What if…

One of the first lessons I used to teach my students about writing is that EVERY story starts with a “what if.”  What if there was a boy who found out he was a wizard? What if there was a whole other world on the other side of a wardrobe? What if a boy found a dragon egg in the woods? (That’s Harry Potter, Narnia, and Eragon for those of you who don’t speak book quite as fluently as I do. All of which should be read post haste if you haven’t yet. Because, clearly, you aren’t spending your time correctly.)

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My book started the exact same way. With a “what if.” My “what if” just happened to strike at New York’s Museum of Natural History. My mom and I took a short trip to New York during my school’s fall break. That’s us at Central Park. While she would have rather spent the day shopping or seeing a show, I drug her to a museum. Because I’m that brand of nerd I guess. Not only do I adore museums, but I’m also one of those obnoxious people who reads all the plaques. My dad is too, so I guess I come by the obnoxiousness naturally. If you ever have a chance to visit this particular museum. Do it. If for no other reason than that the dinosaur bones displayed there are amazing.

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I have no clue what the picture below was of. Prehistoric deer? Bullwinkle’s ancient cousin?  Bambi gone bad?  For some bizarre reason I thought it was worth taking a picture in front of…  No accounting for taste.

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While I was gawking (and taking awkward pictures) with the rest of the tourists, I noticed a tiny dinosaur in a glass case off to the side. It was roughly the size of a dog, and pictured protecting a few baby dinosaurs. It immediately caught my imagination, and I snapped a picture. This picture actually.

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As I looked at that dinosaur, I wondered…what would happen if we ever developed the technology to bring these creatures back? Would we have dinosaurs as pets? Would we eat them instead of, say, a cow? Or. Would we eventually be the ones who went extinct?  Immediately, I pictured a girl running to get the mail, dinosaurs chasing her all the way.  The opening scene of Edge of Extinction- The Ark Plan was born.

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I pulled out my phone and made a note about the idea. And then, like all good ideas, I promptly forgot about it. (This, by the way is the number one rule if you want to be a writer or anything creative for that matter. When you have a good idea WRITE IT DOWN. The brain is designed to hold on to the mundane, everyday life kind of stuff. The GOOD stuff. The AMAZING IDEA stuff, slips away like my will-power around anything chocolate. So write it down! Legend has it that the idea for Harry Potter was written on a napkin! Tangent over. Sorry. Couldn’t help myself. My inner-teacher won’t shut up sometimes. I’ve tried beating her back with a stick, but she’s freakishly stubborn.)  The point is that it wasn’t until months later that I noticed that note on my phone and decided to give the story a try. No note on my phone. No story. And I would probably still be banging my head on the publishing world’s door to no avail.

As a side note, I never read the books or watched any of the movies from the Jurassic Park franchise before starting this book. I knew of the general premise, because I don’t walk around with my head in a bucket, but I didn’t know details. How I missed out on that bit of culture for 20+ years, I’m not sure. I’ll chalk it up to being a general wimp when it comes to anything remotely terrifying. My parents let me watch Dante’s Peak when I was twelve, and I still hold it against them. I also refuse to watch Jaws. I like swimming in the ocean too much.

Anyways, I didn’t watch or read anything Jurassic Park related until the book was completely finished. I didn’t want to “accidentally” steal any of the ideas. As soon as the book was done though, there was a movie marathon at my house.  For those of you wondering about the similarities. There are a few. Dinosaurs being the big one. But when I queried the novel, this was the closing paragraph of my query letter.

“The Ark Plan is a middle grade novel geared towards a male audience that would be a lot like Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park if Jurassic Park hadn’t had fences, the dinosaurs had outnumbered the people 10,000 to 1, and the human race had been the endangered species. Actually, scrap that. It’s nothing like Jurassic Park. Thank you for your consideration.”

And it worked. Because Edge of Extinction-The Ark Plan is set to be released May 10, 2016! Now go forth and write down your brilliant ideas. You owe it to yourself.

 

 

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We have a date!

It’s official!  Edge of Extinction-The Ark Plan has a publication date!  I just got word last night that it will officially be on sale as of… May 10, 2016.  I can’t even tell you how exciting it is to go from a vague “sometime next summer” to an actual honest to goodness date.  Let the countdown begin!

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The Evolution of a Cover

Book covers have always been something that fascinated me. I remember studying the covers of my favorite books as a kid, trying to decide if I agreed with how the artist portrayed a certain character or scene. Usually, I found myself slightly disappointed in the illustration, because, of course, my mind had conjured up something completely different. But as I got older, I began to realize that THAT was the point of books. To allow everyone’s imagination to create their own unique version of the story for them and them alone. The cover was there as a first impression, a colorful lure to draw you into a story that would, hopefully, take your breath away.

So imagine what it was like for me to have someone illustrating my cover. Suddenly, the characters that had been nothing but figments of my imagination for years, were going to come to life with the help of pen and ink. And to be honest, I struggled with it a bit. For one thing, when I originally wrote Edge of Extinction, it was a young adult novel. Even after I went through the countless edits to transform it into a middle grade novel, I still had a young adult cover in my head. And for those of you versed in the differences between a middle grade novel and a young adult novel, you know the covers are VERY different. Young adult covers tend to be more realistic or symbolic, think the hand and apple on the cover of Stephanie Meye’s Twilight  or the sword on the cover of Kristen Cashore’s Gracling. Middle grade is a whole different ball game. The covers usually show action scenes with lots of characters, usually depicted in a more animated fashion. Picture the cover for the very first Harry Potter book.  I had a hard time wrapping my mind around an animated cover. For one thing, the story line of Edge of Extinction is fast paced and high action, and I had this fear of someone turning my terrifying dinosaurs into something that resembled Barney’s cousin.  Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

My fabulous team at HarperCollins in all their infinite wisdom tapped an artist named Eric Deschamps to illustrate not only the cover but also the images that would eventually go inside the book. Of course, I immediately went online to stalk poor Eric to find out everything I could about him. For those of you interested in doing the same, his website is here. What I found made me a VERY happy camper. He is crazy talented, and after a fair amount of snooping, I was confident that he wouldn’t make the dinosaurs too “cute.”  A few weeks later. I got the first sketch for the cover.

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When it hit my inbox, I stared at it for a long time. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. For one, I didn’t like the use of the T. rex. No offense to the king of the dinosaurs, but I felt he was a little over done on the cover of books. If you go to Amazon and search dinosaur books, nine times out of ten, you will see this guy featured. And although he does make an appearance in Edge of Extinction, I felt he was overdone. Lets call him the Kim Kardashian of dinosaurs, shall we? Pretty to look at, but we’re all kind of sick of seeing him.

I also didn’t love the kid’s outfits. They were meant to depict the camouflage body armor worn by Sky and Shawn, but the illustration made it way to high tec.  Also,Todd never would have worn it. I sent back my comments, worried that I was going to be told that I was a first time author and should just be grateful to have a cover I didn’t have to draw myself with a box of crayons. To my infinite relief, that didn’t happen. Instead, they took all my suggestions to heart, and a few weeks later, I received this beauty in my inbox.

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Much better! All my suggestions had been implemented. From changing the look of Sky’s bow to adding Verde, Todd’s dinosaur companion, onto the bridge. And the biggest change, swapping out the T. rex for the equally terrifying Spinosaurus. Not familiar with that the Spinosaurus? You should be. He gave the T. rex a run for his money in the terrifying department. Check out this article for a few facts about this guy.  I sent back my thoughts, and a few weeks later, the finished product landed in my inbox. So here my friends, in all it’s glory, is the official cover for Edge of Extinction-The Ark Plan.

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Pretty amazing isn’t it? I thought so too. There was a happy dance performed. It was rather impressive. What I lack in talent, I make up for in enthusiasm. That should actually be my mantra in life.  But back to the fabulous cover. Eric did unbelievable work, and I still can’t believe how well everything turned out.  One more time, for those of you who liked those “Find the Six Things that are Different In the Second Picture” puzzles as a kid.

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So there you have it. The evolution of my cover. What do you think?

The creation of a cover...

And so…it begins

I have no idea how one begins their first blog post. I imagine it starts the same way I started my first novel, with an idea and this wild belief that it could turn into something more. Although, I’m really hoping that’s all this website shares with my first novel, which was a disaster on wheels that will never see the light of day. Ever.

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By the way. This is me. I always lean casually against trees for pictures. Doesn’t everyone? I’m a twenty-something in denial that I just turned thirty. After six years of teaching seventh grade English to some of the best kids on the planet, I’m taking a break to be a full-time mom and writer. I live in Zionsville, Indiana with my handsome husband Josh, my daughter London and two opinionated bulldogs.

This corner of the internet is going to be a place to document my journey as a real honest to goodness author. A title I never thought I’d actually get to claim. If I could go back and tell my twelve-year-old self this is actually happening, she’d never believe it. Well, actually she would. Twelve-year-old me was quite the dreamer, even back then. She always had her nose in a book and her head in the clouds. Her style was questionable, and her hair was down right awful. Sigh. I really liked her. But, back to this website. My hope is that it will have everything from teacher-resources to posts about my life, books (both mine and those that I love), my kids, and my bulldogs might even make an appearance. Who knows.

Side note-Please be forgiving of typos or accidental misspellings. Although I did spend six years of my life as an English teacher, I’m still painfully human. Oh, and I have a one year old. Which means time is at a premium around here. If I waste it stressing about comma placement and improper preposition usage, this website will never have anything new or interesting on it. Now that the awkward website first date is out of the way, on to the good stuff.

Laura