Saturday, August 16, 2014

My Office!!

Ages ago I posted about renovating a room into a real writer's office. It is finally 90% done! The only things missing are the desk part for my treadmill, to have a few art pieces framed to hang, and a pendant lamp for the corner near the cork board. Oh, and a new shade for my current lamp. My best find was the brand new, still in the package, curtain rod for $5 from the Habitat for Humanity store. My 4' x 5' white board was made from a $16 piece of shower board and my cute rug came from Overstock. What do you think?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Win an ARC of NO PLACE TO FALL Twitter Contest!

Well, hey there! So nice of you to drop into these writers’ blogs and see what they’re up to. Here’s the deal. My name is Amber Vaughn, and I’m the main character in Jaye Robin Brown’s debut novel, NO PLACE TO FALL. Because I want you to read about me and read about my friends Devon, and C.A. and—be still my heart—Will McKinney, I’ve devised a scheme to encourage Lisa Maxwell to give away her ARC of the book I’m in.

If you don’t already know, I’m a singer. Will says my voice is as sweet as Patsy Cline’s which I think is hogwash, but still, I do love to sing. And I’m going to audition to get into the NC School of the Arts so I can get out of my tiny town of Sevenmile, NC and somewhere my whole life will be about music. But auditioning is seriously freaking me out. Yeah, I sing in church, and I sing out on the trails, but an audition? In front of people who really know their stuff?

So, I want your help. I mean, I know NC-Arts has real requirements and stuff for their auditions, but I don’t want you to pay attention to that. I want you to tell me which song you’d audition with and why. Which song is so personal to you your voice would shine?And I want you to do it in a tweet! (and it’s okay if you don’t think you can sing, my author, Jaye Robin Brown, doesn’t think she can either)

For example, I told Lisa Maxwell she had to share her audition song and here's what she had to say:

Hey all—Lisa Maxwell here, and Amber has insisted I choose an audition song, even though I’ve told her in no uncertain terms that this is a Very Bad Idea. Because, basically, I sing in my very own special key. It’s bad. Real bad. But if we’re going to pretend that I can sing and that I would audition, I would have to go with Fiona Apple’s “Paperbag.” I’ve always like singers with throatier, deeper voices and if I had to be a singer, I’d want that kind of voice. 

I was staring at the sky, just looking for a star
To pray on, or wish on, or something like that
I was having a sweet fix of a daydream of a boy
Whose reality I knew, was a hopeless to be had
But then the dove of hope began its downward slope
And I believed for a moment that my chances
Were approaching to be grabbed
But as it came down near, so did a weary tear
I thought it was a bird, but it was just a paper bag

You know, that or something really rocking and kickass like “Celebrity Skin,” by Hole or “Bring Me to Life” by Evanescence.

Oh, who am I kidding? I’d never get into music school...even if I could sing ;O)

I appreciate the effort, Lisa. That was real good. For the rest of you it might be a little harder, here’s the deal. Between today, August 11 and Wednesday, August 13th, until midnight PST, tweet your audition song and why, with the hashtag #NoPlaceToFall. I’m going to choose the winner (US only, please). That’s right, I, Amber Vaughn, will choose who gets to read about me. Here’s a hint. I want to see your singer’s soul!

If I just can’t decide, then I’m going to draw straws from the finalists and the ones I don’t pick will get some signed swag in the mail! And if you're curious about what my author chose as her audition song, you'll have to pop over to Lisa Maxwell's blog before you rush off to tweet me! See what Jro picked out, gosh, you think she would have picked out something I love, but no, she had to go get all authorly independent on me. Anyway CLICK HERE

Saturday, August 2, 2014

It's PitchWars Time!!! Are We Meant to Be?

Welcome to the 2014 version of PitchWars! I had so much fun last year as a mentor with my amazing #teamonfire that I jumped at the chance to sign up as a mentor again. 

So, who am I? I’m Jaye Robin Brown, or Jro, which is what most people call me. I’m a writer, a public high school art teacher, an animal lover, and an avid reader. My writing is fueled by coffee, chocolate, and laughter! My debut novel is a young adult contemporary set in the mountains of North Carolina (where I happen to live!). It’s about family and mistakes and truth and longing.  But mostly it’s about Amber Vaughn who dreams of singing on stage but whose circumstances keep getting in her way. And let’s not forget the cute boy with the banjo. And it finally, finally, finally is coming out this fall. December 9th to be exact. (No Place To Fall - Harper Teen 2014)

I don't have a degree in writing or even English, but I've been at this for a while now, including an entire editorial process with my editor at Harper Collins for NPTF and now two new editorial processes - one for the 2nd book in my contract and one for a sekret project. I've seen one CP get two huge book deals, another sell her own memoir to Sourcebooks, another sell a YA trilogy, a non-fiction book, and a NA series all in two years, and several more get agented, who are now out on submission. 

My last year's mentee, Nina Moreno, garnered the second most requests of all of Pitchwars and both of my alternates (last year we had two) got requests during the various contests associated with Pitchwars. Though their perfect agent matches haven't happened yet, they are all still very much in the game with last year's entries. And to brag even more (because that's what we're supposed to do here, right, convince you to pick us?), I talked last year's Pitchwars' winner into entering her manuscript. Of course I couldn't pick her, but hey, I've got good taste, yo. 

What do I like in writing? I like fully realized characters, VOICE, and big hearts and pretty words.  Think commercial fiction with a literary bent to the writing. I love characters who grapple with the question of life and how to best live it. I also love setting as character - transport me! Make me live in your world! And smart humor makes me weak in the knees. 

