Wednesday, July 23, 2014

DRIFTING, by Katia D. Ulysse

DRIFTING by Katia D. Ulysse provides a unique lens into the Haitian experience, ranging from 1970-2010, including the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake. It's an interwoven narrative of stories connected with a common theme: humanity.

From Goodreads:


Ulysse introduces us to a childless Haitian American couple risking it all for a baby to call their own; a Florida-based predatory schoolteacher threatening students with deportation if they expose him; and the unforgettable Monsieur Boursicault, whose chain of funeral parlors makes him the wealthiest man in Haiti. This daring work of fiction is a departure from the standard narrative of political unrest on the island. Ulysse's characters are everyday people whose hopes for distant success are constantly challenged--but never totally swayed--by the hard realities accompanying the immigrant’s journey.





DRIFTING is such a wonderful title. How did it come to you, and in what ways does it connect the interwoven narrative together?

KDU: The characters in “Drifting” weave in and out of place and time. Sometimes their travels are deliberate and lead them to one another; other times their travels are forced, and divide them. The characters travel to distant places, hoping to change their circumstances. They are like leaves from different trees that are being tossed around together in a storm. They don’t know their destination. They are constantly moving, running into or away from one another. They drift apart, only to find out that their lives are interwoven. One cannot escape the other, however vast the distance separating them. 

A wonderful theme. DRIFTING has such unique and poignant characters. Did they come to you fully fleshed or did they develop as you wrote them?

KDU: The characters in Drifting came to me fully fleshed. They were like old friends visiting after many years. Each time I sat to write, all I had to do was be like a fly on the wall and listen. The characters said: This is who I am. This is what I did. These are my family members. We don’t care for one another. This is the country where I live. This is the village. Come into my house. This is where I keep the deed to my father’s land... The characters knew who they were; my job was to bring them to the page. I spent such a long time writing Drifting that I got to know these characters better than I know myself.
 

I envy your ability to tap into your characters! You've been published in journals such as Caribbean Writer and anthologies like Haiti Noir, among others. What do you recommend to writers who are interested in submitting their work to publications?

KDU: I am fortunate to have had my work published in numerous publications. However, for each Yes I received, there was at least one No. The recommendation I would make to writers who are interested in submitting their work to publications is: Read the journal to which you wish to submit your work. Familiarize yourself with every aspect of the journal. It’s like being in school: if you’re in psychology class, you don’t want to submit work from your math class. The math work might be brilliant, but it has no place in psychology class. Also, follow the journal’s guidelines for submission. Do what is asked. Adhere to the deadline. If they specify "No Simultaneous" submissions, do what they say. In the beginning, and especially now, I respect the publisher’s guidelines. There are millions of writers out there trying to have one chance to be published. We will not get a publisher’s attention by ignoring the publisher’s guidelines for submission. Most publishers accept only “agented” work/writer. Focus on getting representation. That helps a ton.  

Excellent advice. What are some of your current projects?

KDU: I am one of those people who cannot sit still. I always have many projects going on at once. I write constantly. (Just the other day, there was a mistake at the office store. They deleted the entire content of a flash drive. My most urgent projects and most current revisions were on that flash drive. They are irretrievable. That was a lesson learned the hard way.
Another current project involves making ceremonial flags in the Haitian tradition of sequins and beads. Between writing and flag-making, I don’t get to sleep much. But I love it. Another major project is to get my gardens in order. I am an avid gardener, but I would totally fire myself for the horrible job I’ve been doing this summer.
A third on-going project I’m working on is voicesfromhaiti.com. It’s an E-place that features the voices of those who would not have a platform to express their thoughts. Voicesfromhaiti is a work in progress. Currently, my goal for Voices is to open it up more. Although I love my birth country, I have to realize that Haiti is but a small part of the world. There are voices from around the globe which we need to hear. I look forward to expanding the blog and welcome voices from everywhere.



To obtain your own copy of DRIFTING, click the link below:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

INVINCIBLE WILD by Jessica Taylor

I met Jessica Taylor at a recent conference, and her upcoming book INVINCIBLE WILD sounded super intriguing! It will debut in Fall 2015, and the cover is coming soon! You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram.

