Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Being a Freelance Book Cover Designer

Do you have a knack for graphic design? Have you wondered what it would take to be a freelance book cover designer? 

Since last month's post about "Being an Author's Assistant" went over so well, I thought I'd do another one on being a freelance cover designer!

Stephanie White - A Graphic Designer, Photographer, and aspiring author living in North Vernon, Indiana with her husband and three beautiful children.

Najla Qamber, or otherwise known as Naj, has been brought up in a persian/filipino atmosphere. Now, with her bachelors degree in Business, she has been working as a freelance designer for almost 5 years.

Emily Mah Tippetts writes science fiction and fantasy as Emily Mah and designs book covers, formats paperbacks and ebooks, and writes contemporary romance and chick lit as E.M. Tippetts.

How did you get started doing freelance cover design?

Designed by Stephanie White
I've always been an artist. I paint and craft and I love to read. So, I first decided that I wanted to write a book. Then when I looked for a cover designer I was blown away by the prices. I set out to make my own cover and in doing so I learned a lot about digital art and photoshop. I just kept studying and learning and realized that is was something that I loved doing. I started a page and a website and now here I am today. It's been great and I couldn't have chosen a more perfect profession!

I've been a designer for awhile and at the same time, I was a book blogger and read everything a book store can offer. One day, I wanted so badly to do book cover designs that I started revamping book covers of already published books just for fun and showed it off on my book blog and my design blog. Someone noticed them and my art gallery on deviantart and that's how it all started.

By accident, literally. I designed my own covers for my short stories, because I couldn't afford a cover designer for those, and so I had some very limited experience when I got an email from Casey Quinn. She was a fan of mine and we got to talking and she told me about this book she'd written called Girl With Guitar. From just the synopsis, I knew this book had to be published and that it was perfect for the indie, new adult market, but she explained she had very limited financial resources. I formatted the book for her and offered to do a temporary cover for a soft launch, until she sold enough copies to afford a real cover designer and then she could do a real launch. Well... so that cover I did took on a life of it's own. I still get fan mail about it, and people started pestering me to do their covers. At first I did them for free, assuming this was a temporary thing until people realized that I'd just gotten lucky with Girl With Guitar, but when it didn't let up, I started charging and people started paying. So here I am! I haven't had an art class in over 20 years and know how to use Photoshop from some digital scrapbooking courses I took once.

How do you find clients? How do clients find you?

Well, That is actually the hard part. It started out just me posting everywhere about my work and doing covers for some close friends for VERY cheap LOL! Now I have the website and I link everything together to help advertising. Really in this business I think it's pretty much word of mouth and the work you put out gets you more work.

Designed by Najla Qamber
Since I've already have a few author friends here and there because of my book blog. I asked them what places they usually hung around and I just went there and offered my services. That's how I got a few clients at first. Right now, a lot of my clients find me on my website, my Facebook page, or through their friends.

Clients find me through the grapevine, and through the copyright pages of books I did the covers for. I'm also a paperback and ebook formatter, so people sometimes come to my site looking for formatting services and see my covers there. I've never advertised, but a lot of indie authors are very proactive about finding designers who will make their books look exactly how they want, so anyone working in indie publishing will get a steady stream of authors surfing to their site, checking to see if it's right for them.

What advice do you have to offer to someone who would like to do freelance cover design?

Haha! Advice, oh... There is so much. Always watermark everything... Be aware that people will want you to pay for them to get you clients when they should pay you for your work not the other way around. READ contracts and licenses... Research your work. If you have never done something then research it and find out as much as you can about it. Find other designers that you can trust to be friends with so that you have someone who understand what you go through everyday. That has helped me tremendously. I would probably be bald and crazy by now if I didn't have someone to talk to about this stuff! LOL!

Always remember that you need to have some sort of online portfolio to show your potential clients. If you haven't done book cover designs before and don't have the portfolio for it yet. Go ahead and open up photoshop and make your own book covers just to fill up your cover design portfolio. Then show it off via your Facebook page, website, and other places where authors hang around. Don't be afraid to offer your services.
Designed by E.M. Tippetts

First make sure you know how to design an effective cover. While I do feel like the success of my Girl With Guitar cover was a bit of a fluke, I nevertheless worked hard to design the best cover I could. I did know the elements of where to place a title and what makes an effective image, and I had a lot of experience in photoediting. I gave it my all because I really wanted Caisey to have every chance of being successful. If need be, take design courses. I have since people started to pay me to design for them.

And then when setting up your business, build a social network of writers. Indie publishing is wide open; you can go to your nearest author event, talk to the authors there, and explain who you are and offer your card. Even if they don't hire you, you can then ask to friend them on Facebook and grow your network that way. Now when I say build a social network, the emphasis is on *social*. Ideally you're reading the kinds of books you want to design covers for and can have an intelligent conversation about the latest releases, how amazing it is that so-and-so hit the New York Times bestseller list, and so on. You don't want to be hawking your wares all the time. Just put your credentials in your bio and perhaps a sample cover as your avatar, and otherwise don't beg for business. Indie authors who think you have intelligent things to say about what they do will come find you, provided you've got current links to your website and such on your profile.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

I would just like to say Thank you for including me and shining a little light on the Designers! It's great to see so many people interested in what I do!  ;)

Love your job. Design to please yourself as much as it is to please your clients.

Just a thank you for having me! I really appreciate it.

Many thanks to the designers for asking all my questions, as well as all the wonderful people who helped me find all the designers!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Five great writing exercises

Hey YAtopians,

I've just started at teacher's college and I'm loving it! So far I've gained a healthy repertoire of writing exercises, some of which I wanted to share with you. Hope you find them useful!

1) Pick an instrumental/classical song and play it with your eyes closed. Immerse yourself in the song. Allow the song to start creating images in your mind. Think of a setting. Think of the senses it evokes. Now write this setting, describing every detail, from the smell to the colour. This is a good exercise for description writing.

2) Pop in a movie and find a random scene (or do the same on YouTube). This works best if the scene has characters in it. Now turn the volume all the way down and hit play. As the characters talk, fill in your own dialogue. You might have to watch it more than once to get it right. But it's as simple as that, and a great way to hone your dialogue-writing skills.

3) Flip through some magazines and find a couple advertisements with models in them. The stranger the better. Now get those creative juices flowing and come up with a bio for each of those characters. Go nuts with it-- their backgrounds, hobbies, families, jobs, fetishes, whatever! It's a useful way to get yourself thinking about character.

4) Open your newspaper and turn to a random page, then close your eyes and plant your finger on any spot. Whatever sentence you have your finger on, cut it in half and and an ellipse (...) to the end. Now, use that start of a sentence as a prompt for a free write. Finish the sentence however you wish and keep going. Don't stop moving your pen or fingers until a certain time limit (decide this before hand)

5) Think about the last time you were late to something or had to cancel plans. Now create a WHOPPER. What is a whopper? Well, a whopper is an excuse, but not just any excuse. It is the most elaborate, outlandish, unbelievable tall tale of an excuse you can come up with. Go all out!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Pitch Madness Recap

For the past couple of years I've been fortunate to have the lovely Brenda Drake invite me to be part of as a host. Which means I get to look through the mass of entries we receive, pick my favourite 15 and showcase them on my blog. It's a hectic and fun time, but the most rewarding thing is having the opportunity to connect writers with agents. 
Pitch Madness

Each year there's entries that agents go wild over, with the hosts whooping at the success, and ones that miss out on any bids, leaving the hosts scratching their heads as to why the agents didn't connect with those entries. 

I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the entries from both of these contest extremities to have a look at the trends of Pitch Madness.

Retellings killed it this year. Retellings of The Wizard of Oz and A Much To Do About Nothing ere huge hits.

YA Contemporaries about death,  using books as love guides, cancer and seizures received lots of agent attention, showing that the contemporary trend is not back down. The Wizard of Oz retelling above is also contemporary. 

YA SciFi about forced matings and time travel got a lot of attention. There wasn't an abundance of SciFi, but they all received agent interest, and those two a lot.  

Dark stories weren't featured too highly, but there was aYA fantasy that received so much attention. 

Bookish Themes were of great interest, including fictional characters coming to life , getting trapped in books (also MG Fantasy), Yet this story about a comic hero taken revenge on his writer got no love at all (which really bummed me as it was the only entry I found that my 15yo son would be interested in). 

New Adult featured strongly. The story were a fiction character coming to life above was the NA that received the most attention. But an NA Sci Fi and a Dark NA Urban Fantasy also got a lot of attention. But this multiple personality NA story got no agent love. 

MG Fantasy 

Fairytale fun, a Frankenstein remaining (that also has bookish themes), But not all MG fantasy faired well. This one about a dream world received no bids at all. 

Historicals about WWII, Magicians, and a Shakespearean retelling in a 1920s speakeasy all received a lot of interest. There were a couple of other historicals, including some great genre mash-ups, that only received some nibbles. 

Adult was definitely in demand. Most adult entries received some attention, but it was this thriller that did the best. I predict more adult entries will be featured in the next Pitch Madness

Boys Humour MG didn't do well, much to my disappointment. Burping knights and power giving candy themed stories are ones that my 8yo would love, but agents did not. 

YA Magical Realism didn't do as well as I expected. They still received bids, but usually only a couple. 

One thing that really stood out for me was that there were a few entries where the Twitter buzz was off the charts, but they didn't received the same reception from the agents. All I can put that down to is the agents knowing something about the industry that we don't. They have access to the publishers' wish lists that we don't. 

Pitch Madness is a great experience for all involved, even though there can be highs and lows. It exposes writers to the industry and gives those writers a platform to get in front of agents. It also helps writers hone their queries, elevator pitches and opening words. Then there's also the opportunity to network. So many writers make lasting friendships out of events like this. 

I love Pitch Madness so much, and I can't wait for March when we do it all again. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Musical Journey with ST Bende

Today I'd like to welcome NA romance author ST Bende to YAtopia, talking about her brand new book ENDRE, book II in The Elsker Saga.

Sometimes, finding your destiny means doing the exact opposite of what The Fates have planned.

Winning the heart of an immortal assassin was a dream come true for Kristia Tostenson. Now she’s knee deep in wedding plans, goddess lessons, and stolen kisses. But her decision to become immortal could end in heartbreak -- not only for Kristia, but for the god who loves her. Because while Ull would do anything to protect his bride, even the God of Winter is powerless against the Norse apocalypse. Ragnarok is coming. And the gods aren’t even close to ready.

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Take it away ST...

Hei hei, y’all. I’m ST Bende and I write about gorgeous gods and cute co-eds. I’m a baking aficionado, a True Blood Trubie, and I may or may not cheer for certain IndyCar drivers just because I think they’re cute. And I’m the author of the New Adult Norse mythologies of The Elsker Saga. ENDRE, Book 2 in the series, released this month, and I want to tell y’all about the music that inspired the Saga!

The Elsker Saga follows twenty-year-old co-ed Kristia Tostenson as she meets and falls in love with Ull Myhr, the Norse God of Winter. Their relationship develops in the lead-up to the impending Norse apocalypse (Ragnarok), and Kristia comes to love Ull’s best friends Inga and Gunnar every bit as much as she loves her Nordic Adonis. While ELSKER is very much a love story, ENDRE explores the reality Kristia must face in choosing to love a god. And in my world, nobody evokes the themes of love, sacrifice, agony and hope quite like Imagine Dragons. (I’m a teensy bit obsessed with them. They’re awesome. AWESOME.) Here’s a peek at each of my main characters, through the eyes of The Dragons.

Ull -- Demons: Ull is an Asgardian Assassin who knows he’s fated to die alone at Ragnarok. He never let himself even consider falling in love, because he knows the agony of losing someone he cares about. He’s absolutely terrified when he meets Kristia -- he knows how his story is going to end, and he can’t bear the thought of putting her through what’s coming. Demons could be Ull’s inner monologue -- I wanna hide the truth, I wanna shelter you, but with the beast inside there’s nowhere we can hide…. When you feel my heat, look into my eyes. It’s where my demons hide. He knows he’s a monster for dragging Kristia through Ragnarok . . . but he’s not sure if he’s strong enough to push her away again.

