Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Aprilynne Pike Interview - Secrets Revealed

The day is finally here -- I am finally able to post my interview with Aprilynne Pike. Now, you have to understand that this interview has been in the works since January 25th...so excitement on my part is to be understood. And those of you who've had the opportunity to "meet" Pike (via her writing or other interviews) can understand why I am so thrilled to have this interview.

Another reason I'm giddy is the fact that you have a chance to win a free ARC of Wings. All you have to do is leave a comment, question, thought, or kudos for Pike in the comment section and you'll be entered into the giveaway. Ahhh, you lucky ducks!

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I've always written here or there, and I remember inklings of wanting to be an author scattered throughout my childhood. I even have a degree in creative writing! But I think the point at which I really knew I wanted to be a writer was right after my daughter was born and I sat down to write a book, almost on a lark, and I came up with a story that I just adored. And for the first time ever, I realized I actually had enough story to write a whole book! I think the moment that I had that realization is when I truly wanted to be a writer.

How long did it take to finally commit to the dream?

It took about two years after that. Life got busy and about 100 pages into my first novel, I let it fall by the wayside. But I really committed to writing as a business about two years later when I came up with an idea for another book. I wrote it, edited it, and then sent queries out. That, to me, was the moment of commitment, even though that wasn't the book that I eventually sold. I was committed to making it happen!

What aspect of Wings are you the proudest of?

I am proudest of the fact that I can honestly tell people that they have never seen faeries like my faeries. My faerie mythos came first with this series. I didn't even have a plot when I sat down to start writing WINGS. (I learned very quickly that I needed a plot, but when I started, I just had the mythos.) It's something I worked really hard on and did a ton of research for and ultimately, it is the part of the story that is always the most difficult to write. Keeping things consistent, coming up with new challenges for Laurel, thinking about ways in which the kind of faerie she is affects her daily life.It's a constant challenge and I am so proud of it!

What do you feel is your top writing strength?

Dialogue. My editor is always asking for more scenery more description, more character, but she generally loves my dialogue.

What writing quirk of yours makes your family laugh?

I always come up with my best idea in the shower or tub. So I'll be soaping up, get this great idea, and as soon as I can wrap a towel around me, I am out of the tub, dripping wet, running to my husband or mom, depending on where I am, and expounding my brilliant, if soggy, idea.

You write a lot about your husband, Kenny, on your blog and how he makes your writing better. Can you talk a bit about the importance of an editor versus a rah-rah cheerleader?

Honestly, I think it's really important to have both. But for me, I really need someone who lives with me and can hash things out face to face, who can be my critique partner. Kenny never lets me get away with "good enough." It *always* has to be the very best I can do. This summer, for example, I wrote my sequel too fast. I was concentrating more on my word count than my plot/pacing/etc. So in the end I had a mess that I was totally ready to send to my agent (which would have been a horrible mistake!) Instead, Kenny read it, sat down with me, and told me it wasn't good enough. Not nearly good enough. And then he made about a zillion notes on the manuscript for me and helped me come up with an outline so I wouldn't get so off track again. It took me longer to do my edits from Kenny than it took me to write the entire book to begin with. But it was so much better. Unbelievably better. When I wrote it originally, I was too excited and wrapped up with WINGS to notice that I was screwing up the sequel. I needed him to pull me out of the clouds. A cheerleader puts you up in the clouds, which is really great! But it takes a true critic to pull you back down and make your work shine.

How has being a mother influenced Wings?

Wow! No one has ever asked me that before! And I actually do have an answer. I have a great relationship with my mother. I have the kind of relationship that I hope to have with my kids someday. And ultimately, I don't think I am the exception. I think most teenagers have pretty good relationships with their parents. Because of that, I feel like the tendency toward parents being either dead or completely absent in YA books is a little strange, and sometimes off-putting. It's not normal. So I consciously set out to write a book in which the main character has a real relationship with her parents. They are involved in her every day life.

That doesn't mean she doesn't lie to them like a politician.;) But they are there. I wanted them to be there. Because I wanted to show that having a good relationship with you parents is normal. I want MY daughter to read it someday and feel like the relationship she (hopefully!) has with me is not weird.

Plus, Laurel's parents are quirky and fun!:)

What advice do you have for authors seeking representation?

Two things. First, through the web, authors are more accessible than ever. You can email them and get responses and even become friends! How cool! Don't squander this opportunity by dropping their name when you haven't been given permission. Agents and editors check back on that and if they find out you have used a name without permission, it is an auto-rejection. I'm not saying you can't say, "I'm a fan of So'n'so's work who you represent/edit." But don't say "Famous Author recommended me!" when they didn't. You will get yourself black-balled and lose the author as a friend. You don't need an in, you just need a great story.

Secondly, (and anyone whose query I have critiqued is going to think this is directed at them, but it's not! I see it happen all the time which is why I am pointing it out.:)) learn how to describe your book using details instead of meaningless dramatic words. I can't tell you how many queries I see that have some permutation of this. "A heart-wrenching saga of love, magic, and adventure!" How many books can you think of that THAT describes? Cuz I can come up with twenty of the top of my head. Phrases like that sound dramatic, but they don't mean anything. No agent is going to steal your plot, so let them have it! Share details! Share twists! Share bad guys! That is what will make an agent ask for more!

And when you do send that partial or full, please spell check. :)


Many thanks to Aprilynne Pike for an awesome interview! Make sure you leave your comment so that you'll be entered into that free giveaway...

Friday, April 24, 2009

HarperCollins Video Interview with Pike

Although this is not the interview I've been talking about (you'll get that next week, as promised), I wanted to slip in this live interview from HarperCollins for a treat.

Don't you just love it when an author is so genuine and down-to-earth? When I watched this (combined with all of my email interactions w/ Pike arranging excerpts and interviews), I just felt giddy inside: I am thrilled when someone like this "makes it" -- it just feels good!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Catch Pike in Wings: Continued

You guessed it: The rest of Chapter One is now unveiled for your perusal. (If you didn't catch the first half, check out yesterday's post.) Even better -- if that's humanly possible -- Aprilynne Pike will be stopping by next week for an Interview. And I've titillating news for all of you urban fantasy fans: not only can you get a sneak peak here of Pike's Chapter One...not only do you get a tasty snippet of the author herself via The Interview next week...BUT you will also get a chance at winning an ARC of the book itself, Wings!! Make sure you swing by and post a comment after the interview next week, so that you'll be entered into the drawing.

By Aprilynne Pike
Chapter One
Laurel threw her backpack onto the counter and slumped onto a barstool. Her mom glanced up from the bread she was kneading. “How was school?”

“It sucked.”

Her hands stopped. “Language, Laurel.”

“Well, it did. And there’s not a better word to describe it.”

“You have to give it some time, hon.”

“Everyone stares at me like I’m a freak.”

“They stare at you because you’re new.”

“I don’t look like everyone else.”

Her mom grinned. “Would you want to?”

Laurel rolled her eyes but had to admit her mother had scored a point. She might be home schooled and a little sheltered, but she knew she looked a lot like the teens in magazines and on television.

And she liked it.

Adolescence had been kind to her. Her almost translucent white skin hadn’t suffered the effects of acne and her blond hair had never been greasy. She was a small, lithe fifteen-year-old with a perfectly oval face and light green eyes. She’d always been thin, but not too thin, and had even developed some curves in the last few years. Her limbs were long and willowy and she walked with a dancer’s grace, despite having never taken lessons.

“I meant I dress differently.”

“You could dress like everyone else if you wanted to.”

“Yeah, but they all wear clunky shoes and tight jeans and like three shirts all layered on top of each other.”


“I don’t like tight clothes. They’re scratchy and make me feel awkward. And really, who could possibly want to wear clunky shoes? Yuck.”

“So wear what you want. If your clothes are enough to drive would-be friends away they’re not the kind of friends you want.”

Typical mother advice. Sweet, honest, and completely useless. “It’s loud there.”

Her mom stopped kneading and brushed her bangs out of her face, leaving a floury streak on her brow. “Sweetheart, you can hardly expect an entire high school to be as quiet as the two of us all alone. Be reasonable.”

“I am reasonable. I’m not talking about necessary noise; they run around like wild monkeys. They shriek and laugh and whine at the top of their lungs. And they make out at their lockers.”

Her mom rested her hand on her hip. “Anything else?”

“Yes. The halls are dark.”

“They are not dark,” her mom said, her tone slightly scolding. “I toured that entire school with you last week and all the walls are white.”

“But there are no windows, just those awful fluorescent lights. They’re so fake and they don’t bring any real light to the hallways. They’re just . . . dark. I miss Orick.”

Her mom began shaping the dough into loaves. “Tell me something good about today. I mean it.”
Laurel wandered over to the fridge.

“No,” her mom said, putting up one hand to stop her. “Something good first.”

“Um . . . I met a nice guy,” she said, stepping around her mom’s arm and grabbing a soda. “David . . . David something.”

It was her mom’s turn to roll her eyes. “Of course. We move to a new town and I start you in a brand-new school and the first person you latch onto is a guy.”

“It’s not like that.”

“I’m kidding.”

Laurel stood silently, listening to the slap of bread dough on the counter.



Laurel drew in a deep breath. “Do I really have to keep going?”

Her mom rubbed her temples. “Laurel, we’ve been through this already.”


“No. We’re not going to argue about it again.” She leaned on the counter, her face close to Laurel’s. “I don’t feel qualified to home school you anymore. Truth be told, I probably should have put you in middle school. It was just such a long drive from Orick and your dad was commuting already and . . . anyway. It’s time.”

“But you could order one of those home schooling programs. I looked them up online,” Laurel said hurriedly when her mom started to speak. “You don’t actually have to do the teaching. The material covers everything.”

“And how much does it cost?” her mom asked, her voice quiet, but with one eyebrow raised pointedly.

Laurel was silent.

“Listen,” her mom said, after a pause, “in a few months that’s something we can consider if you still hate school. But until our property in Orick sells, we don’t have the money for anything extra. You know that.”

Laurel looked down at the counter, her shoulders slumped.

The main reason they’d moved to Crescent City in the first place was because her dad bought a bookstore down on Washington Street. Early in the year, he had been driving through and saw a For Sale sign on a bookstore going out of business. Laurel remembered listening to her parents talk for weeks about what they could do to buy the store—a shared dream since they’d first gotten married—but the numbers never added up.

Then, in late April, a guy named Jeremiah Barnes approached Laurel’s dad at his job in Eureka with interest in their property in Orick. Her dad had come home practically bouncing with excitement. The rest happened in such a whirlwind Laurel could hardly remember what happened first. Her parents spent several days at the bank in Brookings and by early May the bookstore was theirs and they were moving from their small cabin in Orick to an even smaller house in Crescent City.

But the months crept by and still things weren’t finalized with Mr. Barnes. Until they were, money was tight, her dad worked long hours at the store, and Laurel was stuck in high school.

Her mom laid one hand over hers, warm and comforting. “Laurel, aside from the cost, you also need to learn to conquer new things. This will be so good for you. Next year you can take AP classes and you could join a team or a club. Those all look really good on college applications.”

“I know. But—”

“I’m the mom,” she said with a grin that softened her firm tone. “And I say school.”

Laurel humphed and began tracing her finger along the grout between the tiles on the countertops.

The clock ticked loudly as Laurel’s mom slid the pans into the oven and set the timer.

“Mom, do we have any of your canned peaches? I’m hungry.”

Her mom stared at Laurel. “You’re hungry?”

Laurel traced swirls through the condensation on the soda can with her finger, avoiding her mom’s gaze. “I got hungry this afternoon. In last period.”

Her mom was trying not to make a big deal of this, but they both knew it was out of the ordinary. Laurel rarely felt hungry. Her parents had bugged Laurel about her weird eating habits for years. She ate at each meal to satisfy them, but it wasn’t something she felt she needed, much less enjoyed.

That’s why her mom finally agreed to keep the fridge stocked with Sprite. She railed against the as-yet-undocumented detriments of carbonation; but she couldn’t argue with the 140 calories per can. That was 140 more than water. At least this way she knew Laurel was getting more calories in her system, even if they were “empty.”

Her mom hurried to the pantry to grab a bottle of peaches, probably afraid Laurel would change her mind. The unfamiliar twisting in Laurel’s stomach had begun during Spanish class, twenty minutes before the last bell. It had faded a little on the walk home, but hadn’t gone away.

“Here you go,” she said, setting a bowl in front of Laurel. Then she turned her back, giving Laurel a modicum of privacy. Laurel looked down at the dish. Her mom had played it safe—one peach half and about half a cup of juice.

She ate the peach in small bites, staring at her mother’s back, waiting for her to turn around and peek. But her mom busied herself with the dishes and didn’t look once. Still, Laurel felt like she’d lost some imaginary battle, so when she was finished, she slid her backpack from the counter and tiptoed out of the kitchen before her mom could turn around.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

WINGS, Chapter One

And finally, the day you've all been waiting for: The third and final new & upcoming author selected for showcasing on the Alex Moore blog! For those of you who have just joined the blog, here's the diabolical plan in a nutshell: I rid my bookshelves of three undesirables and began the adventure of selecting three new authors to read & support. First, there was Cindy Pon. Then R. J. Anderson. And now, I am pleased to present to you Aprilyne Pike!

Read on for a sneak peek at Chapter One of her first book, Wings, coming out April 28th. Come back tomorrow for the rest of Chapter One -- and then hop on to Amazon to pre-order the book!

Chapter One
By Aprilynne Pike

Laurel’s shoes flipped a cheerful rhythm that defied her dark mood. As she walked through the halls of Del Norte High, people watched her pass with curious eyes.

After double-checking her schedule, Laurel found the biology lab and hurried to claim a seat by the windows. If she had to be indoors, she wanted to at least see the outside. The rest of the class filed in slowly. One boy smiled in her direction as he walked to the front of the classroom and she tried to muster one in return. She hoped he didn’t think it was a grimace.

A tall, thin man introduced himself as Mr. James and began passing out textbooks. Laurel immediately started flipping through hers. The beginning of the book seemed fairly standard—classifications of plants and animals, she knew those—then it started to move into basic human anatomy. Around page eighty the text started to resemble a foreign language. Laurel grumbled under her breath. This was going to be a long semester.

As Mr. James called out the roll Laurel recognized a few names from her first two classes that morning, but it was going to be a long time before she matched even half of them to the faces that surrounded her. She felt lost amid the sea of unfamiliar people.

Her mom had assured her that every sophomore would feel the same—after all, it was their first day in high school too—but no one else looked lost or scared. Maybe being lost and scared was something you got used to after years of public school.

Homeschooling had worked just fine for Laurel over the last ten years; she didn’t see any reason for that to change. But her parents were determined to do everything right for their only child. When she was five that meant being homeschooled in a tiny town. Apparently, now that she was fifteen, it meant public school in a slightly less tiny town.

The room grew quiet and Laurel snapped to attention when the teacher repeated her name. “Here,” she said quickly.

She squirmed as Mr. James studied her over the rim of his glasses then finally moved on to the next name.

Laurel released the breath she’d been holding and pulled out her notebook, trying to draw as little attention to herself as possible.

As the teacher explained the semester’s curriculum, her eyes kept straying to the boy who had smiled at her earlier. She had to stifle a grin when she noticed him sneaking glances at her too.
When Mr. James released them for lunch Laurel gratefully slid her book into her bag.


She looked up. It was the boy who had been watching her. His eyes caught her attention first. They were a bright blue that contrasted with the olive tone of his skin. The color looked out of place, but not in a bad way. Kind of exotic. His slightly wavy light-brown hair, on the longish side, slipped across his forehead in a soft arc.

“You’re Laurel, right?” Below the eyes was a warm but casual smile with very straight teeth. Braces probably, Laurel thought as her tongue unconsciously ran over her own teeth, also quite straight. Lucky for her, naturally straight.

“Yeah.” Her voice caught in her throat and she coughed, feeling stupid.

“I’m David. David Lawson. I—I wanted to say hi. And welcome to Crescent City, I guess.”

Laurel forced a small smile. “Thanks,” she said.

“Want to sit with me and my friends for lunch?”

“Where,” Laurel asked.

David looked at her strangely. “In . . . the cafeteria?”

He seemed nice, but she was tired of being cooped up inside. “Actually, I’m going to go find a place outside.” She paused. “Thank you, though.”

“Outside sounds good to me. Want some company?”


“Sure. I’ve got my lunch in my backpack, so I’m all set. Besides,” he said, hefting his bag onto one shoulder, “you shouldn’t sit alone your first day.”

“Thanks,” she said after a tiny hesitation. “I’d like that.”

They walked out to the back lawn together and found a grassy spot that wasn’t too damp. Laurel spread her jacket on the ground and sat on it; David kept his on. “Aren’t you cold?” he asked, looking skeptically at her jean shorts and tank top.

She slipped out of her shoes and dug her toes into the thick grass. “I don’t get cold very often—at least not here. If we go somewhere with snow I’m miserable. But this weather’s perfect for me.” She smiled awkwardly. “My mom jokes that I’m cold-blooded.”

“Lucky you. I moved here from L.A. about five years ago and I’m still not used to the temperature.”

“It’s not that cold.”

“Sure,” David said with a grin, “but it’s not that warm either. After our first year here I looked up the weather records; did you know that the difference between the average temperature in July and December is only fourteen degrees? Now that is messed up.”

They fell silent as David ate his sandwich and Laurel poked at a salad with a fork.

“My mom packed me an extra cupcake,” David said, breaking the silence. “Want it?” He held out a pretty cupcake with blue frosting. “It’s homemade.”

“No, thanks.”

David looked at her salad, doubtfully, then back at the cupcake.
Laurel realized what David was thinking and sighed. Why was that the first conclusion everyone always jumped to? Surely she wasn’t the only person in the world who just really liked vegetables. Laurel tapped one fingernail against her can of Sprite. “It’s not diet.”

“I didn’t mean—”

“I’m vegan,” Laurel interrupted. “Pretty strict, actually.”

Oh, yeah?”
She nodded then laughed stiffly. “Can’t have too many veggies, right?”

“I guess not.”

David cleared his throat and asked, “So when did you move here?”

“In May. I’ve been working for my dad a lot. He owns the bookstore down town.”

“Really?” David asked. “I went in there last week. It’s a great store. I don’t remember seeing you though.”

“That’s my mom’s fault. She dragged me around shopping for school supplies all week. This is the first year I haven’t been home schooled and my mom’s convinced I don’t have enough supplies.”


“Yeah. They’re forcing me to go public this year.”

He grinned, his tone teasing, but with a serious edge. “Well, I’m glad they did.” He looked down at his sandwich for a few seconds before asking, “Do you miss your old town?”

“Sometimes.” She smiled softly. “But it’s nice here. My old town, Orick is seriously small. Like five hundred people small.”

“Wow.” He chuckled. “L.A.’s just a little bigger than that.”

She laughed, and coughed on her soda.

David looked like he was ready to ask something else, but the bell sounded and he smiled instead. “Can we do this again tomorrow?” He hesitated for a second then added, “With my friends, maybe?”

Laurel’s first instinct was to say no, but she’d enjoyed David’s company. Besides, socializing more was yet another reason her mom had insisted on public school this year. “Sure,” she said before she could lose her nerve. “That’d be fun.”

“Awesome.” He stood and offered her his hand. He pulled her to her feet and grinned lopsidedly for a minute. “Well, I’ll . . . see you around, I guess.”

She watched him walk away. His jacket and loose-fitting jeans looked more or less like everyone else’s, but there was a sureness in his walk that set him apart from the crowd. Laurel was envious of that confident stride.

Maybe someday.

...to be continued. Don't forget to check back tomorrow for the second half of Chapter One!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dragon in Chains

Birds of a feather: I'm going to take a bold stand here and say that we all love to love books. I imagine that most of us even love to find books we love reading. But it's a special occasion when we find the book that we -- by turns -- love and hate. You know the kind I'm talking about: the ones that nibble at our soul, picking away at sores, teasing at scabs. The ones that kidnap our attention while we're at work with odd little thoughts that send pings of panic rippling through our stomachs. The ones we can't put down even as we're muttering our disdain or irritation or discomfort.

Case in point: Partner-in-crime and team player at the Adventures in Writing blog, D.M. McReynolds (Dave to the blogging world), recommended that I pick up Dragon in Chains by Daniel Fox. I did. I jumped online & ordered it from Amazon. I trust him that much.

It was one of those books.

Dave was right. The language is delicate, like silvery fish darting through opaque waters, or glimmers of sunlight flashing white against clouds of silt sifting to the bottom of a bay. Even the texture of words hang heavy with meaning and scent and color and sound.

"Han saw that noose drawn tight, snaring his master's beard as it went, tugging the long hairs back beneath his chin so that he looked ridiculously unlike himself as he mouthed fish-like at air he couldn't reach, as his fingers scrabbled for a thong sunk too deep into his wattles" (6).

The rhythm, too, is lyrical, drawing you forward and inward -- at times rushing you headlong into a fight or a rape or an escape, at others slowing you down, allowing your fingers to caress the sleek brilliance of the emperor's jade or jar with the clunk of hammer against metal.

"The headache had ebbed but not departed altogether, it lay like a threat on his horizon; his skin was cold and sticky yet, he wanted to rub it. Actually, he wanted to rub jade-dust into it, but Guangli was watching him" (253).

Dragon in Chains is equal parts fragile spider web and crushing rock slide, however. The complete disregard for human life, for females, for personal freedom grates against my psyche, pulverizing hope or joy. This is not an indictment against the book or Fox or even the setting: I understand that his rendition is no doubt more realistic than not. But it's certainly not uplifting.

Perhaps it's because of Fox's adherence to cultural and historical "truths" that I find a few of the characters weak and uncompelling. Instead of focusing on one or two protagonists, fleshing them out, and following him or her through thick and thin, Fox details the adventures of five or six, sometimes minor characters. At times, I found myself thinking that I only cared about Han -- and sometimes Mei Feng. The others were a distraction, prompting me to set the book down.

But the language and imagery, sometimes disturbing but always haunting, drew me back. It was one of those books.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tuesdays with Alex

On Tuesdays, you'll find me posting at our team blog, Adventures in Writing. I hope you'll dash over and check us out...AND tell me what you think about it.

And since I posted today about blogging format, content, and white space, I'm truly curious about what you have to say.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Back Home

Update: It was only a five hour drive home. I splashed through puddles, neatly avoided hydroplaning, and zoomed around several vehicles mortally afraid of corners. On the home stretch, I encountered a blizzard, but managed to outdrive it, dropping safely into the valley before too much had accumulated on the road. I'm thankful I still had my snow tires on.

I am happy to be home: I had a delightful visit with my dear friend, and I wish we lived closer together. It felt good and right and divine, however, to simply be home. Home is a beautiful thing.

I have a bajillion blogs and posts and friends to catch up on. If I haven't visited your blog in awhile, never fear: I am heading your way soon!

In the meantime, check out Aerin's Random Complexity Writing Challenge. All you need to do is commit to penning 1000 words a month. That's like four type-written pages, double-spaced! Do this in the comfort of your own home with the added benefit of a warm and responsive community! And Aerin? Sign me up!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Just a Reminder

We've launched! Don't forget to head over the the Adventures in Writing blog and check out Anthony Pacheco's post on The Writing Hand. You're not only in for a treat but also a thought-provoking bit that will have you contemplating life, luck, and perspective.