TRAIL OF SECRETS Cover Reveal!

At last, the cover for Trail of Secrets has arrived! I instantly fell in love with the cover when I first saw it a few weeks ago. I wanted to share it with the world immediately, but Ive been sworn to secrecy until today. Im so thankful to Caroline Andrus for designing such a mysterious equestrian-themed cover. It truly captures the essence of my novel. Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think!

Trail of Secrets, by Laura Wolfe

Spending three weeks of her summer at the elite Foxwoode Riding Academy in northern Michigan should have been one of the happiest times of sixteen year-old Brynlei’s life. But from the moment Brynlei arrives at Foxwoode, she can’t shake the feeling she’s being watched. Then she hears the story of a girl who vanished on a trail ride four years earlier. While the other girls laugh over the story of the dead girl who haunts Foxwoode, Brynlei senses that the girl—or her ghost—may be lurking in the shadows.

Brynlei’s quest to reveal the truth interferes with her plan to keep her head down and win Foxwoode’s coveted “Top Rider” award. To make things worse, someone discovers Brynlei’s search for answers and will go to any length to stop her. As Brynlei begins to unravel the facts surrounding the missing girl’s disappearance, she is faced with an impossible choice. Will she protect a valuable secret? Or save a life?

Publisher:  Fire and Ice Young Adult Books (coming August/September 2015)
Age level: 13-18

Still not sure if you want to read it? Watch the trailer:

 

I hope to see you next week, when Ill recount every detail of my recent visit to the Kentucky Horse Park!

Horsin Around Thursdays: The A Circuit

Welcome back to Horsin Around Thursdays! Before I get to todays book, I have exciting news related to the upcoming release of my young adult equestrian thriller, Trail of Secrets. Ive been working my way through the final edits and, a few days ago, I even got a sneak peek at the cover. I absolutely love it! Unfortunately, it may be several more weeks before I can reveal the cover to the outside world. Because patience is not one of my virtues, Im keeping myself happily entertained by reading other peoples horse-themed books.

This week its all about horse showing at the highest levelThe A Circuit. In case youve never heard of The A Circuit four book Series, co-written by Catherine Hapka and professional equestrian, Georgina Bloomberg, prepare to indulge in a guilty pleasure.

Summary (from Amazon.com):  The A Circuit is the top of the top when it comes to horse showing. Its a world with its own rules and super-privileged lifestyles. Teens employ private tutors so they can travel the circuit all year showing horses that cost as much as some peoples homes.Tommi, Kate, and Zara are all elite competitors on the circuit, but they come from totally different backgrounds. Tommi is a billionaire heiress trying to prove she has real talent (not just deep bank accounts). Kate puts the working in working student-every win has been paid for with hours of cleaning stalls. Shes used to the grueling schedule, but Fitz, the barns resident hot guy, is about to become a major distraction. And then theres Zara. Shes the wild child of a famous rock star, but shes ready to take riding seriously. Can a party girl really change her ways?Readers who enjoy peeking into the elite world of series of Gossip Girl or The A-List will feel right at home in this new series with its friendships, drama, and privilege set against a backdrop of competitive horseback riding.

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens (May 24, 2011)

Recommended Reading Age: 12-17

If you crave a book filled with drama, horses, and a glimpse into how the other half lives, then pack your beach bag with The A Circuit for a fun, summer read!

My next post will be in two weeks because Ill be off on a road trip with my family for a while. One of our destinations will be the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Cant wait to report back on the experience!

Horse of Inspiration

Today is Derby Day and, not surprisingly, I am going to talk about horses.  Do you remember my previous post about that horse of lightning speed that dragged me around the ring during my first time riding her? The one that left me with bloody hands, tears in my eyes, and muscles so sore I could not make myself a sandwich because it hurt too much to lift the bread? Well, Her name is Edoras and I am leasing her now. As my riding instructor always says, You never learn anything from the good lessons! And boy have I learned a few things. Over the past several weeks, I continued to ride her and learn.  Dont get me wrong, there is still A LOT of room for improvement. But for the next couple months she will basically be my horse 3 days a week. If things go well, we will even get to compete in a show at the end of June.
I am ecstatic about this turn of events for so many reasons. As most of you know by now, so many of my story ideas come from my experiences with horses. I can only imagine all of the inspiration Ill draw from my time spent with Edoras. (Good thing I have my white board to write down all these ideas!) For example, I just found out that Edoras is the Great Great Granddaughter of the famous racehorse and Triple Crown winner Secretariat! Doesnt she look like him? And this helps to explain her need for speed. She also seems to know that she is descended from royalty. Its almost as if she is speaking when she looks at me as if to say, I am a princess and you are here to serve me. Oh, how I love horses and their unique personalities!

Well, I am off to the barn to gather some more inspiration:) Happy Derby Day and may the horse who is treated the best by his or her trainer/owner/jockey win!

Things to do while WAITING for Publication

As Tom Petty always said, the waiting is the hardest part. Being the incredibly impatient person that I am, I couldnt agree more. I am thrilled to have a picture book and a novel under contract with two different publishers. But in our culture of instant gratification, Its the snail-like pace toward actual publication that Im finding harder to digest. My picture book, Henriettas Hoof Polish, has been sitting with the publisher for close to two years now and Im still not sure of an exact release date. A recent inquiry to the editor informed me that Im eighteen books down on the list. Im guessing its still going to be a while! My YA equestrian novel, Trail of Secrets, was accepted for publication by Fire and Ice YA in early January and is scheduled for release in August/September this year. That seems like a relatively quick turnaround, but its still five or six months away. Im sure before long Ill have a cover to reveal and plenty of edits to make, but what am I to do in the meantime? I came up with a few (productive) ways to pass the time while awaiting my books elusive release dates:

1.  First, in an effort to continue to build my author platform, Ive ventured from blog-land into website-land and launched my very own author website. Id love it if youd take a minute to check it out and let me know what you think! I used wix.com to build my site and found it user-friendly and much less expensive than some other options that Id previously researched.

2.  Over the last several months, Ive been writing my next novela thriller set in the sometimes-shady world of Chicago real estate. Im currently on my third revision with no end in sight. Its true what they say, nothing gets a writers mind off her last book like delving into the next one.

3.  Ive been learning about ways to promote my books, both as they approach their release dates and once they are released, by utilizing social media, cover reveals, giveaways, reviews, and blog tours, to name a few. To this end, Ive been working to build connections with fellow writers, bloggers, and readers via Twitter, Facebook, and (of course) this blog! Its never too early to start spreading the word, and to help promote fellow authors at the same time.

4.  I cleaned and organized my home office. That might not sound like a big deal, but it is amazing what a difference having an uncluttered workspace makes in productivity. I was going to expand this idea to cleaning my entire house, but that one hasnt happened yet.

5. Last but not least, ten days ago my family and I adopted a puppy from a no-kill shelter near our house. Okay, this step might not be productive in the traditional sense. In fact, for the first several days after bringing the puppy home I got very little sleep and absolutely nothing accomplished. But look at how cute he is . . . .  And my kids are so happy.We all felt an emptiness in our home after losing our beloved dog, Chewy, in early January. Our new puppy, Milo, is full of life. He has brought the laughter back to our house, and thats worth every bit of sleeplessness and lost writing time!

So, thats how Ive been keeping busy and staying (relatively) productive while awaiting the publication of my books. How about you?

Cover Reveal and #Giveaway!

There are few things more exciting than finding out that one of your former critique group members is getting her book published! So, obviously, I was thrilled when Catherine Bailey contacted me about the upcoming release of her picture book, MIND YOUR MONSTERS! (Sterling, August 2015). Today is the big cover reveal, and I wanted to be a part of it. As if the cover reveal wasnt intriguing enough, Catherine is also hosting a GIVEAWAY on her Facebook page! Without further ado, feast your eyes on the cover below. Then read Catherines message about how to enter her GIVEAWAY!

Message from Catherine Bailey: 

Here it is – my official, final, fabulous cover for MIND YOUR MONSTERS! I am so, so excited to finally share this wonderful artwork. Thank You Dani and Oriol! I am celebrating with a giveaway. To participate, visit my Facebook page at catherinebaileybooks. Then share this cover on Facebook, Twitter, or any social media, let me know in the comments on Facebook, and Ill make sure youre entered to win. The winner will also receive a monstrously cute goody bag to help pass the time until MIND YOUR MONSTERS stomps forth in August. The deadline to enter is 3/13/15 and the winner will be announced the next day.

Good luck everyone!

Five Things I Learned at Write on the Red Cedar

Its been a week and Im (almost) fully recovered from Write on the Red Cedar, an intensive twelve-hour day of lectures, round tables, networking, and writing workshops. As promised, Im reporting back my top five takeaways, and Ill also let you know whether or not I accomplished the goals I set for myself prior to attending the conference.

