hear stuff, and smell stuff and you already nailed the “HADS” piece : ) Also, are we in the claustrophobic-feeling room? What color are the walls? Are there windows? If so, are they tiny, crank-out ones? Setting details seem necessary, not too many, coupled with some action, even if it is small.  And…what is the situation? Not that you have to front load the opening, but maybe some kind of concrete object or gesture from a character to indicate the nature of the situation. Show the parents, maybe? Maybe she sees them, in the kitchen, through the crack of the door of her bedroom. Sitting across from one another at the kitchen table…her mom glaring and her dad staring at his drained glass of beer…the possibilities are endless : )

STEPH: Too many hads! It’s also completely told. Why not open with an exchange in the parents in real-time so we’re not experiencing things in backstory. What I would like to see is more description. Here are a few examples: Why doesn’t her bedroom feel claustrophobic? What’s different about it? So her parents are experiencing issues—how does this make her feel? I want more detail around the “crazy” feeling. What does that look like to the reader? Get me inside of her head.

My parents had sat me down and had the official talk, my father had cried, but my mother had been stone-faced, as though unaffected by the impending divorce. I wished that they would have just skipped it. Maybe they could have waited another year, for when I was away at college and oblivious to their inner marital turmoil. I knew that thinking that made me selfish because they were so unhappy. But how long had they been holding out, trying to stay together for me? If I was even a factor in their decisions.

KACEY: A better option for the argument instead of telling the reader it happened, would be for us to see it happening right now, which is “showing the reader” not “telling the reader.” Plus, making it happen RIGHT NOW would get rid of HADS. I hate HADS.

HANNAH: ALL tell and NO show. Should we see the talk? Should this be in “real time”? Or do we save this for another, separate scene? “Have been” and shortly after “would have just” are indications that the writer is struggling with whether or not this should be a moment in the present, actually happening, or if should be background information that trickles out later in this opening scene. 

STEPH: Show me this discussion happening. When something is portrayed in backstory, we lose the pace. I’d like to see the argument taking place, experience her feelings about it. Is she relieved? How about embarrassed that they may have tried to stay together for her? Fear for what her life will become? She’s too detached.

My only plans for the day were to sunbathe by the community pool and maybe read a good book, but now I wasn’t sure if I was up for any of it. I was instead lying across my bed, cell phone in hand wondering who I could call to make me feel better. Maybe someone to just distract me. There was a guy that I had been seeing on and off for the summer, but lately he had been blowing me off for his friends all the time. Not that I was really into him anyways. He had more brawn than brains, but could always scrounge up a good party to go to. I could call Hunter, my best friend, but it was Tuesday and she usually spent half the day at the gym, toning her already perfect body. Yuck…not my idea of fun.

KACEY: Now she’s telling us her plans, which are pretty dull. We don’t know anything about her so we don’t care either. She just talks and talks and talks and nobody is listening. Allow me to introduce you to the INFO DUMP. I’m telling you a lot about Onna’s history. Her parents, her best friend, her boyfriends. TELLING being the operative word here. Basically, an INFO DUMP is when the author drops a whole lot of boring info on the reader. A better way is to sneak in the back story when it feels natural, and usually in the middle of ACTION. We LOVE ACTION! Plus, we’re inside her head a little too much, so she sounds melodramatic, and since we don’t know or care about her, this will make the reader dislike her.

HANNAH: Tacking on to your comments, I would take this and revise it so that it has more punch and so that it also SHOWS the character’s personality and hints at her conflict. “Sprawled across my bed, I scrolled through my list of contacts, searching for the perfect person to make me feel better.”

STEPH: So I just missed something. She’s having the talk and now she’s at the pool, or talking about her plans as though none of the above happened. There’s a lot of passive voice going on. I’d like to see this eliminated so we have a more active paragraph. Also, does this information push the story forward? This seems like an info dump so we can meet her best friend.

 After the family HEART TO HEART, my Mom had STORMED OFF to ‘work’ and my Dad had locked himself in his office, his usual hiding place where he goes to brood and ignore the rest of us. It’s not like divorce was uncommon where I lived. I knew plenty of people whose parents were divorced. Some who acted perfectly normal and others who were questionable.

HANNAH: It’s not like divorce was uncommon where I lived. For some reason, this sounds like something a writer or author would have in a book from the 70s or 80s. I think it’s the phrasing of it, implying that divorce was actually an alien concept . Also, since you pretty much deconstruct this so nicely below and I agree with your comments, I will point out some of the wording that could be stronger and more unique or even deleted. These (BOLDED) are phrases that are clichés or have cliché overtones.

Would they want me to choose who to live with? I couldn’t even if they wanted me to. Maybe I could choose neither. I sighed, and looked at the still blank screen of my cell phone.

I gave up on calling a friend and instead decided to call Ethan, my older brother. He was nine years older than me, and somehow managed to escape before ALL THE CRAZINESS started around our house. I wished I could have been so lucky, but I was born late, and unexpectedly. He answered on the third ring sounding out of breath and in a hurry.

“Hey, Ethan, it’s me,” I said, happy that he answered but worried that I caught him at a BAD TIME.

KACEY: FINALLY! Our heroine is doing something. Even if it’s just calling her brother. Let’s examine the last sentence. “Hey, Ethan, it’s me,” I said, happy that he answered but worried that I caught him at a bad time. This is a clunky, useless sentence. She already commented on him being out of breath, so a simple “Hey Ethan, bad time?” could’ve saved the reader (and writer!) all those words. Dialogue is an excellent way to move the story along and convey emotion in a relatable way.

