Tag Archives: writing

When Reason Breaks Releases Today!!!

This post is also published on the Latin@s in Kid Lit site. Instead of writing something else for my own blog, I am cross-posting it here. Makes sense, right?

 

Reason Breaks Blended CollageToday is the official release day of When Reason Breaks, my debut young adult contemporary novel published by Bloomsbury! Yay! The novel is about two girls, both sophomores in high school, who struggle with depression in different ways. Here’s part of the official description:

A Goth girl with an attitude problem, Elizabeth Davis must learn to control her anger before it destroys her. Emily Delgado appears to be a smart, sweet girl, with a normal life, but as depression clutches at her, she struggles to feel normal. Both girls are in Ms. Diaz’s English class, where they connect to the words of Emily Dickinson. Both are hovering on the edge of an emotional precipice. One of them will attempt suicide. And with Dickinson’s poetry as their guide, both girls must conquer their personal demons to ever be happy.

To celebrate my journey, which started seven years ago, I’m sharing some pictures I took along the way.

 

IMG_3086This first picture represents the writing, revising, and editing phase done alone and then with critique partners. It took me three years to write the draft that I used to query agents. Yes, that’s a long time, but I was working a full-time job and a part-time job, while single-parenting. My writing place is on my bed, and without fail, my dogs–first Rusty (RIP) and now Ozzie–have kept me company. This has been very sweet, except for the times they pawed the keyboard. Notice the guilty look in his eyes.

 

 

 

IMG_1294I landed an agent, Laura Langlie, after a few months of querying. I revised based on her feedback, and then the manuscript went out on submission. It stayed out there for a long, long time. We received some valuable feedback after the first round, so I revised again and went back out on submission. Finding the right agent and editor is kind of like literary Match.com. You might go on lots of dates that don’t work, but that’s okay, because the goal is finding the perfect person. So, it took a long time, but the book landed with the perfect person, Mary Kate Castellani at Bloomsbury. This is a picture of the manuscript next to my contract. Receiving the contract is one of those “oh-my-goodness-this-is-happening” moments. At this point, the deal had already been announced online, but seeing the contract in black-and-white makes it real.

 

IMG_4414AHHHHH! ARCs. This was a big moment. I didn’t taken any pictures during revising and copy editing. They wouldn’t have been pretty. But, please know that a lot goes on between the previous picture and this one (major understatement). After revisions, the manuscript went to copy edits. That day was significant because it meant drafting, for the most part, was over. Changes could still be made, but the story moved from creation into production. I received a blurb from the amazing Margarita Engle, and the cover was revealed. Soon after, these beauties arrived at my house. And AHHHHH! ARCs! Even though I had seen all the pieces–manuscript, blurb, cover art–it was different seeing it all put together in book form.

 

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The ARCs went on tour to other authors debuting in 2015, friends, and family. I also gave a couple away on Goodreads. This was the copy that went to the first winner, Ali. I have signed thousands of things, but this was the first time I signed a copy of my novel. Around this time, the book was listed on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other places and became available for pre-order. Holy wow!

And people were actually reading the book, which, of course, was always the goal, but as ARCs went out and reviews popped up, I became aware that what had once belonged to me–what had only existed in my head and heart–was really out in the world. Here is photographic evidence of actual reading going on.

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image_3Now that ARCs were out in the world, I considered ways to help market the novel. One thing I learned from other authors was that I had to do my part when it came to marketing. I didn’t go overboard with swag. I decided to create a book trailer and print book marks and postcards with a QR code linked to the book trailer.

The book trailer was a fun, family experience. My sister’s dining room table was the work station, with my image_2nephew–a high school freshman–doing all of the real tech work. He’s a genius with computers, so he handled putting it all together. The opening voice belongs is my niece, and I narrate the rest of it, although my voice was altered to be lower and much cooler, in my opinion. Bookmarks have been distributed to teachers, librarians, and bloggers. Postcards went to high schools, public libraries, and independent bookstores in Connecticut, in addition to some libraries and bookstores in other parts of the country. Writers always question “what works,” and I think the answer is different for each of us. Bookmarks worked for me because I’m a teacher and I have lots of teacher friends who asked for 50-100 at a time. I knew they’d get into the hands of teen readers. Also, I have received some positive feedback from the postcards. A few librarians emailed me saying they received the post card, viewed the trailer, and planned to order the book; some even invited me to participate in events. So, in my mind, these three things were worth it.

