Writing Tips & a Special Black Friday Deal with Katie Morford Phillips

Wondering how to write evocative descriptions that don’t drag on and weigh down your prose? Remember to use the five senses and choose one or two memorable details, rather than a laundry list of general information.

For example, when describing a person, instead of saying your male hero is “average height, with a slim build and brown hair,” (forgettable) say, “my head barely reached his shoulder, he smelled strongly of cinnamon, and his hair looked as if he’d run his hands through it many times already.” (Memorable).

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YALL Write Cheat Sheet: Day 2

Didn’t get a chance to attend Yall Write? Still hoping to go back and watch the replays? I don’t know about you, but the holidays are already hitting hard and I’m barely finding time to check all the boxes on my mile-long to-do lists. In case you don’t have time to go back and listen to the full replays, I’ve taken notes for you. Skim the day one notes here. For the day two cheat sheet, just keep reading!

Here’s the lineup of what you can expect:

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YALL Write Cheat Sheet: Day 1

This past weekend was the virtual version of Yall Write conference. I’ve never been before so I don’t have a baseline to compare with, but the virtual version was great! I could meal prep, deep clean, even do a little yoga, while listening to some of my favorite authors. Who knew 2020 would provide such flexibility!

I know several of you were working or had other obligations and couldn’t make it but have no fear! I have taken copious notes for you. Well, mostly copious notes. There may have been a few sessions where my meal prep was burning or I was distracted…so those sessions are a little sparse and/or nonexistent.

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Author Interview: Chelsea Bobulski

Pen Friends ~ So happy to introduce you to a good friend and YA author, Chelsea Bobulski, author of The Wood and Remember Me, (out with Macmillan) who recently announced her new 4-book deal, with Wise Wolf Books!

SP: Hi Chelsea! Thanks for joining us! Before we get into book stuff, we’d LOVE to know a bit about you and your writing journey!

CB: Thank you so much for having me! My journey has been ten years in the making if you can believe it (although, really, it has been the trajectory of my entire life). I’ve always loved storytelling in all of its various forms. Whether it’s a good book, TV show, movie, play, or even video game, I’ve always loved exploring human nature, both through reading and through writing, although it wasn’t until I took a class at the Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio my senior year at The Ohio State University that I ever thought I could really make a career of writing. Before that class, I’d put my favorite authors on a pedestal, thinking they must have been born published authors, because there was just no way the average person could write a 300+ page book, let alone dozens of them. But taking that class with YA author Lisa Klein opened my eyes to the fact that every author, whether on their first book or their one hundredth, starts the same way: with an idea and a blank page. To make a very long story short, I began pursuing traditional publication right after that, although it took me five books and five years to get my very first book deal, and now, in my tenth year of pursuing this career, I have two books published and countless others that may never see the light of day, some due to the fact that I wrote them early in my career when I was still learning and growing as an author, and some due to the market just not being right at the time for that type of book (although I’m hopeful that I may get the opportunity to pursue them someday). 

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Cover Reveal: CALCULATED by Nova McBee + YABC Giveaway

I am so incredibly excited to share with you all the cover for my debut young adult novel, CALCULATED!!! Isn’t she stunning?

Three important things!

  1. Its available for pre-order now! Find the links to the paperback and kindle preorder on my website or amazon !
  2. YA Book Central is giving away 5 paperbacks of Calculated so go enter the giveaway here: YABC GIVEAWAY
  3. You can now add it to Goodreads!
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Author Interview: June Hur

Pen Friends ~ Please welcome YA Author JUNE HUR talking about her upcoming novel, THE FOREST OF STOLEN GIRLS, publishing journey, writing the second book, and so much more! I’m beyond excited to have June here with us today. Her books are gorgeous and the kindness and knowledge she shares with the writing community is priceless!


SP: Hi June! Thanks for joining us! Before we get into book stuff, we’d LOVE to know a bit about you and your writing journey?

8 years and two failed rounds of querying later, I put aside my first book and decided to work on a new project. A Korean historical mystery. I didn’t think anyone would be interested in a police drama set in 1800s Korea, but I didn’t care at this point and just wrote the book for myself. Fortunately, as I was browsing through Manuscript Wish List, I found an agent who was passionate about diverse literature, and so I decided to send a query her way. I didn’t think Amy Bishop would actually offer. But then on September 20, Amy emailed me with an offer and shared that my debut was a book she wished had existed when she was a teen.