So what's on my wish list? It must all be Young Adult.

If you can make me feel like this, I want you!
I love Contemporary fiction that involves a larger cast of characters. Give me families and parents. I also love a good romance. Serious subject matter is fine, as are LGBT characters and twisty thrilling plot lines. The hard stuff doesn’t scare me neither does a bittersweet pill, but as you can see by the following list, I like a good summer romance, too. (Contemporary faves are A.S. King, Sara Zarr, Jandy Nelson, Nina LaCour, Holly Cupala, Sarah Dessen, Ashley Elston, Emily Murdoch)  I’m not wild about mean girls or snarky gossip style contemporaries or dark just to be dark (rather than tackling a real social issue - though rape and eating disorders are not for me), I’m probably not your best bet there. Smart with heart is my jam. Choke me up!

I also love a good Survival/Adventure story. I loved Terry Lynn Johnson's Ice Dogs, and the forthcoming The Walled City by Ryan Graudin. I still want to get invested in character first and foremost and of course, the plot must barrel forward and keep me on the edge of my seat. And again, the setting must draw me in like a character.

Magical Realism/Spirituality is awesome. For me this means a contemporary set novel, with a touch of the mystical. The two examples that come to mind are, unfortunately, not published. One is last year's PitchWars winner, The Sea Wolves, that dealt with island beliefs about orcas. The other is the forthcoming Islands At the End of the World which is this fantastic mashup of adventure, post-apocalypse, and Hawaiian spirituality. But think Chocolat or Like Water for Chocolate for the YA crowd.

In Science fiction/near-future - Sociological sci-fi (versus hard science sci-fi) - think Beth Revis’ trilogy or The Adoration of Jenna Fox. I also really enjoyed The Color of Rain (prostitutes in space) and the forthcoming Extraction by Stephanie Diaz.  I love things that question political structures, medical issues and environmental issues (fracking anyone?) but I am super tired of the enslaved future woman trope where they have to marry a certain guy and it's like the future has harkened back to the victorian era for women. No. But most important is a sizzling fast pace and suspense and thrills that keep me turning the page and the kind of visual world building that takes me to your universe. And I am a Browncoat, through and through.

I also love Historical Romance, straight or LGBT, especially if it has a new twist to a much done time frame, but I love the old west, the civil war, WWII having to do with the camps (a gay Holocaust story! - yes!). I'm also open to something in an exotic locale. I can't promise to be a help on your historical facts, BUT if you’re looking for story, character, voice, pacing feedback, then YES! (Jennifer Donnelly is a favorite and I loved Jenn McGowan’s Maid of Secrets, Megan Shepherd's Madman's Daughter, Anne Blankman's Prisoner of Night and Fog, Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin, and Julie Berry’s All The Truth That’s In Me.) I like HEA and Bittersweet in equal doses.

If retellings, mythology, freaky/scary horror, high fantasy, and elementals are your thing, then I’m probably not for you.

How am I as a critique partner?
My CP’s often preface their e-mails with “I know you’ll be honest with me,” and that’s true. If I see areas that need work, I’m not going to skip it. But I’m not going to be an ass, either. I’ll point out your strengths and what is all “Heck Yeah!” and “Gorgeous!” but I’m also going to point out where you might think about reworking. My notes are often in forms of questions. I don’t want to tell you how to write your story, but sometimes I might want to get you thinking about things. I'm not scared of losing characters, changing POV's, or deleting entire scenes. My philosophy is that words are cheap and if they're not serving the plot, then they need to go, no matter how pretty they are. (Scared yet?) My preferred way to approach is a full read, big picture notes (which will include any writerly tics I see), then a 2nd read for line edits. So you'll need to be prepared to dig in! But it will be fun, I promise! 

So that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. I hope you pick me! There’s a bit more about me on my website,  But truly, you can’t go wrong with anyone on this list. I look forward to reading your work! It's also true I only get to pick one of you, but know that I will read each submission with a careful eye. With a debut looming, I can't promise personalized feedback for each person who submits to me (last year took far more time than I imagined—being a mentor has given me insight into how crazy it must be for an agent) but I know it's important for you all so I will try and let you at least know which category you fall into, ie: not for me, writing not quite ready, etc., if you do pick me.

Remember, it often will boil down to market or personal taste because I feel pretty certain I'm going to be reading some AMAZING entries! FOR SUBMISSION GUIDELINES PLEASE VISIT

May the odds be ever in your favor!

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sorry for the blog silence and suspension of interviews

It's just, I have a book debuting. And all sorts of folks are having me do stuff for their blogs. I keep a running tab of those interview links over to the right hand side of this blog, if you're interested.

In the meantime, I'm blogging the 28th of each month at and I'll be back here when Pitchwars starts!

Eventually, I'll be posting regularly here again. Thanks for being chill!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Giveaway! Dreams of Gods & Monsters

The stars aligned and showered me with sparkle dust. That is to say, I have unwittingly, through only a touch of luck and happiness been gifted with not one, but TWO copies of Laini Taylor's Dreams of Gods & Monsters.

So why not give it away? The contest is simple. Rafflecopter, some options, a bit of drum roll, and soon we'll have a winner of this major opus of a book. 613 pages, people!

And if for some reason, you do not know Laini Taylor's Smoke & Bone Trilogy, this is fantasy at its finest, and this is the final installment of the trilogy.

And sorry my fine international friends, but this book is massive, and heavy, so continental US only please.

Friday, June 20, 2014

When Sucky News Affects Awesome People

That's the case today with the news of Angry Robot killing its YA imprint, Strange Chemistry. I personally have three friends affected by the deal.

Two haven't even debuted yet and in some ways they're the luckier ones. Those books may be shopped to other publishers. There is still a chance for them to sell. But that doesn't ease the burn and grief of having their big debut moment pulled out from underneath them.

My other friend is mid-deal. The first in her scheduled trilogy only released a month ago. What happens in this situation? It's very hard for an author to sell the latter part of a series to a new publisher. It rarely happens. And what about the first book? Will Strange Chemistry still print a back list?

So I'm taking a moment for empathy. If it were me, I'd need a day or two or three for fetal position and tears. Then I'd start strategizing, figuring out what I wanted to do. Do I self-publish? Do I shelve these books? Do I try and find a new publisher? I know I'd be back on my feet sooner than later, and I know these three friends will be, too. They're that kind of strong.

So when you're ready to feel a little better and step out into the world, try on these shoes.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A few exciting updates

With less than six months till NO PLACE TO FALL finally launches, things are starting to happen!

The e-arc is now available on Edelweiss. If you are a librarian, bookstore owner, or book blogger, you can jump on their site and request a copy for review! Here's the link:

My launch party is scheduled! That's right! I'm actually going through with it and plan on a big shindigarama. Malaprops, my favorite independent bookstore in Asheville, NC, will be hosting it. So if you're close, please put Tuesday, December 9th, on your calendar (my guess is 7pm, though it's not set yet). I hope to have music and there will be light refreshments along with questions and answers, etc. I'm dreadfully excited and dreadfully nervous all at the same time.

And speaking of Malaprops, they are now my official venue for signed copies of NO PLACE TO FALL. This includes pre-orders. So if you want a personalized copy or just a plain old Jro signed on the dot, you can let them hook you up. Here's that link:

In the meantime, I'm scheming about a story related to NPTF, working on Book 2, and finishing out my school year. Last day of testing today, then a couple of days with straggler kids, and 2 TWD's next week, then, BOOM, summer.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Dusting Yourself Off and Walking Through Doors - Deep Jro Wisdom

Jro's about to get all philosophical on you, so put your hand to your chin in thinker pose and bear with me.

Yesterday I was having a conversation with a friend about the difference between successful people and people that tend to get stuck in a quagmire of bogginess. For me, it pretty much all boiled down to a couple of simple tenets.

One, when life opens a door for you, walk through it. It may be you need to back out of the room you walked into real quick like, but HOW WILL YOU KNOW if you don't walk through the door?

In writing, this could translate into sending that first query. Entering an online pitch contest. Saying yes to a new critique partner. It could mean spending two hundred dollars on a conference instead of Modcloth. When the opportunities present themselves, and you're reasonably prepared, walk through that damn door!

Two, don't blame other people. Your life is yours. Sure, other people may affect your life, but ultimately how you handle ANY situation is up to you. Be like a weeble. Wobble but don't fall down. Or if you do fall down, lie there for a minute (or an hour, day, week) and curse at the ceiling, but then raise yourself up, dust yourself off, look around and say "Okay, that sucked, but what now?" 

In writing, there are millions of rejections. And I do mean millions. You're going to fail. By God, I hope you fail. Because failing in this game means you are playing it. But the important part is not to let those failures stop you. What's important is to figure out your next steps. It's okay to need a break, to pull yourself into a corner and tend to your wounds. It's okay to pout and punch your pillow. All natural human reactions. But the crucial part is finding that moment when you stand yourself back up, take a deep breath and shout "I'm not going to let the bastards get me down!"

And with that, I'll say this.

You got this.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Conversation with Rin Chupeco, Author of THE GIRL FROM THE WELL

Rin Chupeco, Author of THE GIRL FROM THE WELL

Welcome Rin! I've heard great things about your YA horror, THE GIRL FROM THE WELL, releasing in August from Sourcebooks. So how much did that six-year-old Rin's reading of The Pet Semetary (S. King) affect current day writer Rin? (And btw, I have a total author crush on your adorable and clever author page on your website!)

Thank you! I worked as a graphic designer back when writing wasn't paying the bills yet, and it's nice to be reminded that my old jobs were occasionally useful things to have done. 

Six-year-old Rin would tell you that she wished she had current Rin's reading comprehension then so she could have understood more of the nuances (and gory parts) of that novel. Current Rin (whose only advantage over six-year-old Rin is hindsight, really) would tell you that she was glad her younger self hadn't. Getting bogged down in the details would have robbed six-year-old Rin's initial wonder and interest at reading something so strange and creepy and unique for the first time in her life. Learning how connecting with the right kind of books for you changes everything, and it's something I still take to heart after all these years. It tells you what kind of books you like to read, what kind of other books you ought to read, what kind of reader you are and - if you take that one step further like we both had - what kind of writer you would like to be. 

Goodreads Link

Oooh, nice set up, Rin. So tell me, what kind of writer do you want to be? Like, if someone were reading your writer eulogy, what would be the things you hope they'd say? (And I only ask horror writers to write their own eulogies ;))

Quite frankly, I'm a vocal, snarky, opinionated person who can be quite offensive in that Dr. Gregory House sort of way mostly when it deals with people I don't necessarily like over issues I feel strongly about, so I would probably be disappointed if my funeral didn't have a lot of similarly vocal, snarky, opinionated Gregory Houses. So in a place where I probably wouldn't be in a position to care about opinions, I would sincerely hope that whatever people say about me, the one requirement I would demand in any eulogy is that they would be scathingly honest about it, and about me. If people think that my writing in some odd way was able to inspire them, or convince them to pick up a book every now and then, that would be the greatest compliment they could ever give me. If people didn't like my work or thought I take too many risks in writing style or treatment for them to fully enjoy it, then I appreciate the fact that they read my works in the first place. Call me a good writer or a bad one - but hey, at least call me a writer!

Writer it is then. As this is your debut, can you tell us a bit about how that process went for you? The Reader's Digest version. And was it harder or really no different with you being in the Philippines?

It was actually simpler than I expected it to be, and my being several timezones away from all the agents I queried was barely a factor. I tried to query an earlier manuscript, but decided after a few weeks that I wanted to work on it some more. I'd just finished The Girl from the Well then, and felt more confident about querying it, as I thought it was in much better shape. Fortunately, it received a lot of requests, and in the end it came down to four agents from three agencies who were all awesome in their own way. In the end though, I opted to go with both Nicole LaBombard and Rebecca Podos from the Helen Rees agency. Having two agents in place of one is definitely an advantage, but it also means I get twice the critiques / revisions, which also means more work. I'm glad for it, because they're both brilliant people who've only made my manuscripts better. Later that year, I signed a deal with Sourcebooks, and have never been happier! About the only obstacle to living in the Philippines to date is scheduling phone calls (Skype, on my end) with my agents and my publisher, but we've managed to make it work so far.

There's such a huge YA fan base in the Philippines. Have they found you yet? And are they insanely excited to have a home girl to fan over?

I have seen some smatterings of curiosity over the YA blogosphere about me, but I should mention that a lot of Filipinos get excited over anything or anyone Filipino that gets noticed outside of the country. I think that given the Philippine's current situation (constant corruption mostly, and the sense that ordinary folks here can't seem to catch a break because everything is stacked against us from the get-go) we always tend to view ourselves as underdogs, and it becomes a big deal when someone does something out of the box - it's a "hey, I started out with the crappiest poker odds, but I still got to beat the house" sort of pride. I think I might be the first YA writer in the Philippines with a literary agent AND a traditional publisher for my novel, so there is also that novelty. That said, writers get a lot less attention here than say, other noteworthy Filipinos like Manny Pacquiao or Bruno Mars or Charice Pempengco, so I don't think I'll be getting mobbed by any masses in any foreseeable future (and I hope it stays that way!). 

Give it time. The early hooplah over your book is exciting enough that I imagine you'll have some fandom. Maybe not Bruno Mars big, but YA author big :)

Thanks! A little bit of fandom is always good for the soul!

Your novel, The Girl From the Well, is receiving great early reviews. Some of the adjectives used are creepy, creepier, haunting, scary — when you chose to play around with this old Japanese ghost story, what kind of creep factor did you know you HAD to include?

The creep factors I wanted to include had a lot to do with the one factor that I didn't want to add, which was 'goriness'. I've seen my share of awesome B movies in my youth, like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Evil Dead and Army of Darkness, Hellraiser, etc. but I decided early on that descriptions of mutilation and similar weren't what I wanted for this particular novel. Curiously enough, I wanted my book to be very subtle about the horrific things it suggests to readers, which is not a description you might expect in a horror book. My favorite horror movies had always been the ones where very little gore is shown on-screen, and where the worst of the carnage is only hinted at or suggested, not shown - which I'd always felt made more impact. So the psychological aspect was always more important to me - more in keeping with the Tale of Two Sisters or an Alfred Hitchcock Presents short rather than Saw. While it made it more difficult to write, since my protagonist is someone I wanted people to be both terrified of and be sympathetic toward, I think (and hope!) I was able to balance both aspects of her nature well enough. 

This! When I chatted with Danielle Vega we talked a bit about horror movies and how I can't watch them because of the damn music. That creepy, bass heavy beat worms its way into my gut and..eek. So I think the prelude to the gore is the scariest part.

Absolutely! Sometimes I don't know what's worse - the creepy music, or when they choose not to add in any music or sound at all. 

But here we are, at the end of our chat and it's time for the three burning questions! What are the next three books on your TBR pile? The best drink ever? And the song you keep hitting replay on.

Thanks so much, Rin! I look forward to The Girl From The Well, though I'm going to read it with the lights on.

1.) a. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
b. Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis
c. Skin Game (The Dresden Files) by Jim Butcher

2.) It's a toss-up between a midori sour and icy taro milk tea with panacotta pudding (not as bad as it sounds. Really!)

3.) Iron by Woodkid - I really love anthemic music!

Thank you for having me!

And thank you, Rin! Check back for more interviews in about a month! 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Conversation with Jennifer Torres, Author of THE BRINY DEEP MYSTERIES.

Jennifer Torres, Author of THE BRINY DEEP MYSTERIES
Hi Jennifer, Welcome to the blog! You have an unusual debut situation with three books coming out at once! Since I've only recently become aware of the BRINY DEEP MYSTERIES (Enslow Publishing), can you tell us a bit about them and how it is you're debuting the entire series at once? I can't even imagine, as having just one book coming out is crazy pants as it is!

Thank you for the warm welcome. I’m so happy to be here. I really enjoy your blog!

I came up with the story of Briny Deep one summer night while my son and I were swimming in our backyard pool. The sky was full of stars and we both couldn’t stop staring up in amazement.

I started talking to him about an idea I had for a book, he really liked it and the more we talked about it the more we both started to come up with more ideas for it. Before we knew it a few hours had passed and our fingers were wrinkled like prunes from staying in the water so long.

After some standard writers procrastination I finally wrote a synopsis for Briny Deep and sent it out to a few children’s book publishers. Within six months I had contract for not one – but three books! 

Since acceptance was based on a synopsis - now I actually had to write them. I asked my son if he wanted to help but he said "No, just name the lead character after me" - so I did!

Once they received the finished work - the publisher (Enslow) thought the story should be spread out into a series and I was more than happy to oblige!

This is a story about close friends who are growing up together in the same idyllic seaside town where nothing bad ever happens and everyone knows everyone.  

But when a stranger comes to town, the friends find themselves caught up in a bizarre mystery that leaves them wondering exactly who they can trust in this “perfect” town.

These are middle grade books – and all three are being released at the same time because the publisher believes kids will tear through each one quickly and will want to go on to the next immediately without having to wait.

Interesting. So you sold the series based on a synopsis alone? How were you able to do this? Had you worked with Enslow in the past on non-fiction? For so many debut authors, the road to book sale involved a completed manuscript, massive querying, and the endless submission process. Sounds like you got to skip some of that...I'll try not to be jealous :)

I had written a series of non-fiction children’s books for another publisher several years back. I stopped working with them because at the time I was a newspaper reporter and doing a ton of freelance, plus I had a toddler in my lap most of the time, and it was all too much to handle. So I let the book writing go. A decision I wish I hadn’t made. The newspaper industry basically collapsed soon after that.

I had not written for Enslow Publishers before but knew of them through my husband who has written some non-fiction books for them. They are much like Scholastic in that they are very well known for their presence in school libraries.

He received an email from one of the editors there who was announcing the fact that Enslow was going to begin releasing middle grade and YA fiction. He mentioned it one day when we were chatting and I asked him if he would mind if I submitted an idea to them. He was very encouraging but told me they would probably require the finished product before making a decision.

I sent the editor, David Dilkes, a simple, brief description of my idea and nine days later he replied saying he liked it and asked for a more complete synopsis. After sending that out, it took about two months of back and forth emails before he decided to take it before the editorial board for final approval as a three-book series instead of just one book.

Then a few weeks later I received this email:
“Great news! The series was approved. I’ll send you an email tomorrow with more specifics and our contract terms and then we can get everything rolling.”

Then of course…I had to write them! And I remember being so concerned that when I sent the complete manuscripts to him, he might be like…”um..ok..yikes…”

But thankfully that was not the case; he loved them, and became a real champion for the series.

What a fantastic and encouraging story! So you're in a dual writer family? What's that like? Do you both work from home? 

I appreciate that. Thank you!

I wish we worked from home – that is the eventual goal/dream!
My husband, John Torres, is the sports columnist for our local newspaper, Florida Today. That is actually how we met over a decade ago.  I was working as a business reporter at the time.

I had the opportunity to work at home for two years after I left my job as a reporter. It was fantastic. Freelance work was plentiful but then the industry began to flounder – it hit us especially hard here on the Space Coast because of the ending of our Space Program. Local publications went out of business and so many people were unemployed. I worked as a grant writer for a while and then took a job as the Marketing Director for a non-profit. This is the job that convinced me I needed to revive my dream of being an author. All my coworkers kept quitting because of a very difficult supervisor.  So it was at this time I began sending out letters to publishers – and as you know – one of them offered me a contract. I ended up quitting that job soon after – but made sure to include a dedication to “A horrible boss and soul zapping job that made me realize I had to send out what I wrote because my dreams were not going to come find me.”

Now for my day job I work in marketing and events for Florida Institute of Technology Athletics Department where I’m surrounded by a lot of nice people in a friendly, encouraging environment. But…I still dream of the day when I can write mysteries at home all day in my PJs.

I am so thankful that my husband is also a writer. We share the same dreams and goals. We encourage each other a lot and bounce ideas off each other all the time. He’s written tons of non-fiction sports books and recently finished a mystery novel based a real case he covered when he was a courts reporter. A literary agent is reading it right now, so fingers crossed; I hope he’ll get some good news on that soon.

That's great to have (and give) the encouragement from someone who gets it! And oh my gosh, that dedication is hysterical. My principal at the high school where I teach is amazing, but he's set to retire in another year or two, and honestly, I dread the day. He's the best administrator I've ever worked for.

Back to your MG series -- Can you tell us a little about your favorite character, favorite scene, and snapping together of puzzles pieces that made your writer brain go "Aw, yeah, my subconscious is the bomb!" Spoiler free, of course, since this is a mystery series.

Your administrator sounds like a very cool dude. It’s a true blessing to have people like that in your life. In a sense I also look back at my meanie of a boss as somewhat of a blessing because the shear dread I felt every day I had to set foot in that old office finally made me spring to action, get a publisher, and changed my life in profoundly positive ways.  

Now let’s see, in regard to your question I have to mention that I named several of my characters in the series after my own children. So of course, I have a very personal attachment to each of them!

I had a lot of fun writing the scenes about the secret passageways and dark tunnels to mysterious places that inhabit part of Briny Deep.  
Although I can’t remember who said it, someone once compared the writing process to driving a car slowly through the fog, in that you can only see what’s visible by the headlights just ahead of you, and other things come into view as you go down the road. I really enjoyed the journey of writing this series. Lots of  unusual, interesting characters popped up along the side of my “road” as I went along in the process and I was more than happy to let them in my “car” to ride along with me a while.

Bet your kids love that! I've used a few student names on request, but usually as background characters.

But sadly we've come to the end of our chat. But you can't leave without answering the three burning questions. What are the next 3 books on your TBR pile? The best drink ever? And the song you can't shake lately.

Thanks again for stopping in to tell us about THE BRINY DEEP MYSTERIES and good luck in this exciting three book debut year!

I just started reading Doctor Sleep by Stephen King; it’s really good so far. At the same time I am reading a book that was gifted to me called The Kick Ass Writer by Doug Wendig. It’s hilarious and a lot of fun. After that, I’m definitely going to read a book I've heard really great things about called No Place to Fall by the amazing Jaye Robin Brown.

The best drink ever is coffee. I am a writer after all. And my earworm of late is “In Summer” by the awesome Olaf from the movie Frozen.

Thank you so much for having me! I had a great time chatting with you; it was a lot of fun!
All the best, Jennifer

You, too, Jennifer! And next week, be sure and stop in when I'll be chatting with Rin Chupeco, author of THE GIRL FROM THE WELL.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Stream of Ramble and Lana Del Rey

I miss blogging about my life and about writing, but my brain space is limited to little squiggles between the lobes. School, book 2, life, animals, chores, etc take up all of me these days. But just know I've had deep thoughts about POV and characterization and plot and why it is some teenagers can't see their worth even when they're fabulous. And between all that is climate change which when we go from mid 80 temps back to heater weather back to mid 90's and it's flooding in the Balkans and flaming in California it's all more than a small human can bear. Yet there are ranchers in Nevada having stand offs with the BLM over solar panels and grazing land for cattle which if we all just stopped eating meat seven nights a week (holla, doing my part, been veggie based diet for going on two months now), the world wouldn't need so much cattle land and we could put up solar and wind and harness cleaner energies and maybe the glaciers would slow their melt.

Now that I've got you all happy, I'll leave you with my current favorite song.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Conversation with Lori M. Lee, Author of GATES OF THREAD AND STONE

Lori M. Lee, Author of GATES OF THREAD & STONE

Hi Lori! I'm so glad you agreed to stop by the blog for a chat. First off I have to say thank you. While poking around on your blog, I found your link to your writing blog posts,(, and they're great! I had literally just been looking up what the heck a "Mary Sue" was and bam! you had a post about it. These are great! What got you started writing these posts about writing?

Goodreads Link

Hi Jaye! Thanks so much for having me :) I'm so glad you found some use for those writing posts haha. I started blogging because, at the time, it seemed like one of the best ways to interact with the community and build relationships. Since then, I think blogging has sort of faded in favor of platforms like twitter (or maybe it just seems that way to me), but people still love a great, informative blog post. I wanted to offer a little insight on my own writing process and things I've learned while navigating this crazy thing called publishing. 

Speaking of writing process. Your fantasy, GATES OF THREAD AND STONE, which releases this August from Skyscape, involves a girl who can manipulate the threads of time. What kind of tips do you have for people looking to build worlds within their writing? How did you approach building the world for your novel?

Oftentimes, the details happen organically--new ideas and world "rules" develop naturally as I write--but I can't actually begin the book until I've got the majority of my world building sorted out. I generally begin with the history of the world, i.e. how things arrived at the place where the book begins. Then I look at things like the current form of government, social and economic systems, magic systems, locations and maps. From there, I refine to details like world-specific plants and animals and precise rules of their social systems, etc. I actually wrote a post about the world building I did in preparation to write GoT&S, which you can find here. :) And even now, years later, as I'm looking over my first pass pages, I'm noticing things I missed and want to add in!

I saw somewhere in my pokings around that you've been known to start with as much as a thirty page outline? For real? How much of that outline for GATES OF THREAD AND STONE stayed with the story? And is it hand-written chicken scratch or neat and typed? 

Yes! My outlines are ridiculously detailed. The outline for Gates of Thread and Stone was 24 pages and 12k words long. The outline for the scifi I wrote afterward was 50 pages and 27k words. Okay, that surprised even *me* when I opened that doc up just now haha. However, for the sequel to GoT&S, I didn't have time for a lengthy outline so that one was only 14 pages and 7k words. All my outlines are done in bullet points in Word. But they're not really that organized. Really just my stream of consciousness for sequence of events lol.

The first draft of GoT&S was only 45k words so everything from the outline made it into the book, along with plenty of new stuff as well. I was pretty fortunate in that my editor didn't want to cut anything from the book :)

Interesting! Your first draft sounds slim for a fantasy. Did you have to do a lot of building in your editorial process? And 27k worth of outline! Holy Kamoley! That's intense. But I do like the description of your outline, it sounds more like the things I scrawl in spiral bound notebooks than a true roman numeral-ed and indented sort of formal thing.

It was really bare bones, basically just the essential plot points were there. In my second draft, I added 20k words, fleshing out character motivations, setting details, and world building. With every pass, I bulked it up a bit more. Now it's sitting pretty at 81k words :) I love the idea of scrawled handwritten notes, but my handwriting is appalling, and I like being able to delete/change/move things around without scribbling everywhere and drawing elaborate arrows. (I totally used to do this when I was a teenager.)

What is the coolest bit of magic or your favorite character, or both!, from Gates of Thread & Stone? 

I think Kai's ability to manipulate time is probably one of the coolest abilities. She's not strong enough to rewind or stop time, but she can slow it down for brief periods. It's a great advantage in a fight. She's also my favorite, but that might be cheating a bit, so another of my favorite characters is Irra. He's this tall, gaunt, crazy-looking dude with an obsession for sugary things. And he has a rotting touch. I think he's cool.

Now I want to meet Irra. I find tall and gaunt very appealing. Wow! It's time for the final question(s) and I didn't even realize.  So, please share with my readers the next three books on your TBR pile, the best drink ever, and the song you just can't shake lately. 

Thank you so much for stopping by the blog and I can't wait to read The Gates of Thread and Stone when it releases in August.

Irra is a sneaky one. He can only be found when he wants to be ;) My next 3 books to read: Stolen Songbird by Danielle Jensen, Enders by Lissa Price, and eagerly awaiting an ARC of Beware the Wild by Natalie Parker. Best drink ever? If we're talking alcoholic then I'm going with what I had at Chicago North Spring Fling. It was called Unicorn Blood and was the sweetest, least alcoholic drink the bartender could think of. It was like drinking a dreamsicle. Others more accustomed to mixed drinks would probably think it too sweet though :P A song I can't shake lately is Pompeii by Bastille, pretty much because it's being massively overplayed on the radio. And yet I listen to it every time! lol

Thanks so much for having me! This was so fun :D

Thank you, Lori! And stop back in week after next when I'll be interviewing Jennifer Torres, author of the MG series, The Briny Deep.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

We've Got The Funk. Got To Have That Funk.

Or in my case, maybe not. You see, I'm in this weird place of sophomore book blues. Getting No Place To Fall out into the world has been an absolute rush, from the Xmas in July contest, to agent decisions, to signing, to a sale, to all of the editing and milestones that come after the sale. It's a given, it's polished, and now it is completely out of my hands. Yes, it's still 7 months away from release, but for me it's done.

I thought I had my book 2 finished, but my agent and editor both felt that book wasn't the right follow up to NPTF. Luckily, I'd written a crappy first draft of a new book. This book, code name Unlikely Friendship, is a companion book of sorts to NPTF. It's set in the same fictional town, and one of the protagonists makes a cameo in NPTF.

But let me tell y'all, it's HARD. I'm writing dual POV between two girls. I'm writing a Latina and I want her voice to be distinct but not the voice of a white woman trying to write a Latina teen. I'm comparing this second revision to my polished and spit-shined NPTF, which is STUPID, but I can't help myself. And I keep reading great books which have me weeping in my coffee bemoaning the fact that I'm obviously a worthless hack.

All of this to say, I have sophomore book funk. I'm plugging away, and there are things I definitely love about it, and big visions of where I want it to be, but it ain't there.

So if I seem quiet of late, you'll find me here. Tearing my hair out.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Conversation with Sashi Kaufman, Author of THE OTHER WAY AROUND

Sashi Kaufman, Author of THE OTHER WAY AROUND

Hi Sashi! I'm so happy you stopped by the blog. Your debut novel, THE OTHER WAY AROUND, is in my shopping cart waiting to be bought as we speak. Every since reading your synopsis I knew this was the book for me. Freewheeling freegans and dumpster diving are kind of in my wheelhouse. I'm a hard core thrift shopper and my kids went to a Quaker school where they routinely dumpster-dived on their eighteen day field trips. Most parents would have been appalled. I was all, "fist pump!" So tell us, how did all-girl private school headmaster's son, Andrew, adjust to his new group of friends. And how did this environment make its way into your novel?

Goodreads Link

This group of people made its way into my mind, my heart and my book through a variety of paths. First of all, my parents were hippies so that's a good start -not the long hair, make your own tofu kind of hippies but I was definitely raised in an environment of love and acceptance for all. You mentioned your kid's school -I actually went to a Quaker summer camp which attracted a lot of like-minded folks in terms of values both emotionally and environmentally. But most of the characters in my book who are known as the Freegans are probably amalgamations of people I knew when I attended Oberlin College -which is kind of a bastion of alternative culture and acceptance. 

Like Andrew, I'm a bit of a skeptic and definitely an observer. Even when I lived in the most far-out hippie co-op of them all, I still had my gap white v-neck t-shirts tucked neatly in my drawers. But that was what was so great about my experience at Oberlin -was the acceptance. Andrew is accepted by this group of dumpster-diving anarchist street-performers despite his relatively tame suburban up-bringing. They really meet him where he is and don't need him to necessarily buy in to all the things they believe least not right away.

Andrew's really interested in the fact that they are living and thriving without subscribing to a lot of the things he's been told are important about being an adult -and that's what this book is ultimately about is finding out what kind of grown up person you might want to be.

Oberlin sounds like I would have loved it. 

But this: "what this book is ultimately about is finding out what kind of grown up person you might want to be" In my own writing, I love exploring the moment when a young person starts to realize they have a choice. They don't have to take everything their parents have given them whole cloth. They can stride out and be their own someone. I think that's such a critical part of being a teenager. What are some other "life points" you think make YA literature unique?

Great question! And I completely agree- that is one of the fundamental coming of age moments. I think going along with that -realizing that your parents (and all adults) are flawed and that they wouldn't be human if they weren't. I feel very lucky to have had, and continue to have, a very close relationship with my own parents. We've really worked to continue to know each other as adults and not to rely on the ways we knew each other twenty years ago to stay close. So I think I'm always reminded that relationships grow and as you grow, and especially in adolescence, you understand the complexities of people as you grow up.  

