Wednesday, April 23, 2014

New Release: 8th Day by Dianne Salerni and GIVEAWAY

People! I am so excited for this book to be out!
Middle Grade Fantasy
In this riveting fantasy adventure, thirteen-year-old Jax Aubrey discovers a secret eighth day with roots tracing back to Arthurian legend. Fans of Percy Jackson will devour this first book in a new series that combines exciting magic and pulse-pounding suspense.
When Jax wakes up to a world without any people in it, he assumes it's the zombie apocalypse. But when he runs into his eighteen-year-old guardian, Riley Pendare, he learns that he's really in the eighth day—an extra day sandwiched between Wednesday and Thursday. Some people—like Jax and Riley—are Transitioners, able to live in all eight days, while others, including Evangeline, the elusive teenage girl who's been hiding in the house next door, exist only on this special day.
And there's a reason Evangeline's hiding. She is a descendant of the powerful wizard Merlin, and there is a group of people who wish to use her in order to destroy the normal seven-day world and all who live in it. Torn between protecting his new friend and saving the entire human race from complete destruction, Jax is faced with an impossible choice. Even with an eighth day, time is running out.
This amazingly awesome middle grade fantasy is the newest release from great friend and critique partner Dianne Salerni. Ever since she sent me a Tesla manuscript and said, "Hey, I hear you might like Tesla, would you be willing to crit this thing for me?" I've been in love: with her words, with her awesome writerly self, and with the great stories she weaves. When I critiqued that first version of 8th Day, I was pretty well beside myself at the awesomeness... and not at all surprised when she sold it to Harper Collins. I just finished critiquing the third book in the series, so I can assure you there is more awesome to come!

GO GRAB THIS BOOK! It's middle grade, but adult readers will LOVE IT. I'm not even joking.

After you get it, stop back and check out Dianne's mini-interview below and the awesome giveaway she's doing at the end!

SKQ: The idea of squeezing in an 8th day into the week is something I truly wish was real! Where did you come up with the idea of Grunsday, an extra day between Wednesday and Thursday?

DKS: It all started as a family joke. When my daughters pestered their father about “when” they were going to get to do something, he’d jokingly reply, “Grunsday. We’ll do it on Grunsday.” And they’d groan, because he wasn’t giving them a straight answer.

One night at dinner, I said, “What if there really was a Grunsday, but not everybody knew about it?” The family loved the idea and told me to write a book about that. It took me 18 months after that conversation to come up with a plot to go with the premise, but I did write the book!

SKQ: I was one of the lucky first critiquers of the first version of 8th Day (previously called Grunsday!). The first version was YA, with more blood magic, and a little more edginess, but when it sold, it was with the intent to publish as an MG novel. What sorts of changes did you have to make to MG-ify the story?

DKS: The story was darker before! I eliminated some of the edgier elements, took out bad language and references to alcohol. I softened the violence, and now the “honor blades” are only symbolic, and blood magic is used only by bad guys. My main character, Jax, dropped from 15 to 13. He’s still a little mouthy, but he has more innocence and childlike wonder than he did in the original version.

SKQ: MG authors are told to write their novels from the POV of the child character – and that’s certainly true in 8th day as well. But you also have a lot of “aspirational” characters that I love, including Riley, the Arthur Pendragon descendent and liege lord for many of the “good guy” characters. Was it challenging to write these essentially adult characters into your middle grade novel?

DKS: This is my favorite question, because NO, it was not! Industry professionals tell MG writers that the target audience is not interested in older characters. But you know what? Nobody told the target audience!
Jax’s guardian Riley is 18, and the alternate POV character, Evangeline, is 16. And my students (two years of students, in fact) LOVE Riley and Evangeline.

I think writing rules are merely guidelines, although you will always find some industry professionals who insist on working from rules and formulas. But I’m currently reading a MG book where ALL the characters are adults: The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christoper Healy. The main characters are four Prince Charmings (or Princes Charming?) from four fairy tales trying to earn the right to be known in the stories by their actual names: Liam, Gustav, Duncan, and Frederic.  But the thing is, even though the princes are adults, they are very childlike, and perhaps this is the key.

I mentioned this to my class, and many of them agreed with me. They said that while Riley was “awesome” and “cool” with his tattoos and motorcycle, he also sometimes acted like a big kid. He forgets to pay the electric bill and argues with Jax about who ate all the food in the fridge. Maybe that’s his appeal.

