Thursday, September 12, 2019

My New Agents

Hello lovelies! I realize it's been ages since I've posted, but I promise there's a good reason. About a year ago, I decided to take a college psychology class, for reasons that will take longer to explain than your attention span will last, I'm sure. I figured if I spent all the time I'd been dedicating to writing on the class instead, I could knock it out in a month or so. (HA!)

As it turns out, I took the final exam five days ago, only eleven months and two weeks after I started the class, (and two weeks before the deadline to complete it!). It turns out that I can't actually be a writer, mom to five kids, part-time ortho assistant, frequent church volunteer, AND a student. I just can't do it--we finally found my breaking point, folks. But the good news is, the class is over, and I can now psychoanalyze my kids (and my fictional characters).

During the past year while I worked through the class, I was also querying my latest manuscript. (For those of you thinking, 'Wait, I thought she already had an agent, why is she querying?', you are right. I did have an agent. But she decided to leave the business in early 2018, so I went back to the query trenches).

Which brings us to the exciting news of the day--I HAVE A NEW AGENT!!! Actually, agents.

Want to hear all the details? Of course you do. Read on...

So, way back in, like, September or something (almost a year ago), I sent my query out to a handful of my top choice agents. One of them, Dawn Frederick, responded almost immediately with a full request. That never happens. Or at least it had never happened to me. I was over the moon. I sent it off to her and turned my attention to my psychology class, which I had just registered for.

Come December, I'd gone through several chapters of my class, but had realized that I burn out a LOT faster studying psychology than I do writing. It was clear that the class was going to take a lot longer than I'd thought it would. By this time, I also had a completely new first chapter of my manuscript based on feedback I'd received from some of the other queries I'd sent out. I hadn't heard anything back on the full that I'd sent Dawn, so I took a chance and emailed her to check in and see if she'd like the revised version. She hadn't had a chance to read it yet, so I sent her the new one. A few weeks later she responded that she LOVED it, but wanted to see several big changes with it before she'd consider offering. She asked if I'd like to revise and resubmit to her. Of course I said yes, and got right to work.

I was like a writing ninja during the month of January, working feverishly on my rewrite, and I sent it back to her at the end of the month, five-ish weeks after getting the R&R. Dawn very kindly suggested that I take a little longer to work on it, and ensure a few beta reads on the new version before having her read it again. That was hard to hear after working so hard on it, but I took a step back, sent it to some of my critique partners, and once again turned my focus to psychology.

Several months later, I had lots of feedback and a fresh set of eyes, and I grudgingly accepted that the extra time had been a good idea. I tackled yet another rewrite and sent Dawn the final revised version in May. Unbeknownst to me, she'd had to cut back on her work hours while healing from knee surgery, so she didn't get to it right away. I once again worked on my psychology class. My kids got out of school for the summer, we went on some amazing vacations, we swam a lot, and my 18-year-old spread his wings and flew from the nest--all the way to Brazil, where he is now on a church mission. So we had a busy, busy summer. By this point I'd realized that I needed to kick it into high gear if I was going to finish my psychology class before the deadline. So I kept at it, trying not to think about that fact that Dawn had my revised version and I had no idea if she'd love it or hate it.

It turns out that she loved it. Enough to share with the rest of her team, and on July 30th, she emailed to say that both her and Kelly Van Sant were interested in co-agenting, and that they wanted to "tawk"(!!). We talked, our visions matched, and I accepted their offer of rep a week later. I am seriously so excited for the opportunity to work with these two powerhouse women.

Oh, and I got an A in my psych class. Rock on!

Friday, October 5, 2018

When To Now blog tour

 When to Now: A Time Travel Anthology by [McBain, Alison, Scott, Cynthia C., Ahern, Edward, Coatsworth, Gabi, Chatsworth, Elizabeth, Richards, Teresa, Lowry, B.T., Russell, Barbara, Sengupta, Abhishek, Trionfo, Nikki]
This week I'm celebrating the release of my time travel story, Turns of Fate, in an anthology called When To Now. This anthology is published by The Fairfield Scribes, the writing group responsible for turning me from a newbie writer with stars in my eyes into what I am today.

I suppose I still have stars in my eyes--really, I don't know how anyone can pursue publication without the benefit of a little stardust--but I've grown so much since becoming a part of the Scribes. When To Now is the Scribes' second anthology, and it's all about time travel.

My first venture into time travel writing was in my first published book, Emerald Bound. The sequel, Topaz Reign, dove in even more. But time travel was never meant to be the central element of either of those books, and when the Scribes proposed the idea of doing an entire anthology on time travel alone, I was in!