SP: The Stolen Girls will come out April 2021 by Feiwel & Friends, Macmillan. Please add on Goodreads and check out her amazing debut, The Silence of Bones, while waiting!

Here’s the blurb for The Stolen Girls:


1426, Joseon (Korea). Hwani’s family has never been the same since she and her younger sister went missing and were later found unconscious in the forest near a gruesome crime scene.

Years later, Detective Min—Hwani’s father—learns that thirteen girls have recently disappeared from the same forest that nearly stole his daughters. He travels to their hometown on the island of Jeju to investigate… only to vanish as well.

Determined to find her father and solve the case that tore their family apart, Hwani returns home to pick up the trail. As she digs into the secrets of the small village—and collides with her now estranged sister, Maewol—Hwani comes to realize that the answer could lie within her own buried memories of what happened in the forest all those years ago.

SP: The book cover is outstanding! I’ve never seen anything quite like it! What were your thoughts when you first saw it?

When I first saw the cover, I was absolutely blown away! I thought it was so intriguing that the cover wasn’t saturated in green, as I assumed it would be, since my book’s title has the word ‘forest’ in it. Instead, in choosing white as the main color, I feel like it creates a sense of mystery and makes the word ‘forest’ pop out more due to the contrast. I also love the two girls hidden in the cover, as it really reflects the heart of the story—the search for thirteen missing girls.

SP: How long did it take you to write The Stolen Girls and how did this story come about? Was the second book harder to write than the first?

I began brainstorming this novel around two years ago, but never got around to doing anything much with it until I realized I needed to get started on my second book in the contract ASAP! I began writing it in earnest during the last half of 2019 and sent the polished draft to my editor by the spring of 2020. Writing the second book was so hard, and it was probably one of the most stressful experiences I’ve ever had to go through, mainly because I lacked the luxury of time and the freedom to fail. I spent years writing then ditching one version of THE SILENCE OF BONES for another, playing around with plot and character until I finally felt confident enough to commit to the story. But with my second book, as I was under contract as well as a deadline, I had less time to play around with ideas, and definitely not enough time to ditch one idea for another. When I wrote the first draft, I was devastated, because I wasn’t sure I liked the characters, or the plot, or the historical aspect I was focusing on. But I had to commit and it was terrifying—investing that much time into a work you know will end up getting published, but a work you’re not certain you’ll love and be proud of. In the end, THE FOREST OF STOLEN GIRLS turned out to be one of my greatest achievements. Mainly because I watched this manuscript go from being a hated second book to being a book I’m immensely proud of.

SP: Are there any characters that surprised you along the way?

Maewol, the youngest sister, surprised me. She infused the book with touches of humor, and humor is something I thought I’d never include in my books, as I tend to be very dark and melancholic when storytelling. My favorite part about writing this book was writing the last chapter, mainly because there’s a particular scene in it that I was writing toward for months.

SP: What part of the writing process do you most enjoy? The first draft? The development in revision? The final touches?

Development in revision!

SP: Any writing tip you’d like to share?

Write what scares you. The only way to grow as a writer is to constantly challenge ourselves.


A few fun questions. Is June a…
Plotter/pantster?

Plotter.

Last book you read?

If I had your face by Frances Cha

Current dream vacation spot?

Scotland

Current favorite K-Drama?

Kingdom

Would you rather be a professional: Marine Biologist? Spy? Opera Singer? Brain Surgeon? OR?

Spy.

Favorite childhood book?

Anne of Green Gables

Ellen McGinty, signing off. 

Writing Villians by Disney Author, Lorie Langdon

SP: First of all, congratulations on your 3 book deal with Disney to write a series of villains and their first love!

LL: Thanks so much! I’m thrilled to finally share the news!!

SP: In your social media reveal post you asked the question, do you think villains can be redeemed by love? So what do you say? 

LL: As to villains being redeemed by love, I have to say that entirely depends on how far they’ve gone the dark side (so to speak). But more often than not, a true villainous character cares about something more than love. Which means they will always put that passion or obsession above other’s needs, keeping them from experiencing the redemptive power of true love.

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Why Sci-fi?

Why Science Fiction?


“Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science fiction is the improbable made possible.” Rod Sterling

I love to read—and watch—both science fiction and fantasy, but when it comes to writing, I find myself consistently drawn to science fiction. Even ideas that start as fantasy often get taken over by technology or space travel or aliens.
What makes science fiction so fun? The improbable made possible. The things that sound exciting or intriguing or frightening or far-out-there, told in a way that makes us believe it could one day happen, maybe even to us. As enjoyable as fantasy is, this is one element it lacks. (Although I’m still holding out hope for my Hogwarts letter…)


Science fiction is a broad and complex genre that can include many elements, but here are some that I find most intriguing that you might consider when writing.

Technology

I love to think about how advanced technology might go wrong. Stories are about problems, so if an invention works perfectly, it’s far less interesting than if characters have to deal with unintended side effects. The more advanced the technology, the greater the possibility for terrible consequences.

It’s also fun to consider how an invention would affect every area of life. A transporter would make traveling the world much easier, but what would it do to warfare? How would criminals use it? How would change an average person’s life?

Society

The fun thing about science fiction is, you can imagine a future going whichever direction you want it to as long as there’s a reason. Think about common elements of daily living—school, transportation, entertainment, fashion. How they might change in the future or with new technologies?
For a while, people thought virtual school was the way of the future. And even though that’s what many are experiencing now, it’s hard to tell if the method will stick or people will celebrate a return to in-person school. Fashion comes and goes in cycles. What if your futuristic society decides Victorian dress or Roman togas make sense?


Themes/Humanity

People remain the same regardless of technology or location. With science fiction, especially when the world seems improbable or humans dwell among the stars, it’s extra important to ground the reader with characters who want relatable goals and feel the same emotions we all experience.


Outer Space

Science fiction doesn’t have to be set on a space ship or another planet—Earth-based settings can be just as interesting, whether they’re set in the present or the future. But I’ve always been fascinated by the wonders of the galaxy, by how much is out there that we’ve barely begin to see. And since we know so little, it’s a fertile ground for your imagination to run wild. Unique planets, strange aliens, unknown phenomena…make the improbable seem possible, and take readers to a new world!

What do you love about science fiction?

Becky Dean, signing off.

Author Interview: Sam Taylor

Pen friends~ So happy to introduce you to another of my 2016 PitchWars alum gang, Sam Taylor, who will release her debut, We Are the Fire in February 2021!

SP: Hi Sam! Thanks for joining us! Before we start talking about your debut, We Are the Fire, can you share a bit about you and your writing journey? 

ST: One of the most unique things about my journey is that I landed my book deal for WAtF before signing with an agent! That’s definitely not the usual order of events, at least for traditional publishing. WAtF was the third manuscript I’d seriously queried. It wasn’t having good luck with agents, but my wide pool of early readers loved it, and this story means so much to me personally. So I began exploring alternate paths to publication. That was when I turned to Swoon Reads (more on them below). I thought to myself, “Agents aren’t responding to this book right now, but readers love it. Maybe readers can help me get it published.” And they did!!!

SP: Can you tell us a bit about your PitchWars experience AND Querying & Agents?

ST: My Pitch Wars journey was completely unorthodox in that I was an unofficial mentee (which I don’t think they do anymore) who was made official right before the showcase. I worked on the sidelines with Kip Wilson (author of the powerful novel-in-verse WHITE ROSE) on a YA fantasy inspired by Babylonian culture and magic. It was a phenomenal experience, I learned so much from her, and turned into a dream when right before the agent showcase I was invited to become an official Pitch Wars mentee and have my story included in that showcase. But then… I didn’t get a single agent request during the showcase week. That was really hard; talk about a whirlwind of emotions! But I found so much support and strength among my fellow Pitch Wars mentees, some of whom have become good writing friends. That support kept me going as I went on to query that Babylonian fantasy–most Pitch Wars mentees still get their agents through regular querying! Alas, that book did not land me an agent, though I did come very close. WAtF was the book I worked on after Pitch Wars, by the way. Sometimes achieving that publishing dream just takes a different project.

SP: Now we want to hear all about your upcoming novel, We Are The Fire releasing with Swoon Reads/Macmillan on February 16, 2021.

Here is a blurb: 

Two magical, fire-wielding teen soldiers in love, pitted against each other as they fight to tear down the empire who kidnapped them. It’s An Ember in the Ashes with fire magic, twisted alchemy, and ash-gray morals.

SP:  How did this story idea come about?

ST: I was trapped in a work environment with some very corrupt people. No matter how much I wanted to fix things, I didn’t always know how to make the situation right, and definitely wasn’t rewarded for my efforts. I was frustrated and angry and wanted to watch something burn. So I had the idea of these characters who, with a breath and a spark, can ignite bonfires. And they have to figure out how to use this magic forced onto them to win back their freedom. The right choices aren’t always clear for them, either, and often they don’t come without steep cost. But these characters keep fighting anyway to take back their lives.

SP: Swoon Reads is very unique, can you tell us more?

ST: Swoon Reads is an imprint of Macmillan (one of the Big 5 publishers), but it is unique in that the books it publishes are selected from a website where writers are invited to post their YA manuscripts. Anyone can read these manuscripts for free, and readers are invited to rate and comment on the ones they like best. Stories with strong ratings and reviews can grab the attention of an editor at Swoon Reads. A few times a year, they’ll select manuscripts that would work well for their list, and extend an offer of publication to those authors.

SP: What was your favorite part about writing this book? Which character surprised you most?

ST: I loved the romantic and moral tension between Oksana and Pran! It was so challenging to write these two with such different perspectives on their world, yet they are united by their dedication to each other. Even–and especially!–when it seemed like they were tearing apart their world and each other, there was always that yearning for them to be together again. Emotions were always high, and that made it easy to be deeply invested in their story, even when writing it pushed me to the limits of my abilities.

Sepp surprised me the most, of all the characters! Over the course of a few drafts, she went from an extremely minor character to one who’s crucial for the story. I think readers get to see this a bit, in how on both Oksana’s and Pran’s side of the story, she goes from being a character mentioned in asides, to someone who’s always at their sides!

SP: What excites and terrifies you about your book coming into the world?

ST: I’ve been invested in all the manuscripts I’ve written, but I had a passion for this story that did not exist for my previous two manuscripts. Maybe because it came out of such a painful time in my life? This was a story I was deeply invested in, yet there was a long span of time when querying was not going well, and I really thought this book would never find its way into readers’ hands. So I’m thrilled that it does get the chance to be a real book out in the world, and it feels right that this is the book I debut with, the one that launches my author career.

As for what terrifies me… this book does get quite dark in places. There are scenes that were particularly divisive among early readers. Yet when this book is deeply exploring moral ambiguity, and the characters are trying to outsmart people who have zero scruples, and dominoes are lined up along precarious paths… there come points when the characters only have intensely difficult decisions to make. And I didn’t shy away from having the characters make them. That wouldn’t do this story justice. I just hope that I’ve done the actual writing justice, so readers can understand what I’m doing on the page, even when the story events turn dark and difficult.

SP: Writing habits — can you let us into your process/writing life? How do you get the job done? Any tips for us?

ST: My process has changed quite a bit since becoming a mother! I’ve been getting up at 5am to have some quiet time to myself while Little T still sleeps. Though I’ve always been a morning person, I never used to get up that early, and it’s definitely been challenging to stick with. But I’ve found that early morning time is crucial to getting enough work time in, especially once I had a book under contract. I also write during Little T’s naps (and thus, have kept him on a pretty strict nap schedule. He needs that sleep time to be in his best mood, and I need the break during the day to recharge and be my own person through my writing).

My advice to others is that if they want to write, they’ll need to make time for it. Find what works for you! Someone else’s schedule won’t necessarily fit, and there’s no one “right” way to make writing time happen. Doesn’t have to be early morning, or even every day. But make time for writing, and honor that time. Learn to tell other people ‘No” and defend anything that would infringe on that time (there will always be something!) Even a little time, regularly taken, can add up to a lot of words after a while.

SP: Launching during COVID 19 must be an interesting experience- in which ways have you seen positive things come of it?

ST: It’s certainly changed the experience I’d been picturing! For instance, I’d planned on attending BookExpo in NYC this past May. That’s a huge book conference lots of industry professionals attend, with so many opportunities for networking! It’s been on my radar for six years; I’d promised myself I’d attend when I had a book to promote. Early this year I’d bought my first ticket for it… alas. Next year, maybe? But a lot of online events have sprung up in place of in-person, including conferences, workshops, book festivals, and launch parties. And I have to say, I’m loving these online events and the accessibility of them all. For myself, traveling is no longer so easy, since I’m mom to a toddler, and as I write this, my second baby is a month away from being born. But with these online events, I’ve been able to participate in conferences I’d never have been able to travel to this year, even without the virus. I’ve joined in the launch parties of friends who live many states away. And I’m looking forward to organizing some of my own online events next year to promote WAtF. I do hope that this a trend that keeps up even after COVID-19 finally leaves us, that there are increased opportunities for online events (or, options to tune in online to in-person events) to include more people in bookish activities.

SP: Now, to lighten things up! 

Is SAM a…

Plotter/pantster? 

Planster! Haha. I always have an outline–can’t draft without it. But every time, as I actually start writing a new story, I’m struck by new ideas that come to me as I sink into the story world and characters’ lives. I always give myself the freedom to explore these new ideas, especially in the first few drafts, because often they result in my best and most creative story elements.

Last book you read?

Just finished Nafizaa Azad’s The Candle and the Flame (amazing and atmospheric! Gorgeous writing, stunning world-building, a compelling romance, and food descriptions that will leave you drooling). Currently, I’m reading an ARC (advance readers’ copy) of Louisa Onomé’s Like Home, a contemporary YA novel about gentrification and friendship on the rocks. Look for this book next February!

Current dream vacation spot?

Iceland! Took a short trip to Reykjavík in Spring 2019 to explore the setting of another one of my books. Mostly I stayed in the city; now, I’d love to go back and see more of the country. You know, when traveling is safe again…

Something always in your fridge? 

Almond milk! Is that a boring answer? I switched over to drinking it while I was pregnant with my first child (Little T)… then realized I liked it so much better than cow’s milk, so I kept on drinking it.

Would you rather be a professional: Marine Biologist? Spy? Opera Singer? Brain Surgeon? OR?

I think being a spy would be thrilling! Don’t know that I’d be any good at it–I’m such a nervous person! But sneaking around uncovering useful secrets seems really empowering.

Favorite childhood book?  

The Velveteen Rabbit. I just love the gorgeous writing, and the meditation on the question, “What is real?” What does it mean to be a real, genuine living being?

SP: Thanks so much for sharing with us, Sam! We are eagerly anticipating your book!

Be sure to connect with SAM!

ADD social media links here.

Buy links:

Nova, Signing off

Nova McBee, author of Calculated & The Never Vows

Exciting New Young Adult Imprint Launches Today: Wise Wolf Books

Wise Wolf Books, a YA & Teen imprint under the Wolfpack umbrella, has officially launched today! (see their press release HERE.)

Wise Wolf Books has been getting a lot of buzz lately. Publisher’s Weekly recently highlighted their innovative publishing model that straddles the traditional model and a new indie-hybrid. While other publishers seem to be struggling during the pandemic, this publisher’s sales numbers are on the rise. Established authors published by the Big 5 have started knocking on their door because Wise Wolf Books & Wolfpack’s agile model provides so many benefits for authors. Wolfpack is what the future of publishing looks like.

Authors are attracted to their marketing strategies which build long-term author careers, including closer release dates between books, more affordable pricing of books, and less stress on social media, with more emphasis on writing books, loyalty, and a big picture vision for maximizing sales in today’s market.

Associate Publisher, Rachel Del Grosso, says this about the new Wise Wolf Books imprint and what they are presently looking for, “This year has been so different from anything anyone could have imagined, and I can’t help but think that we could all use a little more joy in our lives. Now, more than ever, young readers want to simultaneously be transported from their lives andrecognize themselves in the characters they read about, making it an exciting time to be writing and publishing in the teen/young-adult genre. 

Our aim is to publish teen/young-adult books from writers of all genders, ethnicity, race, and ability that young readers will love while also staying true to our unique business model and what has worked well for us in the past. Genres that we are currently interested in are contemporary mysteries, thrillers, westerns, action-adventure, and hallmark-type romances, particularly those in a series. We are not currently looking to publish in the science-fiction/fantasy or non-fiction genres.”

Blank book cover

For a closer look at what Wise Wolf is currently looking for, you can check out Rachel’s manuscript wish list on the Wise Wolf blog here. 

While Wise Wolf Books has print on demand and book distribution, their main focus is digital books, which is in line with the current needs of today’s world. With businesses and schools and conferences going online, digital demand has risen and frictionless on-demand e-books provide instant gratification for readers.

Here is where you can learn more~

Link to Press Release

www.wisewolfbooks.com

https://www.instagram.com/wisewolfbooks/

twitter.com/wisewolfbooks

https://www.instagram.com/racheldelxo/

facebook.com/wisewolf.wolfpack

~SP STAFF