I have totally ignored my blog, but I swear it was for many good reasons! Well . . . most of the time. That whole incident when I stole my daughter’s jumbo bag of Mega M&Ms and inhaled the whole thing may not have been wise, but I was writing for Kian at the time. I mean – it’s KIAN. He’s like his own chocolate high for any female on the planet.
But, anyway, I have been prepping for the launch party of STORMFRONT! Yup – ’tis true! That book you have nagged me for since last fall is finally waiting in the wings, ready to make its debut! I’ve been sending out invitations, ordering swag (and the swag is OMG!), and tweaking last minute changes to the cover.
DONE! It’s DONE! Which is a total miracle I might add, because I was A NUT about the storyline in this massive sucker (452 pages . . . at this rate, the last book will weigh five pounds).
I am truly excited to hand this off to readers because of the twists in the story and those ridiculous, five characters that hijack my mind. The sucker is up on Goodreads, so make sure you add it to your “shelves” to read!
UNDERTOW‘s journey was a shock for me.
I was left awed at how it climbed the ranks, gained such ardent fans, and landed on Must Read lists. It was like an out-of-body experience, truly. I’d see reviews and conversations coming up online and I was like, “Seriously? You’re obsessing about MY book? Fighting over characters? Screaming for the next one? Are your SERIOUS? Am I being PUNK’D? But . . . but . . . REALLY!!??”
Once the initial shock started to feel more normal (note – it NEVER wears off, I swear), I realized I was screwed. I needed to keep going – keep writing Eila’s story, but I also worked FULL TIME. I admit that I did have a momentary break-down and full-on panic attack because I knew I had to write like Steven King on Crack to get the next book out.
Even more terrifying was the fact that I now had fans going into STORMFRONT.
I had real people, across the country (and overseas) that were COUNTING ON ME not to choke. To not make a literary face-plant into second-book-hate-syndrome. I needed to top UNDERTOW, the story that sparked their obsession. I needed to leave them so breathless and fully addicted that they would scream the characters’ names from the rooftops (or their blogs – that would work too).
I have no fingernails left. None.
On the plus side, the money I save from not having to buy nail polish can go into my hair-dye fund, since I’m sure the grey suckers are about to attack . . .
Elijah Hawkins needs to die. Slowly. Painfully. Tortured until his pleads for mercy only serve to fuel my inner demon. Needless to say, I am not a fan of the man, which is why he was so perfectly written.
When I started reading CREED by Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie, I was expecting to hide under the covers – that it would be totally terrifying, but I didn’t find it scary. Instead I found it ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY, RAGE-INDUCING! I burned through the novel in a matter of hours on a Sunday afternoon, unable to put the sucker down because I was begging, PLEADING, for Elijah to D-I-E. Now, I’m not going to say if the pervert meets his fork-tailed maker or not, BUT it was the driving force behind my reading obsession. I wanted justice and I wanted him stoned into mush.
The story starts out with three friends (Dee, her boyfriend Luke, and his younger brother, Mike) on the road to a concert in East-of-Nowhere New York when they run out of gas on an abandoned stretch of highway. They spot lights in the distance, and with ice coating the roads and hypothermia knocking on the windows, they decide to investigate the town. Bad idea – didn’t these kids see Cujo?? DON’T LEAVE THE DAMN CAR! It all turns into a real-life Hell, with cult leader Elijah Hawkins filling his role perfectly as the violence-in-the-name-of-god character. His horrifically abused son, Joseph, is also wandering the town with his own agenda.
The characters in this book are what make the story. Hands down, Luke was my favorite (damn you Leaver and Currie!!). His brother Mike is a great, unlikely hero. I loved the brothers and fell for them both quickly. Joseph is brilliantly drawn as a survivor of his father’s wrath, but the reader never knows if he is actually a good guy or a player, and I love that. His broken but tough soul made me want to root for him, but then I questioned his motives constantly.
Elijah – well, I covered my thoughts on him, but Dee, the voice of the story, really needed to die. I kept screaming at her to fight back, beat the piss out of Elijah. Stab him, claw his face off – ANYTHING! I was hoping she would go after him and die in a way fitting of Pulp Fiction, taking Elijah down with her. Seriously . . . if I ever meet her on the street, I may push her out into traffic.
