Thursday, September 26, 2019

Win a Copy of STORMRISE

A long-time member of this blog community, PB Pabst, is giving away a copy of STORMRISE on her blog. (She has also written lovely things about me that are indicative of her warm and generous heart, and I am a bit undone. But definitely head over there to enter the giveaway!)

(Huge thanks to everyone who has purchased STORMRISE or requested it for your library. It's been a great launch week so far! Here are LINKS TO PURCHASE.)

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Release Day for STORMRISE

Dear ones --

Today's the day. Through all the ups and downs, twists and turns, disappointments and surprises, you've been here, cheering me on. I've thanked you dozens of times, and I'm thanking you once more.


And now here we are! Stormrise is officially out there, and I find myself sitting here thinking, wow. Did these many years actually pass? Is that elusive, disappearing-around-each-bend dream finally mine to hold?

Yes and yes.

Spotted at Barnes and Noble in Manhattan

Today my Twitter and Instagram and Facebook notifications are small explosions. Thank you for your words of congratulations, for spreading the word, for ordering a copy of Stormrise. I'm humbled and blessed and honestly, this is just so big.

Here is a UNIVERSAL LINK to all the places you can order Stormrise. (Remember that it's always wonderful to order from your favorite local bookstore, too. And requesting Stormrise at your library is also greatly appreciated!)

I've got an event at Barnes and Noble tonight, and there will be cupcakes. Between now and then, I'm planning on...well, not doing much. Soaking it in, maybe having a little nap. Because this is the ONLY DAY OF MY LIFE on which I'll be celebrating the release of my debut novel.

Thank you all for being a part of it!

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

HOOK THE EDITOR: Submission Guidelines

Here we go, everyone--submission guidelines for HOOK THE EDITOR (please note: this is not the call for submissions, which will take place on September 24):

1. All genres of fiction are welcome, except erotica or erotic romance.
2. Submit a (maximum-75-word) pitch and your first TWO SENTENCES.
3. Go HERE to submit.
4. Submission window: Tuesday, September 24, from noon to 7:00 pm EDT.
5. This will be a LOTTERY. At the close of submissions, the bot will randomly choose 50 entries.
6. The winning entries will post on the blog on Tuesday, October 1 for voting.


1. ROUND ONE: Readers will vote YES or NO on the 50 pitches that post on October 1. The 5 entries with the most YES votes will go on to the next round.

2. ROUND TWO: The 5 winning entries will be invited to submit their first 250 words, along with their original pitches. Readers will critique, and Elayne will read, leave comments, and then choose her favorite.

THE WINNER will receive a free 10-page edit from Elayne!

Monday, September 16, 2019


Tomorrow the submission guidelines for HOOK THE EDITOR will post. Today, however, is reserved for helping you get to know Elayne Becker a little better!

Elayne Becker, freelance editor

JILL: I'd be lying if I said my heart didn't break when I learned you were leaving Tor Teen. What led you to this decision, and what is your next adventure?

ELAYNE: It's a bittersweet departure! A few things factored into my decision to leave, but what I will say is this: working in the publishing industry, while being rewarding in so many ways, is also tough. I love so much of the editor job, but unfortunately, it's also a recipe for burnout, particularly for employees working their way up from the entry level onward. Personally, I reached a point where that burnout became difficult to bounce back from.

I think that when you're waking up most days feeling uninspired by the day ahead, you have to start considering the possibility of change. (If change is within your means.) For me, I decided that meant pursuing a master's degree in Scotland, and potentially exploring work in other fields I'm passionate about, such as environmental conservation and women's advocacy. I doubt this is a forever farewell to the publishing industry from me-there are too many aspects of it that I enjoy to do that!-but I am looking forward to stepping away for a bit and seeing what else is out there.

JILL: It's exciting to know that you're going to be offering freelance editing! Tell us more.

ELAYNE: Yes! Working with manuscripts has always been very fulfilling-and fun!-for me; I truly love watching a story evolve from its earliest stages to the final, and helping writers achieve their visions. To that end, I offer editorial feedback on both the conceptual and line levels, as well as query and synopsis critiques. Fuller details are on my website.

JILL: Folks who know you as an editor might not realize that you're also a writer. What do you write?

ELAYNE: Fantasy will always be my first love, so that's the genre I'm writing at the moment. These days, I aim for a tone that's pretty, dark, and romantic, with a nature-forward aesthetic and a bit of a classic feel. One day, I hope to explore other genres as well! I'm a big history nerd, so I'd love to incorporate that into my writing at some point. Or maybe even some nonfiction-who knows.

JILL: You're living life on both sides of the desk. What is it that you love about editing? About writing? In what ways do these two pursuits complement each other? Conflict?