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While the ARCs were “out there,” the manuscript continued to be worked on through copy editing and then first pass pages, which should be called the 100th pass pages because everyone involved had read the manuscript so many times. First pass pages are cool because the manuscript is typeset, rather than being on regular paper in the standard 12-point Times Roman. After the first pass pages were returned to the publisher, the next time I saw my novel, it was in……..

 

 

 

HARDCOVER!!!

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These came earlier than expected, so I was surprised when I found them on my doorstep. My daughter hugged me and said, “Wow, Mom, they’re beautiful. Congratulations.” I might have gotten a little teary eyed. That day, I donated a copy to my local library and then brought copies to my family. My mom cried when she saw it. My mom doesn’t cry easily. I might have gotten a little teary eyed then, too.

During this last month before publication, I’ve been excited and nervous and, most of all, grateful. Thank you to everyone who has been involved in this process. It takes a village to write and publish a book, and because of everyone who supported me along the way, I saw my novel on a shelf in Barnes & Noble for the first time this past weekend. Wow!

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Available at:

Indiebound Barnes & Noble | Amazon Powell’s Book Depository | Books-A-Million | Target

And please look for it at your local libraries.

The 777 Meme: 7 Lines From Page 7 of My Work in Progress

I’ve been tagged by Jennifer Brooks for the 777 Meme!

The rules:
Go to the 7th line of the 7th page of your work in progress.
Post the first full 7 lines.
Then tag 7 friends.

My work in progress, titled AESOP’S CURSE, is with my agent. If she thinks it’s ready, we will submit it to my editor at Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books. They have the right to review my next project first. Here is a basic description:

High school freshman Alexandre Hart discovers he is the reincarnation of Aesop, the fable teller, and he must reverse Aesop’s curse–his final words to a Delphi village–to better his karma and prevent a repeat of the deadly curse. While dealing with his karmic mission, Alex must also face a senior bully, his long-time crush, his feelings for his best friend, Daniella Falcón, and his reluctance to take risks.

A beautiful picture of Delphi

Alex has been having recurring nightmares in which a stocky, mean-looking dude has been chasing him. One night, Alex decides to stop running in his dreams and meet the man who, he thinks, might kill him in his sleep. Here are the lines when they are finally face-to-face, ready to have a conversation that will reveal Alex’s past life, his karmic mission, and that the “dream stalker” is really Kyros, his spiritual adviser.

I am not usually a rule-breaker, but I added more lines so that you get a better sense of the scene. Here it is:

 

“Are you ready to talk?” he asked in a raspy baritone.

“Sure,” I said, trying to act unruffled, hoping he didn’t notice my shaking legs. A part of me still thought I should be running for my life.

“Let’s sit,” he said. Chairs and Main Street appeared out of nowhere. We sat facing each other in the middle of the empty road. Even at this hour, I expected to hear something, like music escaping from an open window or leaves rustling from a summer breeze. Instead, the sound of my heartbeat pounded in my ears, and the streetlights overhead provided the only illumination.

For a few moments, neither of us spoke. I had rehearsed what to say a thousand times in my head, but in the moment, I went with the obvious.

“So, you’ve been chasing me.”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“I need to tell you something. I usually try to get through to you more subtly, but you can be a little clueless, so I decided to use a more direct approach this time.”

He was usually more subtle? Has he tried to talk to me before? And why did he call me clueless? I’m not clueless, am I?

He grinned.

Okay, that wouldn’t be fair if he could read my mind or hear my thoughts or whatever.

“So, what do you want to tell me?” I asked.

He stared at me, but stayed quiet for a moment, which only made me more nervous.

“You know, Alex, I’ve thought long and hard about how to tell you this. I’ve decided not to sugar-coat anything. I’m simply going to spit it out.”