From Goodreads:

Raised by Wanderers, sixteen-year-old Tal travels the roads of the southern wild in her Chevy by day and camps in her tent trailer at night. Hustling, conning, and grifting her way into just enough cash to save her fifteen-year-old brother, Wen, from bare-knuckle fighting was once enough to keep her dreams of traveling the whole world at bay. Everything changes when the Wanderers set up camp in a little town called Cedar Falls.

There, Spencer Sway, a boy Tal tried to hustle at a game of billiards, keeps popping up into her life—and worst of all—into her scams. Buttoned-up, starched-and-ironed Spencer talks of places where Tal’s truck can’t take her. His promises of traveling across oceans are almost enough to shatter her love of the Wanderer life.

When a boy shows up at camp, ready to make good on a nearly-forgotten arranged marriage to Tal, Tal and Wen make a pact: No matter the cost, they will use their limitless skills of grift to earn the bride price and buy back her future—even if Spencer Sway gets used along the way.



According to your website bio, after graduating with your law degree, you realized, "I'd rather write my own stories than read dusty law books." Can you elaborate on this and tell us more about your journey toward publication?

 I started writing toward publication in May of 2010, when I was halfway through law school. By the time law school ended, I knew I couldn’t bear to practice law, and I knew being a young adult author was my dream job. I wouldn’t say that I left the law to be a writer, but I did decide to take two years to focus solely on writing and see where it took me. It’s always a little awkward to talk about how I made the transition from law to writing because I wouldn’t encourage anyone else to follow in my footsteps. What I did was a huge gamble, and while it paid off, I might be living in a cardboard box if it hadn’t. Really. Okay, not really. But close.

Fortunately, I had an agent within six months and a book deal within the next year. I’d love to tell you that not once did I look back and think twice about the choices I made, but that would be a lie. As if querying and going on sub wasn’t bad enough, not having a plan B was added pressure!


Yes, but it definitely shows the importance of taking risks! According to your website, you are represented by Sarah LaPolla of Bradford Literary Agency. What do you like most about working with Sarah?

 Sarah was the first person to read my work and say yes. When I queried the novel I wrote before WILD, which was a paranormal YA, a lot of agents passed and asked me to submit my next project because the current market wasn’t paranormal friendly. Sarah was the first agent to have faith that there were more good ideas inside me if the first novel didn’t sell. As it turns out, we decided to pull that project after I finished WILD, which went on to sell to Egmont. So, our relationship began on a great note and has continued to be fabulous. Sarah gives very honest feedback, which I appreciate, and she’s always willing to talk through any issues I’m having with my work. When she identifies problems in a manuscript, she'll often give me specific ideas for how to fix them. If I have other solutions in mind, she’s flexible and willing to listen. I so appreciate those qualities, and I’m certain Sarah’s thoughtful feedback has taken my work to the next level.


It sounds like you've developed a great level of communication. Your novel INVINCIBLE WILD debuts in 2015. I love the premise--where did the idea come from and what do you hope readers will take away from it?

 INVINCIBLE WILD is truly the book of my heart, so I could write a novella about my inspiration and what I hope it means to readers. It's all of my greatest loves rolled into one manuscript.

When I set out to write WILD, I knew I wanted to write about a character who lived an unusual life and had her beliefs in her world shaken. I've always been fascinated by Irish Travellers, so I saw the opportunity to combine the two. The Wanderers are a fictionalized version of Travellers, and I was inspired by the William Stafford poem, A Story That Could Be True to use the name "Wanderer."

If I have to get to the very soul of WILD, it’s about three characters who have strong ties to the worlds they’ve always known, and those connections threaten the dreams they secretly and sometimes not-so-secretly harbor. I think this is a universal conundrum for teens and adults alike. But WILD's message isn’t to take extreme risks or to be true to your upbringing. My hope is simply that WILD will make readers think about their worlds and their choices with a new perspective.


I can't wait to read it! What are some of your current projects? Will INVINCIBLE WILD have a sequel?

 I’m working on two projects, and I’m stoked about both of them. They are YA, of course, and both are magical realism. That’s unfortunately all I can say for now. I hope someday I can tell you a lot more about one or both!

 I don’t know what might happen with the world I created for WILD. I can say for certain that INVINCIBLE WILD will not have a sequel. I’m a firm believer that once my story is in the hands of readers, it’s not my story anymore. There’s a slight ambiguity in WILD, which a sequel could erase, and I wouldn’t want to rewrite the story readers have imagined. That said, there is one character who is particularly near and dear to my heart—and that’s Tal’s brother, Wen. There are no formal (or even informal) plans yet, but I’ve mentally written a lovely story about his journey after the novel ends.

Thanks, Jessica, for a great interview!


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

THE GATEWAY THROUGH WHICH THEY CAME by Heather Marie

I'm really excited to feature Heather Marie's new book, THE GATEWAY THROUGH WHICH THEY CAME. Heather is a past giveaway winner, and when I happened to meet her in person at a recent conference, she mentioned this awesome new book of hers, debuting August 25. See below:

From Goodreads:

To seventeen-year-old Aiden Ortiz, letting the dead walk through his body to reach the other side comes with the territory. Being a Gateway isn’t an easy job, but someone’s gotta send Bleeders where they belong. Heaven. Salvation. Call it whatever you want. Dead is dead. But when his search for Koren Banks––the girl who went mysteriously missing seven months ago––leaves him with more questions than answers, he finds himself involved in something far more sinister and beyond his control.

With the threat of the Dark Priest's resurrection, and his plan to summon his demon brothers from hell, Aiden is left to discover his identity before the Dark Priest's curse infecting his blood consumes him, and before the world as he knows it succumbs to the darkness of hell on earth.



You can read the first chapter for THE GATEWAY THROUGH WHICH THEY CAME here: http://heathermarieya.com/first-chapter-sneak-peek/

And here are Heather's answers to some questions!

Your website bio states that you were a hairstylist and make-up artist before becoming a writer. What spurned this transition, and can you tell us more about your journey toward publication?

At some point during my hair career, I found myself reading more and more. It got to the point where I'd much rather stay in the break room, or at home reading. I suppose you can say it got a little obsessive. At some point I decided that I needed to sit down and force myself to write a book. This became the start of an entirely different obsession. I'd take my laptop back and forth from work and home, spending every free second of my time focused on writing.

I think this is when my co-workers/friends knew this was the start of something new—an entirely different direction from where I was in my life. It was then that I pushed myself to write and write until there was something worth an agent's time. Although I no longer have an agent, the idea that I could, in fact, get one with my writing spurred much determination and faith in myself.

I knew in my heart that if I pushed hard enough, I could make something happen with my writing. It just took a few years and several manuscripts to get there.
 

Your persistence has definitely paid off! THE GATEWAY THROUGH WHICH THEY CAME has a great premise. Where did the idea come from, and what do you want readers to take away when they're finished?

It's no secret that I'm fascinated by the supernatural, so when the initial idea came to me, I knew it had to be gruesome, yet, beautiful in its own right. It was important for me to introduce a character that is different, but essentially a reflection of the pearly gates. I don't know why this idea fascinated me so much, but the minute I began picturing the world in which Aiden existed, I knew I had to bring it to life.

And always with good, there is evil. I knew there had to be some temptation, some otherworldly power to set things in motion. To me, I see Aiden as any other teen in this world who is faced with many obstacles and temptations. We all come from a world where things are what they are, depending on our choices. Ultimately, I suppose I'd like my readers to know that they're not alone. We all have demons we have to face. It's just how we decide to confront them that matters.
 

Very well said. I read an excerpt of GATEWAY, and it was fantastic! What do you think makes a story's beginning most effective?

I think my favorite part of writing a new manuscript is that first chapter. More specifically, the opening line. I'm a believer that your first chapter is going to make or break the book for readers. It's the one thing that tells them whether they're gonna buy it or put it down. Starting with action right off the bat is my go-to way to begin a story. That first line and/or chapter should be the very essence of what your story is about. It's like a roller coaster—that first trek up the tracks is full of tension, setting your readers up for the initial drop.

