Friday, August 29, 2014

STORM SIREN By Mary Weber

Ohemgee guys! I'm sooo excited to be hosting Mary Weber today on my blog! She's talking about her new release Storm Siren. I started reading it a few days ago and let me just tell you -- this is one of those don't-miss-out kind of stories! Unfortunately for me (fortunately for you) I haven't quite finished it yet. If I had, I'd be spilling all the secrets and then you'd be mad, mad, mad!

I know, I know. I'm such a tease.

To keep you salivating with book envy here's the cover and blurb:


STORM SIREN is the story of a seventeen year old slave girl called Nym who was born with a storm-summoning lethal curse. When her power is revealed at a slave auction, Nym is suddenly bought by a royal advisor and given a choice: be trained as the weapon that the kingdom of Faelen can use to win the war…or be killed. 

Choosing the former, Nym falls into the bizarre world of politics and parties and prepares to fight a monster rumored to be more lethal than she is.  It doesn’t help that she has to deal daily with her smug, but handsome trainer who seems to have the uncanny ability to calm every lighting strike she summons--and the storm raging inside of her.

Struggling to find a place to fit in, Nym seems to have found her place in the world, but what if she doesn’t want to be the weapon they’ve all been waiting for?
 



*shivers* See? I told you! A.ma.zing!


Amie: Welcome to my...ahem... humble abode. *Clears clutter, dusts cobwebs, wipes counters* Have a seat and make yourself at home! There's chocolate cupcakes and herbal tea. *gets out pen and paper* As if I haven't mentioned already, I just want to say I'm loving Storm Siren. Where did you get your idea for the world building (including a female slave who has super powers!)? Was there a particular event that inspired you?

Mary:  Hi Amie!!! Oh I’m pleased you’re enjoying it!! And thanks for inviting me to chat! Okay, so, let’s see…as far as the world for Storm Siren – that was inspired by my love of history (I ADORE the Middle Ages) and a total obsession with all things steampunk and Last Airbender. Not to mention an old poem titled “Saint Patrick’s Breastplate” in which St. Patrick is calling out the elements to defend him (seriously, how awesome was HE?!).
Regarding the slavery aspect – that was actually strongly influenced by Patrick’s story as well, along with my passionate feelings on the heartbreaking (and horrific) issue of human trafficking that is going on in our world today.

Amie: Fantastic! My husband and eldest daughter are huge history buffs. I slept through most of those classes. What was the hardest part of your writing process? The act of writing and finishing a novel? Querying agents? Finding a publisher? Editing?

Mary: Hmm. I’d probably have to say the act of writing and finishing a novel. I totally know authors who can bust out like four or five novels a YEAR (so amazing!), and I’m over here like, “Don’t mind me – I’m just going to pound my head on my keyboard and beg the words to SPEAK TO ME,” ha!! ;0)
But now I’m curious – what’s the hardest part for YOU?!! And what’s your favorite part?
 
Amie: And here I thought I was completely alone. Most of my writing days look like this:





Amie: My favorite part is when the story finally starts to come together. It's like my characters keep secrets or something. Why am I always the last to know? *cries* Why do you write YA? Will you ever venture into other genres and reading levels? (Die hard MGer over here!)

Mary: Oh intriguing question!! And my honest answer is that I write YA because it’s primarily what I read when it comes to fiction. There’s just something startlingly authentic and alive about the voice and characters that speaks to my 14-year-old soul. I also have teen daughters and have worked with teens and tweens for the past eight years, so…they are my people.
As far as writing other reading levels, it’s not something I see in the near future. That said, I have a MG son, so, there *might* be a story in the wings for him. ;0) (And yay for die-hard MGers!!!!!! I love that!!) 

Amie: I totally get that! My co-author has morphed from MGer to YAer (when did that happen??!) so I actually see our characters progressing and maturing even though we still write MG. Who is your favorite author?

Mary: Gah! Can I just say ALL of them? No? Okay fine then. Ummmm…J.K. Rowling. Wait, Maggie Stiefvater. Or Marissa Meyer. Or Diana Wynne Jones. Or Dorothy Sayers. Ahem.
 
Amie: Tee hee. Okay. How about your favorite book?

Mary: Any from the above favorite authors?
 
Amie: Favorite movie?

Mary: Babe (yes, the pig movie) because I ugly cry EVERY TIME. Also, Lord of the Rings. Cuz Aragorn.

Amie:  My daughter will totally fan girl because you said that. *Lord of the Rings geek mom by default* If forced to decide between the following, what would you choose?  Chocolate or vanilla?

Mary: The answer is ALWAYS chocolate. (In fact, what is this vanilla thing you speak of?)

Amie: Haha! I know, right? Snakes or spiders?

Mary: Ack! Really?!! Um…okay, I vote snakes. *shivers*

Amie: Don't look in your shower. I may - or may not - have snuck one in there. I'm the worst practical joker. Ever. *maniacal laugh* Mountains or ocean?

Mary: I’m going to have to go with the ocean. I live near the Pacific, and that salty sea air and morning fog are just…sigh.

Amie: I was at the OBX for a week recently. I hear that sigh and raise you an aaaahhhhh....Burgers and fries or pizza and wings?

Mary: Burgers and fries!! Particularly if they’re from In ‘N Out. ;0)

Amie: Yum. So, what's next for you?

Mary: Well, today I’ll be hunkered down with my sister, Kati, at a coffee shop, storyboarding Book 3 in the Storm Siren trilogy (because Kati is THE best plotting-type person). After that, I have very exciting things happening – I’ll be heading home to clean some dishes and admire my cute husband’s dinner-making-skills. Afterward, I plan to cuddle up with my kiddos and hold them tight (because is it just me or has it been a very long week??). ;0)
What’s next for YOU, Amie?!!!

Amie: Sounds similar to my life. Ha! What's next for me? Well, Little Dead Riding Hood releases in just a few weeks on October 14th. Eep. I'm currently at work with my 14 year old daughter and co-author on book three - Snow Fright!

Mary: Very awesome! :0) And seriously – thank you so very much for hosting me, Amie!!!!!!

Amie: Thanks for being here, Mary! It's been fun getting to know you!



Mary Weber is a ridiculously uncoordinated girl plotting to take over make-believe worlds through books, handstands, and imaginary throwing knives.

In her spare time, she feeds unicorns, sings 80’s hairband songs to her three muggle children, and ogles her husband who looks strikingly like Wolverine. They live in California, which is perfect for stalking L.A. bands, Joss Whedon, and the ocean. 

Find Mary on Twitter, Facebook, and her website.

       M                                                                                     

Monday, August 25, 2014

E is for Edit - Tips for Teens!

E is for Edit!

Editing is a key component of writing. The key is that it has to be done.

There's also something to be said for timing. You don't want to waste your time editing while you're still creating and writing your story because....well....because it will be edited later. Often times things you've slaved over--chapters, pages, paragraphs and even sentences--will end up being edited entirely. So instead of worrying about perfecting them now, edit later once the story is complete.

When you're in the revision process, whether it's working with a critique group, beta readers, or even an editor, remember two things:

1) As an outsider they see how your story has come together and the ways in which it is presented in its best light. If pacing is off, trust them, they will know. If a character development is lacking, they're going to see right through it. As the author, we tend to be too close to our stories--and know what we've been thinking and planning--that it takes someone else's perspective to help us see what our story lacks.

2) You're the author and you do know your story best. Trust your instinct. If certain changes don't sit right with you, then they should be discussed. Maybe there's a miscommunication that can be settled through a conversation with your reader. Consider that before you take things personally. If in the end it's simply a matter of personal preference (as many times it is, as writing is a subjective business), then, once again, trust your instinct and listen to your heart. You know what's right for your story.

If you ever find that you're doubting yourself, go back and read D is for Delete and C is for Castles!

Happy writing!

Monday, August 18, 2014

I Hate When the Kids go Back to School

Today is the first day of school in our district. For many this poses mixed emotions. Kids are dragging their feet, wishing for more days of relaxing summer sun while parents are secretly cheering inside, pushing their kids onto the big yellow bus with a grimace of sheer delight.

As the parent of three kids, two teens and one still in elementary school, I have a very defining emotion but it's certainly not joy. It's loneliness. I'd be lying if I didn't admit there's a bit of stress mingling there, too.There's also some sadness, tickling the back of my throat like a bitter pill swallowed with too little water.

I love the internet, love reading blogs, and love feeling like I'm not alone--that there are other people who share my thoughts, that we connect on some level.

But the biggest problem I have with all these blog posts is they're all geared to parents of toddlers. They pull at my heart strings remembering by-gone days of snotty noses, temper tantrums, and not showering for three days straight. And that was me on a good week!

