Thursday, June 22, 2017

Writing the Summer Nights Away

June’s theme for YAtopia is Summer Nights, and so I thought I’d write this late at night with the window open and the lovely/muggy summer air blowing through the apartment and see how it affects the post!

In both the US and UK, June is the official start of summer. It also houses the longest day of the year (20th in the US, 21st in the UK). What better way to while away your long summer nights than to write?

For me, the evening brings with it an excitement that the daytime just doesn’t have. Mornings are synonymous with new beginnings and bright possibility, whereas evenings are mysterious; foreboding even, and the summer heat can give the air a charged, buzzing feeling that can carry onto the page when you write.

Matching the time and mood of the day to the theme and temperament of your writing can go a long way. In the most simplistic sense, if you’re writing about a cold nippy evening while on your balcony with numbing fingertips, a red tipped nose and the soft wool of a scarf tickling your neck, you have a host of sensations to call upon that you know your characters are also experiencing. For example, I’ve just edited a scene in which my character is at a renaissance summer garden party which I wrote a while ago, and sitting outside in this lazy heat, blowing air over my face to cool myself down and glugging water, I was able to intensify the feeling of summer in that scene in a way I wasn’t before. My characters moved slower, the lethargy that swarmed in the air around me seeped into my scene, and made it all the better.

Of course, we usually don’t have the luxury of being able to match the scene you’re writing to the right time of day or temperature, but next time you’re enjoying a summer evening, perhaps partaking in a glass or two of wine, try to concentrate on all the sensations around you. You might find that the way the breeze blows your hair from your face or the pure joy you have at soaking up the long stretch of the waning sun finds its way into your next chapter!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Current Writing Status

The theme of June is: Those Summer Nights for YAtopia. As a result, I’d like to discuss where I am in my writing process since it’s June.
I sent a bunch of submissions out last Friday for a YA LGBTQ Fantasy novel to publishers that accept un-agented submissions. Sending that project out the door felt good. The manuscript was something I first got the idea for in February. But I didn’t really start developing it until two months later in April.
I have also finished revising my MG (Middle Grade) Fantasy gender swapped thematic Alice and Wonderland retelling, and will send that novel to MG publishers that accept un-agented submissions. This particularly revision is something I’m proud of. And I mean that in the least arrogant way possible. This revision shows a lot of growth in my writing. I increased the word count from 38K words to 53K words, which was necessary. Sure. MG lets writers have a shorter word count than Young Adult books. But I still needed to flesh out the plot more. One way I fleshed out the plot was with pushing the story forward after the original ending. And I didn’t just add a series of chaotic events. I found a way to organically connect the novel’s two main plot. However, the twist has some clues so it doesn’t feel melodramatic. Being able to connect the dots is important so the readers can look back and understand the logic even if they didn’t see the twist coming. I also like my MG revision since it leaves the door open for a trilogy despite standing alone as a novel.

I’ll start drafting my YA LGBTQ Mystery/Thriller after I send out the MG manuscript in the next week. I’m super excited about my YA LGBTQ Mystery/Thriller. It’s a voice driven quirky mystery. I also have an idea for a YA novel that can be thought of as the A game of Pretty Little Liars/I Know What You Did Last Summer in a fantasy setting. Furthermore, I got the idea for another YA novel the other day. It was the most random thing. It’s a mystery in a quirky fantasy setting. I might work on that idea over the A game of Pretty Little Liars/I Know What You Did Last Summer YA Fantasy novel. It’s less complicated. Anyway, the point is writing the next project is important. It will keep me busy while waiting to hear back from publishers about my YA LGBTQ Fantasy novel and my MG Fantasy gender swapped Alice and Wonderland thematic retelling.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Agentopia: Gabrielle Piraino

Welcome to the June edition of Agentopia! This month we have Gabrielle Piraino from DeFiore and Company in the spotlight.

