The Balance Keepers — The Fires of Calderon COVER REVEAL

Here’s the description:

The first book in an epic middle grade fantasy adventure series that takes place in an underground society at the center of the earth. Packed with action, humor, magic, and mystery.

After following a mysterious map into the woods and then under the woods, eleven-year-old Albert Flynn learns he’s a Balance Keeper—someone with special magical skills for fixing problems in three underground Realms at the Core of the earth. His new job is important; if the realms fall out of balance, the world above could be in great danger.

Albert and his Balance Keeper teammates Birdie and Leroy arrive in the Core not a moment too soon. There’s an Imbalance in the Calderon Realm and it’s threatening to bury Albert’s hometown of New York City in a mountain of ash.

The three must train hard completing mental and physical challenges, but above all, they must harness the power of their Tiles—unique superpowers given to each Balance Keeper. So far, Albert’s mastered the art of not mastering his Tile….

With the situation in Calderon growing worse every day, can Albert, Leroy, and Birdie restore balance before New York is destroyed forever? Will Albert master his Tile before it’s too late?

Perfect for fans of Percy Jackson, The Unwanteds, and the classic Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Sounds pretty fantastic, right? Lindsay posted the cover on her blog this morning, many of you may have already seen it, but as a friend and registered Booknerdigan I was too excited. I had to share it!

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balance keepers

It publishes September 23, 2014 from Katherine Tegen/ Harper Collins and is the first book in a trilogy.

Buy a copy:

International at The Book Depository

Go add it on Goodreads:

The Balance Keepers — The Fires of Calderon by Lindsay Cummings

Can’t wait to read my copy!

What’s Up Wednesday

WUWRocketWhat’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of Jaime or Erin’s blog.

What I’m Reading

Currently, Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier, and I am loving it as much as I loved Ruby Red (which was a whole heck of a lot)!

I will soon be reading two beautiful ARCS by awesome writer friends while also reading and making notes on a friends book. Lots of reading! Good thing I enjoy it. 😉

What I’m Writing

Mostly working on my WiP with the most ridiculous working title ever. I have written pages of notes detailing what has to happen for this book to end. It’s a lot. I have talked about my aversion to plotting many times, and I have expressed my need to discover the story through the characters, and I have talked about my obsessive nature — all that to say, I can’t actually look at the notes I made for the end of the book, but I did have to remove them from my head, organize them into something coherent, hide them from myself, and get to writing.

What Inspires Me

My Writers Workshop and Retreat for sure. The setting was glorious. The other writers were magnificent and hilarious and awesome. Nova Ren Suma is even more lovely, generous and funny than I hoped. Also, just, her talent is an embarrassment of riches. I wrote and shared pics in this blog post, if you want to see more!

Getting multiple requests in one week for my YA fantasy Redhunt. So weird. The first request was an exclusive, which I was happy to agree to. The others came shortly after, but I believe in honoring my word (If you don’t have honor, what do you have? The MC in my WiP is asking this very question right now.) and won’t fulfill the other requests until the exclusive passes. Redhunt is close to my heart. I am looking forward to seeing how everything plays out there. But even if none of these agents are the ONE, these requests have fueled my flame.

What Else I’m Up To

Oh, catching up with my kid, my husband, and the dogs after my week away. Sam has been super chatty and sweet since I got home. He didn’t seem to miss me a lick while I was away, but I suspect that was all the spoiling from Grandparents and Uncles and Daddy.

James, the puppy, was neutered yesterday. Sam was very concerned.

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If you answered my FRIENDS quote from a few weeks ago, and you would like a Cassie’s Cause t-shirt, please email me your size and your address! 

Happy Wednesday to All!

The Path to Inspiration: A Week at Djerassi

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Stay the course.

Inspire. Spark. Motivate. Encourage.

The path to inspiration — especially when it runs parallel to getting published — can seem a lot like the one above: fog laden and uneven. Inspiration is an elusive beauty at times, and then at others, everywhere but overwhelming, and finding balance can be difficult. I spent last week at the Djerassi Program for a Writers Workshop and Retreat with Nova Ren Suma where inspiration appeared in all her forms.

I arrived to San Francisco on a cool, but muggy, afternoon. The ride from the airport was enlivened by an accidental detour into a state park off HWY 280, and made extra-special because my CP Susan Crispell was in the car enjoying it with me.

Our driver, Celia, had promised the first trip into the Djerassi Program was “an experience”, and she was right. Due partly to the winding mountain road, and partly to the unshakable sensation that we were leaving normal behind and entering somewhere entirely other, we approached in hushed but blissful wonder.

View from the Barn, where I was staying.

View from the Barn, where I was staying.

Where my own search for inspiration was concerned — and I’m not even certain in what form I expected it — Djerassi and the other writers were equal sources. The setting was blessed with rolling hills, creeping fog, and stunning peeks of the Pacific Ocean. The writers were blessed with talent and kindness.

The first morning we shared our opening pages, discussing hooky first lines, what information is critical and what can really be left out, cut, or pushed back. We set the workshop schedule, and even though I wanted to cry at the thought, I also signed up to do a reading from my completed YA fantasy.

Climbing. (Courtesy Nova Ren Suma)

Climbing. (Courtesy Nova Ren Suma)

I tried to focus on the moment because I knew the moment would soon pass.

And it did, all too quickly. Before I knew it, my critique arrived, accompanied by a clear morning and shimmering blue ocean on the horizon. The response to my work-in-progress was overwhelmingly positive, and while there were suggestions of things to improve, to clarify, to expand, the resounding sentiment was they loved it.

Let me say, that can be just as hard to hear as criticism. It can be just as difficult to accept as being told you’re doing it all wrong. (By the way, I am pretty sure I am always doing it wrong, but I firmly believe it is how I must also do it if I’m to do it at all.) I left the critique in a jumble of emotion.

It took a few hours for those emotions to clear, but with clarity, came this: the story was working. The world building was making sense. The characters were (mostly) connecting. And even though I still had questions, it was worth pursuing. In my private conference with Nova, I talked through the ending of my WiP and she encouraged me to keep going in the direction I was headed. (“No, it does not sound crazy,” she said kindly. ) She also gave me pointers on how to strengthen the narrative where it was weakest.

That evening, I read aloud from my completed YA fantasy Redhunt. Reading aloud from a novel you have written is one of the most emotionally draining experiences you can have as a writer. (Yes, even more than querying, because you feel it all at once and in front of everyone.) It’s also a huge part of selling a published novel and something every author will have to face at some point. It’s hard, but it’s vital. I am glad I did it, even if I still feel exposed when I think about it.

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The focus of the retreat was writing — ours, each others, our favorite books, etc. — but it wasn’t all spent sitting at a keyboard or holding a pen. Writing is done by exploring. By talking it out, or talking through someone else’s, or staring at the ceiling for long stretches of time. A writers retreat is built on writers connecting with other writers, it is made by people giving each other time, or talking about books, or Doctor Who, or failed concepts or shelved novels. It is measured by more than word count (and I’m not just saying that because I got less done than I’d hoped to).

It is just more.

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Nova arranged for Margot Knight, the Djerassi Executive Director, to take our group on a sculpture tour of the property. Djerassi is more than a place to write — or paint, dance, compose, and generally create— it is a place unique and ever-changing, a work of art itself. A place worth getting to and exploring if you have the opportunity.

It is a place, and a time, I will never forget. Coming home with new friends and allies for the writing journey, with renewed faith, or confirmed suspicions, with new words and plans, was the very inspiration I needed.

What’s Up Wednesday plus #WriterRecharge: Retreat Style

writer-rechargeIn true mash-up fashion I will tell you what I’m up to on my retreat, in life, and in writing (which all three feel very intertwined this week) with help and inspiration from the What’s Up Wednesday* crew and #WriterRecharge.WUW7

What I’m Writing

I am writing a book. I am using all my words for this book. It is still (mostly) a first draft although because I am editing it as I go, and then abandoning editing to get more words on the page. I am trying to decide how to set my goal for this week. I want to get about 10,000 words or to a point in the MS that this one specific thing happens. Whatever I get to first/whatever I’m able to get done, I am writing and it feels promising.

What I’m Reading

This section will be boring. I am not reading much this week other than the pages we are workshopping at the retreat (just to refresh my memory) because there hasn’t been a lot of time.

What Inspires Me

Ummm…this place is stunning. The fog shrouded mountains. The lichen covered trees. The sculptures designed by world famous artists. Bah! I can’t even. I’m also having trouble getting my pictures to upload, but rest assured, there will be pictures.

This group of YA writers is truly incredible. Their talent knocks me off my feet. That in itself would be enough, but they go a step further. As women — as people — they are so kind, so encouraging, so thoughtful and diverse that I am left blushing in admiration. Conversations about process, or failures, fears or faiths, stimulate my creativity until I’m giddy.

What Else I’m Up To

See above.

#WriterRecharge Progress

I am writing and I know more about how to end this book than I did last week.

I haven’t started anything new since I’m not done with my older projects.

I still have a lot to do but I’m going to get there.

*What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of Jaime orErin’s blog.

First Time: A Writers Retreat

If you follow my blog, you may remember me mentioning over the past few months that I was doing a workshop and retreat through the Djerassi program in Northern California, taught by the incomparable Nova Ren Suma.

