Black Flowers, White Lies

4 10 2016

Today we’re celebrating the release of Yvonne Ventresca’s latest novel with a special giveaway. Be sure to enter in the Rafflecopter below to win. Doesn’t this look intriguing? Be sure to read about Yvonne’s path to publication. Sometimes stories take a long time and a lot of rejections before the magic happens. Kudos to Yvonne for being willing to revise and rewrite.


The Evolution of Black Flowers, White Lies

By Yvonne Ventresca

Black Flowers, White Lies started as a middle grade mystery about a daughter searching for her mother who recently disappeared. The story was set in Hoboken, New Jersey, where Emma lived and worked in their family-owned bookstore. The premise: Emma was reluctantly psychic, but she needed to use her abilities to rescue her mother, even if she didn’t quite believe in the supernatural.

Over the years, I submitted versions of the story without success, writing a nonfiction biography in the interim. I continued to revise the novel based on feedback from my critique group and from workshopping the story at multiple conferences. I eventually abandoned the psychic angle, making it more of a haunting instead, and I made the cause of the mother’s disappearance less obvious. But despite the many improvements, it still didn’t sell. Some editors questioned the plot. Some questioned the voice. “While the voice is clearly teen, the adventure is middle grade,” one editor said.

After 60+ rejections, I didn’t know how to fix the novel and lost the enthusiasm to try. I put it aside and started something new. With Pandemic, I moved more definitively into the young adult world, in voice, in concept, and in length. After I finished and submitted it, I reread the previous story and realized it was not meant to be a middle grade mystery. Creating Pandemic allowed me to see the novel’s potential as a YA thriller.

Sky Pony Press acquired Pandemic, and the sale bolstered my confidence. I opened a new document and started from scratch. The story remained set in Hoboken, and her mother still owned a bookstore, but Emma got a fresh beginning as Ella. I decided that instead of being reluctant, Ella adamantly believes in ghosts. The mother is no longer missing or divorced—I started earlier in time so that she remarries and goes on her honeymoon, leaving Ella with her new stepsibling. One of my original characters, a charismatic stepsister, became a stepbrother instead. This resulted in another major rewrite, but sparked some creative changes.

In this new version, I focused on the relationship between Ella and her stepbrother, a belief in her father’s spirit, and unexplainable events that make Ella question her perception of reality. I finally found her voice and the heart of the story. Instead of rescuing her mother, the way I originally planned, Ella needs to rescue herself. Over nine years, Black Flowers, White Lies transformed into a journey of strength and self-belief, for Ella as a character and for me as a writer.


blackflowerswhitelies_finalcoverABOUT BLACK FLOWERS, WHITE LIES

Her father died before she was born, but Ella Benton knows they have a supernatural connection. Since her mother discourages these beliefs, Ella keeps her cemetery visits secret. But she may not be the only one with secrets. Ella’s mother might be lying about how Dad died sixteen years ago. Newfound evidence points to his death in a psychiatric hospital, not as a result of a tragic car accident as her mother always claimed. After a lifetime of just the two of them, Mom suddenly feels like a stranger.

When a handprint much like the one Ella left on her father’s tombstone mysteriously appears on the bathroom mirror, at first she wonders if Dad is warning her of danger as he did once before. If it’s not a warning, could her new too-good-to-be-true boyfriend be responsible for the strange occurrences? Or maybe it’s the grieving building superintendent whose dead daughter strongly resembles Ella? As the unexplained events become more frequent and more sinister, Ella becomes terrified about who—or what—might harm her.

Soon the evidence points to someone else entirely: Ella herself. What if, like her father, she’s suffering from a breakdown? In this second novel from award-winning author Yvonne Ventresca, Ella desperately needs to find answers, no matter how disturbing the truth might be.

BLACK FLOWERS, WHITE LIES: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

yvonne-ventresca-photo-for-downloadABOUT YVONNE VENTRESCA:

Yvonne Ventresca’s latest young adult novel, BLACK FLOWERS, WHITE LIES will be published by Sky Pony Press in October 2016.

Her debut YA novel, PANDEMIC, won a 2015 Crystal Kite Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. In PANDEMIC, a teen struggles to survive not only a deadly outbreak and its real-life consequences, but also her own personal demons. Ventresca’s other works include the short story “Escape to Orange Blossom,” which was selected for the dystopian anthology PREP FOR DOOM, along with two nonfiction books, PUBLISHING (Careers for the 21st Century) and AVRIL LAVIGNE (People in the News).

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads


Prize pack includes a three panel rustic chalkboard with a $25 Amex gift card, a $25 Sephora gift card, and a signed copy of Black Flowers, White Lies.

Click on the link to enter:  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks to Jen Halligan for hosting the book tour:


Catch-Up Post

29 09 2016

aaBUGGY2I haven’t posted for several months because I’ve been busy. I have 8 books releasing this year, plus stories in 2 anthologies, and I’ve been busy writing next year’s releases. It’s been one round of deadlines after the other, interspersed with book tours, conferences, and research trips. Because I write under several pen names, all my alter-egos have deadlines too.

As Rachel J. Good, I’ve been spending a lot of time in Lancaster County’s Pennsylvania Dutch country. And I’m headed back there in October for more events. The list can be found on my website. Change of Heart came out in May 2016  and Buried Secrets will release in March 2017, but is available for preorder now. My Amish Quilts Coloring Book also released in the spring.
Change of Heart - Comp - Dec4buried-secretsAmish Quilts Coloring BOOK cover


















In addition to 3 nonfiction books for teens that came out in January, I’ve been working on some picture books. I wrote the story for The Mystery of the Missing Parathas, which will be coming out in November and I’ve been working on illustrations for another picture book that will be coming out in before Christmas.


The two anthologies for this year are the paperback version of Love and Profanity and an anthology whose proceeds benefit Perry County Council of the Arts. Strange Magic will release in late fall.

LandP cover 2016strange-magic

Diversify Your Nonfiction With These 5 STEM Innovators of Color — Lee & Low Blog

28 09 2016

How diverse is your nonfiction collection? Often when we look at biographies featuring people of color, they repeat the same themes: slavery & civil rights, music, sports. But people of color have contributed positively in every field, including the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. These contributions should be celebrated all year long, not…

via Diversify Your Nonfiction With These 5 STEM Innovators of Color — Lee & Low Blog

Paper Dolls!

24 04 2016

Any fellow paper doll fans out there? I’ve loved paper dolls ever since I was old enough to work with scissors. I sometimes made my own dolls and clothes with the help of the Sears catalog. O…

Source: Paper Dolls!

Win an Amish Quilts Coloring Book

19 04 2016

Amish Quilts Coloring BOOK cover

One more week to enter the contest to win an adult coloring book. Details can be found at Rachel J. Good’s Facebook page.


Inspired by quilts seen in Amish country, many of the designs in this Amish Quilts Coloring Book are based on traditional patterns, but some have been reimagined or repeated multiple times to create more intricate designs to color. Each quilt is printed on only one side of the page; facing pages contain inspirational Amish proverbs. To make the quilts even more colorful and interesting, sketch fabric designs – plaids, checks, paisleys, flowers, or abstract shapes – into the larger quilt blocks, use pattern stamps, or even collage fabric scraps to the pages. And if the designs inspire you to make quilts of your own, the pages can be used as templates for quilt-making.


Rachel J. Good is the author of the Sisters & Friends Amish novel series. Book 1, Change of Heart, debuts May 3. Find out more at

Losing an Agent

25 03 2016
Angel in the Mist

Photo Credit: Zsolt Zatrok

Losing an agent hurts. Sometimes agents can’t sell your books, sometimes you’re not a good match, and sometimes they leave the business. But the most painful way to lose an agent is to death.

Earlier this week, I lost an agent I loved. Mary Sue Seymour lost her long and hard-fought battle against cancer. I still can’t believe she’s gone. Even last week, she was still posting her usual upbeats messages. She saw beauty and goodness everywhere she went. And she had the gift of spreading the gifts of kindness and encouragement wherever she went.

I admired her as a person, and as an agent, she was awesome. I’ve never known an agent to respond to every email within 5-10 minutes. Soon after I signed on with her, I sent the final manuscript revisions to her after midnight. The following morning at 7 am, she emailed with a list of 10 publishers who had the manuscript.

A few months later, she completed all the back-and-forth contract negotiations until we had everything we both wanted on a 3-book deal. I didn’t discover until later that she’d been undergoing twice-weekly chemo sessions the whole time. She never once mentioned her health. And she must have been doing the same for her other clients, because a month later, she was named Agent of the Year by the American Christian Fiction Writers.

Change of Heart - Comp - Dec4I’m grateful that I signed with her. I only wish she could be here to see the first book in the Sisters & Friends Amish series, Change of Heart, release on May 3. I wrote this book at her request, and she offered to review it as I went along. She shepherded it through the synopsis and early draft stages, even though I never sent it as official submission. When it was completed, I was thrilled when she offered to represent me. The book had been her baby all along. Although she can’t be at my book launch in person, I know she’ll be there in spirit. And at all my signings, I’ll be wearing the lovely bracelet she sent me at Christmas to celebrate my first book contract as Rachel J. Good.

To honor her life and generous, caring nature, I’m dedicating my Rachel J. Good Twitter feed to celebrating Random Acts of Kindness. Feel free to share any acts you do  for others or those you hear about. Let’s flood social media with positive messages.

#100kRAOK #randomactsofkindness



Coming out of Hibernation

18 03 2016

polar bear

What did you do on the long winter weekends? Besides hibernating to meet deadlines, I’ve also been spending time on writers’ retreats.

The first one occurred during the worst week of winter. I was anticipating a lovely warm cruise to Mexico when the car got stuck in the ice in the driveway, and airports all over the east coast shut down. I worried I might not make it to Florida before the cruise ship left. My own cancelled and delayed flights left me wondering if I’d make it. I arrived about six hours later than I’d planned, but in time to spend a night in a lovely FL hotel.

FL hotel

But delays weren’t the only thing I needed to worry about. Nothing like trying to board a ship with an expired passport. My new passport was safely locked up at home hundreds of miles away. After hours of frustration, we managed to get a copy of my birth certificate faxed a short while before the ship left port.

So we were off to the Caymans and Cozumel with a group of authors, editors and agents aboard the Brilliance of the Seas. Some great pics of the fun and “work” we did can be found at the Seymour Agency website (scroll to bottom of page). Oh, wait, are most of those pictures of us eating? Believe me, we really did work, attend sessions, and pitch books. I returned with several editor requests for manuscripts and two more agents at the Seymour agency who will rep my work, so it was time well spent.

We did find time for fun and touring. I spent a day swimming with sea turtles and seeing babies to adults, touring small towns, and visiting Chichen Itza. My lovely editor gave me an additional week to finish my manuscript so I could enjoy the sightseeing and socializing.


I returned home to warmer weather than when I left, but holed up in the house to finish that manuscript. Thanks to some wonderful critique partners, who edited while I wrote, I made the deadline.

After all that writing, I needed another break. So it was off to the North Carolina beach with a different group of authors. The weather was nice enough on Topsail Island for walks along the shore, picking up shells and sea glass, and sitting on my bedroom balcony to write and enjoy the view. Lots of craft sessions and fellowship filled the time between writing and meals. Hmm…are we eating again?


The following weekend I headed to the lovely Mimslyn Inn in Luray, Virginia. Again, lots of great food and company, but time to work too. We created journals with pictures and notes about our book’s setting and details. As I researched, I stumbled across a valuable resource for my historical novel. I’m looking forward to delving into it further. I left the retreat refreshed and eager to get back to writing.

I have some more hibernating to do before I attend one more retreat in April — this time an illustrators’ retreat. And then in May and June, I come out of my cave completely to attend a whirlwind of events for my book launch. So the next few weeks will be a mix of writing and planning.

As writers we often need to hibernate to get work done, but we should also plan to come out of our caves from time to time. And even if you’re not a writer, do you hunker down in winter and spend a lot time indoors? What do you do after an extended period of hibernation? Do you socialize or prefer quieter activities? And if you’re a writer, what are you favorite writers’ retreats?