This book is like a train wreck in that you can’t peel your eyes from the carnage even though you know the outcome ain’t gonna be pretty. Which is why it works so flawlessly.
Leaver and Currie did not set out to write a happily-ever-after. They set out to make you totally loathe a character and scream at the pages, which is precisely what this story does.
CREED leaves you haunted . . . and in need of a punching bag. A big one.
I dare you to put it down. A lethal five-stars.
Last year I stumbled upon an author by the name of Cassie Mae and her book, FRIDAY NIGHT ALIBI.
The riotous way Mae wrote her main characters quickly had me hooked. In FRIDAY NIGHT ALIBI, soon-to-be-college student Kellie makes quite a few bucks thanks to the boys in town who want to date girls their parents don’t exactly approve of. Kellie offers these guys an alibi for a buck – she sits at home playing video games and pretends to be on a date with “Frank” so “Frank” can really sneak off on a date with a totally different girl.
Kellie answers the phone when parents call, writes down a full itinerary of the fake date for the boy who purchases her services, and TA DA! Kellie makes money and the boys make out with the chicks they aren’t supposed to date. But then Kellie runs into Chase who is older than she is, and for the first time Kellie may no longer want to be just an alibi. Perfect brain candy for a rainy day!
So, then I read SWITCHED, because I loved ALIBI and sure enough, it was another fun, addictive read. It was a chocolate-covered pretzel, can’t-stop-eating-it type of literary snack attack. It was basically about a boy and girl teaming up to break up their friends from their significant others in an attempt to have a chance with those they are trying to split apart. Only problem is, they find themselves falling for one another and NOT the couple they are supposed to be driving a wedge between. Total fun.
But it wasn’t until I read REASONS I FELL FOR THE FUNNY FAT FRIEND that I really thought Cassie Mae showed her true ability as a storyteller. I loved the concept, the idea of body image in young girls and how boys really see them. I loved the main characters and their chemistry and the running thoughts of the boy’s POV (which the entire story is written from – hello AWESOME idea). And while it was still a fun, fast read, it had a more serious slant that I loved.
So, whenever I need to come up for air from the dark worlds I write and read, Cassie Mae is my perfect ray of sunshine. Her stories are a tipsy combination of FRIENDS, 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU, and maybe just a pinch of 16 CANDLES.
And let’s face it – everyone needs a little Long Duk Dong in their life now and then :)
If there is ever a phrase that sends chills through my body, it is: “Well, I’m not really sure if my COMPLETED manuscript is exactly aimed for teens. Maybe it is more middle grade? But then again, I guess it could be adult.”
Oh, dear lord.
There is nothing, NOTHING more important than knowing WHO you are writing for before you even put pen to paper. You need to know EXACTLY who your audience is – from how they live, talk, socially function, what would make your book appeal to them, WHY they would buy it in the first place, blah, blah, BLAH. How do you sell something if you have no clue who would want to buy it? That’s like designing a hot air balloon that can’t fly and saying, “I know this will appeal to SOMEBODY.” Well, heck – you would be 112 years old before you figured out WHO would buy an unfloating air balloon (FYI – this would sell to those funky, futuristic tent designers who want some killer fabric and who would upcycle the basket parts. SEE??? I know my audience!!!)
As cool as your story may be, it NEEDS a set audience to S-E-L-L. So . . . let’s take, uh . . . OH! The Shadow and Bone series by Bardugo. Dark fantasy set in a brutal remake of a Russian-like empire. Totally awesome. Love it. Go read it. Well . . . go read it IF YOU LIKE THAT TYPE OF THING. See???? Audience. I like dark and creepy with a few well placed bodies here and there. I can do fantasy as long as the fairies are the type to murder you in your sleep while acquiring your tooth.
So Bardugo’s audience is the type that:
A. Likes dark fantasy. This would include those who enjoyed the last few books in the Harry Potter series best, and those who liked Lord of the Rings and (if you’re ancient like me) The Dark Crystal.
