Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Firsts: The First Release From Spencer Hill Contemporary!

As the Editor-in-chief of Spencer Hill Contemporary (the new contemporary imprint of Spencer Hill Press) next week marks a very exciting FIRST for me: our first release! After many months of editing and planning, the day is finally almost here and I could not be more thrilled to share CAMP KISS (a CAMP BOYFRIEND novella) with the all of you!

J.K. Rock (pseudonym for amazing author team Joanne & Karen Rock) were also the first authors I signed when the imprint officially launched and they have been a blast to work with. Their stories and characters make me feel like I am back at summer camp, falling in love for the first time all over again, and I could not be more proud of the work they've done leading up to next week's release.

CAMP KISS will be available as a free download on Spencer Hill Contemporary's site next Tuesday (March 26, 2013!) and I would love to hear what you think of it!


The Camp Kiss That Started It All…
Lauren Carlson, a fourteen-year-old expert on the cosmos, superheroes, and science fiction trivia has a crush on her longtime camp friend, Seth. Last summer she’d dreamed about upgrading their relationship to BF/GF status and this year she has a plan… if only her well-meaning cabin mates wouldn’t interfere before she’s ready. She hasn’t even adjusted to her new braces yet, let alone imagined kissing Seth with them. When a dare pushes her out of her comfort zone, will she and Seth rocket out of the friendzone at last? There’s only one way to find out….

Releases from Spencer Hill Contemporary on July 2, 2013. 

The summer of her dreams is about to get a reality check.
They said it  couldn't be done, but geeky sophomore Lauren Carlson transformed herself into a popular girl after moving to a new school halfway across the country. Amazing what losing her braces and going out for cheerleading will do. Only trouble is, the popular crowd is wearing on Lauren's nerves and she can't wait to return to summer camp where she's valued for her brain instead of her handsprings. She misses her old friends and most of all, her long time camp-only boyfriend, Seth. This year she intends to upgrade their relationship to year-round status once she's broken up with her new, jock boyfriend, Matt. He doesn't even begin to know the real her, a girl fascinated by the night sky who dreams of discovering new planets and galaxies.

But Matt isn't giving her up without a fight. As he makes his case to stay together, Lauren begins to realize his feelings run deeper than she ever would have guessed. What if the guy she thought she was meant to be with forever isn't really The One? Returning to Camp Juniper Point was supposed to ground her uprooted life, but she's more adrift than ever. Everything feels different and soon Lauren's friends are turning on her and both guys question what she really wants. As summer tensions escalate, Lauren wonders if she's changed more than she thought. Will her first big discovery be herself?

You can find J.K. Rock online:

Goodreads / Author Website / Series Website / Karen's Twitter / Joanne's Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest / Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Do you have any exciting FIRSTS happening this month? We'd love to hear about them in the comments

Monday, March 18, 2013

The First Line Makes the Paragraph Makes the Book

When I was in school, my professor always told us the first line of our short story should be something that sets up the story. It should be engaging, powerful, and reveal something about the atmosphere of the book. (And she really frowned upon us opening anything with a line of a dialogue.)

Something I've learned in my years since college and my time as an editor: the first line of a book really does matter. It's immediate insight into the voice of an MC. The first line of the book carries a lot of weight, and the weight is very different than the last line. It's the first chance to make a reader invested in the book. Whereas the last line is the image that a reader is left with forever. We need an engaging first line to lead into an engaging first paragraph to make way for a fantastic book.

Let's look at some first lines:

I must’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere in the darkness. 
~Salvation, my short story from college

Jenny-May Butler, the little girl who lived across the road from me, went missing when I was a child. 

~There’s No Place Like Here by Cecelia Ahern 

  My hands are dying.  
~Fall For Anything by Courtney Summers

The Narrows remind me of August nights in the South.
~The Archived by Victoria Schwab

Those were the last words I could remember.
~Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel

You saw me before I saw you. 
~Stolen by Lucy Christopher

It all started when the cold came. 
~ Fall Apart, an unfinished MS by me

Gram is worried about me. 
~The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Everything changed the night I saw a burning man fall from the sky.
~Falling Under by Gwen Hayes

There's something powerful about a great first line. All of these ones I've chosen are first lines that set up character or plot or voice. And if you're interested in the first line, you'll want to read the paragraph. A good first paragraph is what captures a reader, so failing to use it properly means potentially losing people. I'm not going to do all of them, but let's look at some of these first paragraphs.

I'm going to cheat and start with the first two paragraphs of The Sky Is Everywhere because they are just so good. 

Gram is worried about me. It's not just because my sister Bailey died four weeks ago, or because my mother hasn't contacted me in sixteen years, or even because suddenly all I think about is sex. She is worried about me because one of her houseplants has spots.