Of course, they make me think of my children, too. Snuggling at story time, smelling their freshly shampooed hair, they feeling of butterfly kisses as they held my face vying for my attention.

Sure, I try to apply the advice and content to teens, but it isn't quite the same.

I may not read to them anymore. Instead we have in-depth conversations about great books they're reading. I can't quite snuggle them in my lap, but I do sneak a sniff of their hair--remember the silkiness of it against my face--when I'm lucky enough to score a hug. And there might not be butterfly kisses, but there's lots of laughter around our kitchen table.

Which is why I hate when the kids go back to school.

The house is quiet once again and it reminds me with all it's ugly silence that a not-too-distant future is waiting in the wings. Soon I will be an empty nester. Sure, my youngest is small enough that I still have a few more years....but as well all know, time passes faster than we might like, no matter how hard we try to cling to it.

Our time is not our own. Those carefree days of playing on the beach will be nothing more than distant memories as we struggle with hours of homework, sports, music, church, and a list of activities that is so long it's shameful. We've tried limiting activities, but with one who is only two years from college, the need to remain competitive for scholarships and entrance attractive to the university of her choosing, the stark reality is she needs to be well rounded. Give one child some things to pursue--music and sports--and two other children will follow.

The Great Homework Battle has begun. One of my children in particular was really distressed with homework. So much so that it caused tantrums and tears. That was just me! She'd sneak outside and swing her stress away. Thankfully said child is homeschooled now and the situation has improved drastically. But for my other children, hours and hours and hours of homework are in store. My eldest will come home at three, and other than a break for dinner, will work until midnight. On days she has activities (let's not even talk about when she has an afterschool sport!), she will opt to stay up until the wee hours of the morning, or hope that homeroom provides enough time to cram in what she didn't finish. Then she's up again at five to start it all over again.

Vacations have ended. It's not just the fact that summer vacation is gone, but that pretty much any vacation I plan has to revolve around the school year. There's no more spontaneous trips. There's no evening getaways to the movies or the park. There's no games outside or family campfires telling stories and roasting marshmallows. Even if I could take my kids on a mini vaca, there would be school absences to account for as well as all those hours of make-up work. Unfortunately, it's almost not worth the headache that will ensue.

I'm selfish. I admit it. I am selfish. Part of that selfishness includes wanting to spend my time with my family. Once school starts, I can't talk to my kids whenever I want. We can't watch movies all night long. We can't escape the way we did during the summer. Now I have to wait until they're home, sometime between their hours of studying to even have a mini conversation. I miss my kids when they're gone during the day. I'm one of those parents that would often chose hanging out with my kids over being with adult friends. Maybe that makes me immature. I prefer to think of it as being grateful for my beautiful life.

So as I drive my kids to school today (nope, they won't ride the bus all year), I'll take a little extra time to create that Kodak moment--showing them that they're important to me and what they have to say matters. That these moments--the mundane, everyday moments--are the ones which add up to a lifetime of memories...the memories I will draw upon while they're at school. I'll cross my fingers during their lunch break that they're reliving cherished moments and summer daydreams while reading the letter I penned to them last night. A mother can hope, can't she?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Diversity in Books

This past week we spent one glorious week at the beach in a quaint little house which, if it sat any closer, it would have been floating in the water. We anticipated many things from our trip to the beach: lots of time in the ocean, aquatic creature sightings, sun & sand (possibly even sunburn!), along with many, many memories that we could cherish for years to come.

What we didn't expect, however, was to make friends with another family.

It was only on our second day that we saw this family at various times, walking from their house to the beach. Our interactions started simply with a head nod, which eventually became a hello when we'd both gathered the courage to utter the words.

Then the children began watching each other, curiosity piqued, as they played in the sand building castles and moats. Or as my girls boogied on their boards with each friendly wave of the sea.

It was my girls who finally invited them to play, inching closer as they worked together to build a fortress. Before I knew it, a teenager was chatting with me. Then a grandfather, followed by a grandmother. Then a mother and father close in age to my own.

The next few days were spent getting to know each other. Sitting at the beach exchanging stories. Laughing. Enjoying the blossoming friendships between our children.

The week ended in an exchange of addresses and welcome invitations to visit. These weren't email addresses though. And there were no phone numbers. Just a street, town, and state.

While most would think such an exchange were odd in today's day and age with all of our technology and resources, but to our newfound friends, it is a way of life.

For you see, our new friends are AMISH.

One of the things I noticed was that so many people were afraid to talk with this family. Maybe because they were unsure of the rules in the Amish community. Perhaps they were afraid of offending them. I, myself, admittedly was quite ignorant about the Amish, my little knowledge coming from lame reality television shows like Breaking Amish. But as we got to know each other, I realized, (as it was said to me by a member of their family), "The only difference is in the way we dress." By the end of the week though, I saw other people interacting with this family. I hope it was my family's example of not judging, our acceptance of diversity, which influenced them to be brave.

This, of course, as a writer, got me thinking.

Many things come to mind when we think of diversity in books. Ethnicities and races. LGBT. Even disabilities. But how often do we consider creeds--those of different religions? Do we consider those who are Hindi, Mormon, or even Amish when our thoughts turn to diversity? If not, why?

Why would we limit our thoughts when engaging in diversity in books? Shouldn't we look at all the possibilities? Sure, we need characters who are African-American to Asian to everything in between. But we also need characters of religious and moral strength and courage. Because, believe it or not, the Amish read books. In fact, the family I met are rather avid readers. Do their reading interests not matter? Are they any less important simply because of their differences? I say -NO WAY!  I say we need books for them. Books with great stories, characters they can relate to, and plots that intrigue. They need to know that there are wonderful books just for them.

So, the next time you sit down to write, consider diversity in its many varieties and forms. I know I will.

I am forever grateful for my experience at the beach and what my interactions with this family have taught me.

And yes, I'm looking forward to a horse and buggy ride when we visit them in the very near future.


Monday, August 11, 2014

D is for Delete - Tips for Teens!

D is for Delete!

It's okay to use the delete key. I promise.

But don't do it right away! Wait until your story is finished (see C- is for Castles for a quick reminder) before you delete anything.

Once you're sure your novel is complete, then start using that delete key. Too much exposition? Delete! Too much telling? Delete! Pacing is off? Delete!

Don't be afraid to delete anything that prevents your WIP from being the best story it can be.

Having a difficult time deleting? Can't do it, you say?  Don't worry. You're not alone. A lot of authors have a hard time saying goodbye to their babies. Every word feels vital.

But there's a trick to this special little key.

It can act as a transfer.

Yup.

Just cut and paste those words into another document. Save them for the future. Maybe you'll find another opportunity to use them. Perhaps all it will need is new names for characters. Or a different setting. That's the best part about being a writer--nothing is gone forever!

So remember, deleting words from one story simply allows them to be used for something better in the future!

Monday, August 4, 2014

C is for Castles - Tips for Teens!

C is for Castles!

Not long ago I found this wonderful quote from Shannon Hale:

"When writing a first draft, I remind myself that I'm simply shoveling sand into a box, so that later I can build castles."

I love it because too many times I spend my time perfecting a page, a paragraph, a sentence without first finishing the writing of the novel. Things often change in the process of writing. A character's motivation is altered. The setting is tweaked. A plot element is eliminated. With all those changes, there's not point in building a "castle" until the sand is first put into that sandbox.

Don't make the same mistakes that I made early on (and continue to do as a perfectionist). Focus on filling your sandbox first (put the words on the page), then build your castle (perfect your story once it's complete).  You'll thank me for it later. Oh, and Shannon Hale, of course!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Cinderskella Sale!

I'm so excited to announce that for one day only--Monday, July 28th, 2014--my publisher will be offering Cinderskella for the discounted price of $2.99!! You can purchase the ebook at Amazon for this super steal of a price!

So tell your neighbors, tell your friends, tell your students, your kids, nieces, nephews and grandchildren! Then buy a copy and enjoy! And don't forget that the best way to show your support for an author, after you've read their book, is to leave a review. If you purchase a copy of Cinderskella during the sale, send me an email at Cinderskella (at) aol (dot) com and I will send you a swag pack! Limited to the first 50 sales, notified by Tuesday, July 29th, 2014.

Also, be sure to stop on by the Jolly Fish Press blog, Jolly Fish Talk, where I've written a guest post. See what books have inspired me throughout my life, learn where one of my children gained their name, and find out which book inspired me to become a writer!

Happy Monday!



(ps - Tips for Teens! resumes next Monday)