Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Music and Writing = Emotion and Productivity

After speaking to a few groups of teenagers during the past few weeks, I found it interesting that the most common questions in regards to writing were about music. Do I listen to music while I write? Do I listen for inspiration? What is my favorite kind of music?

I can’t choose a favorite when it comes to taste. I like everything from country to pop, alternative to classical. There were a few songs in particular that inspired my writing while working on Of Breakable Things and that list continues to grow as I toy with the sequel. See below.

I can’t, however, listen to music with words while I’m writing. It’s too distracting. Unless of course I’m working at Barnes and Noble or Starbucks, and usually then I bring a set of headphones. I have a classical playlist I compiled to either help me zone out or zone in. Sometimes I don’t even hear the music, but often if I’m trying to convey a particular mood I can switch over to a piece with similar emotions.

Even if you don’t typically listen to this sort of music, some of these pieces are so moving I recommend just sampling a listen even if only for a few seconds.

My favorites in the genre: New Age.

                Michele McLaughlin. The Eternal City-  Dedication.

For me, this piece epitomizes Alex and Chase. I hear it and I think of them. The emotions, the sadness, the loss, and then the new beginning… it’s all there.

                  Brian Crain- Song for Sienna
There are several flashbacks during Alex’s story. She is who she is because of her experiences with the Lasalle brothers. This one reminds me of her as a child... sick, broken, and scarred but still beautiful and fighting to be “normal” despite her disease and its hindrances.

                  Paul Cardall- Life and Death- New life.
Aptly named, the tone is how I felt while writing the beginning of the novel. After reading the blurb for Of Breakable Things, most people assume the story is about death, and although the grief and pain associated with death play a pivotal role when Alex makes her choice during first few pages, the story is about the life of the mind. Once the body is out of the picture, the mind has free reign. A person can see more, hear more, sense more, and most importantly desire and willpower go very, very long way. It’s a world without boundaries.

When it comes to more popular songs, the following were a few I would sing (badly) in the car before needing to pull over because a new idea popped into my head.

                Ron Pope- A Drop in the Ocean
(The Vampire Diaries fans, you might recognize this one…)
This is Chase and all his angst in regards to his relationship with Alex.

                Greg Laswell- This Woman’s Work
 “I know you have a little life in you yet…” So fitting.

                Josh Radin- What if You
This is Jonas’ song (My editor’s favorite character- here you go, Rachel Bateman!) The lyrics are completely Jonas- his longing for Alex even though he knows that she doesn't want him. But he is willing to play second fiddle.

                Thompson Square- Glass

                The Band Perry- If I Die Young

                Death Cab for Cutie- I Will Follow You into the Dark
(This one was actually suggested by Rachael Dugas, my agent, during the process of renaming the novel.)

And when it comes to the Lasalles, and how much they love life and turn everything into a game, anything by O.A.R. is fitting.

Emotion is so important in Of Breakable Things because the boundary of the body is cracked, and the mind has so much more influence over what is possible. An emotion can cause the lights to flicker or an object to move because the world is what a mind makes of it. I will use anything I can find to evoke emotion.

If any songs come to mind, please comment! I’m always looking for new additions to the various playlists!



Sunday, October 28, 2012

Fright Festival!

Happy Halloween week! For those of you anticipating Hurricane Sandy (like myself,) hopefully your power is restored in time for Authors Fright Festival! I figured I'd better post this before I'm devoid of the internet and crying hopelessly while my children force me to entertain them without the help of Sprout or Disney Junior...

For you book lovers, WinterHaven Books is hosting an online event this upcoming Wednesday! There will be giveaways, book reviews, and some spooktacular authors including some of my favs: A.G. Howard, Bethany Crandell, Kelly Hashway, A. Lynden Rolland (whoever that is...)

A special thanks to some of my goatly mentors for introducing me to WinterHaven Books and thank you to Crystal, Tina, Arlene, and Amber for creating such an amazing site!

Check it out at www.WinterHavenBooks.blogspot.com!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Splintered by A.G. Howard

It takes a certain amount of guts to tinker with a familiar tale. Alice in Wonderland has been a part of my life since I was old enough to tell my mother to ditch the Dr. Seuss before bedtime. Rabbit holes, Mad Hatters and Cheshire Cats fill me with a pleasant nostalgia comparable to my favorite memories as a child… running through the trails of my best friend’s farm or riding bikes at sunset. Wonderland is beloved to me, and so I will admit that although I was anxious to get my greedy hands on an advanced copy of this much anticipated novel, I was a bit unnerved to read a story that continues the tale several generations later. But somehow A. G. Howard was able to use Wonderland as her canvas to paint an incredible story, one that has caused me to lean in closer to flower arrangements and study moths more carefully.

Splintered is as whimsical and magical as the story on which it is based, but Howard chips away at the playful pastel exterior to reveal a much darker, a much more sinister Wonderland. And she does so beautifully, somehow adding depth to a story with already so many layers including a delicious love triangle involving one of my favorite Wonderland characters. Some people are artists, and much like a dancer’s choreography is nothing without technique, a story is nothing without the gift of wording. To that degree, Splintered is completely spellbinding, and so I thought I’d tease you with some of my favorite quotes:

 “Alice has left ripples in our world that only you can smooth.”
“Our gazes touch in a way we can’t…”
“I look up into her face, eyes sky-bright blue and lips the lavender of November dusk.”
“But it’s too late. I’ve squeezed the tear, and the liquid drizzles down my wrist, warm with the  scent of brine and longing.”
“Sometimes a flame must level a forest to ash before new growth can begin.”


… I know… amazing.

Splintered will be released by Amulet in January of 2013. More gushing to come then…


Check out A.G. Howard at www.aghoward.com at www.goodreads.com/aghoward or visit her on Twitter @aghowardwrites!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


I doubt I’m the only one who finds inspiration in the oddest of places. A withered flower with the imprint of a shoe in the dirt surrounding it. An old man sitting alone, hunched over a bowl of soup in a diner. A muddy, toy truck abandoned in the middle of a graveyard. Inspiration is about as predictable as Maryland weather, but the moment it strikes is usually well worth the wait.

Inspiration provides a reason to watch award-worthy films and to read thought-provoking novels. Isn’t it the reason we love music? To be moved. To revel in a memory. To be motivated to dance, to exercise, or to take a photo. There are few feelings greater than the spark ignited by a muse. Sparks are easiest to see in the darkest of places; maybe that’s why I’m inspired by darker things.

I had a conversation with a media specialist yesterday, and she posed a question I’ve considered often during the past few months. Where did I find my inspiration for Of Breakable Things? It should be a simple question, but it’s difficult to pinpoint one single source. She assumed a novel about dead children would have been inspired by my own personal loss. I am thankful to say it was not. I blame it on my wild imagination.

However, there is a tree outside of my son’s room, and when the room was a nursery instead of a shrine to super heroes, a rocking chair was positioned next to the window. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: the kid hates sleeping, so as a baby I had to rock him incessantly to save my sanity. Sitting in that chair, staring out the window, there were two branches which had somehow intertwined. They twisted like a braid and seemed to have no choice but to continue to grow together. Or die together.

And so the questions stewed in my head: if two lives were so closely intertwined, how would that affect their choices? What if the lives belonged to two children? What if they loved one another? What if one was dying? What would happen to them? Where would they end up? Would they find each other?

Alex Ash and Chase Lasalle were born.

It’s funny. I have no idea what happened to those branches because when spring arrived that year, they were hidden by large, teardrop-shaped leaves. Oddly enough, the following winter when the tree became bare once again, I searched and searched without success. I could not find the “star-crossed” branches (or so I’d named them.)

Maybe they gave up. Maybe they were chopped down by our persnickety community association. Maybe I was simply that sleep deprived, and they never existed at all.

The purpose here is that the most seemingly insignificant of things can provide the most wonderful sources of inspiration. Four hundred pages worth of inspiration.

Where do you find yours?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Journey to Agent

Disclaimer: The arms which support the fingers I use to type my tweets were twisted into joining Twitter by none other than Ms. Rachael Dugas, my agent. I was reluctant, but Rachael says ‘jump,’ and I jump. … Seeing as how I rarely tweet, it doesn’t appear that I’m hooked. #thinkagain. I get so immersed in reading everyone else’s tweets (and my life is so boring in comparison) that my tweets just get stuck in my menial beak. However, as a result of my little birdie stalking, hash tags have infested my life and my writing. I write a love note to my husband: See you this evening #hotstuff. I write my grocery list: don’t forget the milk #moron. I will apologize in advance for the invasion of hash tags in this post. I was just Twitter surfing before I sat down to write…


Today was a typical day in my typical life. I awoke at the crack of dawn to a tiny, blonde-haired boy giggling and sticking a batman figurine up my nose. It’s a magical way to wake up. #sneezingoutrobin. I spent the next hour trying to get my one-year-old to eat breakfast. This is a kid who began to feed himself at five months- bottle, solids, he was Mr. Independent. His favorite game however is called fetch; I’m the dog. If he throws toys, I don’t give them back, but if he throws food, he gets the satisfaction of watching me wipe the food from the floor, and sometimes, if I’m oh so lucky, he will even chuck something warm and mushy right into my hair. #edibleconditioner. So I have to spoon feed the baby or the dog will eat the flying food and later projectile vomit somewhere in the house. It’s a good thing my children’s laughter is contagious or I might have been committed a long time ago. One must have a fabulous sense of humor to be a parent. Or have a fabulous therapist on call.

Amidst entertaining two insanely rambunctious boys, I’m also an English tutor and a gymnastics instructor. Now that my secret identity, #mybatman, has been exposed, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how this whole writing thing happened. I didn’t begin to write Of Breakable Things until after my first son was born. He was (and still is) a horrible sleeper. As an infant, he would wake up the minute we put him down, and he would scream for hours. There were many times I would sit in the rocker in his room and just stare at the wall because I couldn’t turn on the light to read a book, and I certainly couldn’t turn on the TV. I had a lot of time to think… and to make up stories.

When my son was finally old enough to sleep for at least six hours straight, I took the opportunity to write down the characters who had kept me company for the past few months. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote until the story was complete. I didn’t outline or character map. I didn’t count the words. If I had, I would have realized the manuscript was entirely too long for any genre but especially for YA. As I mentioned in a previous post, it was nearly eight hundred pages. I burst out laughing the first time I actually did a tally. Ridiculous. And so began the reconstructive surgery. #drfrankenstein. When I had the final product, (and I use the word ‘final’ very loosely,) I thought it might be good enough to land me an agent. #notsofast

Well, a lot of agents didn’t agree. Many liked the premise, but I was already hearing the word trend. It was term that would haunt my nightmares for the next two years. YA Paranormal was all the rage, and thus agents were apprehensive about taking on more projects of that particular genre. But many were still interested. The problem was the dastardly query. Query, another term to haunt the nightmares of writers. Writers were not meant to constrict their stories into measly two paragraph increments. The only thing worse than a query is a synopsis, but that’s a rant for another day. I saved my rejections in a spreadsheet entitled, FML. I still have it. It stings my fingers each time I open it. Finally, I decided to get some help. I registered for an online workshop conducted by the fabulous Kristin Nelson of Nelson Lit Agency. The topic? Queries. After the tutorial, she accepted a look at each writer’s current query, and she offered advice. It was the greatest thing I ever decided to do. She liked the pitch, but she was able to give me a few useful tips to spruce it up, to keep the queried agent wanting more.

And then I got some nibbles, maybe about a dozen partial requests and even a few full requests. Ms. Nelson had certainly done her job because the query was a hit. Now it was up to me and my story. I came very, very close with one agent, but in the end, it just didn’t fit right with her. I’m thankful for her advice, however. She provided some invaluable feedback in regards to my opening for what was then called Ashes. But I was crushed when she decided to pass. And thus I did the unthinkable.

I gave up.

Hope is a beautiful thing. And each time an agent would request the MS, the elation was such a high. But the tricky thing about hope is that it acts similarly to helium. It doesn’t last forever, and when I was inflated to cloud nine, that only meant I had further to fall. And fall I did. I was done with it.

I was nine months pregnant with my second child when I decided to shelve my manuscript. My skin was not thick enough to withstand the knives of rejection. Oddly enough, the same week, I received an email from Rachael Dugas at Talcott Notch Literary Agency. I checked my FML spreadsheet. Funny, I’d never queried her…  I had, however, queried another associate in the same agency a year prior. A year! It was one of my first submissions! Rachael explained that she’d taken over for a former associate, and my submission had been sitting in the virtual slush pile waiting for review. She requested the first fifty pages. A few days later, here is what I received:

Hi, Amy--

Thanks for this. Your writing is really lovely--I'd love to read the rest. Kindly send the full manuscript at your earliest convenience.

Rachael Dugas

Lovely? My book was about death… This time I didn’t get my hopes up. I didn’t have time for it because I went into labor shortly after I submitted the full manuscript. I remember sitting on the couch, rocking my newborn to sleep while my older son was at camp. I used one hand to hold the baby and the other to surf the web. It was then that I checked my email:

Hi, Amy--

Thank you for your manuscript and your patience. I simply loved Ashes to Ashes and would be interested in representing you. Can we set up a time to chat sometime early next week, perhaps sometime Monday afternoon?

Rachael Dugas




Jaw drop.

Explosion #waterworks

I fell to the floor in tears. Still holding my (somehow still) sleeping infant, I dialed my husband with shaky fingers. He thought someone had died because I was crying so violently. #dramaqueen

I lined up a babysitter and the following Monday, I spoke with Rachael and absolutely loved her. I signed a contract a few days later, and it is now framed in my writing cave. It sits next to the copyright document I received after submitting an early version of the manuscript in 2009. And now, it is accompanied by a framed copy of my signed contract with Month9Books. #trophies

It’s been a long and rugged road. My shoes are dirty and torn, and during the journey there has been a vile piece of paper tucked in my pocket with the title FML. I can now toss it to the ground and demolish it with the sole of my shoe. I made it. What if Rachael had not found me? Would I have given up? Probably not. It’s not in my nature, but it might have taken some time, enough time for me to grow thicker skin.

I suppose one of these days I’ll thank my (sleep-hating) son for forcing me to use my imagination… or I’ll just wake him up early every single morning when he’s a teenager. Maybe I’ll even shove batman up his nose.


But I’ll have a book to show him. Maybe even more than one…

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Whole Nine Yards

Nine might just be my lucky number. September is quickly approaching, the ninth month of the year, and with it arrives my favorite season. Fall festivals, gorgeous foliage and pumpkin spice lattes are just around the corner, and I’m already unpacking my coziest sweaters.

Coincidentally today, the twenty-ninth of August, the publication deal for my debut novel was announced in Publishers Marketplace! My best friend sent me a text at exactly 9:00 this morning (I kid you not; I triple checked…) to let me know the news was out!

Children's: Young Adult
A. Lynden Rolland's OF BREAKABLE THINGS, in which a seventeen-year-old, who after her death joins a seemingly benign and secret spirit community, is hunted by dark forces that believe her to be the incarnation of a notorious prophet who helped destroy them ages ago, to
Georgia McBride of Month9Books, in a nice deal, for publication in 2014, by Rachael Dugas of Talcott Notch Literary Services (World English).

I screamed so loudly my one-year-old began to cry, and my four-year-old told me to go sit in time-out... 

Finally!!! I have been sitting on this news for months, and actually now that I think about it, Georgia McBride of Month9Books first proposed the deal to my agent in June, exactly nine months after we began the submission process.

I’m having a hard time grasping the reality of the situation. The reality being that this is my dream come true. My book will be sitting on a shelf at my local bookstore, new and glossy, just waiting for some drama-hungry teenager (or adult) to pick it up and take it home! Throughout the painfully long process of writing a book, editing a book, pitching to agents, getting rejected by agents, signing with an agency, submitting to publishers, and getting rejected by publishers… even during the moments of triumph, I never allowed myself to drift all the way up to cloud nine. Being there amidst the clouds would only mean I'd have further to fall, and I have certainly fallen a few (dozen) times. But last Friday, following a conference call with some amazing people and incredible writers, I began to believe that maybe it was finally time to let myself go, to float upward and revel in the moment. I will actually get the opportunity to work with the innovative and talented staff of Month9Books. Unbelievable.

To Georgia McBride, (Rachel Bateman, Brittany Howard,) and of course Rachael Dugas, thank you from the bottom of my heart. You’ve given me optimism and self-worth. I'm in awe of you.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

...Cat's out of the bag

                I never liked the expression, so naturally it was the first title to pop into my head. I’ve never known a cat who would allow someone to put it into a bag without a fight, and even if it did, it certainly wouldn’t be quiet about its plight afterward. So how could a cat in a bag be an appropriate expression for a secret? Apparently, it means something blatantly obvious is finally out in the open. Swinging, hissing, and scratching…

                I’ve tweeted about it, but I know few friends in my everyday life who actually belong to twitter. (Besides my husband who stalks pro athletes and Michigan State recruits…) At the request of my agent, I created a website, but I never linked it to my other media. I’ve been working tirelessly for years on several projects, but I usually work between the hours of 8pm and 2am. Sometimes I work in public, but I’d lie about freelance editing gigs. If someone really wanted to know what I was up to, it wouldn’t take a sleuth to figure it out. Writing and I have had a love-hate relationship for as long as I can remember, but I certainly haven’t written well. In fact, the first manuscript I ever wrote was during the summer between my first and second year of teaching…and it was awful. Absolutely cringe worthy. I began my second manuscript after my first son was born, and I fell in love with the story. When I finished the first draft, I thought with some editing it might actually be good enough to submit to agents. A great deal of editing… it was nearly 800 pages in length. It’s no wonder writing has given me wrinkles.

                But several years later… one husband… two children… and one brave agent later… this love-hate relationship has taken a turn for the better. I can proudly wear these bags under my eyes as battle scars from a war worth fighting. Hopefully, I will be able to share some exciting news with you soon, but for now take it easy on me. An introverted part of me never imagined my stories and ideas would be made public. I’m terrified to be in such a vulnerable situation – more terrified than if someone unleashed a rampant cat on me. One that’s been stuck in a bag for several years.

                I suppose the expression is fitting.

Check out my projects at www.ALyndenRolland.com

Sunday, July 15, 2012

My blog title (if I ever launch this blog...)

As of Life?  What is that supposed to mean?

One of my favorite quotes was said by Joseph Conrad:

"Only in men's imagination does every truth find an effective and undeniable existence. Imagination, not invention, is the supreme master of art as of life."


I think I'll borrow a piece of it.