Gram has believed for most of my seventeen years that this particular houseplant, which is of the nondescript variety, reflects my emotional, spiritual and physical well-being. I've grown to believe it too. 

I love these opening paragraphs because it tells you so much about the character, and the fact that sticks out the most isn't her sister's death or her age or her mother or sex -- it's that houseplant. A houseplant that is relevant throughout the entire book. This opening is quirky enough to stick out while still setting up the story and the upcoming struggle.

This next one is from Stolen by Lucy Christopher -- which is an amazing, amazing book and if you have not read it then go get it right now. 

You saw me before I saw you. In the airport, that day in August, you had that look in your eyes, as though you wanted something from me, as though you'd wanted it for a long time. No one had ever looked at me like that before, with that kind of intensity. It unsettled me, surprised me, I guess. Those blue, blue eyes, icy blue, looking back at me as if I could warm them up. They're pretty powerful, you know, those eyes, pretty beautiful, too. 

That may not seem like much, but trust me when I say: it is. It's setting up plot, character, voice. It's setting up the first moment where Gemma meets Ty and all hell breaks loose. It's powerfully written, just like that whole book. (Seriously. Go read it.)

This last one is from my own stuff. A story I started (and didn't get to finish because of having all the deadlines.) It's not edited and I'm not even sure it's worth sharing, but I love this opening.

It all started when the cold came. Fast, brittle, unexpected. That first morning in late October when it snowed on the way to school, and I stopped walking to watch it all fall around me. I love that feeling, being suspended in air while the frosty flakes of broken clouds fall around and land on my face. I felt like I was moving, losing control, even though my feet never left the ground. I felt like I was a snowflake. I was a huge ball of fluff reaching out toward the ground like a star—a shooting star. A star that falls apart and dissolves away. I’m pretty sure that was the day—the exact that moment—life started to unravel.  

The snow was too early. Even in New England, it didn’t snow that early. I’ve been searching for The Moment for months, and that was it.

That's an intro I like because the whole story is this girl has seen how one moment affects another and another and another--until all she's left with is the pieces of her life that don't go together anymore, and she's trying to understand it. So I like that intro, even if I never write again, because it's her looking beyond herself to find someone to blame -- and that's really the cause of the whole story.

Anyway---the whole point of this was to show how first lines are powerful. A powerful first line will create a memorable first paragraph and keep people reading. I'm a big fan of great first lines (and last lines) so I would definitely encourage you to find the moment, that image, that line that sets up the whole story and make the first one count.

What are some of your favorite first lines or paragraphs? Feel free to share from your own work or from your favorite books! 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Firsts: The First Query

When it comes to talking about writing firsts, it's easy to get a little lost in all the "firsts" I've experienced.
It was hard to choose which first to talk about. In the end, though, I decided there was no first more memorable, or terrifying, than that first query being sent.

It was a moment that had been coming for a couple of years. I wrote and scrapped and started over. I revised and deleted and changed and added. And yeah, you probably know the drill. Then, that moment came when it was finally time to press send on that very first query. I'm pretty sure my finger hovered over the send button for a record amount of time. And that was before I slammed my laptop closed and walked away, convinced there was no way I could ever actually send a query.

But then I told myself I had to rip it off. Like a band aid. (I tell myself this frequently.) So that's what I did. I re-opened the email and sent the darn thing. It was an amazing feeling! And then I wanted to do it again. And again. So I did. I sent those queries because it felt good. But then the fear sets in. That omg they could be reading my query/pages right now fear. Yeah, that feeling never passed. That's the thing about sending the first query. It didn't become any less scary even after the thirtieth. But there really is a magical feeling in realizing you're doing it. You're out there and trying and maybe it won't work out, but it's still all kinds of awesome.

If you've been there and done that, what was it like for you to send that first query?


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Firsts: My First Manuscript

For the next week or two most of us are going to be talking about Firsts. Firsts lines, books, chapters, kisses, fights...first anythings, really. And I wanted to talk about my first manuscript. The first full manuscript I ever wrote and what it taught me and what I gained from it. 

It's no surprise, if any of you have read my bio on here or know me, that I didn't really get into reading and writing until a few years ago. Don't get me wrong, I liked reading. I just never made the time for it like I do now and I didn't even really read YA. It wasn't until my sister shoved the Twilight books on me that I actually got into reading and YA. (And when I say shoved I mean it literally!) So it was after devouring the Twilight books and any other YA vampire books that I could find that I really started writing. I had played around a little with writing before then, but nothing serious--nothing that made me think I wanted to do this for real someday.

So, you might be able to guess that my first manuscript was a YA vampire story. This was before I even learned anything about the industry and how things took years to go from an author writing it to actually being in print. I went in thinking, 'Man this rocks. It's hard, but I'm writing a book! And it's gonna be awesome! And get published!'

