The BIG Announcement

A few months ago, I posted about two very exciting things. The first, I elaborated in my post—I got to see my name in print in the byline of an article on the front page. The second? Well, I kept the second a secret. But it’s been long enough and I’m ready to share. Without further ado, I give you…

…my release date.

Banner for A Thousand Years to Wait

My debut Young Adult Fantasy titled A THOUSAND YEARS TO WAIT is scheduled for publication in April. That’s right. On April 30th, 2019, you’ll be able to purchase a copy of my book.

And now we squeal. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeekkkkkkk!

Stay tuned for additional teasers, including reviews, excerpts, and cover art in the coming months!


Summary for A THOUSAND YEARS TO WAIT

Prophecies are meant to unfold on their own—they can’t be forced into fruition. Or can they? When a war-torn kingdom is on the cusp of falling to a usurping general, a young healer who doesn’t believe in magic is called upon to help a prophecy transpire. She must embrace the magic…or lose the ones she loves.

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A few years ago, a good friend got me this set of greeting cards. There is no more perfect a gift than this.

Owning It

A large part of succeeding as a writer boils down to your willingness to put in the time. Can you accept sitting at a desk, dreaming up worlds, typing (or scribbling) the words, and getting it done? The answer to these questions has always been a resounding yes for me, but I tend to fail when it comes to putting in the face time.

I did just that this weekend. I put in the face time and met dozens of wonderful writers and agents and editors at the Writer’s Digest Conference in NYC. It was fabulous. I participated in PitchSlam, in which authors are given one hour to pitch as many agents as they can in three-minute segments. (Truly, it’s any introvert’s nightmare.)

But you know what? While I was nervous going into my first pitch, it melted away quickly. Why? Because I discovered something as I delved into conversation with these agents. I found myself admitting something surprising. Out loud.

I love my book. I love the characters. I love the plot. I love the interactions and the quirks and the personalities. It was a fun book to write and I had fun writing it! And when you enjoy your story, I think it shows. You start to enjoy talking about it and telling people why it’s something they’ll want to read…which makes it a lot easier to pitch.

Proof? I pitched 6 agents and all 6 made requests for partial manuscripts (requested lengths varied). This may or may not result in progress moving forward, but that’s not the point. The point? When you love your work, it shows. 

Writers. Friends. I have one piece of advice for you. LOVE YOUR WORK. It’s yours. You wrote it because you loved it. 

Now own it.

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So many fabulous writers. Dinner on a Friday night.

Who Run the World?

One of the things I love most in young adult fantasy is how often I get to read from the point of view of a strong female protagonist. Too often in real life, it’s expected that young women will follow societal expectations and quietly follow their path through school, college, careers, motherhood, and whatever might lie beyond.

Boys, on the other hand, have always been encouraged to take the less traveled path—to go on great adventures before ‘settling down’, to ’sow the wild oats’ as they say. And for a long time, literature has reflected this.

But in recent years, YA Fantasy has taken a turn toward following strong young women on their adventures and…I…am…loving…it! Where were these great books when *I* was growing up?

I just finished reading The Hunger Games series (a day late and a dollar short, I know) and one of the things I most love about how Suzanne Collins portrayed Katniss was her refusal to paint Katniss as anything but who she was. I lost count of the number of times I read about Katniss stuffing her face and it was amazing. She wasn’t ‘dainty’ because she was a young woman. She didn’t delight in attention and, in fact, she wanted nothing to do with it. She was a reluctant heroine who wanted only to save the people she loved.

And that was what I loved most about the series. We followed a young woman with conviction and agency, a woman who didn’t set out to change the world, only to protect her family. But one thing leads to another until the only way to protect her family is to change the world. It was done so organically that the reader hardly even registers the change in Katniss’s directive throughout the series. Brilliant.

If you’re looking for more YA Fantasy featuring strong young women who make their own decisions, saving themselves and those they love, I’ve listed several great novels to check out in my last blog post. As someone who often claims ‘Stubborn’ to be my middle-name, I adore reading about these stubborn, independent young women saving the world. Just don’t ask me how I like raising stubborn, independent young women (mine are 8 and 12 years old)…because that’s a post for a whole other day!

