Tag Archives: Writing

Shiny New Cover Reveal & Giveaway – THE ONE THING

We at the BookYArd are super excited today to reveal the gorgeous new cover for the 2015 debut THE ONE THING by Marci Lyn Curtis.


The One Thing Marci Lyn Curtis Cover

Beautiful, right? And while we’re at it, take a look at these little beauties, which Marci is giving to some lucky soul! Click here to enter the giveaway.

custom earrings book swag


A soaring tale of life and love, of sacrifice and renewal, and learning to see people as they really are.

Maggie Sanders might be blind, but she won’t invite anyone to her pity party. Ever since losing her sight six months ago, Maggie’s rebellious streak has taken on a life of its own, culminating with an elaborate school prank. Maggie called it genius. The judge called it illegal.

Now Maggie has a probation officer. But she isn’t interested in rehabilitation, not when she’s still mourning the loss of her professional soccer dreams, and furious at her so-called friends, who lost interest in her as soon as she could no longer lead the team to victory.

When Maggie first meets Ben, she thinks she can add crazy to her list of problems. But the precocious ten-year-old isn’t a hallucination. Maggie can actually see him. She immediately befriends the kid, desperate for any chance to see again.

It turns out Ben’s older brother is Mason Milton, the ridiculously hot lead singer of Maggie’s new favorite band. Music is the first thing that has made Maggie feel alive since losing her sight. But when she learns the real reason she can see Ben, Maggie must find the courage to face a once-unimaginable future…before she loses everything she has grown to love.


Marci Lyn Curtis author photoMarci Curtis grew up in Northern California, where she went to college and met an amazing guy in a military uniform. Two college-aged kids and one dachshund later, she lives in Maryland, where she laughs too loudly and eats peanut butter off spoons. Her YA contemporary debut, The One Thing, comes out September 8th, 2015 via Disney-Hyperion.


Writing Outside of Your Box

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.)

More pancakes!

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?

Except I said yes. Hey, it’s not always a bad idea!

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.

How one DOESN’T want to write MG…

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.

adriannestricklandAdriAnne 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.

Surviving The Editing Deadline AKA Questioning Your Own Sanity

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.

10. Chocolate.

Monica Ropal’s debut WHEN YOU LEAVE will be released with Running Press Spring 2015





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!

Chuck Taylors, a red rose, and a reflecting pool that breaks the laws of optics: what's not to love?
Chuck Taylors, a red rose, and a reflecting pool that breaks the laws of optics: what’s not to love?

“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.

And if you’re as hooked as I am, check out the excerpt on Amazon!


You can have it with a few clicks: Indiebound | B&N | Amazon

You see that head? There’s some weird stuff going on in here.

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!

Resetting My Writing Self: a Day in the Life of My Fishing Self

I have limited time to blog at the moment (you’ll soon find out why), so I’m re-posting this from my personal  website blog. But to freshen up the post, I’ll frame it with a new question:

What do you do to reset yourself?

I find that, as a writer, I need to do something different every once in a while to clear the clutter/excess words out of my brain. After I do this, the words come back stronger than ever.

Luckily, every year during the months of June and July, I get the chance to reset myself in the form of commercial fishing. If you didn’t know this already about me… yes, I commercial fish in remote Alaska, in Bristol Bay. I’m about to head out again on my yearly adventure. (I have some blog posts scheduled while I’m gone, but if I don’t respond to your comments, this is why.)

So, in case you ever wondered what goes on out there, here’s a “day-in-the-life-of” post for my fishing self, while my writing self is taking a break. See you in late July, recharged!

Going Fishing: A Day in the Life of a Fisherwoman

Pre-season (~June 1st-June 15th):

Hanging net in the fishermen's warehouse
Hanging net in the fishermen’s warehouse

This is the time we get our boat and nets and other miscellaneous odds and ends (like ourselves) ready to fish. It usually involves twelve hour work days, with activities such as boat painting, fiberglass work, engine maintenance, and net hanging. This is when my out-of-shape body whines a lot as I lift heavy things and bash it around all day.

Early season (June 15th-July 1st):

Fishing is pretty mellow at this time. The fishery managers/biologists start us out on one tide per day, usually around low tide and only lasting for about four to six hours. Sometimes we even skip days entirely. I’ll still probably be doing some work around the dock and hanging nets when we’re not fishing. And if we’re lucky, the weather will be lovely (it’s usually 40 degrees, blowing and raining), and we’ll throw a giant bonfire party on the beach that lasts throughout the night like the midnight sun.

