Black Flowers, White Lies

4 10 2016

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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.

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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

GIVEAWAY

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:

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Indies First

19 11 2015

LaurieEdwards_ScuppernongFeeling overjoyed to be asked to participate in Indies First again this year, this time a little closer to home.

Indies First is a national campaign of activities and events in support of independent bookstores, first envisioned by author Sherman Alexie in 2013. It kicks off each November, on Small Business Saturday (November 28, 2015), when independent bookstores host authors as honorary booksellers throughout the day to help sell books, share recommendations, sign stock, give readings, and more.”

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I hope you all will come out to a brand-new Indie bookstore in Eden, NC, on Sat., Nov. 28, 2015 from 12-4 pm, where I’ll be hand-selling some of my favorite books and signing copies of Grace and the Guiltless and Her Cold Revenge, the first two books in my YA series set in the Wild West. Local fantasy author Teresa Fruhock will also be signing copies of her book, Miserere.

In keeping with theme, I’m planning to dress Western style in a fringed buckskin jacket, a full skirt, cowgirl hat, and boots. I always have fun getting into character, and Indies First is a great place to do it.

So pardners, if yer in the area, head on over to:

Once Upon a Tome Bookstore

655 Washington St

Eden, North Carolina

(336) 612-2857

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And if you’re not in the area, show your love for your own local Indie bookstore by doing some holiday shopping there on Small Business Saturday. After all, who wouldn’t want books for gifts?

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For more about the WANTED series, check out this post.





Saddle Up for Adventure

2 08 2015

Her Cold Revenge 9781630790073 web Book 2 of the WANTED series has released. Grace Milton is back in HER COLD REVENGE, ready to do more bounty hunting and search for her family’s killers. Many dangers await, and she’s sidetracked by a chance meeting with Joe. But she’s determined not to let anything derail her plans, but can a sixteen-year-old girl capture outlaws plotting a train robbery? Lasso your copy to find out.

Available at your local bookstore, Indie Bound, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, or Switch Press.

Read more about author Erin Johnson at The Bucket List:

“Her Cold Revenge was as good as the first, if not better.  It was great to be back in the world Erin Johnson created, back in cowboy boots and horseback riding through the Wild West.” ~ Jeanna, The Bucket List

“The second book in the gripping Wanted series, this Western revenge epic is a must-read for teen readers who are fans of relentless action, wild horses and heart-wrenching romance.” ~ YA Books Central

“Typical Western elements combine with the breathy emotions of a traditional romance in this sequel to Grace and the Guiltless.” ~ Kirkus

Her Cold Revenge by Erin Johnson may just be the story that hooks a new generation of readers on the Western genre.” ~ Smart Moms

“I just finished Grace and the Guiltless by Erin Johnson and all I want to do is curl up in a ball and wait till August, the release date for the second book. This book was so amazing that I don’t even want to pick up another book, due to a book hangover.” ~ Sassy ‘n Dangerous





Late to the Party

18 02 2015

Teeny Tiny WomanLife has been moving quickly since the beginning of 2015. Lots of great news to share, including finishing final revisions on the picture book app, THE TEENY TINY WOMAN (pic on left), I’m illustrating for ustyme, coming out in March 2015, and completing the last of the three YA nonfiction books, ANCIENT EGYPT, due out later this year. It will be part of the UXL World Eras series, along with the other two, IMPERIAL CHINA and WEST AFRICAN KINGDOMS, which are in the edits/copy edit stage.

I’m also excited to announce that I signed with agent Mary Sue Seymour of the Seymour Agency for my adult Amish novel, CHANGE OF HEART.

Seymour Agency

bom-cover-love-profanityIn other news, I received hardcover copies of LOVE & PROFANITY, coming out from Capstone in March. I’m excited to have a story in this anthology, along with this year’s Newbery winner, Kwame Alexander.

And the cover for Book 2 in the WANTED series also arrived. ARCs will follow later this month. Her Cold Revenge 9781630790073 webFor those of you who are eager to read the next installment of Grace’s story begun in Grace and the Guiltless, the saga continues in HER COLD REVENGE, coming out in August 2015. If you can’t wait that long to see what happens, I’ll be posting chapters on Wattpad, starting next week and leading up to the release date.

I also spent time at Kindling Words East, an awesome time of bonding with other authors, illustrators, and editors, followed by a writing retreat. As a follow-up to Kindling Words, I may have some thrilling news to announce later in the spring. And, lest you think my whole life revolves around books and book-related projects, I’m off to San Diego now for a week of sun and fun.

But the truth of it is… My life does revolve around books for the most part, and I love it.