In Turns of Fate, I decided to turn time travel on it's head. Rather than exploring the past and all the ramifications of time travel by having my characters go back in time, I decided to set my story far into the future. In this future, the ability to time travel is given by a specific gene, and through genetic engineering, nearly everyone in this society now has the ability to travel back in time. It's as simple as flexing  a muscle. But what they didn't count on when they started genetically gifting people with the ability to time travel, was the idea that the space-time-continuum was a natural resource that, just like the ozone layer, could be depleted. So now there are government regulations on how often a person can time travel, and, worse, they've found that the depleting space-time-continuum means they can't travel back as far as they used to. In fact, levels are so critical that the farthest anyone can go back now is thirty seconds. But because time travel produces a rush that so many people are addicted to, they still do it, giving us a society on the brink of collapse.

Within this setting, Turns of Fate is a YA story about a girl navigating her social and family life much like teens do today. She hasn't time turned in over a decade because, really, what good is a thirty second rewind anyway? Especially when the government incentivizes citizens not to travel by offering monetary compensation. But when something happens at work that humiliates her beyond repair, she decides she might need that thirty-second rewind after all. She just forgets to consider the cost.

And--enter the age-old question--will she really be able to change anything anyway?

I hope you enjoy Turns of Fate and all the other amazing stories in the When to Now anthology--The Scribes are a talented group of writers. You can find the book here.

The blog tour is almost over, but check in here tomorrow for the final stop. Happy time jumping!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Windfall App Blog Tour

Free money is not a gift. It’s a curse. 

At least, that’s what Marina’s dad says when she wins the grand prize of five thousand dollars a day—for life—after playing Windfall. Despite his warning, she’s determined to live it up, and she has no problem burning bridges along the way. But not all wins are good, and what you see is not always what you get. 
To celebrate the release of The Windfall App (find it here), I'm giving away a YA book bundle, including a copy of Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, Lois Lane: Fallout by Gwenda Bond, and of course The Windfall App by Teresa Richards.

Follow the book tour for early reviews of The Windfall App, interviews, and spotlights. And, of course, enter to win the giveaway. Here are the tour stops: 

July 27--Brookie Cowles 
July 27--Emmy Mom 
July 27--Evernight Teen
August 1--My Book a Day  
August 3--By Robin King
August 6--Alison McBain

The Rafflecopter giveaway will be live at each of these sites, and you can enter multiple times throughout the blog tour, so the more blogs you visit, the higher your chances are for winning. Please note that the giveaway for the books pictured is only available to US addresses. Internationally, ebooks will be sent. Good luck!

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Thursday, July 19, 2018

The City by the Bay

My new YA novel, The Windfall App, releases in just over a week! The Windfall App is different from my previous publications--there is no magic, no time travel, and and no twisted fairytales. This book is a contemporary suspense about a girl who wins the lottery only to learn that the game has been tampered with and her prize comes with strings attached. Here's a short little blurb:

Free money is not a gift. It’s a curse. 

At least, that’s what Marina’s dad says when she wins the grand prize of five thousand dollars a day—for life—after playing Windfall. Despite his warning, she’s determined to live it up, and she has no problem burning bridges along the way. But not all wins are good ones, and what you see is not always what you get.

There's a full blurb on my website, if you're interested in learning more. I'm so excited for you all to meet Marina--piano prodigy and closet alternative rock junkie--and to fall in love with the city of my heart, The City by the Bay. 

The Windfall App is set in San Francisco. I grew up in a town nearby and went to the city often, so I'm kind-of in love with the place. My grandfather worked for the railroad in San Francisco in the 1950's and came to know the city so well that whenever we'd have visitors, he'd take them on a private tour. His tours became something that family members and friends would look forward to when they came to visit. (Fun fact: my grandparents got engaged at Stow Lake, which is a little spot in Golden Gate Park where visitors can rent paddle boats and take a break from city life. In my book, Marina mentions Stow Lake when she's making up a fake newspaper headline in an attempt to joke around with her dad.)

All joking aside, many of the places in The Windfall App were places I visited with my grandpa, and many of the things Marina loves to do were inspired by my childhood trips to the city. On one such trip, we went to a park and slid down giant concrete slides on old pieces of cardboard. In my story, Marina and her friends frequent a similar spot called the Seward Street Slides. These aren't the same ones I went to as a kid, but they're the same idea.

Recently, I took two of my close friends--one my critique partner and one my sensitivity reader--and we set out to find the Seward Street Slides. They are tucked away in a little neighborhood, sandwiched between houses and hills, as everything in the city is. We took some videos of us playing on the slides. Click here to watch them. And here are some pics:

Stay tuned for some giveaways and contests in the next few weeks as we celebrate the release of The Windfall App! And check back here on July 27th for the blog tour schedule--I'll be giving away a YA book bundle, and there will be lots of chances to enter over the course of the tour. 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Character Pics

Happy New Year!

2017 sure was busy. My second book came out (yay!) and the year was full of book festivals, writing conferences, school visits, individual signings, and one craft fair. I met a ton of awesome readers this year, and taught writing workshops to both middle and high schoolers (which I'm learning is one of my favorite aspects of being an author). I also shared signing tables with some fantastic authors this year, and feel honored and humbled to be able to count these talented people as my friends. 

During my blog tour for Topaz Reign, one of the bloggers asked me if I had pictures of my characters that I used as inspiration while I was writing the book. I don't normally do a collection of pictures before writing, like some authors do, because it becomes a rabbit hole and I end up wasting a lot of time searching for pictures and never finding the exact right ones.

But when I went looking for pics to help answer this blogger's question, I ended up finding four perfect images of the main characters in Topaz Reign right away. And I'm so excited to finally have pictures of the characters that have been living in my head for so long, that I had to share them here.

So to start the new year, here are Maggie, Garon, Lindy and Trevin. They will soon be joined by others, as the cast of characters I've created continues to grow. I'll spend 2018 like I've spent the past five years--working to bring stories that matter, stories that uplift, and stories that entertain to my readers. 




 Lindy (except picture her in a castle, not a car):




Many thanks to blogger Brookie Cowles for inspiring me to find these pictures.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Topaz Reign Blog Tour

My new book, Topaz Reign is out! This book is the sequel to Emerald Bound (my YA retelling of The Princess and the Pea) with a little twist on the tale of Thumbelina thrown in.

Follow my blog tour and enter to win a paperback bundle of Emerald Bound and Topaz Reign, PLUS a bookmark signed by James Dashner, author of The Maze Runner!

Wait, why did James Dashner sign one of MY bookmarks, you ask? Well, that's a story for another day. (Join my Fan Clan to hear it first.)

And now ... here are the tour stops:

Tuesday, October 3--Katie's Clean Book Selection
Thursday, October 5--Singing Librarian Books
Thursday, October 5--Cindy's Treasury of Good Tales--review
Friday, October 6--Blooming With Books
Saturday, October 7--Cindy's Treasury of Good Tales--Guest post, Interview with the Topaz Reign Characters
Saturday, October 7--By Robin King
Sunday, October 8--Head Over Books
Monday, October 9--Why not? Because I said so!
Tuesday, October 10--EmmyMom 
Tuesday, October 10--Five Take Flight
Wednesday, October 11--Kindle And Me 
Wednesday, October 11--Getting Your Read On
Thursday, October 12--My Book A Day
Friday, October 13--Brookie Cowles
Saturday, October 14--Min Reads and Reviews
Saturday, October 14--Literary Time Out
 (and go here for a dual person review of Emerald Bound, also on Literary Time Out)

Use the Rafflecopter below to enter the giveaway, 
then follow the blog tour for more chances to enter

Here's the back blurb from Topaz Reign:

Fairy tales are simply tales, told and re-told, but changed over time.

It has been four months since Maggie learned the dark truth behind the tale of the Princess and the Pea and freed Princess Lindy from the cursed Emerald. Lindy is now back in the past where she belongs, queen of her tiny Scandinavian country, and Maggie is a fully reformed ex-stalker.

Except … she can’t stop doing internet searches on Lindy and her country. 

One morning, Maggie wakes to find history turned on its head. Apparently, you can’t destroy a centuries-old curse without consequence. In order to prevent the changes in history from wiping out the present, Maggie resurrects her stalking gene and learns that fairy tales don’t stay dead for long.

Or at all.

Back in 1623, Lindy is juggling a threat to her family, a handsome new guard she’s not supposed to have feelings for, and a cursed Topaz with ties to the tale of Thumbelina. When past and present collide, Lindy and Maggie are brought together again, and another of Andersen’s tales turns from twisted fiction to chilling fact. 

Winner will be announced at the beginning of this post once the giveaway ends. 

Happy reading and good luck!
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Monday, June 19, 2017

Motivation-Reaction Units (How to use them to become a Boss Storyteller)

(This post was originally featured on Laura Heffernan's blog, here.)

Hello lovely writers! I’m here today to talk about motivation-reaction units.

“What the what?” You say. “I’ve heard about plot and pacing and world building and character development, but what is this motivation-reaction witchcraft you speak of?”

Well. I’m so glad you asked.

Have you ever had a scene with a big reveal or shock or scare, but once your big bang happened, things just felt sort-of off? If so, there’s a good chance your motivation-reaction units need looking at.

At it’s core, a motivation-reaction unit, or MRU, just means that when something happens, there’s a motivation (a stimulus) and a reaction (how the characters react to the stimulus). We have Dwight V. Swain, author of Techniques of the Selling Writer to thank for identifying this little nugget of knowledge we call the MRU.

The motivation part is pretty easy. Something crazy happens. Done.

Problems often arise, however, in the reaction part of the MRU. When something crazy/scary/shocking happens, humans react in several ways. These feelings happen in such quick succession, that it’s often hard to separate them out, but they are all different parts of a reaction. And they happen in this order:

1: There’s an unconscious internal reaction—a feeling
Nervous. Happy. Terrified.

2: There’s an unconscious physical reaction—a reflex in response to how we are feeling
We gasp. Our palms start to sweat. Our blood rushes to our face. We freeze in place.

3: Then there are conscious physical reactions—what we say (if anything) and what we do.
“I can’t believe you forgot my birthday,” and the character starts to cry.
“I can’t believe she wore socks with her Chacos,” and then the mean girls blast a picture out on Instagram.
Or, if the motivation is a rabid werewolf apparition, a la ghostbusters, the physical reaction will just be to run.

Now, all of these things happen in our reactions, but you don’t need to list every single thing in a character’s reaction every time there’s a motivation in your book. Actually, please don’t. If you do, it will clog up the flow and slow the pacing way down. It’s okay to let the reader imagine one of more parts of the character’s reaction when something happens in your story. But in pivotal scenes, when the tension is high, the reaction you include on the page should contain more than one of the three parts above.

And—here’s where many beginner writers go wrong—THE REACTIONS MUST BE IN THE RIGHT ORDER, and THEY MUST COME AFTER THE MOTIVATION!

We never react to a stimulus before feeling that initial burst of fear or anger or whatever, and when our characters do this, something feels off.

As an example, let’s take our undead werewolf monster from above.

Lucy heard a noise.
She crept around a corner and when she rounded it, the sight made her scream.
She ran, her blood racing through her body, as an angry werewolf apparition jumped out at her.
It roared, its yellow eyes hungry for a kill.

Something about this passage seems off, yes? The first problem is that Lucy’s reaction comes before the werewolf actually jumps out at her. As a writer, it’s really tempting to keep our readers in suspense, so we make our characters react first, and then reveal the horrible motivator behind their reaction in hopes of getting a bigger reaction out of our reader. But this doesn’t work for a reader, because if we do this, they are no longer experiencing the story along with the main character. It starts to feel inauthentic, and will pull the reader out of the story.

So. Always put the motivator first.

Then, in the reaction part of this example, Lucy reacts physically (screaming and running) before she reacts internally (her blood racing through her body). In other words, she reacts on purpose before she reacts automatically. And this never rings true. The first thing that should happen when Lucy sees the apparition is her blood racing through her body. This is an immediate reaction that she doesn’t control and takes no thought for. She hasn’t really even processed what she’s seeing yet. After that visceral reaction, then she starts to think. Her brain kicks into gear, and she can then scream and run away.

Here’s a better version of the above example:

The undead werewolf jumped out at her, roaring, its yellow eyes hungry for a kill.
Lucy’s blood turned to ice. Her lower lip trembled, the only part of her that seemed able to move.
The monster roared.
She screamed, and her limbs unfroze. She ran.

Can you see the difference? First the motivation happens (the werewolf jumping out at her). Then her response is 1: a feeling of fear, which manifests by her blood turning to ice, 2: an immediate physical reaction in response to the fear—her lip trembling, 3: conscious action—screaming and running away.

This example was one of fear, but MRU’s come into play all the time, whether your motivation is something sad like losing a pet, something embarrassing like a bad Instagram post going viral, or something climactic like when the romantic tension peaks and they finally kiss already. Anytime something happens—especially when it’s something big—make sure your characters’ reactions happen in the right order so that they ring true.  

If you really want to have some fun, pay attention to what happens inside you the next time someone surprises you or scares you or ticks you off. Break down your reactions in order (after you’ve cooled off) and study them. It will make you a better writer.

For some more reading on MRU’s, see the following two articles: