Saturday, January 30, 2010

AUTHOR BLOG TOUR: Guest Post by Angela Morrison

Bee asked me to expand on my experience writing SING ME TO SLEEP in my guest post. I wrote the first draft in a month, and she wanted to know if it was NaNo project or something like that.

Nope. It was more like an I've-got-a-deadline-and-I'm-in-a-total-panic project. IGADAIIATPP? Do you think that will catch on? 

So here's the whole story. September 2008. We were living in Singapore--high rise apartment, only our youngest left at home, my husband gone almost the whole month. TAKEN BY STORM was six months away from release. The ARCs were out. Book one in my contract with Razorbill down. Book two to go. 

I'd met with Razorbill back in June on my way through New York. We were in transit that summer from Switzerland to Singapore and took a nice long holiday in the States. My editor told me they loved my pitch for the second book in Leesie and Michael's stormy saga, but they weren't sure if the time was right for a sequel. This was almost a year before we got that starred review from Publisher's Weekly and all those great blogosphere reviews. We didn't know B&N would support it like they did. 

Razorbill decided they wanted to treat STORM as a stand-alone and asked me to write a second unrelated novel. That way if STORM wasn't well received, the second novel wouldn't be doomed. They'd taken a huge risk in me. I understood why they'd want to spread the risk. 

They suggested I go ahead with the dramatic, bite your fingernails, break your heart story I'd planned for Michael and Leesie. But simply write it for different characters.

I refused. That was Leesie's story. I'd save it for her and hope. (I'm still hoping. I wrote UNBROKEN CONNECTION this fall and am waiting to hear if Razorbill will sign it up for 2011. Hope with me, okay?)

They weren't interested in my two other completed novels. So I had to come up with something totally new. I developed several ideas from my story files and morning pages. (If you don't know what morning pages are, go buy THE ARTIST'S WAY by Julia Cameron right away--especially if you are a writer.)

The choir story stood out. I'd always wanted to set a novel in this world, but I didn't have a story. A recent tragedy and the strength and love the family of Amabile Choirs in London, Ontario showed throughout it gave me a story that wouldn't let go. I developed an outline and pitched it to my editor. 

She pitched back. She suggested Beth have a boy back home to add to the conflict. And she thought Beth's lyrics should be woven throughout the novel.

We both started getting excited. 

She came up with the "Phantom of the Opera" hook to sell it to her boss. I agreed to try to work with that to develop the love triangle.  "Beauty and the Beast" kind of took over when I wrote it. But "Phantom" certainly plays a role.

We had a good working draft of an outline by the end of July. Great. And then I waited for the green light on the project. All August.

Time was ticking. I knew they needed a draft before the end of the year.  Could I do it? TAKEN BY STORM took forever to write. But it gave me the chance to hone it. How could I do justice to this story with such a short time frame for my creative process?

My editor got the go ahead from her publisher the end of August. I started writing. And didn't stop.

Beth's voice was just there telling me the story. I wrote every day--except Sunday. All day and into the night. 

I write my rough drafts by hand. When I get stuck, I type up all the rough pages. My handwritten drafts are really rough--usually just dialogue. When I type them, I add description, emotion, and action. I usually struggle with those RD pages. I push myself to draft five new pages every day before I got to work on the computer typing and revising what I've already written. 

Because the new creation phase is the hardest part of the writing process for me, I make myself as comfortable as possible--crawl back in bed, prop myself up on feather pillows, and write big and sloppy on pale pink unlined paper. I have a flat kidney-shaped lap desk that works great. I usually do this for an hour--maybe two--and then I'm empty.

But during that month I drafted SING ME TO SLEEP, I'd write roughs all day. Instead of five pages, I'd write ten to fifteen. One day I drafted thirty pages.

My hand began to ache. I bought a brace and kept writing.

By the end of September, I had a draft done--300+ pages. It was full of holes, though.

I plunged into research and revising. I shaped it up enough to send it to my critique pals, and my friend, Joyce, whose son's story had inspired mine. I got valuable feedback. A few more weeks of revising and it was just before Thanksgiving. I had a polished draft to send to my editor. She read it on the train on her way home for the holiday. And cried her eyes out.

With SING ME TO SLEEP, more than anything else I've ever written, I feel like I was simply the instrument of the story. The midwife carefully ushering it into the world. I know I had help from unseen hands. And earthly hands, too.

I feel blessed that all those hands let mine share this story. 
Thank you Angela for sharing this fantastic story with us. Your journey is truly inspiring and we wish you all the best in future *can't wait for Unbroken Connections, btw*

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Teaser Tuesday ~BA

It's Tuesday once again, one of my favourite days on blogosphere, simply for the fact that I know what I should post today. So far, this has been an eventful month. I got a new WiP, one I'm having a lot of fun writing. Eventually I will also get back to SW (it's in re-planning stage), but I'm hoping to get BA finished before I get into that. And getting back to where this month is concerned, I'm hosting Angela Morrison Month and giving away a copy of Sing Me To Sleep. Be sure to check that out.
Now for the tease. This is from Breaking Away. Ronni is at a party.

*chowed on*

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Climactic *GIVEAWAY*!!: Angela Morrison Month [CLOSED]

THAT is the Sing Me To Sleep trailer. It's nice how they actually got actors to perform instead of simply putting up random pictures. I kinda got tired seeing Chace Crawford pictures over so many book trailers on YouTube. Don't get me wrong, I had my share of fangirling for him too, but too much of anything is bad, and too much of Chace Crawford in my system also had its adverse effect. *Sorry Chace!*


As part of Angela Morrison Month, I had an interview and a review. Now comes the climax.

The Grand Giveaway!

This is where you get a chance to win the finished hardcover copy of Sing Me To Sleep (courtesy the fantastic Angela Morrison!), which comes out on March 4th, '10.

To be eligible for this giveaway, leave a comment underneath.

Extra points:
+2 If you Follow me.
+2 If you post a link to the Sing Me To Sleep trailer on your blog or any social networking site. Here's the link:
Once you post it, leave me a link in the comments section, so that I know you posted.
+3 If you leave a question for Angela in the comments section below. Ask her anything you like regarding her books, writing etc. There's a very good chance of your questions being answered.
+5 If you make a blog post about this contest. One or two lines will be fine. (Leave a link)
+1 For each time you tweet/facebook/post on the sidebar etc. (Leave a link for each)

There will be one winner who gets the Sing Me To Sleep book.
There will be two other winners who will get Taken By Storm/Sing Me To Sleep bookmarks signed by Angela Morrison.

                  Deadline: 10th Feb '10
             This contest is open worldwide! 

What are you waiting for? Get started!
PS. Hoping this is the beginning of many more giveaways on Dreamcatcher's Lair. Oh, in case you're wondering why I changed my blog name, lets just say I was bummed seeing so many blogs with the word 'Books' in their name.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

CHATTERBUZZ: Writing Advice from Trisha Ashley

 Whether or not you read adult chick lit, you must have heard about Trisha Ashley, one of Britain's most popular writer of romantic comedies. And they are fantastic books, trust me, even if they aren't YA. I especially loved Sowing Secrets, which was absolutely delicious!

I'm honoured to have Trisha on my blog today. She's here to enlighten us with some writing advice. Trust her to know -- she's almost a veteran in the industry!

Trisha Ashley is the author of thirteen novels including A Winter’s Tale, which was a Times bestseller and also shortlisted for the 2009 Melissa Nathan award for romantic comedy.  Her latest book is Wedding Tiers and her next, Chocolate Wishes, comes out in March this year.  Visit her website where you can email her, join her newsletter group or leave a message in her guestbook.

The three Golden Tips for aspiring/upcoming writers:
1)  This may sound very obvious, but it has to be said: writers write, it is in the nature of the job description.  You write every day and feel guilty and bereft if you have finished a novel and not started on the next.  So, don’t just think about it, do it. Get in the writing habit, if only for ten or fifteen minutes a day and then build on that.  However busy you are, if you really want to write you will find the time.
2)  You will know your main characters are three dimensional when they start having conversations with each other in your head.  This is usually just as you are trying to go to sleep and you must switch the light on and immediately write down what they are saying, because you will have entirely forgotten it by morning.
3)  Read a lot of recently published novels in the genre you are aiming at yourself.  Consider what length they are and what the readers of that kind of book expect from a novel.
4) Read Stephen King’s book called On Writing, and Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones for inspiration.

What inspires you to keep writing?   
I’d like to be flip here and say my bank overdraft!  However, I write because there is always something I am burning to write about, new ideas to explore.

What’s the easiest thing about writing and what’s the hardest?  
The hardest part has to be when you are just setting out with a novel, before it gains its own momentum – it feels a bit like pushing a rock up a mountain with your nose.  Then suddenly it’s rolling down the other side and you’re running to keep up with it!

Five random things about yourself...     

1) I read cookbooks when I'm dieting.
2) I am City & Guilds qualified to professional level to make stained glass windows.
3) My dancing resembles a puppet in urgent need of restringing.
4) My favourite flower is the rose.
5) I was first published at the age of eleven, with a poem in my local newspaper.

Thanks so much for being here, Trisha. We wish you many more bestsellers to come and a great writing life (which I'm certain you already have. Hey, writers do have the best lives, don't they?).
Go check out her books, guys :D 

Sunday, January 17, 2010

I blogged at Amna's!

The lovely Amna asked me to blog over at her's.

*super squee*

This was my first ever guest post. If you're kind and nice enough, go check out stuff I wrote about making relatable characters at Amna's Blog of Awesomeness.
Go, hurry!! :D

Saturday, January 16, 2010

ANGELA MORRISON MONTH: ReaderBuzz: *Sing Me To Sleep* by Angela Morrison

Beth has always been “The Beast”—that’s what everyone at school calls her because of her awkward height, facial scars, and thick glasses. Beth’s only friend is geeky, golden-haired Scott. That is, until she’s selected to be her choir’s soprano soloist, and receives the makeover that will change her life forever.
When Beth’s choir travels to Switzerland, she meets Derek: pale, brooding, totally dreamy. Derek’s untethered passion—for music, and for Beth—leaves her breathless. Because in Derek’s eyes? She’s not The Beast, she’s The Beauty.
When Beth comes home, Scott, her best friend in the world, makes a confession that leaves her completely torn. Should she stand by sweet, steady Scott or follow the dangerous, intense new feelings she has for Derek?
The closer Beth gets to Derek, the further away he seems. Then Beth discovers that Derek’s been hiding a dark secret from her …one that could shatter everything.

I have to be honest. I kept putting off reviewing this book. 
'Cos it was so emotionally overwhelming.

I was blown away by Taken By Storm and I just had to read Angela Morrison's sophomore outing. Taken By Storm had dual PoVs -- that of Michael and Leesie's. In Sing Me To Sleep, it's just Beth - the seventeen year old girl bullied everyday single day of her life. When a certain Meadow and her mom wave their magic wands Beth the Beast transforms to Beth the Beauty and wins the heart of David - star of the Amabile Boy's Choir (I swear, choir boys have never been hotter!). If you're thinking Cinderella, think again. 

Because...well, you need to read it to find out.

I'm in love with Angela Morrison's writing. It's poetic, lyrical and so beautiful. Every word, every phrase, every line touches you. More than a writer, I think she's a brilliant student of human emotions. She touches upon a lot of aspects of a teen's life --bullying, friendship, love, loss, self-discovery.
Beth's lyrics are splattered throughout the book, giving us a deeper glimpse into her mind, making her so much more relatable. I thought the subtle Phantom Of The Opera parallel running alongside added an interesting twist to the story.

I'll go back to what I said before. Sing Me To Sleep is such a moving story, both luminous and heart-wrenching, it kept me thinking days after and I needed sometime to detach myself from it, before I could write about it. It made me laugh. It made me angry. It made me smile. And it made me bawl my eyes out.

Yes, this is stuff that fantastic YA fiction is made of. Wow.

Sing Me To Sleep comes out on March 4th, 2010 (Rush over to order your copy on Amazon)

And guess, who has a signed ARC? Me! Me! Me! If you want one too (you'll get the actual copy), as part of Angela Morrison Month, I will be holding a GIVEAWAY of the book soon. So be on the lookout.

 Also check out:
My Interview with Angela Morrison
My review of Taken By Storm 
Blog Tour by Angela Morrison (30th Jan!)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

*~Overheard ~*

It's Thursday, but I'm gonna take a late Road Trip. And, oh yes, this is my first Road Trip Wednesday :)

YA Highway asked: What's everyone's reaction when they find you you're writing a book?

Turns out, not very many people know that. It's my big secret (tra-la...oh, now you know). But there have been a few who found out.

Mum: "Sweetheart, when's it getting published?" (like I control the publishing industry)

Dad: "Umm...right, you're not serious, are you? Wait, are you planning to take that as a real job? I'm not opening a bank here, just so you know."

Brother: "Wicked. Just get it done, will you..I wanna see it in print." *punches the air* (my biggest fan, only fan)

Acquaintance #1: *blinks* "Okay."

Acquaintance #2: "Go, girl. You can do it."

Acquaintance #3: "You should write about the economic downturn."

Acquaintance #4: "All, will you do my homework?"


"What are you writing about?"

"So..*changes subject*"

"I'm so proud of you." (Said person is someone I've never met before. Ahem.  Courtesy Mum's gushing)

"Get me a free book when it's published."

"Can I have your autograph?"

"Ah...teenagers *rolls eyes*"

"Will there be a steamy sex scene?"

"Why?" ('cause you're not satisfying me, duckhead)

And while you're at it, do stop over at Race's blog. She's holding a giveaway of The Secret Year.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

CHATTERBUZZ: *Interview + Angela Morrison Month*

CHATTERBUZZ features interviews, writer tips and the usual chatter from writers far and wide, published, upcoming and soon-to-be-published (well, I'm getting there!)

I have some great news.


All right, so this month gets the official title of Angela Morrison Month, 'cos - you guessed it - it's gonna feature an interview, blog tour and a guest post..all from the immensely talented ANGELA MORRISON, author of TAKEN BY STORM (hardcover out now, paperback coming out in Feb '10) and SING ME TO SLEEP (coming in March '10).
You can tell I'm super-excited to have her here. First up, the interview! Hold your breath (on second thought, don't -I don't want you guys turning blue) goes.

Time you reveal your identity *big grin*...

No, no, please don't make me. . . . I'm a mother of four--three boys and my perfect daughter. My oldest son is married and he and his wife have the cutest baby boy in the world. Being a grandma is great. You get all the fun and no poopy diapers. I was a full-time hands on cookie baking super mom for about two decades. When my youngest son, went to school, I did, too. I enrolled in Vermont College's fabulous Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults low residency program.

I've always wanted to be a writer, but I realized I needed to qualify myself. Learn from professionals. I tell high school kids I speak to that the arts are the same as any endeavor. You can't expect to be a professional without some darn good coaching. At Vermont College, you attend two residencies a year and then work with a mentor via mail or email--like you would an editor. I learned from some of the best--Ron Koertge, Sharon Darrow, Louise Hawes, and Susan Fletcher. They set me on my way. It took three and half years of rejection and revision post graduation to land a contract, but it finally happened! And now I get to share my books with readers all over the world. It's pretty fantastic.

Bee tells me that a lot of you readers are up and coming writers. Don't give up. Keep writing and revising. Qualify yourself every way you can. When opportunities come up, don't be afraid to push through the door and grow from them.

The cover of SING ME TO SLEEP looks so tempting, what's it got inside to tempt us to read? (This is for cynical readers, I'm gonna read it anyway 'cos I'm so in love with with your writing already)
SING is Beth's journey from the ugly, harassed girl at school--the Beast--to someone who is truly beautiful. Her physical transformation takes place early on. All of the sudden she's hot, and she doesn't trust herself or anyone. But by the end of the novel, what she has learned through love and pain transforms her. She is truly stunning--inside. A beauty anyone would love.

So SING ME was inspired by The Phantom Of The Opera?
You are writers . . . so I'll let you in a huge secret. Editors, agents, publishers, marketers are always looking for a high concept (ie. commercial) hook that they can hang a story on to sell it. I'm not that great at thinking like that.

SING was inspired by a dear friend of my daughter's who sang with the Amabile Young Men's Ensemble. My editor suggested the Phantom hook. I rebelled at first, but as I wrote the novel, it worked perfectly. My editor is a genius. One of my favorite scenes is the Phantom spoof Beth dreams.

Music plays an important part of Beth's life in SING ME..How important is music to your writing?
I work best in silence, but I listen to music to get myself to the emotional place I need to be to create. I play the piano and sing in the choir at church. Music helps center me so I can tune in to what is important. And it gives me ideas for ways to express my characters emotions.

I have a playlist of the most romantic songs in the world that I listened to when I wrote STORM. No matter how far away from the manuscript I've been, listening to those songs takes me right back to Michael and Leesie. Maybe that's why I feel compelled to keep writing about them.

I did the same thing with SING, but added a lot of other songs of all types because I had to write lyrics. I actually dissected many, many songs--wrote out their skeletons on a big piece of paper--and then filled it up with my words. Remember writing haiku or sonnets? It was kind of like that.

TAKEN BY STORM spoke about the Mormon faith --did you set out specifically to become a Mormon writer or did it just happen along the way?
I set out specifically NOT to become a Mormon writer. I discovered that was impossible. It was kind of like my French. I know enough to say basic things, but it sounds dumb. What I wrote sanitized of my faith was dumb.

Jane Yolen, in TAKE JOY, says that if we leave our inner truth out of our stories, they are rags on a stick masquerading as story. That is so true. As I followed Michael to my home town where I so cruelly stranded him and introduced him to the only Mormon girl in town, I realized I had to involve my faith in a very open and realistic way. I had no idea how to do it without making it awful--boring, preachy or unintelligible. I had lots of helpful critiques at Vermont College, great mentors to guide me, and even ended up writing my critical thesis on how a person of faith can create great fiction. I studied Katherine Paterson. She says to let our faith be the "bones and sinews" of our work--not the outer dress. STORM has my faith written all over the outside. SING uses it as the bones and sinews.

Speaking of STORM, when are we getting more of Leesie and Michael?
You can read the first chapter of UNBROKEN CONNECTION, book two in Leesie and Michael's saga, on my website. It's in my editor's hands now. I have no idea if Razorbill will buy it or not. I'm going crazy waiting for news. I'll let you know as soon as I do.

Did you have an 'Eureka' moment or did you always know you were gonna become a writer?
As soon as I learned how to write in first grade, I knew that was what I wanted to do.

What inspires you to keep writing?
I'm incredibly grumpy when I don't write. I'm blissful when I do. I don't want to spend the rest of life miserable, so I write. And I have been blessed with loads of novel ideas that I want to develop. More than I can ever complete. Give me ten years, and maybe I'll be ready to slow down. Right now it's full steam ahead.

Why YA? (You have grown out of teendom, haven't you?)
Actually, I don't think I have grown out of teendom. My teen years are still so vivid to me. Especially the painful stuff. And I was a scribbler even then, so I have journals full of stuff that I can't bear look at. When I began writing full-time, my house was full of teen age boys. That's what came out of my pen.

My historical work is borderline adult fiction, but what will keep me forever technically YA is my fascination with the coming of age journey. That's a deep well that I can explore artistically forever. And if you want to be serious and literary, coming of age is the true definition of young adult literature--even if it's coming of age with vampires.

'Write what you know' or 'Write what you want to know'-- which school do you belong to?
"Write what you know" gave me writer's block for years. When I finally did it, I learned what that truly means. When I write a novel, everything I've ever done, seen, learned, known, imagined, read, watched, etc., gets broken into tiny pieces and spread out all over the ground. Then I have to pick up the pieces and try to fashion them into something with a beginning, middle, and end. That entertains and has meaning. What I want to know plugs the holes. I research a lot for every project. I never know enough.

I tell writers to write what they know, they love, they are curious about, they have just learned and are excited about, what they imagine--use it all. You'll need it.

Rewind to teenhood. If there was a classification of high school stereotypes, which would you fall into?
Believe it or not, I started out a cheerleader. My big sister was Varsity. I was Junior Varsity. This was back before cheering had become a sport in and of itself. Dark ages. You did routines and yelled the whole game. I am very loud and loved to dance. So I was good at that. What I stunk at was the social expectations of being a cheerleader. My sister managed to be a good Mormon girl and popular. I think I alienated the entire football team. I didn't get voted in again. My sister's coat tails--or glorious long hair--weren't long enough for that.

So I became the artistic nerd. Miss Writer. A loner. Very much like Leesie. Sat on the stage and read books. Escaped to wonderful writing workshops across the state where I fell in love with beautiful boys who were writers, too. Wrote long, long, letters to them. Haunted the mailbox. Ah, the internet would have changed my life back then! See, I still haven't outgrown it. That's why I write YA.

Time for five random things about yourself in the next 5 seconds.
Wow. Times up. I don't do anything in five seconds. I guess that's one. I'm left handed. I wear pink ballet shoes instead of slippers. I could eat Mexican food every day of my life. Arizona style Mexican food. I've been in coal mines in three countries. Phew. Five.

If you had a time machine that you could use only once, where would you go-- past or future?
To write my historical novel, MY ONLY LOVE (work in progress), I invested so much time and capital in trying to recreate the lives of my ancestors who emigrated to North America from Scotland in the early nineteenth century. I'd love to go back there with a video camera so I could get it all right!

Thank you so much for being here, Angela! We wish you our best in your writerly journey and I, for one, can't wait to see UNBROKEN CONNECTIONS out soon :)

Keep a watch out for the guest post and blog tour. I'll be posting updates on the sidebar.
And, oh yes, the SING ME TO SLEEP review's up next!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

*First Teaser of the Year*

Howdy, folks!

So this a whole new year and I have a new WiP up my sleeve. Okay, so this probably comes as a surprise but Spirits Within has been trunked for now. I realised that it needs time. I'll go back to it, but for now it rests. Meanwhile, this SNI came to me in a rush right on the 1st of this  month, this year. It's YA Contemporary, a genre-jump but I'm hopping excited about it. Tentatively titled Breaking Away, I'm putting up a snip which comes up in the beginning.
Some of you on the TWFT thread at AW might have read this before, so I'm sorry, but I promise I'll post something new on my next teaser.
Say hello to Ronnie here :)


*Lateness bites. Snipped*
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