All right, cats and kittens, I am sooooo excited to finally get to share the cover of A MURDER OF MAGPIES with you all! I love the cover for my book. It was so unexpected, and yet I really can’t imagine anything else on the cover of the book! I really have to hand it to my cover designer and the team at Month9Books, LLC!
Want to see the rest of it?
Isn’t it perfect for my strange, dark book about secrets, murder, and mystery?
Winter in Black Orchard, Wisconsin, is long and dark, and sixteen-year-old Vayda Silver prays the snow will keep the truth and secrecy of the last two years buried. Hiding from the past with her father and twin brother, Vayda knows the rules: never return to the town of her mother’s murder, and never work a Mind Game where someone might see.No one can know the toll emotions take on Vayda, how emotion becomes energy in her hands, or how she can’t control the destruction she causes. But it’s not long before her powers can no longer be contained. The truth is dangerously close to being exposed, placing Vayda and her family at risk.
Until someone quiets the chaos inside her.
Unwanted. That’s all Ward Ravenscroft has ever been. To cope, he numbs the pain of rejection by denying himself emotions of any kind. Yet Vayda stirs something in him. He can’t explain the hold she has on him–inspiring him with both hope and fear. He claims not to scare easily, except he doesn’t know what her powers can do. Yet.Just as Vadya and Ward draw closer, she finds the past isn’t so easily buried. And when it follows the Silvers to Black Orchard, it has murder in mind.
I’ve often preached to any new writer who will listen about writing more than a first book. Oftentimes people will put so much into that first book that they don’t want to let it go… even if it might, in fact, suck. I heard someone compare books to pancakes once—that first one is a complete mess and usually goes in the trash, or, in the case of books, the trunk. (Mine sure did.)
The topic of this post is sort of an extension of that one: try something new. Not only should you write more than one book if you’re feeling stuck; write outside of your usual genre too. I’ve done this three times, and all have been invaluable experiences.
1.) Writing outside of my usual fiction genre
The first time, I used the great excuse of NaNoWriMo to write something fun. The challenge I read about on a blog and decided to try was this: anyone who hadn’t written a romance novel should, well… write a romance novel. My first (trunked) book was an adult paranormal, but not romance. My second (also trunked) book was a YA urban fantasy. So, I had some free time, and I figured, why not?
It was a blast, writing full-bore romance. And while no one will ever see this book, it taught me how to write way sexier romance scenes. While writing an entire book of them isn’t, I discovered, my cup of tea, it helped me be able to inject more romance and tension into those few scenes I do write to spice up my non-romance books.
2) Writing nonfiction
This was a big step for me, and less fun, but in a really challenging, enriching sort of way. I had an interesting experience in high school, and decided to write about that year of my life in the form of a YA memoir. The jury is still out on whether or not you’ll see this, but even if you don’t, the experience was still hugely valuable.
If you need a quick way to learn how to write dynamic characters, just try writing a real person as a character. You instantaneously have a three dimensional picture of this “character” in your mind since, you know… this person actually exists in three dimensions. Writing real people is excellent training for writing complex, interesting fictional characters since you can remember the steps you took to get that real person down on the page and apply it to your fiction later.
Also, writing nonfiction really made me think about story structure and appreciate the freedom I have when writing fiction. Trying to cram real events into a strong story ARC is soooo much harder than when you can make those events up. After writing the memoir, the story ARC for my next work of fiction and the events that comprised it came together with surprising ease.
3) Writing for a different age
I’d already written adult and YA fiction, so when I got the opportunity (more on this soon) to write for the middle grade age-range, I was excited—this was something new! I couldn’t rely on the relationship dynamics I was used to in order to craft my older characters, which involved more adult themes (even in YA) and oftentimes some type of sexual tension, however subtle. I had to tap into my inner 10-year-old, and write a story based on friendship and family.
But whether or not you’re writing for a 10-year-old audience or 50-year-old, those types of relationships are crucial. To go back to the basics, and build something in a new way, was a wonderful exercise in writing relationships of all types.
Now, I bid you–go write something new and wild! Something you never would write, normally. You might be surprised by the benefits.
AdriAnne shares a home base in Alaska with her husband, but has spent two cumulative years living abroad in Africa, Asia, and Europe. While writing occupies most of her time, she commercial fishes every summer in Bristol Bay, because she can’t seem to stop. Her debut YA sci-fi/fantasy, WORDLESS, is coming August 8th, 2014 from Flux Books. You can follow her on Twitter and like her on Facebook.
1. Stephen King says to “write with the door closed, and edit with the door open.” This is sage advice. Especially when editing with kids at home. Because a closed door will not keep them out, but the noise of the twisting door knob every five minutes will slowly drive you insane.
2. Make sure everyone, everywhere knows that while under editing deadline you will have no time for/won’t remember doctor’s appointments, haircuts, returning phone calls, school field trips. Showering. This will help save embarrassment later.
3. Keep the coffee pot on all day. Because I SAID KEEP IT ON!
4. Have an escape plan. Keep all paths clear . . . to the bathroom. (See #3)
5. When emerging from the cave in search of food don’t question those lingering feelings of angst and longing and heartbreak while you wander the aisles of your local grocery. Those are not yours, those are the feelings of your characters. No need to question your sanity, it’s all part of the process.
6. Question your sanity.
7. When you go to bed at night, leave your document open and ready, because you’ll be back at 1 a.m. Because now you have insomnia. Awesome.
8. Put all social activities and gym memberships on hold. Because hahahahahaNO.
9. Love your characters. Because it gets lonely in the editing cave.
Monica Ropal’s debut WHEN YOU LEAVE will be released with Running Press Spring 2015
Dream Boy comes out July 1st from Sourcebooks, and in the days leading up to that (and the days following) my coauthor Madelyn and I have a group of fabulous bloggers who are hosting us as part of our Launch Tour. We hope you will visit them. The sites will feature reviews, guest posts, and give-aways. So now, without further ado:
I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t making up stories. I had a pretty wild imagination as a child that went into overdrive during the summer I had a skull fracture and had to spend months lying down in the dark because everything else hurt too much. I had some little animal family toys that I created elaborate dramas for, and by the time I could go back to school, I began drawing my stories on my desk. I spent many recess periods with a rag and spray cleaner handed to me by the teacher and janitor to clean up my mess.
I wrote. I created. I was lost in my own head, in my weird stories. That was okay. In high school, I’d made my decision, I was going to be a novelist. Nothing would stop me. I’d even gotten an agent as a minor, which I’m actually pretty glad that book didn’t sell and that agented and I parted because whoa…
I showed my work to my friends. I got their feedback, which was pretty consistently, “ILOVETHISWHERE’SMORE?!” Very nice to hear, but it wasn’t really the constructive criticism I needed to learn how to grow as a writer. Even in college, when I took an independent creative writing class, my professor taught me how to make my writing a little more nuanced, but I didn’t know how to get to the next level.
That next level didn’t come for several years. I’d known my first honest-to-God critique partner for years before we became CPs. It was an accident. We were at a mutual friend’s child’s birthday party and she noticed that I looked pretty happy, so I told I was writing again after being in hiatus for several years. She said she was writing as well. We were both paranormal, and she pushed me to show my work to her. We’ve been showing each other our work since December 2008. In February 2009, we met another local writer through QueryTracker, and she sat with her back to the wall at a coffee shop. First question was how serious we were about writing (she wasn’t wasting her time). Second was whether we were insane (we faked sanity well enough to trap her).
I’ve been very lucky to add in other CPs over the years and each of them has pushed me hard. They each find different issues with my writing, teach me something new, help me to be better. They’ve become good friends so that we help each other through personal hardships and joys. My local ones came with me shortly after my youngest child was born and we took turns holding him when he was two months old during Maggie Stiefvater’s signing in St. Louis in 2011. We’ve gone to a shooting range together for “research.” Some I’ve never met in person but have cried with over the phone during their mother’s passing away or laughed with hysterically as their pet goose is chasing their ducks through their property because, hey, such things happen when you live in the middle of nowhere. We’ve all become agented and/or published over time, and not one of us has had an identical journey to another.
Your crit partners see your work before anyone else. They are the people who tell you honestly if your butt looks big or if that hair cut you picked needs to hide under a baseball cap. There is never any excuse for viciousness for the sake of viciousness. I believe that CPs can criticize your work without harming your feelings, and if you ever feel someone is stunting your growth, by all means, get out of that CP relationship. Critique relationships need to be about growth, and if you continually come away from showing your work feeling like you’ve been reduced in some way, it’s unhealthy. It’s not working and not what you need. I don’t care if you’re unpublished and the person tearing you up is agented/published and therefore “knows” what he/she is talking about. No, that person is a bully, and you don’t need that.
Over time, the CP relationship does change as you become more successful, but they are still with you. My core group has been together for over five years, which is pretty long time. We still show each other work, mostly to ask if a project has legs. Often we get together for book launches (YAY!) or commiserations (not so yay). We’ve endured lost publishing contracts and agent switches. We’ve gone to conferences and driven across states together, had babies, moved houses, switched jobs, switched to full-time writing, had health crises, watched our little group expand to include awesome writer pals…If you stick with someone for a long time, they know what you’ve been through during this writing journey and know the baggage and insecurities you’ve brought with you from watching your book be rejected by agents and again by publishers and know that you’re kinda about to pull out your hair because you want to read reviews so badly but know you shouldn’t.
Your critique partners will be among the most important relationships you make as an author, right up there with your agent and editor. It depends on trust, support, and growth. If you can find someone or several someones who give you those things and you give them, that’s a relationship that can flourish for years to come.
Here’s the first thing I will tell you about this book:
It is far, far better than that awful pun in the title of this blog post.
Here in the Bookyard, we’re all sprinting around, screaming in glee, overcome with fits of uncontrollable fist-pumping — because today, Skylar Dorset’s book is OUT IN THE WORLD!
“Romantic, suspenseful, and witty all at once — ALICE IN WONDERLAND meets NEVERWHERE.” — Claudia Gray, New York Times bestselling author of the EVERNIGHT series
This book features Boston, young love, AND faerie princesses. How, you may ask? Take a look at the jacket copy.
THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS is the story of Selkie Stewart, who thinks she’s a totally normal teenager growing up in Boston. Sure, her father is in an insane asylum, her mother left her on his doorstep—literally—when she was a baby, and she’s being raised by two ancient aunts who spend their time hunting gnomes in their Beacon Hill townhouse. But other than that her life is totally normal! She’s got an adventurous best friend who’s always got her back and an unrequited crush on an older boy named Ben. Just like any other teenager, right?
When Selkie goes in search of the mother she’s never known, she gets more than she bargained for. It turns out that her mother is faerie royalty, which would make Selkie a faerie princess—except for the part where her father is an ogre, which makes her only half of anything. Even more confusing, there’s a prophecy that Selkie is going to destroy the tyrannical Seelie Court, which is why her mother actually wants to kill her. Selkie has been kept hidden all her life by her adoring aunts, with the help of a Salem wizard named Will. And Ben. Because the boy she thinks she’s in love with turns out to be a faerie whose enchantment has kept her alive, but also kept her in the dark about her own life.
Now, with enchantments dissolved and prophecies swinging into action, Selkie finds herself on a series of mad quests to save the people she’s always loved and a life she’s learning to love. But in a supernatural world of increasingly complex alliances and distressingly complicated deceptions, it’s so hard to know who to trust. Does her mother really wish to kill her? Would Will sacrifice her for the sake of the prophecy? And does Ben really love her or is it all an elaborate ruse? In order to survive, Selkie realizes that the key is learning—and accepting—who she really is.
Who’s behind THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS? The brilliant Skylar Dorset, a born-and-bred New Englander who lives in Boston (mostly, it seems, due to her love for JOHNNY TREMAIN: our kind of woman!) with her cardboard Doctor Who cut-out and a head full of stories. You don’t want to miss her website, which includes lots of behind-the-scenes information about the book as well as a veritable smorgasbord of tastefully chosen GIFs.
What’s that you say? You want to hear more about why we’re so thrilled that June 3 has, at last, drawn nigh?
Well, if you twist my arm…
“Half-ogre and half-faerie? Gnome-hunting guardian aunts and a Salem wizard? There’s nothing I love more than a fantastical romp, whether it be through beautiful Boston or at the perils of a Seelie Court, and THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS has that in spades — plus enchantments, faery magic, and prophecy! What more can you ask for from a gorgeous new debut?” — Rin Chupeco, THE GIRL FROM THE WELL
“Faeries, secrets, and finding love while trying to survive? I cannot wait to dive into Skylar Dorset’s THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS!” — Sarah Bromley, A MURDER OF MAGPIES
“I had the luck to get my hands on an ARC of THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS, so I can tell you that you’re in for a treat! Imaginative, fun, and wonderfully written! The world of books is better for having Skylar Dorset in it!” — Mary Crockett, DREAM BOY
“I also got my greedy hands on an ARC of THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS, and it blew me away. The voice and writing are absolutely captivating, and the comparisons to ALICE IN WONDERLAND and Neil Gaiman’s NEVERWHERE are wonderfully apt. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up!” — AdriAnne Strickland, WORDLESS
“I’m such a fan of magic and fairy tales so this book is right up my alley. I love Dorset’s twist on selkies. THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS gives enchantments and hidden pasts a whole new meaning.” — Christina Farley, GILDED
“As a new mom of a three-month-old baby girl, trust me when I say that I need books to whisk me away from diaper duty and infant howling! That’s why I’m so looking forward to Skylar Dorset’s THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS. A story about a teenage girl who finds out she’s a half-faerie, half-ogre princess and who happens to have potentially murderous queen mother? Sign me right up!” — Caroline Richmond, THE ONLY THING TO FEAR
“You had me at gnomes and Beacon Hill. Toss in a bat-ass crazy dad and hot Selkie, and what’s not to love? Cannot get my hands on this book fast enough!” — Trisha Leaver, CREED
Okay. I’m trembling, either from bookish excitement or the large quantity of coffee ingested while drafting this post. I’ll impute it to the former. Skylar, from all the Bookyard writers, a sincere congratulations — and HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY!