Sunday, April 16, 2017

Importance Of Voice In Fiction

Voice is an important for YA fiction and fiction in general. It brings writing to life by making it feel like a person is actually telling a story. I’ve recently discovered my writing voice. It’s a quirky conversational voice. But I’m glad I’ve found my writing voice because interiority (thoughts/feelings of the character) makes the character feel fleshed out. A piece of writing can have great imagery, setting, and dialogue. Yet only using those three things emulates a journalistic feel. Voice therefore provides a balance between imagery, dialogue, setting, and exposition.
One way to achieve voice is to use both long and short sentences. A sentence can be one word or a couple of lines. Having varying sentence length creates voice by making a rhythm.
Including repetition can sometimes help. A character might use certain words or phrases a lot. For example, a character can think, “yeah” a lot. Yeah might be a simplistic. However, it goes back to style in the last paragraph because it can be used as a one word sentence.
Emotion is another way to create voice. But not only in terms of basic interiority. Sure. People feel different emotions at different times. Although people usually feel one emotion a lot. Sarcasm is the easiest emotion tool for voice. That means exaggerating something like if a character hates his job, he could say, “I just love my boss. I just so look forward to how my boss is always on my case. As if I don’t have enough to worry about already.” That’s just one example, but the point remains clear. The exaggeration adds a layer of meaning. The character isn’t saying the true meaning. It’s dressed up in the sarcasm, and breaks up the simplicity of writing, “I hate my boss because of him being strict since I already worry too much as it is.”
Clarity is the last element of voice. That means voice will have to be more polished than people talk. And that’s okay. For instance, too many uses of “I mean,” “though,” “plus,” etc. might make writing feel clunky. That isn’t to say those words can’t sometimes be used. They can. They reinforce a casual conversational tone. But they should be used in conjunction with conveying something precisely like, “Arguing was pointless because she would never shut up.” That example isn’t the most profound statement. Yet it’s clear and concise.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Easter Author Surprise!

Happy Easter everyone! As some of you might know, I live on the wonderful island of Cyprus (near Greece), and Easter is a very big deal over here, so it’s time for us to celebrate! For me, there’s no better way to celebrate than to tell you all about the release of my close friend’s (and CP’s) debut book: THE CASTAWAYS by Jessika Fleck. First off, just look at that cover.

Isn’t that the most gorgeous thing you’ve seen? It reminds me of Aslan from Narnia, and you can’t not fall in love with that. So, go ahead, read the blurb below, and be super lucky and pre-order. Trust me, this book will whisk you away (and I’m not just saying that because Jessika’s my friend. Her book is actually really good).


The Castaway Carnival: fun, mysterious, dangerous.

Renowned for its infamous corn maze…and the kids who go missing in it.

When Olive runs into the maze, she wakes up on an isolated and undetectable island where a decades-long war between two factions of rival teens is in full swing.

Trapped, Olive must slowly attempt to win each of her new comrades’ hearts as Will—their mysterious, stoically quiet, and handsome leader—steals hers.

Olive is only sure about one thing: her troop consists of the good guys, and she’ll do whatever it takes to help them win the war and get back home.

You can pre-order Jessika's wonderful novel at:

Right, we all want to know the juicy details from an author, but we want extra special questions since it’s Easter, right? Of course we do. So, let’s see what we can rustle up.

      Welcome to the blog, Jessika! Thank you so much for joining us. What we want to know is why did you choose YATopia. I’m sure some people think it’s simply promotion, but I know that isn’t true (see, I told you I know her). How is it we managed to entice you here?

First off, I’m so thrilled to be here and to have my lovely and talented friend, Fiona, interviewing me! Talk about win, win! I’ve been following YATopia for years now. I love the interviews (I’ve found some amazing books for my TBR list here!) as well as the posts on everything from craft to inspiration to editing to query etiquette!
      Well shucks, we’re happy you picked us. Alright, dual questions: Why did you write the Castaways? And what does it feel like to be pulled into such a dramatic world full of intrigue and danger?

I wrote The Castaways when I had two ideas come together in a struck-by-lightning sort of moment (Sometimes, cheesy as it sounds, it really does happen like that!). Part one was the story of a girl being bullied. At the time, I had a friend whose daughter was being brutally bullied at school and their struggle was heartbreaking. I knew there was an emotional and important story there. Part two happened when, around the same time, we took our daughters to a pumpkin patch for Halloween and, of course, we went into the corn maze. We had to have been the only ones there because it was dead silent and when we decided to split up and race to the finish, my youngest daughter and I silently roamed the corn stalks. As we twisted around corners and hit dead ends, I was struck: what a perfect place to run away or hide. And then, inevitably, the what ifs began to spiral and the beginnings of The Castaways was born. As for what it’s like to be thrown into this dangerous fantasy world... I suppose I’m used to it. I definitely tend toward telling darker tales in strange settings. So, I was quite at home.

      What’s your favorite moment in the book? Why is it your favorite?

This is hard (especially without giving away spoilers), but I’d have to go with when Olive is tasked to take Bug to bathe in the springs. It was a fun, sweet scene to write.

Since it’s Easter, I’m going to ask…do you think the time of year you set your plot in helps mold your plot? Would the plot be different in Christmas/Easter/Thanks Giving/the summer holidays? Why or why not?

Definitely. The Castaways is set in the fall when carnivals and festivals are most frequent in the US. Also, I’m pretty sure corn, as a crop, grows in the summer, is harvested, and then, in some instances, the left overs are made into mazes in autumn. This book WOULD NOT work without the corn maze. If set in Easter, it’d have to be a tulip maze – not near as creepy. Thanksgiving might work, but the maze would be pretty dried out by then. Christmas would be too late (Pine tree maze? Probably not.). The summer is too hot, I needed a bit of bite in the air (even if set in Texas). Yeah, The Castaways had to be set in the fall.

      Do you have any “Easter Eggs” hidden in your plot? Can you give us a clue (no, seriously, we need a clue!).

I’m the worst at planting Easter eggs! Sometimes, I’ll admit, they show up unintentionally (that’s how truly bad I am at them). I do include Easter eggs across books. You’ll find some seriously recurring items or mentions... things like names and locations and pop culture references. Even sometimes made up plants from fantasy worlds. Hint: a plant from the island on The Castaways will resurface in my next YA novel, THE OFFERING.

      If you could add any one character from another book to your book who would it be and why? Or would you choose not add anyone else?

Hmm... I’m a big fan of animal companions (as you know ;) and I love polar bears. Now... I know, a polar bear would never work on an island, but you said ‘any one character’, so I’d love to have had Iorek Byrnison from the His Dark Materials trilogy there on the island (inserted interviewer's note: I adore your choice!). The kids definitely could have used a calm, voice of reason and a great big cuddle.

      We always ask authors what one piece of advice they would give an aspiring author (and of course we want to know that, too, so spill it!), but we have another question, as well: if you could go back in time before you wrote the Castaways, what would you have told your former self from your experiences?

My one piece of advice for aspiring authors is to persist. I know it’s like the author’s rallying cry, but it’s the biggest piece of truth I can offer: Don’t. Give. Up. As for what I’d tell myself if I knew pre The Castaways what I know now... Probably to get to the island sooner! I ended up cutting thousands of words from the beginning that, in the big scheme of things, just weren’t necessary and definitely slowed the pacing. I’d also tell myself to put my pantsing pants away and PLOT! 

      What was the hardest moment in writing your book? Why?

The hardest moment was finding a balance between the two very different sections of the book. Part of it takes place in modern day, small town Texas while the other is on a fantasy island. Eventually, (thanks to my editor) I figured out I needed to cut the beginning significantly and show more of Olive’s background throughout the book instead of up front. This worked wonderfully in regard to getting into the real action of the book as well as not bogging the reader down with erroneous details. Those editors... They know their stuff!

      Finally, how are you going to celebrate Easter (we want everyone to get to know you, not just one book – after all, you’re an author to look out for, as I know you have some very special books coming up soon!)?

My daughters aren’t little bitties anymore (they’re 10 and 12), but they still get baskets from the Easter Bunny who always leaves a sneaky scavenger hunt for them (which, incidentally, gets more and more difficult the older they get). Also, on Easter’s Eve, we’ll dye eggs per tradition
Now that we know all your secrets, I’m going to give you a tough one. Choose one of your characters (any one of them), and tell us how they’d celebrate Easter?
Bug! She’d be sure to trap a cave full of chickens and would gather piles of eggs herself. Then she’d forage for different plants and berries to use as dyes and hand paint each and every one, being sure to make a special egg for each of her fellow Lions. (She’d also be sure to stash a basket out of sight from Tilly so she and Charlie and Jude could have an extra-messy, secret egg fight!)