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My own stubborn, independent young women.

Young Adult Fantasy (Yes, it’s for Everyone)

I read. I read a lot. Even when the weather (finally) changes and a warm breeze replaces the arctic winds of winter, I’m no less likely to be found lounging on a couch, a book in hand. The only difference is that I probably have the windows open.

I like to read a little bit of everything, but of all the genres and all the age categories, I find Young Adult Fantasy to be my favorite. Why? (TL:DR? Scroll to the bottom of the page.)

Oh, let me count the ways.

YA Fantasy worlds & world-building: I am an enormous geek when it comes to the natural world around us. Biology is magic and the sheer diversity of it is staggering. Someone I follow on Twitter recently tweeted about David Attenborough and it reminded me of how much he once inspired my love of the natural world. (As did many of my college professors, but they don’t narrate specials on Animal Planet or National Geographic, so…) For me, YA Fantasy has taken my love of nature one step further. A good YA Fantasy draws you into a new and unfamiliar alien landscape, yet makes it seem as familiar as our own Earth. 

World-building in any genre is important, but in YA Fantasy, it’s a crucial element in order to create a new land that’s both foreign and familiar at the same time. It’s a skill good fantasy authors master early. I don’t just want to read about the birds singing in the trees. I want to know which birds in which trees. Paint their feathers for me and make the fronds of the trees filter the alien sunlight onto a dirt floor that’s littered with forest debris. Where do the birds nest? What’s their song like? Do the birds eat nuts and berries or do they steal the eggs of others’ young right from their nests? Are there myths surrounding the birds? What kind of stories have people told about them? I want to breathe it all in as though I’m really there, and that’s one of the reasons YA Fantasy is my favorite. The lush world-building just can’t be beat and there is literally no limit to the number of fantastical settings and creatures that can be created.

YA Fantasy protagonists: When I was a teen, I was quiet, soft-spoken in crowds, and always pictured myself as a real-life sidekick, certainly not a kickass dragon-riding protagonist who could master the forces of magic and shape the future of an alien world. As a teen, reading YA Fantasy allowed me to escape into a world where not only was I a main character (or following along in the life of one), but I was a confident one, even when faced with danger. It was exhilarating. It’s a way to open teen minds without feeling the pressure of the very real dangers of today’s world.

Plus, let’s not forget how much fun being a teenager really is. In real life? Pimples, exams, puberty, peer pressure, driver’s license test, college choices (“What do you want to do? What do you want to be? Decide now. Now, now!”)… The list goes on and on, but YA Fantasy pushes all that aside and focuses on giving teens choices that maybe aren’t so mundane. Instead of asking teens to face the world as it stands around them, YA Fantasy asks teens to face a new world where they can safely explore life and death choices and empathize with characters who face decisions that are much more terrifying than their own real-life ones!

YA Fantasy protagonists are a mix of grit and insecurity (much like real-life teens) and what makes them worth following is how they grow as characters. Character arcs in YA Fantasy are beyond fun to watch! Good luck trying to get a 25-year-old protagonist to make the kind of progress you can make with a 16-year-old in half the time.

YA Fantasy Influence: Perhaps the best reason of all to read YA Fantasy? To see how it has shaped teenagers in today’s world. The kids from Parkland, FL took everyone by storm when they refused to let a culture of gun violence remain the norm. But why were they so quick to speak out? What made their experience different from so many other incidents that had come before? These kids were raised on a steady diet of book and movie series like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. They’ve seen teens who look and act just like them as protagonists in their own lives. They’ve seen characters make a difference, defeat ‘evil,’ and come out better on the other side. YA Fantasy is so much more than teens saving their worlds. It gives today’s real world teens a voice and the hope that they, too, might change their world for good. I can’t think of a more noble reason to jump into the next YA Fantasy…

 

TL:DR

YA Fantasy is a genre everyone should read and it’s not just for tweens and teens to enjoy. Ready to delve in? Need a place to start? Try these:

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Frostblood by Elly Blake

A Writer in Waiting

My sink is full of dirty dishes, my dishwasher full of clean. The laundry needs to be moved to the dryer and the carpets could certainly use a vacuum. But I am a writer waiting on betas. Which means I must refresh my email exactly 12,483 times a day to see if anyone has left me feedback.

