Forte series

Author’s Choice

Recently, I was invited into a classroom to speak about Author’s Choice. They’d been studying the different elements in a novel that require clear decisions by the author, such as setting, character names, structure, voice, etc. Though I’ve taught these things in my own classroom, analyzing classic novels and other texts in the curriculum, this was the first time I thought about my choices as an author. And it gave me pause. It made me think about all the choices I make as I write, consciously or subconsciously, to build a story that people will want to read. See, that last part is key. Your ultimate goal as a novelist, really, is for people to want to read your stuff. That said, the choices an author makes are informed by that goal.

Allegory about climate change

Reading from Concerto on the topic of climate change

Here were some talking points for my classroom visit:

Don’t kill Sophie. (naming characters)

Authors get asked a lot how they choose the names of their characters. I’ve been known to respond, “Whatever’s easy to type!” Truth told, I go with my gut. Some names come easily and some have fits and starts before being finalized. But here’s the Sophie story: A friend of mine wrote a book in which a secondary character (named Sophie) was killed off toward the end. It had to be done for the story, which is usually fine. However, since she wrote the book, she was haunted by her choice. She met several people with the same name—lovely people. New friends, new colleagues, children, pets, and the list goes on… It’s worth noting, though, that she was haunted not because she killed off a character, but because she named her Sophie.

Bitch voice. (voice/POV)

The third book in the Forte series is told by a minor character’s POV, and tells her story. As the first two books, this is also written in first person (which feels more YA to me than third person). But I was so concerned that the voice be different, I opted for an edgy tone I thought might be cool. Turns out, a hundred pages in, the edgy voice I was hoping for sounded downright bitchy. I thought, “No one is going to want to read anything this bitch has to say!” So, I threw out the 100 pages (and the next 100) until something clicked. What clicked? The backstory. I wrote a backstory for the character that no one will ever see but made me feel sympathy for her, which in turn will make readers feel sympathy for her. Here’s hoping!

I have a Nevus spilus. (genre)

As I embarked on writing a book that included magic, it needed to be relevant to me. Many authors don’t have this problem and can build make-believe worlds with nothing but their imaginations. I don’t have that kind of confidence. I feel like people wouldn’t buy it. For that reason, a lot of my magic stems from Greek mythology, which I taught for years and feel well-versed in. Also, my main character’s magic is triggered by her birthmark on her hand, a constellation of freckles in a condensed circular pattern. When I was little, people sometimes thought the Nevus spilus on my hand was dirt. Now that I’m older, some people think it’s a severe case of “age spots.” Ho-hum. I’d rather think it’s magical.

Dead whales. (author’s message/theme)

Have you seen the viral video of that washed up dead whale *full* of plastic? It had ingested so many plastic bags that were floating in the ocean, its stomach was literally full of them. And how ’bout them polar bears? With their habitat melting away, the problem seems insurmountable.

Climate change. Global warming. Beyond these buzz words in the political arena, when I think about the kind of environmental problems we are passing on to the next generation, my mama-tiger claws come out. But then, despair hits. What can I, a writer, possibly do?

Write a book that’s an allegory for battling climate change. The result? Concerto, book 2 of the Forte series.

English teachers want to torture us. (structure/word choice/literary devices)

This pretty much sums it all up, doesn’t it? When I taught high school English, one of my students interrupted our lesson on literary devices to say, “I don’t think authors mean to write that way, with all the metaphors and similes and stuff. I think it’s just the English teachers who find stuff in books so they can make us learn it.” Hmmm. I have to say, I didn’t like what she said. It rumpled my feathers, for sure. But now that I’m a published author, I know for a fact that word choice and  use of literary devices are absolutely intentional. Why? We need to find a creative way to say something without being cliché or simply listing what’s happening. Making the readers feel what the characters feel. Putting the reader inside the story. That’s what will make people want to read your book. And be touched by it. And recommend it to all their friends.

And that, at the end of the day, is what we writers really want. Isn’t it?

         

The Sex Talk

My 5th grader came home the other day asking what “sexual assault” was. He’d heard about the Kavanaugh thing on a kid-friendly news station at school. It was sadly reminiscent of when his older brother came home asking a similar question back when he was in fifth grade. But then it was Trump’s “grab her pussy” comment that prompted the question.

What did we do? We sat them down and had the sex talk. It wasn’t the talk we’d imagined having. We had to address their questions, front and center. We had to address the ugliness in the world. We had to talk about why they’re hearing phrases like “sexual assault” and “grab her pussy” in the news. We had to back in to the topic from the most uncomfortable angle.

There’s something heartbreaking about telling your innocent, prepubescent boys that sex could be anything but a beautiful thing between two people who love each other. I know how that sounds. I’m not naive. I know these are things we need to talk about. But we’d barely broached the topic of puberty, no less sex, before we had to apologize for the reality of sexual assault.

And then Trump made that ironic comment: “It’s a scary time for young men.” And Lynzy Lab‘s catchy and clever response keeps replaying in my mind.

And it hit me. Maybe it’s a sign of our times. Maybe the sex talk is supposed to come from that uncomfortable angle.

In my latest book I’m working on in the Forte series, there is sexual assault.

The book is clean — geared for pre-teens. It’s not graphic. There’s no gratuitous violence. The scene doesn’t get to the point where the young girl is raped or beaten or even undressed. But she is clearly violated. There are harsh words. She is pushed and pinned down. The aggressor is someone she knows well — her boyfriend.

A girl doesn’t have to be naked to be assaulted. It doesn’t have to escalate to rape, either. There can be no trace of evidence on her body and it can still be a terrifying, transformative experience. It is still assault.

The scene is sadly realistic, and all too common. And it leads to another harsh truth: the ugly aftermath, with no clear path for girls to make things right.

I try to make it right for my young female character. In a fictional world where magic exists, she is empowered to miraculously reclaim her life. But it’s impossible to erase all the scars, even in a magical world.

It hurts to write about this stuff. I cry when I read scenes of my own creation. Because it’s so hard to write about a young girl battling against sexual assault, I know it’s meaningful. I was so riled up after my writing session recently, I had to write THIS!

My husband and I have a responsibility to raise our three boys well. These three boys will become young men. They will be physically stronger than their female peers. They will have subtle (and not so subtle) advantages over them, too.

Our boys’ understanding of sex has to be more than what’s covered in a science class. Beyond love or reproduction. Forget the birds and the bees. They need to hear from the female perspective. Not only hear it, they need to have the female perspective ingrained so it is top of mind when they become intimate with a girl. It should be the first thing they think about.

As they change and grow into young men, we need to keep talking. The #metoo conversation is far from over in the news and in the world. Who knows what they’ll hear next? And this is a good thing. It’s opening a doorway for communication, which is so important — even if it’s at an uncomfortable angle.

Hello February.

December 2017 was a climactic, exciting month. My third book was published early in the month — Concerto — which prompted glitz and fireworks to an already happy, busy, holiday season in our new home. The book itself is a thrill. I may like the story even more than the first in its series, Forte. Not soon after its release, I was already started on book #3. Actually, I started before the release. At the end of Concerto, readers will find a teaser chapter for the next — currently titled Cadence. This was my #JaNoWriMo project this year.

For those unfamiliar, JaNoWriMo is a version of NaNoWriMo — where writers give themselves a daily writing quota in a month-long writing challenge. I choose January instead of November for reasons I’ve outlined in a previous blog post.

So how’d it go? 

I’m happy to report, Cadence is well under way! I only had a teeny head start — just that 1200-word teaser chapter. January 31 snuck up on me, but my total word count as of today (Feb 2) is 22,390 – ! The story is cranking and the ideas are flowing. Structure is kind of falling to the wayside as I’ve tried to keep pushing the story forward rather than overthink what should happen and when. This is something I’ll have to fix. But, for me, to keep my enthusiasm up for a project, I need to keep writing. Even if it means more work in the long run. Plotting scenes on note cards just doesn’t excite me. The project would fizzle. And what a shame that would be. This story may be my best yet!

So, yay! I’m a happy writer.

What was different this year? 

I didn’t write every day. I skipped weekends. I accepted those lunch dates with friends that were a no-go last year. I kept up on bills and other domestic responsibilities, which kind of suffered last year (sorry, honey). So, this year was about balance. Besides, I may have needed a sort of break after working so hard to get Concerto out into the world. And I look forward to continuing to work on it. Can you say #FebNoWriMo? Ha!

What’s Cadence about, you ask? Ahhh… 

Not to keep you in suspense, but that’s a subject for another day, another post. Stay tuned!

Best Launch Party

Concerto is now available!
Order your copy today to take advantage of special introductory pricing!

Hooray! It’s finally here! I think Xchyler Publishing and I set a world record with our aggressive editing schedule for this one. It was just August 21 when Xchyler gave me the first round of feedback on the manuscript as a whole. I managed to turn those edits around in less than three weeks. Then, there was a back and forth with the editing team: more content edits, then line edits, then grammar and proofing — for each chapter individually. I’d say we went through a minimum of 4 rounds of edits per chapter. (I think the most was 8? Maybe 9?) I’d often wake up in the middle of the night to see more edits in my queue and a whir of excitement would keep me up to work on them into the wee hours of morning. What’s that you ask? Sleep? Who needs sleep when you have a book to launch! At Thanksgiving, I had to beg out of conversation with my in-laws, “Sorry, I don’t know how to talk about anything but my imaginary characters and the made-up world they live in.”

It was such a whirlwind, I didn’t have time to set up a launch party. And being so close to the holidays, I didn’t really want to. But, look what my family did for me? My boys made me homemade cards, my husband brought home flowers and champagne. What more does a girl need? My heart is bursting.

Forte magic returns with Concerto launch

From my ten-year-old. “Straight up AWESOME!”

 

Concerto YA fantasy is now available

So much love in these “Congrats!” cards from my boys.

Sometimes the best launch parties are right at home surrounded by your loved ones.

Concerto YA fantasy now available

Best fan club ever.

 

YA fantasy new release ebook sale

Order your copy on Amazon today & take advantage of special introductory pricing!

Concerto — Cover Reveal!

It’s finally here! Concerto, the spell-binding sequel to Forte, will launch December 1, 2017 — less than two weeks away! It’s been a whirlwind of a year. Lots of hours and lots of love poured into this project. I’m so proud to work with Xchyler Publishing once again to get this out into the world. And today, I’m thrilled to share the final cover design.

Concerto, Book 2 of YA fantasy series - Forte - releases Dec 1

Concerto, Book 2 of Forte series, releases Dec 1

What’s it about? 

Samantha McGovern sacrificed her magic to save her home town. Finally, after more than two years, stirrings within her whisper of a reawakening. However, nothing can offset the misery of parting with her boyfriend. How can she keep Jason when he’s moved on to college life, but she’s still trapped in high school for another year?

In Boston, Sami’s new friends help her rediscover her power, and, reunited with an old crush, he now seems into her. Sami struggles to ignore the intoxicating charms of Miles Eichen, but with Jason’s increasing distance, it feels like a losing battle.

When her strange visions begin to come true, Sami discovers a new purpose to her magic—magic stronger than she could ever imagine. Millions of lives are in danger, and only she has the power to foil a great evil. However, it will take a different kind of magic to repair the rift between her and Jason.

Cover reveal YA fantasy series CONCERTO releases Dec 1

Full spread – Back and Front – CONCERTO Cover Reveal!