SKQ: Your magic system is based on honor blades and magical tattoos that show bloodline allegiances – with all sorts of magical bonds, like the one between vassals and liege lords. What’s your favorite part of the magical system you created and how much of it is based on Arthurian or other legends?

DKS: Transplanting the feudal system of lieges and vassals into modern society (with a bit of magical compulsion added) was my favorite part of the world building in the Eighth Day series. I also enjoyed working out the family connections to legendary Arthurian figures – and especially selecting magic talents that connected somehow to their stories. As for the tattoos that go with each family, I am proud to say that my daughter designed them, and we sent away for actual tattoo swag to give away with the books!

DIANNE K. SALERNI is the author of The Eighth Day MG fantasy series (HarperCollins) and YA historical novels, The Caged Graves (Clarion/HMH) and We Hear the Dead (Sourcebooks). Dianne was a public school teacher for 25 years before leaving the profession to spend more time hanging around creepy cemeteries and climbing 2000 year-old pyramids in the name of book research.

Check out these awesome Arthurian Family tattoos!

Dianne's generously giving away a HARDBACK copy of 8th Day AND a set of tattoos!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Guest Post: When Your Book Talks Back by AE Howard

Before I finished the first novel I published, I had been writing novels for at least 10 years. Or, perhaps, almost writing them would be a better way to put it. I would start them and somewhere between the 1/3 and the 1/2 way mark, I would suddenly become gripped with the conviction that this was a terrible story. No one would want to read it, I should delete it and burn all my notes so that no one could every associate such a sophomoric, poorly written story with me.

And then one year, I finished National Novel Writing Month (where you write 50,000 words in 30 days) by doing one simple thing.

Okay, two simple things really.
  1. I refused to read anything I'd written except for perhaps a paragraph or two to get me going again.
  2. I refused to stop.
Both are easier said than done. The temptation to peek is insane! But don't. Nothing will kill your story faster than reading it right now. So don't do it!

And then, refuse to stop. Because chances are there will come a point where your story is going to get all self-conscious and it's going to start talking to you.

Just past the one-third mark and slightly before the 1/2 mark that fateful November, I distinctly remember having this conversation multiple times with my novel.

Novel: "You should stop writing, I don't think I'm a very good book."

Me: "Shush. You're doing just fine."

Novel: "No, really, I know what I'm talking about, I don't feel good about myself. This story is dry, it's not going anywhere, and that last bit of dialogue... whew! I don't even know where to start!"

Me: "Be quiet already, I'm trying to write."

Novel: "You're wasting your time! I'm like the worst thing ever written!"

Me: "You really shouldn't run yourself down all the time, you know."

Novel: "I know, but I'm just really depressed. I don't have a good start, I've got way too much weight around my middle, and I don't think I like where you're taking me."

Me: "Novel, stop it. You're a shitty first draft [more on this in a second], that's all you're supposed to be, and you're doing a marvelous job at it. So shush now and let me work. We're going to be just fine."

And then my novel settled down and discovered that there was something, after all, worth living for and we battled through to the middle of week three where things start looking better.

In her book on writing, Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott has this to say about first drafts:
For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.

The first draft is the child's draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later. You just let this childlike part of you channel whatever voices and visions come through and onto the page. If one of the char­acters wants to say, "Well, so what, Mr. Poopy Pants?," you let her. No one is going to see it. If the kid wants to get into really sentimental, weepy, emotional territory, you let him. Just get it all down on paper, because there may be something great in those six crazy pages that you would never have gotten to by more rational, grown-up means. There may be something in the very last line of the very last paragraph on page six that you just love, that is so beautiful or wild that you now know what you're supposed to be writing about, more or less, or in what direction you might go--but there was no way to get to this without first getting through the first five and a half pages.
That quote more than anything else helped me finish writing a novel (and get more in the works!) It was so freeing to be able to break down what I was trying to accomplish. I think every other time I sat down I was trying to write the "Great American Novel" in one draft. Which of course, is impossible and led to me giving up when I realized that not every word I had written was pure inspired genius. But write a shitty first draft? That I could do. So in order to succeed, let your inner artist child out! Send your inner editor on vacation, somewhere far away where he/she can people watch and critique so happily, he/she won't have time to come back and bother you. Refuse to edit. Refuse to re-read except bare minimums to keep some continuity. Tell yourself, "I already fixed that" even if you didn't, then write a note and keep going. Run away from the pages you've written like they are trying to destroy the rest of the book, cause they are. And when your book starts talking back to you, know that you've reached an important part of the process, tell it it's a shitty first draft and keep going.

But mostly, keep going! (Did I say that already? Ah well, it bears repeating ;-) )

A. E. Howard is the author of the middle grade fantasy trilogy, The Keeper of the Keys Chronicles. After a near death experience at a traffic light, she passed a possum dying on the side of the road. She stopped, and with its dying breaths, the possum imparted a tale so wondrously strange, she drove home realizing the new world she’d been searching for was right there all along. So she embarked on a quest of mythic proportions, traveled far and wide to every obscure corner of this world to uncover its secrets.

Since then, her mind has been opened to various other worlds, invaded by characters of assorted reputations, and blown away by some hair-raising adventures.

Between chasing chickens off the porch and raising her son, A.E. Howard tells tales of the worlds in her heads and the ordinary heros who changed it all.


Flight of Blue: Keeper of the Keys Chronicles, Book 1

With the fabric of the world disintegrating, one boy must stand between the Darkness and everyone he loves.

When a wounded Opossum on the side of the road speaks, Kai’s view of the world is shattered. With the help of his friend, Ellie, he embarks on a journey to return the Opossum to his home. But a cursed traffic light, a rip in the fabric of the world, and an injured sorcerer on a quest for revenge means their journey only leads to more questions. As the Realm of Darkness threatens to push through and make his world vanish, Kai must uncover his parents' past to find a way to close the rip between the Realms. But truth is more dangerous than illusion. As Kai struggles to wield his newly discovered magic, he must choose between accepting a role he hates, but was born to play, and abandoning everyone he loves.

Purchase Flight of Blue: Amazon | Kindle | Barnes and Noble | Books a Million
View the book trailer | Read the first chapters

Read More:

  • Wonderstorms (A Sci-Fi/Fantasy anthology featuring A.E. Howard's young adult steampunk novella A Windsinger's Tale)

  • Connect with A.E. Howard

    Author Site: A.E. Howard Writes
    Facebook: Author page | Profile
    Twitter: @aehowardewrites

    Monday, April 21, 2014

    Guest Post: The Best Advice by Kristin Oakley

    The best advice I’ve received about writing a book was to simply finish. To non-writers this may seem obvious but it’s amazing how many ways we writers procrastinate. “I’m writing a book,” we say while revising chapter one to get that perfect first line, reading hundreds of how-to write books, attending thirty workshops, critiquing friends’ pages, doing the laundry, walking the dog, anything to avoid finishing.


    Writing a first book seems like an insurmountable task. It’s hard enough writing this 350 word blog post let alone an 80,000 word novel! So instead, tackle your manuscript, a little at a time. Sit in your most creative space for a set upon time every day and write one sentence. Make yourself do it. You’ll be surprised at how that one sentence can turn into ten.

    My creative space -- the Verona Public Library 
    My creative space -- the Verona Public Library

    I’m a huge believer in setting goals like this. At first I’d make myself write for at least two hours a day, if I could fit in three that was a bonus. Now my goal is 1,000 words a day, no matter how long it takes. I’m surprised at how easy I’m reaching that goal within two hours. I’ll admit this is my second book and now I think I know what I’m doing. But I also know I can crank out those 1,000 words because I’ve given myself permission to suck. This is my first draft and no one but me will read it. It’s laying the foundation for future drafts.
    "Just Write" t-shirt by Dr. Cheryl Woodson

    Here’s a secret first-time novelists may not realize: you need to finish your book before you can start it. What I mean is once you've written those last words, chances are you’ll have to change the beginning based upon what you’ve discovered about your characters. Don’t spend your time reworking that first line or first chapter until after you finish the book.

    When you write that last word, you’ll be part of an elite group of people. People who claimed they would write a book and actually did.

    Books by local authors displayed at the Rockford, Illinois Barnes & Noble store.

    IMG_3177 Kristin A. Oakley is a founding member and past president of In Print, a professional writers’ organization in the Rockford, Il area and a Chicago Writers Association board member. She teaches a UW-Madison Continuing Education online writing course on cliffhangers. Kristin’s debut novel, Carpe Diem, Illinois, is available through Amazon.comBarnes and Noble, and Little Creek Press. She’s currently writing the sequel, God on Mayhem Street, and is playing around with the idea for a science fiction novel.