Book Five Finally Coming Out!

Dear Friends,

It’s been a long while since I wrote to you or updated this site. I owe you an apology for that. It’s been a very tough year of growing and learning for me. More about some of the things that have happened–both good and not so very good– in subsequent blogs. First, though, I want to explain the delay in the release of the next book in the series, book 5, Survivors Stories.

I finished Survivors Stories in September 2015 and had to rush to upload it. It was listed as a “pre-order” book, and if I failed to upload it by the deadline, I would lose my ability to post a book on Amazon for a full year. The book wasn’t ready and I knew it; it had all kinds of mistakes–mistakes in grammar, logic, timeline, character. I was exhausted, burnt out and ashamed to have released something of such poor quality. I removed it from sale as soon as I was allowed to. The experience left me feeling angry at Amazon, but also at myself. I felt I never should have put myself in a position where I let down the readers so terribly. I guess that’s why I’ve waited a full year to re-release that title. I felt it was what I deserved.

That anger sent me into a bit of a depression, I guess. I questioned my writing ability, my judgment and whether readers would want to see anymore from me. I had a #milestonebirthday… and that made “bad” even worse. I wondered if I had been wasting my time– and yours.

But then, last March, I had a pretty serious health challenge. It was scary (and not completely resolved, as I will share later). But I realized that I’ve only got one life. God gave me this #storytelling ability… and using it is all I ever wanted to do. I’m going to do it until I can’t do it anymore, in all forms: #TVwriting, #books– hell, I’ll give tell you tales on #youtube if anyone wants to watch! I’m finally clear: storytelling is what I’m here for. It’s what I love. It’s the gift I’m meant to give the world.

So, the penance is over. I’m revising Survivor Stories now and it should be posted on Amazon by the end of September.

Thank you so much to all of you who wrote to ask about what happened to the kids after they were separated in Survivors City. Your support reminded me that I owe you the conclusion of the story– and I promise we will finish their long trek to safety together.

CONGRATULATIONS!!!

We have winners! Three lucky ladies are getting the good stuff: all four books in the Doomsday Kids series (so far) and the cool Survival Bottle.

Shout outs to:

Jax B

Amanda P

Mallory A.

Your package is on the way. To everyone else, I have some more cool stuff to give away, coming with Survivor Stories in July. Speaking of Survivor Stories… it’s time to unveil the cover:

V5Survivors_Stories_opt_opt

I love this cover. The kids still have LOTS of problems (trust me) but at least there’s sunlight. That should be a GOOD thing, right? 🙂

Congrats to all the winners and thanks to all who entered!

The Big Book Giveaway Begins!

Amy’s Gift is here and to celebrate, you get the prizes!

First, there’s a full set of the paperback books in The Doomsday Kids series, including Amy’s Gift, all autographed especially for you!

To borrow a phrase from the old infomercials, “But wait! There’s more!”

You’ll also get The Doomsday Kids Survival Bottle, that includes some of the basics you’d need if you get lost in the woods, or stuck in a car (but not that great for the End of Everything!) in one convenient bottle that you can clip to a purse or backpack. The Doomsday Kids “The End is Near” bottle includes:

32-oz BPA-free bottle
1 carabiner
1 multi-function tool
1 whistle/compass tool
1 flashlight with two batteries
1 survival blanket
2 hand warmers
1 candle
1 box of waterproof matches
1 emergency poncho
20 piece first aid kit
1 plastic baggie (perfect for wet clothes or keeping valuables dry)

It’s got our cool logo on the front, too!

Three lucky people will win the whole lot, but you’ve got to enter to win.  Tweet about it, sign up for the newsletter, or post a comment below, naming your favorite Doomsday Kid and that’s it. Do just one of them and you’re in. Do all three and you’re in three times!  The contest details are below. We’ll draw winners on May 1, 2015.

Check some of your favorite bloggers, too. Over the next several weeks, you’ll see The Doomsday Kids Survival Bottle everywhere. You can enter at as many blogs as you like for additional chances to win. Try, http://kathrynsshelffullofbooks.blogspot.com/ for starters. I’ll post or tweet others when the contest is running there.

