Tuesday, January 29, 2013

STAINED by Author Cheryl Rainfield Cover Reveal

Today's blog post is a first for me, a cover reveal for a friend and author, Cheryl Rainfield. If you missed the interview I had with Cheryl a little while back, check it out here. I have blogged about Cheryl's books SCARS and HUNTED previously. Click the titles to jump to those reviews. I am currently reading Cheryl's most recent release, PARALLEL VISIONS, which will be reviewed shortly afterwards. But, today brings us Cheryl's upcoming book, STAINED, which details the story of a girl who must become her own hero.

Here is the official description:

Book Description:
In this heart-wrenching and suspenseful teen thriller, sixteen-year-old Sarah Meadows longs for "normal." Born with a port-wine stain covering half her face, all her life she’s been plagued by stares, giggles, bullying, and disgust. But when she’s abducted on the way home from school, Sarah is forced to uncover the courage she never knew she had, become a hero rather than a victim, and learn to look beyond her face to find the beauty and strength she has inside. It’s that—or succumb to a killer.

Tag Line:
Sometimes you have to be your own hero.

Release Date:
Nov 19, 2013

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
From the author:
Like I did with SCARS and HUNTED, I drew on some of my own experiences of bullying, abuse, and trauma to write STAINED and to give it greater emotional depth. Like Sarah in STAINED, I experienced abduction, imprisonment, periods of forced starvation, mind control, and having my life threatened. And like Sarah, I tried hard to fight against my abuser, kept my own sense of self, and escaped. I hope readers will see Sarah's strength and courage, and appreciate her emotional growth as she reclaims herself.
STAINED is Available For Pre-Order on:

And, without further ado, here is the amazing cover:
As a special treat, Cheryl has put together a powerful book trailer you can check out here:

If you find this as moving as I did, please click the "Watch on YouTube" link to go like, favorite, and comment on this video. Also, if you'd like to add this book to your GoodReads TBR pile, click here.

Connect With Cheryl Rainfield on her website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, GoodReads, Pinterest, and Google+.

Stained: Sarah, a teen with a port-wine stain, is abducted, and must find a way to rescue herself.
Parallel Visions: Kate sees visions of the future--but only when she has an asthma attack.
Hunted: Caitlyn is a telepath in a world where having any paranormal power is illegal. Monica Hughes Award finalist
Scars: Kendra must face her past and stop hurting herself before it's too late. GG Literary Award Finalist, YALSA's Top 10 Quick Picks.

If you have questions for Cheryl about this book or any of her other excellent books, please ask them in the comments below. I hope you'll check out STAINED when it releases this November!

Monday, January 21, 2013

How to Kill Your Darlings and Make the Rest of Your Manuscript Sing


Has this ever happened to you? Do you love words so much that sometimes you read and reread sections of your WIP just to spend time with your words and to have all the feels about your words? After all, you wrote them, right? And you should feel proud and special about that accomplishment.

So, why isn't everyone else just as jazzed about your manuscript, your words, your opus to literature? They must not be able to recognize your greatness, your secured spot as a bestseller, as a work that should be studied in schools and memorized by all. They'll come around. You can forgive them their oversight. You're so above it all. Right?

I could be exaggerating just a tad. My point is, writers love their words and find it hard to let them go, or be objective when editing said words, and that brings me to today's blog post on the revision process. Here are a few quotes to get us started:

"Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings."
- Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch

"In writing, you must kill all your darlings." - William Faulkner

“Revision means throwing out the boring crap and making what’s left sound natural.” - Laurie Halse Anderson

Blog Disclaimer: I am not an expert, but am a writer blogging about the process and sharing what I've learned along the way. If you'd like expert knowledge on the subject, check out these great blogs:
  1. "How (and When!) to Kill Your Darlings" http://www.writers-village.org/writing-award-blog/how-and-when-to-kill-your-darlings
  2. On the Advice to, "Kill Your Darlings" http://blog.derenhansen.com/2011/04/on-advice-to-kill-your-darlings.html
  3. Flip the Script: What To Do With Your Darlings http://writerunboxed.com/2012/05/07/flip-the-script-what-to-do-with-your-darlings/
  4. Why You Should Kill Your Darlings http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/2012/03/why-you-should-kill-your-darlings.html <--Great examples in this one!
  5. Writing Rules Misapplied: Kill Your Darlings http://wendypalmer.com.au/2008/09/25/writing-rules-misapplied-kill-your-darlings/
  6. How Chuck Wendig Edits A Novel http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/01/08/how-chuck-wendig-edits-a-novel/ (for an overall good laugh...that's right, stop taking yourself so seriously!)


I've just completed a fresh round of edits and I'm in the afterglow of what I've learned this time around the manuscript. When I first wrote this manuscript, D1 (Draft One) came in at around 73K. Subsequent rounds of edits, revisions, and additional writing (fleshing out characters, story arcs, underlying themes, and PACING) fattened this MS to 93K. That's 20,000 words, people!

I've just finished D13 cover to cover revision and felt that the pacing was sloggish at 84K (I've been hacking away at that ridiculous word count), and I was determined to KILL ALL THE DARLINGS this round to let the story breathe and keep the reader turning pages. It's now a slim 78K, and I'm happy with the balance between depth and pacing. That's 6,000 slain darlings (15K total slain words).

The thought occurred to me: If my darlings are getting in the way of my reader connecting to the story, and more importantly, staying with it, I'd be better off chopping the words that are holding the story back. I've worked too hard on this to have the reader give up in the first 1/3 or middle 1/3 of the story. I want them to reach the climax and learn the big secret. I want them to journey with Joel, my MC, to face his darkest places, and stay with him as he learns how to face his problems. The pay off for Joel is the chance at a relationship he's long hoped for and pursued in his own way, through writing letters, stories and poems to Amber. If my MS is riddled with darlings, how can I expect my reader to stay with me or my MC?

KILLING YOUR DARLINGS is writerspeak for cutting the lines that aren't necessarily bad, are likely character development or story development, but ultimately weigh down your manuscript to the point your reader is negatively impacted.

What is your goal with your writing? Do you want your reader to finish? Is your goal to have them slug through the first half of your book before giving up, putting it down, and moving on? I didn't think so. That sounds like a few nightmares I've had as a writer.

This round of revisions was really focused on cutting the fluff and getting the story that NEEDS TO BE THERE to come back to life and sing to the reader. I pictured the reader turning pages and unable to put the book down. That's what I had in mind while editing. That's what kept me going, even though this is D13 for me.

The writing and editing process is different for everyone. I've realized that in order to get this MS to the point it's ready to be published, I've got to go through the hard work of learning how to write and learning how to edit MY WRITING so that it sings.


The other thing this round of edits uncovered is TELLING vs. SHOWING. I have edited this particular thing out of my MS before. So, I was horrified to see that, like a weed, TELLS have worked their way back into my MS. How could this happen? As I've revised, I've added lines and paragraphs here and there. These are not always revised at the time, but usually get caught on a subsequent round (hence all the rounds of edits...it's what works for me).

There are several things about tells. First and foremost, you're telling the reader what happened and how they should feel about it. It's the reader's job to interpret what they think about the characters. It's not the writer's job to tell the reader what to think or feel. This makes the reader angry, and will always result in them putting your book down and finding something else to do.

Think of it like this: Write your words so that there are gaps, holes (I imagine swiss cheese in word form) that the reader can fill in, conclude, and interact with the story. By making connections for the reader, they will become hooked into your story, invested with your characters, and feel like this could be happening to them. This will also keep them turning pages.

I've also found that internal thoughts that are questions are often tells. See if the sentence before and after connect, and therefore don't need the question between. The question was only necessary for the writer to get there. Now it's time to cut this for the improvement of your MS.

So, for what it's worth, this is what I've learned from this round of edits. I hope you can find it in your writerly heart to KILL YOUR DARLINGS to save your story and keep your reader engaged. Also, CUT THE TELLS and keep the reader turning pages.

As you have revised, what tips have you learned along the way? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Bringing YA To YOU (HERSHEY, PA)

Have you ever wished that a big YA book tour would make a stop in your hometown? Well, here's your chance for that wish to come true! YA2U is a program that features five award-winning and best-selling authors who are holding a contest to see what city they should visit in an exclusive tour stop!

The authors are collecting votes from January 1 to February 15, and any city in the continental US or any Canadian city that has an international airport can win an exclusive visit from all five authors, including an author panel and book signing! Entering is super easy--and if you help spread the word about the contest, you can also enter win a signed copy of all of their books (TEN signed books in total!)--and the book contest is open internationally!

The authors in the program are:

And they want to have an event in your home town! To participate, just got to the YA2U website and let them know what city you want them to come to. And while you're there, help spread the word about the contest and you can be entered to win all of their books--TEN signed books in total! 

Here's why the YA2U Team should come to MY hometown (HERSHEY, PA)! 

Right in the heart of Central PA is the town of Hershey. It doesn't get any sweeter than Chocolatetown, U.S.A., where Milton S. Hershey and his wife Catherine dreamed of raising a family and creating the best chocolate confections in the United States. It took Hershey three failures to finally succeed at the business of candymaking, and he eventually sold his caramel business for 1 million dollars. He followed this with the creation of milk chocolate (to make it affordable for every family), and the rest is history.

At the same time, Catherine and Milton Hershey also established a boarding school for orphaned boys, and later expanded this school to the K-12 school it is today, meeting the needs of underprivileged children thanks to the love and generosity of the Hersheys, and their legacy of love. Since Catherine was unable to bear children, they poured their love into the orphaned boys, and when Catherine died of scarlet fever, Milton quietly set aside his ENTIRE FORTUNE to perpetuate the school forever.

