Thursday, August 31, 2017

Your First Pages Are Like a Blind Date with the Reader

If you’ve ever been out on a blind date or watched a reality dating show, you know a lot can go wrong on a first date. The entire tone can change in the blink of an eye. That’s what makes crafting the beginning of your novel like going out on a first date. Where should you take your story? Should you be yourself, or try and be something you’re not? How much do you reveal about your past?

Let’s talk tips to avoid dating writing disaster.

Tip #1: First impressions do matter. That’s why the first lines of so many novels are famous. Lines like, “It was a dark and stormy night,” or “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much,” stay with the reader. Think about a powerful opening, but move into the scene. Put the reader in your world and into your protagonist’s shoes as quickly as you can. Keep in mind that the first line may be something you go back to craft when you’re story is entirely written.

Tip #2: Getting to know you, getting to know all about you. In the dating world, this means not airing all your dirty laundry on the first date (divorce, jail time, how you secretly want a unicorn, etc.). In the writing world, this means easing your reader in slowly. Once you lay down your first line(s), your reader needs time to orient themselves. Create a sense of normalcy for that character, even if normal is abnormal in their world. In Gary D. Schmidt’s Okay For Now, the protagonist’s home life is tense and abusive. But the reader is guided into that world with less-obvious clues. Schmidt saves the biggest “bang” of the abuse his protagonist has suffered until much later in the novel.

Tip #3: Land a second date. When you watch a dating reality show, you know the moment a train wreck has left the station. Don’t make your protag the train wreck. Sure, it’s not always easy to create a likable protagonist and you want them to have flaws. But avoid having them come off as mopey, whiny, angry, etc. Readers don’t want to read about an unlikable, self-pitying protagonist. Even if your character is a mean girl like Sam in Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall, make the reader care enough to find out what happens next.

Tip #4: Keep some of your cards close to your chest. You might hesitate to meet a blind date at your favorite restaurant or plan something uber-elaborate. The same applies for our purposes. While you want a memorable first scene that makes the reader turn the page, be sure to create a level of energy that you can sustain. That is to say, if your first scene is action-packed and energetic, you’ve set that tone and your reader believes that’s what’s in store for much of the book. If you can’t maintain that level of energy, you’ll likely lose your reader.

Tip #5: Back-and-forth conversation. No one likes being talked at. Readers like a book where you’re laying down world-building and characterization crumbs without a giant info dump. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Readers are smart. They need time to wrestle with these clues and make their own meaning. Too much information, and you’ll scare them off. Too little and they won’t care. Give a little, take a little.

Happy writing,

Marissa Graff

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Six Steps to Nail Your Plot, Motivation, Character, and Story Opening

Reposted from Adventures in YA Publishing
I was reading an interview with NYT Bestselling author Tess Gerritsen over on Novel Rocket, and she mentioned that her favorite piece of writing advice is to focus on the character's predicament. I love, love, love that, because it actually addresses four different aspects of your WIP.

In one fell swoop, you can nail the core of your character, the movement of your story, the place you start it, and how you tell it.

Here's how.
  1. Start by putting yourself in your character's head. What's her problem? What no-win predicament does she find herself in? Journal this, just as a rough paragraph or two or three, writing as if she is screaming at someone for putting her in that situation. Let it all loose. Imagine the confrontation, all the emotion, the frustration, the desire to move forward and fix something.
  2. Examine that thing that she has to fix and establish the consequences if she fails. Brainstorm why she wants to fix it and jot it down your on one page in a notebook, note software program, or on a Scrivener entry. Why does she need to fix the problem? Why does she have no choice to act to change that situation? 
  3. What is your character willing or forced to give up to fix her predicament? Add a second page to your notes. Write down what is most important to your character. Explore what defines her view of herself, and how this predicament effects that. What wound from her past or weakness of character is going to make it harder for her to repair the problem? What unexpected strengths can she find along the way that will help her?
  4. Now build your plot like dominos. Once you have a pretty good grasp on the predicament itself, it's relatively easy to make a timeline of how the problem, the person who created that problem (or personifies it) and your character intersect. You can build your plot as if it's inevitable: this happened, your character reacted, because your character reacted, this other thing happened, and so on. One thing leads directly to another.
  5. Next, taking into consideration who your character is, find the place in the timeline, or right before what you've jotted down, where the problem first rears its head. This could be something that your character did that set the problem in motion, or something coming in from outside to shake things up, but there has to be a change. This is where you're going to begin your story, on the day that is different, with the first domino. Write down what that incident is.
  6. Finally, put everything together to set up the story. Your opening has to show the inciting incident, suggest the story problem, and jump start the action, but you also want to foreshadow your character's strength and the weakness that is going to hold her back. You want to give us a hint of the personal lesson she will have to learn in order to get out of the predicament she's facing.
That's it. When you look at it from the standpoint of the character's predicament, every aspect of the story comes together. Whether you're a plotter or a pantser, and regardless of whether you're writing a fantasy or sci fi novel, a romance, a contemporary, or virtually anything else, these six simple steps will help you get enough information to structure it in a way that will let it feel like it's writing itself. 

Happy writing!


About the Author

Martina Boone is the award-winning author of Compulsion and the romantic Southern Gothic Heirs of Watson Island trilogy for young adults from Simon & Schuster, Simon Pulse as well as the Celtic Legends series for adult readers beginning with Lake of Destiny. She is the founder of the First Five Pages Workshop and, a three-time Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers Site as well as, a site dedicated to encouraging literacy and reader engagement through a celebration of series literature. She's on the Board of the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia and runs the program to distribute books to underfunded schools and libraries.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Use An Emotionally Charged Moment to Start Your Novel

Reposted from Adventures in YA Publishing
I’m into opening chapters. And opening lines. And the decision a reader makes to continue on with a book, and how we as authors can help them make that decision.

LIFE BY COMMITTEE has two openings.

The first few opening pages are secrets. Little hints of other people’s lives. Tiny moments of raw, uncensored truth that we’re reading without any context. I wanted the reader to get a sense of what kind of world they’d be entering into and what I was interested in writing about.

I’m interested in the parts of ourselves that we choose to keep hidden, that we struggle to keep to ourselves. I’m also interested in how unbelievably good it feels to find someone that you DO want to share the most vulnerable, awful parts of yourself with.

So I guess in some ways what I was interested in with this book was intimacy. And all the forms it takes.

So that first opening—the anonymous, out of context secrets—is about one kind of intimacy. And the second opening is about the other. The thrill of finding someone you can maybe share yourself with. The intensity of that feeling. The desperation of it. I wanted readers to remember their own secrets, and how badly they want to hide them. And how very, very badly they also want to share them.

Books are about push—pull. Desires and fears. And the opening of LIFE BY COMMITTEE is an attempt to capture that push-pull. We want to know whose secrets these are in the first few pages. I also wanted to challenge the reader, and start somewhere uncomfortable and unsettling and non-linear.

As for the second beginning—Tabitha in her mother’s office chatting online with Joe—that’s more of a classic beginning. Starting at a high point, an emotionally charged moment. Hoping that that moment sets the stage for the rest of the book. Giving the reader a taste of what’s to come. My first chapters are always emotionally heightened moments. That’s what’s most interesting to me, and that’s the relationship I want to have with the reader. I want to go beyond what we’re all comfortable with and do something else.

About The Author

Corey Ann Haydu is a young adult novelist currently living in Brooklyn, NY. Her first novel, OCD LOVE STORY, is coming out July 2013 from Simon Pulse. Her second novel, LIFE BY COMMITTEE will be out in Summer 2014 from Katherine Tegen Books at Harper Collins.

Corey grew up outside Boston, Massachusetts where she learned a deep love for books, cheese, cobblestone streets, cold weather and The Gilmore Girls. She has been living in New York City since 2001, where she has now developed new affections for New Yorky things like downtown bookstores, Brooklyn brownstones, writing in coffee shops, the Modern Love column in the Sunday Times, pilates, leggings, and even fancier cheeses.

Corey graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she got her BFA in Theatre. After college, Corey worked as an actress and playwright (and waitress and telemarketer and real estate broker and nanny and personal assistant) She also spent a lot of time in Starbucks writing short stories.

After working in children’s publishing for a few years, and falling in love with YA literature, Corey received her MFA from The New School in Writing for Children. During graduate school Corey rounded out her list of interests with mochas, evening writing workshops, post-it notes, bi-weekly cheeseburgers, blazers, and board games.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

About The Book

Some secrets are too good to keep.

Tabitha might be the only girl in the history of the world who actually gets less popular when she gets hot. But her so-called friends say she’s changed, and they’ve dropped her flat.

Now Tab has no one to tell about the best and worst thing that has ever happened to her: Joe, who spills his most intimate secrets to her in their nightly online chats. Joe, whose touch is so electric, it makes Tab wonder if she could survive an actual kiss. Joe, who has Tabitha brimming with the restless energy of falling in love. Joe, who is someone else’s boyfriend.

Just when Tab is afraid she’ll burst from keeping the secret of Joe inside, she finds Life by Committee. The rules of LBC are simple: tell a secret, receive an assignment. Complete the assignment to keep your secret safe.

Tab likes it that the assignments push her to her limits, empowering her to live boldly and go further than she’d ever go on her own.

But in the name of truth and bravery, how far is too far to go?

Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads

Monday, August 28, 2017

July 2017 Workshop

Because the first five pages of a manuscript may be all that agents, editors, and readers read, the First Five Pages Workshop is designed to help young adult and middle grade writers get their pages off to a great start with the help of three published authors over the course of three weeks. And for any writer, seeing how the manuscripts evolve over three weeks with the help of our mentoring authors and literary agent can help you make HUGE leaps forward with your own manuscript. 

The July 2017 Workshop is now concluded, but that doesn't mean the learning is over! Follow the links below and read the comments and transformations on each manuscript to see what worked, what didn't work, and why. And check out the current workshop hereIt's a fabulous chance to bring your own manuscript up to a professional level quickly.

The July workshop was mentored by the following permanent workshop mentors:

Heather Cashman, Brenda Drake, Sarah Grimm, Heather Petty, Stephanie Scott, Ron Smith, Wendy Spinale, and Rob Vlok.

Congratulations to all participants and mentors on a job well done!

Guest Mentors

Author: Laura Williams McCaffrey

Literary Agent: Gabrielle Piraino
of DeFiore and Company


Workshop Entries

The Winter King by Alyssa C  (WINNER)
Genre: YA Fantasy
Mentors: Laura Williams McCaffrey, Sarah Grimm, Ron Smith

Diety Girl by Stacy Choi
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy
Mentors: Laura Williams McCaffrey, Wendy Spinale, Rob Vlock
The Blood of Runes by Danielle Simonelli
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Mentors: Laura Williams McCaffrey, Heather Petty, Stephanie Scott

The House with Two Faces by Adelle Yeung
Genre: YA Historical Urban Fantasy
Mentors: Laura Williams McCaffrey, Heather Cashman, Brenda Drake

Previous Workshops

Current Workshop

     See here

Interested in Entering Your Own Manuscript in the Workshop?

Have a manuscript of your own that you're ready to submit to agents or aren't sure how to start? See here

Sunday, August 27, 2017

An Agent's Perspective on Prologues

Reposted from Adventures in YA Publishing
As a literary agent, I receive hundreds of queries a month and find myself in a tricky situation of being forced to make decisions without properly examining the entire query set in front of me. The query letter, of course, is the big problem most writers have but so is the first page, the first paragraph, the first sentence. While I can think of plenty of books that started slow, when it comes to increasing your odds of publication, you want to hit the right note off the bat with your reader. This understanding, this aim for opening line greatness occasionally calls for a few cheats.

That’s why I want to take a hard position here against the beloved institution of The Prologue. I’ll start right off and say that there are certainly exceptions to this rule, and that there even some books that sell amazingly despite poorly constructed prologues (Twilight, for instance, has a bad prologue but a good chapter one and compelling narration), but for the most part, I’ve learned over time and through many many queries that prologues tend to be created from fear. In general, the prologue serves as a trick to bring the reader into an ‘exciting’ point in a story. Usually near-death moments, we open the book and find ourselves fighting for our lives, and then, just like that, it’s over. No conclusion, no reveal, just that we’re in a calm place with seer-like knowledge that the tranquility won’t last. Again, I’m not denying the occasional effectiveness of the device, but I’ll say this straight up: most of the time that you see a prologue it is because an author is afraid that his/her beginning is boring. The author thinks, hmm, no one will want to read on from here, so I better take an action sequence, or mysterious moment and shove it into the front of the book to get a reader hooked, then we’ll go from there.

The point I’m trying to make is that you should always strive to be confident in every page, to the point where you should never need a crutch like a prologue. Instead, the beginning needs to be amazing. Not necessarily adrenaline-filled, not necessarily action-oriented. Just damn good. Every page of your book should be, at the very least, strong and interesting writing, and your opening should have the tangible hooks of the ‘problem’ we feel in this book, even if they are only tugging ever so gently. If you have a prologue its worth examining the real page one and making it stronger, finding your real beginning, having faith in your book and your writing. If it doesn’t hold up, prologue or no, the book won’t work.

My own book, The Well’s End was roughly inspired by a true-life event that happened in my home town when I was a kid. Jessica McClure, a toddler, fell down a well and was stuck, and the entire country was riveted, watching rescuers try to dig her out. I’ll say here, crystal clear, that the book I wrote has nothing to do with the actual Jessica McClure – I have no interest in invading her space and memories and privacy. Instead, I was just over and again fascinated with a different type of backstory for a young woman. No parental abuse, no family death (well, there’s that too), but instead an out-of-the-ordinary event that plays upon all of our fears and provides pretty easy access to a part of my mind that helps me envision the type of character Mia Kish (my protagonist) is. I loved writing the opening of my book because just by describing Mia’s past, it allows readers to understand what kind of fears were inside her. It allowed me to shove a lot of really compelling personality and depth into my main character with just a page or two. That sounds very clinical – it wasn’t. I found myself sitting at my computer staring into the darkness out my window trying to imagine what it’s like deep within a well, stuck, unable to move, the sound of diggers on their way. I’ve always wondered that, ever since the real Jessica McClure fell down that well. I had to find out, and Mia led the way.

Killer opening lines (the first two, I can’t help it, are BOTH elevator scenes):
“The elevator continued its impossibly slow ascent. Or at least I imagined it was ascent.” Haruki Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.

“It’s a new elevator, freshly pressed to the rails, and it’s not built to fall this fast.” Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist.

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” (classic one, suggested to me) – Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Hundred Years of Solitude.

“The beet is the most intense of vegetables.” Tom Robbin’s Jitterbug Perfume

About The Author

Seth Fishman was born and raised in Midland, Texas (think Friday Night Lights) and received his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England (think cold and rainy and millions of castles). His YA thriller, The Well's End, is the first in a series and the protagonist, Mia Kish, is roughly inspired by a hometown drama that really blew him away

When not writing, Seth is a literary agent at The Gernert Company, and thinks writing and agenting are the two very best jobs in the world.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

About The Book

A deadly virus and an impossible discovery unite in one enthralling can’t-miss read...

Sixteen-year-old Mia Kish has always been afraid of the dark. After all, she’s baby Mia, the one who fell down a well. That was years ago, though the darkness still haunts her. But when her classmates and teachers at ritzy Westbrook Academy start dying of old age from a bizarre and frightening virus that ages its victims years in a matter of hours, Mia becomes haunted by a lot more than the dark. Their deaths are gruesome and Mia worries she and her friends may be next. In order to survive, Mia and her small crew must break quarantine and outrun armed soldiers in hazmat suits who shoot first and ask questions later.

And there’s only one place to go—the Cave, aka Fenton Electronics. Mia knows it’s somehow connected and hopes her dad, Director of Fenton Electronics, who has always been strangely secretive about his work, has the answers she needs, and more importantly a cure to save everyone before the whole town succumbs to the mysterious virus. Unfortunately, it’s not answers Mia discovers, but something far more treacherous and impossible than even the virus itself.

A high-stakes, fast-paced adventure with imagination and heart.

Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Don'ts and Do's of Great Openings

Reposted from Adventures in YA Publishing
When I started writing my first YA novel, which eventually turned into Elixir Bound, I really had no idea what it meant to write a good novel at all, never mind one with a good opening. To land a publisher or agent, though, a great—not good—opening is crucial.

Over the course of the nine years until my first book was published, I’ve learned a lot about how to write a solid opening, mostly by learning what not to do.

Don't Open with an Adult POV

One of my first professional critiques by an editor from a big house taught me this important lesson. It may seem pretty obvious now, but at the time I felt justified starting from the point of view of the main character’s father. He was passing the torch of the Elixir’s guardianship to his daughter, so shouldn’t the story start from his point of view? Umm…no. Start with the character you most want your reader to care about.

Don’t Open with a Cliché

Some things have been done so frequently, readers (and editors) are tired of them. Avoid opening with weather (“It was a dark and stormy night”), having a character look in the mirror and describe herself, or having a character waking up.

Don't Open with Backstory

You’ve spent months developing an intricate fantasy world, complete with magical creatures, evil villains, and full languages J.R.R. Tolkien style. Awesome! All the details will help enrich the story and immerse the reader in your world. Just don’t throw all of it into the beginning. Weave it in gradually as it pertains to the main character and the conflict. Even in contemporary novels, you have to be careful of too much backstory. The reader doesn’t need to know what your main character was like growing up, her whole family history, or what she had for breakfast.

Don't Open with Gratuitous Action

In an attempt to grab the reader’s attention right, you open with your main character into a dark forest at midnight with an animal chasing her. The reader’s probably thinking What a great start to this paranormal romance. I wonder if she’s going to fall in love with the creature. If it turns out your story is actually about a high school senior who has one more chance to score high on the SATs to get into college, you’ve got the wrong beginning. Only start with action that pertains to the main conflict.

Don't Open with Generalities

An ideological rant or a general statement about life isn't a good place to start a novel. Openings like this can sound preachy (a huge no-no in YA); they are often somewhat obvious; and when it comes to divisive issues, they can alienate a reader who may have the opposite opinion. Long narrative descriptions fall into the generality category as well. You can paint the most beautiful scene with your words, but if a reader doesn’t have an emotional connection to latch on to, you might lose them right from the start.

Do Set It Up Right

So now that you know what not to do, you’re probably asking, “What should I do?” My advice is to try out a few different openings. Work on fleshing out the voice of the character, establishing the main conflict of the story, and setting the tone of the piece. Have a professional critique done (if you can afford it) and have other writers look at it to. Then look deep inside yourself and see if the opening feels right to you. Does it accomplish what you’ve set out to do?

Admittedly, I didn’t follow all these rules with Elixir Bound, but it was a long process of critical thinking and compromise that got me to a point where the story landed a publisher. After revising it to start with the main character’s point of view instead of her father’s, I had another professional critique done of it. The editor thought it was too heavy on backstory and description. She was right: I had this long passage with a snowstorm and descriptions of two different forests.

So I cut all that and started right in with action from the main character. I read both the old beginning and the new one to several other writers during an impromptu critique session at a conference. They agreed the new opening was too abrupt and had lost some of the dark tone the descriptive beginning had provided.

I didn’t scrap either one but combined them. I included one strong descriptive image of the trees and the snow, and then got right down to the action of the character. The snowstorm, a possible cliché, was important to keep because it was the inciting incident of the story.

Katie's Favorite Openings

“We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.” from Feed by M.T. Anderson

“Gram is worried about me. It’s not just because my sister Bailey died four weeks ago, or because my mother hasn’t contacted me in sixteen years, or even because suddenly all I can think about is sex. She is worried about me because one of her houseplants has spots.” from The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

“When he grabs Mama’s wrists and yanks her toward the wall-hanging like that, it must hurt. Mama doesn’t cry out. She tries to hide her pain from him, but she looks back at me, and in her face, she shows me everything she feels.” from Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Love these openings, too? Why? What grabs you about them?