The more he stalled, the more anxious I became. Closing my eyes, I moved my head straight back and then from side to side, trying to release the tension building in my neck. After, I watched him and waited.

“I am your life coach,” he said.

“What?”

“I am your life coach.”

“My life coach?”

“Yes. I’m kind of like your guardian angel, but different. You have a guardian angel, too. I’m not her. I’m your life coach, your spirit guide, your personal adviser.”

“My life coach?”

“Yes,” he said more forcefully. “And, this is what I mean by clueless.”

 

That’s all for now! I was supposed to tag 7 new people, but most of my author friends were on writing deadlines. I am, however, tagging Venessa Schwarz, who is a contestant in the first ever Pitch Fiesta being run by Latin@s in Kid Lit.

Writing Process Blog Tour

I’ve been tagged! Writers across the blogosphere have been tossing a particular Q&A around the writing community. It’s the Writing Process Blog Tour. Lila Quintero Weaver published her responses last week and tossed it over to me. First, here’s some info on my tagger.

DarkroomI haven’t met Lila in person yet, but I consider her una amiga nonetheless. We have been collaborating on the Latin@s in Kid Lit site since July 2013. Lila has been an enthusiastic blogger for the site, posting great book talks, Q&As, and personal stories. An author and illustrator, her debut novel was Darkroom: Memoirs in Black and White. She is currently working on a middle grade novel.

 

 

Here are the questions and my responses:

What am I working on?

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An image of Aesop

I am revising Aesop’s Curse, my second young adult novel. During the school year, I teach middle school reading full time and college composition part time, so my goal is to finish revising Aesop’s Curse this summer so that my agent can review it and submit it to editors. The story is about a high school freshman named Alexandre Hart who learns he is the reincarnation of Aesop, the fable writer. Aesop cursed a village before he was executed, and now Alex has to somehow fix this or things will get ugly. (I don’t want to give too much away). I am also steadily working on plans to promote my debut novel, When Reason Breaks, which will be published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books on February 10, 2015.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson

Both of my novels have a literary element. Aesop’s Curse includes information about the author and some of his most famous fables. When Reason Breaks includes Emily Dickinson’s poetry, and the characters represent the poet and other people who existed in her life. For example, the two main characters, Emily Delgado and Elizabeth Davis, represent Dickinson, and the character Tommy Bowles represents two important men in Dickinson’s life: Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Samuel Bowles. While there are lots of YA books linked to famous authors and/or literary works, there are fewer about Dickinson and Aesop.

Each of my novels also has a diverse cast of characters, which is important to me personally as a Latina, mom, and teacher. I think it’s important to represent our diverse reality in children’s books, and to not consider these “minority” books, but rather books with minorities in them.

Why do I write what I do?

I write what interests me. I fell in love with Dickinson’s work during graduate school, I have first-hand experience with depression, and I have been a teacher for 13 years, which means I have known and learned from lots of interesting, complex, remarkable teens. When Reason Breaks combines these elements. When planning Aesop’s Curse, I again pulled from topics of interest. I found the story of Aesop’s execution fascinating, I have read a lot about the metaphysical and reincarnation, and I have known plenty of young men like Alex who fly under the radar and dread taking risks for fear of failure.

How does my writing process work?

My process is not methodical. I don’t use charts and graphs or color-coded note cards, and I don’t write every day, which is the #1 piece of advice given to writers. I scribble in notebooks and on post-it notes, and I think about my work in progress constantly, plotting scenes in my head. This way, when I have time to sit and write, I’m ready. I do most of my writing during child-free weekends (when my parents babysit), snow days, sick days, school vacations, and when my daughter is doing an extra curricular activity. Marathon writing sessions with days of no writing in between doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for me.

SusanAdrianMay2013_200pxI will now toss these questions to Susan Adrian, the leader of the Fearless Fifteeners, a group of middle grade and young adult authors debuting in 2015. Susan’s debut YA novel is titled Tunnel Vision and will be published by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. Here’s a brief description: A teenage boy who has a power he calls tunneling—he can decipher where anyone in the world is (and what they’re doing) by holding something they own—is brought to the attention of the U.S. government. Sounds cool, right? Susan will tell us all about her writing process next week.