Good luck to all!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy Birthday, Doomsday Kids!

It’s our birthday!

A year ago today, I released Liam’s Promise as an ebook to a not-yet-adoring public! What a year it’s been: three more books written, exhibits at big shows like the American Library Association and the Children’s Book Fair in Bologna, Italy, a website, blog, Twitter feed (@doomsdaykidsz), rewrites, more edits, cover redesigns, PR firms and of course, writing. Always writing!

In fact, in the kind of synchronicity that has ruled this endeavor, yesterday I surrendered my (semi)final draft for its editing and early publicity.  Amy’s Gift continues the Doomsday Kids’ story with the usual combination of action, drama and teenage realism. Even though Amy can be difficult to love (after all, she was a mean girl once) I know by the end of the book you’ll love her as much as I do…warts and all!

This year has been filled with challenges, but it’s also been one of the best years of my life. I love writing these stories, and I appreciate all of you who have read, shared and enthusiastically supported the series. Thank you!

As soon as I figure out how to do the Rafflecopter, I’ll put up the info on how you can enter for a chance to win Amy’s Gift, along with the cool Doomsday Kids survival bottle– that really does have just about everything you need to be a Doomsday Kid yourself.  Follow my Twitter: that’s how you’ll know that I’ve figured it out!

In the mean time, blow out a candle with me–with a few extra to grow on for the coming years!

birthday_pciture

 

The Gear is Here!

I’m so excited to reveal the Doomsday Kids Survival Bottle– the neat swag readers and fans will have a chance to win along with copies of Liam’s Promise, Nester’s Mistake and Amaranth’s Return–on this website and at some of your favorite blogs next month. It’s all to celebrate the release of book 4, Amy’s Gift and the unveiling of the cover book 5, Survivor’s Stories in April.

I searched high and low for the perfect gift for you guys. I wanted something truly cool… because you guys are the most awesome fans ever. But it also had to evoke the series and be survival related… because that’s what The Doomsday Kids are all about.  When I found these bottles, it was a Eureka! moment. They are lightweight, clip easily to a handbag or backpack or even to a belt loop and if you ever found yourself in need, you’d have a few survival basics to tide you over until help arrives.

Doomsday survival bottle_3bottles

What’s inside?

32-oz BPA-free bottle

1 carabiner

1 multi-function tool
1 whistle/compass tool
1 flashlight with two batteries
1 survival blanket
2 hand warmers
1 candle
1 box of waterproof matches
1 emergency poncho
20 piece first aid kit
1 plastic baggie (perfect for wet clothes or keeping valuables dry)

Doomsday survival bottle_contents

Add a granola bar and a few charcoal pellets to purify available water and POOF… you’re a Doomsday Kid.

And you get the new book… because who can live without books!

Amys_Gift (2)

I know you want it. You know you want it! If you haven’t already signed up, get on the newsletter mailing list and you’ll be the first to know how to enter for your chance to win!

 

 

 

 

 

Reading to Write!

I’m a firm believer that in order to become a good writer, you have to be an avid reader.

Reading is like breathing to me. I’m the kid who read the toothpaste tube and the cereal box if there wasn’t anything else. Growing up, my idea of a “good time” was a classic novel and the time to read for hours.  Now that I’m older, I still have the habit of opening up a book at any spare moment: waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store, while I’m getting my hair done and even (ahem) while visiting the little ladies room!

 

It’s easier than ever to sample all kinds of new authors and new ideas thanks to technology. You have e-readers like Kindle, and all kinds of apps and services that make it easy to read all kinds of things, in any spare minute that you have. I have Rooster, Kindle and Wattpad on my phone for that very reason! And so many books are free that it’s almost like walking around with a library, just by having a phone in your pocket.

What reading does for writers is sharpen your ability to analyze your own work. You ask yourself questions like:

Did this story work?

Why or why not?

How did I feel while reading?

What techniques did this author use to make me feel that way?

How can avoid/incorporate this author’s weaknesses/strengths in my own work?

I know some writers don’t like to read much when they are actively working on a story– and I understand that.  You don’t want stray ideas from something you are reading to influence your work.  But I usually solve that by reading outside my genre.  So, when I’m writing dystopian YA, I don’t run out and re-read Insurgent. I read literary fiction. Or romance.  Or even paranormal, since my books are more on the “realistic” side of this kind of science fiction than the mystic or fanciful.

One of the new authors I’ve discovered lately thanks to all of the many ways I can read  is Toni Boughton. All of zombie and werewolf peeps need to check her out. Her books Wolf Running, Wolf Hiding and Wolf Hunting are part of a series called “Wolf in the Land of the Dead.” They are awesome– and I don’t usually like books about werewolves or zombies!

Book 1 in the Wolf of Land of the Dead series

 

Next on my list is a book called “James Eyre” which I believe is gay re-telling of Jane Eyre.  This author is on notice: Jane Eyre is my “desert island” book: the book I would choose if I could only have one book to read, over and over again for the rest of my life. I love that book.  So if this isn’t good I WILL put you on BLAST!!! 🙂  Once again, I’ve chosen a book that isn’t in my genre (no where close, actually). I don’t think I’ve ever read any gay fiction before and I’m actually looking forward to having a new reading experience.

Happy reading, readers– and happy reading, writers!

Doomsday Swag is coming!

gasmask_original_optThat’s right! We’ve got all kinds of cool stuff coming for you guys, including the gasmask stickers, survival gear and more! The first details about what you can win and links to enter will appear on the newsletter for March, so if you haven’t done so already the sign-up is on this page!

“Murdering Your Darlings”(or Editing Out Stuff You Really Like)

First, an explanation: the phrase “murder your darlings” is a bit of writing advice that’s been around for a couple of centuries. It was attributed to William Faulkner, but it turns out to be older than that. Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch is said to have been the first to use it in the 19th Century.  Many other writers have updated versions of the intent—which is basically to be willing to edit yourself mercilessly–especially some of your favorite parts.  I also like Elmore Leonard’s “If I come across anything in my work that smacks of good writing, I immediately strike it out!”

Not claiming myself to be in league with Faulkner or Leonard, but I know I cut a lot out of my books. A lot.

I save all of my drafts and I found this one while looking for something else. Here’s an early version of the first chapter of Liam’s Promise, before I realized that Lilly Harper had Down’s Syndrome (which explains Liam’s deep protectiveness of her better) and when I had a different, darker version of David Harper in mind:

If I’d been thinking straight—on my game and paying attention—I would have seen it coming. Seen that look he gets in his eyes when the paranoia takes hold. Or noticed how quiet he’d been at dinner, even after Mom started talking about her disciplinary hearing for like the seventeen billionth time. If I’d been on my toes, I’d have known something was coming and lain awake in my clothes with my gun across my stomach and my boots and my gear ready at the foot of the bed.
But no. I let myself get distracted by—of all things—something as stupid as going to high school.
Okay, so it’s sort of a big deal since I haven’t been to a “regular school” since BDCH—before Dad came home. But four years ago when Dad came home from Afghanistan with both legs shot off everything changed—for all of us. It just made sense for Lilly and me to be home schooled while Mom was practically living at Walter Reed Military Hospital. And then, after rehab, Dad took over our education’s almost completely. I guess Mom figured it gave him something to do. Something other than obsess about the “sorry state of the world” and the parts of him that are missing.

But last year, when I turned 15, I started to feel like parts of me were missing, too. I mean, for the past four years, every time there was some story on the news about kids getting shot up in public schools Dad would lock eyes with me and jerk his chin, which in Dad-speak means: “See? You’re better off here. Why would you want to be under some desk hiding from gunfire, when you can spend a few hours on the books and then head up to the mountain with me and do the shooting yourself?”
That’s what he did when that shit went down at that school last winter– jerk his head at me– but that time, I was too pissed off with him– for other reasons—to keep my mouth shut.

“I still want to go,” I hissed into my spaghetti. I felt his eyes crawling over me in the sudden silence that fell over the dinner table. I braced myself for the worst—you never knew anymore when he’d snap—but before I felt the heavy weight of his hand, Lilly squeaked out:

“Me, too, Daddy. I know bad things happen at schools sometimes, but most of the times it looks like fun to be around other kids–”

“No.” His face was clean-shaven and his dark brown hair combed with military precision, but the haggard circles under his eyes were an even uglier remnant of what combat had done to him than anything else. Sometimes, if I squinted hard, I could almost remember the laughing brown eyes he’d had before…but I’d long ago given up hope that they’d ever come back.

“But Dad,” Lilly persisted in a soft voice that held the edge of a whine. “I get tired of studying with Liam all the time—“

“No!” His chair scraped out behind him and I knew what was going to happen. He’s pretty fast for a dude with two metal legs, but I’m faster. I was between him and Lilly as fast as those CGI gators in a bad SyFy movie and this time I wasn’t going to just take it, no matter what Mom said. This time if he lifted his hands, I was going to raise mine and if I knocked him off his prosthetics, so be it.

What I like about it:  Liam is sharing how he feels. In many ways, I consider Liam to be the “straight man” of the series: when he’s narrating, he talks a lot about what’s going on with the others, but less about himself. He cares about what he’s going to do— and less sure about what he feels. I think that as he matures in the books, you’ll see this tendency grow stronger.  He will become a man who expresses his caring by what he does– just like his father. (If he lives that long, that is!) But in this excerpt, he is speaking directly to his feelings: his resentments, his anger, his desire.  It’s insight into his internal world.

Why I cut it:  Though elements of this scene remain, I changed it quite a bit. There’s more action to it and less of Liam’s thoughts in the final version which make it more consistent with Liam’s character and with the changes I made to David Harper and Lilly. It was a bit too passive for the beginning of the story, so I moved it from Chapter 1, to a dream sequence in Chapter 7, when the kids are stuck in The Hole and aren’t sure when they’ll be able to come out. (If you haven’t read Liam’s Promise, you can get the ebook by clicking on the links here.

I liked this scene, but I think it’s better without as much “Liam talking.” Now, Liam tells a bit of this story, but it’s less about him and more about the entire family dynamic at the Harper household before the bomb. And I think the first chapter is better because it starts with the immediacy of needing to get to safety…and that we fill in the backstory with the flashbacks.

What do you think? Leave me a comment!

Amy’s Gift Rough Draft is Done! Final Book Months Away! What?

A lot of you have been expressing eager anticipation for the next installment in the Doomsday Kids series, book 4, Amy’s Gift (thank you!) and asking when it will be done. The answer is that I’ve finished the rough draft! 261 pages! Yay! That means I’m on schedule to have a new book ready to share with you in mid-April. It could take a little longer.

Longer?

When I say that I’ve got a rough draft and it still will be months before you can read it, readers and fans are often confused. “If you’ve got a rough draft written, isn’t it nearly done? Don’t you just have to clean it up, check your grammar, format the pages and BOOM! Upload and print, right? Shouldn’t the book be up by the end of the month?”

Nope. Why not? The answer is: because my #rough drafts are crap!

In a rough draft, I feel my way through the plot, figure out what’s going on inside the narrating character’s mind and heart, and flesh out the conflicts they have with the other characters. I do #outline a little bit before I start writing (click the link to see one), but I’ll let you in on my dirty little secret:

I ignore my outlines.

I write to tell myself a story!  If I outline, I’ve already told myself a story…and then it’s no fun for me. True, when I ghostwrite, I generally have to follow some kind of outline, but usually even then I deviate. I have to surprise myself. The joy of writing is in the surrender, in letting the characters take control and tell me their stories.

But #characters are people… and people don’t tell stories in straight lines. They talk all over the place! They whine and meander. They tell stories that reveal a lot about who they are… but don’t advance any real plot! Writing a book told from a character’s point of view is like sitting down with a good friend you haven’t seen in a while: the conversation bounces around because there’s so much to relate, so much to tell. The person starts with one story, then gets ahead of themselves, then bounces back to the past.

There’s a story unfolding but it loops and circles. In conversation it’s fine, but on the page, it’s often boring.

That’s what my rough draft looks like.  The plot unfolds but it’s off track. I’ve learned that if I want a good book, I have to let the character talk. I have to let her tell me stuff that might be irrelevant. I have to let her unload her whining, self-pitying reflections. I have let her talk (after all, she’s a good friend) because knowing how she really feels is a part letting her unique voice come through.

Amy wanted to talk about things that happen in book 5. She wanted to tell me a lot of things that happen to other characters.  She was very reserved about the current plot line and very hesitant to reveal anything about herself. Distrustful… even of me, her “mother.” But that’s consistent with who Amy is since the apocalypse. If you’ve read Nester’s Mistake, you know that’s true!AmY_Yamamoto_2_2_opt

So, yes, I have a rough draft… but no, you can’t see it. And no Amy’s Gift won’t be ready until April. Maybe. Because the rough draft is really just the beginning. The next part is the part that takes the time. The next part is the work of writing (#writingprocess). The next part is when I take the energy of what Amy’s revealed to me and fit it to what has to happen in this installment of The Doomsday Kids series. The next part is where I cut Amy’s stories mercilessly (no matter how interesting they might be) because they don’t fit the narrative. The next part is when I make Amy stop hiding and circling and get real (like a good friend!)  It’s also when I’ll ask her questions and make her notice what’s happening to the other characters as the drama unfolds.

This part is hard and time-consuming… but it’s also fun. It’s the writerly part that I truly look forward to because this is the part that I have control over. The character has told me how she feels and who she is in messy detail. Now I get to refine it and make it something that you’ll enjoy reading.

Want an example?  Later this week, I’ll be sending out the Doomsday Kids newsletter.  In it, I’m going to share a scene from Liam’s Promise’s #first draft that didn’t make it into the final manuscript.  I’ll share more about why I cut most of the scene… and why I kept just the tiniest piece of it that you’ll remember from that story.  If you haven’t read Liam’s Promise, you can find the ebook free, here and here.

The newsletter sign up is on this page—-> and look for the newsletter in your inbox on Thursday, February 12.

I know this sounds a little crazy (you can tell me so in the comments, below!)  But here’s a picture of a t-shirt my husband just got for me that sort of explains it.

I am a Writer

More soon! Back to writing Amy’s Gift!

Happy #GroundhogDay~

Happy #Groundhog Day!  It’s sort of raining/snowing here in the suburbs of Washington, DC this morning, so I’m doubtful #PotomacPhil will be seeing his shadow today.  Six more weeks of winter seems likely. Too bad. I hate #winter!

Still, at least I know that Spring will come. The scenario I’ve set up for the Doomsday Kids has no such assurance. The story began in mid-October, and by the end of Amaranth’s Return it’s mid-December. Not only is it #winter, it’s nuclear winter.  My science is good here: after the kinds of atomic blasts that happen in the story, debris would fill the atmosphere and block the sun.  No one knows for how long: could be months or years or decades.  

Years or decades of #nuclearwinter would mean that almost every living thing on the planet would die! For the purposes of our Doomsday Kids, that won’t happen.  The books can be bleak, but trust me, at least ONE of the Doomsday Kids will survive. Which one? HA! I’m not telling!

Just some updates:

1. Amy’s Gift’s rough draft is done.  I call it a “crap draft” because it’s so bad, no one will ever see it.  But I know the plot now (YAY!) and having a draft means I have some idea of when the finished book will be done.  So now you’ll find a pre-order for the e-book up on Amazon.com here.

2. Congratulations to the lucky winners of paperback copies of all three Doomsday Kids books!  Just for signing up for the newsletter they’ve got autographed paperback copies coming.  I’ll be reaching out to them individually in the next couple of days.

3. We have MORE #SWAG coming: dogtags, compasses, backpacks– all kinds of #Doomsdaykids gear.  The best way to make sure you don’t miss out is to sign up for the newsletter!

Happy#GroundhogDay.  Stay warm, people! Spring will come!