About the Author

Katie Carroll began writing after her 16-year-old sister unexpectedly passed away. Writing was a way to help her sister live on in the pages of a story. Her debut YA fantasy Elixir Bound is about Katora Kase who must decide if she will become guardian of a secret healing Elixir and bind herself to its magic. It is available from the MuseItUp bookstore, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other ebook retailers.

Catch Katie on her blog at

Free 1st 5 Pages Writing Workshop Opens Saturday, September 2nd w/ mentors Lit Agent Lauren Spieller and Author Kate Brauning!

Our September workshop will open for submissions on Saturday, September 2nd at noon, EST. In addition to our wonderful permanent mentors, we have Kate Brauning as our author mentor and Lauren Spieller of the Triada US Literary Agency as our agent mentor! (See below for Lauren's background and query preferences.)

The workshop is designed to help writers struggling to find the right opening for their novel or for those looking to perfect the all important first five pages before submitting for publication. Why the first five pages? Because if these aren't perfect, no agent, editor, or reader will continue reading to find out how great the rest of your story really is!

Why is the First Five Pages Workshop a GREAT Opportunity?

  • You are mentored by at least two traditionally-published published or agented authors for the duration of the workshop. These authors have been through the trenches and know what it takes to get a book deal, solid reviews, and sales.
  • In addition, you receive feedback from the four other workshop participants.
  • Feedback is given not just on your initial submission, but on two subsequent opportunities to revise your manuscript based on the previous feedback so that you know you've got it right!
  • The final revision will also be reviewed by a literary agent, who will also give you feedback on the pitch for your story--the one that may eventually become your query letter or cover copy.
  • The best entry from among the workshop participants will receive a critique of the full first chapter or first ten pages from the mentoring agent, which may, in some cases, lead to requests for additional material.

How It Works

Please see the complete rules before entering the workshop, but in a nutshell, we'll take the first five Middle Grade or Young Adult entries that meet all guidelines and formatting requirements. (Double check the formatting - each month we have to disqualify entries because of formatting.) Click here to get the rules. We will post when the workshop opens and closes on Adventures in YA Publishing and on twitter (@etcashman, @MelissWritesNow), with the hashtag #1st5pages. In addition to the rotating team of our wonderful permanent author mentors, the final entry for each workshop participant will be critiqued by our agent mentor.

September Guest Literary Agent Mentor : Lauren Spieller

Literary agent Lauren Spieller comes to Triada US with a background in literary scouting and editorial consulting. She has a sharp editorial eye, and is passionate about author advocacy. Lauren is seeking Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction, as well as select Adult fiction and non-fiction. Whatever the age category or genre, Lauren is passionate about finding diverse and underrepresented voices.

In MG, she’s drawn to heartfelt contemporaries, contemporary fantasy and magical realism, and exciting adventures. Some of her recent favorites are Rules for Stealing Stars, George, The Thing About Jellyfish, Wonder, Hour of the Bees, and Rooftoppers. In YA, she’d love to find authentic teen voices in any and all genres. She is especially fond of fantasy, magical realism, and space operas; contemporary stories with a hook; and anything with a feminist bent. A few favorites include Dumplin’, Scorpio Races, An Ember in the Ashes, OCD Love Story, Six of Crows, The Raven Boys, and Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda.

In Adult, Lauren is seeking commercial fiction, particularly female-driven psychological thrillers (a la Lauren Beukes and Gillian Flynn), and immersive literary fantasies, such as The Night Circus, The Miniaturist, and A Darker Shade of Magic. She is also interested in female-driven Upmarket General Fiction, especially if it's funny or has a touch of magical realism (note that she is NOT looking for Romance), and unique non-fiction with an existing platform. She's particularly hungry for counter culture books, cocktail books with a twist/theme, or narrative nonfiction with a unique hook (if you’re the next Lindsey West, Roxanne Gay, or Lauren Duca, she wants to hear from you).

Please send a query letter and your first ten pages with the word QUERY in the email’s subject line, along with the age category and genre (ex: QUERY YA Fantasy).