B. They are 14 + (maybe a few, high-level 13-y-o readers too). She appeals to those who like vivid world building over smooching scenes. People who are willing to see a character fail and have mixed feelings about the “bad” guy (who happens to be a hottie).
C. Her readers tend to be thinkers. People who like puzzles, especially the ones that require you to out-manuver an opponent. They are the people who tend to be the quiet ones, but their imagination is always running and it isn’t playing Cinderella scenes over and over, if you get my gist.
D. They are bold, but not for the sake of others. They will pierce their tongue not to fit in nor stand out, but because doing so speaks to who they are as a person. They don’t follow the crowd.
E. They like twists and unseen complications. They like to see the characters fail as well as conquer. Romance is okay by them, but it is not the only reason they read the story. In fact, the romance aspect is low on their list of must-haves and they like that the main characters are a bit tortured in their love for one another.
You may say, “Holy heck, Conway – that is a TON of detail. How are we supposed to know that much about our audience?!” Well . . . that’s part of being a writer, and I was a journalist before I was a novelist. As a journalist I had to always, ALWAYS sell my story – not only to my editor, but to my potential readers. I needed to pitch every story to my editor and tell them WHY it was timely. WHY people would read it and WHO would read it. I needed to tell them how I would learn about the topic I was pitching and LEARN ABOUT WHO IS INTERESTED in such a topic.
I basically became my audience, every time, for every story. To become my audience for UNDERTOW, I began reading any and all YA books that were a bit similar. I started watching every teen movie I could find, plus those that were not aimed for teens but had young main characters. I shifted my playlist in the direction of pure Alternative music, hard rock, and a bit of metal.
I was willing to be a teenager – jump on beds (okay – my daughter’s bed at least), leap from the Town Neck bridge, argue over t-shirts at Abercrombie, and generally act like I was 16 rather than . . . well, older. I began to look at the world as a high schooler again – to understand fully what they loved, what tormented them, what mattered to them. Now-a-days it is easy for me to shift from the “run for your lives, MOM IS PISSED!” mode into a full on, nag-worthy, “Can we please, PLEASE, PLLLLLEEEAAASEEE go to the movies???? Can we go dye our hair??? Can we go hang out at the beach with our kites??”
If you have any doubt in my ability to be a teenager, just ask my daughter and her friends. They will tell you I am full-on nuts, but 100% wildly fun. Well . . . until you pick on your little brother or dare to sass me.
Then it’s GAME-ON-EVIL-MOTHER MODE.
And yes – I will totally write my Mean Mom character into a novel at some point . . . as long as it fits with the audience I am writing for. As for now, I work exclusively for the teens I strive to please, and always, always for my fans.
1. I am CONSTANTLY working – editing for someone, working on my own stuff, and getting grabbed to do a screen play (yeah, that last one was a shocker for me too).
2. I have kids and it’s summertime on Cape Cod. This means beaches, ice cream, pool parties, camping, dogs escaping, rock concerts, etc. Oh – and the beach photo above is of Town Neck Beach in Sandwich, which is what the boardwalk scene and bonfire is based on in UNDERTOW.
Because of these two things, my blog gets a wee bit, uh, neglected. And I am totally sorry about that, because I do have a ton of super cool followers on this blog. Therefore I shall try to be better about updating this at least three times a week (or when not shaking the beach sand out of previously unknown body crevices).
I will try to mix this blog as always – books, writing, rants, and Cape Cod life in general. Slowly, I will be reposting all the “writing craft” stuff over to my new blog site, which is dedicated to the schools and libraries I teach for (StoryRebels). On that site I hope to have student writing examples, details on how I edit, the classes I teach, and storytelling in all its fabulous forms. It is a slow process, but it will be worth it when it is done!
But for today, I’d like to announce the local launch of STORMFRONT at Marstons Mills Public Library! Details are below. Be there to get your copies if you want them 10 days before the world-wide launch on August 13, 2014!!
Well, my friends and fellow YA authors, Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie, have gone and done the unthinkable in the publishing world – they are GIVING AWAY one of their co-authored novels FOR FREE (online that is). Their novel SILO is a gift to their readers and will be posted in stages to WattPad. Below is a note from both Trisha and Lindsay about why they are giving away the farm for free . . . or in this case, a silo:
With the release date of CREED rapidly approaching, Lindsay and I have been fielding questions about what our co-authored voice sounds like, how psychologically twisted our collective mind is, and do I need to read all of your co-authored pieces with the lights on?
Rather than simply answer those questions, we thought we’d take it one step further and actually show you! We toyed with writing a prequel-type novella to set the stage for CREED, but you know us…why write a novella to CREED when you can give them an entirely different book to enjoy!
After much discussion with our agents and an enthusiastic ‘go for it’ from our publisher, we have decided to utilize Wattpad to give the world a sneak peek at what they can expect from our co-authored voice. So here it is, a new, psychologically twisted, co-authored YA Thriller.
“The darkness would’ve scared me years ago, but not anymore—if you couldn’t see it, then you didn’t know it was there to be afraid of.” ~Jake Holloway, SILO
Starting today, we will be sharing a chapter a week of our co-authored book, SILO, on Wattpad for the world to enjoy, hate, question our sanity, run screaming from… The last chapter of the book will drop the week of November 8th, the same week CREED releases!
So, go forth and be appropriately frightened as you realize just what our twisted minds of capable of. Spread the word, leave a comment on Wattpad or simply enjoy the book in the dark confines of your own home.
Link to SILO on Wattpad: http://www.wattpad.com/54090436-silo
Trisha Leaver lives on Cape Cod with her husband, three children, and one rather irreverent dog. Her co-authored, YA Psychological Horror drops November 8, 2014 from FLUX. Her solo YA Contemporary, THE SECRETS WE KEEP, releases April, 28th 2015 from FSG/ Macmillan
Lindsay lives in Chicago, Illinois with one incredibly patient hubby, three amazing kids and one adorable, but irreverent Bullmastiff named Sam. She graduated from Knox College in the heart of the Midwest and has been writing for as long as she can remember.
Today, Lindsay is an author, as well as a freelance editor for young adult, new adult and middle grade fiction. She is a proud member of SCBWI, The YA Scream Queens and OneFourKidLit.
It’s no secret that much of what is in UNDERTOW is “doable” in real life on Cape Cod. It’s like a teen’s guide on what to do on the Cape.
Jump from the Town Neck bridge? Yup.
Bonfire on Sandy Neck? Check!
Drive out on the sand with a vehicle? Damn straight!
Nosh on decadent ice cream at the Milk Way? Always!
Of course, some things got renamed . . . like MJ William’s “Milk Way” shop, which was based on Four Seas Ice Cream in Centerville. The fabulous shop is still a staple of Cape Cod – a quirky, four-walled testament to what we are like as Cape Codders in general – sort of slanty, unique, artsy, and multilayer. We beach dwellers strive to be the best at whatever we do, and the hard working crew of Four Seas is no exception.
I remember Four Seas from my childhood days (I am totally a mint chip girl). My Dad would order us scoops in sugar cones and show me how to bite the end off the cone and suck the ice cream through the bottom. We would sit in the open hatch of his beat-up station wagon, watching people in line as they debated the flavor choices on the chalkboard menu. Every once in a while a moan would climb through the line of patrons when a worker would wipe away one chalked selection, signally that the flavor had sold out for the night. Luckily the list was always long and varied and soon the people waiting would begin debating other options.
Really – you could never go wrong with any flavor. Ice cream that good was borderline illegal for its addiction potential.
At Four Seas, toppings were limited, mainly because the ice cream was the true star. It was unneccesary to load such creamy perfection with mass-produced candy bits. Nay, it could almost be considered an insult to the ice cream gods.
The screen door always banged against its faded white frame, and the cow bell jangled with each new customer – nearly inaudible over the sound of voices and laughter. In some ways Four Seas reminded me of Mel’s Diner in American Graffiti – that same vibe of youth, friendship, food, and memories. Many shops strive for such an elusive mix of qualities, though few will earn their way into the same league as Four Seas.