Thank you so much Jessika for joining us on YATopia. It’s a pleasure to see such a great debut author about to make it big on our blog, and we’re super excited to see how everyone will love THE CASTAWAYS!

Wait, hold on a minute (oh come on, you can’t get away from us that easy!). Bonus round: Give us a paragraph, one that’s not in your book, that never made it in there, but you still love!
It’s been my pleasure being here—thanks for having me! <3

Okay, this is fun! Originally, I gave a glimpse into how Olive and her BFF, Tawny met. Here’s a snippet of that elementary school meeting:

              ‘“I’m Tawny.”
”My name’s Olive.”
“Oh!” Her face lit up and I braced myself for her to flee. Instead she zipped open her lunch bag, ferociously dug through it, and pulled out a small container of black and green olives, setting the jar between us.
              “Want some? They’re my faaavorite.” She smiled, removing her pink sparkly retainer and setting it on a napkin.
              We laughed, divided up the olives, and have been sitting together since.”


Jessika Fleck is an author, unapologetic coffee drinker, and knitter — she sincerely hopes to one day discover a way to do all three at once. Until then, she continues collecting vintage typewriters and hourglasses, dreaming of an Ireland getaway, and convincing her husband they NEED more kittens. Her YA debut, THE CASTAWAYS (Entangled TEEN), releases 4/3/17. Her next YA novel, THE OFFERING (Swoon Reads/Macmillan) is due out in the fall, 2018. Jessika is represented by Victoria Marini of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Agentopia: Kate Testerman and Linda Camacho

Welcome to the April edition of Agentopia! This month we have Kate Testerman and Linda Camacho in the spotlight.

First is Kate Testerman from kt literary

About Kate:

After a dozen years working in publishing in New York City, Kate moved to Colorado and formed kt literary in early 2008, where she concentrates on middle grade and young adult fiction. Bringing to bear the experience of being part of a large agency, she enjoys all aspects of working with her authors, offering hands-on experience, personal service, and a surfeit of optimism.
Her clients include Maureen Johnson, Ellen Booraem, Stephanie Perkins, Carrie Harris, Trish Doller, and Matthew Cody, among other exciting and acclaimed authors. Kate is a graduate of the University of Delaware’s Honors Program, a former cast member of the New York Renaissance Faire, and an avid collector of shoes, bags, children, and dogs. Her interests cover a broad range including contemporary drama, urban fantasy and magical realism, adventure stories, and romantic comedies. She is an active member of the SCBWI and AAR.

What is currently on your wish list?

Diverse stories, particularly Own Voices. Like so much of the country right now, I'm feeling an urge to protest and resist, and would love to be part of a novel like THE HATE U GIVE by Angela Thomas, that shines a light on the stores that make up our multicultural world.

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

I'm willing to grant querying authors a bit of leeway, but racism and sexism are definite turn-offs.

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

If I like a manuscript and want to set up a call with the author, then yes, I will do some googling and pop around on their social media channels. But I don't spend a lot of time seeking out authors.

To submit to Kate, email your query letter and the first three pages of your manuscript in the body of the email to 

Full submission guidelines and query letter examples can be found here

Twitter: @DaphneUn

Next up is Linda Camacho from Prospect Agency

About Linda:

Linda Camacho joined Prospect Agency in 2015 after nearly a decade in publishing. After graduating from Cornell University, Linda interned at Simon & Schuster and Writers House literary agency, and worked at Penguin before happily settling into children's marketing at Random House. She has an MFA in creative writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Unofficially, Linda loves chocolate, travel, and far too much TV. 
In terms of submissions, she's pretty omnivorous. She enjoys a variety of categories and genres, ranging from picture book to adult, from clean and lighthearted contemporary to edgy and dark fantasy.

What is currently on your wish list?

I’m looking for high concept YA of all kinds, like maybe a thriller, a western, or a fantasy (preferably set in a non-European world). Surprise me! And I’m dying for more adult romance, particularly contemporary (would love one with a plus-size protagonist). Frankly, I’d love to see a plus-size protagonist in anything having nothing to do with weight loss, like in Sarai Walker’s Dietland, which is terrific.

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

A big turn-off is when the writer slams the category/genre in which they're querying me for and saying that their work is the exception. I can't tell you how many "All YA is trash, but mine rises above that" I get in my in-box!