September Guest Literary Author: Kate Brauning

Kate is an author of young adult fiction, including HOW WE FALL (Simon Pulse, 2014). As a child, she spent a lot of time in her local library, wandering the shelves and discovering all kinds of stories about all kinds of people. She grew up in the hills of Missouri on twenty acres with a big pear tree, cats, dogs, chickens, rabbits, and bottle calves (orphaned calves raised by bottle-feeding). An incurable love for seeing real life through the pages of a book drew her to writing fiction, and at fifteen she decided she wanted someone to find her own books by searching through the shelves of a library. She’s been writing ever since, and she’s not going to stop until she can no longer put one word after another.

Currently Kate lives in South Dakota with her husband. They do a lot of traveling to visit her husband’s family in the Dominican Republic, and to visit Kate’s family and friends, which against her advice, scattered all over the U.S. In her spare time, she makes three-tier cakes, hunts down new music, and reads just about everything.


Ever since Jackie moved to her uncle’s sleepy farming town, she’s been flirting way too much–and with her own cousin, Marcus.

Her friendship with him has turned into something she can’t control, and he’s the reason Jackie lost track of her best friend, Ellie, who left for…no one knows where. Now Ellie has been missing for months, and the police, fearing the worst, are searching for her body. Swamped with guilt and the knowledge that acting on her love for Marcus would tear their families apart, Jackie pushes her cousin away. The plan is to fall out of love, and, just as she hoped he would, Marcus falls for the new girl in town. But something isn’t right about this stranger, and Jackie’s suspicions about the new girl’s secrets only drive the wedge deeper between Jackie and Marcus–and deepens Jackie’s despair.

Then Marcus is forced to pay the price for someone else’s lies as the mystery around Ellie’s disappearance starts to become horribly clear. Jackie has to face terrible choices. Can she leave her first love behind, and can she go on living with the fact that she failed her best friend?

Where to Buy:

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

1st 5 Pages Workshop Opens 9/2 - Plus Mentor News!

The Free 1st 5 Pages Workshop will open again for submissions on Saturday, September 2 at noon EST! In the meantime, we have some exciting mentor news!

Congratulations to Lisa Maxwell, whose fabulous YA historical fantasy, THE LAST MAGICIAN is a NYT bestseller!!! I couldn't turn the pages fast enough!

Congratulations to NYT bestselling author Pintip Dunn, who has been very busy! GIRL ON THE VERGE was released this summer - I adored this heart pounding YA contemporary thriller! The paperback of REMEMBER YESTERDAY releases September 5, and SEIZE TODAY (FORGET TOMORROW #3!) releases October 3rd! Can't wait!

Congratulations to Janet B. Taylor, SPARKS OF LIGHT, the historical time travel adventure
was just released and it is every bit as wonderful as INTO THE DIM!

And a few books to put on your TBR list and/or pre-order:

SVEN CARTER AND THE TRASHMOUTH EFFECT by Rob Vlock comes out October 3! I was fortunate enough to have read this hysterical middle grade sci-fi adventure!

REIGN OF THE FALLEN by the amazing Sarah Glenn Marsh (I was lucky enough to read this epic fantasy, and believe me you don't want to miss it!!!)

THUNDERSTRUCK from NYT bestselling author  Brenda Drake (can't wait to get my hands on it!)

MARKED BEAUTY by S.A. Larsen comes out in October! I'm so looking forward to reading this one!

LOCK AND MORI, FINAL FALL, by Heather Petty, releases November 28, and I'm dying to get my hands on it - I love this series!!!

SCARLET MOON by S.D. Grimm comes out October 21! How gorgeous is that cover? Can't wait to read it!

WELCOME HOME, Eric Smith's anthology of adoption themed short stories, with works from many celebrated authors, including Stephanie Scott, releases September 5!

And last but not least, BELL OF ETERNITY by none other than workshop founder, the fabulous Martina Boone! I adored this beautifully written clean romance, as will fans of her wonderful HEIRS OF WATSON LANDING series, as well as fans of Nora Roberts and Susanna Kearsley.

Happy Reading, Writing, and Revising!