Mending net on the boat
Mending net on the boat

Fishing itself involves unspooling our 900-foot drift net from the reel in the center of our boat out over the roller on the stern. We lay it out depending on the tide, wind, sandbars, where the fish are running, and where the fishing boundaries are. (You don’t want to cross those. The fishery is sustainably managed, and the managers take their job seriously. You drift over the line, and it’s a $3-6K ticket, plus a court date—that you have to fly to in the middle of the season in order to make.)

At this point, we catch anywhere from a couple hundred pounds to a couple thousand pounds on a good opener (though we had a freakish first day last year where we caught 13,000 pounds). And usually our openers are during the daylight hours, because the fish aren’t moving much at night (or moving much at all), so it’s pretty calm, fun fishing.

Beach bonfire!
Beach bonfire! It’s about 11 pm.

Peak of the season (July 2nd-July 15th):

Picking fish
Picking fish

This is where it gets a little crazy. The fish start pushing—hard—in huge balls or bands. The biologists freak out because they’re getting too many fish upriver (which could potentially crash the fishery), and suddenly we’re fishing two tides per day, which usually means eight hours at a time with only four hour breaks in between—at best. In those four hours, we often have to deliver our fish (which can take two hours on a busy opener), cook, eat, mend a giant hole torn in our net by who-knows-what, and sleep. Doesn’t leave much room for sleep.

Reeling in the fish
Reeling in the fish

And when it gets REALLY busy, there can be eighteen-hour-long openers, or the fishery can even be thrown wide open to 24/7 openers. And we’re usually not just twiddling our thumbs. There are so many fish in the water that we’re constantly picking them out of our net, resetting the net, and trying to squeeze in deliveries when our boat gets packed. Last year, we caught 16,000 pounds in a single net in two hours. That’s a hellofalotta fish to process—it took hours to get it all in the holds, and then our gunwales were only a few inches above the water. Then we had to deliver, which took three hours, during which time we ate a Cup of Noodles and a Snickers bar a piece (yes, healthy, I know—but there’s not always time for healthy)… and then we went right back at it for another eighteen hours. And then sixteen hours. And then twenty-four hours. I only had an hour-long nap per day for about five days, and you can get pretty darn crazy. Which for me usually means laughing maniacally or crying at the drop of a fish.

Going a little crazy. My deck mate is pretending he's Gollum and I'm... kissing a fish head?
Going a little crazy. My deck mate is pretending he’s Gollum and I’m… kissing a fish head?

My fingers also get so swollen I can hardly bend them, I have to slather them in Bag Balm to keep my skin from cracking, I get so coated in fish slime and scales that some even get stuck on my face for upwards of a week, my hair gets so gross I just tuck it under a hat and try to forget it exists…

…and yet I keep doing this every summer. Because I love it, for some insane reason. There’s just nothing like having your entire universe boiled down to catching your living, eating when you are starving, sleeping when you’re about to fall over from exhaustion. It resets my priorities like nothing else can. I feel so refreshed after a fishing season that I have my most productive months of writing (by far) afterwards. And there’s just nothing like standing on the deck of a boat at eleven at night with the sun still sparkling on the water, eagles soaring overhead, grizzlies stalking along the beach, seals cruising around the boat, and the occasional pods of belugas rolling in the surf off our stern. Nothing like it.

Sunset beauty

adriannestricklandAdriAnne 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.

The Science of Writing

My little brother just participated in the fifth-grade science fair. His topic was something about evolution. I’d give you more details, but I was slightly distracted by the fact that he used a photograph of me as part of his illustrated progression from Australopithecus to Homo Sapiens. And that picture was NOT on the far right of the scale.

In high dudgeon, I turned to inspect the other fifth-graders’ projects. Humanity’s age-old questions were answered here, guys. “Why Are Volcanos Deadly?” one girl asked. “What Type of Steel Is Best for Bridges?” queried another.  A bespectacled boy presented a board entitled “Is There Dark Matter?”

My fifth-grade science fair experiment was called “Do Plants Grow Better with Water or with Coke?”

