Midwest Writers Workshop 2017 Wrap Up

The workshop was a blast! I got to meet many new faces and get to know so many different authors, agents, and editors, but one of the best parts was seeing people from the previous year’s conference where I was an attendee and these old faces remembered me! It was so much fun to catch up with these other aspiring writers to see how their year has gone.

I had the joy of being an assistant to one of the agents that came to our workshop, Roseanne Wells. I do have to admit to being nervous to met my agent on the 1st day of the conference. I was necessarily nervous for the conference in general since I had attended it before. So I already knew how the conference went. Meeting my agent and just getting to know her a little bit was interesting. We all think agents are these figures to approach cautiously. Figures that we want to impress and not screw up in front of, but at the workshop I got to see that these agents are also people and just want to sit down and have a normal time like the rest of use. They didn’t think they were better and were so inviting. Answering the many questions that we interns had with much enthusiast.

I am hoping that I will be able to attend the workshop in 2018, but since I have graduated from college I have no idea where I will be next summer! New York? Down south somewhere? Maybe on the west coast somewhere? Who knows! But I am really hoping that I will be able to attend the conference next year, because I just want to see everybody again. All the old faces and especially all the new ones that I will hopefully met and make friends with. After all, that is one of the reasons that I plan on attending in the years to come is just for the friendly environment for writers. And being able to talk books with other like minded individuals. Peoples who’s eyes don’t glaze over when you try to describe the latest book you are reading! 🙂

Interview with Author Brenda Drake

THief of Lies by Brenda Drake Book CoverHead shot of Brenda Drake

Brenda Drake is a New York Times bestselling author of two different Young Adult series, the Library Jumpers and the Fated series. She hosts workshops and contests for writers such as Pitch Wars and Pitch Madness on her blog, and holds Twitter pitch parties on the hashtag, #PitMad. She also will be attending the Midwest Writers Workshop next week in Muncie, Indiana! She will be there selling and autographing her books.

 

What was your inspiration behind Truth of Lies?

It was a coffee table book of world libraries. I came across it in a bookstore and fell in love with the photographs of libraries in the book. The pictures moved within my imagination and I envisioned a battle happening in one of the libraries. I bought the book and started drafting the story that day.

I saw that you have a sequel to Truth of Lies titled, Guardian of Secrets. Now, since I have just finished the first book and haven’t picked up the second one yet, can you give a hint on whether or not Gia chooses Arik or Bastien? Please! 🙂

Yes! Guardian of Secrets came out in February. I’d love to tell you, but I don’t want to spoil it. Ha! I will say that you will see A LOT of Bastien in Guardian of Secrets.

Is there plans for a third book?

There is a third and final book in the Library Jumpers series. Assassin of Truths releases on February 6, 2018. The final book finds Gia in many difficult situations. There are many battles, we visit more of the Mystik world, jump to more libraries, and Gia will have to go up against someone she loves. It was so hard to write. I cried a lot. I’ve been writing this series for a long time, and I’ll miss these characters.

What is your antidote for writer’s block?

Taking a break. I feel like writer’s block happens because we’re tired and our imagination is depleted. I’ll go for a walk to clear my head, have a day of fun, or go write at the bookstore with coffee. It usually jump-starts my creativity to step away or change locations.

How did the publishing process go for you? Was it pretty straightforward? Or was there some struggles?

It was definitely a struggle. It took me several years to get the wrong book deal. Then two more years to get out of it and finally have it published with a great company. The struggle and tears were well worth it. My book found its home and has great support by my publisher.

Do you have any advice for aspiring or beginning writers that are trying to make a name for themselves?

Learn your trade. The best way to do that is to read in the category and genre you write in and research how the publishing industry works. Write something every day. It doesn’t have to be much. Something as simple as a page a day would work, and you never know, by the end of the year, you’ll have written a novel. If you can’t write every day, don’t sweat it—write at your own pace. Never give up. Keep writing and put out stories until the right one clicks. Then query agents. And learn patience—you’ll need it.

 

Now that you hopefully have hopefully learned a bit about Brenda, you should definitely check out her book series. Both of her different YA series have plot lines that are completely new to me and are fantastic reads. I can’t wait for the upcoming workshop were I will get to meet her and have her sign my copy of her books!

Family Secrets Bite. A Book Review of Truth of Lies by Brenda Drake by Abby Hoops

THief of Lies by Brenda Drake Book Cover

Title: Thief of Lies

Author: Brenda Drake

Publisher: Entangled Publishing

Copyright 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63375-221-4

Format: Hardcover

Genre: YA Fantasy Fiction

Book I of a Library Jumpers series

 

Family secrets really come back and bite Gia Kearns hard in Thief of Lies by Brenda Drake. Gia and her two best friends, Afton and Nick, go to a library in Boston just like it is any other day of summer vacation, but everything they believe they know changes when Gia accidentally says an old Italian phrase over a book causing them to jump into the book and come out in a library in Paris, France.  The world really goes further upside down for the three friends when they see a hound/rhinoceros beast start to chase after them, but ends up being stopped by a group of teenagers dressed up in gladiators type gear, with swords on and everything, right before the hound beast tries to eat them. The three friends have no idea what the heck is going on.

They discover a world with dangerous creatures that want to kill all three friends for just being plain old human. Once all three of them are safely back home, they find out this isn’t the end of their exposure to this world. Gia must quickly figure out her place in this world that would label her as a danger and should be killed on site.

Arik went through the door. My heart sputtered as I scrambled up the last steps, ignoring the pain. I froze on the landing, stuck between two worlds, desperately clinging to one while called to embrace the other. If I went through the door, my mother’s stories would come true, and I could never go back.

She must become the Sentinel she was meant to be if she doesn’t want her family and friends to die at the hands of a crazy Master Wizard Conemar, who will do anything to rule both the magical and human world. Also on top of trying to save two worlds, Gia must decide whether or not to pursue a forbidden romance with another Sentinel or marry her betrothed. Both of whom she has feelings for and are ridiculously hot.  

The novel’s pacing flows together really well. We get a bunch of action types scenes—different fights with different types of creatures—but in between the action scenes we get scenes where Gia starts to discover the history and the finer rules of how this world works. We get to discover these legends as Gia discovers them, which keeps readers on their toes because they only get part of a legend at a time; when it would actually be better to get the entire thing at the same time, because there is always that little detail that gets left out that affects everything.  Also the characters are so likeable. It is hard to choose which one to root for. And this doesn’t include all the relationships that are happening between everybody—secret ones or not. After all, you get a bunch of hormonal teenagers together in a life or death situation and something is bound to happen.

Fighting for what you believe in. This phrase could quickly wrap up what this story is about and help readers to connect with it, because is not this idea/concept something parents tell their children as they grow up. “Never give up your dreams,” “if you want something bad enough, then fight for it,” and “dare to dream for the impossible” are all things that I have heard from various coaches, teachers, professors, and friends in my life and this novel really brings this concept to the forefront of Gia’s life. She must take up a sword and fight for her right to live the life that she wants. She must decide when it is right to follow blindly and when it is better to forge her own path, which are life lessons every single person needs to someday learn for themselves. Thief of Lies allows readers to see that the fight might be hard and violent, but there is hope for a brighter outcome at the end of the fight.

Night Terrors, Part #9

I can’t believe it. These alien things have assigned each kid a Guardian. A Guardian that it suppose to help us through the transition of moving planets and the differences in the laws on said planets. More like spies. I watch as the different Guardians run their eyes up and own their assign charges. What they don’t see that I do is some sort of judgement in their eyes. It is like they are measuring us up for something.

Turning around to face my “Guardian,” I see it is just a kid like me. Well I assume it is a kid, since it is just a few inches taller than me. Normally that would be a sign that somebody is way older than me, but this kid is all arms and legs like you would see in a human teenager. I don’t know if that is the same for this race, but its eyes seem softer somehow. Like it hasn’t really seen much of the harshness of living.

It walks up to me. It pauses a couple of steps away ad stares at me. when I make no notion to introduce myself, it cocks its head,

“You are the human teen called Ember, correct?”

I stare at it some more. The less I say the better. They don’t deserve to know anything about me.

The thing cocks his head to the opposite shoulder, “Yes, I can tell that you are. Zovaski said you might cause me some troubles, but I don’t believe you will give me any at all.” The thing smiles at me. He crouches down and looks behind me, “And this must be the human child called Ethan, right?”

My mind was still stuck on that word he used, Zovaski. What the hell was that word? However my mind quietly flashes away from its wondering to glare down at the thing on its haunches where it is smiling at Ethan, “Hey. Eyes off him and we won’t have any troubles. Got it?”

The thing tilts its head up to me and then flows back into a standing position. I blink quickly and glance at Ethan out of the corner of my eye. His mouth is hanging open a bit and his eyes are blown wide open. So I wasn’t imaging it. The thing in front of us moved very quickly between crouching and standing. And it did is so smoothly. Like water flowing in a stream. Weird.

The thing stares at me in surprise for a few seconds then blanks its features, “Allow me to introduce myself. I am called Traydum and a member of the Draculls race.  I am to be your Guardian through this transition for you.”

Night Terrors, Part #8

I stand against the wall along with everybody else. All the other kids in the “room” we have been kept in scan the hallway. This is the first time they have let us out on their ship and the others want to pretend indifference, but are completely failing in that standard. I on the other hand, really don’t give a shit. Turning up in new places is something pretty common for me. No home every wanted to keep me longer than it had to, so I just lean back to my shoulders hit the wall and close my eyes. Haven’t got much sleep recently and this is a perfect time to catch some shut eye.

At least it would be if Ethan didn’t start tugging on my hand to wake me up. Flickering my eyes open and scowling down at him, I see his small, pale face staring across the hall at the opposite wall. Glancing it that direction to see what i the world has him so frantic, I freeze when I see the alien that started this all staring back at me. After getting over my surprise at seeing its ugly ass again, my scowl deepens further.

The thing smirks at me and opens it’s mouth, but before its says anything to me another alien hisses at it. At least it sounds like a hiss. The ass in front of me looks at the hissy one and starts to hiss back. Listening closely, I can hear different levels and sounds in the hiss. Huh? The hisses must be their version of talking. The ass smirks at me one more time and then walks away. I watch his back until it reaches the end of the line of human kids and turns back around to face us.

Ethan tugs on my hand again. Looking at him and seeing that his face is still pale I tell him, “We are surrounded by a bunch of putty cats.”  He reacts like I hoped he would, he starts to giggle quietly beside me. Feeling something predator focusing on me, I look back down the hallway to see the ass glaring at me. He must have heard me. I smile as sweetly as I could at him.

 

Night Terrors, Part #7

“Hey what’s the kid doing here. Thought they weren’t to take any around his age?” I turn around and glance at a boy about fifteen or sixteen walking towards me. He has on black jeans and a black tee with a white skull on it dripping red blood. Charming. I can see a gold chain peeking through the collar of his shirt around his neck. His giant, black boots stomp across the metal flooring of the room we are in. I look up at his face and see that he has brown eyes and dark hair. However, his eyes stall my inspection of him. Normally whenever somebody has brown eyes, others describe them as loving and full of warmth. Like Mother Earth, but these eyes don’t bring any feelings of warmth and kindness. Instead they bring up my awareness of him and I can feel adrenaline start to pump through me. This is a kid that has fought and perhaps killed before and he has targeted me as his next victim.

“Hey! I’m talking to you. Who’s the kid?” the boy stops in front of me and reaches around me to grab at Ethan. I slap his hand away and place myself between them. I loose up the muscles in my arms when I see his eyes go from astonishment that somebody would darn not let him have his way to complete and utter fury at being denied something he wanted.

“Who the hell are you? Listen girl, you better move right now and fuck off. This has nothing to do with you. I just want to know who the fuck the kid is?” He crosses his arms over his chest and smirks at me. I just raise my eyebrow at him. Like he thought just because he had more muscle mass and height on me that I was going to cower away from him.

I calmly stare a him, “Okay little man, you think you can threaten me and make me cower off, but I can tell you nothing you say or do is going to make me move from this position. Oh by the way, think about even touching my little brother again and you won’t have a working hand to touch him or anybody else with. Got it?”

His face darkens further and further throughout my warning for him to lay off. I hear some snickers from the crowd of other kids around us. I see a couple glancing in worry at me. Looks like toughfy here as already made himself quite a following of people who fear him. Well, I don’t fear much and this kid certainly isn’t on my list of things to fear.

“What?! Why you little bitch!! Seems like nobody taught you to obey your betters. Maybe I should teach you that mistake.” He backs up a step. I watch him bring gis arm back, curl his hand into a fist, and aim at my face. He plans to hit me and hit me badly. I start to laugh at him. I just can’t help it. Out of the corner of my eye, I see everybody freeze. Hell even the kid in front of me does. They all stare at me like I got a couple of screws loose. They are probably right.

Still choking on air from my laughing fit, I manage to the crowd and the kid in front of, “Little boy, I am really annoyed that I was somehow taken and brought to where the fuck we are. Especially since I can’t recall getting here, so you might not want to throw that little punch at me. I have had a bad day and would love to kick somebody’s ass.” I straighten up and smirk at the kid in front of me now. He snarls at the look of amazement still swimming in my eyes. “You might think you are bigger and stronger than me, but you are wrong. You might be the biggest one here, but I have fought bigger and kick their ass.”

There is dead silence all around me as everybody just stares at me. apparently nobody thought to challenge doofus here in front of me. What breaks that silence are snorts of laughter behind me. I smile myself as Ethan barely hold in his laughter. He knew who I quoted and he always thinks it is hilarious that I quote superheroes before I kick somebody’s ass. I watch as the kid is front of me cocks his arm back again to swing at me. I move up onto the balls of my feet in anticipation of the fight to come.

Yeah, the crowd is definitely right. i do have a few screws missing.

Night Terrors, Part #6

“Come on Ember! Wake up! Please. please wake up! We have to move!”

I hear this little voice keep repeating over and over again for me to wake up. The voice is begging me to response to it. Listening, I can hear the thickness in the voice and at the same time the shrillness of it. Sounds like a voice holding back sobs mix with a voice screaming in fear. The voice stirs something in me. The something knows that this voice means the world to us and that it is our duty to make sure the owner of the voice is safe.

I can feel my heart start to pick up its speed a little bit. The feel of my blood going from my heart to other places in my body makes me realize that I am not just something floating in space. That I have a physical body that grounds me to the earth. My blood flows through across my chest to my shoulders. I try and shrug those shoulder, wondering if  can. I can feel the littlest bits of sharpness digging into them when they press further down on the ground.

Next the blood flows down my arms to elbows and then eventually my hands and fingers. I try and twitch them. I can hear the voice gasps beside me, then a firm tightness envelopes my entire hand. The tightness gets stronger and the voice starts to beg, “Come on Ember. Wake up! Come on! Please Ember, I’m scared!”

Knowing that the owner of the voice is frighten, I make my heart pump just a bit more faster. This time the blood flows down my chest into my hips then into my legs. I restlessly move them and feel a sharp twinge from the left one. That one doesn’t respond like it should.

The blood then flows up from shoulders and into my neck then head. I can feel the blood flow in front of my eyes where my eyelids cover them. Focusing as hard as I can, I start to lift them up to see where the owner of that voice is. I can make out some dim lights around me that has everything in shadows. And there are a lot of shadows. Shadows that move around when I feel no breeze on my skin. These shadows belong to other things that move at their own free-will

However, there is one shadow that has my full attention. The shadow is curled up next to me and holding tightly to my hand. It is this shadow that has been begging me to wake up and help it. Turning my head fully toward the shadow, I squint and start to make out its features. Shaggy, blond hair with blue eyes swimming in water that he refuses to let slide down his face. Starting at the face something seems to pop in my mind. I feel like some sort of release happens and everything starts to flood back into my head, causing it to ache something fierce.

Groaning and moving my fear hand to grasp my head, I remember the ships appearing and then their demand for kids like me to go with them. Then running away so they couldn’t catch me, but eventually a tracker found us and the thing told me to come with it and leave…Ethan behind! I also remember telling it to fuck off. After that everything is pretty blank.

Looking over at Ethan, I remove my hand from his and place my arm around him as I sit up. He curls into my side and buries his face into my neck. I can feel a slight dampness there. He was really worried about me, “Ethan, where are we? I don’t remember how we got here?”

Ethan sniffles against my neck then moves his small face to my ear and says, “Ember, I think we are on the alien spaceship.”

Shit.

Night Terrors, Part #5

I red-out. At least that I call the little episode that I go through that causes me to basically black-out, but instead of losing consciousness and sleeping I go on a destructive war path. A red haze covers my vision. Like red blood flows down from the top of my eyes to the bottom of them. I know the second that I can’t seen anything is when all hell’s about to break lose.

When these red-outs happen, I am aware but I am not at the same time. I am awake, but have no control over my body and what it does. It is like blinking between one minutes and the next. One minutes you are arguing with some bully and the next they are on the ground sobbing because of a broken arm, leg, a couple of ribs, and a broken nose. This only has to happy a couple of times before you are label as a freak and a trouble-maker. Always looking for the next fight. By a certain point, you stop trying to explain that you didn’t mean to do it. You own it and threaten anybody that gets in your way, or causes her little brother trouble.

However this red-out is different. Usually when I come out them, I feel great. My knuckles might be a little bruised from hitting somebody, but my body feels so alive and ready for the next fight. Or that it could run the next 10 miles in no trouble. But this time, I come out all tired and raged. My arms are covered in bruises and cuts. My clothes are ripped here and there. I also am panting for breath. All these little sensations cause me to panic inside. I have never had this happen before. It is almost like something kicked my own ass during one of my red-outs, which is impossible. Normally I do the ass kicking.

Looking down at my feet, I can see I am standing in some type of puddle. Lifting up my boots, I can see streams of the goop I am standing in hang off the edge of them. Gross! Putting my foot back down, I look around me. My forehead scrunches as I see I am in some alley. On either side of me are tall apartments buildings with fire escapes going all the way to the roof. Behind me back is some concrete wall, which marks this place as a dead end. Looking in front of me is a normal looking street. Nothing gives me any clue to wear the freak I am at.

I can hear tires running across the street in front of me, when a car drives by. In the quick second where the edge of it’s headlights hit me, I freeze. The puddle of goop I am standing in is red. And not just any red, but the crimson color of wet blood. Shit! Who the hell did I kill this time.

 

Night Terrors, Part #4

I cannot see Ethan, but I can feel the air around him flinch. I feel his small hand reach up and tugs gently on the back of my shirt twice. Pauses then does it again. It is our own secret language. Letting me know that the escape route is just two steps away and he was wondering if we should make a break for it. I don’t know what to do. If what I have heard people saying on the streets is true, than these things are much faster than the normal person. But even if then, we have to try. I can’t let them take Ethan or me.

Reaching behind my back, I grasp Ethan’s small hand in my where it still grips my shirt. I can feel the small thing just trembling inside my own. I slowly and careful squeeze it and then I let go again. Bringing my hand back around to my side. The entire time I don’t remove my gaze from the alien in front of me. The thing doesn’t look away from me either. In fact, the thing even tilts his hand slightly to the right as if I was doing something that confused him greatly.

“What do you want? Why have you been looking for us?”

The thing looks at me and just examines me again, “You are a rather troublesome person to track down. You have managed to evade many of my brothers and sisters,” he pauses and shakes his head. “How a little thing like you can disappear so well is quite shocking. Especially when dragging around that.” He jerks his gaze down to Ethan, who freezes when the thing locks him in its sights.

“Hey freaky alien thingy, eyes up here. You never answered my question. Don’t you have a basic understanding of English? Cause if not, your invasion plan is going to be shitty as hell. I mean, why the hell you would not learn one of the biggest languages out there. You seriously didn’t do your homework if so.” I knew I was blabbing and being a smartass, but the thing needed to keep his eyes away from Ethan.

The thing look back and me and glares. It doesn’t look to pleased now, “Yes I understand English. Why do you think I was sent to your part of the world to track down our escapees? Now I need to be back soon, we should be going. Come along little girl,” so saying the thing actually turns around. Like it expects me to obediently fall in step behind it and just fall it to Timbuctoo.

He turns his head and glances at Ethan again over his shoulder, “Be sure to leave that thing behind. It has no use to us.”

I watch as he starts to stroll back down the street like it has no care in the world. It walks a couple of feet, then it stops. It looks back at me. Its eyes pinch around the edges as if continues to stare at me, “Well come on. I don’t have all night.”

Glancing down at Ethan from the corner of my eyes, I jerk my head slightly to the side. I can see he is not happy about this suggestion, but he will obey. Focusing fully on the thing, “Listen up thing. Things might be different from wherever the hell you came from, but here we don’t generally follow people—especially things—into the dark. And I am not living my brother behind.”

I watch as the thing spins back around to face me fully. It scowls at me. Its face all scrunched up and eyes darkening even more, “I don’t care what you want. You will follow me and leave behind the little thing. You are meant to obey me, as the person who is assigned to track you down. So let’s go.”

“Tough shit.”

Night Terrors, Part #3

The creature before me had a human body. Bi-pedal and everything. Two eyes. A hole for a mouth. A nose. Two arms and legs. Just spotting such a figure in the shadows would have a person thinking that they were passing another human being, but they would be wrong. Very wrong.

The eyes on this thing were pure black. The entire oval shape object was covered by its pupil and with just a hint of its true color on the sides of it. I have heard on the street that this is because their planet is always in darkness and always having a giant pupil always them to basically see in the dark. The mouth has the fullest and softest lips I have ever seen on a person. A nice place shape of pink, but that doesn’t hide the sharp white teeth behind those lips. Teeth so white they look like pieces of bone that have been picked clean by some scavengers animals.

The thing looks to be about a foot taller than my own 5ft 5in height. The thing has ridiculous long, wavy black hair that falls down to the top of its shoulders, which contrasts nicely with his milky skin-tone. I glare at the thing’s hair in disgust. My own black hair is nowhere no near as pretty and silky looking. It usually in a ponytail and out of the way of people who would try and get a drop on me. Glancing back at the thing’s eyes, I startle to realize that the entire time I had been studying it, the thing had been studying me too.

I narrow my eyes at the thing, while it tips up the corner of those soft looking lips at me,

“Hello children. We have been searching for you.”