Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Freestyle: Author Interview with Jaclyn Dolamore

Today we have the wonderful honor of having YA author Jaclyn Dolamore here for a quick interview.  Her debut novel was published by Bloomsbury USA in December 2009 and she is represented by the fabulous Jennifer Laughran of the Andrea Brown agency.

 Jaclyn Dolamore was homeschooled in a hippie sort of way and spent her childhood reading as many books as her skinny nerd-body could lug from the library and playing elaborate pretend games with her sister Kate. She skipped college and spent eight years drudging through retail jobs, developing her thrifty cooking skills and pursuing a lifelong writing dream. She has a passion for history, thrift stores, vintage dresses, David Bowie, drawing, and organic food. She lives with her partner and plot-sounding-board, Dade, and two black tabbies who have ruined her carpeting.

How long have you been writing? Was it always a passion or was it a craft you slowly grew to love? 

As far back as I can remember, books were precious to me—I’ve stepped into a library hundreds of times in my life, but my heart never fails to quicken at the thought of what I might find—and writing was a natural extension of that. The urge to tell a story feels almost like the very essence of myself, as slightly pretentious as that sounds.

Any insider tips for stress-release after a grueling day of writing, editing, or waiting for news?  

Exercise. Just 10 minutes. It reminds me that I have a body and that body would like to move once in awhile. And get the heck out of the house. I’ve kept my sanity this summer by planning a couple of cheap vacations and dragging myself out to critique groups, book clubs, and meeting friends…

Can you tell us a little about your writing process and how long it takes you to write your novels? 

I have kind of an assembly line. While I’m writing or editing one thing, I’m mulling over a handful of other projects, trying to work out their problems. I don’t take breaks between projects—even if I’ve been in a whirlwind of finishing something, when it’s done I might take two or three days off and then I’m right back into something else, and usually excited about it, because I’ve been getting ideas for it all along. I write with a flexible outline and I don’t do messy first drafts—while I know I’ll go back and change things, I don’t like to put anything on paper I would be ashamed to show someone else. It takes me, on average, nine months to write and revise a novel, but it’s much better if that nine months is spread out over a year or more as I move around between projects.

What is the best writing advice you can pass on to other aspiring authors? 

The “best” advice depends on where you are in the process, but one thing is—keep writing and learning. No matter where you are. Don’t get hung up on one book being the one, don’t get distracted if said book gets an agent or even sells—keep pushing yourself to better achievement.

When your book Magic Under Glass was first released, there was a lot of controversy about your cover.  It has now been changed because of that, what are your feeling about that whole debacle and is there anything you want people to learn from it?

Well, obviously I hope people will make accurate covers… Although I think we’re seeing a lot of covers with no people on them and things like that, to get around the issue. It’s kind of a rough patch, but it’s a good thing—when I was a kid/teen in the 90s, this wasn’t even an issue because books just plain weren’t diverse, except in the most clichéd ways. Even as a kid, it frustrated me but there was no internet to talk to other readers and go, hey, why are no fantasy books inspired by non-western mythology and why are disabled characters always either saints or incredibly bitter? So the fact that we even have these issues shows how much more diverse books have become, and I think that trend will continue, and we’ll see more diverse covers, slowly but surely. We live in such a global world nowadays.

You were homeschooled, how has this affected your writing?  Do you believe that has helped or hindered you in the process of writing and how so?

Helped! Definitely helped! I was unschooled, which means little to no structure or textbooks or things like that. If I wanted to spend the whole day writing, I could. If I wanted to spend the whole day reading about Japan or Victorian architecture or the life of Charlotte Bronte, I could do that too. It’s a lot like how my professional writer’s life is, actually. No time was wasted slogging through some topic I didn’t care about and would forget in a week.

What is the most difficult thing about writing for you?

I hate writing endings. Real life rarely has a tidy wrap-up point, and I always find it hard to wrap up a book. Plus I always want to know what happens after. I have issues letting go…

Congratulations on the recent release of Magic Under Glass.  It is an awesome book and I enjoyed it tremendously.  It’s so different from any of the YA literature out there now and a completely different type of romance, where did you get the idea for it? 

After reading and writing, history is my third true love! Especially domestic/social/cultural history. So the pseudo Victorian setting and much of the plot comes from history and from my twisting of 19th century plot tropes, especially Jane Eyre. As for the love interest, well, I grew up on some very unlikely love stories in 80s movies like Mannequin and Splash. I was always writing stories about people with some major—and weird—physical obstacles to love. Love with a robot seemed pretty plausible in the realm of 80s movies…

How many books did you have to write before your wonderful agent picked you up?

I wrote four. One I knew was just too weird and never sent out. Magic Under Glass alone was sent out to agents three separate times, drastically different each time, so it was almost like three books in itself.

Magic Under Glass was bought in a three-book deal, can you tell us a little bit about the sequel?

It was actually a two-book deal, for Magic Under Glass and a “mermaid book” I was working on at the time, and then Magic Under Stone was acquired separately after Magic Under Glass came out. So my next book will be Between the Sea and Sky, a love story between a mermaid and a winged guy, in spring 2011. In 2012, Magic Under Stone will deal with the emotional repercussions of Magic Under Glass for Erris and Nimira. I think it’s a bit more of a thoughtful, snowy, nature-y book…although there is still plenty going on.

BONUS QUESTION: You're stranded on a desert oasis...what one book would you want with you? 

Well, putting aside practical answers like a survival guide, or maybe some kind of spiritual guide to meditation and making peace with a lack of material goods, maybe the complete works of Jane Austen. That ought to keep me busy. Since you can get them in the form of one volume, I say it’s not cheating. ;)

Book cover and blurb for Ms. Dolamore's book, MAGIC UNDER GLASS.

Nimira is a music-hall girl used to dancing for pennies. So when wealthy sorcerer Hollin Parry hires her to sing accompaniment to a mysterious piano-playing automaton, Nimira believes it will be the start of a better life.

In Parry's world, long-buried secrets are about to stir. Unsettling rumors begin to swirl about ghosts, a madwoman roaming the halls, and Parry’s involvement in a group of corrupt sorcerers for whom the rules of the living and dead are meant to be broken for greater power.

When Nimira discovers the spirit of a dashing fairy gentleman is trapped within the automaton, she is determined to break the curse. But even as the two fall into a love that seems hopeless, breaking the curse becomes a perilous race against time. Because it's not just the future of these star-crossed lovers that's at stake, but the fate of the entire magical world.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

And they lived happily ever after...

We write for children. Granted, they're older children. But for the most part, happily ever after is still part of our trade. Which got me thinking about a Jimmy Buffet song called "Happily Ever After (Every Now and Then)."  The lyrics go like this:

Take it from me cuz I found 
If you leave it then somebody else is bound 
To find that treasure, that moment of pleasure 
When yours, it could have been 

Some people never find it 
Some... only pretend, but me: 
I just want to live happily ever after every now and then.
What does happily ever after mean for us? Is it writing a book so amazing that it gets turned into a movie and we never have to work again? Is it finding an agent? Finishing your manuscript after years of toil?

All of the these things take time. For most of us, the first will never be obtainable. So perhaps our happily ever after needs to be measured by something other publishing industry standards.  I had one such moment today.

My husband came home from work and got out a giant horse floor puzzle. As my four and five year old daughters put away their toys and gathered around their father, I couldn't help but think that little moments like that are what it's all about. I wouldn't be taking pictures and putting it in my scrapbook, but it was still a moment I want to remember.  When the world stood still except for my family just being together.

So on this Thankful for Thursday post, we want to know -- have you found your own happily ever after yet - even if it's only every now and then?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010



The Balrog. Demon of shadow and flame, and the nemesis of Gandolf the Grey. When confronted with the Balrog in the depths of Khazad-dûm, a rare glimpse of fear twisted the face of the great wizard. Gandolf Stormcrow and the Balrog fell, tied in a battle to the death.

I think we as authors often pitch ourselves in similar battles. We set ourselves up for frustration and plummeting feelings of sick, sticky failure when we face down our writing nemesis. We become Gandolf, and we face our beast of shadow and flame--our battle becomes...

Us vs the Synopsis of Evil

We fuss and fidget, worry and angst about what to put in to a synopsis and what to leave out. Do we write it from distant third? Do we say XXX is the story of... ? How can we fit the motivation, conflict and resolution and the romance all into 2...5...10 pages?? There's so much in this story!

Sound familiar? Yeah, been there, done that. I whined. I moaned. Then I pulled up my Big Girl Panties and dealt with it.

First, we need to fall out of love with our own words. If we let go of what we think is so damn brilliant, and peer through the pretty word glamor, we can see what's beneath. We need to realize that scene or snippet of dialogue we love so much doesn't necessarily belong in the synopsis. The synopsis is the story of the story, it is a blending of story arc, conflict arc and romantic arc, and their resolutions, and yet still be engaging enough to make readers want to keep reading, and then read the entire book.

Yes, I know. Daunting. The Blarog in the shadows of our Writer's Doom.

We need to be Gandolf. We need to realize in facing our nemesis, we face our fear. And, in many cases, our fear controls us, makes us (and our synopses) weak. I found a magic talisman that helped me battle my Balrog and win. I wish to pass this weapon on to you. Knowledge. A friend pointed me to this link, I signed up (IT'S FREE), and then downloaded a synopsis writing guide that took the fight out of my Balrog, and gave me the weapon to slay my nemesis.

Fighting the Synopsis of Evil? Go to Denise Vitola's site and sign up for her newsletter. When you do, you can download her HOW TO WRITE A FICTION SYNOPSIS THAT SELLS. Her guide was the magic I needed to triumph. You can also check out author Elana Johnson's blog she gives some EXCELLENT pointers on what point to include for writing a great synopsis, one's I incorporated into my last synopsis.

I've lifted a format for y'all from Elana's post, but make sure you go visit her, too.
Write ONE SENTENCE for each of these areas:

  • Hook - how the story starts
  • Plot Turn 1 - introduces the main conflict - moves the story toward the midpoint
  • Pinch 1 - introduces the villain/pressure to force action
  • Midpoint - the point at which your story moves from beginning to ending
  • Pinch 2 - more pressure/problems, so many that the situation appears hopeless
  • Plot Turn 2 - the MC has what they need to overcome the main conflict - moves the story from midpoint to ending
  • Resolution - how your story ends
With this magic, you too can become like Gandolf, do battle, best your nemesis and temper your writing wizarding mettle. Gandolf became clean and White. Hopefully, you can become triumphant, you can become represented, and perhaps some day you can become a published author!

Gratuitous linkage:
Denise's website
Elana's blog


This week I thought we'd all post our favorite make-out songs (maybe for our characters ... maybe for us personally)!

Can't help it, especially after this weekend. It has to be "I'll Be
There For You" by Bon Jovi. ";-)

I'll be there for you.
These five words I swear to you.
When you breath, I want to be the air for you.
I'll be there for you.

I'd live and I'd die for you.
I'd steal sun from the sky for you.
Words can't say what love can do.
I'll be there for you.

I think Joshua Radin's songs are beautiful and romantic and I can totally see having a make-out session to them. (Unfortunately, he came a little after my make-out days.) However, I'm going to go with "I'm Yours" by The Script:

I may not have the softest touch
I may not say the words as such
And though I may not look like much
I'm yours
And though my edges may be rough
And never feel I'm quite enough
It may not seem like very much
But I'm yours

For me, I can envision the soft guitar chords playing as the characters get closer and closer to each other, leaning in for that first kiss. Slightly rough fingers play over her cheek bones as he cradles her face, and the song echoes in the background: I may not have the softest touch. I'd be gone if that ever happened to me. :)

With two wily, busy teens in our little house, if opportunity for a smooch knocks, hubby and I are taking it, with or without the music. ~_^ I don't really have a song for my characters, either, but I play Corrupt by Depeche Mode when I'm writing the steamy, tingly scenes. But, with RESONANCE I've been breaking some of my old molds and have been listening to the Falling Slowly duet by Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox while writing scenes with River and Faith.

