Monday, December 15, 2014

READER EMPATHY / LIKABLE NARRATORS

I struggle with the idea of the likable narrator all the time.  As I stated in this post at my YA group author blog, YA Outside the Lines, I feel like part of my job is to present a character's unvarnished truth.  (We're inside a character's head, after all--we should get a glimpse into all their thoughts, not just those of the more PC variety.) 

I recently got this incredible bit of advice on the subject from a fellow author and had to share...

This author insisted that the focus shouldn't be on creating simply a likable narrator, but in creating reader empathy.  To create empathy, a writer should pick two of the following:

1. Make the main character a victim of undeserved misfortune.
2. Put the main character in jeopardy.
3. Make the main character likable.
4. Make the main character funny.
5. Make the main character powerful or good at what they do.

This makes so much sense to me.  Right now, in my NA-in-progress, both of my main characters are actually 3, 4, and 5 (the female is more 4 than the male), with a little of 2 sprinkled in.  (Jackpot!)  But I love the idea of focusing on empathy rather than likability (likability is only one option in the list for creating empathy).

Any other additions you might put on this list to create empathy--or to get a reader invested in a character's journey?




Tuesday, December 9, 2014

GIFTING (SIGNED BOOKPLATES)

For anyone who plans to give one of my books as a gift this holiday season, I'm sweetening the deal a bit:

Email your mailing address to: hollyschindlerbooks (at) gmail (dot) com, and I'll shoot you a signed bookplate to go with the gift.  (The earlier you send your address, the better chance you have of getting it in time to put it inside the book before wrapping.)


A Christmas card I drew years ago for my parents to send out.

Happy holidays!

Friday, December 5, 2014

WHORUBLOG HOLIDAY #READATHON

I'm delighted to participate this year in the Holiday #Readathon, hosted by WhoRuBlog.  Technically, I'm up to my eyebrows in global edits for my first indie release (an NA rom com), and won't be able to hit my own TBR pile (man, that thing's getting enormous), but I am delighted to announce that I'll be hosting my own Holiday #Readathon giveaway.

My '14 releases (THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY and FERAL) feature smart protagonists who don't see the world as it is, in a literal sense.  They're both wildly imaginative--they're out-of-the-box thinkers.  So for my giveaway, I'm asking readers to tell me:  

What's the most out-of-the-box, non-traditional thing you ever did that gave you a sense of the Christmas spirit or put you in a holiday mood?

Tweet your answer to @holly_schindler (or leave your response in the comments) to enter.  One winner will receive his or her choice of  a signed copy of THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY or FERAL.

Giveaway runs through December 7; US only.

More on the books up for giveaway:

THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY (Contemporary MG) 



“Beasts of the Southern Wild” meets Because of Winn Dixie in this inspiring story of hope.

Auggie Jones lives with her grandpa Gus, a trash hauler, in a poor part of town.  So when her wealthy classmate’s father starts the House Beautification Committee, it’s homes like Auggie’s that are deemed “in violation.”  But Auggie is determined to prove that there’s more to her—and to her house—than meets the eye.

What starts out as a home renovation project quickly becomes much more as Auggie and her grandpa discover a talent they never knew they had—and redefine a whole town’s perception of beauty, one recycled sculpture at a time.

Holly Schindler’s feel-good story about the power one voice can have will inspire readers to speak from their hearts.

FERAL (YA Psychological Thriller)





The Lovely Bones meets Black Swan in this haunting psychological thriller with twists and turns that will make you question everything you think you know.

It’s too late for you. You’re dead. Those words continue to haunt Claire Cain months after she barely survived a brutal beating in Chicago. So when her father is offered a job in another state, Claire is hopeful that getting out will offer her a way to start anew.

But when she arrives in Peculiar, Missouri, Claire feels an overwhelming sense of danger, and her fears are confirmed when she discovers the body of a popular high school student in the icy woods behind the school, surrounded by the town’s feral cats. While everyone is quick to say it was an accident, Claire knows there’s more to it, and vows to learn the truth about what happened.

