Monday, 13 February 2017

4 Cliffhanger Ideas for Chapter Endings


Hook: a device designed to catch people's attention.


It's important to keep your reader's attention (that's right, make them stay up past their bedtime!) so I tend to put all of my cliffhangers at the end of the chapter as opposed to mid-way through. This keeps the reader invested in the story and the characters. If not, they'll lose that immediacy of what's happening in the now and will be reaching for that bookmark.

Don't let that happen!

So here are a few ways to keep your reader in the moment and wanting more.

1. Important Decision: A crucial choice your character has to make that will affect the direction of the plot. It's even more enthralling for the reader if we know either choice will result in some form of disaster.  




In this example from Asp of Ascension, the main character is desperate enough to believe the one person she trusts the least. 

      Terry's patience grew thin. "What am I supposed to do?" she demanded.
      The line was dead quiet except for Dr. Mullaca's steady breathing. Finally she said, "That should be obvious, girl. If you want to save your father, you have to find that missing asp!"



2. Physical Danger: When your character is in a life or death situation where there is seemingly no way out.

But of course there's a way out! There's a hundred more pages, so the reader really, really, wants to know HOW that's going to happen.



In Butterflies Don't Lie, the main character (through a series of bad decisions) ends up falling off a sailboat in the middle of the ocean. Too bad she can't swim.

I stumbled forward, groping for the safety stay, but I was already moving too fast. I tumbled headfirst over the edge and hit the water. The last thing I remember seeing was Blaine’s shoulders. He was turned away—as always—with his back to me.

3.Unexpected Revelations: This is one of my favourites, otherwise know as the plot twist! Something occurs in which the character (and hopefully the reader) discovers something so shocking that it changes the direction of the plot.




In Night Shift there is a particular 'holy crap' twist that I'm quite proud of, but I can't put that one here because I don't want to spoil it for future readers. So here's another example of an unexpected revelation in the book that changes the motivation for the character and even switches the track of the plot.

When he finally looked over, tears were running down Mary's cheeks, her lips quivering. "Daniel," she said, still pointing to the picture of the blonde woman. "This is Virginia."


4. Hinting at a Mystery: Keep the reader guessing. It's also more satisfying if the answer to one mystery creates more questions for the reader.


In Girl on the Run, the main character's inner monologue alludes to a secret guilt. At this point we know she's suffered a loss, but we're unaware of the full disaster.

     I used to care about provincial records and even the Olympics, but not anymore. Those were things I not longer had, and no longer deserved. I put my hand on my stomach, on the heaviness that was always there. A reminder of what I'd done and what I'd lost.

What ideas have you used to hook readers at the end of your chapters? Please share your own chapter endings in the comments section. And remember to add the title so we can find it at the bookstore!

Sunday, 29 January 2017

The Last Goodbye





Cody, our lovable and loyal cocker spaniel, died yesterday. He was twelve.

We adopted Cody two and half years ago through Litters N' Critters, a non-profit animal rescue organization. He slipped into our family like he'd always been here. And although we were the ones who chose him, it was clear from the beginning that he owned us. And wherever we went, whether it was to the cottage or a walk in the park or the annual Father's Day Run, he came too and it made those events more endearing.

As a senior dog, Cody wasn't jumping over fences, but he could suddenly be full of energy whenever a neighborhood cat dared to come into the yard. He enjoyed good health until a few months ago. His last visit to the vet determined his liver was failing and he was anemic. With the help of Dr. Croft, we decided to treat him with palliative care to keep him comfortable as long as we could. 

Cody loved to nap, loved to eat, and was known for his lack of speed, so the ability to see whether or not he was unwell was a little hazy most days. Yesterday though, it became clear that the time to say goodbye had come.

Other than adopting him, it was the most important decision we could make on his behalf.

Dr. Croft and the rest of the staff at Halifax Veterinary Hospital were gentle and kind. The entire process was very peaceful. We said goodbye to Cody as a family, staying with him to the end.

I'm crying as I write this and feeling a little strange as well because there are so many human tragedies in the world that deserve tears and grief. However, anyone who's ever loved a dog can tell you it's a special kind of loss. And Cody was a very special kind of dog. 

I want to tell you a little bit about him... 

His favourite pastime was napping.

Anywhere,



Anytime,



And on anyone.




He loved to eat. His favourites were apples, carrots, peppers, and as a treat, bacon! He would stand in front of the fridge, just staring, hoping it would open on its own.






He was exceptionally good at helping me proofread.




He had a great sense of humour.




He loved eating all the fruits and vegetables in the garden.





He loved playing in newly fallen snow.




Easter was his favourite time of year.





He loved the beach.





He loved visiting my parents at their home in Chester. 





Adam loved him.



Ruth loved him.




And Ken and I loved him. A whole bunch.




But no matter how much love we gave Cody, it always felt like he loved us back more.
Even though we only had him in our lives for a few years we have so many wonderful memories of Cody that we'll remember forever. We miss him and are sad that he's gone, but we are also happy that he is at peace now.



Thursday, 29 December 2016

My Year in Writing 2016

Most of us would rather wake to find that this year (especially the heart breaking loses) was only a bad dream.



However, this exercise of writing my 'year in review' post has become a bit of a tradition, so let's get at it, shall we? 

FYI, here are my posts for 2012, 20132014, and 2015.

According to my post from last year, these were my goals for 2016...Psst I actually accomplished two things from this list.

1.Write a combined novel for both Kelsey (BUTTERFLIES DON'T LIE) and Jesse (GIRL ON THE RUN).

2. Skate on the Oval more.

3. Somehow get chosen to be a parade marshal.

4. Outline third novel for The Nefertari Hughes Mystery series.

5. Find the agent who is the right fit for my secret project.

6. Learn how to knit socks.

So how did I do? Here we go...


JANUARY

I receive the final version of NIGHT SHIFT from the editor and complete the (last ever!) revisions for this story. I apply for an ISBN from the Library and Archives of Canada. This is the first official step in self publishing NIGHT SHIFT and I'm scared to death. I then send a creative brief to the cover artist, Emma Dolan who also did the outstanding look for ASP OF ASCENSION.

My contemporary romance, THE RIGHT FIT (written under a pen name) reaches one million reads  on Wattpad. I think it might be time to try submitting to agents. 

Most popular blogpost of the month is Seven Characters That Will Strengthen Your Story.




FEBRUARY

THE RIGHT FIT is featured in Cosmopolitan.com. I participate in #pitmatch on Twitter and receive four requests by agents.

The final cover comes in for NIGHT SHIFT and I am overwhelmed by how perfect it is!



Along with millions of other viewers I tune in to watch the mid-season premiere of The Walking Dead.

I begin the very sharp learning curve of formatting a novel for Createspace. I make a lot of mistakes and learn what 'bleeding edge' means.

I send in the final edits for the second book in the Nefertari Hughes series, DIADEM OF DEATH to Fierce Ink Books.

I attend the Books Start Here campaign for local publishers and writers and am lucky enough to meet Lesley Crewe.


Most popular blogpost for the month is Cover Reveal for NIGHT SHIFT.



MARCH

Set up blog tour and contest for NIGHT SHIFT.

Rejections trickle in for THE RIGHT FIT.

I'm honoured to be invited to speak on a YA author panel at the 2016 Atlantic Books Shortlist Announcement.

Don Aker, Vicki Grant, Shauntay Grant, Me ;) and Youth Collection Development Librarian, Ashely Nunn-Smith. 

Most popular blogpost of the month is How to Deal With Author Jealousy.



APRIL

I send BLACK FRIDAY (Night Shift series #2) to the amazing Penelope Jackson for editing and cross my fingers that she likes it. 

THE RIGHT FIT reaches over 4 million reads on Wattpad!

I do a guest spot on community radio with Suzanne Rent. We talk about writing, self publishing, and what it means to be a local author.

Set up a blog tour and contest for ASP OF ASCENSION to build interest for the sequel (DIADEM OF DEATH).

Most popular blogpost of the month is Once Upon A Time, Season 5, Episode 17 Her Handsome Hero.






MAY

Since I didn't manage to snag an agent, I submit THE RIGHT FIT to a few publishing houses that accept unsolicited queries.

Send out emails to book stores that carry my other YA novels regarding taking NIGHT SHIFT on consignment.

Attend the annual New Book Bash hosted by the WFNS and Woozles bookstore. It sounds violent but it's to celebrate the books from children's authors across the province. I was there to show off GIRL ON THE RUN and ASP OF ASCENSION.

The Canadian Children's Book Centre pick GIRL ON THE RUN as one of their 'Best Books for Teens for 2016'.
Yay! Way to go, Jesse!



Most popular blog post of the month is Bad Writing Advice From Non-Writers.



JUNE

Receive final edits back for BLACK FRIDAY and work feverishly to make it sparkle. 

See the cover for DIADEM OF DEATH and I dance in the kitchen. Start to organize a reveal and contest on my blog.

Most popular blog post of the month is How Yoga Saved My Writing. That's me on the rock doing my best not to fall into the water.






JULY

My 16 year old daughter has her wisdom teeth removed. We take advantage of her drug induced state and film her while she tries to talk. It still makes me laugh

NIGHT SHIFT is now in select Chapters/Indigo bookstores across Nova Scotia.



See the cover for BLACK FRIDAY and I die because it's that friggin' amazing.