Okay, I'm going to go with Nothing Else Matters by Metallica. It's a bit "old school," but it's the song I remember playing the very first time I kissed my husband (before we were married, of course :D ) Even now the lyrics speak volumes to me.

I never opened myself this way
Life is ours, we live it our way
All these words I don't just say
And nothing else matters

Like AE, I don't have a make out song, so I had to dig through iTunes for something! I think Flyleaf's 'All Around Me' stood out the most...

My hands are searching for you
My arms are outstretched towards you
I feel you on my fingertips
My tongue dances behind my lips for you

What's your favorite make out song?

Monday, July 26, 2010

What Nixes Your Writing Oasis?

Sanctuary - a place of refuge; asylum. (according to A few synonyms: cover, harbor, shield, protection, retreat ~ Oasis.

This thinking went a long way while we were choosing the name for this blog. We wanted a place of refuge, retreat, a spa for the mind. We've discussed ways to stimulate our writing through music, nature, and poetry. But sometimes, no matter what we try, inspiration is just not happening. So how did we get there?

I can tell you one thing, we were there before we even planted our butt in the chair. You knew it, the moment you woke up. So, what should we do?

I believe there are a few focus sucking elements we should avoid--or at least attempt to avoid.

Outside noises. Most of the time, external sounds don't bother me; however, when I'm struggling to settle my mind, it's nothing but a searing ice pick giving me a migraine.

Confidence issues. We all have our wavering moments. No one is immune. When that Loser sensation blankets me in a cloud of doubt, I try to read something positive like a poem or a nice email someone sent me.

Hunger or thirst. Please Seekers do a better job at this than I do. So often I forget to eat before or while I write, or even take a break to eat. Then I get all cranky and restless and wonder what my problem is. Duh.

Loneliness. Sure, writing is a solitary action--at least with the outside world. If you have a laptop, step out of your writing space and change venues. Try your back deck or the park. Maybe even the library. *grins devilishly* Don't laugh. I never thought of that one. Our library is now located in our old roller rink. I still can't get past those elementary school days on my roller skates.

Personal Issues. We all have them. Whether it's a bill that needs to be paid, a friend who's having problems, or the car is at the shop, problems are always there. They'll still be there after you sell your first book, your fourth one, and when your kids get married. Know, you are not alone.

The List. Do you have one? Heck knows I do. I have a tendency to write everything on a sticky note, plant it where my eyes can see it, and let it tease the Begesses out of me all day long. Apparently, I'm into stress. Put the list AWAY! 

Of course there are a million more, which I plan on covering during my next visit with you on Monday Sanctuary. And these are not set in stone. By no means am I saying toss these out and see nothing but your writing. Only avoid these during those trying, lack-of-focus times while you're trying to write.

Life happens, Seekers. And LIVING makes us better writers, better storytellers, and better people overall. Take that; use that and live.

Friday, July 23, 2010

FRIDAY FREESTYLE: Giveaway Winners Announced!!

Our writer's Oasis has grown. We are proud and humbled that so many have chosen to join us. So it pleases us to finally give our major SHOUT-OUT: today is WINNER Announcement Day!!!

As we've posted HERE and HERE, (the 2nd HERE due to an oversite on my part with the form ya'll filled out...half-crazed mom smirking gingerly), we have two prize packages to award. Winners were chosen through

I know he's got a Santa hat on, but I thought he was too cute. Improvise, Oasis Seekers. We. Are. Writers. Right??


Prize pack #1, containing a book tote made by our very own AE, an autographed copy of MAGIC UNDER GLASS by Jaclyn Dolamore, and a $10 Barnes & Noble gift card goes to JEM!!

Prize pack #2, containing CAPTIVATE by Carrie Jones, LOCK AND KEY by Sarah Dessen, and a $15 iTunes gift card goes to JL Jackson!!

PLUS - We also get to announce the winner of THE POSION DIARIES by Maryrose Wood: BEE!!

We sent your goodies out to you ASAP!! Infinite THANK YOU'S to all who entered!!

Enjoy your weekend, ALL! 

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Image from

It's glamorous.  It's sexy. It's the OASIS for YA contests. Today is your last day to enter. So what are you waiting for?  Click the links below and get in for your chance to get the goods.  We're talking books, gift cards, and a super-awesomesauce book tote.  Oh yeah... you know you want them.

The Oasis for YA GIVES BACK contest

The contest to win Maryrose Wood's awesome new book, THE POISON DIARIES.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Writer's Wednesday: Grammar Nut

Here's a random fact that you may or may not have wanted to know about me: I'm a bit of a grammar nut. It probably resulted from conversations like this one between my mom and my three-year-old self:
Me: I seen it.
Mom: What did you say?
Me: I seen it.
Mom: What did you say? (She's trying to communicate to a 3 year-old here that I've messed up my grammar.)
Me: (Undaunted, with hand on hip) Mom, read my lips. I seen it.
Thankfully, I've progressed a little since those days. Although I do confess that my own wee-ones are rubbing off on me and I occasionally have the urge to say something along the lines of: what it is? before reminding myself that I'M supposed to be teaching THEM.

So anyway, with all my mom's grammar instruction behind me - and a deep-seated hatred for seeing the words their or there when the author means they're (come on folks, this one's easy!) - I figured I would be the last one to make a grammatical misstep in my manuscript.


I've been blessed to have a former classics professor and TRUE grammar nut review Destined as a Beta reader.  She found mistakes I didn't even know existed.  At the risk of embarrassing myself, I'll share what I learned (or re-learned) from the gifted Callira in the hopes that it will benefit some of you too.

1.  Lie versus lay.  I wrote my epilogue in present tense.  Which means I should have said: As I lie sleeping... not as I lay sleeping.  I know the lie/lay thing can be confusing (obviously, right?) And it turns out, it's a whole lot more complicated than I remembered.  Lie and lay can both be present tense, but lay is also the past tense of lie.  Confused yet?  Check out these tips from Grammar Girl.  She even has a chart to help you conjugate the verbs.