What a great analogy for writing good openings. And I love your website! What advice, if any, do you have for writers wanting to build (or rebuild) an online platform?

Be yourself. As much as people love hearing about your writing/book(s), they don't want to be hit over the head constantly with promotional posts. Don't be afraid to show people who you are as a person, but only go as far as you're comfortable. I'm very secretive about where I live, where I go, etc. But I'm not afraid to share pieces of my life with people that they might find funny or relatable.

People are gonna like you for you. Your books and whether they read them or not is a plus. But let them decide. Don't force it. 


Great advice! What are some of your current projects? Will THE GATEWAY THROUGH WHICH THEY CAME have a sequel?

It absolutely will! I announced the sequel back in June. June 12th to be exact. I remember 'cause it was my brother's birthday. LOL As of now it's titled: THE GATEWAY OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS. I am super excited to share Gateway with the world, and a little nervous. Aiden and his friends have a crazy adventure set-up for themselves. I'm looking forward to hearing what people think.

Currently I'm working on an entirely different manuscript, but it will remain a secret until the fall. It's killing me because I so want to talk about it. Soon, my lovelies. Soon.  



Bio:

Heather Marie lives in Northern California with her husband, and spends the majority of her time at home reading. Before she followed her dreams of becoming a writer, Heather worked as a hairstylist and makeup artist for several years. Although she enjoyed the artistic aspect of it all, nothing quite quenched her creative side like the telling of a good story. When the day had come for her to make a choice, she left behind her promising career to start another, and never looked back.


Twitter: https://twitter.com/HeatherMarieYA
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/heathermariewrites
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19089172-the-gateway-through-which-they-came
Website: http://heathermarieya.com/






Wednesday, July 2, 2014

FINDING LOST by Deena Remiel

I've known Deena Remiel for a few years, and recently reconnected with her at a conference, where she was extremely supportive. She also has library experience--and calls librarians "Book Waitresses," which I love. At the con I attended, she gave a great session, Crafting the Dark Moment, that I got a lot out of. Her forthcoming romantic suspense, FINDING LOST, comes out in 2015.

How could anyone be miserable in paradise? Carrie Samuels could write a book about it. Far away from her family and friends, she’s fled to Isla Mujéres hoping to escape a relentless stalker who knew how to torment and leave no calling card. What started out as a short-term solution has turned into a long-term jail sentence on a tropical island.
Painfully handsome, with a killer smile and well-hewn body, Dillon McMahon left his past behind and plans to spend the rest of his life off the grid on Isla Mujéres, the perfect place to dig in. Living next door to a sexy, quirky, and mysterious woman makes it all the sweeter.
When Carrie and Dillon’s pasts collide with the present, it threatens their budding relationship and sends them into a maelstrom of danger, abduction, and attempted murder. Sometimes, no matter how far you run, you just can’t hide.




Here are Deena's answers to some questions:

In your website bio, you talk about writing dark stories. What draws you to Good vs. Evil, and can you tell us more about your journey toward becoming an author?

I've always been fascinated by the struggle between good and evil in our world. I'd watch the news growing up, listening day after day to horrid stories of crimes perpetrated against human beings BY human beings, and then, suddenly, those stories took a back seat to stories of heroism and "feel good" pieces. I noticed this rise and fall of good and evil and came to an understanding that it will always be so. Our job is to make sure that good always prevails. 
In my writing, I can make sure that happens. No matter how dark, how depraved, how evil a situation may be for my hero and heroine, good will always win and there will always be an HEA or a HFN. 

It's good to know that even in dark moments, there's always a way to prevail! Your forthcoming romantic suspense, FINDING LOST, comes out in 2015. Where did the idea for the story come from, and how did the characters develop as you wrote them?

FINDING LOST was created by answering this question: What if living in an island paradise was perceived as living in a prison? I started crafting my heroine first. Who is she? Why would she think living in paradise was hell? Then I crafted the hero. What's his story? Why did he move to paradise, too? Next, I crafted a reason for them to connect and the rest of the suspenseful plot that helped these two people change and grow and fall in love. 

What an excellent way to build characters! Your series, The Book Waitress, is compiled of 13 serialized novellas. What are some advantages to writing in a serialized format? 