Given the obvious intellectual gap between us, I hope some of these scientists can be persuaded to take on my burning questions.

Are Writers More Productive in Sweatpants, or No Pants?

I would like to see a controlled experiment that would take into account quality, quantity, and number of panicky moments when the UPS guy unexpectedly arrives.

How Many Wikipedia Pages Can One Read Before One Realizes One’s Not Researching, Just Wasting Time?

I expect it’s a very high number, as I myself have not hit it.

How Many Awkward Constructions with “One” Can One Embrace Before One Just Uses “You” Already?

Hypothesis: many.

Does the Cactus on My Desk Grow Better with Water or No Water?

As I write, I often ponder this problem. Though not often enough to be shamed into trying the “water” option.

How Many Words a Minute Is It Possible to Type with Six Fingers?

Is anyone else cursed with this fate? I somehow learned to type properly with my left hand and chicken-peckingly with my right hand. Now I can’t change.

In Emails to One’s Agent, What is the Ideal Ratio of Exclamation Points to Periods?

If it’s not approximately 5:1, I’m doing something very, very wrong.

Why Does My Brother Think I’m a Neanderthal?

This question, I suspect, has no satisfactory answer.

How to Write a Pitch for your Novel

This is probably the second thing most writers hate to do, right after a novel synopsis. Like it or not though, a lot of agents are going to want to hear what your pitch is – after all, they go through a billion query letters a day, and they want the meat of your novel in just a couple of sentences or three so they’d have the time to do other things. Like, you know, eat or sleep or breathe.

But that’s impossible! How could my awesomely complex, masterfully layered novel be distilled down to just a few flippant sentences. How can I convey nuances of character? The stunning execution of plot? The vivid descriptions of my hot anti-hero brimming with the wit and the snarkiness and the abs and the arms and things?

Like it or not, you will have to. Pitches can also be a way that agents assess how well you know your own book, and how well you are able to summarize, pick out the important elements of your novel and convey it in the simplest, easiest, and in the most comprehensible way possible. If you can’t do this, then they may have doubts regarding just how succinct or organized the rest of your novel is – because if you can’t even explain the plot of your novel in a few short sentences, how is the rest of your novel going to sound like?

the worst reaction agents can get while reading your novel

the second worst thing

If you’re new to pitches, or just pretty stumped, here’s a handy dandy formula to remember:

Character + Obstacle + Possible Solution to overcome Obstacle + Surprise Twist Hindering Them even More from Accomplishing said Obstacle = Pitch

I’ll use a sample pitch of my book for reference:

Character = female ghost and a boy with tattoos
Obstacle = an evil spirit wants to harm the boy
Solution to Overcome Obstacle = dolls and a possible exorcism can rid them of this
Surprise Twist = the strange presence appears to come from inside the boy

Detailed Pitch : A female ghost meets a boy with strange tattoos haunted by the presence of a masked woman in black. Together, their search will take them from dolls and exorcisms to remote valleys in Aomori, Japan where they will make a terrible discovery: there is something inside the boy, and it would absolutely kill to get out.

But! The number one thing most people forget when it comes to writing pitches is that the agents don’t need to know everything about the book yet. You need to figure out the essential parts of your novel that makes it unique or compelling, then disregard the rest for now.

The Getting-there Pitch: A dead girl who kills child murderers discovers that a new boy in her neighborhood with strange tattoos harbors a strange secret inside him- one that would absolutely kill to get out.

Still too wordy? Preen it down more!

Final Pitch = A vengeful spirit who kills child murderers discovers that when a boy with strange tattoos moves into the neighborhood, so had something else.

Take note of some of the things I decided weren’t actually necessary to the pitch. I decided to forgo some of the elements, such as the Possible Solution to Overcome Obstacle because my novel is horror / suspense in nature, which means a solution isn’t necessarily what an agent might want to know upfront. It’s a really good way of breaking down the important bits, if only to find out which parts are important and which parts aren’t technically necessary, and then summarizing where you can.

How do you know when you’re done? Try reading the pitch aloud to yourself. Does it sound awkward or overlong? Are there too many details that lessens the impact of the surprise twist at the end? Does it make sense?

Then congratulations, you’ve got a pitch!

Plot twist: Hot Fuzz’s ‘Yarp’ = GoT’s the Hound.