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:



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,


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


17 FIRST KISSES by Rachael Allen


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,


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,


Book Gush: 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.

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


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


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

Write What You Love, <3!

book heart

Hey Readers! This post is a part of my (Teen) Writers’ Grimoire ongoing, dare I say infinite, blog series. Visit the About page for more information.

Writing can be hard work, but often we, writers, make it harder than it has to be.

A couple weeks ago I was having a hard time and my writing was blocked. I’d completed my previous manuscript a while back and had begun querying it to agents (FYI: literary agents represent authors and sell their books to editors) and so I wanted something new to work on to take my mind off the stress of querying. However I couldn’t commit to writing anything even though I had quite a few story ideas.

You see, I was afraid.

The novel is a YA Paranormal Mystery and Paranormal is very crowded genre right now. Many of the authors who are doing well, selling well, they’ve been writing paranormal or urban fantasy for a few years now, if not more and they have solid fanbases. I was having a hard time because I’d just gotten one of the worst rejection letters a writer can get:

I love your writing, your main character’s voice is hilarious, this book has many elements I love, but Paranormal is a hard sell right now. Please keep me in mind for future projects.

This isn’t the exact letter, it’s a combination of about five similar ones I received that week. Those agents hadn’t asked to see the full manuscript, they had only looked at the first few chapters I’d attached as sample pages. And even though I’d also received requests from other agents asking me to send them the full, saying I know Paranormal is crowded, but I think this one will stand out, it hurt to get those rejections. So much so that my mind had created a mental block, my fear of failure was stopping me from doing what I love…writing.

To tell you a bit about my writing, I often write books that happen to hit the end of a trend. The same thing happened to me with a sci-fi manuscript I queried last year, and it sucked to hear agents say they loved it but didn’t want to consider it because they didn’t think they could sell it. I understood, I really did, publishing is a business, but that doesn’t lessen the hurt.

And now I’m writing a YA Dystopian with time travel elements, go ahead, laugh. I don’t care. It’s my (newest) book baby, and I adore it. And you know what?

That’s what’s most important. Love.

I know many published authors and they all say that the publication process is a long road and because of all the revising you have to do (e.g. by yourself, with your agent, with your editor) you have to read your book over and over and over again. You HAVE to love it.

I don’t follow the trends. I read a ton and so I know when something has been done before. I always work to make my books unique, but I can’t change the genre of a book. And trust me I thought about it after a couple agents said love the story, but I prefer my mysteries without paranormal elements, however I couldn’t do it. I write the stories I love. I put my heart into my writing, my characters, and the worlds I create. That’s what’s most important.

I believe love and dedication attracts love and dedication. One day, hopefully soon, I’ll find the agent, editor, and readers who love my stories as much as I do.

So, put your heart into your writing. Write the story of your heart. If you can’t figure out what story that it, try setting a timer for 10, 15, or 30 minutes and freewrite, let the words flow, don’t force them to come out. Who knows, you just might find the story your heart has been aching to tell.

I believe in you. Don’t give up. Now get back to writing.


P.S. If you have any questions about writing, publishing, etc…ask away. I’d love to hear your suggestions on content you’d like to see.

Also, sign up for The (Teen) Writers’ Grimoire monthly newsletter! It’ll have exclusive giveaways and a collection of my favorite posts from the previous month.

Book Gush: THE FIRE WISH by Amber Lough


Hey, Readers! Happy Sunday. So, I recently read an amazing book, and I was like, I should review this. However, review didn’t sound quite right. I don’t want to rank this book, I want to shout how much I love it to the world. That got me thinking about how with my SHC client, Dahlia Adler’s book I wrote a post about the things I love most. It was a different format, but it enabled me to forget about rating a book (because when you’re in love with a novel 5 stars owls, don’t do it justice.) Hence, “the book gush,” which comes in any format I want, because the most important thing to me is getting others to read the books I love.

Book Blurb

A jinni. A princess. And the wish that changes everything. . . . 

Najwa is a jinni, training to be a spy in the war against the humans. Zayele is a human on her way to marry a prince of Baghdad—which she’ll do anything to avoid. So she captures Najwa and makes a wish. With a rush of smoke and fire, they fall apart and re-form—as each other. A jinni and a human, trading lives. Both girls must play their parts among enemies who would kill them if the deception were ever discovered—enemies including the young men Najwa and Zayele are just discovering they might love.

Two weeks ago I interviewed Amber Lough, the author of The Fire Wish. At that time I’d just finished reading the book, and I was head over heels in love. Amber Lough’s amazing, y’all. You really have to check out the interview. In it there’s a part where she talks about how she made the book dual POV, how, initially it was only Najwa’s side of things, and, at first, I was like, why didn’t you leave it that way? (*Listen you can love a book and not love a character. I’m the queen of loving unlikable characters and, compared to Najwa, Zayele did nothing for me.*) But, in the interview, she talks about how her CP wanted to know what happened to the princess and how it challenged her to recreated the story and make the book better. I was like, alright, and so I reread the book (which is why I’m just now posting this). And, I’m so glad I did, because now I want to reread it over and over again.

This is a fantasy that plunges you into the characters’ worlds. It’s gorgeously diverse, the kind of organic diversity that made me fall in love with Alaya Dawn Johnson’s YA Cyberpunk, The Summer Prince. And if you ever asked me for a book rec last year, you know how much I loved, I championed, I needed that book in my life.

A book about Jinnis, and not Aladdin-esque genies (although he’s based off original myths), but real freaking jinnis (!!!). You can bet when I first heard about this book I was like


But, I was already hyperventilating. And when I got a copy of the book, I was floored. Like, she did it. This is a story about a princess and jinni who switch places, like who even thinks about an idea like that?? (with The Parent Trap and Freaky Friday being two of my favorite movies, I was doubly sold)

harrywhoareyouYeah, young Harry understands (btw, isn’t he adorable).

You see, at first I thought Najwa was pretty awesome by herself, but the more you read, really read the book you see how each girl complements the other so well. It would’ve been weird to just forget about Zayele when she’s so fascinating and impulsive. Najwa is quieter. I suppose you could say she’s more “obedient,” of course if that was really true, there wouldn’t have been a story to begin with. Zayele is also fierce. I guess I was mad at her, at first, for wanting to escape from this marriage when the guy was her age and smart and not marrying him would bring dishonor to her family.


Come on, you were thinking it.

But, to be honest, she’s real. I say I would’ve gone along with it now, but I don’t know what I would do until I’m in that situation.

The writing is gorgeous yet brief, if that’s the write word. Lough is able to convey, masterfully, descriptions, emotions, etc…in this majestical way without dragging on for paragraph after paragraph, a trap that’s easy for fantasy authors to fall into.

You want romance, it’s there too. You get to watch two girls fall in love with the very people they should NOT be in love with, and boy is it totally worth it. Each chapter is a cliffhanger in and of itself. I found myself saying, this is the last chapter I’m reading, at 2am one morning when I had to be up by 8am.


You guessed it. I read the entire thing.

And just to add a little more to the mix, The Fire Wish has such a conniving, a-hole of a villain. I guessed who it would be from the character’s first moment on page. What a, UGH, forget it. If I could’ve hexed that character I would’ve.

Anyway, it’d be really nice if I could have that second book now. Please. Lough’s hint at the end of our interview really hasn’t made the wait any easier to bear.

kept waiting bellatrix

Here’s the link to the interview, in case you’re curious (which you totally are):

Oh, and be sure to add the book to your Goodreads to-reads.

Buy Links: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | Random House

P.S.  If you’re still not convinced, the book was blurbed by Tamora Pierce. *drops mic*

*This is a 100% honest review (I don’t get any money from the author, retailers, etc…). I received a copy to read and review thanks to NetGalley & the publisher.*

Whimsically Yours,


Interview with Amber Lough (Author of THE FIRE WISH)

Hello Readers :D Happy Saturday!! Today I have the talented Amber Lough for another amazing author interview!


Hello! I’m Amber, and I wrote THE FIRE WISH, a fantasy set in both Baghdad and a jinni cavern, in the 9th century.

You’ve created such a rich and magnificent world in THE FIRE WISH…the setting is basically a character. How did you come up with the idea for the world? What kinds of resources did you use to create the world?

16123804The Baghdad setting was based on the real place, palace, and time period, but the jinni cavern was completely made up. I pulled in ideas from mythology, and included a Lake of Fire, tunnels, wells, and the like, but the idea for the gigantic geode cavern came from my love of crystals. (When I was a teenager, I was obsessed with crystals, and spent more money on them than on CDs.) When I began “building” the cavern, I visited caves, caverns, and museums as well as did a lot of research online regarding which crystals are best for certain things. I learned a lot about drywall, for example, that I didn’t know before—it’s mostly made up of crushed gypsum, which is fire-retardant. I took that idea when I came up with the selenite ball.

Wow. Sounds like you had a lot of fun worldbuilding! Many of my blog followers are writers, so I was wondering what is one thing you learned that has helped you along your journey to be a published author?

One of the best things I learned is to keep going. For me, it was a long, hard journey full of many soul-searching nights and days.

Great advice, Amber! Okay so, as a reader and a writer I’ve found Dual POV can be really tricky to nail down well, but you did it so well and I love how each character has her own romance (*swoon*), how did you balance of the story lines? Did you find it challenging at first or did both characters just come to you?

I’m glad you thought I did well with the dual POV! I had not wanted to write dual POV, actually. In the first draft, the story was solely from Najwa’s side, and I had left Zayele when she made the wish. It wasn’t until I was done with the first draft and my critique partner asked me, “So what happened to the princess?” when I had to face the hard truth: this book was going to be harder to write than I’d thought. It was very hard, at first, to keep Zayele’s voice from sounding too much like Najwa’s. I had to push their personalities a little harder just to keep them straight. There are times when they are similar, but I wanted there to be a crossover at a certain point, when they start to really take on the others’ life. And of course there would be similarities, but…I can’t say more than that now, can I? ;-)

That’s so interesting… I’ll talk more about this during my review (ahem, gushing session) of THE FIRE WISH tomorrow, but Najwa is hands down my favorite character although I think having Zayele’s POV adds A LOT to the story! Now for the (really) fun questions… What’s your patronous?

This is the coolest question I’ve been asked so far. A cat, for many, many reasons.

Hehe, great choice & thank you!! Speaking of cool settings, if there was any place you could travel to right now where would it be?

Iceland. Without a doubt.

Nice, I feel like everyone keeps talking about traveling to Iceland. I’ll have to make sure to add it to the bucket list… Okay. Fun Fact about yourself most people don’t know or wouldn’t expect?

You might not expect this because I’m not an avid blogger anymore, but I started blogging in 2001, and I blogged throughout my entire deployment to Iraq in 2004-2005.

That is AWESOME! I’ve only had this blog for a little over 2 years, but wow that’s dedication. Alright, next question: What was your favorite childhood book/author?

That is SUCH a hard question to answer, so I will go with who was my favorite when I was….12 (to pick a random age): Susan Cooper, for her DARK IS RISING series.

Haven’t read that one yet & I’ve heard so many great things about it (I know, I know, I’m getting there). Name a recently released book (or two as I know it can be hard to pick one) that you wish you could’ve written?

SERAPHINA, by Rachel Hartman

Another much talked about book I need to read… What other projects are you working on/any closing words about THE FIRE WISH, etc…?

Thank you for hosting me today and thank you so much for reading THE FIRE WISH! The next thing up is the sequel, THE BLIND WISH, which we be out next year. (It could also, possibly, be called RETURN OF THE BROTHERS, although that’s not the real title. Just a hint.)

Thank you, Amber. I enjoyed having you stop by! And, um, thanks for the hint, hehe, of course it’s only going to make the pain of waiting (until next year!!!) more unbearable ;)
Have a nice day!

What did y’all think? Isn’t Amber Lough awesome??? Below is a little more about Amber and be sure to check back for my review of THE FIRE WISH, you won’t want to miss it (I’ll be gushing!!!).

Amber_Dawn_Lough_ColorAmber Lough spent much of her childhood in Japan and Bahrain. Later, she returned to the Middle East as an Air Force intelligence officer, deployed for eight months in Baghdad, where the ancient sands still echo the voices lost to wind and time. She currently lives in Syracuse, NY with her husband, their two kids, and their cat, Popcorn. For a pronunciation guide, a cast of characters, and more, please visit amberlough.com. You can also follow Amber on Twitter @amberlough and Tumblr at amberlough.tumblr.

Add THE FIRE WISH to your Goodreads to-reads!

P.S. I’m currently reaching out to authors for interviews this Fall, if you’re interested please feel free to contact me!

Whimsically Yours,


Are We There Yet?

On Perseverance & Patience


My dad wrote an ahmazing post on patience and fitness. He’s a wellness coordinator, and his big motto is no gimmicks, only hard work and results (he’s tough but his clients appreciate it). In the post he says this,

If you have taken children on a road trip, you have probably heard them say “are we there yet.” I hear it a lot, not just from my children but also adults. Adults who are looking for quick results and don’t want to do the work.

He goes on to say:

“What’s your hurry…focus on enjoying the ride. Do the daily work; don’t worry about how long, because it will take as long as it takes.”

Now if that’s not advice that’s applicable to many areas of one’s life, I don’t know what is…

Yesterday, I read a post by the always hilarious Claire Legrand “On Creativity and Perseverance.” In it she has an analogy between being a writer and cooking that explains “all the feels” exactly. You’ll have to read the post, but here’s a snippet:

Meanwhile I grow hungrier and hungrier, and the people next door are chopping faster than I am, showing off their perfect golden-brown pie crusts when mine keep falling apart and I have to start over from scratch again and again…I’m happy for them, and yet I hurt too.

I did so much work last year, and so much of it is still cooking.

She goes on to say that it’s worth it. And, along with what my dad said, those are my messages to you (and myself).

It can take years to get where you want to. Beth Revis often speaks about how she wrote ten manuscripts, before she wrote the one that became a NYT Bestseller, Across the Universe. If you’re constantly asking yourself am I there yet, you’re not taking the time to work on your craft, to build yourself up as a writer. I once read a guest post by Tahereh Mafi in which she said each one of her trunked manuscripts taught her something about the writing process.

I hear all the time that once you’re published, you have less time to practice, to experiment with the art and craft of writing… people expect you to produce and not just your publisher but your readers. Best to learn how fast you can write a book, what you need to be happy as a writer, and so forth now. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, remember I’m still learning and working on getting published, but I try to remind myself (often) that it’s best to use this time to meet other writers, support them, learn from them, and challenge myself (instead of sulking about what I don’t have/can’t control).

We’re the one part of this crazy industry we control, so enjoy the ride! Before you know it your time will be here :)

Oh, and here are the links to the posts I mentioned:

“Are We There Yet?” – Jawanza Sankofa
“On Creativity and Perseverance” - Claire Legrand
“Don’t Give Up” – Beth Revis
“On Making Mistakes” – Tahereh Mafi

And if you still need more inspiration (heck, why not?) you can check out the Wrinspiration section of my “Writer Resources” page.

Whimsically Yours,