But the closer she gets to uncovering the mystery, the closer she also gets to realizing a frightening reality about herself and the damage she truly sustained in that Chicago alley….

Holly Schindler’s gripping story is filled with heart-stopping twists and turns that will keep readers guessing until the very last page. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

FERAL IN PW'S STARRED REVIEWS ANNUAL

This arrived in my mailbox yesterday, offering yet another reason to be thankful: my PUBLISHERS WEEKLY CHILDREN'S STARRED REVIEWS ANNUAL.  It was like getting the PW star all over again, for FERAL (featured in the YA thriller section).






To view the review in full, head to PW

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

HAPPY THANKS, TURKEYS

I've got quite a bit on my Thanksgiving plate this year...and it's not just gravy and mashed potatoes, either.  I'm up to my eyebrows in global revisions for my very first indie release.  And I'm having a blast with it.  This year, I'm thankful for new life chapters and exciting projects...

Wishing all of you a bountiful Thanksgiving!

I recently spotted these guys in a field near my house.  They took one look at me and skedaddled.

Friday, November 21, 2014

I'M BIG IN NEW ZEALAND: FERAL AND AUCKLAND LIBRARIES' TEEN SCENE

This dates me, I'm sure, but in the movie SINGLES, Matt Dillon's in this gone-nowhere band (Citizen Dick--oh, how that cracked me up in the '90s)...Anyway, when Dillon's character runs into somebody who's never heard of the band, the response is always, "Yeah, well, we're big in Japan."

I got this really cool review in my inbox yesterday from the Auckland Libraries' Teen Scene, and I've been going around everywhere saying, "Yeah, well, I'm big in New Zealand." 

~

"Claire Cain is a award winning student journalist who took a stand and told the truth to save her best friend - an act of truth and loyalty that lead to a vicious beating that almost cost her her life. Months later Claire and her father leave behind the memories of that night by moving to the small town of Peculiar, Missouri where her father will be during his sabbatical - a chance for both of them to have a fresh start. 

But in matter of days after their arrival Claire stumbles across the body of Serena Sims in the woods, her corpse surrounded by the feral cats that seem to be taking over the town.

There are spooky similarities between the two girls - the least of which is their love of journalism and the truth.  The more Claire learns about the town and the her new classmates, the more Claire realises that life in a small town can be just as complicated and twisted as the big city.  With Serena haunting her ever step, Claire is in a race against time to solve the mystery of her death.  But even in a small town there can be big secrets - secrets people are willing to kill to keep.  

Feral is a genre defying book that will keep you guessing what is coming next, skipping from genre to genre are you move from chapter to chapter - revealing the true nature of the book only in the last few pages.  Appealing as a murder mystery, as a thriller, as a mind bending look into the human soul/nature - Feral will keep you on your toes from start to finish.  A haunting and addictive read about love, loss, friendship, and hope."

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS - THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY

#WeNeedDiverseBooks has been a trending for several solid months for good reason--we do need to infuse our children's books with a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds.  A recent classroom Skype absolutely solidified this point in my mind...


I've been doing Skypes with young readers since THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY released last February; I've talked to library groups and advanced classes and reluctant readers (the reluctants are my faves).  I've also discussed the book with readers of several different racial backgrounds; an entirely African American group recently made an especially strong (actually, completely unforgettable) impact.

When the faces of this group came to life on my screen, I figured they'd immediately picked up on the fact that Auggie and Gus were African American while reading THE JUNCTION.  I was excited to hear what they'd have to say about race and the book.  Instead, the faculty member who organized the reading group told me she had to point out that Auggie and Gus were not white, as these readers had initially assumed.


We went on to discuss why I chose this particular treatment of race: Auggie has such colorful, poetic language throughout that I didn't think she'd rely on simple labels.  She'd be poetic in her descriptions of her skin color (comparing it to mud, etc.)  I also felt it was important to show Auggie living in a multi-racial neighborhood; in the book, Auggie's friends, teachers, and neighbors are white, African American, Asian, etc.  I wanted the faces in Auggie's surroundings to be every bit as varied as the faces in her sculptures.  (They'd provide some artistic inspiration for her.)

But even though we continued to have a great conversation, I have to admit, I was floored.  Their assumption about race couldn't have been based on the fact that I'm white; I don't have a photo on the jacket of THE JUNCTION.  I'll admit I generally come to a book expecting the MC to be white--primarily, I've always assumed that's because I'm white...or is it?  I'm suddenly wondering if it's not that MCs (of a wide swath of genres and age categories) are so predominantly Caucasian as well.

These students made me proud of the fact that I've chosen to depict MCs of different races (and sexes--one of the protagonists in PLAYING HURT is a male).  I'm glad I've chosen to reach beyond what is immediately familiar to me.

More than that, though, these students have also inspired me to continue painting my characters with a wide variety of brushes.  And I hope other authors are finding similar inspiration...

Friday, November 14, 2014

REAL LIFE IN MY WORK

I'm often asked what pieces of real life make it into my books.  While I've never based a character directly on a person I've known in my personal life, I do find my lifelong Missouri surroundings have become a significant part of nearly every story I've ever penned.

Specifically, water has been part of every YA I've released.  Here's a short vlog explaining why water shows up so frequently--with glimpses into my immediate surroundings.


Monday, November 10, 2014

THE RUMPUS LETTERS FOR KIDS

Does anything in this world feel quite as special or personal as an actual physical letter arriving in the mail?  I'm a big fan of the handwritten, of stationery and funky pens.  Of Christmas cards and thank-you notes that require a stamp instead of an "@" to arrive at the intended destination.

So of course I love this program.  THE RUMPUS / Letters for Kids allows your young reader (or your entire classroom of young readers, if you've got one of those) to get letters straight from MG / YA authors.  Sometimes the letters are illustrated or handwritten; often, they come with a return address so you can reply to the author.  (Becoming pen pals with an author!  How cool is that?)

This week, those in the program will get a letter from yours truly.  Auggie in THE JUNCTION collects old stuff from her grandpa's rash hauls and reinvents them; I love old stuff, too.  My office is brimming with cool thrift store / auction finds and collections: an old enamel bookstore sign, Enid Collins box bags, art...One of my favorite pieces is a '30s-era King Kong movie tie-in figurine.  Those who receive my letter will get photos of some of my crazy collections.

Be sure to get your own kids involved with THE RUMPUS / Letters for Kids program...and let me know about your own collections.  Have you been collecting since you were a kid?  Do you have an office overflowing with cool finds?


Thursday, November 6, 2014

REVISION STRATEGIES

I'm up to my eyebrows in global edits for my first indie work, which is also slated to be my first New Adult.  It hit me, as I plunged into the opening pages, that my strategy for revision changes with each book.  A few of my favorite approaches:

RETYPING

I'm such a fan of this particular strategy, I've often suggested it to writing friends who find themselves stuck.  (Admittedly, it works better if you're a good typist; I'm pretty fast, so it suits me.)  The great thing about retyping (either problematic chapters or sections or the whole manuscript) is that you have to think about every single word you put in.  Even if you're fast, you don't want to type something you don't have to...and even if you're fast, you move through the manuscript at a much slower pace.  You find yourself rewording passages as you go, rethinking what you're doing in a way you never would simply rereading passages.  I know it sounds like a massive undertaking, but it works.  Seriously.  If you just plain don't know where to take a WIP, I highly recommend printing your manuscript, opening a new file, and retyping the whole shebang.  I'd bet just a few chapters in, you'll have an "Ah-ha!" moment.

NON-LINEAR REVISIONS

I'm intrigued by non-linear writing; I've never tried it during the first-draft process, but as I've never been a fan of the first draft, I'm interested to find out if this helps to make that first run-through less of a struggle.  For revisions, this process works great if you've gotten detailed feedback--either from an agent or an editor.  I recently used this method to revise an MG; I read through the notes I received, and I attacked the scenes that interested me the most, regardless of where they appeared in the story.  Then I read through the manuscript in full, smoothing out the smaller wrinkles as I went. 

WORKING IN SECTIONS

This is a natural fit for the book I'm working on now, which is divided into four large "parts."  But it also works if you can (just for the purpose of revising) divide your book into at least three or four big chunks (think: setup, rising action, then climax and resolution).  What I'm doing is rearranging the events, developing characters, etc. in one section, finishing it up completely before even thinking about the next chunk.  It's far less stressful (and feels more manageable) to think about a single smaller portion of the story than it is to try to juggle all the pieces of an entire book all at once. 

...I'm off to get back to that WIP.  But while I'm working, what are your own favorite revision strategies?

Monday, November 3, 2014

WINTER PREDICTIONS

These guys are crawling all over my house.  I believe the old Ozarks superstition is that if woolly worms have large brown sections in the middle, you can count on a mild winter; the more black they have on the ends, the rougher the cold season.

That looks like an awful lot of black to me, actually.  I might be typing away on my AA-battery-powered Alphasmart by candlelight yet again this winter.

Dang it.

Friday, October 31, 2014

WEEK'S HIGHLIGHTS: CYBILS 2014 + WRITER'S DIGEST

Sure, it's Halloween, but there's nothing scary about this: Both THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY and FERAL have been nominated for the Cybils!  Totally made my week. 

Also, my latest post for Writer's Digest went live yesterday; leave a comment at WD for a chance to win one of my Cybils-nominated books.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

COVER REVEAL: THE SUMMER AFTER YOU & ME - JENNIFER SALVATO DOKTORSKI

I'm delighted to participate in Jennifer Salvato Doktorski's cover reveal for THE SUMMER AFTER YOU & ME.  Love the title, and MAN, is that a grab-me cover!  Gotta.  Getta.  Copy.




The Summer After You and Me
Release date:  Spring 2015, Sourcebooks Fire
By Jennifer Salvato Doktorski



On the day before Superstorm Sandy crashes into the New Jersey shore, local girl Lucy Giordano spends an intense morning with the summer boy next door, Connor Malloy. Lucy believes it’s the start of something special between her and the boy she’s been watching for years from behind sunglasses. But when Connor returns home and doesn’t call like he promised, Lucy realizes she made a big mistake—one she vows to keep a big secret. A smart girl like Lucy knew better than to cross a line that big with a player like that. She accepts that her love life is just one more thing that took a big hit from the devastating hurricane and moves on.
Now it’s the first summer after the storm, and the boy Lucy spent all winter trying to forget returns to Seaside Park with a new girlfriend, Bryn. Lucy tells herself it doesn’t matter, she’s with Andrew Clark now, her best friend who recently became more. Forget love and destiny, Lucy is more determined than ever to think with her mind, not her heart, and spend the summer hanging with her Seaside friends, working at Breakwater Burrito, and focusing on her goal of becoming a marine zoologist. But Lucy’s grand plans unravel before the first tan lines appear. When Lucy discovers her twin brother, Liam, and their parents have secrets of their own, and her rock-solid boyfriend is not-so-solid after all, she struggles to rebuild a life with the people she cares the most about in the place she loves.  

THE SUMMER AFTER YOU AND ME on Goodreads:
Where to find Jen Doktorski:
Twitter: @jdoktorski
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jendoktorski

Monday, October 27, 2014

OFF THE BEATEN PATH #HBT14


This year, in anticipation of Halloween and in celebration of FERAL, my first psychological thriller, being on the shelves, I'm participating in the Halloween Blog Trail.  I'm on the "Off the Beaten Path" Team. 

At the end of the post, you'll  find the link to the next stop on the blog crawl; at the end of the crawl, you'll be able to participate in a quiz to win books (including a signed copy of FERAL):


About FERAL:

The Lovely Bones meets Black Swan in this haunting psychological thriller with twists and turns that will make you question everything you think you know.

It’s too late for you. You’re dead. Those words continue to haunt Claire Cain months after she barely survived a brutal beating in Chicago. So when her father is offered a job in another state, Claire is hopeful that getting out will offer her a way to start anew.

But when she arrives in Peculiar, Missouri, Claire feels an overwhelming sense of danger, and her fears are confirmed when she discovers the body of a popular high school student in the icy woods behind the school, surrounded by the town’s feral cats. While everyone is quick to say it was an accident, Claire knows there’s more to it, and vows to learn the truth about what happened.

But the closer she gets to uncovering the mystery, the closer she also gets to realizing a frightening reality about herself and the damage she truly sustained in that Chicago alley….

Holly Schindler’s gripping story is filled with heart-stopping twists and turns that will keep readers guessing until the very last page.
~
If your MC went trick or treating, what would they dress up as and why?

Her old self.  What I mean: Claire’s been the victim of a horrible gang beating.  She endured that beating because she stood up for her friend, who was being wrongfully accused of something she didn’t do.  (Claire ratted out a gang member; the gang retaliated.)  Claire isn’t the same physically, and though she’s tried to convince herself she’s moved on, she hasn’t.  Not by a long shot.  She’s struggling with the resentment she feels for her friend.  She struggles with the way she looks…

Some Halloween costumes are gruesome and ugly; others are kind of wish-fulfillment (I’m thinking of the doctor or princess costumes).  If Claire could be anything for a day, I think it’d be her old, pre-beating self.  The Claire who wasn’t scarred, physically or emotionally.  

If your villain went trick or treating, what would they dress up as?

My villain is wearing quite the mask, actually.  (The villain I’m referring to is Serena’s killer.)  He’s got more than just one secret—those secrets keep the reader guessing as the book progresses…In many ways, I think he’s already dressed up, wearing a costume…

What scares the pants out of you?

Heights.  I’ve got really awful vision—20/700.  I’ve worn glasses or contacts since I was about nine, but I’ve often said I don’t think I ever had 20/20 vision—I just think I finally got to the point that the blackboard was officially too fuzzy to make out my daily handwriting assignment.  

I’ve always thought my hatred of heights stems from my rotten eyesight…I can be standing on the ground near a tall building and still get dizzy!

If you were stranded on a deserted island or haunted house, what number are you to die and how?

Okay, now, let’s be clear: I can’t be in a number to die if I’m on a truly “deserted” island.  Somebody else is there.  So this is either one of those idyllic situations where I just happen to be stranded with some Hollywood heartthrob or even one of my favorite “book boyfriends” come to life.  OR: I’m stranded with some island monster…But with 20/700 vision, I could take my glasses off, and the island monster could be Clooney’s double, for all I’d know.

…But really, I’m a sixth-generation Missourian who likes to believe she inherited the “tough stuff” gene.  Of course I’d like to believe I’d be the last man standing.  (But I’ve completely given away my weak spot…snatching my glasses would leave me open to attack!)

Would you rather be covered in slime or covered in blood?

I’m a child of the ‘80s, and I’m pretty sure we all dreamed about being slimed on YOU CAN’T DO THAT ON TELEVISION.

What magical / supernatural creature do you secretly want to be?

Wouldn’t invisibility be the best power ever?  I’ve always said that I’m grateful I’m an author during an era when I get to be a fly on the wall, listening in on the discussions regarding my work.  It’s not the easiest thing in the world to read your own blog reviews, but it’s so incredibly enlightening.  I honestly can’t imagine not doing it.  I feel like listening to my readers is part of the gig—and it’s best to listen in when I am invisible, because that way, everyone’s being completely, brutally honest.  Can you imagine what a powerful tool that would be, to be able to listen in on everyone in your personal life as well?

What is your favorite sentence / paragraph from your novel?

“What damage could a dream do anyone who wasn’t a character in a Nightmare on Elm Street  installment?”


The next stop on the crawl is Brit McGinnis (I'm heading over there myself...)
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