Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Bloomsbury YA 2013 Thriller eSampler

Check out what the lovely folks at Bloomsbury put together -- an eSampler of their upcoming YA thrillers, including the first two chapters of Conjured!

It features sample chapters from new novels by Susan Vaught, Sarah Beth Durst (me!), Jennifer Shaw Wolf, and 2013 Printz Award winner Nick Lake, and it's available for FREE on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and other devices.


6 more days until Conjured comes out!!!!!

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Vessel Paperback Release (Plus a Lion!)

Today is the release day for the paperback edition of Vessel!!!

This book is really special to me because writing it was such a magical experience.  Every time I sat down to write it felt like stepping through a portal. 

Vessel is my first novel set entirely in a fantasy world -- a desert land filled with wolves made of sand that hunt within storms, sky serpents made of unbreakable glass that fly through the sky, and gods that walk the desert in human bodies.  It's about Liyana, who is destined to be a vessel, to sacrifice herself so her clan's goddess can inhabit her body... but her goddess never comes.

More information about Vessel, including the first two chapters, can be found here.

Vessel is also special to me because LION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Earlier this summer, I was thrilled and honored to learn that Vessel had been awarded the 2013 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children's Literature.  And just a few days ago, I received the loveliest thing I've ever gotten in the mail: the gorgeous lion-shaped Mythopoeic Award statuette!!!!!

I wasn't home when it arrived.  I was on a train to NYC to meet up with a bevy of YA authors to see Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments: City of Bones on the big screen.  While I was on the train, this happened:

And then about fifteen minutes later, this happened:

The award (called an Aslan, in honor of the most awesome lion in English literature) is now sitting on my desk next to my laptop.  OMG, he's so pretty!!!

I am keeping him near me so I can pet him as I write.....  Kind of like Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget.....

.....but less with the evil and much more with the awesome!

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Two Back-to-the-Future Boxes

Remember George McFly's box of books in Back to the Future?

After Marty returns to 1985 and before anyone notices how severely his memories are messed up (which, incidentally, sounds like the start of a horror movie -- his family and friends all possess a different set of memories), he watches his dad receive a box in the mail, brought inside by Biff (who is inexplicably allowed to be anywhere near Lorraine).  George opens it, and it's the author copies for his first published novel.

I love that scene.

Apparently it's too minor a moment to even rate a YouTube video, but it was formative for me.  As soon as I saw that movie, I started wanting that box.

So now, every time I receive author copies of a new book, my husband and I call it the Back-to-the-Future box.

Or sometimes the Breakfast-Club box when we mix up our 80s movies.

And then "Don't You Forget About Me" gets stuck in our heads for hours.

You're welcome.

Anyway, over the past week, I've received not one but TWO Back-to-the-Future boxes!  Here's the box full of copies of the paperback edition of VESSEL (which comes out on Aug 27th):

And here's the box full of my new YA book CONJURED (which comes on Sept 3rd):

Opening boxes like this does not get old.  In fact, it feels like bells should be ringing, angels should be singing, and elephants should be trumpeting.  The Back-to-the-Future box is final, incontrovertible proof that the book is real -- and that soon, very soon, it will be out in the world!

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Big Changes Afoot for THE LOST Trilogy

Okay.  I've got some news to share about THE LOST, THE MISSING, and THE FOUND, my forthcoming trilogy aimed at adult readers.  And while I suspect some of you aren't going to be thrilled about what I'm about to say, it really is great news for the books.....

Here's the deal.  THE LOST was scheduled to be released from the Luna imprint (division) of Harlequin on October 29, 2013, which is just a bit more than two months from now.  It's all set to go.  Written.  Edited.  Copyedited.  Proofread.  Cover finalized.  Everything.  However, in the interest of giving the trilogy the best launch we possibly can, it was recently decided that the trilogy should be shifted from Harlequin's Luna imprint to their Mira imprint (same publishing house, same editor, different division).  Mira is a significantly larger imprint than Luna, with more marketing muscle, and a list that spans a wider range of genres.  As a result, under the Mira imprint, these books are more likely to find their way onto both fantasy shelves and mainstream fiction shelves, and therefore into the hands of a wider range of readers -- which is great news.

With this change of imprints comes a change in release schedule as well.  Essentially, it was decided that the books should come out closer together -- 4 to 6 months apart rather than 7 to 9 months apart -- so readers will have access to the full trilogy within a shorter span of time.  This is also great news, both for readers and for me.

However, and this is the part some of you may not be thrilled about, fitting these three books into the Mira release schedule required a bit of juggling, and to make them fit, they had to delay publication of the first book, THE LOST, from November 2013 to June 2014.  Soooooooo, the new publication schedule (tentatively) looks like this:

THE LOST -- Harlequin/Mira -- June 2014
THE MISSING -- Harlequin/Mira -- December 2014
THE FOUND -- Harlequin/Mira -- April 2015

While the release of the first book, THE LOST, has been delayed by about seven months, the shorter time between books means that the third book, THE FOUND, will come out right around the time it was always going to come out.

So that's the big news.  I apologize to those of you who were looking forward to reading THE LOST in November, but this change should be really good for the trilogy overall and the more compressed release schedule will mean shorter waits from book to book.

Plus, the release schedule for my YA books remains unchanged, with CONJURED coming out just 12 DAYS from now and my next YA, MIND OVER MAGIC, coming out around a year after that.

CONJURED -- Bloomsbury/Walker -- September 3, 2013
MIND OVER MAGIC -- Bloomsbury/Walker -- Fall 2014

So it looks like I won't have two books out in 2013 after all.  Just the one, CONJURED.  But if this schedule holds, I'll have three books out in 2014!!! Should be quite a year!


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Horn Book Review of CONJURED!

Very excited to share with you this lovely review of Conjured from Horn Book!!!

by Sarah Beth Durst
High School    Walker    303 pp.
9/3    978-0-8027-3458-7    $17.99

Eve has peculiar memory problems. Not only is she unable to remember her former life, but every time she uses magic -- purposely or inadvertently -- she blacks out and awakens with even her short-term memories erased. The U.S. Marshals of the witness protection program, WitSec, are determined to make Eve remember in any way they can: they're sure she has vital information on a teen-murdering, interworld criminal -- information that is embedded in Eve's nightmarish visions of a sinister carnival and its magic show. In her new, puzzling, and forgetful life, Eve doesn't know whom to trust: Malcolm, the marshal who watches over her; the three magic-wielding teenagers WitSec lets loose on her; or Zach, the garrulous, sweet-souled fellow volunteer at her library job. Durst combines the particular terrors of memory loss and icy bureaucracy with the colorful horrors of carnivalesque murder, killer sleight-of-hand, and a creepy, terrible truth about Eve's very being. Disorientation, curiosity, and fear course through the story, offering tight suspense and satisfying mystification even up to the last pages. An unusual blend of magical worlds, psychological thriller, and teen romance. -- Deirdre F. Baker

This review completely made my day.

Another thing that made my day: the realization that in less than a month, Eve will be out in the world!!!  Granted, I do wish the summer weren't flying by quite so fast.  I feel like it's vanishing faster than an ice cream cone.  But I can't be sad since it means I'll be able to share Eve and her creepy, topsy-turvy, wild life with you soon... in 23 days, to be exact!  Yay!!!

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Tuesday, August 06, 2013

The Writer's Toolbox: Character Names

Welcome (again) to the Writer's Toolbox! In this blog series, I'm talking about nitty-gritty writing craft stuff. Today's subject is character names.

Juliet famously stood on her balcony and proclaimed that names are meaningless and a rose would smell as sweet if it were called "skunk cabbage" or "baboon." And then she died because she was totally wrong. Also, unable to use the postal service in an effective way, but that's beside the point.  Point is that names are an important tool in the Writer's Toolbox.

Name a character Ebenezer Scrooge or Darth Maul or Elizabeth Bennett or Her Majesty Queen Silverhoof of the Lakeside Unicorn Clan, and you set up certain reader expectations for their personality and their fate.  It's then your choice whether to fulfill or subvert those expectations.

So... how to name a character.

I decided when I was ten years old that I wanted to be a writer, and one of the first things I did was read the phone book.  (I'll pause for you to tilt your head in befuddlement and contemplate what an odd child I must have been.  I'll wait.  Done?  Good.  Let's move on.)  I did it to find character names, and I wrote each name down on its own index card and then assigned them magical powers and talking animal friends. And really, that's not a terrible way to find names. In fact I'm going to go with that as resource #1: the phone book.

Resource #2 didn't exist when I was ten years old, and it's the one I use most often when writing stories set in our world (or a variant of): the Social Security Administration website.  It has a database of all the first names in the United States, ranked by popularity and searchable by year of birth.  It allows you to find common names from a particular era. Very useful if you want to hint at a character's age without investing a lot of words describing them -- you can choose a name that was popular in a particular time period and not in others.

Resource #3 is baby name books.  There are tons of them out there, and they boast names ranging from common to obscure.  Often they list their origin and meaning.  Only downside of these is if you have them in the house, your relatives and friends will start wondering about what's coming in nine months.

If you wish to avoid questions about that, a better resource is #4: baby name websites.  There are TONS of them out there, nicely searchable, often including name origin and meaning. These let you find names whose meaning matches themes in your story or personality quirks you want your character to have (or not have). (For example, in Drink, Slay, Love, I named my vampire girl Pearl because she's the opposite of that name.)

And last but not least is resource #5: children.  If you're looking for exotic names for characters in a fantasy world, ask a little kid to invent some names.  They excel at stringing together nonsense syllables that sometimes end up sounding pretty darn good, and they aren't burdened by years of experience in what a name should be.

Next: when to name a character.

Really, whenever you want. Sometimes I choose the name first and then shape the personality to fit. Other times, I have a firm sense of the character's voice and need a name to match it. Usually, it's somewhere in the middle: I have a vague sense of the character but he/she doesn't gel until I have the "right" name. And then there was the one time when I wrote an entire novel and then changed the main character's name several drafts later.  (This was Lily in Enchanted Ivy.  She was Ivy until nearly the final draft, when I decided that Ivy wasn't exactly subtle for a girl who wants to go to an Ivy League school.)

How do you know when a name is the "right" name?

Um... I really don't know the answer to that.  When the name is right it just kind of clicks in your brain, like when a puzzle piece fits neatly into a puzzle.  Once you have the name, the rest of the picture should get a little clearer.  The name should, hopefully, lead to a clearer vision of the character's voice and/or lead to more revelations about the character. And by the end of writing about a character, it should feel like he or she never had any other name. 

Especially not Skunk Cabbage or Baboon.

Know of any other good resources for naming characters?  Where do you find your names?  Please share!

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