About Gabrielle

Gabrielle Piraino was raised a Navy brat but has always called the East Coast home. As a kid, she could either be found with her nose in a book or clambering around outdoors collecting freckles, though not much has changed. She graduated early from St. Bonaventure University with a dual-B.A. in Honors Classical Languages and English. Trading upstate for the five boroughs, Gabbie then earned her Masters of Science in Publishing at Pace University in Manhattan. She has previously worked for both major commercial publishing houses and literary agencies alike, including Farrar, Straus & Giroux and most recently, AGI Vigliano. Gabbie joined the team at DeFiore and Company in the summer of 2016. Outside of the office, her hobbies include baking, crafts, rugby—though she’s retired from the pitch—losing miserably at Mario Kart, and befriending strangers to pet their dogs. 

When considering new projects, Gabbie is most drawn to strong narrative voices, unique world-building, and diverse casts of characters. Focused specifically on building long-term relationships with authors, she is currently accepting queries for sci-fi, fantasy, horror, thriller, and up-market chick lit (both Adult and YA). She’d also be happy to review queries from prospective author-illustrators for comics/graphic novels, as well as Children’s and Middle Grade stories with compelling characters. 

Children’s/YA Authors she can’t get enough of (in no particular order) include: Lewis Carroll, Philip Pullman, Leigh Bardugo, Gennifer Albin, Laini Taylor, Marissa Meyer, Orson Scott Card, Ann Aguire, Caragh M. O’Brien, Emmy Laybourne, Paulo Bacigalupi, and Ursula Le Guin.  

What is currently on your wish list?

At the top of my #MSWL right now is fast-paced horror. I’d love to represent a story that leaps off the page and forces me to sleep with the lights on. I’m continually on the look out for sci-fi/fantasy stories with strong character development and world-building. Own Voices projects, as applicable, are great too.

What's a personal turn-off in a query which is guaranteed to get the author rejected?

Please proofread your queries very carefully. Any egregious misspellings, letters addressed to different agents, or inability to follow my preferences/guidelines on our company website lose my attention very quickly. Personally, I also prefer to see the word count in the query letter. Bonus points if you spell my nickname correctly (but if you’re nervous, Gabrielle works just as well).

Do you google authors and if yes, what are you looking for?

I review links that the author has chosen to include with their query if I’m interested in requesting more material. Otherwise, I'll ask about the author’s internet platform after I’ve read the full manuscript. As I’m more active in fiction, the strength of the novel is my first priority. 

To submit to Gabrielle, send all queries to with “QUERY” in the subject line, as well as a brief plot summary; a brief, relevant bio; the first 50 pages in the body of the email; and a link to a website/portfolio for prospective illustrators. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Weaving in the Normal Abnormal

Summer nights. In Alaska, where I live and where my debut novel (releasing in August!) takes place, nights in the summer don’t look much different than summer days. I’m not above the Arctic Circle, so technically, we don’t have 24-hours of daylight, but the period from sunset to sunrise is twilight. May through July is my favorite time to adopt a puppy because the middle of the night visits outside give me the chance to see the midnight sun, like last night, when my not-really-a-puppy-anymore Yorkie needed to go out at 2 a.m. It could’ve been 2 p.m., except the city was quieter and I was tired.
For Alaskans and my characters in Betrayal of the Band, putting on sunglasses at 10 p.m. is normal, but how do you weave in something so normal to your characters that they wouldn’t think about it, yet it’s not normal to most of your readers?
  1. Action. As mentioned above, putting on sunglasses at 10 p.m. or squinting against the sun’s glare. Those are natural actions for the character which serve as a reminder to the reader that the setting is different from their normal. 
  2. Add a Character New to the Environment. Introducing a character, either as a POV character or a supporting character who is new provides the opportunity to talk about the unusual normals, because to them—like the reader—it isn’t normal. 

What ways have you seen authors make clear their characters’ normal when it’s abnormal for the readers?
Sarah Tipton decided she wanted to be sixteen forever, and she’s accomplishing that through writing contemporary YA fiction. In 2015, Sarah won ACFW’s Genesis Contest in YA, and her debut novel, Betrayal of the Band, releases August 2017. She finds plenty of creative inspiration in the heart of Alaska where she homeschools her five children. When she’s not sitting cross-eyed in front of the computer getting hand cramps, she enjoys running, reading, and getting crafty with yarn. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Cover Reveal: Forget Me Not

FORGET ME NOT is Em Shotwell’s 1969 pequel to BLACKBIRD SUMMER. It is on pre-order for .99 and Em is donating all of her royalties to the military charity OPERATION HOMEFRONT.