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

I recently received my next round of revision notes from my editor. She said this round was more polishing than heavy revising, so I named it the “polish version” on my computer, which of course sounds like I’m writing it in Polish. Anywho, my deadline is January 6. I will not be posting anything until then since I’ll be busy revising-polishing-tweaking while celebrating Christmas and ringing in the New Year. So, HAPPY HOLIDAYS, EVERYONE! Enjoy this festive time of year. I’ll post an update soon after the new year. For now, I leave you with this from me, my daughter, my dad and siblings. I couldn’t resist! It cracks me up every time I watch it! Enjoy!

 

End of Year Reality Check

The last time I blogged was October and the post was about being so busy September was a blur. Now it’s December. What the?

I recently celebrated a birthday and the year is coming to an end. I’m not one to make serious resolutions, but I’ve found myself thinking about my life and making plans to slow down so I don’t feel like life is passing me by at warp speed.

One of my realizations is that I can’t keep up the pace I’ve set for myself since the time I first had a job and goals and a personal drive that once got me labeled as a “rabid overachiever.” Are there shots for that? Anyway, I still have a job and goals and the desire to achieve them, but I have to manage everything in a way that won’t leave me feeling like I’m treading water.

Don’t get me wrong, life is good–really! I have a great job, an amazing daughter, supportive family and friends, and a debut novel on the way, which is a dream come true. Still, a personal reality check recently led me to this simple conclusion: I’m not a spring chicken. I’m not old. I know that. But, I can’t keep moving at the same pace I set for myself when I was in my early 20s.

In addition to work, family, and writing, I have become involved with two websites: Latin@s in Kid Lit and the Fearless Fifteeners. I love being a part of both groups and have spent a lot of my time building the site over at Latin@s in Kid Lit with some author-friends-colleagues. I don’t want to give those up. I don’t want to give anything up, really, but I do need to scale back so I can do things well instead of simply getting things done.

Part of my plan is to scale back here. I’ll keep a more regular schedule–I’m thinking Mondays and Thursdays–but I’ll do quicker posts like you might see on Tumblr. But I can’t join that site or Pintrest or anything else. I am the camel and those are the shiny, time-consuming straws I need to avoid. I’ll also engage in some cross-pollination with the other sites I mentioned. Since I’ll be posting on those sites, I’ll either reblog posts here or announce what’s on those sites and link to them.

I want to keep this site active (which it’s not really right  now) especially in the coming year, when all sorts of exciting things will happen like cover reveals and Advanced Reader Copies!!! AHHHH!! But I also want to keep my sanity and be a great mom and teacher and have enough energy to write more books! So, shorter blog posts on a regular basis will be part of the solution. A long soak in a hot tub and regular massages couldn’t hurt either! :.)

Does anyone else struggle with balancing it all? Any tips?

Where Did September Go?

So, September happened. And according to the calendar, confirmed by the falling colored leaves outside, it is now late October. What the? How does this happen? No matter how long I teach–13 years–the start of the school year is a dizzying, time-stealing tornado that slows down right about now, which is why I’ve come up for air to write this post.

This year, I returned to the same school district, but moved back to my old school in a new position as the 6th and 7th grade reading teacher/specialist. I also started as an adjunct professor at Tunxis Community College, which has been fun and a lot of  work. Then, three weeks into the school year, my beloved furry friend, Rusty, died after 15+ years and countless memories. Here he is, napping by my side, and holding up my manuscript during revisions.

RustyAnd here he is tolerating the shenanigans of my 6-year-old:

VLUU L310 W  / Samsung L310 WLosing him would have been tough any time of the year, but at the start of the school year was especially difficult. I had to keep going, trying to be Super Mom and Super Teacher when all I wanted to do was sit and cry. We still miss him terribly. RIP, little buddy.