ELAYNE: The heart of the answers is the same for both-I love storytelling! I love new worlds and characters I get to know inside and out. Editing allows me to exercise the detail-oriented, critical thinking part of my brain in a fun way, as I examine all of the story's pieces and help the writer assemble them in a way that maximizes the story's potential. It's a ton of work, true, but engaging work, like trying to solve a puzzle. Writing, on the other hand, provides an outlet for my creative side, an avenue through which I can give voice to the words and scenes playing out in my mind. It's also a great way for me to process emotions or life events.

The two roles definitely inform one another. Editing has expanded my understanding of the craft, which in turn has improved my writing. Likewise, writing enables me to empathize more with writers and better understand how they might have approached different aspects of the manuscript. In terms of conflicts, confidence is a big differentiating factor between the two. Every editor has had doubts at some point in their career, but for the most part, I'm confident in my ability to critique a manuscript and offer valuable feedback. With writing, I still struggle with imposter syndrome often. I can recognize talent in other writers very quickly, but I have trouble recognizing skill in my own writing, even if other professionals assure me it's there. I think this is likely because writing is more personal, and reflective of our creative selves, whereas editing is a more detached endeavor at its core.

JILL: From the moment we began working on Stormrise together, I was amazed by your ability to reach deep inside a story and ask all the right questions in order to home in on the strongest trajectory. Are you able to set this amazing gift aside when you read for pleasure? What are your favorite (non-client) books of all time?

ELAYNE: Aw, thank you Jill! Admittedly, my editor brain tends to interfere when I'm reading for fun more often than I would like. I find myself constantly taking note of which aspects are well-done and how I would have edited weaker aspects differently. I do think there's a lot of value in reading actively (spoilers for my next answer!), but in my case, it can be frustrating at times. I'm working on ways to shut this off just a bit, so that sometimes I can read critically, and other times I can simply enjoy the read.

My favorite non-client books! I will try to limit myself to a handful, because leaving it at one is impossible. Juliet Marillier is a goddess of prose, and I'm currently working my way through her bibliography, but I know Daughter of the Forest will always be my favorite. I don't even have the words to describe all my feelings on that book. Likewise, I will buy anything Ruta Sepetys writes in an instant; her books are beautiful. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings makes the cut as well, of course, as does Shannon Hale's The Goose Girl. Also a special shoutout to Swati Teerdhala's The Tiger at Midnight and Madeline Miller's Circe, which are two of my favorite books that I've read this year.

JILL: What are your words of wisdom for aspiring authors?

ELAYNE: Read actively, particularly in the genre you want to write. Think about what an author is doing that you find really effective, and what you find confusing or disappointing. Once you do this enough, you can use it as a tool to shape your own writing.

Share your work with beta readers or critique partners, and open yourself to their feedback. A lot of the time as writers, we're too close to our work to really see it properly. It's a great thing when you learn that feedback is meant to help you, not hurt you.

Finally: write, write, write, because you really do improve the more you do. Trust me. (And the reams of stories from my youth that will never see the light of day.)


Huge thanks to Elayne for this interview, and for participating in HOOK THE EDITOR! If you need more information, GO HERE. Remember, official submission guidelines will post tomorrow (September 17). Any questions that aren't answered there? Ask below in the comments!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Friday Fricassee (a.k.a. Best Party Ever)

You've watched me walk my journey from "aspiring author" to "published author" -- a few stalwart of you have actually been here for more than a decade, from the humble beginnings of this blog. I've expressed my gratefulness time and again, and today I simply want to share with you the magic of my long-awaited book release party.

Mind you, the hiccup of Tor Teen pushing back my release date by two weeks brought me to tears, mostly because of the party, which I planned almost a year in advance. We had the venue, the menu, the deluge of RSVPs. How could I possibly move my party?

But I didn't have to (and it would have been silly to try). On Tuesday, September 10 (which also happened to be my dad's 86th birthday), I gathered with family and friends at one of my favorite writing haunts -- The Frothy Monkey in Franklin, TN -- and we celebrated Stormrise and the spirit of never giving up. I don't think I've ever felt so loved and supported in my life (and that's saying a lot, because I have often felt very loved and supported).

And, so, without further ado:

The Release Party (in pictures)

The venue is a wonderful old-house-converted-into-coffee-shop, and I've always loved the vibe. The amazing staff set up this space for my reading. On the mantle, you can see the gorgeous poster that Tor Teen sent to help celebrate my release!

The Parnassus Books rep arrived -- with books! 4 boxes of Stormrise, which my beloved husband Eric was more than happy to help carry upstairs.

The moment I first saw the finished copies. No further explanation needed. :)

Okay, I was a little excited. More than a little.

All the beautiful books! 

The poster was such an unexpected gift. I love it more than words can say. I love that sweet girl on my right, too--she's my youngest.

All five of my offspring were there, including Maggie (far right), who flew in from Denver. (Maggie is also a writer, represented by Danielle Burby--so we are agent sisters as well as mother and daughter!). I love these humans with every inch of me; they bring me so much joy.

There were so many dear, dear people there, and there's no way I could showcase everyone. This guy, though, deserves a special shout-out. Sean and I have known each other since high school, when we did theatre together. He flew in from Pennsylvania just to be at the party, and his enthusiasm (and love for me!) was like a thousand fireworks.

(I had to add this, to show you how far back we go. We had the leads in Carnival in 1982.)

The love of my life. Eric and I have been married for 31 years. He's watched me -- and stood by me -- from the beginning of my long journey. It means so much when he says, "I'm proud of you." (And by the way--do you see the AMAZING STORMRISE PENDANT around my neck? You still have time to preorder Stormrise and be entered in a drawing to win one just like it!)

Deviled eggs, smoked salmon on toast points, chicken salad bites, a huge antipasto platter, and tiny cupcakes. Divine!

When it was time for the reading, my amazing and beautiful sister introduced me. For as much as she hates microphones, she's an absolute natural at working the crowd. (Also she spent hours shopping online to find me the perfect dress for this party--and then she bought it for me. Because that's who she is.)

Eric wrote a soundtrack for the excerpt of Stormrise I read. Marriage isn't a perfect science, but at times like this, I really feel like we're the dream team. :)

More than one person commented that I didn't seem nervous. I wasn't. Must be that theatre background.

This photo right here? It's my favorite. Know why? Look at my husband's face. He's looking at me with that expression! Am I blessed or what?

A portion of the crowd. People from so many seasons of my life were there--from my friend Sean, who has known me from high school, to members of the Nashville Symphony Chorus, to people I sang with decades ago, to current neighbors, to ballet-mom friends I've made over the years, to gals who were in my ballet classes, to a dear friend I've known online for a long time but had never met in person (she, like Sean, flew in to be there!), to my sister who has known me her whole life. It was...incredible.

And here it is -- me, living my dream. You know how sometimes (most times) it's hard to smile for pictures because it feels so forced? Nope. My face sort of smiled on its own all night...a natural response to the rivers of joy welling up from my heart. 

Another favorite. These two have profoundly impacted my life over the past few years. Tucker is the director of the Nashville Symphony Chorus, and his wife Mary directs the Blair Children's Chorus at Vanderbilt University (and also fills in for Tucker sometimes with the NSC). They're incredibly talented, with hearts fiercely motivated by their passion for music education and excellence. After lying dormant for too many years, my musician-self has blossomed and reasserted itself, and I have these two to thank.

This gal has been a whirlwind of enthusiasm and support. Her husband took this picture, and you can tell he's an artist because look at the composition of this photo! (Also, if you peek out the window behind us, you can kind of see people's heads. We rented out the entire upstairs of the venue, and that included their nifty back deck. I, of course, never got a chance to go out there, but I was happy to discover evidence that people did enjoy themselves out there!)

Had to include this one, too. Another super-supportive friend with a big heart (and a big beard). I have seriously never been in a room full of people cheering me on to the degree I experienced on this evening.

It was a glorious evening. I came away grateful, joyful, blown away, and exhausted. Because introvert. But, oh--it couldn't have been more perfect. Truly.

And now you've had a little taste of it. Thank you for joining me. 

(Photo cred: Cathi Cormack, Bill Clifford, Tom Soranno, Angela Pasquini-Clifford, Rachel Boehme, Eric Boehme)

Friday, September 6, 2019

New Contest on the Horizon: HOOK THE EDITOR

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

So it's definitely taken me a while (my apologies!), but I've finally got something for you. 

How'd you like to win a 10-page, in-depth edit from an editor who, until recently, worked for a major publisher? If this makes your writerly fingers tingle, read on!

You may already know that my lovely editor, Elayne Becker, has left Tor Teen. It was heartbreaking to lose her, because she is incredibly talented. The good news for you, though, is that Elayne is now doing freelance editing! And I'm doing my part to get the word out (because she's so very good at what she does).

Hook the Editor will give you a chance to hook first your colleagues, and then, if you're chosen for the final round, Elayne herself. Here's how it will work:

1. ROUND ONE: Submit a pitch and the first two sentences of your (completed, edited) story. A maximum of 50 entries will be chosen.

2. The pitches will post on the blog, and readers will vote YES or NO as to whether they were hooked by your pitch. The 5 entries with the most YES votes will go to the next round.

3. ROUND TWO: The 5 winning entries will be invited to submit their first 250 words, along with their original pitches.

4. The 5 first pages will post on the blog. Readers will critique, and Elayne will read, leave comments, and then choose her favorite.

5. Elayne's choice will win a 10-page edit!


*Submission date: Tuesday, September 24 (Stormrise release day! Wooo!)
*The pitches will post on Tuesday, October 1; voting will begin immediately.
*The 5 winning entries will post on Tuesday, October 8; critiquing will begin immediately.

PLEASE NOTE: I will post a CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS on TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, with full submission instructions. Mark your calendars!

Ask your questions below. I'm super excited about this!