Kids I went to school with often worked there, shoulder to shoulder, scooping madly to keep up with the crowds. The scoops were cone-shaped rather than round, which seemed to make the ice cream even more fantastical. I’m dead serious – don’t mock the scoop!
So yes, I built my vision of The Milk Way on that one ice cream shop I adored and my children now relish. And on Cape Cod, the past often becomes the future, not because we can’t think of anything better, but because the past is just too darn perfect to mess with.
I will be signing UNDERTOW at Four Seas on Saturday, June 7th from 6-9pm.
Come join us for killer ice cream . . . and killer characters.
So . . . I have been totally neglectful of my blog, but it wasn’t because I was addicted to reruns of X-Files or something. I was finishing some edits to STORMFRONT which will launch this summer on Cape Cod (end of July . . . I am hoping). I am also a mom and a Cape Codder (born and raised) and certain weekends on Cape Cod = BBQs, parties, and traffic. It also means that my office is essentially off limits for three days straight.
This weekend is Memorial Day weekend – it is considered the “kick-off” event for our beachside heaven; the roads are packed, the grocery store mobbed, and the scent of charcoal seems to hang in the air. It is a time of water balloons, beach bonfires, and paper table cloths. We spend time entrenched with our family and friends and remember the sacrifices that let us enjoy our beachside freedom.
So, no. I haven’t been on my blog, but now I am. Back because I feel it my duty to relate the “Rules of the Road” if you are visiting Cape Cod (and no – Piping Plovers probably do not taste like chicken, and if you test that theory, you will find that prison food tastes like crap, and that’s a fact).
Cape Cod Road Rules and Funky Facts:
1. Installed beneath the Rte 6 highway are a set of giant gears that make the road become more narrow and thereby cause an even greater crush of traffic. Okay – that’s a total lie, but if you try to come to Cape Cod between 2-8pm on Fridays and 9-2pm on Saturdays, you will find yourself begging for a Teleporter from StarTrek. I’ve actually heard some people scream, “Beam me up, Scotty before I kill someone!” FYI – SMART visitors, come to the Cape on Thursday nights, Friday at the crack of dawn or anytime on Sunday.
2. Leaving is worse than coming. Never, EVER try to leave Cape Cod on a Sunday (anytime) or Saturday before 5pm. Just trust me . . . it’s a golden ticket to the nut house if you try it. And no – 6A won’t save your soul.
3. We get hurricanes. And earthquakes, though they are fairly small. If there is a hurricane coming, just stay put (see afore mentioned traffic nightmares) and don’t try surfing. Ever. You can, however, sandblast your vehicle if you drive down to the beach to watch the wind and waves.
4. Cape Cod is a great place to ride bicycles . . . IN DESIGNATED AREAS. We have miles of canal and rail trails for you to hop on your two wheeler and enjoy the picturesque beauty of our land. Please, for love of God, DO NOT RIDE YOUR BIKE DOWN 6A, RTE 28, RTE 6 – it is a sure fire way to end up standing at the Pearly Gates and not at the local cafe your were headed to.
5. No, we won’t divulge our super-secret backroads that allow us to get around the traffic.
6. Yes, we have sharks, (great whites included) and yup – they come close to shore. They also hang out in the canal and watch the traffic over-head and try to take note of the people who disobey rules 1, 2, and 4 . . . it makes them less guilt-ridden when they chew on the rule-rebels.
7. The town of Bourne (that last ditch chance to get off the traffic clogged highways that head on Cape) is home to stunning beaches that most people totally ignore . . . which, I guess is actually okay, because I can have my pick of beach spots. You know what? Just ignore this part of my post . . .
8. The Silver Seas cruise line heads through the Cape Cod Canal once a week (around 10pm) and is an insane sight to behold. It is completely worth camping at Bourne Scenic Park to just get a glimpse of it.
9. For most Cape Codders, fall is the most stunning time of year. The weather is perfect, the beaches are endless and open, and the traffic has dwindled. We will miss you, our visitor friends who come for a small piece of our world, and we encourage you to think long and hard about what you have enjoyed while here. Because if you loved it for a weekend, why not come and live here, along side us, all year round?
“Raef” (aka Colby McWilliams) hanging with some UNDERTOW fans :)