On the writing front, I’ve gotten involved with some cool new sites! I am a member of the newly formed Fearless Fifteeners, a group of authors debuting in 2015. I am also a member of Latin@s in Kid Lit, a site dedicated to celebrating children’s literature by and for Latin@s. I also wrote a guest post for YA Highway, which is an awesome place for YA readers and writers.

If you read my last post, you know that I completed a major revision of my first novel and submitted it to my editor. I’m waiting for her next round of comments/notes. The final draft is due in January 2014, with a tentative release date set for early 2015.

I’ll confess that I haven’t written anything creative since turning in my revision because of the full-on crazy that was my life from September through now. Aaron, Richard, Sam, Matt “Sharkey” Hardy, and Anna–characters from my second novel–were respectfully quiet, knowing I had to focus on my new jobs and getting my daughter off to first grade when August rolled into September.

But lately, they’ve started to push their way back into my consciousness. “Knock, knock. Remember us?” they ask. Yes, I hear and see them in my head. No, I have not officially lost my mind. Other mostly-stable writers have confirmed this for me. Having your characters bang around in your head is normal–weird but true.

So, September happened and we’re almost at the end of October. The back-to-school dust has settled. This doesn’t mean life will be less hectic, but it does mean I’m managing the juggling act. Now that I’m at this point, I will find a way to toss the “revise my second novel” ball into the mix and not let anything drop. I’ll do this because one thing I’ve learned on the road to publishing book #1 is that I hope there will be a book #2 and then a book #3, and the only way for that to happen is to keep writing somehow, no matter how busy my “normal” life is.

What I Did On My Summer Vacation 2013

My blog has been quiet because, if you read the last post, you know I had my hands on a keyboard all of July and some of August. Since I’m a full-time teacher, summer is key writing time. This was more true than ever because I was revising my novel based on my editorial letter. Although my official deadline wasn’t mid-August, that was my personal goal to avoid additional craziness when school started again. So, this is what I did this summer:

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We had to draw a picture to represent our summer on the first “teacher” day back to school. This is me writing on my bed, with Rusty sleeping on the floor. My daughter Maria is at day camp. This also proves that my sister inherited all of the family art genes. In the end, this is what I accomplished:

Book and Contract

The most recent version of my manuscript (left) was completed and sent to my editor. It clocked in at 41 chapters, 230 pages, 59,487 words. I also signed my contract with Bloomsbury Children’s Books USA! (right) YAY! My editor will read the latest version and let me know what I need to do next.

This summer, I also started to prep for my new job at my old middle school and my new adjunct position at Tunxis Community College. I also worked with four authors to create a new site/blog (details coming soon).

So, I worked a lot.

I did some fun things, too. I went to the Clinton Outlets and the Water’s Edge for dinner, and I took my daughter to see Turbo and a dinosaur exhibit. I visited Boston twice, celebrated my brother’s birthday, and hung out with good friends.

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My daughter at the dinosaur exhibit in Hartford, CT

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Beautiful Boston!

Still, in the end, I definitely worked more than played. I’ll admit that I was a little sad when I saw my colleagues’ pictures of their summer vacations–beaches, camping, parks, international trips, and visits to Disney World.

All day, I grappled with guilt of the “I’m a horrible mother and should have turned the computer off and went to the beach with my daughter instead of sending her to day camp” variety.

Ultimately, though, I reminded myself this summer had to be a working vacation. Two months of open time is a golden opportunity for writing, and this wasn’t any old job I could have turned down to spend more time having fun. This was dream-come-true work that will result in my first published novel.

I am a rabid overachiever by nature, but reality has reminded more than once that I can’t do everything well and remain sane. I couldn’t have started two new teaching jobs with a unfinished revision hanging over me. I had to be Writing Mom instead of Super Fun Mom to move one step closer to my publishing goal/dream and maintain my overall emotional and mental health.

So, this summer I worked more than I played–and that’s okay. I believe lots of good will come of this–the book, yes, but other things, too. My daughter often “wrote” in her notebook and chose big books, like Great Expectations, from my library to “read.”

Isn't she adorable?

Isn’t she adorable?

Still, I don’t want to be an “all work, no play” person. When my advance money arrives, I will definitely spend some of it on having fun with my baby girl!

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