THE RIGHT FIT reaches over 5 million reads on Wattpad!!

Things are going along swimmingly, and then...

Two weeks before DIADEM OF DEATH is due to release I receive news that Fierce Ink Books is closing immediately. Sadly, this means 'Diadem' will not be published. I cancel the cover reveal and explore my options of taking back the rights and perhaps pursuing self-publishing.

Most popular blog post this month is Cover Reveal for HEAR THE WOLVES by Victoria Scott.





AUGUST

I binge on the OLYMPICS and cry every time a Canadian makes the podium.  

I attend the first Indie Author Fair in Halifax. It was a great opportunity to meet other independent authors and of course, buy books. Plus, I reunited with my grade 6 teacher, Geraldine Tuck! She's an author now too. She's so beautiful, this woman never ages.



I receive an offer of publication for THE RIGHT FIT from The Wild Rose Press. The editor sent a lovely email about how she loved the characters and how the story made her swoon, then cry, and then laugh and swoon some more. And I realize this is the editor who is meant to have this story.

The editor who worked on DIADEM OF DEATH mentions the series to another publisher he freelances with. Lucky for me and my characters Blue Moon Publishing is keen on the story and offers to publish the Nefertari Hughes Series. 

BLACK FRIDAY is now available as ebook and paperback!



Most popular blog post of the month is BLACK FRIDAY Cover Reveal and Contest



SEPTEMBER

Have a magical time attending Beauty and the Beast at Neptune Theatre.



Outline the third book in the Nefertari Hughes series! I have a title, but I think I'll keep that secret for a bit longer.

Begin a new contemporary romance set in Halifax.

I discover Call The Midwife on Netflix and quickly fall in love with Sister Monica Joan.

And Holy Hannah, look at the tomatoes from our garden. So so so delish.



Most popular blog post of the month is 9 Easy Ways to Add Conflict To Your Story.




OCTOBER

Receive the editorial letter for THE RIGHT FIT and I'm happy to see all the suggestions resonate with me and I'm excited to make the book even better.

Start work on press package for Blue Moon Publishing including book club discussions for both books. I learn ASP OF ASCENSION and DIADEM OF DEATH will be released together in April 2017!!!

Most popular blog post of the month is Deus Ex Machina.



NOVEMBER

Send out blurb requests for DIADEM OF DEATH. For the record, asking for author blurbs is one of the least fun parts of being a writer. However, I'm lucky to have some lovely authors in my circle.

Finish the contemporary romance set in Halifax!

Send in final edits for THE RIGHT FIT.

Had a short but wonderful trip to Liverpool and London to visit with family. And yes, I'm the kind of person who takes pictures of her food.



Hal-Con 2016 offered me the chance to get to hear Maggie Stiefvator, Courtney Stevens and Brenna Yovanoff talk about the changing landscape of YA. And I just want to say that Maggie and I look great, we could be part of a rock band or something.



Most popular blog post of the month is Ten Things Writing Has Taught Me.




DECEMBER

See the cover for THE RIGHT FIT and I smile because it's all swoony and romantic looking.

Book signing in Chapters where I get to hand out candy canes and chat up passer-bys about books and such.


Halifax gets a HUGE snow storm, but that's okay because we're all cozy inside. My dog, Cody claims his territory under the tree.


Most popular blog post is Novel Spotlight: A and B, by J.C. Lillis.





Hey, were you keeping track? Which goals did I accomplish?

Write a combined novel for both Kelsey (BUTTERFLIES DON'T LIE) and Jesse (GIRL ON THE RUN).
Erm...no. But I'm always thinking about them if that counts.

Skate on the Oval more.
Okay, I did skate more than the year before. You'll just have to trust me on this. 

Somehow get chosen to be a parade marshal.
Damn. I'll keep trying though.

Outline third novel for The Nefertari Hughes Mystery series.
Yes! Unlock achievement.

Find the agent who is the right fit for my secret project.
I didn't get an agent, but I did get a PUBLISHER. So I think that's worth two points.

Learn how to knit socks.
Nope. However, I did find someone who knits socks and sells them at the Farmer's Market every Saturday.


Goals for 2017

1. Outline and hopefully write sequel for GIRL ON THE RUN. See above.

2. Write third book in Nefertari Hughes' series.

3. Meet another famous author and get a picture with them!

4. Go to a writing convention. Seriously, I've never gone.

5. Make new friends. Why not?


What are your writing goals for 2017?




  










Saturday, 24 December 2016

My Christmas Wish For You




What I think when I get a book shaped Christmas present.



Happy Christmas to you and those you love. I hope the gravy turns out and that you get lots of books!


Thursday, 15 December 2016

How to Respond to Negative Reader Comments

Wattpad was essential to me becoming a published author. I blogged about that here. My gratitude for the community of writers and readers goes far and wide.




I don't read reviews on Goodreads because those comments are meant for potential readers not me, the author. And I've never read a comment yet that could improve my writing.

However, I recently received a message from a Wattpad reader about NIGHT SHIFT. They were upset the rest of the books in the series were not on the site in their entirety and would have to buy them to find out how the rest of the story goes. And because of this they were boycotting all my present/future books.

I felt horrible. So I waited for the emotion to take a backseat to reason before I responded.

What bothered me was how this felt like an attack on my character as opposed to a comment about my characters. This had nothing to do with my writing, but rather my choice as an author to use Wattpad as a platform to further my brand.

And I should add that when I made the decision to post NIGHT SHIFT, the other two books in the series hadn't been written.

I realize this reader doesn't understand the cost of self publishing, or that I'm presently saving money to finance the last book in the series, or that I'm losing revenue because NIGHT SHIFT is up in its entirety for free.

I considered not responding at all.

But when I reread the comment the next day, it was clear my professionalism was in question and I decided this was worth defending. I saw an opportunity to demonstrate that I'd heard their concern and then I offered a solution.

Here's what I said...




To date there has been no reply, but the response from other writers has been outstanding.

I think we love writing so much that we forget putting all those words down is actual work, and what we do—by creating stories for others to enjoy—should never be undervalued.




Now go write something amazing!





Friday, 2 December 2016

Novel Spotlight: A & B by J.C. Lillis

Thrilled to be putting the spotlight on this one, folks. If you have a teen in your house, know a teen or were a teen, click the BUY IT NOW button on Amazon. You're welcome.

A & B by J.C. Lillis




ABOUT THE BOOK

Eighteen-year-old Barrie Krumholtz is a super-tall optimist hell-bent on a single goal: securing a slot on Pop University, a reality show for singer-songwriters helmed by her #1 musical idol. When she humiliates herself on national TV and loses a spot in the finals to smug balladeer Ava Alvarez, the door to Barrie’s well-hidden dark side swings open.

Never a quitter, she uses her bitter envy of Ava to shape a bold new artistic direction, and people love it. But when Ava ropes her into a secret collaboration, it sparks feelings neither girl expected—feelings that might threaten their creative identities and distract them from their professional goals.

Can love and ambition live side by side? Is happiness an art-killer? They’ll figure it out with the help of a blue guitar named Fernando, a keyboard named Rosalinda, and a few new friends who feel like home.

(Rated R for Rivalry, Romance, and Really Neat Subplot featuring Brandon and Abel from How to Repair a Mechanical Heart.)

WHERE TO GET IT

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
(It’s only available as an ebook right now, but the paperback should be out by January. If you’d like a paper copy, stay tuned for updates!)





ABOUT THE AUTHOR





So about me. I am a veteran of eight tempestuous Internet fandoms, three Catholic schools, and countless crushes on fictional characters. I live in Baltimore with my awesome and patient family and a ragtag band of tropical fish, some of which will probably be dead by the time you read this. I obsess over thrift store art, homemade dollhouses, second-tier 80s sitcoms, koi ponds, retrofuturism, Game of Thrones, Edward Gorey, and peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

My mom still has my first batch of homemade books. I wrote them when I was six or seven, on stapled pieces of construction paper. They were about a family of talking silverware, a gray shoe who lost her mate, and my father’s grim adventures at his office and in “Giantland” (vastly different locales, though in both places he was shouted at by the disembodied head of his boss). I’ve been trying to top the Giantland story ever since. Maybe this will be my year.

Stalk Connect with J.C. Lillis!

Twitter
Website
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Thursday, 17 November 2016

10 Things Writing Has Taught Me



1. Good writing takes practice.

No one ever sat down at a piano and played a concerto without a lesson. Writing is a craft that deserves an investment of your time.

2. Being hopeful is just as important as being persistant.

Writers are inherently hopeful, otherwise no one would ever start a story.

3. Bad writing is better than no writing.

I can't edit a blank page.

4. Don't write to sell books, write to share stories.

Authenticity cannot be faked. If I don't care about my characters the readers won't either.

5. There are always ways to improve your writing, but don't let all 'the rules' keep you from finding your style.

I keep my inner editor turned off until I've finished the story.

6. There is a difference between dreams and goals.

Success is reaching goals, but my dreams are the fuel that help me reach my goals.

7. There is no limit to where my stories can take me.

Imagination affords me the luxury of taking vacations anywhere, anytime. 

8. My characters are depending on me.

Truly, as the author, I am the only one who can tell their story.

9. Writing requires patience and willingness to leave my comfort zone. 

I write more fluidly when I write without fear.

10. You're never too old to try something new.

I didn't start writing until my mid-thirties.


What has writing taught you?


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