You can't really talk about "life points" in YA literature without talking about love. Those first incredibly awkward crushes, choosing (if you're like me) the most impossibly unavailable people to moon over, and of course getting your heart and your feelings stomped on those first irrevocable times. 

And since I'm feeling kind of epic on this rainy Sunday afternoon, I'd have to add those first experiences with death. They don't come for everyone in adolescence but I think the first time you have contact with real loss in your teens or early twenties it's pretty shocking. Your parents probably don't coddle you or sugar coat it the way they might have when you were a kid. And I think that's pretty shocking -there's a bare nakedness to that and fear at realizing that people really are expecting you to accept and cope with this as adult -especially since often times the people you would turn to are experiencing and coping with the same loss. 

Oh, yes, death. I love the way you put that. You hear people harp on all the dead relatives, especially in contemporary YA, but grief is like the counter point to love. I think it's a Buddhist saying that you can't experience great joy without great sorrow and that sticks with me. Especially when I'm hurting, to remember all those monumental moments that have allowed you to feel like this.

So you, like me, are a teacher. How has it been to combine your worlds? Or do you try to separate them?

I do teach 7th and 8th grade and the closer I got to publication day, the more I realized my book is really meant for a high school and up audience. I always say 8th grade and up because I know my 8th graders and I know many of them would be interested and excited about the book, but really high school is most appropriate. Middle school is still a pretty insular world and not that many middle schoolers are really asking the reflective questions about life and adulthood that Andrew starts asking as he sets out with the Freegans. Some are, but most aren't. So far it's been pretty easy to keep the two worlds separate and for the best really. 

Teaching is inherently a very personal job but I think in order to be a good teacher you need to really balance being connected and engaged with your students while maintaining professional distance. I want my students to know that I'm there for them, and if they want to share things with me I'll listen and help if I'm able, but in order for them to be truly safe they need to know that I'm not doing that to feed my own emotional needs. My book and my writing are part of my teaching world and often fueled by my teaching world but they also stand a part -and I think mostly that's a good thing. Now that some kids are reading it and telling me what they think I try and objectively listen, and usually be amused by their reactions to the plot or characters. I enjoy their feedback but it's important that I don't "need" it. 

I know you and I have talked about content -especially since my book is pretty frank and honest when it comes to conversations about sex and sexuality. I guess I'm lucky to work in a pretty liberal and supportive school department. However, I have had to make it clear that things like my blog or my twitter feed are part of my author world, not my teacher world. It's tricky I guess and probably impossible to keep entirely separate without a pen name. 

Yep. As each new student finds me on Twitter my proclivity to tweet about bourbon goes down a few notches.

So if you were to take a page from Andrew's book and run away for the summer, what place and what combination of people, experiences, and things would you hope to take out of it? (Little know Jro fact. I ran away at age 6. I went 4 houses up the street to my friend Mary Ellis's house. I packed all of my socks, underwear, and one dress. My mom picked me up a few hours later after we'd finished playing. It seems my perfect combination of things was clean underclothes!)

Ooh, that's tricky. If I were to run away for the summer now? As an adult it would probably involve a tiny cottage on Deer Isle (it's a magical place here in Maine) with a laptop for writing, a ton of books for entertainment, a hammock for napping and a personal chef. 

When I was a kid I can remember dreaming about creating my own world out in the woods ala My Side of the Mountain or Bridge to Terabithia ; somewhere I could fend for myself by hunting small game and foraging for nuts and berries. When I was a teenager I didn't want to run away. I just wanted desperately to be in love -or really more specifically to have someone be in love with me. If that person had come along and suggested we run away I probably would have gone. I think that's why I relate to Andrew's initial skepticism about joining the Freegans -in fact if it weren't for his instant interest in Emily he might not have gone at all.

Hear that people? An Emily with the Andrew. Go buy this book!

Your destinations sound great. Isn't Deer Isle the home of a big craft school? I've seen photos, it's beautiful.

Unbelievable we're at the end of our interview! So three final pressing questions. Next 3 books on your TBR pile, the best drink ever in your glass, and the song you just can't shake lately.

And thanks so much, Sashi, for stopping by the blog. I hope we get to meet in real life one day.

This has been so fun! Seriously, I'm going to miss you! (is that weird?) Also, if I met you in person how would you introduce yourself? You have many different names online. I ask also because this is a big thing for my main character -is he Andrew? Drew? Andy?
Anyway, when you read the book you'll see!

Deer Isle is home to Haystack Mountain School of crafts. Incredibly cool place!! The Maine Writer's and Publisher's alliance used to hold a writer's workshop there which I was lucky enough to attend on one incredibly warm weekend in September -can you say skinny-dipping?

Now let's get back to business:
Next three books on my to-read shelf are Andrew Smith's Grasshopper Jungle and pretty much everything by him. He's my new YA writer hero. On Such a Full Sea by Chang Rae Lee and then probably This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready. I jump around a lot between adult and YA.

The best drink EVER in my glass -wow that's really hard. I'm going to say Sapphire and tonic with a side of my toes in the warm sand.

And a song I can't shake. Well, my husband and friends make fun of me because I'm kind of a promiscuous radio listener meaning I travel all over the dial but never know anyone/thing by name. Is it really bad if I say I love Blurred LInes? Oh well. I'm kind of a pop junkie at heart. That and bluegrass. Like I said, all over the dial.

Not weird at all Sashi! Thanks again. And next week, stop in when I'll be talking to Lori M. Lee, author of Gates of Thread and Stone.