Those of you who don’t know me from daily life, will not know that this is the first trip I will take on my own. Ever. I am twenty-nine-years-old and until now I have only ever traveled in the company of someone else.

How is that possible?

I met my husband when I was eighteen. We were young and poor when we married. I was twenty-one, barely able to drink legally, when I began working full-time as a receptionist while my husband attended school on a full scholarship. We traveled with family for weddings. We took a road trip to the Grand Canyon. Life allowed us to experience many things together all over the country.

Fast forward five years, my husband applies for a job in New York city and for the first time in his life he’s traveling alone to interview for a tech start-up. He got that job, and together we moved to Brooklyn. As a girl from a groovy, smallish college town in Texas, moving to Brooklyn, NY was like being a house cat released into the jungle.

But still, in all my travels, I was always accompanied by someone.

This morning I sat alone in an airport full of people, tapping at keys, and I realized this trip signifies more to me than it may seem on the surface. The first trip I take on my own is one done to hone my craft. I am a writer, even if I’m not an author yet, and this is me raising my hand to say yes, I’ll go. I become. I do.

The thrill of being in Northern California, the excitement of meeting my critique partner Susan in person (and fangirl flailing in the flesh), the opportunity to talk with fellow writers about the process, to revise, write, and even finish our work-in-progress’s, and to do all of this with Nova — who is a huge inspiration to me and someone I look up to and admire — is made that much sweeter by my aloneness. There is no one holding my hand or walking me to the gate or chatting with me on the plane. It is just me, typing words 32,000 feet in the air, in a tiny seat by a foggy window.

I am never really alone, though. None of us are. Everything we do, no matter how grand or mundane, is only accomplished by the love and support of many. Many saying yes. Many taking up the slack. Many granting us grace, or a chance, or a shoulder.

When I got through security at DFW airport, I texted my husband this:

I made it through security. Alone. I am a real life grown up person now. 

I also texted my parents and Uncle because there is a part of me that will never grow up. Those three people support the woman I am even if they still remember the little girl I once was. A girl scared of skeletons and obsessed with Pollyanna, jumping from windowsills  while she reenacted the fateful scene that left her heroine paralyzed. The little girl dreaming larger than life dreams — dreams far too grand for the wispy sprite she was.

I am still that little girl who thinks she can do anything, but still want to be told that’s OK.

I’ll be posting on Twitter and on this blog when I can, sharing my adventures this week and imparting some of the knowledge I gain.

#Writer Recharge: Plug me in.

writer-recharge

From the lovely organizers:

January is in the books and you’ve had to deal with:
a) polar vortices
b) ice storms
c) mountains of snow
d) gray skies and general malaise
e) all of the above

We thought our writer friends might be in need of a little boost. A jump start, if you will.

A recharge.

We’d like to invite you to join us for Writer Recharge 2014, a month-long motivational challenge similar to last summer’s Ready. Set. Write! So many of us benefited from setting goals, connecting with other writers, and social media-based accountability. So, hey, let’s do it again! Whether you’re delighting next to the crackling fireplace of a Shiny New Idea with a warm cup of tea and a sleepy puppy at your feet or spinning out on the ice-covered roads of revisions in an attempt to avoid the snow-packed ditch, we want to write with you! What do you want to accomplish this month? Hit a daily word count? Revise a certain number of pages or chapters each week? Complete a draft by the end of the month? Let’s get this party started!

Writer Recharge 2014

Your hosts and cheerleaders: Katy UppermanAlison MillerLiz ParkerElodie Nowodazkij, and Sara Biren

The timeline:

  • First week of February: Post your goals for the month on your blog, website, or Twitter. Use the hashtag #WriterRecharge. Link your blog post on Sara’s blog.
  • Every Monday in February: Update your progress via your blog or twitter. Link your blog posts on myMonday posts.
  • Throughout the month: Use the hashtag to connect with other writers, have writing parties, and cheer one another on!
  • February 28: Post your final update via your blog or twitter.
  • Anyone who uses the hashtag or links their blog posts will be entered to win one of five query or 3-chapter critiques.

My goals:

*I’ll be in Northern California for the week of February 9 – 15 participating in a YA Novel Workshop and Retreat with Nova Ren Suma. These two writer-centric events beautifully coincide.

  • Finish my YA Fantasy WiP. I’ve been steadily building this world and story since August 2013. I need to finish the draft.
  • Finish the TV pilot I began work on in January.
  • Stop starting new ideas until the other ones are finished.
  • Title the YA Fantasy WiP because I’m tired of calling it (awkwardly) Banyan Book.