Bless Danielle, is all I have to say. She was my first (another first!) critique partner and she read this vampire monstrosity of a story that I wrote. This story will always hold a special spot in my heart because it is what made me serious about writing, but let's be honest, it was not good. In fact, it was pretty terrible. 

But that's okay with me. Because even though this book will never see the light of day ever again (and I don't want it to! lol) I learned so much from it. My first manuscript was an amazing learning experience. Through it, I learned how to craft a story better, how to create sentences worth reading, how to develop characters and plots and so much more! I also learned what critique partners and beta readers were. I learned so much about the industry from research and making connections all because I decided one day to write. I decided to do the most I could to break into this industry that stole my heart. (Cliche sounding, I know, but it's true.)

I wouldn't change my writing journey for anything. My first manuscript taught me so much and I'm so thankful for all that I've learned from it and all the people I've met because of writing it. That story led me to where I am now--and so many more firsts: first blog, writing event, request, agent, and so on! I can't wait to see what other firsts are waiting for me, all because of one little story that had to be written. 

What did your first manuscript/story/poem/ect. teach you?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Books that impacted little ariane

Most of the bloggers here at Tangled are starting  "first" theme this week, but I missed my chance to write about books that impacted me when I was growing up, so I'm going to revisit that theme with today's post!

When I think back to the books that made the biggest impression on me, it's strange now to see that they were all so very different from each other.  They weren't even really in the same genre. Is there a common link that ties them together?

Casey and the Coach by Holly Simpson
 My mom found this book for me at one of those used library sales and I must have read it about 3,000 times. I read it several times a year growing up. This book taught me early on how important it is for young girls to have characters they can relate to.  I was a gymnast, and so reading about gymnasts really resonated with me.  This book also features a key tension between Casey and her dad, who is also her coach.  My Dad was my kung fu coach when I was younger, and that was a really hard position to be in.  This book made me feel less alone because I could relate so clearly to Casey’s position. I write with that in mind, these days.  One of my only clear goals in writing is to provide relatable characters for less spoken to groups, like Jewish young adults.  This book also had a really cute love story. To this day, I curse Casey for forgetting to wear her skeleton t-shirt on Halloween.

 The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley .  We all have a McKinley book on our lists, right? (If you don’t, you’ve got some wonderful reading to do.)  This book really did a number on me. I read it in on day, beginning on the school bus on the way home and ending in the wee hours of the morning long past when I should have been in bed. The thing that’s always been so remarkable to me about this novel is the tone of it.  It’s so heavy.  Two scenes in particular stand out: When Aerin is climbing the steps of the tower forever, and when Maur’s head is wreaking miasma all over the palace. I haven’t read this book in at least a decade, and I can still remember those scenes so vividly, they’re so potent. I should really go back and dissect them and try to figure out how McKinley does it on a sentence level.  This book also has a great love story... or two great love stories.  Growing up, I was always a big Aerin/Tor shipper.  Now that I’ve aged, I have a greater appreciation for Luthe... but most of all I now understand why Aerin must delay one and love the other for a time.  I feel like this is a book that means so many different things to me as I age, and if I read it again in another ten years I’m sure I’ll discover new sides of it.

 Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech.  Man, this book also did a number on me.  I did not expect the ending at all when I first read it, and when I reached the ‘twist’ I balled like a baby.  All night. I just wailed. A few years later, I read it out loud to my mom, who was unsurprised by the ending. She said “of course. I am a mother.  How could it be anything but that, Ariane?” And again, as I age, I see what she means.  As a child, that ending is unimaginable.  As a mother, it’s the only explanation. This novel really taught me how powerful a twist ending can be... although looking back I wonder if Creech even intended for it to be a surprise.

The Thief of Always by Clive Barker. This book has influenced me more than any other in my life. It was first read to me by my 6th grade teacher, and then I read it to my mom (the first in my tradition of reading to her while she cooked).  I found a dusty hardcover with illustrations in my brother’s room that I cherish to this day.   It has my favorite opening line: “The great grey beast February had eaten Harvey Swick alive.”  (There, now this entry is about Firsts, as well!) And my favorite final line, too. It introduced a question to me of which I’ve never grown tired: Is reality, with all of its pain and dark, worth sacrificing to escape? I didn’t intend for my first novel, ETHER, to be so similar to THE THIEF OF ALWAYS, but when I finished it I saw the links so clearly. I chewed and chewed on this question since 6th grade, when I was Harvey Swick’s age, and spat out my answer in ETHER when I was 23.

Some other books that impacted me a lot were AFTERNOON OF THE ELVES (Janet Taylor Lisle), TUCK EVERLASTING (Natalie Babbit), SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK (Alvin Schwartz), LAND OF FOAM (Ivan Yefremov), and I HAVE LIVED A THOUSAND YEARS (Livia Bitton-Jackson).