What?

Yes, I know I have a problem. And yes, going on submission is far worse. I understand.

But none of this stops me from wandering the house listlessly, contemplating my own existence.

I’ve taken up learning French. Does it help?

Non.

 

Querying (Part III)

By now you’ve probably got a pretty good idea where I’m going with my queries. (Progressively better with each version, but still not quite “there.”)

This particular version netted me requests (both partial and full) from several agents. It’s better, but it’s still lacking.

 

Dear (Agent),

Though your website lists that you are currently closed to queries, I saw your recent tweet about opening to queries that match your MSWL. As such, I hope to interest you in TARROWBURN, a YA alternate world fantasy featuring a mystery of otherworldly proportions and a headstrong female protagonist with the power to solve it.

At 18, Moreina di Bianco is a young healer who believes in medicine, not magic, even while possessing a second sight she can’t fully explain. So when a talisman and a thousand-year-old prophecy choose Reina to reawaken an ancient magic and find a way to end a war, she must reconcile her beliefs and learn to control the magic. Reluctant to accept help, Reina’s only company on her journey is her estranged and mysterious childhood friend, Quinn D’Arturio, and a dashing captain who claims to be her protector. There’s just one problem with her new companions. They, too, are featured in the prophecy. But what woman wants a suitor, let alone two, when she’s busy defeating an evil general, ending a war, finding the true king, and rightfully seating him on the throne?

Tarrowburn, a 100,000 word, “chosen one” fantasy is the second novel I’ve completed, but the first I’ve written with the intention of doing something other than stashing in a desk drawer. While I have degrees in subjects completely unrelated to creative writing, writing has long been my true passion. Growing up, I was strongly influenced by the world-building talents of Anne McCaffrey and C.S. Friedman and quickly fell in love with both dragons and magic. Though it is a stand-alone novel, Tarrowburn is meant to be the first of a trilogy. Comparable titles for Tarrowburn might include Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass, White Hart by Sarah Dalton, or The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron. As requested, I have included a synopsis and the first ten pages of my manuscript below. I would be happy to provide you with a partial or full manuscript upon request. Thank you for your time, and I hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely,

L. Ryan Storms

 

The Things I Did Right:

Hey! I’ve finally managed to remember to use all caps on my title! That only took two full years. (Did you notice that my title changed? My word count is also up again…) Also, I’ve directly addressed why I’ve chosen to send to this agent. She specifically had an item on her Manuscript Wish List that matched what I had written.

Notice that my summary paragraph is much more concise now, that I’m not bumbling around about how Reina likes being alone and misses home. Sure, those things might still be a part of the story, but they were never the focus and shouldn’t have been included in the query at all.

I’ve now listed what kind of fantasy I’m writing. It’s a “chosen one” tale. That being said, it’s also a “hero’s journey” (heroine’s journey?), and an alternate-world fantasy, so it fits into more than one tiny niche.

I’ve used comp titles that are more within the scope of my novel, other books that include kick-ass, teenage heroines who generally don’t take any crap from anyone.

 

Things I Didn’t Quite Do Right (Also known as Things I Did Wrong): 

My first paragraph is wrapped up pretty well, but I’ve been told that, “I hope to interest you in TARROWBURN,…” doesn’t relay confidence. One reviewer told me that they thought I sounded like a waitress in a fancy restaurant, trying desperately to pitch the night’s special. “I hope to interest you in this evening’s special dish of braised beef tips served over egg noodles in a delightful mushroom sauce, with a side of steamed broccoli lightly drizzled in garlic butter.” (Now I’m just hungry.)