Did you know that when you buy anything from Hershey, 50% goes back into the trust fund that keeps the school running and pays for the students' needs? The trust fund is currently between 8 and 9 billion dollars and the school runs on the interest alone. For every child that attends the K-12 school, entering at K, 1st or 2nd grade, by the time that student graduates, he or she has received 1 million dollars in services and support. MHS also pays for that student to attend college, except for a small portion Milton expects each student to raise on their own to be invested in their own higher education.

Hershey, PA is home to HersheyPark, Zoo America, the Giant Arena and Hershey Bears, The Hotel Hershey (a 4 star historical hotel of America and luxury spa), Hershey Gardens, The Hershey Story, and the Outlets at Hershey. Nearby attractions include Lancaster, PA (Amish Country) and Gettysburg. The Capital of PA, Harrisburg is also nearby, where Harrisburg International Airport provides immediate access to all Central PA has to offer.

I hope you'll join me in voting for Hershey, PA as the place these authors should come, and I hope you'll join me in welcoming them all to Chocolatetown U.S.A.


Why should the YA2U Team come to your hometown? Why not join in the fun today and share with others about this program and your hometown. The more votes your town gets, the closer you are to having your very own personal tour stop! Vote for YOUR town here!

And if you help spread the word, you can also participate in the book giveaway. Tell them that you learned about YA2U from me and we both get extra entries in the contest! 
a Rafflecopter giveaway



            She met me at the breakers, her fingers laced through sandals and her jeans cuffed. I watched her walk on just toes, a trail of butterfly prints taking flight in her wake. I smiled.

            Behind us, the lighthouse stood resplendent, a red and white sentinel guarding what we were about to do. I held out my hand, and we stepped with bare feet onto damp rocks winking like dark eyes below us.

            This was a total dare.

            Who could get farther from shore, and who would finally reach the edge where land ended and ocean enveloped us in its terrible vastness?

            “Let’s do this,” Amber said, letting go of my hand and pulling her auburn hair into a ponytail.

            I watched, mesmerized, while she continued on, her eyes shimmering in water-reflected sunlight when she glanced back.

            “C’mon, Joel, at least make it a challenge I have to work for,” Amber said, breaking the spell.

            I caught up to her just as she reached the end. She shot her arms up in triumph and turned, while a wave crashed against the breaker and soaked her completely.

            Amber shrieked, and then sputtered, “Victory!” albeit a soggy one.

            “Come on, I’ll race you back,” I said, making use of my lead.

            “Hey, that’s cheating!”

            Back on sand I retrieved a paper lantern from my backpack, the reason for our meeting at the shore. The day marked the anniversary of my grandfather’s death. Since Amber was there when it happened, we agreed to meet once a year to share this task.

            I pulled out a lighter and dipped it inside the lantern fastened to a small wooden skiff. Once it was lit, we walked it down together.

            “We’re thinking of you, grandpa. Horse rides, milking cows, and fireflies.”

            “And sweet tea on the porch at sunset,” Amber added.

            We set the skiff down, waiting for the waves to pull it out into the current from our open hands. Then we stood silent, watching the light flicker, and the skiff bob in the jostling sea. I sent my love out to the silence, although it looked like I just stood there quietly thinking.

            Sometimes you have to put your love out there before it returns to you later.

            “Think we can make it?” Amber asked, turning back toward the lighthouse.

            “Let’s go for it,” I said, and we took off, running at full speed up the sand to the base of the lighthouse. We entered the stairwell and took them two at a time, laughing, huffing, and grabbing the railing on the way. I felt a knot burning in my side, and a pang of something else filling up inside me, like light or energy wanting to burst from my fingers and toes. I couldn’t explain it.

            At the top, we came around the lamp as it swept the shoreline, an enormous eye illuminating everything below. We could see the lantern still chugging away from shore.

            Then it got eerily quiet.

            I turned to Amber, and had to immediately grab the railing as everything started to rattle and shake, a terrible thundering sound crashing like a tsunami all around. We turned, and felt the building itself give way and crumble into dust and debris with us inside.


            That was the only time I had that dream, although parts of it seemed like they were things that could happen or might happen sometime later.

            When I was a child, my father read me stories and tucked me in at night. A few times, I had night terrors, and woke screaming from a bad dream. He came up to my room and sat in the dark and held me, rocking and whispering, “Shh, shh. Daddy’s here. It’s okay. You’re safe now. Shh. It was just a bad dream…”

            Back then, I used to believe him.

            I also believed him when I asked him why we had to have nightmares at all, and he answered, “Dreams are just practice for real life. We can make them whatever we want them to be. When you realize you’re having a bad dream, just tell it to be something different—you can fly like a superhero, or go on every ride at an amusement park.”

            But that was before my nightmares began, and before he left me to fight them on my own.

Click HERE to continue reading CHAPTER ONE of THE PACKING HOUSE.
Read the QUERY for THE PACKING HOUSE here.