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Shatter, by Nikki Trionfo, & a Giveaway!

I’m a sucker for great opening lines. Here’s how gifted debut author, Nikki Trionfo, opens Shatter:

The playfulness of the lines gives a glimpse into the innocence and vulnerability of main character, Salem Jefferson, yet belies the tragedy and darkness that soon follow. It was my love of playful first lines that let Nikki Trionfo have me at “hello” with this book.

And it’s no secret I love kissing books.

Shatter is a YA murder mystery, written in first-person, present-tense. To be honest, not something I’d normally pick off the shelf. I’m so glad I did. Within the mystery also lies a slow burn of young love that builds at the same level as Salem’s ability to trust and break down her own prejudices. SPOILER ALERT: There wouldn’t have been a clever line about first kisses, without a payoff later. If you like kissing books as much as I do, trust that amid all the sleuthing and intrigue is found your sweet reward.

The real story, though, is about Salem finding her own strength—the strength her sister, Carrie, always knew she had.

Definitely worth the read!

Shatter Blurb

“We never knew there could be people in the orchard. Dangerous people.”

When a mysterious explosion kills her sister, Salem becomes convinced the death was no accident—it was a conspiracy. But no one else at her high school believes her, and all she has so far are theories and clues. With Carrie’s killers still out there, Salem’s not sure who she can trust. If she can’t she prove she’s right before it’s too late, the conspiracy might take another life—hers.

Excerpt

The class is dead silent. Mr. White’s lips tighten. He swallows. There’s something dangerous about the new guy. The teacher leans over AddyDay’s desk and spins her packet so he can read the list of partnerships. “Fine. We’ll break up the threesome. You’ll pair with . . . Salem Jefferson.”

At the sound of my name, I turn to look at my new partner.

The guy near the door is tall. He has the kind of incredible good looks that invite stares, but that’s not the only reason he’s getting them now. The cursive lettering of a tattoo rises from the opening of the guy’s worn flannel shirt. Two gold chains hang from his brown neck. A guy accessorized in gang paraphernalia, not caked with it. His only completely visible marking is an upside down V inked onto his right cheekbone, black and distinct. The tattoo calls my attention for some reason, even though I’m sure I’ve never seen a symbol like that before. An upside down V . . . it seems so familiar.

His expressionless, dark eyes dart to meet my gaze from under a stiff, backward-facing ball cap. My classmates watch him stare at me.

“Salem Jefferson,” he says slowly, putting a slight emphasis on my last name. He waits for my response.

I realize he knows exactly who Salem Jefferson is. Exactly who I am. I’m Carrie’s sister.

Terrified, I whirl back around to face forward. Gang members targeted Carrie, made her frightened. Was he one of them? The skin between my shoulder blades tightens. Why were gang guys after Carrie?

Pick up Shatter Here

Did I say “Giveaway?” Check out the Shatter drawing below:
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0

Live The Dream

That book contract thing I mentioned the other day. That really happened.

And, with you as my witness, it did not happen overnight.

My grown daughter, mother-of-many, congratulated me, adding, “Mom, I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t know you wanted to be a writer.”

And it hit me. That’s a lot of years to want to be something. I hadn’t realized I wanted it so much, for so long, that my children were aware of it. I know I hadn’t been doing what I should to make it happen.

It made me think about others who might face the same situation. If I had one thing to tell them, it would be this: Do not wait until you are the mother-of-a-mother-of-many to go after your dream.

But saying one thing is not my strength, so here is an entire list:

  1. Do not wait until [insert excuse here] to go after your dream. Don’t wait until you lose the weight, make a good living, raise the kids, finish college, go back to college, have your forever home, and on and on and on. Jump in where you are. I promise it will be worth it.
  2. Believe in yourself. When your teacher/parent/friend/sibling/co-worker told you that you were good at something, believe in that. Even if they didn’t, and your truest self knew it anyway, believe it. Believe it. They didn’t tell you that to be nice, and you didn’t know it, despite their oversight, because you were fooling yourself. You are good at it. And you will be better after a lot of hard work and trial and error. There is a spark of something—even if only a secret desire—that makes you different than the average bear. Embrace it. Believe it.
  3. You write, therefore, you are a writer. Think like one. Act like one. Be one. Don’t let the money factor stop you from thinking of yourself as a writer. Writers write. You are a writer. The other stuff will come if you just keep writing.
  4. Comparison is the thief of everything. I mean it. Stop comparing yourself to anyone. Just do your own time, in your own way. You may never write the stuff of Pulitzer prizes. That does not make your work unworthy. Your writing process might not be the same as someone else’s, but neither of you are wrong. There are better authors than you, and there are worse ones. Some of the worse ones make a good living at it. Just do you.
  5. Listen to those who have been where you are now, but also learn to trust your instincts. Yes! Learn from critique partners, contest judges, friends with more experience. But know that none of them understand your story and characters, and what you want out of them, more than you. Take in all the suggestions. Let them ruminate for a while. Make the changes if you want to, but don’t be afraid to change them again, when doing it your way feels better. Trust your gut. The first inspiration came to you, not to your mentors.
  6. Have the courage to be terrible. You know that talent thing? It’s way over-rated. The world is full of talented people who never sit down and write a darn book. Write yours. It will be terrible. ALL FIRST DRAFTS ARE TERRIBLE. (Look up Ernest Hemingway’s quote on first drafts. His career turned out okay, and every one of his first drafts, according to him, were steaming piles.) You can fix a bad page. You can’t fix a blank one. [—Jodi Picoult] Your terrible pages don’t have to stay that way. That’s what revisions are for, silly.
  7. It’s all about perseverance. If this writing thing is what you want, keep working at it. And when it’s time, query and submit the heck out of that puppy. It’s a numbers game. Very subjective. All you need to do is get it in front of the right person’s eyes once. It might take 100 wrong people first. And that’s okay. Or publish it yourself. It’s a marvelous time to be a writer.

This is just the first book. It’s not even published yet. I’ve got such a long way to go. But I’ve crossed a hurdle that kept me from legitimacy in my own mind for more years than I’d like to admit. And it feels amazing. If I can finally cross that hurdle, you can too.

1

My New/Old Day Job

This is the last day of my “day job.” The one I started only five weeks ago.

I’ve had a difficult time convincing anyone that this is the right move. I can understand how it looks from the outside looking in. I get it.

After taking a couple of years off the old eight-to-five, punch-in, punch-out grind, to focus on the writing business, this new, perfect opportunity fell squarely in my lap. It seemed like manna from heaven, and that passing on it would be the ultimate ingratitude. And even though my gut-instinct—or that still, small voice—was not giving me the brilliant green light, it wasn’t giving me a screeching warning either. It was as though the answer was, “It’s not going to hurt to check it out. Go ahead and apply. Go ahead and interview. Everything will be okay.” Not really a feeling of peace, but not one of sheer dread, either.

On the surface, this would seem like the perfect opportunity. A former co-worker contacted me, asking if I was looking for a job. I hadn’t been, but I knew I probably should have been.

After a year of serious pitching, querying, and submitting, I had a growing stack of kind and encouraging rejections on my first completed novel. I knew I hadn’t used my time and potential as well as I could have. I thought that maybe having an externally-imposed structure might improve my writing productivity, because I’d be forced to use my limited writing time with more focus. (Yeah. That didn’t happen.)

At this new place, there were ten people I’d worked with at the “great and spacious building” I left two years before. Joining them seemed like becoming part of a David and Goliath story. It felt like sticking it to the man. It was closure for an open wound. I’d be working in a familiar industry, fighting the good fight for those in need. And I’d be good at it.

Two days into the new job I received an email from an acquisitions editor at Cedar Fort Publishing.

“Hello Tana, I have read your entire book and am going to pitch it to the board.”

It didn’t have the word “love” or even “like” in it, but those things are implied. Editors do not read an entire manuscript if they aren’t in love with it.

That one sentence changed my whole perspective about the new job.

(Long story less long, I signed with Cedar Fort. Much more on that in a different post.)

I believe everything happens for a reason.

The writing thing is still a crap shoot. There’s no guarantee this book or future books are going to sell even one copy, much less become a viable income stream. But having this one success has at least given me an indication I’ve been on the right track. This experience has shown me what I DON’T want to be doing for a living. It’s given me a renewed sense of purpose. It’s reminded me that I MUST treat the writing like the business I’ve always wanted it to be.

Thanks for listening. I need to jump in the shower and get dressed for that last day.

Next week I’m taking my new writing career on a road trip to visit family in Vegas. Because you can do that with a writing career. Writing IS my day job. I remember that now.

And I finally feel that peace again.

 

2

I’m Bouncy, Trouncy, Flouncy, Pouncy, Full of Fun, Fun, Fun!

http://coloringpages.net

http://coloringpages.net

The title of this post might be untruth in advertising…Only the picture of Tigger is fun, fun, fun.

I woke up at 3:20 am with conversations of last evening going ‘round in my head. Did I say too much? Did I not say enough of the right things?

Captain Awesome Man and I are in Phoenix, on family business that had been potentially serious, but turned out to be less so. Still, we’re glad we got to spend time with his family—some I only knew through Facebook, some I hadn’t seen since they were children. I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t the blood relative. When you’ve been a member of a family for 36 years, it kind of doesn’t matter, I guess.

At any rate, after staring at the dark this morning for a couple of hours (with a dead phone, so I couldn’t listen to something to distract my thoughts and go back to sleep), I got up and tried to shower and collect my stuff in the dark without waking C.A.M. (unsuccessfully). 45 minutes later, I woke him again, trying to feel my way to the outlet and get the laptop cord untangled from the suitcases. He is patient with me when he knows I’m trying to work.

I always think that, since “I can write anywhere,” I’ll just carry on and knock out those words while traveling. While I have managed to get some stuff done on trips over the past year, it’s never enough. But then, I have too many days like that at home, too. I can’t blame it on jetlag. (Arizona Time is the same as Pacific Time in the summer—they don’t do no stinkin’ Daylight Savings Time.) I can’t blame unfamiliar beds, surroundings, foods, company, etc. It’s more about this brain that bounces around in the middle of the night.

I’m working on a super-secret-sauce project that I’m really stoked about. (Dude!) It could potentially become my actual day job, and pay the bills, while the novels go through their rounds.

About those novels…Pitches went well at the Romance Writers of America national conference, in San Diego, in July.Two new requests came from it and some excitement about the current work in progress. I did my very first “elevator pitch,” and it wasn’t scary at all.

I should probably translate.

Agents and acquisition editors go to writing conferences to seek out new projects. Authors request 10-minute appointments with of all the professionals they think might be a good match for their work. The conference organizers give the authors only two appointments, based on the wish list and availability. In that 10 minutes, the author has to concisely (I know, I know) describe their book and persuade the agent or editor that they want it. Either it fits their needs, or it doesn’t. If it does, they request the manuscript to read and decide if they want to represent/publish it. An “elevator pitch” is the quick version—for when you happen to catch one of the professionals in the elevator (never the bathroom). My elevator pitch took place in the foyer, actually, and it was an editor I’d already met, so it went well.

All right. Gotta run. Every word on the blog is a word NOT in the book. I just wanted to have a short chat with you… But you can see why my rambling, circuitous, bouncing thoughts might keep me awake at night. Boing, boing, boing…

0

She Felt Too Much

I wIMG_2538as cleaning out a notebook and came across this bit. It was a workshop exercise at a meeting of Idaho Writer’s League, more than a year ago, but I don’t remember what the assignment was or what spurred this particular narrative. I wanted to capture it here before I throw away the scrap of paper. It was written on the fly, no thought beforehand, and is basically a brain dump. But I kind of like it.

Her biggest problem was that she felt too much. And also her greatest asset.

An asset, because empathy made her everyone’s best friend. A problem, because she wasn’t the sort of best friend who got invited to parties or dinner (especially “couples” dinners), or even for Holidays, when everyone knew she lived alone.

No, she was the best friend people called when they needed a good whine about their first-world problems, their busy schedules, their spouses, who just didn’t understand.

She was the “good listener” who absorbed everyone’s trivial trials like an overnight Depends.

She never forgot birthdays or anniversaries, and remembered what everyone took in their coffee.

Were she to ask any one of her “best friends” what her favorite color was, they’d likely say, “beige” when she wanted them to say “fuchsia.” (Of course they would say beige. Beige blends and goes away altogether when something more colorful, like them, is laid against it.)

If she were to ask any of them where she would like to travel to someday, they would stare blankly, because she wasn’t the sort of best friend who one thinks about having hopes and dreams and aspirations.

So she created her own best friends, whose skeletons and flesh were comprised entirely of ink and paper. Her best friends lived vibrant, happy lives in which she was an integral component. Or they lived lonely, tragic lives—but let her be the whiner, pouring out her soul in their creation.

Her real best friends, though not of genuine flesh and bones, tucked her into bed at night, as she thought of their next plot twist. They greeted her each morning with their voices in her head, begging to be written in witty dialogue.

Her biggest problem (and asset) was that she felt too much.

(And, no. I don’t think this is entirely autobiographical.)

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Take Care, Scout. Take Care, Miz Lee.

harperlee
Harper Lee has passed at the age of 89.

Her Pulitzer Prize winning book, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, the only one we know for sure she approved of being published, is my all-time favorite novel. Or at least that’s what I’ve always believed. I’ve just recently picked it back up after 43 years.

My thirteen-year-old self fell in love with the relationship between Atticus Finch and his daughter, Scout. I’m told by others that every little girl wished they had a daddy like Atticus, but, at thirteen, I thought I was the only one.

In the book, Leto-kill-a-mockingbird2_9855e describes Atticus like this: “Jem and I found our father satisfactory; he played with us, read to us, and treated us with courteous detachment.” A girl being raised by a single mother, with a very charming but mostly absent father, longed for a relationship with that kind of “courteous detachment.”

Scout learned to read while sitting on Atticus’ lap every evening with the paper. She and Jem were comfortable enough with their relationship with him to refer to him by his first name—but always called him “Sir” when speaking directly to him. It was Alabama, after all. He spoke to them almost as contemporaries, and he never talked down to them

At thirteen, the worst time of my life (yours too?), I felt, at turns, both micromanaged and neglected (because everything is a blown way out of proportion when you’re a thirteen-year-old girl). Atticus’ “courteous detachment” meant neither of these things, and I adored him for it.

I’ve been afraid to re-read TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, in case it didn’t live up to the “favorite” status I’ve given it all these years. I’m not done with it yet, but so far, it’s holding its own.

I’m sad to see Harper Lee go, though her quality of life had suffered over the past several years. It’s bothered me that her younger relatives sold her second book, GO SET A WATCHMAN, last year, likely without her express legal consent. She had decades to publish it, if that’s truly what she really wanted, and she didn’t.

I will read it anyway, hoping my Atticus/Scout ideal won’t be bruised too badly by it.

Goodbye, Miz Lee. Goodbye Scout. I will miss you. Y’all take care, now. Hear?