2.  Taut versus taught.  This is more of a spelling issue, but it's another problem that slipped right under my radar.  Apparently Cupid has rather well-educated (taught) pectoral muscles, as opposed ones that positively ripple when he moves (taut).  A word to the wise, ladies.  :)

3.  Misplaced modifier.  Here's the sentence: "Unable to hold on, the box skidded out of my hand and bounced away."  As Callira pointed out, the phrase "unable to hold on" automatically attaches to the nearest noun - the box.  Obviously, I didn't mean that the box was unable to hold on to my hand.  Duh!  I needed to have said something like, "At the shock of the impact, my hand opened and the box skidded away from my fingertips."
These few tips are only the "tip" of the iceberg when it comes to common grammar mistakes.  When in doubt, I recommend a google search.  It's amazing how many grammar pointers are waiting to be unearthed at the click of a mouse.

NOTE:  There's still time to enter the Oasis for YA GIVES BACK contest or the contest to win Maryrose Wood's awesome new book, THE POISON DIARIES.

Monday, July 19, 2010

TUESDAY TUNES: Teens, music and reading

**picture borrowed from neverendingstomp on Deviantart**

(NOTE: We have extended our Oasis For YA Gives Back contest until Friday. There's still time to enter and share the contest with your friends and followers!)

Surprise! No video to listen to...yet.

Par for my course, I'm shaking up the regular Tuesday Tunes format. I'd like to discuss music and writing, writers and readers. We've done a lot of talking about the music we listen to. Patriotic tunes. Uplifting tunes. Summer Tunes. Tunes we listen to while writing for teens: what inspires us, romance songs, etc. Well, it got me thinking... We listen to music while writing, or getting ready to. Do teens listen to music while reading?? Do they listen to anything remotely similar to what we listen while writing?

I asked a bunch of teens: Do you listen to music when you read? If you do...what? Is it random, on the radio, or do you listen to something specific to fit the books you read?

18 year old Lexie said: Well when i read, the music has to go along with the book. If the book is action i have to listen to rock/metal, if its more of a love story i listen to the slower songs that have strings and wood instruments in them. I'm kinda picky...

17 year old Austin said: I listen to music all the time when i read. Sometimes it depends on what mood I'm in, or what the book is. When I read Maximum Ride, I listened to a lot of Paramore. Mostly because the MC was a female and Paramore is very energetic. Instead of certain songs, I listen to albums. Some good albums are "Sea of Cowards" by The Dead Weathers. "Sci-Fi Crimes" by Chevelle. "Phobia" by Breaking Benjamin. and "Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces" by Seether.

16 year old Kyle said: i listen to Rise Against, Sick Puppies, Seether, Stone Sour, Avenged Sevenfold, Sevendust, Shinedown, Default, and Trust Company. and any of their songs except the really slow ones

15 year old Kathryn said: I have to agree with Lexie, the music I listen to has to go along with the genre and pacing of the book. If it's action, Sick puppies or Cage the Elephant, if it's a slow lovey dovey book, I listen to some Shinedown and bands like them...

16 3/4 year old Bradley said: I listen to classic rock, and like lexie it kinda has to go with the book, i also listen to just instrumental like acoustic guitars when i read

So, it seems the majority of the teens polled tailor their tunes to their reading. It also seems like the teens tend to listen to harder, edgier rock while reading than we do while writing for them. Makes me wonder...would our writing change if we listened to what they do? Would their reading experience change if they listened to what we did? To quote a song from C + C Music Factory, back in the 1990's...

Things that make you go, Hmmm...

MONDAY SANCTUARY: Curling Up With a Good Book

(NOTE: We have extended our Oasis For YA Gives Back contest until Friday. There's still time to enter and share the contest with your friends and followers!

I've always been an avid reader ... it's the biggest reason I wanted to be a writer! When I was in middle school, I can remember spending hours in the public library, running an index finger over the spines of YA books, looking for ones I hadn't already read. After I created a stack that I could hardly carry without being a professional juggler, we would check out and I'd devour at least one book on the drive home.

I read constantly, even when riding my bike home from school! I could definitely multi-task with a book in hand. And I re-read books constantly. I can envision my shelf of Sweet Valley High books, spines coursed with cracks. I'd come home from school, homework completed during class when I got bored, and choose one to read for the twentieth time.

Reading was an escape for me. I didn't have a particularly difficult life - divorced parents, no boyfriend, kind of a geek - but it wasn't a particularly interesting life either. I loved losing myself in a great book and was really drawn to Science Fiction (I still am!)

Nowadays it's much more difficult to find time to read. I have to fit it in with working, writing, and spending time with my family. I'm also more critical when I read a book, especially when I'm in edit mode for my manuscript. I am impatient, and constantly note the passive verbs, grammatical errors, and other errors as I read.

But when I find a good book, I'm immersed. I can't put it down. I push aside housework and read while I cook or the kids take a bath. I stay up late to finish it and then I reread the novel again, taking mental notes, and finding inspiration.

Inspiration. The way I got started writing in the first place ...

So tell me, what's a good book you couldn't put down recently?

Friday, July 16, 2010

FRIDAY FREESTYLE: Interview With Maryrose Wood & Contest!

We have a special Friday Freestyle interview for you today: Maryrose Wood, author of The Poison Diaries!! (Thanks to Jessie for asking some amazing questions and scoring an amazing prize ... details at the bottom!)

Congratulations on your upcoming U.S. release of The Poison Diaries (July 20th). For our readers, here's the tempting excerpt:

In the right dose, everything is a poison. Even love . . . 

Jessamine Luxton has lived all her sixteen years in an isolated cottage near Alnwick Castle, with little company apart from the plants in her garden. Her father, Thomas, a feared and respected apothecary, has taught her much about the incredible powers of plants: that even the most innocent-looking weed can cure -- or kill. 

When Jessamine begins to fall in love with a mysterious boy who claims to communicate with plants, she is drawn into the dangerous world of the poison garden in a way she never could have imagined . . .

This book sounds positively to-die-for (sorry, couldn't help myself). The cover is beautiful and the topic is beyond intriguing. Plus, you got to work with the Duchess of Northumberland in writing the book. How did that come about?

