Dare to Read

March 5, 2012

Where Ideas Come From – 5

Filed under: On Writing,Pictures,The King in the Stone,YA — carmenferreiroesteban @ 5:55 am
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by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban


A gnarled oak sprung from the face of the mountain, and it was under its heavy branches I saw the tomb for the first time. It grew from the earth in the middle of the expanse, seeming as much a part of the mountain as the granite from which it had been carved.

I stepped onto the ledge with the reverence I would upon entering a temple, the rustle of the dry heather under my shoes the only sound to break the silence. The soil, I realized when I came closer, had been excavated around the tomb revealing the scenes carved around its sides. On the slab used for a cover, the lying figure of a knight emerged from the stone.

Eyes closed, his hair loose over his shoulders, he was wearing a tunic that fell down to his knees and boots tight against his calves––the way noblemen dress in my world. A king. He was a king, I knew, even before I saw the circlet on his forehead and the pommel of the sword he held over his chest, the pommel with three lines entangled in the shape of a mountain, the design of the House of Montemaior. My father’s House.

March 1, 2012

My Road to Publication : Jennifer R. Hubbard



Interview by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban



Today, Jennifer R. Hubbard shares with us how a serious commitment to her craft paved her road to publication.

Jennifer, an insightful critique partner, is the author of two moving realistic YA novels: The Secret Year (Viking 2010) and Try Not To Breathe (Viking, January 2012).

You can read my review of Try Not to Breathe here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/282282727

This is, in her own words, her story:

My road to publication was both short and long. I began sending out short stories while I was still in high school, and one of the first stories I sent out got published.

But it was a long time until I sold another.

I took a day job in another field, but I kept writing. For years, I sent out stories, and some of them appeared in magazines. It wasn’t until 2003 that I looked at all the young adult (YA) novels on my shelves and thought, “Why don’t I try to write the kind of book I’ve always loved to read?”

I’d made a few attempts at novels over the years, and most of them would qualify as YA—except they wouldn’t really qualify as novels. I usually only managed one or two short drafts. In 2003, I took a course in writing children’s literature, taught by Vivian Grey. I started going to SCBWI conferences and joined that organization. I sought out critique partners. And I began revising my novels more deeply than I ever had before. When my level of commitment changed, my results changed—slowly, but surely. Late in 2007, I queried an agent at Curtis Brown, Ltd. with my latest effort: a novel about a secret relationship, a sudden death, and a notebook left behind. The agent signed me and sold the book to Viking. It appeared early in 2010 under the title The Secret Year. Earlier this year, my second YA book with Viking, Try Not to Breathe, appeared. It is the story of a boy recovering from a suicide attempt, and his friendship with a girl who is trying to reach her late father through psychics.

When I began my publishing journey, self-publishing was not nearly as viable as it is now. Even so, for an unknown writer doing contemporary realistic fiction, the traditional route still has advantages: access to reviewers, eligibility for awards, access to the school and library market as well as the chain bookstores. My first book appeared on an Indie Next list, an ALA list (Quick Picks), and a Texas Library Association list (Tayshas). Also, I had the benefit of an editorial team, professional book designers, and a marketing team.

It’s very true that publishers don’t send most of their authors on book tours, nor do they buy co-op (prime bookstore placement, such as special displays) for most of their authors. A lot of the social networking, approaching local bookstores about signings, and ordering swag (e.g., bookmarks, pens, postcards) falls to the author. I’ve definitely found that it helps to band together with other local authors for live events, rather than trying to go it alone. I’m currently working with both the Kidlit Authors Club and the New Jersey Authors Network.

However, publishers still do a lot of the behind-the-scenes heavy lifting: contacting national media, handling author appearances at the major conferences like ALA and BEA and NCTE, distributing review copies, and interacting with the bookstore buyers. And my literary agency handles foreign rights and other subsidiary rights (film, audio, etc.) that I would have a hard time shopping on my own.

With traditional publishing, you have less control over the process, but more team members pitching in at every stage of the process. So I think authors can be happy on either road, but just have to choose the route that will work for them.

Bio: Jennifer R. Hubbard (www.jenniferhubbard.com) is the author of The Secret Year and Try Not to Breathe, both young-adult novels. Besides books, she loves hiking and chocolate, and can be found on Twitter @JennRHubbard.

February 27, 2012

Where Ideas Come From – 4

By Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

From The King in the Stone.

The excavation site was nestled in a valley, hidden in the outskirts of the mountain range, which formed a natural wall that would have kept the winds away and protected the village from the harshness of winter storms.

Unlike the village I had pictured in my mind––an enclosure of huts whose thatched roofs almost touched each other––the site that now opened in front of us was a desolate place; a bare expanse of earth where rings of stone emerged like craters on a deserted moon.

February 23, 2012

My Road to Publication : Mike Mulin

Interview by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

Today Mike Mulin, my fellow author at Tanglewood Press is here to tell us how he came to write and publish his debut novel Ashfall, a thrilling YA dystopian story you don’t want to miss.

Q. Ashfall tells the story of two young people trying to survive in the barren landscape of a United States covered in ashes. How did this story came to be?

A. I wrote ASHFALL because the idea—a teen struggling to survive and find his family after the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts—seized me in its jaws and wouldn’t let go. The idea started with another book—Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. Dozens of novel ideas lurk within its pages, but the one that stuck with me was the supervolcano. A few weeks after I read Bryson’s book, I woke at 3:30 am with a scene occupying my head so completely I was afraid it would start spilling out my ears. I typed 5,500 words, finishing just before dawn. Then I put the project away and let it gestate for eight months. When I returned to it after researching volcanoes and volcanic ash, I realized the inspired scene I wrote in the middle of the night wouldn’t work, and ultimately that whole section had to be scrapped. The only three words that remain from that draft? Ashfall, Alex, and Darla.

Q. What genre is it?

A. Young Adult Science Fiction. It’s an apocalyptic novel with dystopian elements.

Q. Who is the expected audience?

A. Teens and adults who love dystopian fiction and disaster stories. If Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life as We Knew It had a baby with Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet were the godfather, the baby would be something like ASHFALL.

Now tell us a little abut the book as product:

Q. Who designed your cover?

A. Ana Correal. I love her work! She’s a Columbian artist whose medium is digitally-modified photography. You can see more of her work on Facebook and Flickr.

Q. How does the cover reflect your story?

A. The idea for the cover came from my editor, Peggy Tierney. I thought it captured the emotional tone ASHFALL beautifully, so I added a scene to the manuscript that roughly mirrors (bad pun totally intended!) the cover art.

Q. In which formats is your book available? e-book, hardcover, paperback?

A. ASHFALL is available in hardback and all major ebook formats. The paperback will come out at the same time as the sequel, ASHEN WINTER, October 8th of 2012.

And finally we would like to know about your journey to publication:

Q. How did your book get published?

A. ASHFALL was rejected at some stage—query, partial, or full—by 24 literary agents. (If you’re struggling to get published, take heart from this. Yes, your work might not be ready. But it might also be great work that simply hasn’t found a champion. Take a look at the list of awards and blurbs at http://www.mikemullinauthor.com, including a starred review from Kirkus and a listing among NPR’s top 5 YA novels of 2011. I’m pretty confident that ASHFALL wasn’t garnering rejections due to its quality.)

Two editors requested ASHFALL after hearing about it from my mother. (She owns Kids Ink Children’s Bookstore in Indianapolis) I haven’t heard back from one of them yet. The other was Peggy Tierney of Tanglewood Press.

Q. What is your marketing plan?

A. You would think that a guy who has an MBA with a concentration in marketing would have a big formal marketing plan, wouldn’t you? Well, not so much. My plan is more or less to meet as many people who love books as possible, both online and in person, learn from them, and tell them a little bit about ASHFALL. I did a whole seminar and series of blog posts about book marketing for NiNoCon—for those of you who are interested, it’s archived here.

Q. Any advice you want to share with our readers who have a manuscript ready?

A. Find mean critique partners and beta readers. If you give a manuscript to someone and they love it, never show them any of your work again. The meanest readers you can find will be patsies compared to agents, editors, and reviewers.

Mike Mullin’s first job was scraping the gum off the undersides of desks at his high school. From there, things went steadily downhill. He almost got fired by the owner of a bookstore due to his poor taste in earrings. He worked at a place that showed slides of poopy diapers during lunch (it did cut down on the cafeteria budget). The hazing process at the next company included eating live termites raised by the resident entomologist, so that didn’t last long either. For a while Mike juggled bottles at a wine shop, sometimes to disastrous effect. Oh, and then there was the job where swarms of wasps occasionally tried to chase him off ladders. So he’s really hoping this writing thing works out.

He holds a black belt in Songahm Taekwondo. He lives in Indianapolis, Indiana with his wife and her three cats. ASHFALL is his first novel.

Mike has agreed to share with us the first two chapters of Ashfall.

You can access them by clicking this link, then scroll to the bottom of the page:  www.mikemullinauthor.com.

February 20, 2012

Where Ideas Come From – 3

Filed under: On Writing,Photograph,Two Moon Princess,YA — carmenferreiroesteban @ 7:24 am
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by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

From Two Moon Princess

That very afternoon, I found myself in Kelsey’s red convertible speeding along the brown rolling hills of the California winter. By early evening, we had reached San Francisco and any reservation I could have had about the trip disappeared. San Francisco was a dream come true—if I could ever have dreamed of such a marvelous place.

For the next two days we explored the city. We crossed the bay and watched the sunset from the Golden Gate Bridge. I could not hold in my awe as we watched the blaze of color nor my panic when Kelsey drove down the steep hills of the city as if she had forgotten that cars had brakes.

February 16, 2012

My Road to Publication: Linda Wisniewski

Filed under: Author's Interview,My Road to Publicatin,On Publishing,On Writing — carmenferreiroesteban @ 5:27 am
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interviewed by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban



Today our guest visitor is Linda Wisniewski.

Linda is our first non-fiction author. Her book OFF KILTER is a memoir about growing up, my favorite subject. I write YA novels after all.

In her post today Linda talks about how her book came to be and got published.

If you have any question for Linda, please leave a comment below.

Linda says:

My memoir, Off Kilter, grew out of a little essay I placed in a literary magazine called Mindprints.  To my great surprise and joy, the editor nominated it for a Pushcart Prize, and one of my writing mentors advised me to expand it into a book. My theme used my scoliosis, or spinal curve, as a metaphor for the twists and turns of a life that did not “fit,” a life of conformity to a church and culture of abuse and suffering. I wanted to describe my journey away from all that and toward the peace of an authentic life. I gathered the memoir pieces I had been writing around that common theme, connected them, and added chapters to flesh out the main message I wanted to convey: we create our own happiness.

Many writers have taken that same journey. Among my favorites are May Karr’s The Liars’ Club, Dani Shapiro’s Devotion and Maureen Murdock’s The Heroine’s Journey. I think anyone who has struggled with feeling “different” will relate to my story.

My publisher, Peggy Elam of Pearlsong Press, designed the book cover and the layout, using a picture my son took of me from the back, showing my scoliosis or spinal curve. I am standing on a curved pathway to reinforce the emotional journey metaphor in a visual manner

Off Kilter is a trade paperback and is also available as an e-book for Kindle, Mobipocket and PDF.

When my book was ready, I sought out publishers who had brought out women’s memoirs I liked. Once a week, I sent out a package with their submission requirements, whether a summary, sample chapters, outline, etc. Number thirteen was my lucky number: Pearlsong Press offered me a contract.

Since the book came out in 2008, I’ve done a blog tour, library talks, and bookstore signings, and posted on relevant blogs as well as written my own, lindawisniewski.blogspot.com. I teach memoir writing at a community college, senior centers, and writers’ conferences, and use excerpts from my book among the examples in class. Often, students want to purchase a signed copy. My publisher also sends me opportunities she comes across for radio and online interviews.

For anyone with a book ready to pitch, I’d say first, make it as good as you possibly can. Show it to someone whose opinion you trust, not a friend or relative. When you get a few opinions that it’s publishable, look for agents and/or publishers of books similar to yours in theme, audience and subject matter. And follow their submission guidelines to the letter! And finally, to memoir writers, don’t be afraid to put your personal story out there.  True stories connect us and help us understand each other. What could be better than that?


Linda C.Wisniewski lives and writes in Bucks County, PA. She is a reporter for the Bucks County Herald, and also writes columns on women authors for the Bucks County Women’s Journal and the Mohawk Valley Independent.  Linda teaches memoir workshops at retirement centers and writers’ conferences. Her work has been published in the Christian Science Monitor, the Philadelphia Inquirer, The Rose and Thorn, Metropolis, and other venues both print and online. Visit her website at www.lindawis.com.

February 13, 2012

Where Ideas Come From – 2

Filed under: On Writing,Photograph,Pictures,Two Moon Princess,YA — carmenferreiroesteban @ 5:53 am
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When finally I reached the sand, my heart was beating so furiously against my chest I had to lean against the cliffs and rest for a moment. Then, followed by the piercing cries of the seagulls, I dashed toward the arch along the stretch of land covered by dead algae and broken shells the tide had just started to reclaim.

It was cold under the arch, cold and damp, and the air was filled with strange groans and whispers. It took me a moment—a long frightening moment—to understand that the noises did not come from living beings, but from the water dripping between hidden cracks in the rock.

February 9, 2012

My Road To Publication: Robin Helm






On the other end of the spectrum from last week blogger, Sabrina Beluris, today we have as guest, Robin Helm, an indie author who tells us candidly why she chose to self publish and explains how to do so.

As different as the road to publication of these two authors was, they both share a common thread in their stories as both their series have angels as protagonists.

The twist in Mrs. Helm’s story? The human girl’s name is Elizabeth Bennet. Her guardian angel’s? Xander/Darcy.

Below, Mrs. Helm tells us how her story became a book.

I taught high school English for twenty-five years. A few years ago, I noticed that my students were obsessed with the Twilight Saga, so I read it. The hero was a beautiful, intelligent, talented, self-sacrificing, natural bad guy trying his best to be good. The story was every girl’s dream scenario.

My story line would flip that. My protagonist would be the ultimate good guy, a guardian angel, gifted by God with emotions. He would fight his growing love for his charge, seeking instead what he thought was best for her.

I wanted to ensure that my work would actually be read, so I chose to write a Pride and Prejudice fan fiction and post it as a WIP (work in progress). Because it was my first effort, I chose to write about what was familiar. I set my story in a small southern town, similar to the one in which I live. I graduated from a religious college, so I used Scripture to introduce my chapters and develop the spiritual warfare angle of the books.  The time period matched my own life, so I knew about the technology, clothing styles, and music.

My genre is religious fantasy fiction (similar to Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness, or Twilight with a religious angle), and I am an Indie author. I have published the first two books of The Guardian Trilogy, Guardian and SoulFire, through CreateSpace, Amazon Kindle, and Barnes & Noble Nook. My books are available in both paperback and e-books, and are doing very well. SoulFire was a “Hot New Release” rated in the top three of its genre for the entire first month of its publication. (One month is the period of eligibility for that list). Both books are on the top rated list for the genre, and both have been consistently in the top 100 in sales of that genre on Amazon. Self-publication through these avenues is free, and the author receives 70% of the royalties. I did spend $40 to buy the pro-plan through CreateSpace, because it was a smart marketing decision.

CreateSpace provides a free ISBN, publishing template, and choice of cover templates. Phil Thompson, a friend of mine who is a professional photographer, provided the cover photography for free. Six friends of mine who are also writers served as “betas” or editors, and one of them did the final edits after the books were formatted. I in turn beta for them. My books were published, available, and in the hands of readers within six weeks of completion. I began writing Guardian in March, 2011, finished writing it in June, and published it at the end of August. As soon as I finished writing Guardian, I began writing SoulFire, which I finished in November and published at the end of December. I am now writing the third book in the trilogy, Legacy, and I hope to publish it by the end of April.

The photographer, seeing the continued success of the first two books, did a photo shoot for the third cover and helped me with design. That cover is already completed. All of my covers have spiritual significance; for instance, the cover of Guardian shows light breaking through dark clouds, symbolic of good overcoming evil.

I chose this route on the advice of several of my friends who are published by traditional publishing houses. They wait up to eighteen months to have their work published and no longer retain the rights to their work. They also receive about 30% of their royalties, and they have to do their own publicity, just as I do. I don’t see a down side to self-publishing in my case, though if I could be guaranteed help with marketing and promotion, I would consider signing with a traditional publisher.

Robin Helm has published the first two volumes of The Guardian Trilogy, Guardian and SoulFire, and is presently writing Legacy, the third and final volume, posting as a work in progress on four different forums. She has also published two Regency short stories. She and her husband have two grown daughters and a Yorkie-Poo named Tobey.

February 6, 2012

Where Ideas Come From-1

Filed under: On Writing,Two Moon Princess,YA — carmenferreiroesteban @ 6:28 am
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If you anchor your eyes on the rock at the left of the two pictures above, you’ll be see how both photographs are related.

The beach visible on the second photograph is covered by the tide on the first.

If you want to go to the beach, to know whether the tide is high or low is important to make sure there is a beach when you arrive.

If, like Andrea, you can’t swim and want to be under the arch when the full moon rises so that you can cross to Earth, this knowledge is a matter of life and death.

This is what happens when she forgets to check:

Down below, the ocean had once more claimed the stretch of land that was the Cove of the Dead, and only the Arch, a naked rock, like an island dressed in foam, was still visible. From where I stood at the top of the cliffs, I could see the waves breaking against the mouth of the cave. I hesitated. The prospect of getting to the arch across the water was not a pleasant one, since I still could not swim. But waiting for the tide to recede was not an option. Lua would be rising any moment now, and I would lose my chance to cross if I did not make it to the cave soon.

My skirts tucked around my waist, I crawled over the boulder that blocked the trail. Turning my back to the ocean, I started down the crude steps carved into the wall. I climbed for what seemed forever until my feet touched the water. Shivering from both its frozen touch and my fear that I would never reach the sand in time, I kept on going, lowering hands and feet one at a time into the now slippery holes. Steadily the water rose, past my knees and up my hosiery.

I stopped then, afraid that my skirts, heavy with water, would drag me down. I was about to climb back when I realized my right foot was not on rock but on soft ground. Tentatively I lowered my left foot. Yes! It stayed level with the other: I had reached the bottom. Taking in a deep gulp of the moist salty air, I released my grasp of the wall and turned.

All I saw was water, dark green, angry water roaring toward me. I yelped as a wave broke against my chest, sending me backward, a hapless doll against the rocks.

From Two Moon Princess (http://goo.gl/VX0r1)

February 2, 2012

My Road to Publication: Sabrina Benulis

Interviewed by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

Today, the talented Sabrina Benulis, author of Archon (Harper Voyager, December 2011) has joined us at Dare to Read to talk about her book and her road to publication.

Please make Sabrina feel welcome by leaving your comments below.

Hi Sabrina, welcome to Dare to Read. First of all could you tell us where the story started. In other words:

Q. Why did you write Archon?

A. Initially, I wrote ARCHON and what would be the framework for its sequels for the sheer enjoyment of it.  The novel had been simmering in the back of my mind, slowly building itself up on its own for quite a while during my latter college years.  At that time, there were hardly any novels that had angels in them to be found–especially in fantasy–and I had a rich reading background in mythology and world religions.  That, combined with my desire to create a very original story, something that hadn’t been done before, spurred me to write and revise, and revise and write, until the trilogy was (at that time anyway) finished.

Q. What genre is it?

A. THE BOOKS OF RAZIEL trilogy is gothic fantasy.  However, the plot is written in the style of a thriller as there are many mysteries important to the story.

Q. Who is the expected audience?

A. Older teens and adults would be the appropriate readers, especially people who like paranormal thrillers and unique fiction.  I’ve been told Anne Rice’s work is similar to mine in tone and atmosphere.  Perhaps I could also compare it to dark fantasy like Holly Black’s.  I’ve also heard mention of Anne Bishop’s The Black Jewels series.  The marketing has thus far tried to wedge me in with other paranormal romance authors with novels about fallen angels, but that is ultimately a skewed comparison.  There is romance in my story, but it develops slowly and does not put the novel solidly in that category.  In essence, I’m what you want to read if you’re tired of the same old thing.

Q. Who designed your cover which, BTW, is outstanding?

A. A graphic artist who goes by the name of Nekro was contracted for the cover.  He does great gothic-style illustrations and is apparently becoming quite popular lately.

Q. How does the cover reflect your story?

A. The two characters on the cover are the protagonist of ARCHON, a red-haired girl named Angela Mathers, and a great angel named Israfel who would be her love interest if not for the fact that he comes off as a villain.  Whether or not this is true is revealed in later books.  Overall, the colors of the cover are perfect for the book, as coincidentally black, white, and red are quite prominent in the story for different reasons.  Also, the gothic sensibility with the cathedral and Angela’s tattered dress fit the atmosphere of the novel almost perfectly.  As she stands in front of the church doors, you get the sense that both she and the reader are being invited to experience something special.

Q. In which formats is your book available?

A. ARCHON is available as a hardcover and most e-book formats.  The paperback should be coming out around fall of 2012.  From what I understand, the international version is also a paperback.

Q. Could you share with us how did you get your agent and publisher interested on Archon.

A. I got my agent the old-fashioned way, by query.  After she read my query, she immediately wanted to read the entire novel (as it was back then), and after a preliminary revision, I was taken on as a client.  I then had to go through another revision before the book could be sent out to publishers, and when Harper Collins took me on as an author, I had to do an entire rewrite of the book! (And in a month and a half!)  They  initially took a keen interest in my novel series mostly because of the unique way I protrayed angels and demons, which fascinated them.  It was they who also emphasized that they wanted me to make the book more gothic, bringing out a very supernatural atmosphere.
ARCHON was not the easiest book to get published, mostly because it is so very different.  It crosses a lot of genres, takes a lot of chances, and does things with the plot that just haven’t been attempted before, especially in its sub-genre.  But at the same time, that uniqueness was what got it published in the end, and if anything, it should be a lesson for authors to write what they love.

Q. Any final advice you want to share with our readers who are considering self-publishing?

A. For any reader who wishes to be an author, remember that as long as you believe in your story, others will too.  In this industry, it’s all about perseverance.

Thank you so much Sabrina for being with us today and answer our questions so honestly.

Let’s hope your audience embrace Archon for its uniqueness and loves it as much as I did.
For my review of Archon please go to http://www.myshelf.com/teen/fiction/12/archon.htm

Sabrina Benulis lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and a short-tempered cockatiel.  When she isn’t hard at work revising and writing that next novel, she can be found watching anime, reading, or anxiously awaiting her next beach vacation.  Sabrina has a Masters in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, and ARCHON is her first novel.  When asked how real her angels might be, she often shrugs and smiles mysteriously.

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