Gunnar -- It’s Time: Gunnar’s an Asgardian Assassin too, but he’s the eternal optimist. He’s married to his best friend, Inga, who happens to be the Fight Choreographer for Odin’s army. They’ve literally been to Helheim and back together, and Gunnar will do anything to protect his girl. He knows exactly who he is, and we love him for it. He’s fierce with a crossbow, fiercer with his humor, and he’s been the surprising fan favorite of The Elsker Saga. It’s Time always makes me think of Gunnar-- The path to heaven runs through miles of clouded hell right to the top, don’t look back; Turning the rags and giving the commodities a rain check… I’m never changing who I am. It’s honest, and dark, and heavy -- there’s that definite feeling of being at the mercy of The Fates. But at the same time it’s upbeat and hopeful and I just can’t help but smile every time I hear it. That’s my Gunnar.

Inga -- On Top Of The World: Inga’s seen a lot in her capacity as Fight Choreographer. And being Gunnar’s wife and Ull’s bestie has put her front and center in more battles than she can remember. But she loves it. Like the other gods, she knows she’s fated to die at Ragnarok; but Inga doesn’t let that stop her from living. On Top Of The World captures Inga’s pragmatism and perpetually positive outlook -- I’ve had the highest mountains, I’ve had the deepest rivers; You can have it all but life keeps moving. I take it in but don’t look down. She’s realistic and sensible and just so fabulous.

Kristia --Every Night: Kristia’s my everygirl. She’s well mannered, and sweet, and organized, and just the teensiest bit OCD about everylittlething. I absolutely adore her. She meets her match in the uber-protective, equally controlled God of Winter, Ull. And although she was prepared to walk away from him at multiple points in ELSKER, she’s all in by ENDRE. Every Night hits on Kristia’s commitment to the god she loves -- I’m coming home to you every night… my mind is made up; nothing could change that… no matter what we’re facing, it don’t matter, don’t matter. ‘Cause the reason that I’m here is the same through all these years; not changing, not changing anything at all.

That’s the Elsker crew through the eyes of Imagine Dragons. I love them (the Dragons and my gang) so very much, and I hope y’all get a kick out of them too! Now tell me in the comments -- what’s your favorite music to read or write by?    

Before finding domestic bliss in suburbia, ST Bende lived in Manhattan Beach (became overly fond of Peet’s Coffee) and Europe… where she became overly fond of McVities cookies. Her love of Scandinavian culture and a very patient Norwegian teacher inspired the books of The Elsker Saga (TUR, ELSKER and ENDRE). She is an audio co-host of #NALitChat, and helps compile indie new releases for the USA Today HEA blog. She hopes her characters make you smile and that one day, pastries will be considered a health food.

Find ST on Twitter, her blog, or send her an e-mail. While you’re at it, introduce yourself to @UllMyhr -- when he’s not saving the cosmos from dark elves, he loves meeting new friends. Especially the human kind.

Blog     Goodreads     Twitter      Pinterest      Email: stbende(at)gmail(dot)com

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Kaleidoscope Track Presents Read-a-Likes DragonCon 2013

I wanted to do something a little different this month so I present to you the Read-a-Likes panel the Kaleidoscope Track hosted at this year's Dragon Con.

I  hope you enjoy!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

An Exclusive Glimpse Into the Editorial Process!

I’m deep in edits for my fourth book Candy, Stripped right now and that gave me the idea to share the editorial process with you. I’m doing something kind of crazy, allowing 3 lucky winners to have a copy of the first draft of my first novel PRETTY AMY, along with the editorial letter and line edits. You’ll also win a signed copy of the book.
This prize will allow you to see what happens during an edit, what an editor expects and how first drafts can change drastically in the final product.
I’m inviting you into my unedited mind! Good luck!

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Good Writing Advice. When is it too much?