The concept for the book was created by the Duchess. She’s known for creating spectacular public gardens, and she is also fascinated by the history of poisonous plants. She came up with the idea of a boy named Weed who could communicate with these plants. Balzer + Bray at HarperCollins Children’s Books was excited about developing a YA trilogy based on this idea, and they showed it to me to see what I thought I could do with it.

I developed a treatment for the book, and we had an initial conference call with the Duchess. After that they sent me to England to meet her and see Alnwick Castle and the poison garden there, which was really essential, because I ended up using many real locations in the book. It was a wonderful adventure!

Wow - HarperCollins contacted you, huh? How did you establish such a good relationship with the editors there?

I had already sold my middle grade series, The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, to the Balzer + Bray imprint. So Donna Bray was already my editor, and we were having a great time working together on The Mysterious Howling, which is the first book in that series.

I won’t speak for Donna, so I can’t say with total certainty why she wanted me to have a go at The Poison Diaries; you’d have to ask her. I suspect it was because we were having so much fun doing a period piece set in England with the Incorrigibles.

You often hear authors complain that, once published, their editors encourage them to keep writing the same sort of book over and over again. This was the opposite experience. Donna asked me to go from funny middle-grade to sexy, gothic YA. What fun! I give her much credit for intuiting that I could do that.

Since we author ladies all have a bit of princess in us, we want to know: what was it like working with royalty?

Well, first of all, Jane Northumberland is just a delightful person, amazingly energetic, very down to earth and so passionate about this project. We spent two days together and during that time she was completely generous in wanting to tell me and show me everything she thought might be of interest about the gardens, the castle, the plants. I came home with books about the history of the castle and the gardens; the Duchess and her staff could not have been nicer.

After the trip I drafted the book at my home in New York, and then we went through the usual revision process, with Donna as my editor. I know that there were comments coming in from England as well, but as an author it would have been really difficult for me to try to juggle notes from different parties. So I left it up to Donna to find out what I needed to know and sort through it so that I was dealing with one set of notes. I thought it went pretty smoothly, given the number of people involved.

As I understand it, your male main character, Weed, can communicate with the deadly plants of the poison garden. What an incredible idea! What was it like trying to come up with plant thoughts? Can you give us an example of what Belladonna might say, for example, about folks who ask you to do blog interviews and donate swag?

Weed can communicate with plants, particularly the ones that have power to cure and to kill. The fact that I could wake up in the morning and say, “Today my job is to try to think from the point of view of a plant” is a sterling example of why it’s so cool to be an author!

It’s been very interesting to explore that concept, really. I’m a lifelong vegetarian and have always loved animals. In recent years there’s been a growing body of writing and thought about animal rights, and how for so long humans failed to see the complex societies and languages employed by animals. We tend to underestimate our fellow creatures. The notion that plants, too, are far more complex organisms than we may be able or willing to perceive is fascinating to me.

Belladonna would not waste her time chatting with you, I’m afraid! She’s too busy growing those delectable, deadly berries of hers.

This is not your first book by any means. You’ve published YA books since 2006, but your most recent series, The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, has been very well received among middle grade readers. What's been the biggest difference between writing for MG and YA audiences? How have you managed to tap into an authentic voice for each age?

There are obvious differences and not so obvious. Middle grade readers are amazingly clever and broad-minded; your basic fifth grader is ready to grapple with lots of complex information and deep themes and has an absolutely killer sense of humor. And they’re not overly hormonal yet, so they’re still interested in everything, not just romance. It’s a magical moment, the pinnacle of childhood, in a way.

Teen readers are freshly plunged into the throes of adolescence, with intense focus on the mysteries of adulthood that are all of a sudden opening up before them: love, sexuality, sacrifice, loss, death.

These are broad generalities, of course, because every reader is unique. But writing both series at once has kind of foregrounded their differences for me. Incorrigibles is many things: a coming of age tale, a classic Pygmalion plot, a spoof of Victorian governess novels, a running in-joke on the nature of fiction, and so on. And it’s incredibly silly and full of slapstick, too, high comedy and low all mixed up. Whereas The Poison Diaries is very disciplined in tone, with an intimate, first-person narration, almost claustrophobic in its intensity. Longing and mortality are everywhere; so are themes of betrayal and the loss of innocence. Finding the voice for each book was just a question of doing what the story required.

Can you give a tip to aspiring authors out there: what one thing can all authors do that will immediately improve their writing?

Learn to read like a writer. Pay attention to how good novelists choose details, manage point of view, move time forward in a story, reveal character, handle dialogue, control the tone and rhythm of language, describe familiar things without using clichés. Everything you need to know is there in the excellent novels that have already been written. They’re the best teacher you could ever have, so read them! And set your standards as high as the best book you ever read.

You've gotten to travel to Europe, meet a Duchess, do voiceovers for your book trailers, and go on whirlwind book tours in the past couple of years. Is this anything like what you expected when you left Broadway and set out to be a published author ('cause it sounds more like the life of a starlet)?

You left out scooping the cat boxes and walking the dog. That’s really a better indication of what I do every day. That, and laundry, and driving my kids around and ordering take-out, because after a day of writing I’m often too zonked to cook anything more complicated than pasta, and they get sick of pasta.

Like most writers, I spend big chunks of my days lying about, moving words around on a screen. It can be very slothful and kind of boring, in a way. I did spend years acting and doing comedy improv, so I enjoy the shift in energy from that lazy, private, writer-on-the-couch mode to doing public readings and school visits and promotional stuff. I find it invigorating. Of course, one cannot write while being out and about all the time! So a balance must be found.

On the subject of the “starlet” lifestyle, though: one thing many aspiring writers may not realize is that being a published author is not the same thing as being a published-and-promoted author. And being published-and-promoted is not the same thing as being a best-selling author who can actually make a living from writing books. Plenty of your favorite authors teach or have jobs of some kind that support them. Plenty of books are published and never heard from again, and plenty of authors end up organizing and paying for all their own promotion. No matter where you are in your career, there’s always another rung on the ladder.

We know you've spent time as an actor and comedian. But what's the funniest thing you've had to do as an author?

This question makes me think of the wonderful Libba Bray donning a cow suit to make the trailer for “Going Bovine.” And that cow suit tells me that I’ve barely scratched the surface of what being an author could demand of a person.

I did howl on national television, to promote The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place (the series is about three children who were raised by wolves, so it involves a lot of howling). I was scheduled to appear on a segment on The Balancing Act, the Lifetime morning show, and right before we taped it I asked the host if she would mind howling with me on the air. She said, “Okay, but I’m not a very good howler.” Now, how did she know she wasn’t a good howler? When was the last time she howled? This is what I’m thinking as tape starts to roll. But we did it in one take, and there I am howling on TV in front of 96 million viewers. * sings * “…they can’t take away my dignity…”

BONUS QUESTION: You're stranded in a deserted OASIS and you can only have one poisonous plant with you; which one do you choose and why?

In a practical sense, I’d probably want to choose something with antibacterial and anesthetic properties, like cloves. And aloe would be very useful in case of sunburn. I should point out that both clove and aloe are usually thought of as harmless, but in high doses they are toxic. As is true of most medicinal herbs, whether they cure or kill depends entirely on the dose!

Thanks again Maryrose! You can follow her blog or chat with her on Twitter.

Check out the amazing book trailer and purchase The Poison Diaries at Amazon or Barnes & Noble:

CONTEST: Enter to win a signed copy of The Poison Diaries!

  • For one entry: leave a comment for Maryrose in the comments section.
  • For a second entry: tweet about the contest and leave a link to your tweet in the comments section.

The contest ends at midnight on July 23rd, stay tuned to see who wins!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Just Because...

Here's a little something we hope brightens your day. Despite what comes your way, remember there's always something to be thankful for. *Silver lining, right?*
An Inspirational Poem

Be Thankful
By Author Unknown

Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire,
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don’t know something
For it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations
Because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge
Because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes
They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you’re tired and weary
Because it means you’ve made a difference.

It is easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are
also thankful for the setbacks.

GRATITUDE can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles
and they can become your blessings.

We at Oasis for YA are grateful to have you. You inspire us, motivate us, and move us to greater things. THANK YOU.
Tell us what you're thankful for.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Distractions: The Bane of All Writers

ANNOUNCEMENT FIRST:  If you entered our contest before we made your name and e-mail address a required field - PLEASE - complete the form again.  We're sorry for the oversight, but we have no way to know who you are otherwise. Silly us! And if you haven't entered yet, what are you waiting for?

Distractions are a part of life.  We need them at times, while others we wish they’d just leave us alone.  If you’re like me the distractions come from my two…well okay let’s say three (adding my husband) kids. 

Nothing else seems to distract me like they do.  When I’m in the writing grove nothing can get to me.  The world could literally be collapsing behind me and I’d never notice, but they step into the room and BAM! they’ve got my attention. 

I guess that’s a good thing, considering two of them are my kids, right? 

The problem with distractions while you write is your in the mind set of your characters.  You’re thinking as they are, especially for someone who rights in the first person.  So trying to get back to it after even a momentary distraction is difficult. 

So how do I deal with it? I write at times that I know I won’t get interrupted as much.  Nap times, after they’re asleep, while they’re with friends or what not.  But if I absolutely HAVE TO write—because, well we’re all writers and we know how the muse likes to grab us by the throat and make us sit in front of that keyboard until she’s wrung all the creative juices from us—than here’s a few ways to help with distractions.

Have your kids in the room with you ( I know.  Sounds weird, right?)  Most of the time with younger kids (and husbands) they want to spend time with you.  So I give my daughter coloring books, movies, toys, even her own little “computer,” so she can be like me. 

Force yourself to take a break every once in a while.  Say every hour or so.  Play with those kids or husband.  It will recharge those creative juices and give them the time they’re requesting.

If you really want to finish and they just won’t leave you alone no matter what you do, send them away.  LOL.  I joke, but I’m serious.  Call a relative, a friend of theirs, of yours.  See if you can have them watch your kids for you (if they’re younger and need watching) and trade time with them—if they’ll watch your kids now, you’ll watch theirs later. 

And if all else fails, grab a tape recorder mumble where you trying to go into it and spend the time with them. Sometimes the best ideas come from the distractions of my family.

Okay, and for all those that are saying I don't have kids, or a spouse this doesn't apply to me:  think again.  YOu may have a dog, a cat, a television, a computer.  Aren't they all just distractions.  The same applies to them.  Except I'm pretty sure you don't want to give your television to your friend.  In that case, unplug it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tuesday Tunes: WIP Inspiration (& IMPORTANT ANNOUCEMENT)

ANNOUNCEMENT FIRST:  If you entered our contest yesterday before we made your name and e-mail address a required field - PLEASE - complete the form again.  We're sorry for the oversight, but we have no way to know who you are otherwise. Silly us! And if you haven't entered yet, what are you waiting for?

NOW, TUESDAY TUNES: We've been busy ladies lately. Starting new WIPs, editing old ones. Summer seems to have made our creative juices explode like a geyser. And as always, music is a huge inspiration for us. In hopes of inspiring all of you, we're sharing some of our current favorite tunes from our WIP playlists.
Jessie: "Stay Here With Me" by Benjy Davis Project. (Click on the song title to listen - this cool song hasn't found its way onto YouTube yet.)  In my current WIP, the male and female main characters are rather star-crossed; being simultaneously drawn together by an ancient past and driven apart by uncertainty, a curse, and time that's rapidly slipping away.

When we're here together
I feel like there's a chance that
There might just be a home for lost souls like us

Stay here with me
I wanna be part of your past
I know I wasn't your first kiss
But I could be your last and
Stay here with me,
If those were the days I guess it's true
Someday we'll say that these were too

Sheri: "She is Love" by Parachute. Once Viktor realizes that he can't fight his attraction to Ana anymore, he has a poignant moment where he lets go. He decides to love her, knowing that it will probably bring his end. But isn't that what love truly is? A sacrifice. It had been so many years since he believed in anything. His demise is worth one moment with her, one pure taste of passion.

I've been taken down.
I've been kicked around.
But she takes it all for me.
And I lost my faith,
In my darkest days.
She makes me want to believe.

Nikki: "Fix You" by Coldplay.

High up above or down below
When you're too in love to let it go
But if you never try you'll never know
Just what you're worth

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

Jessica: "Sleep Well My Angel" by We Are the Fallen. It is actually the song that inspired the scene for either THE EXILED or its sequel, THE DAMNED. I haven't decided where to place it yet, but it's absolutely gorgeous and really sad. I can't say anything about the scene or I give away details of the book, but here are the lyrics. I think you'll get the gist of it:

Watching you sleep for so long,
Knowing I can't turn the rain into sun any more
I've given you all that I have,
Now I stand here, too scared to hold your hand.
Afraid you might wake to see,
The monster that had to leave.

A.E.: "Crazy for this Girl" by Lifehouse. This is a hard one. The story and plotline are evolving and growing everyday, and therefore the playlist is too. Currently, the song I listen to for RESONANCE is "Crazy for this Girl," by Lifehouse.
She was the one to hold me
The night
The sky fell down
And what was I thinking when
The world didn't end
Why didn't I know what I know now

Please share the songs you're passionate about  - support your favorite artists and help inspire your follow authors! 
**As always, we here at the Oasis encourage you to purchase music through appropriate venues.**

Monday, July 12, 2010


Wow. You guys, we here at the Oasis are humbled by the response to our Query Critique contest, and how our followers numbers have jumped this past week. Especially me, the introvert who's hardly on the blogs, to see such a response is just...WOW. THANK YOU SO MUCH! How can the Oasis for YA thank you, our over 100 followers??

Launching our OASIS FOR YA GIVES BACK contest!
Announce the winner for the Query Critique!

First, the Query Critique Contest. I'm waiting on clarification for Carolyn Abiad's question concerning Tip #3. And, the CONTEST IS CLOSED because.... we have a WINNER!!
Winner of the QUERY CRITIQUE CONTEST is(according to PAM HARRIS!!
So, Pam, please email the Oasis at OasisforYA (at) gmail (dot) com and give us your contact information so I can forward it to my agent Gina.

And now... *drum roll please* The OASIS GIVES BACK!! This contest will be open for one week (until 7/18/10), and will be for two prize packs:

Prize pack one:
  • A book tote made by our very own AE
  • Autographed copy of Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore
  • $10 Barnes & Noble gift card

Prize pack two:
  • Captivate by Carrie Jones
  • Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
  • $10 iTunes gift card

Here's the form to fill out for the contest (and Good Luck!!):

I just wanted to say Thank You again to all our wonderful followers. You guys ROCK!

Thursday, July 08, 2010


The majority of our Oasis readers are also writers, many of us struggling to land representation or that Holy Grail of a book sale. We get ya. We're all in some form of 'pre-published'ness. Well, we of the Oasis are here to uplift and support you. So, today I'm sharing my agent, Gina Pannetieri's tips for query writing. Then, because we love our readers and are so thankful for you, we are running a pre-100 follower contest! Comment here, and enter to win a query critique from my agent, Gina Pannetieri!!


1. Get right into the story. Agents and editors often make a decision as to whether to keep reading a query within the first few lines. This isn't because they don't want to give every writer every possible chance, or don't care about your book, it's just due to the volume of work they have in front of them. So if you start out with a long explanation about how it's always been your dream to be a writer, you're not going to really capture someone's attention and stand out from the pack when there's a tall stack of queries to get through before a meeting and a decision has to be made. So get right into the meat of your story. What's your hook? What's the most intriguing element you can lay out there?

2. Don't ever say that because of the success of Harry Potter, or Twilight, or whatever mega-popular book or series you're likening your story to, your book is destined to be a huge hit. Every agent and every editor gets at least a few queries a week that boldly proclaims 'My book is going to be the next Twilight!' or where the author proclaims herself the obvious successor to J.K. Rowling. And quite a few of my colleagues have confided to me that's where they stop reading.

3. Now, while I've just told you not to stomp around in great big boots declaring you're going to be the next Really Big Thing, it is a good idea to mention solid, reasonable comp titles. This demonstrates you're aware of your market, gives the editor or agent a better idea of your book's 'literary family' and your style, and (done properly) suggests the potential for success. It gets the wheels turning. This works best when you've done a little research into the agent's or editor's history and you can draw any parallels between your work and something else they've sold or shopped. This is where PublishersMarketplace is a handy-dandy tool since it lists an agent's or editor's projects even before they hit the shelves. You obviously don't want to tread right in someone else's footsteps but if you know what someone's taste is, you can aim your queries more accurately.

4. Mention the word count and genre of your book very clearly in your query, and be sure it's an appropriate word count for your genre. There's nothing more disappointing to me than being excited about a query I'm reading but not seeing a word count in it, and having to email the author only to have her write back and tell me the word count's 13,000 words for a YA and she considers it a full-length complete novel. If you're confused as to what the range is for your genre, many of the publishers post guidelines on their websites to help writers.

5. Don't include positive remarks about your book that you've received in rejections by publishers or by other agents. It may seem like a reasonable thing to do, and I get quite a number of queries that include quotes like 'Susie Q of Agency X felt my novel was compelling and well-written, with a truly sympathetic heroine' or 'Editor Billy Jean stated she throughly enjoyed reading my book and loved my fast-paced action'. You might feel warm and fuzzy about the positive feedback, but ultimately, the next person receiving these comments is realizing that the commentary was given in the course of a rejection, so that info is best kept to yourself. For all intents and purposes, let's all act like this is the very first go 'round for all of us, shall we? No editor or agent wants to feel like they're number 13 on your list of people approached with this book, and you definitely want to avoid your book getting a shop-worn feel to it. The only exception to this rule is when an editor or agent reads it and actually recommends you send it to someone else because it's perfect for the other person and typically you'll get a letter of introduction in that case.

6. Don't just include one form of contact. If you're doing an e-query, don't just include your email, or worse yet, rely on the agent using the 'reply' button to get back to you. Several times a week, I hit 'reply' and I get an error message for some reason. The recipient's mailbox is full, or her system is mal-functioning or some other funky problem is keeping me from communicating with her that way. So be sure to always include street address and phone number. If you make it difficult for someone to get ahold of you, you may slip between the cracks. Same holds true with snail mail. Provide the email address and phone number, even if you're using hard copy. The agent may want to get in touch faster.

7. Keep your query brief. I want all the info I need in a page to a page and a half. If you're emailing me, you can feel free to cut and paste the first ten pages at the bottom of the email, which I can read if I'm so inclined, or skip if I figure it's not really something I work with, but not all agents allow for that, so you really have to be able to get a lot of 'ooomph' into that brief query. You should be able to tell me enough about your story in just a couple of paragraphs to make me want to read it. If you find yourself trailing on for three pages, cut, and cut again.You can do it. And don't cheat by using little tiny font and single spacing and big margins. Ask for friends and critique groups to help. What is the bare bones essence of your story? What is the most important thing about you that you must include, since the writer is an essential element of the query?

8. It's okay to multiple-query agents and editors. We expect that, so just mention it in the query and it's fine. That's different from multiple-submissions. I can tackle the sticky topic of the exclusive submission another time.

9. If you're e-querying, use a subject line that states it's a query, gives the genre, word count and title. Don't just use 'Query' or the book's title or your name as the subject (unless the recipient knows you!). Agents and editors get a staggering number of queries every day, so the more help you can give her sorting the stack out, the better. If she's really hot for a new YA urban fantasy, and your subject line is 80k word YA urban fantasy, you're a step ahead!

10. Simple query etiquette. Once you send it out, give the recipient reasonable time to answer. Don't follow up in just a week or two. Don't get snippy if you don't hear. We do the best we can to answer all queries, but we do get thousands, and have only so much time alloted to reply on them. And certainly don't retaliate with a snide response if you get a negative response. You never know how that thoughtless response might come back to haunt you! Trust me, word gets around. Editors work with numbers of others acquiring in the same genre, and they move around to new publishing houses. Agents talk to each other and to editors, every day. Always be professional, always be courteous. You may just be dying to reply back 'yeah, well, I'll send you a copy when I'm rich and famous!', or 'that book, so-and-so you did wasn't so hot!' Don't. Have you ever noticed how truly successful, confident people are the most gracious? That's the image you always want to portray for yourself.

Your query is your face on the world and your foot in the door. Practice it, polish it and perfect it before you send it out. You know the saying about 'there's no second chance to make a first impression?' Dot your i's and cross your t's. Check your spelling and take the time to read it through several times before you send it out. And then always make sure you are addressing it to the correct person before you hit 'send'! and that you've spelled her name correctly!
Best of luck to all of you!

Interested in winning a query critique from Gina Pannetieri? Comment here, and we will pick a name at random!

Gratuitous linkage:
Gina's website Talcott Notch Literary Services

Oasis For YA Gives Back!

We're oh-so-close to having 100 followers of the site, and when we do we're going to throw a party ... well a contest anyway! And it will be so much better than a party because we've got a ton of great prizes to giveaway, including:

  • A book tote made by our very own AE
  • Autographed copy of Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore
  • Captivate by Carrie Jones
  • Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
  • $10 iTunes gift card
  • $10 Barnes & Noble gift card

As we wait for our 100th follower, we invite you to tell all your friends to come visit the blog and sign up! And look for more contest details soon :)  It's just our way of letting you know how THANKFUL we are that you're here.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Meet, Already!

The moment is coming. You know it is. Everyone knows it is. It begins with an anxious tap of a fingernail on the back cover of the book. Or maybe a tap on your knee. Or the scratch of your brow. All moisture evaporates from your throat. You reach for a glass of water. Your fingers are jittery. You desperately want to flip ahead a few pages, scan a few words, paragraphs. Just a peek. You can't wait. 

Nervously, you braise a fingernail on the edge of the pages, breathing softly. Beads of sweat pepper your brow, waiting, anticipating. Then finally, there it is: the First Impression, your main character's initial meeting.

It can happen in  numerous ways.

1) The Glassy Stare. A casual glance from across a crowded room. This is a good one. Such a tease, yet it will appease the reader enough to keep reading. They just have to know what's going to happen now. 

2) The Opinionator. Through the eyes or opinion of another character. Oh, a tension builder. Talk about head games in high school.  

3) The Slight Bump. Both reach for the same apple or brush past each other in the hallway by the locker rooms. This can be tender and yet it can come across as annoying. A meeting, yet not truly a meeting.

4) Blushing in Embarrassment. One character is put in an uncomfortable place and then meets the other. Ex: male character is working at his hated job at the movie theater serving popcorn. Suddenly this amazing girl is front and center asking for a large popcorn. Readers can relate to this. This is usually effective.  

5) The Crash, Bash, and Escape. The female lead is swept our of harm's way by the dashing male lead. She's saved from a ball hitting her in the head, a dog chasing her, or your average paranormal entity messing with her. OR the table could be turned and the male lead breaks his leg and needs a tutor for the summer so he can graduate to his senior year. Either way, this presents a maelstrom of roads you can take your character. As the reader, I'm biting a hole in my lip, wondering where you are headed.     

Do any of your favorite books come to mind?

In each case, it's up to us as the writer to paint the scene through diction, style, and emotion. Use the elements of your scene. 

A cup of coffee spills off a table in a diner where your mc female is doing homework. The liquid trickles off the lip of the table, making a beeline for her books piled next to her feet. Your main-squeeze male character witnesses the whole thing from the porthole of the kitchen door. He's been watching her. 

Use the smell of the coffee and the reaction of your scenery characters. Maybe the girl is oblivious that the coffee was spilled, or maybe she's angry about it. How will this affect their first impression of each other?

I love playing with this, writing a skeletal scene in different ways to see what moves me most and what conveys what I want to say about them.

Maybe she's normally a calm, level-headed girl but her father just ran off with some young floozy, leaving her mom in a tizzy and herself filled with rage. Who knows? It's up to you. 

What is your favorite first impression scene? What is your favorite first impression scene to write? 
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