Another told me that I sounded almost like a used-car salesman. (Shudder!) And a third said that she understood what I was going for (humble and polite), but that it sounded instead as though I doubted my own work. Yikes, that definitely isn’t what I want agents to think!

My second paragraph is better at summing up the story, but still hasn’t quite relayed the stakes or the urgency in its entirety. I think I’ve done a better job of that in my most recent query, but we’ll get to that later. Someone pointed out that I mention both companions are featured in the prophecy, but I don’t say how. I assumed that my next sentence, “But what woman wants a suitor, let alone two…” made that connection clear, but sometimes it’s easier to make a connection when you already know what’s going on. It’s not nearly as simple when you aren’t already in the loop on the particulars of the story.

I’m guilty of having a bit of amnesia in my last paragraph. I’ve forgotten (again) to put the title of my work in caps. (Twice, in fact.) You’ll notice my word count went up again. I did a little more world-building as I revamped the book and brought it into the YA realm where it belonged.

While I finally used the right kind of comp titles, I’ve used entirely too many of them. I’ve also done something that can be seen as a bit pompous (which is ironic, given my “humble” opening). I’ve used a best-selling series as my first comp title. Agents don’t necessarily advise against this, but if you’re going to use a bestseller, be sure that your work really does match the voice/setting/characters of a book you are comparing it to. (I would definitely advise against using Harry Potter, Twilight, and the Hunger Games as your comp titles together! Nothing screams “cocky” like using three separate bestselling titles with extended movie series.) This is why I also chose lesser known titles as my other comps.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that if you’re going to use comp titles, use more recent books. It shows that you read within your genre and that you’re familiar with what the genre currently offers.

I also don’t need to say what authors really got me into my love of of the fantasy genre. While it’s good information and might show my style a bit, it doesn’t really mean anything in the long run and it’s something that I could always discuss at a later date. Again, the agent wants to know about my book, not about me and my loves.

So this query is better and it did get me several requests for manuscript reads from agents. But I still think I can improve, and as I’ve taken on the challenge of submitting to PitchWars, I’ve decided to rework it again. That’s a post for another day!

dragonflight-by-michael-whelan

Anne McCaffrey’s dragons (and Michael Whelan’s artwork) will always be one of my first fantasy loves!

A Brief History of a Perpetual Misfit

I’m hoping to participate in the very selective #PitchWars process this year and potential mentees are encouraged to share a little bit about themselves on their blogs in what is affectionately coined #PimpMyBio. For those of you who know me, most of this information probably isn’t new.  For those of you who don’t, welcome!


Fun Stuff

#novelaesthetics teaser for my #PitchWars YA Fantasy manuscript, A THOUSAND YEARS TO WAIT

(Disclaimer: Only two of these images are mine. I don’t claim rights to the others!)

A Thousand Years to Wait

What is all this about? Well…

At 18, Moreina di Bianco is a young healer who believes in medicine, not magic, even while possessing a second sight she can’t fully explain. So when a talisman and a thousand-year-old prophecy choose Reina to reawaken an ancient magic and find a way to end a war, she must reconcile her beliefs and learn to master the unknown magic.

Reluctant to accept help, Reina’s only company on her journey is her estranged and mysterious childhood friend and a dashing captain who claims to be her protector. There’s just one problem with her new companions. They, too, are featured in the prophecy. But what woman wants a suitor, let alone two, when she’s busy defeating an evil general, ending a war, finding the true king, and rightfully seating him on the throne?

Random ‘Stuff’ About A THOUSAND YEARS TO WAIT

Reina would really get along with Nadia from The Forgetting (Sharon Cameron) or Mae from White Hart (Sarah Dalton). The three of them could probably be best friends…though they might butt heads from time to time. They’re all pretty headstrong. She also has a lot in common with Feyre from A Court of Thorns and Roses (Sarah J. Maas), but killing stuff isn’t her thing. In fact, she’s a vegetarian.

I normally like to leave characters to the imagination (nothing is worse than finding out on page 284 that a character has blond hair when you’ve been picturing her as a dark brunette for the duration of the book), but…

Here’s a visual for what I picture my three main characters to look like. Seriously, it’s okay if this is isn’t what YOU picture. I’m cool with that.

Moreina (Reina) di Bianco, Quinn D’Arturio, and Niles Ingram (yeah, yeah, I know it’s Ryan Gosling…)

 

About Me

An ever changing chameleon, I seem to fit in both everywhere and nowhere at once. I grew up on Long Island, but moved to Pennsylvania with my family when I was 10, making me a lover of both indoor and outdoor fun. Theater, art, culture? Yes! Hiking, camping, and horses? Let’s!

Hiking Bryce
Yay – a camera in hand and hiking boots on my feet!

I love outdoor photography (Hey – that’s a combo of art, camping, and hiking!) and I even blogged about one of my most ambitious travels – a cross-country trip over the course of just 3 weeks. (Two years have passed since that trip and I’m still dreaming about it.)

But my love of art and travel didn’t stop me from also pursuing a love of science and I have an undergraduate degree in Marine Biology with minors in Chemistry and Psychology. (I also earned a Master’s in Business Administration as a parent of two young children just to prove to myself that I could.) But maybe what I love most is actually the world in all its forms, and perhaps its why I’ve never been content to stay in just one place doing just one thing.

My ever-changing career has taken an interesting path to say the least. My titles have included:

  • Microbiologist
  • Pharmaceutical Technical Writer
  • Mom to 2 girls
  • Animal Adoption & Kennel Technician
  • Animal Shelter Administrative Director
  • Marketing Director
  • Freelance Writer
  • And always, always – Aspiring Author

The reason for my leaving any of these jobs was not because I didn’t enjoy them or because I wasn’t very good at them. (Quite the contrary, in fact!) Rather, it was because I always felt that there was something else I *should* be doing, something else that needed my attention, somewhere else that I should be fitting in.

In some of these jobs, I felt as though I had almost made it, that I almost assimilated, but there was always some small part of me that knew I was only fooling myself. I could “almost” fit in anywhere, but it wasn’t until I joined the writing community online that I began to feel as though perhaps I had finally found my tribe. A misfit among misfits, and I couldn’t feel more at home! If you, too, are a misfit writer and bibliophile, I hope you’ll find me on Twitter and say hello!

 

And Now – Random Trivia

My Loves: 

  • Landscape photography
  • Hiking
  • Travel
  • Music
  • Good NY pizza
  • Dark chocolate (Seriously, what is life without chocolate?)
  • Books (Duh…) – particularly well-done fantasies that take me deep into new worlds
  • My children & my husband (Duh, again… This is a given, of course. I’m so, so very lucky!)

 

My Current Obsessions:

  • Planning vacations I can’t take
  • #resist with @botresist
  • Sweetgreen’s harvest bowl (Yum!)

 

Things I despise (not necessarily in this order):

  • Narcissists (I worked for one for a long time – never again!)
  • Willful ignorance
  • Cancer (The disease, not the astrological sign. We crabs need to stick together.)
  • That Thing currently occupying the White House (See also: first bullet point.)

 

Things I think you should know:

  • Myers-Briggs: INFJ
  • I will hold my bladder as long as humanly possible if it means I can avoid using a porta-potty.
  • I love stories about time travel and/or reincarnation (Maybe why I resist the porta-potty—too many past lives without modern day plumbing?)
  • I don’t shy away from hard work, and Persistence is my middle name. (Actually, I don’t have a middle name, but if I did, this would be it.)

 

One More Thing:

(I debated adding this section, but I think it’s important enough that it should be included. I want to make sure that anyone who wants to work with me also knows where I stand on #OwnVoices.)

I’m not an #OwnVoices writer. I don’t come from the marginalized community and I can’t tell the stories that should be told by #OwnVoices writers. I am, however, a strong supporter of diversity and equal opportunity and will do whatever I can do to help advocate diversity in the publishing industry. So, a shoutout to my many writer friends from the marginalized communities who are making a difference every single day by using their voices to tell the stories that need to be told! Thank you for sharing your story! The world needs it. I need it!