YA Scavenger Hunt 2016

Welcome to the YA Scavenger Hunt!
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There are nine puzzle contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! The contest is live between March 29 and April 3.
Read the exclusive content offered by all the contestants, add up the clues, and enter for our grand prize: one lucky winner will receive one book from each author in my team! 

I am part of the PINK TEAM.

If you want to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and the full list of prizes up for grabs, at the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE

 
Directions: I’ve hidden my favorite number further down this page. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the PINK TEAM, and then add them up. Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the entry form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally! Anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by APRIL 3, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.


SCAVENGER HUNT GUEST

I am excited to host MICHELLE K. PICKETT  for the YA Scavenger Hunt!

Michelle K Pickett

I’m an award-winning YA and NA author… but, really? I’m just a wife, mom, reader, writer, and bibliophile. I have an irrational fear of garden gnomes, and I love M&Ms (especially peanut butter).

Find out more by checking out the author website or find more about the author’s book further down in this post! Michelle also hosts a giveaway of her own, and you can win an ebook from her if you visit her website.

EXCLUSIVE #YASH CONTENT FROM MICHELLE! 
Do you ever wonder how covers are made? Read on to find out how the cover for her most recent novel came about – and read an exclusive excerpt from the book!

 

MilaynaCoverNovelist

A gritty but hopeful love story about two struggling teens—great for fans of The Spectacular Now, Willow, and Eleanor and Park.

Tyler has a football scholarship to Stanford, a hot girlfriend, and a reliable army of friends to party with. Then his mom kills herself. And Tyler lets it all go. Now he needs to dodge what his dad is offering (verbal tirades and abuse) and earn what his dad isn’t (money). Tyler finds a job that crashes him into Jordyn, his former childhood friend turned angry-loner goth-girl. She brings Tyler an unexpected reprieve from the never-ending pity party his life has become. How could he not fall for her? But with his dad more brutally unpredictable than ever, Tyler knows he can’t risk bringing Jordyn too deeply into the chaos. So when violence rocks his world again, will it be Jordyn who shows him the way to a hopeful future? Or after everything, will Tyler have to find it in himself?

The many faces of Milayna

If you’ve visited my blog, you probably already know that I get excited about cover art. I like searching for images that fit my story, laying out the cover, and experimenting with fonts. I often make mock-ups (although they tend to suck) of covers while I’m writing. I keep them by my desk as inspiration, because a good cover can evoke so many feelings.

So far I’ve been lucky to work with publishers that give the author a lot of input when it come to their covers. And because I often have readers ask me about cover art, I thought I’d take you through the process of selecting the final cover for Milayna.

I really liked the first cover for Milayna. It was cute and the model fit my idea of what Milayna looked like. The problem was, it was too cute. 100% of early polls regarding the cover showed that readers thought it was a sweet, teen romance.

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Well, yes and no.

There is a romance element, and yes, it plays a large role. But it isn’t just a romance. And it definitely wasn’t always a “sweet” or “cutesy” romance.

So we scratched the first cover and started again.

As I was looking through mock-ups looking for ideas for the second cover, I came across Covers by Robin on Deviantart.com (awesome site for ideas, by the way). And fell in love with one of the mock-ups she had in her portfolio. We worked together to come up with a similar cover for Milayna. We took out all the cutesy elements and tried to add in some mystery. And I love the cover that we came up with…

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There was only one problem. Everyone who saw that cover thought the book was sci/fi. I even had a few people ask if it was about aliens.

Back to the drawing board.

By this time, I had signed with Clean Teen Publishing to publish the Milayna trilogy. Their cover designer, Marya (pronounced Mariah) Heiman, had her own idea of how the cover should look. She and I started searching for a model that would fit the physical description of Milayna. She found one that would work for the cover of the first book… but there were also additional poses of the same model. So we could use her for the remaining books in the trilogy.

I’m pleased with how the final Milayna cover turned out…

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Look closely in the model’s eye. It’s hard to see, but Marya added a set of wings in her eye. It’s much easier to see on the paperback… and it’s awesome!

And here are the three covers of the trilogy side by side…

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Excerpt: Freak

Seven weeks, five days until my birthday…

I’m a freak. There’s no other explanation for what’s happening to me.

Lying on my back across my bed, looking up at the ceiling, I stared at the posters taped there. I’d gone home right after swim practice, not even waiting for Muriel like usual. Staying wasn’t an option, though. She’d ask questions about what happened with Miranda, and I didn’t know what to tell her. How could I explain what happened when I didn’t understand it myself?

I turned over and looked out of the window with a sigh. Part of me needed— wanted—to talk to someone. Muriel seemed like the logical choice. She was my best friend, after all. She was family. Or I could’ve talked with my parents. We’d always been open with each other. I got along with them fine, as far as parents go. But I didn’t want any of them to know.

I’m a freak. That’s all there is to it. And I want to keep my freakishness a secret.

The doorbell chimed, and I rolled off the bed. It was Muriel. I knew she’d come looking for me when I didn’t wait for her after swim practice. I walked down the hall toward the stairway but stopped short at the corner of the stairs, skidding on the hardwood floor. It wasn’t Muriel’s voice I heard but my aunt’s. And she was talking about me to my mother. I held my breath and strained to listen to their quiet voices.

“Muriel thinks it’s started. She says Milayna’s showing signs.”

“She hasn’t said anything to us,” my mom answered.

“It’s only been a few days, but Muriel is pretty sure. She’s almost positive Milayna’s had some sightings.”

Sightings? What does she mean? Visions?

I adjusted my weight to my other leg, and the floorboard creaked. They heard and changed the subject. My mom and aunt stopped talking and looked at me when I bounded down the stairs. A frown pulled at my mom’s lips, and the skin between her eyes wrinkled.

“What’s started?” I looked between them.

My mom wouldn’t look at me. “Oh, um, Mrs. Haggarty is complaining that Muriel’s dog is digging up her flower bulbs again. You know how she is.”

Yeah, and you’re lying to me.

“Oh.” I looked at my aunt and smiled. “Hi. Where’s Muriel?”

She smiled, but her lips quivered at the sides. She was so faking it. “She’s doing homework. She said to tell you she’d call later.”

“Okay.” I looked between them one more time before I wandered into the kitchen to help my dad make dinner. He was silent, and that put me even more on edge. He usually never shut up when we made dinner together. His silence was like a scream telling me that something was wrong. Whatever my mom and aunt were talking about, he was in on the secret.

And it definitely wasn’t about Muriel’s dog.

*****

Muriel called just after dinner. “Hey,” I mumbled.

“Whatcha doin’?” she chirped, and I cringed. I wasn’t in the mood for bubbly.

“I’m finishing my English homework.” I drummed my fingers and waited for the inevitable questioning to begin. It didn’t take long.

“What was up in swim practice today? You almost pushed that guy right into the pool.” She laughed. It was too high and too loud. So fake.

“Yeah, well, he deserved it.” The scene replayed in my head. “He was a tool who was going to undo Miranda’s swimsuit.”

Why did I just tell her that?

“Really? How’d ya know?” She sounded skeptical, and I knew I’d said too much.

“I heard one of the other guys dare him.” I doodled on my notebook and tried to sound bored.

“How? You weren’t close enough to hear him. Besides, if you heard them, Miranda would’ve heard it too.”

“Miranda was busy putting her swim cap on. She wasn’t paying attention,” I said with an exasperated sigh. “And what’s with all the questions and watching everything I do?”

I pushed too hard on my paper and broke my pencil lead. “Nothing.” The word hung between us like a brick.

Something was happening to me. Something very strange. Even more strange was that my family seemed to know what it was, but they didn’t want to tell me.

I’m a freak.

***

Don’t forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of books by me, Michelle K. Pickett, and more! To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 13. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the PINK TEAM and you’ll have the secret code to enter for the grand prize!

CONTINUE THE HUNT
 
To keep going on your quest, you need to check out the next author, STEPHANIE KEYES!

Before you leave, don’t forget to enter my own Rafflecopter giveaway (opens in new window) where you can win a signed paperback of my most recent release, FJORD BLUE, plus book swag and LoveHearts!

 

The Call of the Wildly Unpronounceable but Authentic Name

Rooting a contemporary story in an actual place is something that is important to me, as I’m a firm believer in using reality to give stories the authentic details that make the readers invest in the story they’re reading. I think, for instance, that I wasn’t authentic enough in my debut, where I just placed the setting somewhere in Northern Norway (which is also a vague term). In everything I’ve written since that book, though, I’ve used authentic names, place names, street names and so on as much as I can. This may cause some pronunciation problems, but it also means that dedicated readers will be able to walk in the footsteps of my characters through Google Maps and such, or maybe even travel there if they want. I love that idea!

I realize that not all readers like to face a vast number of unfamiliar names and places that come from a different language. I still want to challenge my readers on this topic, because I truly believe that authenticity in as many aspects as possible enhances the impact of a story, making it feel more real and genuine. I went all in on this when I wrote FJORD BLUE. How do you pronounce Sognefjorden? The name Eindride? Or Arnljot (which can be a mouthful in Norwegian too)? I think not knowing, and perhaps making up your own way of saying the names, make you more invested in the plot.

Using an authentic setting can be a very effective tool in the development of a story and to make the impact all the stronger. Now, there are thousands of fjords in Norway, and not all of them are spectacular (says the writer who lives on the shores of one such fjord!). The fjord where my novel is set, though, is a stunner of the kind that leaves visitors – from Norway too – speechless. This meant that I really had to make an effort not to fall into the trap of describing nature all the time, sounding like a tourist brochure or a travel magazine instead of focusing on character development. Nature is a backdrop, not the main character – but, of course, the surroundings can play an important part in a story. In the case of FJORD BLUE, the isolation, the tranquility and the contrast to his home environment help change the main character’s views on many issues – not because his surroundings are so spectacular but because the contrast to home gives him the opportunity to focus on deeper personal issues. As such, the setting works to enhance the plot rather than interfere with it. (And honestly, how much time would a grumpy teen afford on being overwhelmed by a beautiful blue fjord anyway? An important secondary character in that book has fjord blue eyes, though – hence the title!)

In the end, I couldn’t resist letting my characters visit one popular tourist spot that I was very fascinated by myself: the famous cliff called Trolltunga (the Troll’s Tongue). Walking the trail would be too easy, I thought, since it’s “just” a 12-hour round trip on foot, so in the novel, I make them take a climbing route to up the challenge a bit. I’m scared of heights, so I let my fictional characters do something I didn’t dare. Only, I did dare after I had written the book! In the summer of 2015, when FJORD BLUE was in the final stages of editing with my publisher, I walked and climbed in the footsteps of my own characters. I definitely learned something new about myself on that trip, and it made me understand the characters I had created even better – strange as that may sound!

Sometimes, though, authenticity changes. It can be something simple, like a ferry route closing because a bridge is built in its place, or a shop shutting its doors. None of this should be important to a reader enjoying the story – because the story drives the plot, not the closed shop or the house you made up. When it comes to Trolltunga, authenticity took an unexpectedly dark turn. In my book, the guide calms the nervous characters by telling them that despite thousands and thousands of tourists visiting every year, no one has ever fallen off the ledge (there’s a fatal 200-meter drop if you do). That was true at the time of writing the book. It was also true when I climbed up there. Tragically, a young Australian tourist fell off the Troll’s Tongue in the late summer of 2015. Her death was a stark reminder that nature can be a very dangerous place, and that the call of the wild comes with risks.

Would I still tell you to go to this place if you ever get a chance to visit Norway? Yes. Not because of the thrill of it or the danger, but for the most indescribable feeling that the trip gives you of being alive, of being strong, of being at the mercy of something greater than yourself, and still feeling completely at ease. I think those feelings are similar to being immersed in a good book, and if I can add to such awareness with my own works, through the authentic use of names and places, and the unique but still universal experiences of my characters, I would feel accomplished indeed.

PS: For those who are extra curious to know the authentic way of pronouncing the many Norwegian names used in FJORD BLUE, I have already made a post dedicated to this, with sound clips!

This is a slightly revised version of a guest blog post I made for MyFictionNook.

 

Fjord Blue RELEASE DAY + Pronunciation Guide

It’s March 10th! My second book is out in the wild!

I celebrate with candy and cinnamon buns – and a very busy day at work. Yes, every day life goes on… but with a little extra fanfare today 🙂

As a bonus to my readers, I’ve made a pronunciation guide in the form of sound files of the Norwegian names used. I love reading books set in places where I have to guess the pronunciation of names, and I often google the correct ways of saying particular names, so I hope you enjoy this crash course in the authentic pronunciation of FJORD BLUE names:

PS.
Norway is a country with hundreds of dialects. Names are therefore pronounced slightly different depending on where in the country you are. The male speaker in the sound clips above is from Western Norway, so his pronunciation would be fairly accurate for the general area the novel is set in. I read the women’s names in my dialect, and dialect aficionados would be able to tell that I’m not from the same area as the male speaker. If you’re not familiar with Norwegian, the difference is so small you won’t notice, though!

Also, all the Norwegian bits of dialogue in FJORD BLUE are in a local dialect, so if you get the urge to check the exact meaning on Google Translate, you’ll only get gibberish 🙂