First, here are my Top Five Takeaways

1. Genres are Blending

Keynote speaker, Donald Maass, talked at length about the changing characteristics of the books appearing on the New York Times Bestsellers list. No longer are books categorized simply as literary fiction or commercial fiction. The genres, more often than not, are blending together. The most successful writers of commercial fiction all have one thing in commonthey utilize the techniques of literary fiction to write genre fiction. The result: great story-telling meets beautiful writing. He recommended that writers pick a genre as a framework for a story, rather than as list of genre-specific rules to follow. This blending of genres allows writers a new level of freedom that has not been seen in the past.

2. Dont Focus on the Eyes

While listening to Kristina Riggles lecture, entitled How to Make your Characters Walk off the Page, I was struck by her thoughts on physical descriptions. Mainly, that the eye color of your characters doesnt matter. What? Eye color doesnt matter? Oh, man. At that moment, I realized Ive been spending way too much time describing the colors of my characters eyes and not enough on their other mannerisms. She said to give your characters one or two memorable distinctive features, that arent necessarily physical. Kristina Riggle used Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby as an example of a character whose physical appearance is barely described throughout the novel. Yet, the reader picks up on the formality and correctness of Jay Gatsby from the description of his posture and the statement that Gatsby had the look of someone who had his hair trimmed every day. Nowhere in the book is there any mention of Gatsbys eye color, hair color, etc.
3. Things Can Always Get Worse

In the writing workshop segment of the conference, Donald Maass asked us to write down  our protagonists main conflict or goal. Then he asked us to think of one way to make the goal matter more. For example, who else would benefit if this goal were achieved? In what new way can character discover that the unfulfilled goal hurts?

Then, he asked us to think of a way to make it more difficult for our protagonist to achieve his or her goal. What is the worst consequence the protagonist can face by not achieving his or her goal?

Then, he asked us to write down a way things can get even worse for our protagonist. How does he or she screw up? What trivial problem can pop up at the most inopportune time? For example, maybe on the day the protagonist is supposed to attend an important meeting with someone who can help him achieve his goal, his car wont start and he misses the meeting.

Then, believe it or not, we were asked to make things even worse for our protagonist! What if the protagonist failed completely? How does the house go down in flames? The readers should be taken on an emotional journey where they fear that all is lost before the protagonist, at last, figures a way out of the mess.

In other words, always raise the stakes.

4. The Importance of Networking

Like many writers, Im an introvert who would rather stab toothpicks in my eyeballs than try to make small talk with a bunch of people who I dont know. That said, there is something encouraging and revitalizing about meeting and connecting with other writers face to face. There are few people who can relate to the emotional roller coaster of writing like other writers. Theyve experienced rejections and occasional successes, theyve thrown first drafts of novels in the garbage, theyre struggling to build author platforms and promote their books, and they take the craft of writing seriously otherwise they would not have spent the money and time to attend a conference.

So much of a conference depends on who is sitting next to you. I totally lucked out in that department, as I had two awesome women writers sitting next to me. One of them was in the process of writing a memoir and is the editor of Grand Traverse Woman magazine. The other just had her writing published in the childrens magazine, Spider. Even though we dont write the same genres, they are two more connections Ive made in the writing world. I traded cards with several other people as well. So, now I have more people to email with writing questions, more people who might help promote my book, and more people to cheer on as they continue on their unique writing journeys!

5. Never Give Up!

One of the speakers told a story of an agent who received 7,000 queries last year. Out of those 7,000 queries, she requested 138 partial manuscripts. Out of those 138 partial manuscripts, she requested 30 full manuscripts. Out of those 30 full manuscripts, she took on seven new clients. Thats one-percent. Lets face it, the numbers are dire. The speaker said, that if a writer believes in his or her work and is interested in signing with an agent, that person should query no less than 100 agents before seeking another alternative. And, more importantly, if writers put in the requisite work, they should believe that they can be a part of that one-percent.

What did I learn from this? I gave up WAY too early on finding an agent for my last novel. I think I only queried twelve agents. Dont get me wrong, I believe my novel ended up with the perfect publisher for that particular book. But, in the future, Ill query at least 100 agents before throwing in the towel.

As for my other goals, heres how I did:
Goal #1: Pitch my book to agent Katharine Sands without sounding like a mumbling idiot.
Result: I did it! I practiced my pitch tirelessly for the few days leading up to the conference. Thankfully, my agent appointment was in the morning, so I did not have to stress out about it all day. I sat across from her. She stared at me and said nothing, so I recited my pitch. I didnt stumble or forget how to speak. I didnt sweat profusely or turn bright red. The eight minutes went by in the snap of a finger. In the end, it didnt seem as though the agent really connected with my book, but thats okay. My goal wasnt to get a book deal. It was to make my pitch without sounding like a mumbling idiot. Mission accomplished!

Goal #2: Learn three ways to improve my current manuscript

Result: This is a big YES! (See Top Five Takeaways above).

Goal #3: Exchange business cards with at least six people

Result: Did it! Ive already received a couple emails from people I met at the conference. Business cards are crucial to networking. Get them!

Goal #4:  Find a potential online critique partner or critique group

Result: I didnt fully accomplish this one, but I did join a writers Facebook group, appropriately named Finish the Damn Book. Im guessing I can find a critique partner through this group when I need one.

Im going to keep setting goals for myself, whether they are writing (or riding) related. My new goal is to finish the first revision of my thriller novel based on all the information I learned at the conference. Be sure to check back in a couple weeks for my February blog post which will deal with a few of the things that I LOVE the most!

Writing Conference Goals Five Days and Counting . . .

This Saturday Im heading to East Lansing, Michigan to attend the Write on the Red Cedar writing conference. The event promises to be an action-packed, information-filled day highlighting a number of talented speakers and ending in a four-hour intensive writing workshop led by renowned literary agent Donald Maass. In addition to listening to the speakers and participating in the writing workshop, I will also have the opportunity to meet privately with literary agent Katharine Sands of the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency. My meeting with Katharine Sands will be short and to the pointeight minutes long to be exact! In those eight minutes, I will try to remember how to speak and pitch my new novel to her. Ive never pitched a novel to an agent in person before, so this will be uncharted territory for me.

To help prepare myself for the conference, Ive decided to put together a list of (realistic) goals that I hope to accomplish on Saturday.  Here they are, in no particular order:

1.  Pitch my book to Katharine Sands without sounding like a mumbling idiot

The thought of pitching my book to a real, live agent is making me nervous. Ive been practicing my pitch on my husband. Ill get halfway through it, say um a few times and then lose my train of thought. I wrote the pitch down on paper and tried to memorize it, while still sounding natural. Lets just say, theres still lots of room for improvement! Luckily, I have five more days to practice.

2.  Learn three ways to improve my current manuscript

Ill be actively writing and revising my work during the workshop with Donald Maass. Ive only heard great things about his workshops, which are based on his book, Writing the Breakout Novel. Cant wait to see how my manuscript transforms!

3.  Exchange business cards with at least six people

Im confident I can achieve this goal. I just had new business cards printed and shipped to me. They are shiny and new and all of my contact information is up to date. Im excited to pass them around!

4.  Find a potential online critique partner or critique group

I havent had great luck with critique groups that meet in person due to scheduling conflicts, weather cancellations, etc. Id love to meet another writer (or writers) with whom I could exchange work online and help each other meet our writing goals from the comfort of our own homes.

5.  Come home with at least five solid takeaways

I promise to achieve this goal, mostly because Ive already entitled my next blog post The Top Five Things I Learned at Write on the Red Cedar.

Be sure to check back in a couple of weeks to see how I fared with all of my writing conference goals. Until then, happy writing!

My YA Novel is getting Published!

Happy 2015 Everyone! I was planning on doing my usual January post where I review my writing and riding goals from last year and set up new goals for the coming year, but that all seems really boring now. Why? Because my new year just started out with a BANG! On New Years Day, I accepted an offer from Fire and Ice YA to publish my Young Adult thriller, Trail of Secrets. Somebody pinch me! The release date is scheduled for sometime in August or September 2015 and my book will be available in both digital and print formats. And to make things even better, Fire and Ice YA publishes tons of horse-related books. They are the ideal publisher for my book, as Trail of Secrets takes place at a riding academy in Northern Michigan. I cant wait to read some other books published by Fire and Ice YA and let everyone know when I find some gems.

Ive been overwhelmed by all the congratulatory messages Ive received on my Author Facebook page the last couple of days. Some people have asked how they can help me in these months before the book is released. The answer is pretty simple: spread the word! Id love for my blog readers to like my FB page and share the link with friends. Trail of Secrets will most likely to appeal to young adults and adults who love horses, enjoy ghost stories, or simply crave a good mystery. In the meantime, Ill be sure to keep everyone up to date on the cover reveal, pre-sale opportunities, and the release date.

Ill save the big reveal of my list of 2015 goals for a future post when theres a little less excitement in the air. But heres a hint: I need to get back to riding!

Hope everyones year is off to a great start too!

2014 NaNoWriMo Results

For the last month, Ive been living and breathing NaNoWriMo. I didnt answer my phone, I cancelled dentist appointments, I almost forgot to pick my kids up from school one day . . . But now that November is gone and NaNoWriMo is officially over, its time to emerge from my home office, stretch my fingers, let my eyes adjust to the light, and total up the number of words Ive written.

The goal of NaNoWriMo was to write 50,000 words in thirty days. The bad news is that I fell short. (Why does Thanksgiving have to be in November?) The good news is that I wrote 43,000 words. For me, thats a success story. After all, I wrote 20,000 more words than I did last November, and now I have the bulk of the first draft of my new novel written. In case anyone is wondering, its a thriller about a couple of evil Realtors in downtown Chicago. Theres still a lot more writing to do, but Im hoping to complete my first draft by January so I can begin the revision process.

The 23,000 words that I wrote in NaNoWriMo 2013 became my first equestrian young adult novel, Trail of Secrets. Im still trying to locate the perfect publisher/agent for that book. Ill be sure to post updates of any developments.

In the meantime, I hope everyone is starting to get in the holiday spirit!

Do you have a NaNoWriMo success story? Please share!

Countdown to NaNoWriMo!

Ive been thinking about how to best spend my time while waiting to hear back from agents and publishers regarding my recent submissions of my YA novel. Time ticks by so s-l-o-w-l-y while waiting for responses from these mysterious and slow-moving entities. So instead of staring at the clock and checking my emails fifty times a day, Ive decided to throw myself into a new project. After all, NaNoWriMo starts in less than three weeks and I have a killer story (literally, a story about a killer) in my head. Sadly, my next book contains no horses, but I will have some horse-related news to report very soon. (Fingers crossed!)

Ive signed up for NaNoWriMo, starting November 1st. For those of you who dont know, NaNoWriMo is a challenge to write a novel in thirty days during the month of November. I participated last year and, although I fell short of my goal to write 50,000 words in thirty days, I ended up with the bulk of what eventually turned out to be my YA novel.

This year, Im going into the challenge more prepared. First, Ive been using the templates from Mary Buckham and Dianna Loves BREAK INTO FICTION: 11 STEPS TO BUILDING A STORY THAT SELLS, to familiarize myself with my characters, their motivations, and key twist points in the plot. The worksheets include such subjects as Powerful Characters Template, Powerful Openings Template, and Conflict Template. Each template contains 8-10 questions that force aspiring authors to think about (and write down) major characteristics, motivations, settings, conflict, and internal/external changes that will make up the overall story. For anyone just beginning to think about writing their next commercial fiction novel, this book is a great place to start.

Second, Im utilizing some exercises I learned at VCFA Day in Ann Arbor to really get to know my characters before I start writing. During the conference, speaker Coe Booth reiterated several times that character is the beginning, middle, and end of a successful story.  Here are some questions she suggested answering when creating believable characters:

1. What is the characters earliest memory?

2. Does the character have any irrational fears?

3. What is the characters biggest fear? How does that drive him/her?

4. What sadness does the character carry with him/her?

5. Where are YOU, the author, in this story? The author needs to look within herself to incorporate emotion and feeling into her writing. For example, this is what anger does to my body: _________.

6. What were the three biggest defining moments in this characters life?

Remember, all of this information does not need to appear in the book. These are exercises meant to help the author get to know his/her characters better and to know how they would react in different situations.

Finally, Im developing my To Read list  to include books similar to the one Im writing, as well as books on craft. The next book on my list is Donald Maas THE BREAKOUT NOVELIST: CRAFT AND STRATEGIES FOR CAREER FICTION WRITERS. I recently signed up to attend to the Write On the Red Cedar winter writing retreat in Lansing, MI on January 16-17, where veteran agent Donald Mass will conduct one of his highly sought-after writing seminars. I cant believe Im going! Woo-hoo! Im sure Ill have plenty of material for my blog on January 18th.

Check back on November 1st when Ill be kicking off my NaNoWriMo and updating my progress on  my blog as I go.

Are you participating in the NaNoWriMo challenge? What are you doing to prepare?