Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Cover Reveal: Midnight Sisters

Though I'm not the type of girl who poses for Glamour Shots like those made popular in the 90's, pulling together fashion, location, and fabulous accessories for a cover shoot is totally up my alley.

I've waited since June to reveal the cover art for my second Young Adult novel, Midnight Sisters, a twist on the fairytale classic, The Twelve Dancing Princesses. It is with pride and great pleasure that I finally reveal the cover for Midnight Sisters, to be released in January 2017.



* * *
Do no meddle with the Master's daughters.

The words rattle around Jonas’ head. What is the punishment again? Death? Dismemberment? Jonas, the newest addition to the gardening staff, can’t recall the exact penalty for breaking the rule. What does it matter anyway? He would never dream of meddling with the Earl of Bromhurst’s haughty daughters.

Until he comes face to face with Lady Ariela Spencer, the eldest of the His Lordship’s daughters.

Her elusive smile and open manner cause him to question his convictions. In no time, he’s drawn into Lady Ariela's world of mystery and intrigue, a world where she and her sisters will do anything—including leaving twelve empty beds at midnight—to escape their father’s strict rules.

Only Jonas can uncover the truth and save them from their father’s wrath and their own folly, if he is willing to risk everything he’s ever worked for. 
* * *
A huge thanks once again to the amazing team who made this image possible, Cammi, Jill, Sue, and especially Cindy, my amazing graphic designer. I love you, ladies!
* * *
A note from the author:
Whenever I mention The Twelve Dancing Princesses, there is invariably someone who is unfamiliar with the tale. By clicking the above link, you'll be taken to versions of the fairytale from all over the world. Also, if you click on the link at the beginning of this post, you'll be taken to the Grimm Brother's rendition, which is the one I followed most closely.

Monday, October 31, 2016

The I-Don't-Suck-As-A-Writer Moment

Triumph 
(tri-umph)
noun
1. when writers read what they've written & don't die of shame.




I certainly hit the I-hate-my-manuscript phase with Becoming Beauty. So, I was surprised to reread my last version of Book Two and find it readable! That's encouraging! It's nice to know that even if there are issues, most of the large ones are resolved. Also, it's nice to know that I do not indeed suck as a writer!

When I get down, I try to remind myself of my experience with Becoming Beauty. Several unexpected things happened (even when I suspected I actually sucked as a writer).

Someone will quote you. It may sound dumb, but readers will have a favorite part of your book and they'll quote it online, on their blog, in a review. It may not be something you consider ultimately quotable, but yes, it will make you smile every time it happens

Someone will love your book. (And it won't just be your mother!) Complete strangers will give you 5 star reviews and sing the praises of your book. It seems weird before it happens and it seems weird when it happens, but it will happen. (Seriously. Lots of people loved Twilight!)

Someone will be impressed by the quality of your writing. Readers and reviewers will comment on themes and patterns in your writing you didn't put there intentionally. Who knows how it happens, but it does. (And it's awesome.)

Someone will find meaning in your book that will change the way they think. Be honest, special books have touched you, haven't they? And they affect how you view the world, write, and approach other books. Even if it's only in subtle ways. Trust me, it will happen with your books too.

Someone will utterly fall in love with your characters. (Okay...other than you.) Readers may threaten your life if so-and-so doesn't have a happy ending or events don't turn out as they expected. That's because they become invested in characters you created. We count that as a success!


I'm not brave enough to say that you'll be someone's favorite author. (Just writing that makes me want to cross my fingers, eyes, toes, and knock on wood at the same time!) But why couldn't it happen? Your favorite author was once just a writer who wasn't sure they didn't suck either. Someday, that could be you.

So  go ahead.
Embrace your awesomeness.
Admit that you're a writer. 
And quit thinking you suck.
* * *
Author's note: It's possible I've just penned this post so I will be brave enough to publish another book. But I love being your cheerleader as well! I'd love to hear how you survive the Writer Suck moments in your life. Or if you're still wallowing in one. 

Let's chat! Leave me a comment!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Inbetween Land

All writers inhabit the Inbetween Land at some point. Wedged between first drafts and last drafts, finished manuscripts and fresh plots, beta readers and editors. It's a truly bewildering place.

It kind of feels like this...
Alice in Wonderland, 2010
And take it from me, it takes careful maneuvering to escape it.

Develop a Game Plan:
Writers have to learn how to use their time wisely. As a part-time writer, I split my time and energy between teaching and writing. The challenge is creating a schedule that works. 

This fall that means getting the school year underway and setting a date to publish Book Two. Then, between now and then, I need to set up a Blog Tour, put the finishing touches on the cover, and plan how and when to format the manuscript. You know, after I finish editing everything up. 

I've had several conversations like this lately:

He's so fluffy, I could die!
Alice in Wonderland, 2010
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

Learn Who To Trust:
Experts materialize when anyone lays claim to the title of Writer. Marketers, editors, proofreaders, social media specialists, etc. are dying to give you their pitch and take your money. That's why it's crucial that writers learn to trust their own voice. We're responsible for researching things properly and cleaning up timelines, grammar, and character quirkiness. 

People in positions of power may be professionals,
but they may also be professionally bonkers.
Alice in Wonderland, 2010
Our expertise will be called into question. When that happens, we must carefully consider the counsel given as well as the source, especially if it comes from someone who is strong in areas where we are weak. We aren't infallible, but neither are our editors and readers. We must trust our hearts and swallow our egos. We must keep our minds open but pay attention to our own intuition. 

Get to Work:
Unlike the noble turtle who leaves her eggs in the sand and trots back to her day job, we can't abandon our manuscripts to nature and expect them to thrive. And unless you're rolling in money, the lion's share of the work will fall to you. Just like I have, you're bound to make mistakes, but you're bound to have fun as well. As frustrating as it may be, being a published author is awesome.

So pitch in! Do all you're able to do and then call in as many favors as you can. Among all those experts who emerge from the depths when they smell fresh writer blood are those who care more about helping other writers than they do about draining your bank account. They don't mind giving free advice, sending you in the right direction, or swapping favors.

That one time I dressed up as Alice...
Halloween 2015
So my dears, now that I've got my game plan, know who I can lean on, and know what's ahead, I'd better stop playing dress up and get working! Wish me luck!

And please, share your tips and horror stories about the dreaded Inbetween Land in the comments!

Monday, October 3, 2016

My Inner Beauty

Sarah E. Boucher:
 Adorable Author, Awesome Educator
I've always been a plumpy girl. Curvaceous. Zaftig. Full-figured. Whatever you'd like to call it.

Except Big Boned. Referring to the author as Big Boned will result in a beating. Or a timeout.

This summer, at the height of my squishiness, I hit my 40th birthday. The word hit is strategically selected. In July, one might say a Titanic's worth of emotions collided with an iceberg of drama which spewed over into the sea of my soul. Thoughts of what I've done with my life and who I've become have plagued me all year.

My inner dialogue went something like this:

The critic: 
Fourty. FOUR-TY. Sheesh, that seems old. And still single eh? That's not at all depressing, is it?

The optimist:
Whatever. I've done AMAZING things in my singleton years. And I'm not miserable. I've been a teacher for the better part of 15 years, which means hundreds of kids have been mothered and loved and disciplined, and taught cool stuff like Rhombus and Arachnid. I did that. Also, I write good books man.

The critic: 
Well that's true. So, basically, I'm awesome, right?

The optimist: 
Yup.

How did I get from squishy to awesome? I changed the label I was living under, something I learned from a cranky kindergartner.

See, I carried the title of Mean Teacher for a year before I realized I'd allowed a cranky kindergartner to determine how I felt about myself  as a human. One day I realized that the only one still referring to me as Mean Teacher was me. So, I began looking myself in the mirror and calling myself Awesome. It took longer than accepting the negative label, but it stuck. 

Somewhere along the way, I began to see my own Beauty. I started using words like cute, pretty, and adorable to describe myself. Occasionally my inner critic has a thing to say about that. But I just tell it to shut up and focus on not poking myself in the eye with the eyeliner. Because really, how can a woman with red hair and dimples not be adorable? 

Every girl wants to be the hero of her own story. The Beauty to her Beast. The leading lady in her own romantic comedy. Good stories hinge on a character's journey. That's my story so far. I feel like Belle stepping into that amazing library for the first time. There's still so much to see and do. So many more stories left to discover.

I want to build a blanket fort there! Who's with me?
Learn more on the Disney Wiki

I encourage you, my dear friends, to discover your Inner Awesome. It's not ego and entitlement, but that spark of amazing we all carry within us that drives us to work harder and become better.

And if you need a bit more empowerment, allow me to help you out:
The Making of a Woman
Sassy Pants: Be Your Own Wonder Woman
Plot Twist: Learning to Laugh at Yourself

Thanks for dropping by! I'd love to hear about your journeys! Leave me a comment!

Monday, September 19, 2016

#Shakespeared

The Utah Shakespeare Festival is one of my favorite summer getaways. Short of purchasing a ticket across the pond, there's no better way to dip your toes in Shakespeare and/or get thoroughly #Shakepeared.
This summer, Henry V, wasn't enough. It wet my appetite but didn't satisfy. A thick volume in the gift shop called The Friendly Shakespeare piqued my interest and set me on the path to discovery. 

As a source for inspiration, there nothing better than Shakespeare. The plays, from comedy to history, are a superb mix of drama and humor, truth and fiction, prose and poetry, romance and tragedy. Reading or viewing Shakespeare will expose you to:

Heroes who act like villains and villains who act heroically. Prince Hal from Henry IV exemplifies debauchery and heroism as he treads the path from from ale house to throne and prince to king.

So when this loose behavior I throw off,
And pay the debt I never promised,
By how much better than my word I am,
And like bright metal on a sullen ground,
My refomation, glittering o'er my fault,
Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes
Than that which hath no foil to set it off.

Real emotion woven throughout the tales make hundreds of years old feel familiar and relatable. Jealousy, fierce loyalty, true love, infatuation, self-interest, humility, hopelessness. Duke Orsino from Twelfth Night drowns in melancholy due to unrequited love, and like many of us, he wallow in it.

If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die...

Relationships of all types--both healthy and unhealthy--are explored. Fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, husbands and wives, sovereigns and subjects, siblings, and the best and worst of friends. Prospero, the magician and one time duke in The Tempest, does much to ensure the happiness of his daughter Miranda.

I have done nothing but in care of thee,
Of thee, my dear one, thee, my daughter, who
Art ignorant of what thou art, nought knowing
Of whence I am, nor that I am more better
Than Prospero, master of a full poor cell,
And thy no greater father.

Some of the most delicious banter ever written. Like a tennis match where each hit is efficiently lobbed back. Petruchio and Catherine in The Taming of the Shrew and Benedick and Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing come to mind. I'd love to gift my lovers such wonderful dialogue.

Beatrice: I wonder you will still be talking, Signor 
Benedick, nobody marks you.
Benedick: What, my dear Lady Disdain! are you yet living?
Beatrice: Is it possible disdain should die while she hath 
such meet food to feed as Signor Benedick?

Shakespeare is timeless. His plots, intrigues, epic romances, and tragedies draw us into another world. From Romeo, Romeo to Out damned spot! he captures our imaginations and feeds our need for both beautiful language and wonderful storytelling.
* * *
If you need a bit o' inspiration, there's always some new interpretation to explore. Here are a few of my new and old favorites (complete with links to Amazon):
The Friendly Shakespeare: A Thoroughly Painless Guide to the Best of the Bard, by Norrie Esptein.
The Tempest, featuring Helen Mirren as Prospera
The Hollow Crown: The Complete Series, featuring Tom Hiddleston as Prince Hal/Henry V
Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Kenneth Branagh
A Midsummer Night's Dream, featuring Rupert Everett as Oberon & Michelle Pfeiffer as Titania
Twelfth Night, featuring Imogen Stubbs & Helena Bonham Carter
* * * 
What are your favorites? Leave me a comment and tell me your true feelings about the Bard. (Be warned that if you loathe him entirely, there may be mocking...) I've also embedded links to my own posts on being #Shakespeared through the post. Happy clicking!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Making of a Woman

Misconceptions about womanhood are played out in books and on the big and small screen all the time.  To believe that emphasizing the attractiveness of a woman's face or the firmness of her thighs will have no effect on how men view women or how young women see themselves is a lie.

Writers who perpetuate such misconceptions do a disservice to womankind.

Lately, I've been editing my version of The Twelve Dancing Princesses featuring a dozen distinct female characters. The journey from character sketch to final scene taught me a great deal about what makes a woman.

Let me tell you, it ain't those size 0 jeans. (Especially if the lady in question happens to be fond of chocolate. Or human.)

And it certainly isn't a blemish-free face. We earned those wrinkles with years of laughter and tears, didn't we? 
Could it be the sweet, patient woman who holds her tongue when perturbed? Perhaps.

But it could just as easily be the sharp-tongued lass who gives as good as she gets.

Might it be the glowing wit that leaves a room rolling with laughter? Maybe.

But it might also be she who delivers speeches that inspire, uplift, and move a room to tears and brave acts.

Being a woman may include a heart worn on a sleeve for all to see and abuse. It may include a tough skin built to guard a soft heart from hurt.

True womanhood encompasses a number of human foibles, mistakes and missteps that make a character human, lovable, and more understanding of others.
The women featured in literature should be a reflection of the mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and wonderful aunties in our lives. Good, bad, interesting, bland. Real. And more than a pretty face and an itty bitty dress size or a big bottom and a penchant for donuts.

Because that doesn't define us.

Real women are driven by love, pain, anger, jealousy, protectiveness, loyalty, and a myriad of other things. Shouldn't they have a place in literature? Shouldn't they have a chance to shape the way men think about us or what young women learn to value in themselves?

The more complex, intriguing woman I transform from  fairytales princesses who suck up the abuse only to become trophy wivee into complex, intriguing women, the better I feel. Isn't it time to stand up for real women with saddle bags, rings under their eyes, and no energy? Isn't it time to celebrate motherhood and dirty diapers and potty training? Isn't it time to celebrate women who work their butts off to make a difference in the world?
* * *
Thanks for dropping by! Feel free to leave me a comment and share your tips on crafting female characters. And if you'd love to read more about writing awesome heroes, peruse away!
Develop Sassy Heroes by Being One
Barbie's Dream Boat
Classic Heroines: Anne of Green Gables
The Power of Fairytales
Fairytales & Fancy Footwear
Diva Depressed
Funny Girls: Hostile Makeover



Friday, August 5, 2016

The Hazards of Dealing with Writers

It must be peculiar when someone argues with imaginary characters and invents new ways to torture them.
Today we embark on a frank discussion about the hazards of dealing with writers. Hopefully our efforts will encourage our loved ones to rant and rave less when dealing with our nutcase behavior. 

The Blink and Stare 
owl animals bird blinking staring
They do: Writers get lost in daydreams. Occasionally that means we stare into space while filling plot holes and imagining horribly wonderful things to do to characters.

You do: When we zone out, just hand us frosty beverages and snacks! (It's important to keep writers sufficiently nourished in this state.)

The Overuse of Extraordinarily Long Words 
They do: After writing and rewriting, adding and deleting descriptions, adverbs, and adjectives, writers' brains are overflowing with sesquipadelian words. 

You do: If these words emerge in ordinary conversation, smile and nod, my dears. (Feel free to dive for the dictionary later.)

Prolonged Periods of Quiet
They do: While writers work, it may become uncomfortably quiet. Remember that the writer in question is carrying on various conversations in her/his head and/or dealing with everything from grammar issues to problematic plot twists. 

You do: Avoid interrupting the writer at all costs. An irritated writer is capable of adding you to their cast of characters and using those long periods of silence to plot your death. 

Intermittent Laughter 
They do: Writerly silence may be interrupted by giggles and/or maniacal laughter. Yes, we giggle at our own stories. (Sorry.) And when we add something particularly evil that will make readers yell out loud and throw their Kindles across the room, the maniacal laughter comes out.

You do: It's best not to interfere. Unless you want an ear full of whatever we're cackling about. We'll behave normally later. (Probably.)

Intermittent Tears 
black and white sad jennifer lawrence crying upset
They do: At some point, all writers believe that their talents are CRAP and their stories aren't worth publishing. This may result in tears, tears, and more tears. 

You do: Keep the tissue on hand, pass out hugs as needed, and prepare several supportive statements like: 
  • My, your butt looks amazing in those sweatpants! 
  • Your natural scent is beautifully musky!
  • How about another round of hot chocolate and Downton Abbey?

Odd Expressions/Gestures
friends lisa kudrow phoebe buffay phoebe friends tv
They do: Writers may run into trouble describing a character's facial expressions or gestures. Sometimes, we practice the very things they're trying to describe, which will probably resemble some sort of bizarre mating ritual. (Again, sorry.)

You do: Just pretend like you didn't see anything. And think about how funny it will be to mock us later...much later.

Odd Research Questions and Google Searches
They do: Certain projects require writers to research bizarre subjects. We may ask you about how to stab someone fatally or poison a coworker. 

You do: Don't worry. It's all in the name of literature. Just delete the browser history regularly and keep 911 on speed dial just in case.

* * *
Writers are a pack of weirdos. There's no arguing with that. But because of their creative bend, they do keep life interesting!

What other writer hazards have you encountered? Leave me a comment!