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[COVER REVEAL] Asleep from Day

I’m super-excited to reveal the cover of my debut novel, Asleep from Day. Before we get to the main event, I want to share a little about what inspired this book:

Back in the ‘90s, I came across this human interest news story that stuck with me ever since. A guy met a woman on a bus in Boston, they chatted for a few minutes, and the woman left before he could get her number. The guy was so taken with her and eager to find her, he plastered fliers all over the city with details of their brief chat (which, at one point, mentioned Kevin Bacon—insert Six Degrees joke here). Remember, this was in the 1990’s, back before Missed Connections and social media. He didn’t have online tools to help him find the woman. The fliers got so much attention, news outlets picked up the story and the guy ended up on TV talking about his search for this woman. I don’t remember if he ever tracked her down, but I was fascinated by the lengths this man went to for a woman he met for only a few minutes. It was romantic, sure, but also a little crazy and strange.

Many years later, the seeds of that story took root and grew into something different as I found my premise: What if a girl met a guy and spent a seemingly perfect day with him, then got hit by a car the next day and completely forgot him? What if, as she started to remember, she wondered if those memories were real? What if she had strange dreams and surreal experiences that made her worry she might be making him up and question her sense of reality? Add a 1990’s Boston setting and Asleep from Day was born.

It had to be the ‘90s, because technology makes it easier to find people and back then, it was easier to lose track of someone. It had to be Boston because I lived there during my college years and wanted this book to be my love poem to that city.

In terms of genre, here’s the thing: I like stories that aren’t one thing. I get more excited when a book or movie or show has layers of different genres. And I got more excited about this story when adding layers to it; I wanted it to be realistic yet surreal, romantic but twisted, with darkness and uncertainty to balance out the sweetness. It’s not psychological suspense or romance or mystery, but it has elements of all of those.

For the cover of Asleep from Day, I was hoping for something dreamy and a little strange, but still beautiful. I love the final design Terry Montimore came up with:

The Cover

ASLEEP FROM DAY_COVER_1600x2400 FINAL FULL 5.25x8_Color_COVER

About The Book

Astrid can’t remember the best day of her life: yesterday.

A traumatic car accident erases Astrid’s memories of September 9th, the day she spent with an oddly charming stranger named Theo. Ever since, she’s been haunted by surreal dreams and an urgent sense that she’s forgotten something important. One night, she gets a mysterious call from Oliver, who knows more about her than he should and claims he can help her remember. She accepts his help, even as she questions his motives and fights a strange attraction to him.

In order to find Theo and piece together that lost day in September, Astrid must navigate a maze of eccentric Boston nightlife, from the seedy corners of Chinatown to a drug-fueled Alice-in-Wonderland-themed party to a club where everyone dresses like the dead. In between headaches and nightmares, she struggles to differentiate between memory, fantasy, and reality, and starts to wonder if Theo really exists. Eventually, she’ll need to choose between continuing her search for him or following her growing feelings for Oliver. Astrid might go to extreme lengths to find what she’s lost . . . or might lose even more in her pursuit to remember (like her sanity).  

Asleep from Day will be released January 10, 2018 (paperback and ebook). Pre-order it here and add it to Goodreads.

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writing tips

And so it Begins… [How to Start a Story]

It’s probably a holdover from my school days, but I always associate autumn with beginnings. This fall in particular has been full of them: I created a new website, Facebook page, newsletter, and announced the release of my debut novel. I’m also starting this new blog, where I’ll share what I’ve learned in my professional experience as a book coach and editor along with my personal experience as a writer and avid reader.

So let’s get to it. It’s only fitting for this first post to be about story beginnings. In order to engage and retain the reader, that introductory chapter has a lot to accomplish. Some issues to consider:

The Hook
It all begins with that opening line. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up a book, read the first sentence, and set the book aside (sometimes never to return). You know what they say about second chances and first impressions. So hook ’em fast and hook ’em early. Here are a few first lines I love:

“What do you pack for the rest of your life?” (So Much for That – Lionel Shriver)
“I’m like, I don’t believe this shit.” (Story of My Life – Jay McInerney)
“I have never looked into my sister’s eyes.” (The Girls – Lori Lansens)

Granted, I prefer a shorter opening line, but length is not as important as content. What all three of these have in common is that they immediately raise my curiosity. Right away, I have questions. Why are you packing for the rest of my life? What is this shit you don’t believe? Why have you never looked into your sister’s eyes? Once I have questions, I’m going to keep reading until I get the answers. Which leads me to…

Intrigue/Conflict
“Every life is a mystery. And every story of every life is a mystery.” – Cornell Woolrich
Regardless of your genre, at its core, every story is a mystery. No matter how beautiful the prose, secrets, problems, and surprises are what keep us glued to the page. Set up tension in the opening chapter, whether internal or external (ideally both). Your story is a puzzle, so make sure the first piece you reveal makes the reader want to solve it.

Inciting Incident/Decision
This is the big one. When beginning a story, ask yourself: Why here? Why now? Why this main character (MC)? What does your MC’s life look like right now and how is it about to change? No matter what kind of story you’re writing, there needs to be a reason for why it begins where it does, a catalyst that sets the story in motion. And one of the biggest issues novelists face, especially those starting out, is not beginning the story in the right place. Sometimes it actually begins a couple of chapters in. In one manuscript evaluation I did, the story didn’t begin until 100 pages into the book. That’s when the inciting incident occurred, the turning point that shifted the MC’s everyday life and set her off on a new course. Often, this turning point is accompanied by a choice. In Gone Girl, newly unemployed Nick and Amy Dunn move from NYC to Missouri. In The Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers as tribute. In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Bennet is cajoled by his wife to visit a prospective suitor to marry off one of their daughters. All of these decisions are the first domino that knock down the rest. Find your first domino and you’ll discover where your story really begins.

Backstory
Any time you pause to offer background info, if it’s not directly related to what’s happening in your story right now, you risk slowing down the pacing. Keep it to the essentials. The reader needs to know just enough about the who and the what. You can weave in additional backstory later on, once you’ve hooked the reader.

Character Intro/Desire
In order to care about what’s happening, the reader needs to know the key players of the story. Depending on your genre, liking them is not crucial (and I’ll write a separate post about character likability at some point), but being interested and invested in them is. As with backstory, you don’t want to overdo it with personal history, but give the reader enough to get a sense of who your MC is to care about what happens to them next. And be careful about introducing too many characters early on—more than three and you’re verging on character soup territory and may make it tough for the reader to keep track. What’s more important is to know what your MC wants. What will they be in pursuit of throughout the course of the novel? Speaking of pursuit…

Action
Let’s say you want to grab the reader in the opening pages with a chase scene. You’ve got action and excitement right from the get-go; what can go wrong? Well, consider why such a scene is effective when done right: because we’re invested in the character(s) and want to see them get away (or catch whoever they’re chasing, depending on who we’re meant to root for). If we don’t know why we’re supposed to care about who’s involved in the chase and what’s at stake, chances are, we won’t. It’s fine to tease a bit of action early on, but that action requires a stronger foundation.

Dialogue
Yes, I want to hear your characters talk, but consider what they’re saying and why. Are you using dialogue to create intrigue, develop character, show emotion, and move the story forward? Great, carry on. Are you using dialogue to convey everyday life without any real conflict or personality? That’s a problem. Are you relying on dialogue for info-dumps? Also problematic (see note above about too much backstory).

Theme
What’s your story really about? What’s the connecting thread that runs through the narrative? Survival? Loss of innocence? Love/lust? Good versus evil? Alienation? Once you know the central theme, make sure your opening reflects it.

Start as You Mean to Go On
Considering all the elements necessary to balance when you begin a story, you’re likely to spend a lot of time fine-tuning that first chapter. Keep at it until you get it right. But don’t stop there. I’ve read countless manuscripts with strong openings that quickly grew lackluster. The same diligence with which you fine-tune your first chapter must be applied to all the subsequent ones. Once you hook a reader, keep them hooked up to the very last page. Write, revise, get reader feedback, revise some more, lather, rinse, repeat. It may be tough and frustrating and tedious but hey, so is being a writer. And when everything falls into place in your story, it’ll may just be sublime. So is being a writer (okay, not always… but sometimes?).