 STEPH: So her mother is really that cold that she goes to work after having this conversation? What a bitch! So what is Onna’s reaction to this? Is she so used to this is doesn’t even sting? How could it not? Also, why didn’t she ask these questions in the actual conversation? At this point I’m viewing the heroine as a whiner. Is that your intention?

“Onna!” He exclaimed. No matter when I called him, he always seemed happy to hear from me. I don’t know how I got so lucky to have a great older brother, but I was sure I didn’t deserve him. “What’s up kid?” I cringed. I hated when he called me kid, which he did, at every available opportunity.

“I got the talk today,” I told him, no explanation necessary, we talked frequently enough that he knew the SITUATION. Ethan was the one who talked me through most of my SITUATIONS, and sometimes I felt like he was more a best friend and confidant to me than anyone else, even Hunter.

HANNAH: Repeating words…and also a word used prior that is a little vague and not SHOW enough.

“Ouch, are you doing okay?”

“Yeah,” I shrugged, “I knew it was coming. Mom looked bored the whole time, but Dad was upset.” I had known, but it still hurt to think that two people who had pledged their love couldn’t hold up the bargain.

“Oh…well that’s Judith and Kurt for you,” He never called my parents Mom and Dad anymore, “Do you want me to come down later? We could go out to dinner or something,” he offered, willing to put off any of his plans for me, as usual. He didn’t even sound put out by it.

KACEY: ARG! Dialogue tags. Let me list all the awful ones in this section. He exclaimed. I told him. Oh? Only two really awful ones. Dialogue tags should be invisible to the reader. It’s true. They’re only necessary to root the reader in the story. If you have any sort of action going on around them that tells us which character is speaking, they are absolutely unnecessary. When and IF you need a tag, a simple he said or she said gets the job done. SAID is your friend. ASKED can be your friend, but only on Sundays. You can use other tags, such as he offered, or he promised, but SPARINGLY. The best option is to avoid the tags altogether, if possible.

HANNAH: I feel like this conversation is restating what we already know.

STEPH: Ethan isn’t going to greet her by her full first name unless he’s substantially older—maybe in his eighties. It’s going to be something like “Hey” or “What’s up, On.” Something fresher. Ethan’s reaction is pretty blasé for a brother. Wouldn’t he ask how she is? Or make an assumption about how she might be feeling if they know each other so well? Also, why wasn’t he a part of the conversation? Wouldn’t he have reached out to her? Maybe even known this was going to happen and been proactive? Also, some of the phrasing is a little old for high school. They might say “pissed off about it” instead of “put out by it.”

“Nah,” I said, though secretly wishing I was needy enough to say yes. “I can handle it. Just wanted to talk, you know?” I fingered the purple flowers on my bed spread. “So what are you up to today?” I heard him hesitate, so something was going on.

KACEY: She HEARD him hesitate. Why can’t he just hesitate? Filtering it through the main character makes this passive. A better way would be to stay Ethan hesitated. Bam. Short and sweet and gives the reader space to wonder WHY Ethan is hesitating.

STEPH: Hearing him hesitate is a point of view break. This needs to be shown. Example: He sucked in a breath and silence took over. Why is he hesitating? Also, how does she know something was going on? Is the pausing an indicator with him? Can she just read him so well that it’s obvious? We need to know.

“I’m meeting Cora later, we’re having lunch at my place,” his voice was higher than normal, excited. “I bought the ring last week. I even talked to her Dad, Onna.” He laughed a little, “I’m going to ask her today.”

I shrieked. “Oh my gosh, Ethan! I can’t believe it!”

He chuckled. “Yeah, finally.” He had been dating Cora for five years. They had met during his third year in college and had been inseparable since. Recently she had started bugging him about moving in together, but he had held her off because of his other plans, asking her to marry him, of course. I couldn’t believe he was holding out on me.

KACEY: The last paragraph is an example of how to sneak in backstory. Ethan announces he’s getting married, Onna reacts, and then gives the reader a little look into their history. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than the doozy of an INFO DUMP at the beginning.

STEPH: So what is higher than normal? Does he have a bass voice maybe a higher pitched tenor? Does his voice crack when he talks? Let us know how he sounds. Would he really propose to his girlfriend on the same day his parents announced their divorce? Not only is that cold, but it’s kind of a bad omen, isn’t it? Wouldn’t he be skeptical about marriage? If he isn’t, then why not?

I felt a little guilty that he was willing to put off Cora and his proposal to come take care of me, but that was Ethan. I was so excited for him; he truly deserved to be happy. “Do Mom and Dad know?” Right now, I wasn’t sure if a marriage proposal would bode well with them, even if Ethan and Cora were so right for each other.

KACEY: Ouch. It was hard for me to read that. So much telling, hardly any action. Many, MANY writer no-nos.

STEPH: Why should she feel guilty? He should be there. He’s her older brother. This is a big deal. Although you’re trying to paint him as caring, he’s coming off as a little selfish here. Also, this is really bad timing.

So there you have it, my first failure attempt at writing a novel. Pretty terrible, right? Come back next week for Version Two of Stepping Stones and see what I learned (or didn’t learn) along the way.

All the best,

Kacey

HAPPY RELEASE DAY, POISON TREE!

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Book 2 in the Reflection Pond series is finally here! I’m so excited to share the continuation of Callie and Rowan’s story. You can see early reviews of the book at Seeing Double in Neverland and Paradise of Pages. Leave some comments and thank these ladies for being awesome bloggers!

To celebrate, Reflection Pond (Book 1) is on sale for $0.99 this week only!

Be sure to add Torch Rock (Reflection Pond, Book 3) on Goodreads!

Poison Tree (Reflection Pond, Book 2)

by Kacey Vanderkarr

Available Dec. 2, 2014 from Urban Fey Press

Amazon

Goodreads

The road to the City of War is dangerous.

With their home in ruins, Callie and Rowan are Eirensae’s last hope of stealing the cauldron back from Fraeburdh. They must travel into the human world where the Fallen hide. The banished fae wait for Callie, desperate to sacrifice her before she comes of age.

If Callie and Rowan survive the journey, something worse looms in Fraeburdh. Rowan is destined for a dark family legacy too horrifying to accept, and his father is anxious to welcome him home. Once the truth is revealed, will Callie ever look at Rowan the same way?

Trapped between feuding cities lost in a centuries-old war, Callie and Rowan will face their biggest rivals yet, and neither of them will make it out unscathed.

POISON TREE BLURB

For those of you following along, here is the blurb for Poison Tree, the sequel to Reflection Pond. Expected publication is December 2, 2014!! Add it on Goodreads.

The road to the City of War is dangerous.

With their home in ruins, Callie and Rowan are Eirensae’s last hope of stealing the cauldron back from Fraeburdh. They must travel into the human world where the Fallen hide. The banished fae wait for Callie, desperate to sacrifice her before she comes of age.

If Callie and Rowan survive the journey, something worse looms in Fraeburdh. Rowan is destined for a dark family legacy too horrifying to accept, and his father is anxious to welcome him home. Once the truth is revealed, will Callie ever look at Rowan the same way?

Trapped between feuding cities lost in a centuries-old war, Callie and Rowan will face their biggest rivals yet, and neither of them will make it out unscathed.

REFLECTION POND BUZZ

Reflection-Pond-ebook-1-VanReflection Pond

Ebook $2.99 (Kindle, Nook, Kobo)

Paperback $9.99 (Amazon)

Reflection Pond has been out for a little over 2 months now, and I have been crazy busy with promotions and advertising and trying to get Reflection Pond where it belongs, in the hands of readers. The response has been encouragingly positive and I’m so grateful to my readers who have taken the time to write a review – good or bad, authors NEED feedback on their work. How will we ever improve if no one tells us what we’re doing right and wrong?

Yesterday I visited a local bookstore, The Book Shelf in Lapeer, Michigan. Antithesis, Reflection Pond, and Sucker Literary Volume 3 are on their shelves. I’m still amazed at how helpful people can be, even when they get very little out of it in return. It’s one thing that baffles me about the writing world, how helpful, how encouraging authors and other literary peeps can be. I can only hope that in the ever changing publishing world, with its monopolies and divisions and fights for rights, that the people involved can remain true to what’s really important – feeding readers great books, of course.

Behind the scenes, I’ve been hard at work on the sequel to Reflection Pond, Poison Tree (which you can add on Goodreads). I’m about halfway finished with the first draft. It’s starts and stops at this point. Sometimes I feel like a brilliant author, and other times, I’m just a girl hidden in the dark with her laptop. I think we all have those moments – famous, infamous, anonymous. Still, I press on, wanting so badly to bring my words to life.

The main point behind this post is to share some of the incredible reviews Reflection Pond has gotten. I’m grateful, I know I’ve said that before, but I’m also humbled. No matter how many things I create, there’s always a giddy sense of terror waiting for reviews, and when people relate to what I write, find humor, joy, any emotion really, it’s the best feeling. I’ll quit my babbling and get to the goods.

The Reviews- Click the name to read the full review.

Vanderkarr writes with power. Her narrative sucks you in, and doesn’t let you go. Connie J Jasperson, Best in Fantasy

Kacey Vanderkarr may be a young author but has proved herself to be extremely accomplished and I hope to read all her past and future work. If the sequel -‘Poison Tree’- is half as good as this then we are in for a real treat! I would recommend this book to anyone and give it a thoroughly deserved 5/5! Sophie David

“The romance was only a small part in the book, but it was definitely strong. I loved the chemistry between Callie and Rowan. It really came alive and I could just feel the sexual tension between the two. Their witty banter was cute and made the relationship seem more real. And Rowan wasn’t this perfect bad boy. He had his own fears and problems, his own complex past. He certainly wasn’t perfect, but neither was Callie.” -Nikki Austin

“Reflection Pond was wonderfully written with Kacey Vanderkarr detailing a very riveting world with sensational characters. Racing towards an exciting ending that opens up a brand new chapter to the story; I’m beyond excitedly looking forward to the next book to continue Callie and Rowen’s journey!”-Rachel, The Rest is Still UnWritten

“I was pulled in from the very beginning and was glued to my kindle throughout the entire book. As I got closer the end of the book I realized that I didn’t want it to end.” -Shannan Lee Williams

There are lots of reviews on Goodreads and Amazon if you want to read more. This is just a small selection.

So, thanks readers, for being so great and for taking the time to read my words and reviewing them. It means so much to me.

Later this week, as a thanks, I will post an excerpt from Chapter 1 of Poison Tree, which I hope to publish December 2, 2014. Not much longer to wait, friends!

All the best,

Kacey

 

 

 

 

THE REFLECTION POND SOUNDTRACK

This post originally appeared on Zili in the Sky Book Blog as part of the book tour. Because I’m music obsessed, I wanted to make sure it made it to all of you who’ve read Reflection Pond. If you haven’t gotten your copy, you can get it in paperback, for Kindle, for Nook, and for Kobo. Also, check out the reviews on Goodreads. I couldn’t be happier with the response from readers and fans. You guys are so good to me!

Reflection-Pond-ebook-1-VanThe Reflection Pond Soundtrack

I like to consider myself a bit of a music aficionado. I listen to everything. Rock, punk, pop, alternative, classical, metal. You name it, it’s on my playlist. I’m a Spotify snob. It’s probably the best thing to happen to me since being born. Okay, maybe second best, but who’s counting?

I’ve found that my writing really gets into a groove when I have a perfect soundtrack to complement it. When I’m working on a particularly intense scene, be it a fight, a romantic development, or something insanely emotional, I gotta have the right song playing to put me in the state of mind to get it done.

As such, I have quite the playlist for each of my books, and today, I’m sharing the Reflection Pond Soundtrack. I hope you’ll find it brings the story to life (or at least find it entertaining!). I’d love to hear some speculation about which song goes with which scene—I thought it’d be too spoilery to post my insider opinions. (Remember, all the lyrics are copyrighted and belong to their respective artists. I’m nowhere near brilliant enough to write music. I’ll stick with books!)

Since Reflection Pond went through multiple rewrites to get to the final published version, I actually have multiple playlists on several devices for this book. (Can you say obsession?) Since I’m only spotlighting these fifteen songs, I’m including the entire list, in all its glory, at the end.

Enjoy!

  1. Skinny Love by Birdy

“Who will love you?

Who will fight?

Who will fall far behind?”

  1. Wild by Royal Teeth

“Help me see everything we used to be
We won’t forget
The lives we lived, the loves we chased
We lost the things we can’t replace”

  1. Bleeding Out by Imagine Dragons

“When the hour is night
And hopelessness is sinking in
And the wolves all cry
To fill the night with hollering
When your eyes are red
And emptiness is all you know
With the darkness fed
I will be your scarecrow”

  1. Promise by Ben Howard

“Who am I, darling for you?
Who am I?
Gonna be a burden in time, lonely
Who am I, to you?”

  1. This by Ed Sheeran

“Take me home

Watch me fall

Down to earth
Take me back for

This is the start of something beautiful
You are the start of something new”

  1. Walls by The Rocket Summer

    “The story of my life I can’t quite comprehend.
Don’t tell me if you know how it ends.
When everywhere you go feels like a mirror maze,
And you’re not sure how you’re stuck in this place…”

  1. Home by Gabrielle Aplin

“So when I’m ready to be bolder,
And my cuts have healed with time
Comfort will rest on my shoulder
And I’ll bury my future behind
I’ll always keep you with me
You’ll be always on my mind
But there’s a shining in the shadows
I’ll never know unless I try”

  1. Distance by Christina Perri featuring Jason Mraz

*This is Callie and Rowan’s Theme Song. Can we say complicated?

“Please don’t stand so close to me
I’m having trouble breathing
I’m afraid of what you’ll see right now
I give you everything I am
All my broken heart beats
Until I know you’ll understand

And I will make sure to keep my distance
Say, “I love you,” when you’re not listening
And how long can we keep this up, up, up?”

  1. I Need to Know by Kris Allen

“Feel like I’m trying to breathe under water
Trying to climb but I keep falling farther
Will you take my hand?”

  1. Belong by Cary Brothers

“The moon is the only friend I have outside
One more drink and I’ll be healed
I told you the words and then knew it was a lie
I wish I could offer an appeal

You’re wrong
I don’t belong”

  1. Believe by SafetySuit

“Even when you can’t find a light there
Even when you just cry in your bed
Hold on, you’re almost there
Hold on, you’re almost there
Even when you get lost and you’re scared
When you wanna give up I don’t care
Hold on, you’re almost there
Hold on, you’re almost there”

  1. Sinister Kid by The Black Keys

“I got a tortured mind
And my blade is sharp
A bad combination
In the dark”

  1. The Adventure by Angels and Airwaves

“I wanna have the same last dream again,
The one where I wake up and I’m alive.
Just as the four walls close me within,
My eyes are opened up with pure sunlight.
I’m the first to know,
My dearest friends,
Even if your hope has burned with time,
Anything that’s dead shall be re-grown,
And
your vicious pain, your warning sign,
You will be fine.”

  1. Cactus in the Valley (Acoustic) by LIGHTS

“I never meant to wither
I wanted to be tall
Like a fool left the river
And watched my branches fall
Old and thirsty, I longed for the flood
To come back around
To the cactus in the valley
That’s about to crumble down”

  1. The Shade of Poison Trees by Dashboard Confessional

*This song is foreshadowing for the sequel to Reflection Pond, Poison Tree. (You may notice where I got the inspiration for the title.)

“As we lie
In the shade
Of poison trees

Are we as safe

As we let

Ourselves believe?”

Kacey’s All-Out-Insanely-Long-Playlist for Reflection Pond (Minus the songs above because, see above.)

You Don’t See Me by SafetySuit

Be Still by The Fray

One Grain of Sand by Ron Pope

Near to You by A Fine Frenzy

My Skin by Natalie Merchant

Kiss Me Slowly by Parachute

A Drop in the Ocean by Ron Pope

I Can Lift a Car by WALK THE MOON

Never Stop by SafetySuit

Scene One – James Dean & Audrey Hepburn by Sleeping With Sirens

Human by Civil Twilight

Hold on Till May by Pierce the Veil

I Won’t Lie (Acoustic) by Go Radio

Shelter by Birdy

No Envy No Fear by Joshua Radin

I Saw by Matt Nathanson

Bedroom Hymns by Florence + The Machine

Demons by Imagine Dragons

Slow It Down by The Lumineers

Black Flies by Ben Howard

Under The Same Sun by Ben Howard

For the Broken by Social Siberia *This Swedish band is actually so obscure that I couldn’t find a YouTube video for their song. The link goes to their Facebook page. Check them out!

The Storm by The Airborne Toxic Event

Learn to Dance by Andrew McMahon

More by Tyrone Wells

Whew!

All the best,

Kacey

ANTITHESIS EBOOK ON SALE FOR 99 CENTS!

Antithesis CoverMy debut novel, Antithesis is ON SALE for 99 cents (digital version only) to celebrate the release Reflection Pond! Now through May 26th ONLY!

My name is Gavyn.

Liam doesn’t care that I only have one arm. He actually likes my red hair and freckles. I might forgive him for kidnapping me.

My name is Gavyn.

I lost my Liam. I’ve lost them all. And now it’s my job to make sure they don’t show up again.

My name is Gavyn.

I had a life with Liam, but he couldn’t give me what I need. Then I killed his father. I don’t expect he’ll forgive me for that.

My name is Gavyn.

GET IT NOW!

AMAZON

NOOK

GOODREADS

COVER REVEAL: REFLECTION POND

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Reflection Pond by Kacey Vanderkarr

Available April 1, 2014

Cover design by Bioblossom Creative.  bioblossomcreative@gmail.com

Sometimes you find home, sometimes it comes looking for you.

Callie knows a lot more about pain than she does about family. She’s never belonged, at least, not until she falls through a portal into her true home. The beautiful faerie city of Eirensae doesn’t come free. Callie must find her amulet and bind herself to the city, and most importantly, avoid the Fallen fae who seek her life. Seems like a small price to pay for the family she’s always wanted.

Then she meets cynical and gorgeous Rowan, who reads the darkness of her past in her eyes. He becomes Callie’s part-time protector and full-time pain in the ass. He has secrets of his own for Callie to unravel. What they don’t know is that the future of Eirensae lies with them, and the once peaceful city is about to become a battleground for power.

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Book Trailer:

About the author:

cropped author photoKacey Vanderkarr is a young adult author. She dabbles in fantasy, romance, and sci-fi, complete with faeries, alternate realities, and the occasional plasma gun. She’s known to be annoyingly optimistic and listen to music at the highest decibel. Kacey is the president of the Flint Area Writers and the Social Media Director for Sucker Literary. When she’s not writing, she coaches winterguard, and works as a sonographer. Kacey lives in Michigan, with her husband, son, crazy cats, and two bearded dragons. Kacey’s debut novel, Antithesis, is available from Inkspell Publishing.

EXCLUSIVE! EXCERPT FROM REFLECTION POND

Reflection pond TeaserTake a good hard look at this foot. What you’re seeing is a snippet from the cover of Reflection Pond. On Saturday, you’ll be able to finally see the full cover. In keeping with my trend of interviews, exclusive insider info, and tidbits, I will now give you an excerpt from Reflection Pond. (This excerpt is from an uncorrected galley of Reflection Pond and may contain errors.)

Don’t be shy. Post your comments below!

Chapter One

His hand slid under Callie’s shirt; branded skin, slipped into places she tried to keep hidden.

“No,” she said, shoving his fingers away. “No.”

Nate froze and made a disgusted sound. “Callie…”

            She tugged her shirt down.

He sighed. “This has to stop. Do you expect me to wait forever?”

          Callie climbed off of the bed and curled her trembling hands into fists. She hated the wash of his breath on her neck, the smell of his skin, soap and cheap cologne. She’d never loved him, only hoped that if she tried hard enough, she’d miraculously transform into a puzzle that still had all its pieces. Fake it until you make it, she thought bitterly.

            “Callie…” He stood now, came two steps closer as she shrank away. “We can work this out.”

            Behind Nate, the bed lay disheveled and made a mockery of her inadequacy. She added to the list of things she hated—the ten by eight foot space of Nate’s room, the bed, the way he said her name, his refusal to give up.

           “I said I can’t, Nate.” His name slid between clenched teeth. Callie backed up further, until the cold roundness of the doorknob pressed into her back. Her heartbeat thundered everywhere, chest, fingertips, and scalp.

            Nate scraped his hands through unruly curls. He was attractive enough, she supposed, muscular from playing football. But he was right; she couldn’t expect him to wait forever, just as he couldn’t expect her to ever be ready.

            The hard ball of the doorknob filled her hand. She bolted, leaving Nate standing dumbfounded, surrounded by the dirty clothes that lined his floor and the sparkling football trophies on his shelves.

          She didn’t stop to see if he was chasing her. It didn’t matter if he was, because every part of her body screamed to run faster. Out the front door, across the patchy lawn, past her foster home next-door where the screen gaped open and the shutters hung crooked.

            Callie pushed harder, wondering if she could run fast enough to dissipate like smoke, to un-become.

           She couldn’t go home—if she could call it home—where the stench of her foster mother’s cancer seeped into the walls, where she was expected to play parent to the younger foster kids. She couldn’t return to Nate—not ever—not with the humiliation clawing at her chest. Callie knew she’d never be ready. Not in a week, a month…a year.

            Never.

           The thought of Nate’s skin on hers made Callie gag as she steered her legs toward the park. She gasped for air around the bile burning her throat. She knew she looked crazy, but couldn’t bring herself to care. She blew past the old man walking his dog and the girl drawing a hopscotch board on broken concrete. It was as though seventeen years of needing to escape had finally caught up with her.

The sun shone bright, but to Callie, it was shadows.

            Struggling trees surrounding a mucky pond came into view—the park. She registered the change from hard, unforgiving sidewalk to scratchy, dry grass, and didn’t slow. She ran around empty benches where bums slept at night, under the swing set, clattering the chains that dangled without seats. She ran with a singular vision—freedom.

            Callie didn’t see the motorbike or hear the shouts that intruded upon the desolate wasteland of her life. She didn’t see the man as he fell from his two-wheeled machine of destruction or the look of horror on his face. She saw the sky, impossibly blue, as she flew into the air. Callie saw the dank, clouded surface of the reflection pond, too dirty to have ever served as a mirror, and she saw her life—a short, inconsequential blip on the grand map of existence.

            And then, she broke the surface.

The blue sky smudged gray like a painting and the splash echoed in her ears, muffled by the suffocating sound of being underwater. The reflection pond felt wrong—warm, silky, like the lining of a winter coat—and it made her remember.

She opened her mouth to scream, tasting imaginary, pink bubbles, but nothing happened. No stagnant pond water rushed into her throat.

She didn’t drown. She didn’t even choke.

Callie fell through the water and hit a solid, freezing cold floor with the force of a two-story drop. Her lungs paralyzed from the impact and she rolled onto her back, eyes widening. Above her, floating as though suspended by magic, was the pond. She could make out the bottom, clogged with weeds. Sand swirled around the spot she’d fallen through, hitting an invisible barrier and bouncing back. Humid, floral scented air rushed into her lungs and she sat up, surprised to find her clothes and hair dry.

Heart hammering, she dragged herself to her feet and rubbed the sore spots on her elbows. The fear of suffocation faded, replaced with curiosity and the unmistakable relief of escaping Nate.

Pale light filtered through the pond and cast dancing beams onto the walls. The only other illumination came from small rocks that lined the floor. There was a word for that in the back of her mind—bioluminescent. Dark stone walls dripped with humidity. In the distance, water gurgled. Bright flowers in blues, purples, and pinks hung from vines, their heavy heads as large as dinner plates, bowed to the ground.

It was like something from a painting, too beautiful to be real.

“We have stairs you know,” a male voice said.

Callie whirled to find two guys.

They were as alike as they were different, around her age or a little older. They held an identical posture as they stood staring at her, arms crossed over their chests, legs wide, feet bare and dirty. There was a lightness about them and Callie imagined they could move very fast if they wanted. The taller one had wavy, jet black hair that hung to his shoulders, and intense, light blue eyes. His lips twisted into a smirk. The second boy was shorter than the first, very pale, with green eyes and ginger hair that bordered on strawberry blond. His features were small and fine, pretty for a boy; and he smiled, amused.

“What message have you brought us?” the dark-haired boy asked, smirk turning into a grimace.

Callie stared, wondering if she’d hit her head and this was just a wacky, concussion-induced vision. The boy’s eyes narrowed. She looked up; the pond was still there, swirling with absolute benevolence. She searched for an exit. Stone walls. Stone floor. The pond. The three of them with no doors. A new fear fizzled in her stomach.

“I don’t—” she started, voice breathy and uncertain. Her gaze returned to the pond. “How?”

The dark haired boy snorted, drawing her gaze. “This is the antechamber; you know your charms are stripped here.”

“Don’t be rude,” the redhead spoke up. He took a step forward, holding his forearm out. “I’m Ash,” he nodded his head towards the other boy, “this is Rowan.”

“How—did I just…how did I get here?” Despite falling through the pond, Callie’s mouth was dry. She stared at his offered arm, confused. Where did he intend to escort her? “Did you fall through too? Are we trapped?”

The dark-haired one, Rowan, took a step closer, a curious expression on his face. “She doesn’t know,” he said, fascinated, glancing at Ash. “She has no idea.”

Ash looked between Rowan and Callie, his face a question mark. “That’s not possible.”

“It is,” Rowan insisted. He pushed the ends of Callie’s sweaty hair off of her chest and she was too frozen with terror to stop him. “Look,” he pointed to her pale skin, “She doesn’t have an imprint.”

Rowan glowered furiously at Callie, as though she had any idea what he meant. She glanced down at the purple tank top she wore. Loose strands of hair clung to her skin. She backed away, gasping when her shoulders hit the warm foliage that covered the walls. “What is going on?” She gestured to the ceiling. “I just fell through…” Callie cleared her throat, voice hoarse and high with borderline hysteria. “I just fell through the pond.” She shook her arms. “I’m not even wet.” When Ash didn’t answer, she turned to Rowan. “Please. What’s going on?”

Ash glanced at Rowan, incredulous, ignoring Callie. “You don’t have an imprint yet.”

Rowan’s dark eyebrows lowered. “Like I could forget. So nice of you to remind me.” He shook his head and jabbed his finger at Callie again. “Look at her, Ash. She could be related to Sapphire’s line. Look at her eyes.” He took another step closer, which she reciprocated by pressing her spine into the wall.

“I think you’re freaking her out,” Ash said.

Callie lifted her chin in a last-ditch effort not to cry. She was trapped. Her hands curled into stubborn fists. “How did I fall through there?” Something moved in the pond now, something big and solid, wearing a red t-shirt—the guy who’d caused her to plunge into the water.

“Hey!” She waved her arms and followed him from one end of the pond to the other on shaky legs. “I’m right here. Hey!” Panic bubbled in Callie’s chest as she watched his head whip from side to side, looking for her.

“Hey!” Rowan said, raising his voice to match hers.

“I’m here.” She flailed her arms around some more. The guy kicked his feet, traveling from one end of the small pond to the other. Tears leaked onto Callie’s cheeks. She wiped them away. “Why can’t you hear me?”

“Knock that off.” Rowan batted her arms down. “He’s not gonna answer. What’s your name, anyway?”

“Rowan!” Ash admonished.  

They’d cornered her against a wall, and stood before her, expressions perplexed. She’d have to get through both of them if she wanted to run. If she could evade them in a room with no doors. Think, she ordered herself.

“It’s Cal—” she started to answer, searching over their shoulders for a way out. The panic in her chest was rising, an ocean constricted to a jar. She would burst under the pressure.

Ash covered her mouth with his hand. “Shh!”

She tried to bite his palm. His hand tasted sweet, floral.

Ash pulled away and grinned. “You don’t need to tell us your name,” he said, wiping the hand on his pants. “You can’t just ask people that, Row. You know better.”

“She’s not really one of us,” Rowan said.

“She came through the ward. She is.

“I am what?” Callie asked, realizing the only way out was to be the way she came in—the pond. But how was she supposed to get herself back up through it? Even if she jumped, her fingertips would be several feet away from the water. It would have to work. Maybe she could climb on one of their shoulders. She eyed the taller one.

“Maybe we should take her to Hazel. She’ll know what to do,” Rowan said.

“That’s probably a good idea,” Ash hesitated, “but…”

“But what?” Irritation tinged Rowan’s words. “You want to keep her trapped here as a plaything?”

“No. You’re right.” Ash held out his arm again. “Come along then.”

Callie didn’t move. Did he think she would go with them without a fight? Above her, the guy had climbed out of the pond. He’d probably already given up on finding her. What would they tell her foster family? She fell into the pond and just disappeared. I swear.

Typical.

“Clearly there’s been some kind of misunderstanding,” Callie said, forcing her voice to remain reasonable. “I just need to get back up there and we can forget this ever happened.” She nodded. She’d read somewhere that nodding helped convince people to agree with you.

Rowan cleared his throat. “You can come on your own, or we can force you. I’m trained in torture techniques that make ax murderers cringe.”

“You don’t have to be dramatic,” Ash said. He pushed his arm closer to Callie, insistent, it nearly touched her nose. “Once Hazel sees you, we can figure out what you’re doing here and get you on your way.” He waited. “Come on. Don’t be rude.”

Callie didn’t get it and she didn’t like it—she’d somehow fallen through water and remained dry. These two guys were weird. She especially didn’t like that the guy had left her for dead in the pond.

Ass.

She lifted her arms to shove the guys away and make a run for it—to where, she didn’t know—but Rowan caught her wrists.

“Don’t bother. Ash—get the rope.”

Callie couldn’t tell if he was joking. Fear stabbed at her throat.

“For the love, Row. Shut up.” Ash tried to pry Rowan’s hands off, but he held tight.

“Let me go.” Callie jabbed her elbow at his face and missed by a lot. Being a foster for most of her life had given her street smarts, but Callie didn’t know the first thing about fighting, unless she counted evading Nate’s advances, which she didn’t. Callie didn’t count on Nate for much. Rowan’s fingers tightened on the soft inside of her wrist and she flinched, not because it hurt, but because it tingled, as if it’d fallen asleep.

“Be nice,” Ash said, knocking Rowan’s hand away. “It’s okay.” He smiled and presented his arm again like a father waiting to accompany his daughter down the aisle.

The gesture made Callie slightly nauseous. She rubbed her wrist. Her fear gave way to annoyance. Maybe this Hazel person could get her back…up? She had to get out of this room. If there was one thing Callie couldn’t stand, it was being trapped, caged in like an animal, held down. She needed doors. She needed windows. She needed a sky above her.

“And I can’t leave until I meet Hazel?” she asked. Her instincts said to humor them until she could escape.

“You can’t leave,” Rowan said. “Ever.” A slow, irritating smile spread across his mouth.

“If you don’t shut up, I’m going to set you on fire,” Ash said, but he was smiling at the other boy. Maybe here, under the pond, setting people on fire was a normal thing to do.

“Hazel will help you,” Ash said to Callie. “Besides, it’s not like we can just throw you up through the pond.” He made a dismissive gesture as if it was a ridiculous notion.

“You can leave if you die,” Rowan said thoughtfully.

“Fire,” Ash reminded.

Rowan made a gesture that said lead the way.

“Fine,” Callie conceded, looping her arm through Ash’s, cringing once again at the strange sensation she got when they touched her. “Take me to Hazel.” Get me out of this room.

Ash beamed and pulled her toward the wall. Rowan trailed behind, muttering something about the “idiocy of mere mortals.”

“Wait,” she said as Ash tried to drag her into the stone, “That’s a rock wall.” The room had no exits, no doors, not even a hole large enough to crawl through.

Rowan snickered. “Well, of course it is.” He gave her a hard shove and she shut her eyes as her face careened toward the stone, knowing that she’d made a terrible mistake.

***

Rowan watched the girl disappear and tried to ignore the tightness in his chest.

It wasn’t because she was pretty—of course she was, beauty was a given in Eirensae. Sometimes he longed for the diversity of the human world, where no one was glamoured to perfection. He wanted scars to map out a history that actually meant something. Flawlessness turned his stomach.

            The humid, overheated air shifted as he stepped through the portal and into the common space of the tunnels, turning cooler, though the suffocating scent of flowers remained. He supposed he should enjoy the scent, associate it with home, but home was an elusive word.

            The city was beautiful. Rowan had never gotten used to it. He’d thought that over time the magnificence would grow on him and one day he’d wake up and think, Oh, I fit here.

In a couple months, it’d be two years since he’d crossed the portal into the city, and it still felt just as foreign as the first day. Besides, beauty was fragile. Take the blooms that dripped from every surface here, easily plucked. Rowan was fire and Eirensae was a flower. No good could come of that combination.

            The girl’s arched mouth fell into a gasp as she looked up at the glamoured ceiling. A blond cascade of hair skimmed over her shoulders as she leaned farther backwards, trying to take it all in.

Rowan didn’t believe a single word that came out of her mouth. He couldn’t lie, but he didn’t think she was like him. It didn’t matter if she looked like Sapphire. Lots of girls had blond hair and blue eyes. Lots of girls were beautiful. It didn’t mean she belonged here. No one fell through the pond by accident.

Tearing his gaze from the curve of her throat, Rowan tried to scrape away the cynicism and see the room through new eyes. The walls were similar to those in the antechamber, made of solid, knobby gray rock. Deep green vines snaked across them, weaving in and out of each other, sometimes creating great leaves as long as his legs. Flowers of every shape and color dripped in a kaleidoscope, their petals huge, each color brighter and more impossible than the last. Rowan curled his toes against the cool, compressed dirt floor and glanced up.

            Millions of stars dotted what should’ve been a stone ceiling. It was vast and velvet, the sky over an ocean, away from lights and people, and as magical as it was fake. The glamour was lovely, but not as impressive to those who knew its true form. Rowan focused on the sky until it dissolved into the rock ceiling underneath. The presence of the ordinary stone satisfied him for some reason and he let the glamoured night sky slide back into place.

            Ash tugged on the girl’s arm.

“That’s impossible,” she murmured transfixed, eyes wide.

A cluster of shooting stars flashed across the darkness, brightening the room for a few seconds. They fizzled on the opposite end, just above the tunnel that lead to the library, Rowan’s favorite place in Eirensae. Even now—especially now—Rowan longed to hide in the books, devour the information, immerse himself in the one thing that had never let him down.

            “Stop showing off,” he said, fighting the urge to scowl at Ash. He pushed around them and entered the far passageway that led to Hazel’s hideaway, anxious to get rid of the girl and spend the afternoon with his quarterstaff, beating the hell out of something.

            “You’ll soon learn that nothing is impossible here,” Ash said, voice skipping through the tunnels.

            Rowan quickened his steps, not caring whether they followed or not.

ANTITHESIS REVIEWS

Antithesis CoverDid you pick up a copy of Antithesis yet? There’s been tons of feedback and lots of discussion over the “mysterious” blurb. Not sure if Antithesis is for you? The blog tour just wrapped up and here’s what other people are saying:

http://www.supportivebusinessmums.co.uk/best-seller-in-the-making-young-adult-paranormal-romance-by-kacimari-win-books/

Ces: “This book grabbed my interest at the start and kept tight hold tugging me along for a hard to put down read.”

“…it’s an emotional blast till the very end with lots of twists and turns. Tick for steamy scenes, Tick for emotional scenes, Tick for action, Tick for drama, lots of Ticks and Stars for Antithesis.”

http://distancebookclub.blogspot.com/2013/08/antithesis-book-tour-review-giveaway.html?spref=tw

Josie: “Gavyn is such a sassy-pants, strong but cynical girl with a major chip on her shoulder…”

“Filled with unexpected twists and turns and swoon-worthy moments, Antithesis is unlike the other “YA sci-fi romances” you will find out there.”

http://caughtinasnyderwebb.blogspot.com/2013/08/antithesis-review-giveaway-heroine-with.html

Ryan: “Gavyn is dorky and not very confident. She was born with only one arm which is a little hard on her sometimes. Her personality was pretty cute. Liam is sort of a cocky mess. He made me laugh sometimes and for that, he is okay with me.” 

http://we-do-write.blogspot.com/2013/08/review-antithesis-by-kacey-vanderkarr.html?spref=tw

Sandra:  “Vanderkarr’s novel demonstrates a surprising layering of the intimately familiar and mundane with advanced technologies, surreal landscapes, and the clinically macabre, in a story which has left me waking from dreams wondering for a moment if maybe I really am just glimpsing other realities, just as real as this one.”

http://cicistheories.com/2013/08/antithesis/

Cici: ”I really liked how Gavyn embraced herself.  She was who she was, no limits, no excuses.  I believe it really sends a strong message about what it really takes to be a true ‘hero’.  I also really appreciated how right from the start, Liam was not afraid nor intimidated by her.  I don’t recall a story that had such a strong main character like Gavyn.  Truly a first read for me.”

“If you are looking for a captivating, unique read, ANTITHESIS should definitely be on the top of your list.”

http://mylibraryinthemaking.blogspot.com/2013/08/blog-tour-book-review-giveaway_20.html

Kazhy: “It’s easy to find swoon-worthy boys in books, but swoon-worthy couples? Nuh-uh. These two were so hilarious and awkward yet still sexy and sweet together. I may have snorted and giggled a lot.Gavyn and Liam’s crazy adventure made for a fast-paced, unputdownable read.”

http://thebookbabesreads.blogspot.com/2013/08/blog-tour-review-giveaway-antithesis-by.html?spref=tw

Megan: “…she [Gavyn] deserves to be seen for who she is, because she totally kicks ass. Even if she does puke afterwards.”

“All in all, Antithesis was a fun, philosophically challenging read for me.”

A huge THANK YOU to everyone who participated in the tour and took the time to read and review Antithesis. If you would like to pick up Antithesis, you can get it on Amazon in both paperback and digital format. Add it on Goodreads.

Questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you. Shoot me an email: kacey.vanderkarr (at) gmail (dot) com.

All the best,

Kacey