Tell us a bit about the novella and what inspired you to write it.

The main characters are actually from BLACKBIRD SUMMER. Evelyn and Rex are Tallulah and Delia’s grandparents. In fact, many people told me how much they loved snappy Evelyn and thoughtful Rex, so I thought, Why not tell their story.

I first got the idea in Feb 2016 when I was hosting a Love Letter Challenge on my blog at Authors submitted love letters written in the voice of one of their characters. I originally was going to write one from Tallulah or Logan’s point of view—but they aren’t really the love letter types. That got me to thinking about who would be most likely to pen a letter and it was definitely Rex Somersby when he was a young man. So I wrote the letter in his voice when he was 18. The idea of how they came to be just wouldn’t leave me alone until I explored it. That turned into a short story which turned into a novella and almost a novel! Lol.

Is there anyone else from BLACKBIRD SUMMER in the novella?

Actually, yes! Aunt Trudy, the matchmaker in BBS, is Evelyn’s older sister and we get to meet her as a young woman. She is fun, too. Very dry, but she loves her family. You will definitely want to know more about her before the BBS sequel releases this winter.

What made you decide to donate your royalties to Operation Homefront?

The Vietnam War plays a big part in the story. I started researching the war and the draft and it broke my heart. I chose Operation Homefront because they have a stellar reputation with making sure donations gets used in a way that is actually helpful. They find emergency shelter for vets, they help military families visit their soldier loved ones, and they actually have programs to help vets find treatment for both physical and psychological injuries. Basically, it is a great organization.

Tell us about the cover.

I am in love with this cover! I have a big thing for silhouettes on book covers. As a reader, I gravitate toward them in the book store, so when City Owl Press’s cover designer showed me mock-ups for Blackbird Summer, I was thrilled. We continued the theme with FORGET ME NOT, and I love it even more than BBS, I think.  I love the turquoise background on the back of the paperback cover, you will see Evelyn’s tree. It has a heart with RS+EC carved in it. So cute!

Where can we get a copy?

FORGET ME NOT is available for preorder on Amazon, and for a limited time the ebook preorder is .99! Snag it while it is on sale (and then buy the paperback to contribute more to Operation Homefront).

Maybe falling for the good guy isn’t so bad?

When Rex Somersby’s family matchmaker sets him up with the famous Evelyn Cadeau, he can’t believe his luck. Evelyn is the woman with the perfect Gift—the woman every man wants—while Rex’s own magical ability leaves much to be desired.  He travels from Missouri to meet his dream girl in her rural Mississippi home, where Evelyn makes it clear that winning her heart won’t be an easy task. Good thing farm-boy Rex has never been afraid of a little hard work.

Evelyn Cadeau is used to getting her way. As the woman with the most powerful Gift, she knows she can have her pick of anyone she wants. And who she wants is slick, handsome, and off-limits Guy McCallister—not gawky, buttoned-up Rex Somersby. Yet, after an arranged date with Rex takes a dramatic turn, leading to a bottle of wine and sneaking to the creek for a late night skinny dip, she realizes there may be more to by-the-rules Rex than meets the eye. 

Just as the young couple start to think their family’s tradition of matchmaking isn’t quite so backward, Rex is drafted to Vietnam. With war threatening to tear them apart, will love be able to save them? Or will it take a bit of magic?

Author Bio: 

Em Shotwell is a cancer survivor, foster care advocate, and casual geek. Sometimes she writes books about misfits and the people who love them. 

When she’s not frowning at her computer screen, Em enjoys spending time outdoors hiking, or indoors daydreaming and wishing she could play the banjo.

Visit her online at She hangs out on facebook where she often hosts giveaways and posts witty memes.