Tuesday, December 17, 2019


I am hosting a giveaway to celebrate the upcoming release of my debut YA novel, The Best Week That Never Happened. I hope you will take two seconds to enter this contest because it could not be easier, and I have lots of fun prizes to send your way!

TO ENTER: Simply mark The Best Week That Never Happened as “Want to Read” in Goodreads. That’s it! 

Bonus entry: ⇓ share this giveaway on social media and tag me ⇓

  • IG: @dallaswoodburnauthor 
  • FB: @writerdallas 
  • Twitter: @dallaswoodburn 
On December 31st, I’ll be randomly choosing 30+ winners for the following prizes:

Hand-carved wooden snowflake ornaments 

Why wooden snowflake ornaments? Here is a sneak-peek passage from The Best Week That Never Happened to explain how these beauties tie into the novel:

Crowded against the front window is a fake Christmas tree decorated top to bottom with wooden ornaments—“HAND-CRAFTED,” a sign proclaims. Trying to distract myself, I walk over and study the display. Some ornaments are smooth wooden globes, surprisingly light in my hand. Most of the globes are painted with images of Hawaii: surfers, dolphins, ocean waves.

My favorite ornaments are the wooden snowflakes, paper-thin, so delicately carved it is impossible to imagine an actual person crafting them. Maybe, despite the sign’s promise, these are machine produced. I take one in each hand and compare them. It’s clear they are different: one has six narrow points while the other is broader, like a starfish. Could it be possible each ornament is unique, like real snowflakes? That would definitely mean they are hand carved.

The bell jingles.  
I glance over.  
There he is. Kai. 

A few of my favorite YA books 

I wrote about some of these fantastic reads in my post for the “31 days of #quietYA” blog; others are perennial faves that I find myself returning to again and again. I will be giving away new copies of all of these books!

  • Emerge by Tobie Easton 
  • We Speak in Storms by Natalie Lund 
  • All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven 
  • When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore 
  • Unclaimed Baggage by Jen Doll 
  • Merged by Jim & Stephanie Kroepfl 

So what are you waiting for?? Enter and share with your friends!

TO ENTER: Simply mark The Best Week That Never Happened as “Want to Read” in Goodreads. That’s it! 

Bonus entry: ⇓ share this giveaway on social media and tag me ⇓

  • IG: @dallaswoodburnauthor 
  • FB: @writerdallas 
  • Twitter: @dallaswoodburn

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Guest Article: Are you a Plotter or a Pantser?

We’re Plotters Out of Necessity 

by Jim and Stephanie Kroepfl, authors of Merged

There’s an outgoing debate between Plotters and Pantsers. Plotters outline their manuscript prior to touching the keyboard. Pantsers write by the seat of their pants, meaning they rely on stream of consciousness to create the story. J.K. Rowling is a Plotter and Stephen King is the penultimate Pantser.

After comparing notes at writers conferences, it seems that most writers who are working on their first manuscript are Pantsers. We were, and we believe it’s an important part of the writer’s journey. A new writer needs to discover the joy of watching the characters come to life, and be astounded at the unexpected flashes of brilliance. The thought of first plotting every chapter would intimidate many new writers to the point where they’d give up before even starting.

As Pantsers, we threw away months of work because the story took interesting turns, but not ones which necessarily drove the story forward. But, this writing helped hone our craft. In Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell discovered that what the best-of-the-best have in common is they’ve achieved ten thousand hours of experience. We consider all those deleted pages as our path toward ten thousand hours of writing.

Now, we’re Plotters. We have a large corkboard hanging on the wall, and we use index cards. One card per chapter or scene. We start out with white cards, and after we’ve written the first draft for that chapter, we change the card to a color. It tracks our progress, and provides a sense of accomplishment. Most of our cards only contain ten to fifteen words, just enough to jog our memory about what is supposed to happen in that scene. This method keeps our story on track, but isn’t so binding that we lose the inspiration. It also helps in pacing and recognizing a sagging middle.

Also, since we write together, being Plotters is a necessity. Since we divide the work, we have to be in agreement as to what needs to happen when, and importantly, how the story is supposed to end. It also keeps the dreaded writer’s block at bay. We grab a card, lay it by our computers, and that’s our homework for the day.

Our young adult science fiction novel Merged is being released on September 17, 2019 by Month9Books. Visit us at www.jimandstephbooks.com.

About Merged:

Seven of our country’s most gifted teens will become Nobels, hosts for the implantation of brilliant Mentor minds, in an effort to accelerate human progress. But as the line between what’s possible and what’s right, draws ever blurrier, the teens discover everything has a cost.

Scientists have created an evolved form of living known as Merged Consciousness, and 16-year-old Lake finds herself unable to merge with her Mentor. Lake, the Nobel for Chemistry and Orfyn, the Nobel for Art, are two from among the inaugural class of Nobels, and with the best intent and motivation.

But when Stryker, the Nobel for Peace, makes them question the motivation of the scientists behind the program, their world begins to unravel. As the Nobels work to uncover the dark secrets of the program’s origins, everyone's a suspect and no one can be trusted, not even the other Nobels. As the Mentors begin to take over the bodies and minds of the Nobels, Lake and Orfyn must find a way to regain control before they lose all semblance or memory of their former selves.

Click here to order your copy!

Monday, July 15, 2019

Interview with Hope Bolinger, author of BLAZE

You might remember Hope from this interview back in 2016, about her poem "Her Eyes Breathe Life" that was published in Dancing With The Pen II. I was thrilled when Hope contacted me to share news about the publication of her debut novel, BLAZE, this summer (IlluminateYA, an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas). Wow!

In the years since Dancing With The Pen II was published, Hope graduated from the professional writing program of Taylor University and become a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. More than 300 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hopes' Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 2,700+ readers weekly.

I asked Hope if she would come on the blog to share her journey to publication and answer a few questions, and she generously agreed to do so.

Here is a summary of her debut novel:

If you can't stand the heat, don't walk into the fire.

Danny knew his sophomore year would be stressful . . . but he didn’t expect his school to burn down on the first day.

To make matters worse, he — and his three best friends —receive an email in their inboxes from the principal of their rival, King’s Academy, offering full-rides to attend the town's prestigious boarding school. Danny wants nothing to do with King’s Academy and says no. Of course his mother says yes. So off he goes to be bullied and picked on for not being part of the popular and rich "in crowd."

From day one at King’s, Danny encounters hazing, mocking insults from girls at the "popular and pretty" table, and cafeteria food that, for such a prestigious school, tastes as if it were purchased from a military surplus supply warehouse. If he survives, Danny will have to overcome his fears of failure, rejection, and loneliness—all while standing strong in his beliefs and walking into the fire.

What would you like readers to know about you as an introduction? 

Hi, everyone! I'm a 22-year-old literary agent and a soon-to-be-published novelist. More than 300 of my works have been featured in various publications from Writer's Digest to Crosswalk. I'm fresh out of college and am a bit of a pyromaniac and chocoholic.

Take us through your writing process when you were drafting your novel. 

Blaze was honestly a bit of a blur. That summer I was working four jobs and taking two college classes, was the maid of honor in my sister's wedding, and I was dealing with my parent's divorce that summer, but I wanted to get this book done in time to pitch it at the for the Maranatha Conference. You can't pitch a fiction project unless it's all complete. I wrote it in about 45 days. I tried to outline the book in 3 acts, 27 chapters (so 9 per act), and had a basic chapter outline. But, as usual, the characters had a little mind of their own and fought me the whole way through the writing process.

What do you enjoy most about writing? 

Everything. Some days are harder than others. Sometimes you just sit and 5,000 words flow from your fingertips, and others, you struggle to get 500. But I absolutely love all of it. You feel some sort of ecstasy. I've never been in love, but I have an inkling the sensation is familiar.

What was the journey to publication like for you? 

Oh, wow. What a question. I'll try to set up a timeline from when I started writing to now.

  • 2013 - I began writing novels around the age of 16. 
  • 2014 - I picked up a job at a magazine and tried to query to agents and publishers. 
  • 2015 - Frustrated with no results, I self-published my novel "Unmasked" my senior year of high school and joined the professional writing major at Taylor University to learn all about publishing. 
  • 2016 - I picked up a job at a newspaper and pitched to an agent at a conference. Although interested, he turned me down. I co-wrote a WWII Veteran's memoir, published by Taylor University Press. 
  • 2017 - I picked up jobs at publishing houses and working for that literary agent who turned me down. He referred me to another agent, and she picked me up. That summer, I wrote Blaze and pitched it at a conference in September. The publisher told me to send along my materials. 
  • Late 2017-Early 2018 - The book went through multiple rounds at pub board. They liked the concept but wanted a number of edits before they'd proceed with it. 
  • May 2018 - The publishing company offered a book contract. I started working as a literary agent. 
  • February 2019 - I graduated Taylor University summa cum laude. 
  •  June 2019 - My first traditionally published book, Blaze, came out. 
It's been a wild journey. I know 2013-2019 from just starting to getting published may or may not sound like a lot of time. I promise I was hard at work all those years, penning dozens of books. It just takes a long time. The industry is glacial.

What surprised you the most about the publishing process? 

I think platform surprised me. More and more publishers want you to have a social media presence. I grew my platform from 2K to almost 18K in a year for this book launch alone. Publishers want you to pick up most of the marketing work. You can't just get by with an excellent book nowadays. They just have too many authors submitting them manuscripts, so they can be a little picky and choose the ones they know will bring in business.

In addition to being an author yourself, you are also a successful literary agent. Do you have any advice for other writers who dream of being published? 

Of course. Do not ever give up. Almost every point on that timeline, I wanted to throw in the towel. My family and friends wouldn't let me. This industry is cutthroat, tough, and any author is an underdog, even if they've sold millions of copies. Keep writing anyway. You have something important to say, and the world needs to hear it.

Can you share a few of your favorite books or authors? 

Sure! Good ol' JK Rowling, C.S. Lewis, Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, and F. Scott Fitzgerald top my lists. I love the Classics.

What inspires you? 

So many things. As for book ideas, I usually think, "What situation would I never want to end up in?" And then I toss a character in it. I think a great deal of injustice and topics people don't want to address ignite a fire in my bones. The Blaze trilogy addresses anything from corrupt administrations, mental health, school shootings, and loads of other hard topics that we don't want to confront. I want us to tackle them head-on. If we don't, how can we ever formulate a solution to these problems?

What are you working on now? What’s next for you? 

Oh goodness, a dangerous question. So many things: I already have Book Two done, and as soon as my publisher gives me the green light, I'll start Book Three (already outlined). My agent also has three of my YA books, a couple of children's books, and a few other projects on query. I'm always working on something. On the non-author front, I need a job. I'm working seven part-time positions at the moment and have about six years of industry experience. Fun as that sounds, I'd love something a bit more consistent. I've applied to 150+ jobs, but no luck yet.

Anything else you’d like to add? 

If you like boarding school dramas and lots of fire, I'd love if you'd give Blaze a look. And please don't ever give up. The world can always use a little of you and your writing. It takes a lot of hard work and sleepless nights, but you'll get there. I promise.

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us, Hope!

Connect with Hope at the following links:

Blaze Extras: