#NaNoWriMo Begins/My November #YABBootcamp Goals!

Participant-2014-Web-BannerYep, that’s me!

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m particpating in NaNoWriMo this year with the intention of finally winning. I write books pretty fast it’s just that for some reason or another writing a book in one month, particularly November, never seems to work out for me.

I wasn’t sure I was going to do NaNoWriMo. I went on a writing hiatus earlier this fall and though I’ve written a few short stories and chapters, I’ve pretty much still been on that hiatus, or in that funk I suppose. I had started about three manuscripts and stopped writing all of them not to mention my computer crashed so while I still have most of my writing I lost a lot of other things that put me behind academically and in terms of my fiction writing (I would be the one to back up most my manuscripts but not my essays, LOL).

However, toward the end of October I was like this is going to change. I started using all the resources I’ve ever found helpful to plot the story but most of all to figure out who the characters are, what are their goals, their motivations. Plot wasn’t as important as I’m pretty good with plot to the point where I sometimes create great plots that lead the characters rather than the other way around. I also worked on setting, Pinterest was a great resource for that:

Follow Patrice’s board HEIRS OF FIRE AND ICE on Pinterest.

And in the end, I came up with two characters who have been in my head for a long time. However, now, I don’t just know their names, I know who they are as people, what they want and what they’re willing to do to get it.

That led me to this:

And in honor of accountability, getting my groove back, and of course my fellow YAB Bootcamp writers who have always been there to cheer me on, here’s a bit more about my WIP that’s, for now, titled HEIRS OF FIRE AND ICE:

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king (or queen).”

-JRR Tolkien, LOTR

Told in dual POV, HEIRS OF FIRE AND ICE is the story of two young women, Zahra, a trader of items of questionable means, and Aaliyah, a princess without a crown. Set in a land where magic is strictly forbidden these two young women are forced together by unforeseen circumstances and must journey to uncover their mysteriously linked pasts and save their empire.

Vague, I know. I’m working on it. The world is based on this lost city and other medieval African civilizations, but it also includes elements of cyberpunk, mystery, and, of course, romance because genre-bending is what I do best. The story was inspired by my love for Avatar: The Last Airbender (TV series always) and Star Wars, but I believe it should appeal to fans of Malinda Lo’s Huntress and The Fire Wish by Amber Lough, two other (amazing) dual POV (diverse) YA Fantasies (I really like comp titles, LOL).

  • Genre: YA Fantasy with a Sci-Fi twist

My goal is just to keep frontloading and write as much as I can every day so that hopefully toward the end of the month, when life gets busier (e.g. finals) I’m already ahead & ready to win NaNo!

Also, if you’re in need of a little pep (talk):

It truly brought me to tears (then again, a lot of things do, I’m an emotional person but that’s how I know something resonated with me)

Good luck fellow writers whether you’re NaNoing or not! But, if you are, share a bit about your story below!! Also, my NaNoWriMo username is whimsicallyours if you want to connect.

Whimsically Yours,

PnC

October Wrap-Up (New Books, Adventures, and Getting Organized)

Hello Readers! Better yet, HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

October has been such a wild/crazy/rough/exhausting blur of a month, so while I can’t say I’m sad to see it go I’m not thrilled either as a lot of great things happened.

For instance…

I bought & read some amazing books (epic poem in the case of Paradise Lost):*

booksoctober*Reviews to come (minus Paradise Lost–I did report (i.e. a paper) on that for class). Not pictured are my hardbacks of FALLING INTO PLACE & MIDNIGHT THIEF, I ordered them to my mom’s house in TX.

Which was unfortunate because:

amyandcammieeventCammie McGovern and Amy Zhang came to the Wellesley Bookstore on October 24th! And my copies of their books were at home :(

Which was only made better because:

colsonwhiteheadwellelseyColson Whitehead came to Wellesley and I was able to buy Zone One and have him sign it (it’s my first zombie book)!!!

I also traveled to NYC and went to the Strand bookstore (18 miles of books!) where I picked up this wonderful item:

photo 3 (1)I’ll just leave this here for your amusement.

Then I volunteered at the Boston Book Festival:


photo 5 (1)

And crossed an item off my bucket list (not that I actually have one):

Oh, and me and some fellow students won money from our college government (voted on by the student body) to start a series of monthly “Guerrilla Art” workshops, for students by students.

I hear the first one might be creative writing!

But best of all…

photo 3 (2)I got to spend lots of time with friends doing things such as being super artsy by take photos of photos of us inside a picture frame that we took with a Polaroid camera.

And…

photo 2I got my life back on track i.e. my master to-do list is complete *claps* *cheers* It took me all week but at least I decided to not pull that all-nighter–see below.

Also, if you haven’t seen the We Need Diverse Books* campaign video yet, you need to. 

Indiegogo Campaign Page | Website | Twitter | Tumblr

Happy Halloween (Be safe & have fun)!

hocuspocusI assume they need no introduction but just in case.

*I am not at all affiliated with the WNDB campaign, so it’s not my job to endorse them I just think what they’re doing is really great!

See you tomorrow for the reveal of my NaNoWriMo project and other such fun!!

Whimsically Yours,

PnC

Interview with Mary Elizabeth Summer, Author of TRUST ME, I’M LYING

Good Morning, Readers! Today I have the talented Mary Elizabeth Summer to talk about her debut YA novel, Trust Me, I’m Lying (October 14, 2014 from Delacorte Press)! But first, here’s a bit about the book:

trustmeimlyingJulep Dupree tells lies. A lot of them. She’s a con artist, a master of disguise, and a sophomore at Chicago’s swanky St. Agatha High, where her father, an old-school grifter with a weakness for the ponies, sends her to so she can learn to mingle with the upper crust. For extra spending money Julep doesn’t rely on her dad—she runs petty scams for her classmates while dodging the dean of students and maintaining an A+ (okay, A-) average.

But when she comes home one day to a ransacked apartment and her father gone, Julep’s carefully laid plans for an expenses-paid golden ticket to Yale start to unravel. Even with help from St. Agatha’s resident Prince Charming, Tyler Richland, and her loyal hacker sidekick, Sam, Julep struggles to trace her dad’s trail of clues through a maze of creepy stalkers, hit attempts, family secrets, and worse, the threat of foster care. With everything she has at stake, Julep’s in way over her head . . . but that’s not going to stop her from using every trick in the book to find her dad before his mark finds her. Because that would be criminal.

Add Trust Me, I’m Lying to your Goodreads to-reads!

I’m currently reading it for the SECOND time. Trust me, you want this book! Without further ado, the interview…

maryelizabethsummerHi, Mary Elizabeth! Welcome to Whimsically Yours!!
 
Thank you so much for having me! My name is Mary Elizabeth Summer, and I’m a newbie author with a day job, a kid, a wife, a dog, and an evil overlord (her name is Smidgeon). I like sriracha sauce. A lot. My book’s name is Trust Me, I’m Lying, and it’s about a teenage con artist who has to lie, cheat, and blow stuff up to find her kidnapped dad. We’re both very pleased to meet you.
 
I’m glad you’re here! TRUST ME, I’M LYING has some great world & character building. I’m always impressed when authors take a topic I would think most people know nothing about and become almost experts in order to write the book. I hear you’re a pretty big Leverage fan (me, too!). I’m guessing it was a partial inspiration for TRUST ME, I’M LYING. Were there any other TV shows, books, and movies that inspired you to write the story or that were used as research? 
 
OMG YES. You’d be amazed what you can learn from books–books that should know better than to teach any old person how to make fake IDs, for example. While researching this story, I read The Art of the Steal100 Ways to Win a 10-Spot, and Secrets of a Back Alley ID Man. I watched Leverage (as you mentioned), as well as The StingWhite Collar, and The Brothers Bloom. I had, of course, also seen The Italian JobOcean’s 11, The Usual Suspects, Catch Me If You Can, and so many more heist movies over the years. And there are loads more I still want to watch, like Paper Moon, A Fish Called Wanda, and American Hustle, to name a few. Plus, I Googled the heck out of famous con men and their scams. *hearts the Internet*
 
That sounds like so much fun *grins* This blog has a lot of teen followers, partially because I started this when I was a teen, so I was wondering if you could give a bit of advice to teens who like to write and/or your younger self?
 
Hmm. Well, one thing that this particular novel taught me is that there is no one right way to do anything–both in writing and in life. Don’t paralyze yourself with worry about doing the “right” thing. Just start where you are and do what you can and keep doing it until you’re done. If you have the skills already, use them. If you don’t have the skills you need, acquire them. Stop putting off your dreams. You have all the time in the world as long as you keep using it. You have all the inspiration you need as long as you keep generating it. The talent you have, the things you accomplish, start and end with you. You already have you, so what are you waiting for? To be older? To be ready? That’s malarkey. You’re ready now.
 
I love that advice–words to live by! If you could be any character from a book, movie, play, or musical who would it be and why?
 
Yikes. That’s a loaded question. All the characters I love go through such tortures…. I guess I’d pick Troy Horan from Catseye by Andre Norton. He could talk telepathically with animals, which, awesome. And Hunter Rerne as a BFF? Yes, please!
 
Haha, great! Coffee or tea?
 
Both! Though I prefer herbal teas, which aren’t technically tea, soooo…coffee!
 
I’m with you on those herbal teas. How about a fun fact about yourself most people don’t know?
 
I was raised by psychics. My dad worked in the Army Intelligence Remote Viewing unit (project Stargate) in the 80s/90s, and my mom has some unusual gifts as well.
 
WOW. Now that’s fun! Can you name a recently released book (or books…I know picking one can be hard) you read & adored.
 
SO many of the debut books coming out this year are outstanding. Keeping it to less than fifty is going to be hard. Standouts for me are: BEYOND OUR STARS by Marie Langager, ILLUSIVE by Emily Lloyd-Jones, SING SWEET NIGHTINGALE by Erica Cameron, GIRL FROM THE WELL by Rin Chupeco, and THE SECRET SIDE OF EMPTY by Maria E. Andreu.
 
I have read those & loved them all!! (If you haven’t go now!) If you had a Patronus what would it be?
 
Let’s be honest. We’d all have the same Patronus. #bookworm
 
LOL. That’s true. If there was any place you could travel to right now where would it be?
 
Chicago. Trust Me, I’m Lying is set there, but I’ve never been. I’d really love to see all the places I wrote into the book, like Cafe Ballou, Meigs Field, and St. Ignatius College Prep (the school I [loosely] based St. Agatha’s on).
 
That must’ve taken a ton of research! Can you tell us a bit about the story you’re currently working on?
 
I’m currently copyediting the second book in the Trust Me series. It’s title is… (and this is an EXCLUSIVE REVEAL, people, as in YOU READ IT HERE FIRST)  …drumroll please…  Trust Me, I’m Trouble. In it, our beloved Julep Dupree gets sucked into even more shenanigans as she’s dealing with fallout from the first book. I can’t tell you much, but I will say that, in this book, she has to go up against another grifter…and I’m still not quite sure she’s good enough to win.
 
Trust Me, I’m Trouble. LOVE that title…now if only it was out now ;) Thank you so much for answering my questions, Mary Elizabeth! Any last words?
 
You, me, and 63. ;-)
Haha, thank you so much, Mary Elizabeth!! I really enjoyed this interview.
Mary Elizabeth Summer can be found online at:
I’ll be posting my review of TRUST ME, I’M LYING sometime next week! Your comments are always welcome below :D
Whimsically Yours,
PnC

#FallWritingBootcamp Update!! (& some writing resources)

fallbootcamp

 

Good morning!! All of you look particularly beautiful today. What can I say, I’m in a great mood. I’ve finally beat *most* of the sickness I’ve had for the past week and a half, so now I can go back to important things like tweeting, blogging, reading, and, oh yeah, catching up on homework (yikes!!).

But, you know what I actually didn’t stop doing while I was sick? Writing. And even though I only wrote one short story and one (partial) scene from my WIP. I did it and that’s pretty darn amazing.

photo (20)

 

Just in case you don’t believe me, here’s my calendar (of course, I suppose I could’ve rigged that too).

My writing goals, for the most part, have been pretty simple.

  • Write 500 words a day
  • Write a short story a week

The butterflies represent big things accomplished. The first is when I wrote a couple chapters for various WIPs. The second is me finishing a short story (which is spooktacularly amazing). Guys, writing short stories is hard work. I deserved that butterfly.

See, hard work. (I’m one of those weirdos who doesn’t find novels hard but short stories, like what do I even write about. However, I like a good challenge so that’s what this has been.)

And the little stars are for me completing my 500 word a day goal. But, as you can see, I didn’t do much writing other than that (blame the plague I had).

What the calendar doesn’t show is all the brainstorming I’ve been doing. The MS I’m writing now, though written in 1 POV, has a cast of 5 characters (including the protagonist) that really need to shine. Though I’m not a plotter I adore brainstorming and with each book I’ve written my methods improve. So, what am I doing this time?

First:

I really do swear by it. It will change your life. If you follow it (and by following it I mean really set aside time to work on it) your characters will leap off the page. I did it with my last WIP, POSSESSION (the one that’s out with agents, cue nail biting) and everyone who has read it has said Bria’s voice is so strong. Well, her voice sucked until I found Chuck Wendig’s blog (a lifesaver!).

Second:

Screen shot 2014-09-22 at 9.58.46 AM

 

Excel is also a lifesaver.

I’m a visual person therefore I love charts. And, I needed something to keep track of who my characters are, what they look like, a bit of backstory, voice, weaknesses they don’t want revealed (they’re teen criminals so they would consider them weaknessess), and so forth… This is not an end all be all. I have Word documents and notebooks with more detailed information. But, when I’m writing, I often need something I can quickly pull up. Also, this helps to keep the characters separate from each other while at the same time making sure they have connections to each other.

Last but not least:

This outlining method by YA author, Kiki Sullivan is one I used for POSSESSION and am not using with my current WIP, THE EGYPTIAN JOB.

Because this post is getting kind of long, I have class in an hour, and I’m sure you’re all dying to know what my story is about (read: I really want to tell you), I’m going to direct you to my Writer Resources page where there are links to every post, video, etc…I’ve found helpful while writing.

This story is super special in that no matter how much I tried, and believe me I tried, this story refused to fit into the speculative fiction category. In other words, this is my first contemporary novel (*gasp* — the funny thing is I have another Contemp. YA in the oven). Like I always say, I’m just a messenger. My characters wanted this set in present day sans magic and so that’s what I’m going to give them. Without further ado:

*drumroll*

THE EGYPTIAN JOB

YA Thriller/Mystery — Think the TV show, Leverage meets The Heist Society by Ally Carter

At age sixteen, Jenna Banks (the daughter of the infamous Brandon Banks) is known as one of the best, and the youngest, criminal masterminds in the Greater Boston area. At least she used to be before she broke her number one rule and quit the “family business” for good.

But leaving the criminal world proves harder than expected when she’s approached by one of the members of her “criminals anonymous” support group (the one that’s sponsored by St. Anthony’s Church). He’s been robbed and he needs Jenna’s help to get back what’s been stolen from him.

She accepts the job thinking it’ll be doing some good, however what she doesn’t realize is not only is it a trap, the man who recruited her is the notorious Backstabber–a criminal who’s been using other criminals to do his dirty deeds. Now Jenna’s identities are blown, all nine of them, and she’s forced to go into hiding. But when she discovers his next target is the Egyptian Collection at Boston’s Museum of Antiquities (the one her mom was just named director of) she decides to get revenge (and save her mom’s job) by recruiting a team unlike any the criminal underworld, and the world, has ever seen. There’s just one catch, every heist needs a grifter and to pull off this one she’ll have to recruit the best grifter she knows… Nathan Brooks, the guy who stole her heart, causing her to break her number one rule: never get emotionally attached.

Now, Jenna and her ragtag team of criminals, who only ever work alone, have two weeks to pull of the biggest job ever. If they succeed they’ll go down in criminal history. If they fail her mom’s career will be over and their next job will be breaking out of prison.

–This novel stems from my love for con artist-y books, movies, and TV shows. I started watching Leverage this summer and fell in love with the show. It was canceled after 5 seasons and I kept wanting something similar to it but found nothing. So, I thought, why not write it myself and wouldn’t it be cool if, like in the Heist Society, there were teen criminals who acted like Robin Hood-esque figures, using their criminal skills to aid those who have been wronged by wealthy or wrongful individuals and corporations.

That’s all for now. The blurb is still a work in progress, but I’m thrilled to be working on this project. It’ll be nice to work on something contemporary to challenge myself and so I don’t get SF/F fatigue. And, it’s set in Boston so it’ll be great to go into the city and do research.

Thanks for stopping by my blog; your comments are always welcome below!

Whimsically Yours,

PnC

2014 Debut Author Bash: Rachel Searles (Guest Post + Giveaway)

2014 debut authors bash button

Hi Y’all! Welcome to my stop on the 2014 Debut Author Bash!!! I’m super excited to be hosting Rachel Searles, author of The Lost Planet (such an amazing MG adventure). And, because I LOVE book recommendations, Rachel has been so kind to share with us some of her favorite MG reads. First, here’s the drool-worthy cover and synopsis:

thelostplanet

Blurb

This is what the boy is told:

  • He woke up on planet Trucon, inside a fence he shouldn’t have been able to pass.
  • He has an annirad blaster wound to the back of his head.
  • He has no memory.He is now under the protection of a mysterious benefactor.
  • His name is Chase Garrety.

This is what Chase Garrety knows:

  • He has a message: “Guide the star.”
  • Time is running out.

Add the book to your Goodreads to-reads! (My 10-year-old sister and I LOVED it.)

 

Guest Post: 10 MG Books I’ve Read & Admired by Rachel Searles

When I read middle grade books, it’s often with a dual purpose: partly for the pure enjoyment of reading, and partly to be aware of what’s being published and to expose myself to other authors’ writing. I wouldn’t say “that’s a book I wish I’d written,” no matter how excellent it is, because to me books are like children–I want to write my own, not someone else’s. But I think it’s incredibly useful and important as a writer to learn from other authors by paying attention to what I think works really well, or isn’t quite as successful.

There are a few things that make a middle grade book stand out for me, starting with the originality of the concept. If it’s unlike anything else I have ever read, it’s already got my attention. Another is the overall complexity of the book. I’m not looking for Infinite Jest when I read middle grade, but I do enjoy deep world-building and a good twisty plot. And nothing makes me clutch a book to my heart like stunning use of language (here Cathrynne M. Valente in particular comes to mind). As far as taste, I tend to read more speculative fiction than contemporary, although several of the best books I’ve read recently are set in the real world. So with that, here’s a list of some of the middle grade books that I’ve read and admired in the past few years:

1. Splendors & Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz – This Victorian tale of magic, lost children, and old rivalries is a complex and engrossing book with beautiful descriptions of foggy, Dickensian London.

2. The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey – By now Mr. Yancey is better known for last year’s YA blockbuster, The 5th Wave, but readers should check out his Monstromologist series–thrilling, creepy Gothic mystery with plenty of gory detail for horror fans.

3. Six Innings by James Preller – This book is a perfect, lovely snapshot of each of the players on a Little League team during the course of a championship game, showing how for some its the game of a lifetime, while for others. I absolutely adore it.

4. Wonder by R.J. Palacio – I’m still amazed at how well the author was able to capture the voice of protagonist Auggie, showing his independent, witty personality while weaving in both his frustration and his resignation with his disfigurement and how others react to it in a very honest way. Funny and heartbreaking at the same time.

5. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman – The extraordinary worldbuilding, ideas, and philosophy behind this trilogy puts it in a class of its own. This is a classic–if you haven’t read it, what are you waiting for?

6. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Cathrynne M. Valente – Valente’s amazing command of language in this book blew me away, not to mention the unique adventure she weaves about a girl named September. I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of the five-book series.

7. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen – Given what I write, it’s no surprise that I love adventure stories, and this classic is the ultimate survival tale. I was so sad when I reached the end because I wanted it to keep going!

8. The Cavendish Home for Boys & Girls by Claire Legrand – A clever story with a firecracker of a protagonist and lots of creepy details that make your skin crawl.

9. Jinx by Sage Blackwood –  This funny, delightful story is carried by excellent characters and a intriguing plot, and is a refreshing new take on fantasy.

10. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – I’m not quite sure where this book lands–I’ve seen it classified as both YA and adult, but I personally think of it as more upper MG. Narrated by Death himself, it’s an extremely original approach to a heartbreaking WWII story set in Nazi Germany.

Thank you, Rachel!! Love this list!

About the Author

rachelsearlesRachel Searles grew up on the frigid shores of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where she spent her childhood studying languages and plotting to travel around the world. After college, she lived abroad in Munich and Istanbul, working as a cook, a secretary, a teacher, and a reporter for the Turkish Daily News. She now lives in Los Angeles with her rocket scientist husband and two cats, and spends her free time cooking her way through the Internet and plotting more travel. The Lost Planet (January 2014, Feiwel and Friends) is her debut novel.The sequel, The Stolen Moon, publishes January 27, 2015.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

And thanks, once again, to Rachel Searles, we have a giveaway for you:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Whimsically Yours,

PnC

Why You (& Every Writer You Know) Should Attend WriteOnCon

writeoncon.

I’ll go ahead and admit it. The title of this post is a bit misleading. Technically WriteOnCon is only for writers of Paperback books through New Adult, but, regardless of the category you write in, you can learn a lot by attending.

What’s WriteOnCon?

You don’t know?? Haha joking. It’s only the coolest online (FREE!) writers conference. To learn more you can read my posts from last year’s conference here and here and from 2012′s conference.

Read those? Great.

As I was saying, WriteOnCon is pretty darn amazing. However, this year I want to share a personal story, a story about my journey as a writer and how WriteOnCon has impacted that.

Two years ago (at the beginning of summer) I was 18, had just finished my first year of college, and I finished my first novel. I’d been writing for years, but I’d never completed anything. I was overjoyed and I thought knew I had written the best story in the world. I mean I wasn’t hoping for millions, just an interview with Oprah, ya dig? I’m sure I don’t even have to explain how wrong I was (we’ve all been there, right?). But it was WriteOnCon that inspired me gave me the tools to write better. I’d never heard of WriteOnCon, but I had heard of writers conferences. These amazing programs where writers came together for a weekend of workshops and panels and most of all getting your story in front of agents and editors (yipee!). Just one problem. Money. They cost a lot of money. And I was a college student aka my money belonged to Sallie Mae. Then on twitter, I’d recently joined because that’s what all the cool kids were doing, someone told mentioned this online writers conference where agents get to read your stuff. I thought, heck, after this is over, people are gonna be begging me for the rights (didn’t know what those were) to publish my story. Again, no need to tell you how wrong I was. I didn’t receive a single request, but I did receive something even better: feedback. Hard, honest feedback from everything to your character is bleh to you have a knack for writing a query letter & a synopsis (maybe that’s why I did garner a few requests while querying).

After that year’s conference, I did what any smart writer would do, I rolled up my sleeves and began revising. And, eventually, I trunked the novel because although it was the story of my heart, my writing and my interests had outgrown it. If you’ve ever had this happen, you know what I mean.

I came back the next year more ready than ever. I had a brand spanking new MG manuscript. It was exactly the kind of book I wanted to read when I was younger and boy was it strong. Just one problem. The opening didn’t just suck, it was cliche. Again. (I seem to really like starting books on the first day of school.) But the book was good. And the WriteOnCon participants, though holding nothing back in terms of telling me just how much work my story needed, gave me some amazing feedback, which I used to revise the manuscript. And guess what? (no, not an agent) I was accepted as an alternate in #PitchWars (only the coolest online pitch contest hosted by the amazing Brenda Drake). My mentor, Marieke, who’s so freaking awesome, and my teammates Brooks (who’s a mentor this year!) and Genetta helped me to make that manuscript even better. I never would’ve had that chance without WriteOnCon.

Like I said, that MS was goood. However, the voice was something I couldn’t nail down 100%. I’m currently revising it though, thanks to agent feedback, and it’s going great. Towards the end of the spring semester of my Junior year, I started working on another story. POSSESSION, a YA Paranormal Noir, which is reminiscent of the books I like to read yet is the story only I could write. You see, I read a lot of Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Mystery novels, but I didn’t have the courage to write one. Thanks to WriteOnCon, #PitchWars I could see how my writing was improving and so I took that leap and wrote Bria’s story. Now, I’m query and I would say things are pretty good. I’ve nailed the voice. The mystery is thrilling (so many secrets). The setting is a character. The characters are like family. There’s also a lot of humor, something I never thought I could write. There’s just one problem. The query, it needs work. (I know, right? That’s what I’m usually great at.) It’s pretty darn good but a bit clunky. However, I just posted it on the WriteOnCon forums and the feedback is pouring in. I couldn’t be more thankful.

You see, the thing is we often go into situations expecting one thing. Expecting something to be easier than it is. Expecting to get the gold without having put in the effort to even get the bronze. WriteOnCon, for me and for many writers I’ve talked to, is that wakeup call. It’s like a slap in the face. Man. You suck. But here’s how to do better. My writing has improved, but so has my attitude about writing (and receiving & giving critique) and my confidence. Also, I’ve made tons of friends & found critique partners!! And if that’s not some sort of magic, I don’t know what is.

Go sign up, participate. Remember, everyone gets critique. Those stories, those writers who you’re like damn, how’d they do that? Hard work. Lots of Effort. That’s how. Now roll up your sleeves and get going. My username is whimsicallyours (surprising, right?) & I love friend requests. Hope to see you there!

Have you ever done WriteOnCon before? How’d it improve your writing?

Whimsically Yours,

PnC

17 FIRST KISSES by Rachael Allen

17firstkissesBlurb

No matter how many boys Claire kisses, she can’t seem to find a decent boyfriend. Someone who wouldn’t rather date her gorgeous best friend, Megan. Someone who won’t freak out when he learns about the tragedy her family still hasn’t recovered from. Someone whose kisses can carry her away from her backwoods town for one fleeting moment.

Until Claire meets Luke.

But Megan is falling for Luke, too, and if there’s one thing Claire knows for sure, it’s that Megan’s pretty much irresistible.

With true love and best friendship on the line, Claire suddenly has everything to lose. And what she learns—about her crush, her friends, and most of all herself—makes the choices even harder.

In her moving debut, Rachael Allen brilliantly captures the complexities of friendship, the struggles of self-discovery, and the difficulties of trying to find love in high school. Fans of Sarah Ockler, Susane Colasanti, and Stephanie Perkins will fall head over heels for this addictive, heartfelt, and often hilarious modern love story

My Review

Owl Rating:

five owls

I. Was. Floored. by this book. 100% not what I expected, and I’m so glad I picked it up. I received an ARC of this book a while back from HarperTeen to review, however I was deep in revisions for my now querying MS, so I wasn’t reading much. However, I picked it up, on a whim, because my brain was fried and I really wanted to read something light and funny and a book about a girl who falls for this guy she can’t have, why not?

17 FIRST KISSES blew me away. I still laugh (I’m laughing right now) when I think back to the first chapter. OMG. At first you think it’s one thing, I think Allen knows that, and then she switches everything up and you’re on the floor laughing…total girl power moment. Gotta love Claire and Megan. And speaking of Claire and Megan their friendship reminded me of so many past friendships I’ve had, and let me say I’m very glad the book wrapped up the way it did. I was a Claire throughout high school and this book brought back memories I’d forgotten suppressed, so it was like a bittersweet trip through memory lane that I was surprisingly willing to go on. It made me remember high school crushes that never became any more than that and most of all the many wishes and dreams and goals I had back then, the first of which being, like Claire, to get the hell out of my hometown (which, I did although it’s funny how leaving a place makes you want to return).

I think my favorite part about this book (aside from how much I related to it) is the relationships. Allen is gifted with being able to weave together various story lines to, in the end, create one amazing culmination. I liked how after every chapter there was a story about each one of Claire’s seventeen kisses. The 16th and 17th were my favorites ;) So, as you’re reading, you not only learn more about how Claire reached this “legendary” amount of kisses, you learn about her relationships–her friendships with Megan, Sam, Amberly…her relationships with her sisters and her parents, and most of all, the tragedy that struck her family, which is something that hit close to home for me and left me wracking with tears. You also get to learn about Claire. The “kiss” sections were 1) an ingenious idea because who doesn’t love reading about kisses (some horrible, some hilarious) and 2) a great way of learning about how Claire becomes the person she is. You gain so much respect for her, but you also want to conk her over the head at times.

I appreciated how this book didn’t shy away from tough issues or things that actually happen to teens. I don’t read a lot of Contemporary novels, at least I didn’t until this year, yet this book is making me completely rethink the YA Contemporary Romance genre. You see, reading for me starting as an escape into new world. Contemporary set stories, without fantasy elements, are often too real for me, but the thing is that’s just what you need sometimes. I’ve never read Sarah Ockler, Susane Colasanti, or Stephanie Perkins (*gasp* I know), but you can bet I will now.

If you want a book that’s incredibly grounded and feels very real, one that will make you laugh and cry (quite possibly at the same time), and a book that will restore your faith in the power of friendship, and, most of all, the strength within you to change your life, you need to read this book. I don’t have the book with me, but there’s a quote I remember that has been making me rethink some of my relationships. It has something to do with reevaluating people and really seeing them for who they are instead of what box you automatically put them in when you first met them. I think we all, at least I do, have that friend or family member we don’t appreciate that person who shares bits of themselves with us, yet we don’t open up to them. 17 FIRST KISSES is a reminder that everyone deserves a second chance and that sometimes the people who are most deserving of your love & attention are those who have trusted you even when you didn’t trust them.

Also, if you’re thinking this review is a bit on the vague side, I would say you’re right. I think it’s best to go into this story not knowing much except that 1) it won’t be about what you think it is and 2) you’ll really like it and/or love it.

*This is a 100% honest review, I received a copy of the book from the publisher (thank you!).*

Add 17 FIRST KISSES to your Goodreads to-reads!

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

About the Author

rachaelallenRachael Allen lives in Atlanta, GA where she’s working furiously on her PhD in neuroscience. When she’s not doing science or writing YA, you can find her chasing after her toddler and her two sled dogs. Her debut YA novel 17 FIRST KISSES, is forthcoming from Harper Teen. Rachael may or may not have had 17 first kisses…luckily she doesn’t kiss and tell.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Anyone have any juicy first kiss stories they’d like to share? ;)

Whimsically Yours,

PnC

Rejuvenating Your Creativity — Why It’s Okay to Take a Break

keep-calm-and-take-a-break-43As of today, I’m taking a break from writing. Not from blogging, or academic writing (when classes start I’ll be doing more than enough of that), but from working on my stories.*

As writers, especially when we “get serious” about writing and realize it’s not just a hobby, I think we feel like we have to produce good great content 24/7. At least I do. The crazy thing about this decision is that I’ve been thinking about it for over a month, but it’s like this fear of getting behind, whatever that means, keep creeping up on me and convincing me to keep going even though my body was yelling, STOP!

This is a really hard decision for me. First, because I love writing. I adore it. I’m biased, but I’m pretty darn good at it. However, the spark is gone. I have pushed myself to my limits and beyond, and I need to stop. Not forever. That’s not possible. Sure, I pretty much stopped writing fiction throughout high school, but those were different times. I don’t see this break lasting past the holidays because I don’t just love writing, it’s what I do, it’s a part of me, it’s what makes me wake up in the mornings with a silly grin on my face. The second reason why this is hard is because I feel like I’m letting my characters down (and myself). I have six AMAZING story ideas. Just amazing. They fill me with all sorts of emotions, but the thing is I haven’t been able to work on one. I’ll work on one for a couple days and then I’ll switch to the other and then another. At first I thought I just needed to pick one and shove the other plot bunnies under my dusty enough bed (it’s like a death trap under there). But, when that didn’t work, when I got stuck on every one of those stories I knew the truth: my heart wasn’t  in any of them. I was, I am a restless writing and that does no one, especially myself, any good.

I’m actually tearing up as I read this because, again, this is a hard decision. But I’d rather have my heart AND my head in my writing, not just my head. I mean I love my brain, it’s great at logical stuff and keeping me alive, ya know, but my heart keeps me alive too, and as someone who pretty much freewrites books, without much plot outlining during the first draft, I need my heart without it I’m like the Tin Man (yeah, I’m that cheesy).

To be honest, well, technically I’ve been pretty honest while writing this entire post, but anywho…I know this is the right decision. My brain needs a break. My heart needs a break. And I’m really looking forward to spending more time reading some amazing books. Like seriously, I cannot take all these books back to college with me. I almost broke my back picking up my suitcase full of books on the way here and my body is already complete shit (thanks, sports…love you, too!). Anyway, the point of sharing this with you, other than the fact that it’s 12:56 AM and I can’t go to sleep, is that I want you to know if you’re in the same situation. If you feel tired or irritated doing something that once gave you immense pleasure and satisfaction, it’s okay to take a break. In fact I challenge you to take one not for the team but for yourself. I get it writing can be hard. However, writing should still drive you, you shouldn’t have to drive it, force the words to come out.

You won’t regret it (at least I’m pretty sure you won’t). I already feel like a weight has been taken off my shoulders.

Sometimes we need to be reminded of why we starting doing this in the first place. I’m hoping this break is just that. (*Just to clarify, I’ll be taking a break from creating new content, I haven’t had a problem with working on my revisions.)

Have any of you taken a writing break? If so, how did it go? Any tips?

Whimsically Yours,

PnC

Book Gush: POINTE by Brandy Colbert

Blurbpointecover

Theo is better now.

She’s eating again, dating guys who are almost appropriate, and well on her way to becoming an elite ballet dancer. But when her oldest friend, Donovan, returns home after spending four long years with his kidnapper, Theo starts reliving memories about his abduction—and his abductor.

Donovan isn’t talking about what happened, and even though Theo knows she didn’t do anything wrong, telling the truth would put everything she’s been living for at risk. But keeping quiet might be worse.

My thoughts

This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I know. But, it’s the truth. You know how some books just speak to you? How from the moment you open them you know this book is going to change your life. It was like that for me when I read Jessica Verdi’s THE SUMMER I WASN’T ME, and I’ve been championing that book and POINTE all year.

Pointe was love at first sight and after reading the entire book. I was excited just to read it because it was written by a black author and had a black protagonist who did ballet. So cool, right? You have to understand I didn’t have books like this growing up. I didn’t often see myself in books like this where diversity was there, but it wasn’t THE issue. And scenes like where Theo reminiscences back to times being the only black girl, or one of a couple black students, in a class when it’s time to talk about slavery, Jim Crow, or whatever rang all too real for me. Oh, and I should mention I really liked the fact that there were scenes where the characters smoked weed and it wasn’t like OMG the world is going to end. (I mean, yeah it’s a (mostly) illegal drug, but if you’re going to write a book about teens, be honest…some teens drink and do drugs and don’t die/end up with their life ruined. It happens.)

But, I also loved this book because it was a book about doing the hard, right thing even when you know it could wreck you and set you back from all the progress in healing you’ve made. I don’t know if you’ve ever had to do something like that but it is the hardest thing to do. Theo is so strong yet not always outwardly so, it’s through her thoughts that we really see how much this girl has had to contend with. It’s a gripping thriller, but not so much with action scene after action scene, but high emotional drama. I cried for Theo and I cheered for her. It’s one of those books where you can’t help feeling what the protagonist is feeling and you can’t help be proud for her when she overcomes the many obstacles she has to overcome. I love how real she is. She reminds me of friends. She reminds me of myself. And the writing is beautiful.

We don’t often say this as readers, but there are those books we read and love but soon forget and then there are those books that we love and become a part of us. We “can’t get them out of our head.” Some recent books I read where the latter happened with were The Summer I Wasn’t Me, TFIOS, and We Were Liars. However, Pointe is also that kind of book. It creeps up on you like how a vine might cover an old mansion (I’ve been thinking a lot about vines & old mansions, blame my last writing project) and it takes hold of you. You don’t really realize it has until the final pages, where you’re a mess of tears of happiness and sadness. I’m so grateful to Colbert for bringing a book like this into my life. speak and point diversify

Also, the graphic to the right is is very true. I adored SPEAK (read it years ago and have loved it and everything Laurie Hale Anderson has written ever since. I look forward to loving Colbert’s next book(s)).

Add POINTE to your Goodreads To-Reads!

Buy Links (you won’t regret buying it):

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

*This is a 100& honest review. I received an ARC from the publisher (Thanks, Brandy!!)**

About the Author

BrandyWeb

Brandy Colbert grew up in Springfield, Missouri, and has worked as an editor for several national magazines. She lives and writes in Los Angeles. Pointe is her first novel. Also, she stopped by the blog to recommend some great books, check them out!

Twitter | Website | Tumblr | Goodreads

Guest Post: Brandy Colbert (Author of POINTE) on the Books You (& Everyone You Know) Need to Read

Good Afternoon, Readers!pointecover

Today I have uber talented Brandy Colbert over to talk about four books she really wants you to read… take it away, Brandy!

My Book Recommendations for You

by Brandy Colbert

I read a lot, but at the same time, I consider myself quite a slow reader. Sometimes it’s just life pulling me away—writing, copyediting, or social obligations—but sometimes it’s because I really like to savor a book. Reread passages as I’m going. Turning back several pages to see, How did the author do that? And when I love a book, I can get downright evangelical about it. You need to read it, but so does your mother/brother/sister/cousin/boyfriend/ girlfriend/spouse/cat . . . you get the idea. The following books? You (and everyone you know!) need to read them.

charm and strangeCharm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn.

I didn’t quite know what this book was about when I picked it up, but Stephanie was a friend (and now, my critique partner!) and I was excited to dive into her debut. Fast forward to me devouring the last quarter of the book, having to put it down because it was almost too much for me to handle, emotionally, but then going right back to it because I just had to know what happened next. Charm & Strange is a beautifully written novel about mental illness, family secrets, and the effects of internalizing trauma. It’s not a happy book, but it is one that will stick with you for a long time and remind you of the importance of empathy.

 

dirty wingsDirty Wings by Sarah McCarry.

Last year, I fell in absolute love with All Our Pretty Songs, the first novel in a series of companion books by McCarry. So, naturally I was thrilled when I read that the follow-up, Dirty Wings, would chronicle the teenage friendship of the mothers of the two best friends in All Our Pretty Songs. And then I fell even harder for Dirty Wings. This is a road trip book. It is a book about girls. It is about fighting expectations and following your heart and altering your life to make room for a person you love. I felt a bit like I was in a dream while reading this book. It doesn’t hurt hat parts of it were set in my beloved state of California, but I was absolutely enamored with McCarry’s gorgeous prose and her honest, vivid portrayal of an intoxicating female friendship.

 

Nothing Like You by Lauren Strasnick.nothing like you

I admire many aspects of Strasnick’s writing, but perhaps the part that sticks with me the most is her expert use of spare language to tell an engrossing, rich narrative. Nothing Like You is the story of a girl still grieving over her mother’s death while navigating the often complicated friendships and relationships of adolescence. It is sometimes sad, sometimes sexy, and always honest in its portrayal of a teen girl learning that a seemingly simple choice can send everything in your life spiraling out of control. (Also, there is a good chance it will make you want to move to/hang out in/go hiking in Topanga Canyon.)

 

This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers.this is not a test

As a longtime fan of Summers’ gritty, realistic novels, I was a little surprised when I learned her fourth book was about the zombie apocalypse. But I am nothing if not loyal to my favorite authors, so I preordered my copy and nervously awaited this story. And am I ever glad I stepped out of my comfort zone, because this book quickly became one of my favorites by Summers. This Is Not a Test may technically be classified as a zombie novel, but at its core, it is a brilliant character study of an abused, suicidal girl who is forced to decide if she wants to surrender to the zombies or fight for her life with a random assortment of her remaining classmates. This novel is horrifying, suspenseful, and heartbreaking, all pulled together by Summers’ beautiful, evocative writing and refusal to go easy on her characters.

I’ve also been lucky enough to read early drafts of books that are not yet released, so be on the lookout next year for:

  •  Making Pretty by Corey Ann Haydu
  • Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn
  • All the Rage by Courtney Summers

I can’t wait to talk more about these when they’re closer to publication—you will absolutely be blown away by these stories. I guarantee it.

Thanks so much for having me, Patrice!

Thanks for stopping by, Brandy! I love hearing about the books people love.  Aren’t these some amazing book recs? I foresee a trip to the bookstore in my future *grins*

About POINTE by Brandy Colbert*

Theo is better now.

She’s eating again, dating guys who are almost appropriate, and well on her way to becoming an elite ballet dancer. But when her oldest friend, Donovan, returns home after spending four long years with his kidnapper, Theo starts reliving memories about his abduction—and his abductor.

Donovan isn’t talking about what happened, and even though Theo knows she didn’t do anything wrong, telling the truth would put everything she’s been living for at risk. But keeping quiet might be worse.

*Yes. This book is as good as it sounds (better!). Stop by tomorrow for my gushing session about POINTE! 

About the Author

BrandyWeb

Brandy Colbert grew up in Springfield, Missouri, and has worked as an editor for several national magazines. She lives and writes in Los Angeles. Pointe is her first novel.

Twitter | Website | Tumblr | Goodreads