Finding Balance

Or: Why It’s Taking Me So Long to Finish Book 3

I know you’ve all been waiting patiently for an update on Stuck (Stitch Trilogy, Book 3).  I was really hoping I’d have a completed manuscript (or, at least, a firm release date) to share with you this fall.  But I’m just going to come right out and say it: I’m not even close.

That’s not to say I haven’t been working diligently toward that goal whenever I can – I have – or that I’m any less dedicated to getting the final installment of this trilogy into your hands as soon as possible – believe me, I’m as excited as you are!  It’s just that, I’ve had to readjust my expectations for what “whenever I can” and “as soon as possible” means during this season of my life.  And as a result, it’s looking like it’s going to be a while yet until Stuck is ready for public consumption.

And my instinct now is for the next thing out of my mouth to be “I’m sorry.”  But I have to tell you: I’m sorry, and I’m not.  Because the reason I’ve been struggling to find time to write is that my son is at a very precious and fleeting stage in his life right now, and I just can’t bring myself to miss any of it.

As you may know, I’m the work-at-home parent in my family.  And I know lots of awesome work-at-home parents who hire a regular babysitter or utilize daycare to give themselves more time to be productive (or just recuperate), and when I see them doing this, I say, “Right on! Good for you!”  And I see how they benefit, and I see how their kids benefit, and I understand where they’re coming from when they encourage me to do the same.  But the thing is, I’m just coming from a different place.

As a mother who’s had the singular and heartwrenching experience of burying my only child, I’m coming from the same place as my friend, Kelly, whose beautiful toddler son, Kevin, was tragically taken from her too soon by Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  Kelly posted this heartfelt reminder to other parents on Facebook the other day as part of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month:

“I know I only had 2 1/2 years. I know 95% was spent on a roller coaster. I know that he’s not here now. I regret every break I took, every time I picked up my phone in front of him, and it wasn’t to take his picture. I regret every time I went to the sleep room and took a nap. I regret every time I went to the bathroom, and he couldn’t come with me. Some days it eats me alive. […] Forget cellphones on Saturdays! Forget cellphones as much as you can! Set alarms if you have to. Go out! Go play! Give them your TIME. It is all they will ever need or want and it won’t last for long. […] I just urge all of you to treasure EVERY second. […] Treasure the time.”

Of course, no one would ever begrudge Kelly – or any parent, especially one dealing with something as inconceivably stressful and horrific as childhood cancer – those naps and bathroom breaks and occasional zone-outs on the phone. That’s just survival.

But I felt the same way after my daughter, Alana, was stillborn.  I regretted (regret) every moment that I spent doing anything other than soaking her in, and basking in the miracle of her pregnancy.  I thought I had the rest of her life to really pay attention to her – I never realized just how short that life would be.  And this is where my mind goes when I need to decide now where to spend my time.

Should I take a couple hours this afternoon to go upstairs and write, or should I just stay here and let him and his glorious imagination cook me yet another “gourmet meal” from his play kitchen?  Should I pull my phone out and try to sneak some work on my outline, or just marvel as he so intently and purposefully pours water back and forth between cups for the next ten minutes?  Should I get on my computer while my mom reads him his book-of-the-moment for the 8000th time today, or should I stay here and do it myself so I don’t miss it if he suddenly looks up and busts out a newly mastered word with the biggest, proudest smile on his face?  More often than not, my son wins out.

And is devoting so much of myself to my child the “right” choice, or the healthiest or most sustainable, for either me or him?  I’m the first to admit that it’s probably not.  Any of my family or friends will readily tell you that Kiran and I suffer from a (mutual) separation anxiety which is hugely inconvenient to anyone and everyone who wants to spend time with either of us.  Some days (luckily, usually only a couple days a month when my nerves are raw from hormones or lack of sleep or what have you), I am burnt out and not the mother I know I could be – and I second guess my choices then, and wish I made more time for myself, and I strongly consider hiring regular help (or depending even more heavily on my mom than I already do – thank you, Mom, I honestly don’t know what I’d do without you!) so I can finally finish this book.