This month is always a favorite for me because the Brown Bookshelf puts out an awesome list of authors. I usually try to give them a shout-out at the beginning of February (hence, the blog title). If you haven’t already been doing so, why not play catch-up and read the fabulous authors they have listed? It’s exciting to see so many friends’ names (and favorite authors) on the list. So while you’re snowed in, here’s a wonderful selection to choose from. 28dayslogoThe only thing that disappoints me is that this list only comes out once a year. Why confine celebrating all these excellent books to one month? Keep reading them all year long. And if these 28 aren’t enough, check out the lists from previous years. Enjoy!





Dreaming of a special romance?

9 02 2015

heartHere’s THE PERFECT ONE. From February 9 to 14, fourteen writers will embark on a heart-stopping blog tour that will hook readers up with great romantic reads and cool SWAG.

Grand Prize GIVEAWAY: one lucky winner will receive a free Kindle, as well as a $20 Amazon gift card. That’s a ton of heartbreaking reads… 😉

Who can resist a heartbreaker?

2015 TOUR ROSTER

Participating Authors:

Eileen Cook: Remember (Simon Pulse, 2015)
D.G. DriverPassing Notes (Fire and Ice, 2015)
Laurie J. Edwards: writing as Erin Johnson. WANTED series: Grace and the Guiltless (Switch Press, 2014); Her Cold Revenge (2015)
Janet Gurtler: The Truth About Us (Sourcebooks Fire, 2015)
Sara Hantz: Will The Real Abi Saunders Please Stand Up (Entangled Teen, 2014)
Brenda HiattStarfall (Dolphin Star Press, 2015)
Denise JadenForeign Exchange (Evernight Teen, 2014)
Jen McConnelHer Secret Inheritance (Bloomsbury Spark, 2014)
Judith TewesMy Soon to be Sex Life (Bloomsbury Spark, 2014)
Ashley PostonThe Sound of Us (Bloomsbury Spark, 2014)
Dawn IusAnne and Henry (Simon Pulse, 2015)
Shari GreenFollowing Chelsea (Evernight Teen, 2014)
Vanessa BarneveldThis is Your Afterlife (Bloomsbury Spark, 2014)
LS MurphyReaper (J Taylor Publishing, 2013), Pixelated (Bloomsbury Spark, 2015

Participating Bloggers:

Reading is My Treasure
YA Yeah! Yeah!
A Glass of Wine
Little Library Muse
Jennzah.dot.net
Tales of Yesterday
The Reader Bee
Words of Mystery

Click here for the THE GIVEAWAY!





A Trip to the Maine Coast

1 11 2014

marcia-promo-final-close-upTo celebrate the start of a new month, I’m welcoming another friend with a book release, Marcia Strykowski. Marcia’s second book, AMY’S CHOICE, debuts today, so I invited her to tell a bit about herself and give some tips to aspiring as well as experienced writers.

So glad you could join us, Marcia. I have plenty of questions, so I hope you’ll settle back with a cup of tea and enjoy a long visit.
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Where are you from and how has that and/or where you have lived/visited influenced your work? I grew up in Massachusetts, but often traveled to Maine and New Hampshire. Most of my stories reflect my love for New England. Amy’s Choice definitely shows your love of the coastline. 🙂

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Many things…from a ballerina to a puppeteer.

Marcia at 6

Marcia at age 6

When did you start writing? As a kid, I was always drawing little comic strips and making storybooks. And then in high school I was thrilled when they offered a new class called Children’s Literature. I also took creative writing classes whenever I could in college.

What advice do you wish you could give to your younger self? Don’t worry about the future, everything will fall into place. Or, as the old saying goes: Most of what you worry about will never happen. So very true!

What hobbies and interests do you have? I dabble in many things—mostly art, music, and crafts. For example, I love paper-cutting, such as wycinanki and scherenschnitte as the craft is called in Poland and Germany. Beautiful!
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What made you write your novel? For Call Me Amy, strong memories of my grandparents’ home on the coast of Maine gave me a setting that needed a story. After that book was accepted for publication, there were still ideas I wanted to wrap up, so I continued to write her story in Amy’s Choice.

What is one thing you hope readers will take away from your book? To stand proud and be that special you and to know that everyone has a voice worth hearing.

Can you give us an idea of your writing process? Rather than outlining, I usually have a small story with a beginning and an end. From there I plump up all the middle chapters. I repeatedly polish until it’s a full-size manuscript. Unfortunately, I am not at all consistent with my writing schedule, rather, it comes in spurts with great gaps in between.

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Marcia’s writing space

Which authors have influenced your work? A collection of my favorite authors would include Harper Lee, L. M. Montgomery, Richard Peck, Katherine Paterson, M. M. Kaye, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Willa Cather.

Any tips for new writers? There is no one way to write. Many authors are long-winded and later they have to chop a lot of words. Others, like myself, write first drafts sparingly and then have go back in and plump everything up. Do what works for you.

Any tips for more experienced writers? Don’t give up and try not to submit your work until it’s as good as your favorite book.

Do you have any secrets/advice for dealing with rejection? It’s important not to take rejections personally. Writing is subjective and is really, after all, just ink on paper. Because someone doesn’t like your writing, it doesn’t mean they don’t like you.

What are you working on now? I’m working on a YA novel about a boy, Mateo, who lives in a big city and has a unique hobby. Hmm…can’t wait to find out what that hobby is!

If you had three wishes, what would you wish for? World peace, health, and food for all. 🙂

What super power do you wish you had? The ability to slow down time. Now that sounds like one I could use too.

Have you ever climbed into or out of a window? Definitely. Both. Both, huh? I won’t embarrass you by asking about the circumstances, but I must admit, I’m definitely curious.

If you could travel anywhere, where would you choose to go and why? Probably Scandinavia to find my roots. Ah, so that’s where your love of the sea came from as well. Will you find you’re descended from the Vikings, I wonder.

Did you experience anything new while researching your book? I attended a seal release at the University of New England. They have a Marine Animal Rehabilitation Center where they nurture orphaned baby harbor seals back to health and then when they’re strong enough, release them back to the ocean. Five pups who started out at about 15 pounds and now averaged 50 pounds were set free on a mild day in August. How wonderful to see the healthy pups swimming out to sea as nature intended.

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Seals heading out to sea

Where can readers find out more about you?

Website/blog = http://www.marciastrykowski.com

Facebook = Marcia Strykowski

Twitter = MarciaStry

And here’s a blurb about Marcia’s latest book, Amy’s Choice, a sweet story that takes you back to the early ’70s,  followed by her booktrailer:

Amy’s freshman year starts with a new best friend, Cat, and a newfound confidence. But she misses her crush, Craig, who has gone to live with his aunt in Boston. Craig has promised to write, and Amy checks the mail daily, but to no avail. There are new adventures, even so. Cat’s brother, Ricky, seems interested in Amy, but is she interested in him? And a new friendship with Finn, the lighthouse keeper, who Amy discovers is a talented artist, keeps Amy and Cat busy as they arrange for him to exhibit his work. But things get complicated when Craig returns from Boston and Finn is accused of arson. There are more questions than answers for Amy as life becomes as turbulent as the cold and stormy ocean of her coastal Maine town. Ideal for preteens, this novel is the sequel to the critically acclaimed Call Me Amy and touches upon issues of friendship, boyfriend troubles, and the power of believing in oneself.

“Well-drawn, sympathetic characters and the developing spark between Amy and Craig combine to create a pleasant, satisfying read.”—Kirkus for Call Me Amy.





Turning History into Stories

1 10 2014

BRD CoverI’m honored to have award-winning historical fiction writer Bobbi Miller as my guest today. She and I have several connections that make this a special opportunity for me. We’re both graduates of Vermont College (yay!) and both are historical fiction writers. My most recent release, Grace and the Guiltless, was set in the Wild West, so Bobbi’s talk of the frontier is close to my heart.

Bobbi’s latest book is set in Gettysburg, and I lived a short distance from there when I was in high school. We’re both also busy with the booksignings, school visits, and conference talks that go along with our 2014 book releases, so I’m extremely grateful that she found time to write such an inspiring post.

So here’s Bobbie’s wonderful advice on using history to create stories:

Growing up in the American West, I was surrounded with the bigness of everything: big sky, big mountains, epic stories about larger than life individuals. I’m also a longtime student of American history. The Frontier is one of the most significant events in American history. It marked the edge of the civilized world. Beyond that edge was the rough and tumble place full of outlaws and pirates, fanciful and alien creatures, rivers of gold and prairie seas. It was a place and life full of possible imaginations, a near incomprehensible vastness of landscape, extraordinary fertility of the land and a variety of natural “peculiarities” that inspired a humor of extravagance and exaggeration. The frontier is ripe with stories. And what intrigued me the most were the stories about the little known or the forgotten or the unexpected.

A good story makes history personal. History isn’t dull or dry, as textbooks would have us believe. It isn’t a list of dates and names, like a shopping list that no one remembers once the task is complete. History is real and relevant. The study of history, in essence, is a way of making sense of the present. As David McCullough once said, in one of my favorite quotes, “We are raising a generation of young Americans who are by-and-large historically illiterate. [But] there is literature in history.”  History enlarges our understanding of the human experience, suggests Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, and as such, it needs to include the “stories that dismay as well as inspire.”

And there is no more powerful story to tell than that of the American Civil War.GIRLS

As I was researching another book, I came across a small newspaper article dated from 1863. It told of a Union soldier on burial duty, following the Battle at Gettysburg, coming upon a shocking find: the body of a female Confederate soldier. It was shocking because she was disguised as a boy. At the time, everyone believed that girls were not strong enough to do any soldiering; they were too weak, too pure, too pious to be around roughhousing boys. It was against the law for girls to enlist. This girl carried no papers, so he could not identify her. She was buried in an unmarked grave. A Union general noted her presence at the bottom of his report, stating “one female (private) in rebel uniform.” The note became her epitaph. I decided I was going to write her story.

Researching this story was a daunting task because no other battle has been studied so thoroughly. I read A LOT to get these facts right. But then, there’s the emotional truth, the story behind the facts. This is the heart that belongs to Annie’s story. Historical fiction makes the facts matter to the reader. For me, the only way to discover this emotional truth was to walk the battlefield of Gettysburg, and witness that landscape where my characters lived over one hundred and fifty years ago. I walked the battlefield and talked to re-enactors and the park rangers.

I studied with the master storyteller Eric Kimmel while a graduate student at Simmons College. That tutelage continued while I was a student at VCFA, when he became my advisor. He remains to this day my Master Guru, as I call him. And, I am so very lucky and honored to call him one of my best personal friends. Likewise, I studied with Marion Dane Bauer, whose stories remain some of my all-time favorites, and I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher to show me how to find the heart of a character, or the soul of a story. The key to writing Girls of Gettysburg was finding the soul and voice to each of my three main characters.

As I began to piece the story together, I took notes. I am a great fan of purple and pink post-its. I also like anything neon colored! I outlined everything. I wrote my first drafts in longhand. I find the relationship between pen and paper much more intimate, and demands me to go deeper into the character. Then, I transferred the story to the computer. But even as I edited the manuscript, I had to print the story out, and work with pen and paper again. I use recycled paper, to be sure!

But as we know, stories tend to be organic, and sometimes outlines, research, and all the “great plans of mice and men” need to be tossed as characters take over. In which case, I tag along for the ride. Even in historical fiction, with its challenging blend of story and fact, It’s as much about story-building as it is about story-creating. Mollie Hunter explores this process in her book Talent is Not Enough in which she offers: “The child that was myself was born with a little talent, and I have worked hard, hard, hard to shape it. Yet even this could not have made me a writer, for there is no book that can tell anything worth saying unless life itself has first said it to the person who conceived that book. A philosophy has to be hammered out, a mind shaped, a spirit tempered. This is true for all of the craft. It is the basic process which must happen before literature can be created.”

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Bobbi’s cabin

Storytelling is the oldest invitation to the human experience. Stories have been told for over 100,000 years by every culture in the history of the planet. Not all cultures had a written language or codified laws, but all used stories to frame their cultural experience, history, and rituals. Heroes and heroines, like all aspects of story and myth, answered a basic human need: to explain the unexplainable. And we writers, like those ancient storytellers, are the keepers and the tellers of those “sacred” stories. Such stories do not always have a ”happily ever after.” The best stories, in fact, reflect the whole human experience. And the resolution comes because the protagonist’s choices are made when life no longer fits into her definition. Such heroines are then free to be who they need to be, and such stories empower the adolescent reader to seek, and ultimately discover, the heroine within herself.

At least, I hope my stories do.

Yes, they do! Thanks for sharing your inspiration, Bobbi! BTW, I see that your home reflects your love of the historical.

Here’s where you can find out more about Bobbi, her writing process, and her wonderful stories:

Please visit my website for more information about me and my books at: http://www.bobbimillerbooks.com/

For more about my research process, see my discussion at Donna Marie’s Peace and Poetry: http://donnamariemerritt.wordpress.com/2014/07/24/bobbi-miller-folklore-artist-extraordinaire/

Also see my discussion on Historical Fiction at Yvonne Ventresca’s blog, http://www.yvonneventresca.com/1/previous/2.html)

Holiday House, my publisher, lists where you can buy the book here: http://www.holidayhouse.com/title_display.php?ISBN=9780823431632
And I couldn’t resist adding this fun Lego promotion created for Bobbi’s book release:
LEGO Girls photo