I think one advantage to this kind of project is that I get to go deep into plot over a long period of time. I get to craft relationships, watch them climax and fall apart while new ones are forged, and make sure it's all plausible and realistic.  Serializing affords me the opportunity to release stories in a shorter time-frame than a full-length novel, satisfying my readers' need for more, more, more. As a writer, it's always hard to say goodbye to characters that are dear to my heart. I won't have to say goodbye to Camille and the gang for quite a while. :)

I'm glad! What are some of your current projects?

I'm currently working on Book 4 of The Brethren Series- ANGEL RISING, Part 1. When that goes off for edits, I will begin writing Book 5 of The Book Waitress Series- ROCK-A-BYE DEMON, and Book 6- STICKS AND STONES.

To snag Deena's books for yourself, click the links below:


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Going Dark until July...

Having just finished my literature class, and with the American Library Association Conference looming, I'm going to spend time in my writer cave for the next few weeks. I'm hoping to get more author interviews in the near future too.

See you in July...and while you're waiting, enjoy this:


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Writerly Lessons from Phoenix Comicon!

This past weekend, I experienced a lot of writerly growth at Phoenix Comicon. Here are some gleaned nuggets:

1. Let go of your writerly kung-fu grip

In the past, I'd heard some writers say their characters whispered things to them. These murmurs informed the writers who these characters were and what they really wanted--even if it was different from what was already written (What? You have a long-lost sister?). But my characters didn't seem to be telling me anything, even when I asked them to.

I realized it was because I was keeping them, and my story, in a choke-hold because I was so afraid of "wasted words" that wouldn't end up in the final draft. But being afraid to get too messy made everything fall flat under unnecessary confinement--and none of my pages got requests.

Your novel tells you what it wants. Not the other way around. Let your characters free, and they'll pop off the page.

Suggested Exercise: Open up a separate document from your novel and write a conversation between two of your characters. See where it leads.

2. Make sure those writerly words count

Most agents will see, at most, the first few paragraphs of your work. So make sure those really shine, and that any unnecessary words, actions or cliches are cut out. Also, when you're reading excerpts or pages out loud, be sure to start at the beginning. If you're not starting at the beginning (because Chapter Five is soooo much better), make Chapter Five the beginning.

Suggested Exercise: Look at your first ten words. First ten paragraphs. First ten pages. What stands out most? What doesn't stand out that should?

3. Know your writerly business

It tough to keep an eye on the publishing business during the crafting stage because it's constantly changing, and the business will likely be very different when your work finally gets out there (I know this is true for me).  But it's still a good idea to glean some of the basics, and demonstrate that you're in the know. For example, sci-fi/fantasy isn't an official genre. (Sci-fi is, and fantasy is, but together? No.). It's also good to be aware why certain genres exist, and what their purpose is. As an example, any story dependent on a romance (even as a subplot) is considered romance, and will be shelved that way.

Suggested Exercise: Go to your local bookstore (or even a chain, like Barnes and Noble) and try to figure out what categories they use. Which one would your book fit under?

Here are some other moments from Comicon that made the day even better:
  • The Balrog!
  • I saw a ton of great authors (including some previously featured on this blog).
  • My husband didn't hate it. He was also very helpful with miscellaneous schlepping.
  • I met and spoke with John Ratzenberger, of Cheers and Pixar fame.
  • Chuck Wendig predicted my death: crushed by books. This is probably very accurate.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Sometimes, your novel is a Rubik's Cube

My most recent edits transformed my novel from Frankenstein-ish into more of a Rubik's cube pattern. The colors are starting to align, and newer threads are finally melding with the first draft. Chapter 10 is much more solid, and soon I'll be able to tackle the next parts. And even if I have to undo a few things to get there (also like a Rubik's cube) they'll all fit together eventually.

So, take heart. Your novel can go from a fractured blob:


To a almost pattern, sometimes in a matter of days:



(Photos courtesy of freeimages.com)

Just remember what your subconscious is telling you--what to eliminate, what to keep. And listen to your gut. What's working? What's not?

More about this in my recent Operation Awesome post.

Have a great week everyone!