I've been thinking lately about good writing.  There are so many resources out there to help writers to grow in their craft.  Whether it's technical, grammatical, emotion-fueled, or character based, the information out there can be overwhelming.  With the advent of digital media, e-books and vlogs, combined with the traditional printed word, it doesn't matter whether you're a cyber-geek or traditional quill writer, there is always a way to access the information writers so desperately seek.

But what is the downside to all this information?  When is advice on good writing too much?

First, let's get one thing straight - every reader and writer has an opinion.
Second, not every opinion is right.
Third, not every opinion is wrong.

Based on that, a writer can be left wondering what information to follow and which not to.  Of course, credibility of the source can largely define what advice you choose to absorb.  However, that isn't what this post is about.  It's about whether you can have TOO much good advice.  Strange question, right?  But I'm going to say YES, you can have too much good advice.

Let's break it down, shall we?

A novel, a good novel, not only has good writing, but it has that indefinable X factor.  It's something that writers, readers and editors can't quite put their finger on.   But they "know it when they see/read it" (and yes, those are probably some of the most frustrating words a writer can hear, but they are very illuminating).

Despite some of the best technical writing, some novels don't quite gel.  They lack that spark.  Even though a writer has studied character arcs, plotting, pace, themes, grammar, and a myriad of other elements, their finished work doesn't quite hit the mark.

Is it a lack of heart?  Of passion?

Well, not always.

You see, sometimes good writing advice can actually suck the soul out of your words.  You can have 100% heart and dedication but you can also write it completely out of your novel.  At the end of the day, the key is to find balance.  Balance writing advice with your own voice.  Remember, this is your story, your tale.  While great advice is crucial to making the best of your words, it's also important that you don't bleed the soul out of your work.  And this is perhaps one of the biggest flaws I see in new writers' work.  Brilliant technical writing lacking soul.

So do yourself a favor and trust that your soul is just as important as your skill.



Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Storytellers

For my first YAtopia blog, I had so many ideas running through my mind. Being a writer and an editor creates a multitude of knowledge-banks of writing processes, editing tips, and Industry insights. So what to blog about?

The questions I receive most from writers in my various forms most often have to do with the basics. There is a plethora of information out there, but to some writers it can look like a sea of jargon. After all, as an average writer, the world of agents, rights, plotting vs. writing from the seat of your pants, marketing, social media platform, blogging… well, I don’t need to go on. It’s daunting to say the least.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the state of the literary universe. Navigating twitter can seem like endless promotions, blog tours, cover reveals, submission tips, what to do, what not to do. But the least talked about topic is really the essence of storytelling.

For a moment let’s forget about publishing and the headache that comes with it. Let’s look at the very soul of what we do and why we do it, and what all writers can use to improve their book—not for an agent or an editor, but for the story.

1. Never forget why you started writing in the first place.

As writers, we all have the same blood running through our veins. We love books. We love stories. Most writers are voracious readers who, at one time, started being plagued by their own worlds, their own characters. This is the birth of a writer, and the birth of a passion that should never be forgotten.
Our lifeblood is our world and our characters, and even though we are all continually learning, that is the one ringing constant through it all. It’s like that scene in Center Stage (I know) where Zoe Saldana is told by her teacher to come back to the barre whenever things get tough. The same is with writing. No matter what, remember that your soul is the story, and nothing can take that away from you.

2. Trends are just trends. Write what you want to read.

I’ve heard this advice a few different ways, but I think it sometimes get misconstrued to mean the same thing. If you want to read what’s trending, then you’re still in the same boat. The biggest factor in this for writers to consider is that what is popular today was signed two or more years ago. The publication process through the big guys is long, so what’s on the shelves today is really two or more years old. It’s like looking at the stars and realizing what you see is really light-years in the past.

The best skill a writer can have is to know how to make their world and characters original and captivating. This isn’t easy. Part of it is knowing the trends and knowing what readers are saying. Check out some of the “negative” reviews of books and you’ll find out what turns off readers. Things like “insta-love” (falling in love faster than the speed of light), bland main characters, and worlds that aren’t original are some big offenders. If you notice your book has any of these things, that’s a cue to go back and ruminate on a way to change that, to make it fresh. With some good reflection, plotting, and work on your characters, you can develop the skills to make your book something new, something captivating, and something you love.

3. Characters make your book.

Characters are ambassadors to the book, and they should be the main focus in pretty much every genre. The trick is to make those characters feel real. Look to your friends, family, and people you’ve met. Analyze what makes them tick. Every person is a multi-faceted being, with positive and negative traits, mental baggage, likes and dislikes. So should your characters be.

Knowing your characters’ backgrounds well can turn them into real people. If you know where they were born, how their childhood was, which schools they went to, their best friends, their worst enemies, their most humiliating memories, their laughter, their despair, then the characters will cease being your creation, and instead become entities of their own.

4. You have your entire life to write. Don’t rush just to get published.

Obviously every writer’s dream is to be published, but so often we see our writer friends signing contracts, or younger writers living the dream. This can inspire rushing, and writing books just to get them out there to be published.

But the truth is, every journey is different. If you’re not published, it doesn’t mean you aren’t a writer. Writers write, plain and simple, and published writers aren’t any different than unpublished writers; they’re just at different stages in their careers. So take your time. Take the utmost pride in your book. Learn, connect with others, and create the art that you want to create.

Some people will tell you that your book isn’t your baby, and to treat it as such, but be careful not to treat it like an alien work just to get your name out there. Every character, every word holds a piece of you in them. Your book may not be perfect, but books rarely are. The important note that I want to convey is that you control your destiny, not anyone else.

You’re a writer, damn it, and you have every right to be proud of that.   

Lindsay Leggett is a writer and an editor for Month9Books. She loves the juxtaposition of beauty and grit, urban crawls, indie everything, and time well spent in the woods. She currently lives in Northern Ontario, with plans to dominate... er, travel the world. 

Lindsay is the author of Flight (http://www.burningtree.ca/books/flight) and has a number of works-in-progress on the way. She spends most of her time writing and editing, but can often be found watching copious amounts of anime, playing video games, or riding horses.

Find her at www.burningtree.ca for fun blogs and vlogs, interactive writing, and random fun.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Agentopia: Sarah Negovetich


Sarah Negovetich is fully aware that no one knows how to pronounce her last name, and she's okay with that. She's been with Corvisiero Literary Agency since 2012. As a Jr. Agent and PR Team Leader, Sarah works with a select group of clients and leads the agency's marketing efforts.

Her favorite writing is YA, because at seventeen the world is your oyster. Only oysters are slimy and more than a little salty, it's accurate if not exactly motivational.

Sarah's background is in Marketing. FYI, your high school algebra teacher was right when they told you every job uses math. She uses her experience to help authors with platform building and book promotion.

Wish List

I would love to see more Science Fiction, especially those not involving aliens (though aliens are fine). Anything very gadget heavy, including SteamPunk, would be awesome. I'd also love to see a high fantasy that doesn't involve the main character as the answer to a long standing prophecy to save the kingdom/world/etc. These are great stories, but they've been done a lot. Show me what else you can do with the genre.

I'd love to see something in any genre with a redeemable bad guy. I'm looking for an antagonist that makes me want to root for him at the same time I want him to lose. I'm all about the conflicting emotions.

Something that I'm not seeing a lot of is YA adventure/mystery that doesn't include fantasy. A story that takes the reader along on a wild goose chase like Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code or even National Treasure would be amazing.

Give me the extremes: Either something that makes me cry with laughter every other page or something so dark and twisted it keeps me up all night with the covers pulled over my head (but not gory). This doesn't work for every story, but if you can do one of these well, I want to see it.

How to Submit

I represent MG and YA only. I am not the agent for your chapter book or NA novel. There are lots of other great agents that handle those areas.

To submit, send your query letter, first five pages and a 1-2 page synopsis within the body of your email to Query@corvisieroagency.com. No Attachments. 'Query for Sarah' should be your subject line. Please make sure your query includes the age group (MG or YA), genre and word count. Also, make sure you include your real name, even if you intend to use a pen name. Your synopsis should give away the end and include any plot twists and Spoilers! (I always say that word with an exclamation point like I'm River). This isn't the place to be vague.