But then I have weeks, like I have had most of this past month, where the days – slogging and repetitive and interminable as they may be – are somehow also just brimming with delight.  Where I watch with wonder as my toddler discovers a boundless love of merry-go-rounds and waves with pure joy at every pass around the carousel.  Where I might be overtaken at any moment by an unexpected bear hug and chubby little hands yanking me in close (by the hair!) for an open-mouthed kiss on the cheek that fills my heart to bursting.  Where I lay down each night with my son in one arm and my cat in the other (my poor husband curled up in the remaining seven inches of mattress…), exhausted to the bone, but so, so full of love.

How can I bring myself to miss any of this, when I know so viscerally that it could be over at any moment?  I just can’t.

And please, please, please, don’t mistake me – the last thing I want is to send anyone off on a guilt trip for making choices that are different than mine.  Every family and every parent is different, and this is not a critique of anyone’s choices, or the completely valid reasons and experiences behind those choices.  I’m also painfully aware of the enormous and glaring amount of privilege I’ve been blessed with to even be able to have choices in this arena.

So this is just me trying to explain where my head is at, and why I’m finding it so hard to find the time to actually write, as much as I find meaning and enjoyment for myself in doing that – and as much as I absolutely hate feeling like I’m letting anyone down or failing to accomplish something I set out to do.  It’s just that, I know I can’t get any of this time back.  And when it comes down to it, I’m just not willing to give it up.

So what that means for me – and for you, dear readers – in a real-world, practical sense, is that I pretty much only get to write when Kiran is napping.  And he’s never been a big napper.  And half the time he falls asleep while driving somewhere, and then that’s it for the day.  And I wish I could just stay up late after he goes to bed or get up early in the morning to write before he wakes, but… I am tired, people!  And just like my friend Kelly, and all parents, I need that time at the end of the day to watch some TV or zone out on my phone or just talk to my husband – regular people-stuff, you know?  So basically, that doesn’t leave me with very much time to actually write.

The good news, though – for those of you waiting for Stuck – is that I have really been putting those few hours I get each week to good use.  Truthfully, I have not made too much progress on Stuck itself just yet, but I have been working on a secret little get-myself-back-on-the-horse project, which involves a good amount of brand new content within the Stitch universe. :-D And I’m planning to release that soon (hopefully before the end of the year, though again don’t hold me to it, as you now understand that I am beholden to the fickle whims of a toddler’s erratic sleep schedule!).

So, that’s where I’m at.  Trying to find the balance, and doing my best to love my life as it is, for as long as this season may last.

Thank you, as always, for sticking with me as I work to figure it all out.  And may you also, always, treasure the time.

“The Catastrophe Theory” Ch13 – FREE Progressive Story from The Hunt

The Catastrophe TheoryYou may remember a few weeks back I posted about The Hunt for Tomorrow, a virtual scavenger hunt with amazing prizes, including the chance to name/theme a progressive story written collectively by 20 authors sponsoring The Hunt.

Well, ladies and gents, that story is here!  The novella-length story is called “The Catastrophe Theory” and it stars scientist Eve, prepper Jared, and their very unique daughter Cassie in a post-apocalyptic techno-disaster.  The story has been evolving spontaneously as each author takes their turn writing the next chapter each day and adding his/her own twists to the plot, and it’s been quite a suspenseful ride!

(As a side note, this has been an incredibly interesting experience as a writer, since this fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, little-to-no-planning, zero-control-over-the-storyline style is pretty much the EXACT OPPOSITE of how I normally write.  It definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone, but I have to say, I’m surprisingly pleased with the results thus far…  I guess that’s what happens when you put 20 talented authors in one place and set them loose!)

A new chapter has been published every day for the past couple weeks, and yesterday, it was my turn!  So without further ado, check out Chapter 13 of The Catastrophe Theory – and if you haven’t read the first 12 chapters, start here!!

Follow along on The Hunt blog or Facebook page to read the remaining chapters as they’re published each day!  Still got about a third of the book to go… can’t wait to see what happens!!

Distribution Updates – Kindle MatchBook, iTunes & More!

Hey Stitch Fans!  Just wanted to let you know about a few quick updates made to Stitch & Shudder’s distribution.

Lots of details below, but here’s the short version: don’t worry if you don’t see Stitch or Shudder available for sale where they should be for a couple days.  And if you bought Stitch or Shudder from Amazon in print, you can now grab a Kindle copy at a reduced price!

Okay, and here’s the long version:

First, it recently came to my attention that Shudder had not been available in the iTunes store for a few months due to a formatting issue (apparently the Apple devices were not respecting the resizing of the image of Stuck’s cover in the back of the book, and as a result the picture was spilling onto multiple pages which breaks their formatting guidelines).  I’ve corrected the issue and submitted an update to Smashwords (who handles my distribution to iTunes), both in the Shudder manuscript and preemptively in Stitch.  Since any manuscript changes require a review and re-distribution to all of the Smashwords channels (including the iTunes store, B&N, Kobo, etc.), you may notice that Stitch & Shudder are not available at these channels (basically any ebook seller besides Amazon) for up to a couple weeks.  Never fear!  They will be back as soon as all that is complete.

In addition, while I was making these changes, I decided I might as well fix the two small typos I knew about in Shudder (changing a “the” to “they” and “overhead” to “overheard”).  You may or may not remember the debacle that was the Stitch update I issued last spring – not sure if Amazon is going to email all of you Shudder owners now with another cryptic email about “significant editorial changes” but hopefully not.  The ONLY changes to the Kindle manuscript were fixing these two minuscule typos.  (Even the Stuck image size didn’t change, since that wasn’t a problem in the Kindle version, only the epub version on iTunes.)  The typos were also corrected in the print version, but alas, I’m not able to issue updates to those… (On the plus side, hey, now your print version with the two tiny typos is a collector’s edition!  And if you’re bored sometime, you can play “Where’s Waldo?” trying to find them!)  While these updates are reviewed by Amazon, you may notice that the print or Kindle versions are not available on Amazon for a short while – this should be cleared up in a couple days at most (and as of this minute, at least, everything appears to be in working order).

Kindle MatchBookFinally, we get to probably the most exciting announcement in this blog post – Stitch and Shudder are now available for the Kindle MatchBook program!  In case you’re not familiar (I wasn’t until I came across the settings on the Kindle Publishing site…), the Kindle MatchBook program allows you to purchase Kindle copies of books you own in print at a reduced price.  I’m thrilled to announce that if you’ve purchased a print copy of Stitch through Amazon, you can now grab the Kindle version for FREE, and if you bought Shudder in print from Amazon, you can nab the Kindle version for only $0.99!  To get yours, simply go here and click the “Find Your Kindle MatchBook Titles” button, then click the “Get Kindle Edition” button next to Stitch and/or Shudder.  (Note: when I published this, Shudder was working but Stitch wasn’t yet – may take a couple days to appear.)  Happy reading!

Finding Your Voice

Finding Your VoiceAnyone can put words down on paper, but just because the words are there doesn’t mean they’re anything anyone wants to read.  That’s because the hardest thing about writing is finding your voice.  It’s the writer’s unique style – their voice – that shines through to make any writing engaging.

I see this problem all the time with my business writing clients.  They’ve certainly got plenty to say – they’re experts in their fields, business owners with decades of experience and tons of valuable information to impart.  But I find that as a communications consultant (my day job outside of writing fiction), my clients tend to fall into one of two buckets: either they’re pretty decent writers but need help organizing their writing, or – more commonly – they’re struggling with their voice.

In the case of the under-developed voice, the writing just sounds… off.  Despite making good points and imparting valuable wisdom, whatever piece my client is trying to write is just not hitting the right notes of professionalism and personality.  Instead it sounds immature, dry, flat – not at all how they come across when you speak to them, but they just aren’t as compelling on paper as they are in person. What’s missing in their writing?  Their voice.

The big secret here is that there really is no secret to bringing your own unique style to your writing. It’s simply about having confidence in what you have to say – and in the act of writing itself.

The reason many of my business clients’ writing sounds shaky is because they don’t believe they can be good writers.  They are certainly confident in the information they’re sharing – after all, they’ve spent 20+ years amassing that knowledge in the field – but for most of these individuals, they stopped getting coached on their writing back in high school, or perhaps well before then.

Think about it – when the last thing anyone told you that you could write successfully was a 4th grade book report, it kind of makes sense that you’d continue to write that way.  It’s easy for a smart person to give up on writing – and their writer’s voice – when all they’ve ever seen since is a B or C or D in red ink on their papers.  Pretty soon writing gets put in that box of “things I don’t do well” and they leave it there, because no one ever pushed them to do better.  Positive reinforcement is a powerful thing.  The thing is, positive reinforcement is also very hard to come by.

In my own case, I found my voice in high school, writing under the guidance of a few very engaged and very encouraging teachers.  I’d always been a good writer (at least according to my mom, haha) but when I look back at my early writing, I see myself falling into the very common trap of trying to write in someone else’s voice, the way I thought writing should sound since that’s how it sounded to me when I read.  Even with engaging subject matter, my early writing felt forced, awkward, unnatural – and that’s because I wasn’t writing like me.

I’m forever in debt to my high school teachers because they saw something in my writing – the potential for something more – and they took the time to push me to develop it further.  My junior year English teacher founded a two-week summer camp specifically designed to help a handful of flourishing writers from our school develop their creative writing skills and invited me to join.  She then managed to foster an environment at the camp where we felt uninhibited and free to experiment without judgment (or grades!) getting in the way.

My senior year English teacher was well-known for teaching to rigorous standards in preparation for the upcoming AP exams, but seeing my potential, he held me to even higher standards than the rest of my peers.  I still have many of my papers from that class, and his meticulous notes scrawled in the margins of the page helped me to recognize and develop stylistic traits that I’d been doing unconsciously – parallelisms and unexpected personification, playfulness with words, a love of vocabulary and a more formal tone.  He helped me to realize that I had a voice, and that it was okay to use it.

I even had a fabulous math/computer science teacher both of those years who was an admittedly terrible writer himself – but he recognized my own talents in that area, and actually asked me to help him write/edit pieces that he knew needed to come across as professional and credible, including college recommendation letters for other students.  Can you imagine at 17 years old how much confidence that gave me in my own abilities as a writer?

What these experiences all had in common was that they made it clear that not only did I have a voice, but it was one that other people were interested in hearingThat set me on the right path of knowing who I was as a writer and having the confidence to develop my own unique voice further.

But not all writers have been lucky enough to have had that kind of support early on.  So my advice?  Seek it out.  Join a writers group – whether online, in your city, or through a local college – and just write.  Get people to read your writing, listen to their feedback, and just keep writing until it feels natural.  Eventually, you should start to hear your own voice in your head when reading your writing.  Practice until it’s authentic.

And, most importantly, don’t worry about writing something perfect – after all, I still cringe reading certain parts of Stitch.  Nothing you write will ever be perfect.  The important thing is that you’re always improving, and always being real in your writing, doing what comes naturally to you even if it means breaking a few rules.  After all, writers are people too – we’re individuals, we have unique personalities and quirks, and we’re not perfect!  Our writing should reflect that.

The fact of the matter is, the sooner you believe in your abilities as a writer, the sooner your voice will ring loud and clear.  You just have to give yourself permission to be heard.

Tried Goodreads Lists yet? Give it a shot!

Hey Stitch Trilogy fans!  I wanted to take a moment to introduce you to an awesome feature of Goodreads that you may not already know about – Goodreads Lists!

Stitch is #1 on a Goodreads List!What are Goodreads Lists?
Goodreads Lists are user-generated lists of books that anyone can vote on.  They’re often themed by genre or subject matter, and can range from broadly helpful and informative (“Best Young Adult Dystopian Novels“) to very specific (“Kick Ass Female Heroines in Paranormal Genre“) to a little out there (“Titles of Only One Syllable“).  You can view popular lists or search all the lists on Goodreads by going to Explore > Listopia from your Goodreads account homepage dashboard (or by clicking this link).

Why should I care about Goodreads Lists?
There are a few reasons.  First, I’m a big fan of Goodreads Lists as reader b/c they are *invaluable* in helping me find recommendations for new books (even with very specific criteria like “Speculative New Adult Fiction“).  Not sure what to read next?  Search the Goodreads Lists database for a genre you enjoy or check out the “Lists with This Book” section on any book’s Goodreads page, and within seconds you’ll have hundreds of options suggested by like-minded readers to choose from.

Secondly, as an author, I love Goodreads Lists even more b/c they help get my book in front of readers who probably otherwise would never have come across it.  As many of you know, I’m about to have a baby and will likely be scaling back my book promotion for the next few months, but I’m hoping that if Stitch and Shudder appear towards the top of some of some lists, new readers will find them even if I’m not shouting from the rooftops for a couple weeks.

So if you’re a reader, Goodreads Lists are an easy (and fun!) way to both find more great books and really help out the writers you love most – and believe me, us authors (especially independent ones!) need as MUCH help as we can get in the marketing department!  :-)

How do I vote on a Goodreads List?
It’s simple!  Here’s an example of how to vote for Stitch and/or Shudder, but you can of course enter a different search term to vote for any book:

  1. Navigate your web browser to the desired list (find one here or see some suggestions below *wink wink*)
  2. Click the Add Books to This List tab at the top of the page
  3. Type “stitch durante” into the search bar and click Search (note: you can search either your own bookshelves or the entire site – switch using the “Add books from: my books or a search” link on the left)
  4. When Stitch and Shudder come up, click Vote for This Book on one or both of them
  5. Search for other books or find another list, and repeat!

I strongly encourage all Goodreads users to take advantage of this feature to help you find new stuff to read, and also to help your favorite authors reach more loyal readers like you!  If you’d like to vote for Stitch and Shudder (I’d be honored!!), here are a handful of lists which could be good options (though a vote on *any* list is always appreciated!):

  1. If You Like The Hunger Games Then You Will Like…
  2. If You Loved The Hunger Games…
  3. Best Dystopian Books for Teens
  4. Best Young Adult Dystopian Novels
  5. Great Dystopian Reads
  6. YA Dystopias Since The Hunger Games
  7. Speculative New Adult Fiction
  8. Best Science Fiction With a Female Protagonist
  9. Self Published Young Adult Books
  10. Best Indie YA/New Adult Books

Have fun browsing the lists and voting for your favorites!  I hope you find some *GREAT* new reads – and of course, I REALLY REALLY appreciate any votes you happen to throw towards the Stitch Trilogy while you’re at it.  :-)

DIY Editing Tips

I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because typos are the bane of my existence!  (Sponsored post.)

You may think that soaring sales numbers or rave reviews are any writer’s crowning achievements, but in my case, one of the greatest satisfactions of my writing career to date has been something far less glamorous: protestations that my writing is well-edited.

After all, one of the main reasons self-published work gets a bad rap is because it’s often known to be riddled with typos, misspellings, and incorrect grammar.  When I first set out to publish Stitch, one of my biggest fears was that mechanical errors in the text would make me come off as unprofessional and, worse, amateur.  (Granted, I was – and probably still am – an amateur… but the reader didn’t need to know this!)

DIY Editing TipsDespite lacking an agent, publisher, and editor, I wanted desperately for my book to look and feel and read like a “real” book.  To that end, I hired a talented cover designer, I spent hours tweaking the print/e-book formatting, and most importantly, I put a LOT of effort into editing my writing.

And guess what?  It worked!  Many readers and reviewers have commented on the quality of my writing, and were even surprised to learn that my books were published independently.  In fact, after publishing Stitch and Shudder, I’ve only learned of a combined 3 true typos across both books (2 of which I fixed in the Stitch update released last April).  And while I’m sure there are more hidden in there (if you know of any, I’d love to know about them!), they’re subtle enough that the vast majority of readers will never even notice – and after all, even professionally published books have a typo or two in them, so I can deal.

Given my success in this particular arena, I thought I’d take a few moments to share my top 3 tips and tricks for other writers who are editing their own work:

1. Get more eyes on it! Seriously, this is the number one tip and by far the most effective thing you can do – get at least 10 people to read your work before you publish it, and make sure they know you want to hear about any typos, misspellings, or potential grammar issues.  (Sometimes people are afraid to insult you otherwise!)  The unfortunate reality is that you just can’t see your own writing clearly – you know what it’s *supposed* to say, so your mind just reads that instead of what’s actually on the page (thanks, brain!).

The good news is that you’re already getting people to give you feedback on the story, right?  Well, why not get some free editing while you’re at it?  Some readers are excellent at picking up on mechanical errors, others less so, so it’s essential to cast a wide net.  If you have the cash, you can even hire a professional – but so far, I’ve gotten by on the generous help of friends and family.  And be sure to THANK THEM for their time and input, even if you don’t always take their advice.  (After all, as I’m constantly telling my husband, there is such thing as “writer’s license!”)

2. Read it in print.  I don’t understand why, but for some reason, typos are easier to catch in print than on-screen.  I HATE wasting paper (I guess all those “save the rainforest” PSAs from when I was a kid made an impression…), but you have to review at least one printed version of your work before you hit the publish button.

In my case, I use the print proof from Createspace to do this, but if you’re just publishing an e-book, you can print it out at home (hey, you can always use a really tiny font, small margins, and double-sided printing to save paper!).  And again, refer to #1 – if you can get other people to read it in print as well, that’s even better.

3. Pay attention to grammar check.  Okay, I’m not going to lie – automated grammar checks have proven completely useless to me 99.9% of the time.  I don’t know what it is about the English language, but computers just don’t seem to get it.  BUT whenever I do a thorough automated grammar check on my books (which usually turns up what feels like about 3000 “issues” and takes 1-2 hours to go through), I almost always find one or two actual errors that I would have overlooked.

Yes, it’s a pain in the butt, but if you want your writing to look professional, you need to catch as many issues as possible – so save this one ’til the end and do it once, but make sure to do it!  You can use the built-in Word grammar check or any number of online tools (e.g., Grammarly), but use something.  You’ll have to sift through a lot of garbage, but you just might find a gem or two.

Good luck and good grammar to all!  If you have any other tips or tricks that have worked for you, I’d love to hear them!

Guest Post: “Book Pirates: Not the ‘Arrrgh’ Kind” + Alessa/Isaac Interview, Review & Giveaway!

Nomi's Paranormal PalaceSome awesome new content up today on the Shudder Blog Tour, including an interview with Alessa and Isaac over at Nomi’s Paranormal Palace (plus an excellent review) and a guest post titled “Book Pirates: Not the ‘Arrrgh’ Kind” (plus giveaway & excerpt) at Reading Between the Wines!  Here’s a sneak preview:

From the Alessa/Isaac interview:

Naomi: Hi Alessa and Isaac! Welcome to my Paranormal Palace!!
Alessa: We’re very excited to be here!
Isaac: Thanks so much for having us, Naomi!

Naomi: The pleasure is mine, I assure you! Alright, let’s get straight into the nitty gritty. How are you both adjusting to life now that you are out of the spotlight, not that you realised that you were being filmed before…
A: (big sigh) It’s a relief!  It was SO difficult during Stitch once I realized what was going on.  Can you imagine getting dressed or going to the bathroom knowing there are thousands of people watching you??  It was horrifying.
I: Yeah, we were definitely happy to get some alone time in Shudder.  (gives Alessa a wink)
A: (laughs and elbows Isaac) <continue reading>

From the guest post:

I have a confession to make: at one time in my life, I was a pirate.

No, silly, not the swashbuckling “arrrgh” kind – the digital media stealing kind, of course.  Though I’m proud to say I’ve since reformed my unscrupulous ways and now purchase all of my music and streaming TV legally, in my past life as an internet scalawag I probably acquired upwards of 1000 songs and watched at least 10 or so seasons of some of my favorite shows through shady online “sharing” sites.

I still vividly remember the day in high school when one of my friends introduced me to Napster. The first song I ever downloaded was “Flagpole Sitta” by Harvey Danger, and the experience changed my life.  I never looked back (well, until I graduated college and had a job and realized that a) I could afford to pay for stuff and b) it actually made me feel better to do so, since I would never under any other circumstances condone stealing and I was tired of being a hypocrite).

So I get it.  Really, I do.  Why pay for something you can get for free? <continue reading>

Thanks so much to Naomi and Crystal for hosting today!!

Guest Post: “Death to the Dreaded Second Book Syndrome” + Review & Giveaway

Cocktails and BooksHey Stitch Fans!  I’m officially back from vacation and I’ve got some great new stuff to highlight today on the Shudder Blog Tour.  :-)

First, check out yesterday’s guest post at Cocktails & Books about how to avoid the dreaded Second (Middle) Book Syndrome:

Middle books in a trilogy have gotten a bad rap, particularly in YA.  They’re often known to be bland filler, simply a bridge between the first and last books in the series, where not much of anything happens and the characters just kind of, well, stagnate, whittling away the hours while they (and the readers…) wait (im)patiently for Book 3 to come along.  Welcome to the dreaded Second Book Syndrome.

Luckily, this doesn’t have to be the case.  Here’s a simple 3-step program for breaking through this debilitating disease and crafting a middle book that shines:

1. Focus on pacing.  High tension, high action, high excitement – a solid middle book should always have some stimulating event happening or new information being revealed, and not just once, but continuously, throughout the entire book.

In Shudder, I strove to accomplish this using a combination of Alessa and Isaac’s action-packed storyline along with the incorporation of some new points of view.  While Isaac and Alessa’s narrative had most of the action, their downtime was always used for world building or character development (see #2 below), and the other POVs brought in chilling new information to provide readers with a fuller sense of the plot and give them something to think about – how this society came about, who certain characters really are, what new revelations might be a lie and which are not.  With all of this going on, the reader has plenty to keep their mind occupied and the story moves along at a pleasant clip. <continue reading>

Book Cover JusticeNext, swing by today’s stop at Book Cover Justice for an awesome review of Shudder and a new e-book giveaway!

Shudder was definitely worth the wait. Told in alternating chapters, we not only get to hear more about Alessa and Isaac but from a few other surprise characters as well. … The relationship between Alessa and Isaac is a strong one and I was thrilled to finally see real interaction between them out in the real world without the interference of The Engineers. … We also get to know The Engineers and learn a few of their shocking secrets that I just did not see coming, and to top it off we watch as Alessa starts having strange dreams about Joe, her first crush and Isaac’s brother. Even though this seems like quite a bit for Alessa to be dealing with all at once, it didn’t read like it. The author does a fantastic job of incorporating all the different parts of the story without it feeling like information overload. … Overall, Shudder was every bit as amazing as Stitch and I can’t wait to get my hands on book three. It has everything you could want in a story: mystery, action, and a little bit of romance. I can’t recommend it enough. If you enjoyed Stitch, you are going to love Shudder so don’t waste any more time and go out and read it immediately! <continue reading>

Thanks so much to Shannon and Tiffany for hosting!!

Smorgasbord of Content – 2 Guest Posts, 2 Excerpts, 3 Reviews & 3 Giveaways

Bex N BooksA whole smorgasbord of awesome new content from the past couple days of the Shudder Tour!  Check it out:

Follow the links above for the full story!  Thanks so much to Savy, Jenna, Jenna, Austine, and Bex for hosting!!

Guest Post: “Characters Behaving Badly” + Related Excerpt, Review & Giveaways

To Read or Not To ReadToday on the Shudder Blog Tour, we’re taking a look inside Alessa’s psyche (and her minor freak-out…) in Shudder with the guest post “Characters Behaving Badly” at To Read or Not to Read, along with a related excerpt at A Dream Within a Dream!  We’ve also got one amazing new 4.5 star review, and giveaways at both stops!

Here’s a snippet of the guest post over at To Read or Not to Read:

Sometimes… characters just won’t do what you want them to do. I guess this is the problem with a well-developed character – she is no longer an object under your control, she’s a living, breathing person with motivations and thoughts and feelings all her own. And sometimes, even when she’s supposed to be the big, tough heroine of your story, she just doesn’t want to be. And we – as the readers – just have to deal with it.

I know, I know. I’m the author – I’m supposed to make my characters do what I and the readers want them to do. But unfortunately, that’s just not the way the world works. <continue reading>

Next, swing by A Dream Within a Dream to see the related excerpt from Shudder, and also check out Stephanie’s fab review!

This is a truly captivating second novel in an exciting and intriguing trilogy… The plot is very well written with a fast pace and effortless flow, which makes it almost impossible to put down. The characters – especially Alessa – continue to be well rounded and realistic, which makes it easy to identify with them throughout the book. … The story is full of twists and adventure and it kept me guessing, which is something that I love in a book. … This is a fantastic second installment in what continues to be an exciting and addictive trilogy. I highly recommend it to fans of all genres – as it defies being labeled as just one. I will definitely be eagerly awaiting the final book in the series! <continue reading>

And don’t forget the e-book giveaways at both stops!!  Thanks so much to Marcie and Steph for hosting today!