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

I definitely do Google authors. If they don't have much online presence, I don't hold it against them. If they are online (i.e., on Twitter), I tend to look at the things they've said, if they're professional or not, if they'd be a person I'd want to work with. A person ranting on social media about how they think agents are mean and dumb, for instance, would certainly make me pause.

Prospect Agency accepts online submissions. Please include a query letter, synopsis and the first three chapters (or first 30 pages) of your manuscript.

Twitter: @LindaRandom

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


*Phone rings*
*Glances at number*
*Recognizes a NYC area code*
*Imagines the feelings of bliss you're about to feel*
*Presses answer*
Me: Hello?
Caller: Hi, I saw that you had recently inquired into...

NOOOOO! But I can't be the only person this has happened to. An excited writer waiting for "The Call" and getting a salesperson who so cruely is calling from New York City.
April Fools Day indeed.

It can be so easy at times to feel like that call is never going to happen. To feel like you're drowning in a sea of "no's" or "almost-but-not-quite-theres."

In an effort to live a life of transparency, I'm going to be honest and say I've been struggling with my motivation hard core. I poured my heart and soul into a book that has failed to capture that "yes." I've gotten a lot of "almosts," so many that it can break your heart much more than if everyone was just a big ol, "nope."

I've been trying to focus on my next book, but my self-confidence and motivation have taken a beating over the last few months. Trying to refill the well, I picked up Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert.

It slapped me around with the truth that creative living is not tied to goals, it's tied to a journey. A journey I'm privileged to be on. I loved this excerpt:
“Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred. What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all. We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits. We are terrified, and we are brave. Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege. Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us. Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul, and I promise—you can make anything. So please calm down now and get back to work, okay? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.” 
Good stuff, huh? Then you add it to this:
“But to yell at your creativity, saying, “You must earn money for me!” is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away, because you’re making really loud noises and your face looks weird when you do that.” 
 Love that!

So here's where we're at now: Creativity can't be tied to a goal. It can't be forced to perform on demand. It must be fed. It needs to allow you to feel.

So if you're running on empty, it may be time for a perspective change.

Want to connect?
or follow me on Twitter or Instagram: @destinywrites

Sunday, April 2, 2017

How’s the Weather?

What do you talk about when you can't think of anything to say? The weather, of course! Seriously though, weather has been on my mind a lot. Or affecting my mind.
While the calendar says spring arrived over a week ago, in interior Alaska, we still have snow. Like a lot of snow. Like you could lose a full-grown Labrador in the snow. But last week, the sun appeared and so did puddles, and I started to feel sunny inside too. Then the clouds came back.
After nearly nine years of living in Alaska and experiencing the extremes of sunshine-all-the-time and darkness-all-the-time, I’m beginning to see how the weather affects me. January and February are tough months if I don’t have plans to leave the state for warmer, sunnier climates. Last week, when the sun was shining, I felt happy and energetic. Then when the clouds returned, I felt lazy, listless, lethargic.
I’m so moving to Hawaii someday.
Anyway, what does this have to do with writing? In high school English, we talked about weather being used as symbolism. At the time, I thought that was dumb. The weather occurs regardless of how a person feels. It doesn’t rain when I’m sad or depressed. The sun doesn’t shine just because I’ve gotten good news. And to an extent, I still feel that way. The weather doesn’t mirror my emotions.
But from experience, I know weather does affect a person. When I’ve had bad news, a sunny day makes me angry. An overcast day zaps my energy and pulls me down, even if everything else in my life is happy and positive. And today, with the sun shining again (despite SNOW this morning!), I don’t feel the pull to lie around napping all day like I have every other cloudy day this week. 
So the weather should be considered in our characters’ lives. Besides the obvious—one doesn’t go cross country skiing on the river in the summer—how is weather impacting the plot? What would a scene look like on a rainy day versus a sunny day? What if the day were windy? Humid? Dry? And how is the weather impacting the character’s mood and behavior? Good news on a nasty-weather day? Bad news on a sunny, blue sky day? For a character who deals with stress by gardening or running might like bad news on a sunny day, and bad news on a stormy day for that same character could send her into a desperate situation if caught outside in the rain, thunder, and lightning. 

Obviously the weather isn’t a consideration in every scene, but give some thought to how the weather could add conflict to a scene or within a character, and have some fun considering the possibilities!