I respond to all queries. You can check my blog for a status update on where I am with queries and requested manuscripts.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Bound by Books

It's finally happened. I've started calling myself an author. On the form I filled out for my new dentist, in the work section on my Facebook profile, in the e-mail I sent to a headshot photographer. Each time, my fingers hesitated and my heart did a little flutter as the final letter sprung from my fingertips. 

Four months have passed since I accepted my publisher's offer, and still I fear something might jinx it. (If this were a multimedia post, you be hearing the sound of knocking wood right about now.)

But that flutter when I wrote the word was nothing compared to the dolphin kicks that pummeled my chest when I said it out loud to a complete stranger for the first time. 

I was sitting in a salon chair with my hair slicked back in a perverse ice cream cone swirl, glossy hair dye drawing a brown outline around my face, when my new hairstylist asked the question, "So, what do you do?"

Immediately, rosy circles dotted my cheeks, filling in like a five-year-old coloring a stick-figure drawing. 

Mind you, this first visit with my new stylist was on shaky ground. We'd exhausted our collective stores of small talk before she painted the first gloppy stripe on my roots. Where we lived, where we were from, our relationship statuses, our summer vacation plans, the unpredictable New England weather . . . nothing resonated. Nothing emerged upon which we could build more than a thirty-second conversation. 

We were not clicking. 

I squeezed my hands together under the salon cape and swallowed past the lump in my throat. Should I say it? Could I say it? When does one go from writer to author? Upon the offer? The signed contract? Actual publication? I wasn't sure. I'm still not. 

And yet, that day I found myself uttering, for the first time, the words, "I'm an author."

Her eyes met mine in the mirror. "What do you write?" she asked.

Here I thought maybe I'd have an advantage. My stylist was more than a few years my junior. 

"Young adult books," I said tentatively. 

"Do you have any published?"

"Well, in fact, I recently accepted a two-book deal for my series."

"Wow, congratulations," she said. "What's it about?"

I had yet to perfect my cocktail party pitch. I still haven't. Which reminds me, I better get on that.

"It's about a girl who's a genie," I said, giving the briefest of descriptions possible. The stylist paused mid-stroke so I added, "She's descended from a long line of Jinn, which are spirits some cultures believe in even today." The stylist again met my gaze so I fleshed it out even more. "She lives among humans but has to hide her identity. She has to grant wishes but can never have her own wish granted."

The stylist set down her brush. "I'd totally read that," she said.

Again, if this post had a soundtrack, what you would have just heard was a big, loud, click.

And that was it. We were off and running. She sheepishly confessed her love of the Twilight series, expecting me to dismiss them (due to my age or self-professed author status I couldn't say). I shocked her by telling her I'd read them all, back to back. She shocked me by saying how much she loves books more than movies, something I do know I didn't expect because of her age. With every snip, she detailed the ways the Twilight movies and the Hunger Games movie deviated from the books. With each lock of hair that fell, she analyzed why the changes mattered. Why the books were better. Inside, I cheered. A fellow book lover!

Save for a brief fork we took down the vampire trail, where we declared each other soul mates due to our mutual obsession with the television version of The Vampire Diaries (both totally Team Damon and Team Klaus), we spent the rest of my appointment talking books. 

My author confession sparked something that gave our fledgling relationship a foothold. It was the last thing I expected. It made me realize just how much I underestimated the power of the written word. 

It has the ability to bond people who have nothing else in common. Books don't care where you live, what you do, or how old you are. All you need to share is a love of losing yourself in another world. 

Reading, writing, they may be solitary endeavors, but they thrive on being shared. This is why I love reading. This is why I love writing. This is why I'm honored to be able to call myself an author (I can, right?). 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go watch Breaking Dawn, Part 2. I promised my vampire soul mate we'd compare the movie’s ending to the book's at my next appointment. 

*Thanks to YAtopia for inducting me into their club (and skipping the hazing part) and thanks to you for stopping by to read my first post. Looking forward to many more!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Cover Reveal: Vision of Shadows

Is Bristol Blackburn about to meet the love of her life...or her killer? 

After the death of her parents, Bristol Blackburn's life is thrown into chaos and she's forced to move to Spirit, a small town where shadows are stirring. As she learns to navigate her new school and figures out how to keep her psychic abilities secret from her family, Bristol comes face to face with the boy who makes a regular appearance in her dreams: the gorgeous, possibly deadly, Payne McKnight. Soon she’ll find out if Payne will be the love of her life, or the end of it — and she has no idea which possibility scares her more. 

And that's not even the worst of it. Strange shadows are haunting her dreams, and they're up to something that could put Bristol and the lives of everyone she loves in jeopardy.

You can add Vision of Shadows to your to-read list on Goodreads:

Information about the book:
Title: Vision of Shadows
Series: Vision series
Author: Vincent Morrone
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal Romance
Lenght: 210 pages
Release Date: December 30, 2013

About the Author:
Born and raised in Brooklyn NY, Vincent Morrone now resides in Upstate NY with his wife.
(Although he can still speak fluent Brooklynese.) His twin daughters remain not only his biggest fans, but usually are the first to read all of his work. Their home is run and operated for the comfort and convenience of their dogs.

Vincent has been writing fiction, poetry and song lyrics for as long as he can remember, most of which involve magical misfits, paranormal prodigies and even on occasion superheroes and their sidekicks.

As they say in Brooklyn: Yo, you got something to say to Vincent?
Check out http://vincentmorrone.com/ where you can learn about Vincent and leave him a comment.  You can also connect with Vincent on Twitter https://twitter.com/Vince524 and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Morrrone.

Monday, September 2, 2013

UNhappily Ever After

I’m drawn to darkness like Sleeping Beauty hurtling toward the spindle of a spinning wheel. Throw angst, tragedy, and a broken character facing impossible circumstances at me, and I’m unable to resist the lure of a sharp and deadly needle prick.

And I don’t need a “happily ever after” ending to bring me back to life either. In fact, it’s the “unhappy” endings that tempt me the most.

That’s right.

UNHAPPY endings.


No matter how thrilling a story is, or how much torture a character goes through, the promise of a neat and tidy resolution dampens the thrill. Knowing the handsome Prince will rescue the slumbering Princess blocks me from really assimilating with the character and experiencing what they experience. I don’t care as much as I could or should.

I’ll admit killing off a lovable secondary character will smack me in the face and make me pay attention. So will a sympathetic antagonist (think Hannibal Lecter struggling to reconcile with the death of his innocent little sister). But nothing is so enticing, so compelling, and so painful as a character facing the loss of his or her own life, or the life (lives) of the ones he/she loves. And I don’t mean the threat of loss—I mean the actuality of it.

I want more stories where the Princess doesn’t wake up—or things will be worse if she does. Or where the protagonist irreversibly destroys a relationship destined for eternal bliss. Or where the antagonist wins. Or where—gasp!—the protagonist dies.

This Eureka moment struck me while reading The Hunger Games trilogy. I’d read the first book a couple years ago and couldn’t face the sequels right away. The idea of sending children off to battle one another to the death twisted my stomach into a Pepto-Bismol-immune knot. I locked the idea of reading Catching Fire and Mockingjay into a vault and threw away the key.

A couple weeks ago, I dug up the buried terror of kids killing kids and…

…devoured the books in a matter of a few days.

Like the talons of a hungry hawk, the uncertainty of survival gripped me. The guarantee that one of the main characters was 100% undeniably and inevitably going to die transformed my role as reader from an observing bystander to an active participant. I lived the Hunger Games.

Wild, right?

What about you? Do you like UNhappy endings? Do you enjoy the bittersweet torment of loss, grief, and sacrifice?

*** Thanks for stopping by and reading my FIRST EVER post with YAtopia. I’m so stoked to be a part of the gang. Thank you!

If you’re interested in reading more about me, or interacting with me on the web check out the following links:

Hope to “see” you soon!