Tuesday: Best Day of the Week

Dear Tuesday Readers,

I’ve always said that Tuesday is the best day because when I started writing, that’s when my class met. Hence our class name: The Tuesdays. So creative, right?

But Tuesday Readers, our faithful blog followers, now there’s an even better reason to love Tuesdays. Wanna know why? Because, my dears, Tuesdays are when books are released! I know! I found this out when my first book (The Sister Pact) was released on the first Tuesday of November, 2015. So fun.

And every Tuesday there is a new batch of books to choose from. Here a few highlights of great reads released/releasing this November:

R.I.P. Eliza Hart (Scholastic Press)

When Eliza Hart, the most popular girl at Ventana Ranch boarding school, is found dead, Ellie Sokoloff is determined to figure out what happened to her. After all, Eliza was Ellie’s childhood best friend.

Never mind that ever since Ellie arrived at school Eliza has spread terrible rumors about her, calling her a liar and a stalker, when all Ellie wanted to do was rekindle their old friendship. Or that Ellie’s claustrophobia limits where she can go and what she can do. Or that Ellie’s suitemate, Sam, is the only one who will help her . . . because to everyone else, Ellie looks like the top suspect.

Can Ellie clear her name and solve the mystery behind Eliza’s death? Her hunt for the truth will uncover secrets she never imagined, sending her deep into her own memories of her childhood with Eliza Hart.

 

Kat and Meg Conquer the World (Harper Collins)

Kat and Meg couldn’t be more different. Kat’s anxiety makes it hard for her to talk to people. Meg hates being alone, but her ADHD keeps pushing people away. But when the two girls are thrown together for a year-long science project, they discover they do have one thing in common: They’re both obsessed with the same online gaming star and his hilarious videos.

It might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship—if they don’t kill each other first.

 

 

 

The Temptation of Adam(Skypony Press)

Adam Hawthorne is fine.

Yeah, his mother left, his older sister went with her, and his dad would rather read Nicholas Sparks novels than talk to him. And yeah, he spends his nights watching self-curated porn video playlists.

But Adam is fine.

When a family friend discovers Adam’s porn addiction, he’s forced to join an addiction support group: the self-proclaimed Knights of Vice. He goes because he has to, but the honesty of the Knights starts to slip past his defenses. Combine that with his sister’s out-of-the-blue return and the attention of a girl he meets in an AA meeting, and all the work Adam has put into being fine begins to unravel.

Now Adam has to face the causes and effects of his addiction, before he loses his new friends, his prodigal sister, and his almost semi-sort-of girlfriend.

 

Oh, are you guys still here? Shhhh #amreading.

Comment below to tell me about your November reads.

Manic Monday

It really is manic for me these days

So manic that I barely have time to breathe, let alone post. So I apologize, Tuesday readers, that this post is a tad bit late. I know you understand.

You see, #authorlife is a huge, major, and let’s just say it, manic kind of a deal. I’ve spent the last few months with my head spinning. But I’m not complaining. I’m lucky to get to do these things.

Here’s just a brief look at what I’ve been up to recently:

I presented a workshop for SCBWI with Joyce Sweeney. It was the first time I taught peers. And the first time I team taught with Joyce. It was pretty cool.

Here’s me presenting theme using some of my fave books

Here’s Joyce presenting using some of her fave books… I spy THE HOMECOMING….aww, thanks, Joyce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then Joyce and I  presented a workshop the FAME conference in Orlando. Talk about awesome! Plus I got to meet Pete the Cat!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of this while finishing my revision on WEIGHTLESS and planning promotion for THE SECRETS WE BURY.

It’s been a whirlwind kind of a month, Tuesday readers. I hope you’ve had as much fun as I have!

Self-edit Like You’re on a Vision Quest

 

When I think about writing, one really important question comes to mind: why don’t we have jerseys?  I’m not talking about replicas. I’m talking the real deal. Practice ones. Game ones. Full-on writing equipment with equipment managers.

To me, Writing is like a sport.  But the question is, is it a team sport or an individual competition. My favorite scene from one of my favorite movies, Vision Quest, is when Louden Swain states emphatically, “Wrestling is not a team sport!” Then proceeds to climb the pegboard while his teammates gather around and cheer him on. If you haven’t seen it, you should:

https://youtu.be/nJtNsehdT5o

You’re welcome! The whole movie is genius but that scene has always been my favorite. Even before I was writing. When I was just a reader. But now that scene gets to me on such a profound level because it completely depicts the writing life.

We start out training like the wrestlers do in Vision Quest. As a team. A critique group. An organization. A workshop or conference cohort. We hone our craft there, practice our literary moves. Then when we feel we are good enough, we try to climb the pegboard. And some of us make it. And that makes the rest of us clap and cheer and believe it can happen for us, too.

 

But what about all of the alone time? The butt-in-chair stuff that no one sees. The rough drafts and first tries no one hears because they are too dreadful to trot out in public? Those come just from us. We can use a writing coach (I definitely do). We can put our writing tribe on text on demand notice (I do that also) to help answer our plot questions and character moves. But it still comes down to us. What we do in that chair is what counts. After the critiquing. After the Beta reads, we are the CEO of our work. So how do we self-edit? Very carefully (cue the evil laugh)

These are my steps for self-editing. They’re not pretty, but they are essential. My version of writing bootcamp. Get ready to puke.

  1. Any part of your book that you think is sooo creative, so awesome that you continuously rubbed your hands together like the evil genius you were when you wrote it? Yeah…they probably need to go. Kill your darlings does not just refer to clever passages and favorite quotes. Huge artistic insight on the day of inception often comes off as contrived and unbelievable on the paper. Love at first sight doesn’t always end well. Look at those babies and be sure they serve your book. If not, Bbye. It isn’t you, it’s me. No, it’s really you.

  1. As you are carving and adjusting and looking for darlings to kill, is there a part of your manuscript that you figure you’ve read so many times that there’s no reason to read again. Or parts you feel are so solid there’s no reason to look at those? Yup. You’ve got issues there. If you find your eye scanning and skimming parts of your book, that could be the sign of a pacing problem. If you are bored in parts of your manuscript, how will readers feel? It’s time to get real or go home.

  1. You made it through the warm-ups, are you ready for the combines?  I hope so because it’s time to dig deep and get aggressive. Here’s where you look at every single word in your manuscript.  Every one should serve a purpose. Should inform character development. Should advance plot. Should act as subtext. Should create literary rhythm. Should work on more than one level. If your words aren’t working as hard as you are, they go. Sorry. You come to win or you  watch the game from your couch. True story.

  1. Now it’s time to check your manuscript for characters that are slacking, actions that don’t progress plot. Look at each one of your scenes as if it’s a still picture in a film. I’ve actually done that with DVD’s. O Brother Where Art Thou is one worthy of this exercise. Every single shot is perfect. Every one. If any of your characters or scenes are just phoning it in, it’s time to break up with them.

Writing is a bad boyfriend. It’s true.

 

But nobody said climbing the pegboard was easy. You are not here to make friends. You are here to do outrageously hard things. You are here to win the National Championship. To set new personal records. To lift Lord Stanley’s Cup and drink a huge monster energy drink out of it. And when you’ve done all of that, when you’ve brutally embraced your manuscript. When you’ve committed to each word, each scene, each plot decision. Then you can hit the showers and celebrate like a champion! Cue the cheerleaders and the band. Cue the equipment manager. Because you’re going to need a clean jersey for tomorrow’s session.

 

 

Another YA Wednesday

Hello dear Tuesday readers! How are you? I’ve got to tell you, I am done. Stick-me-with-a-fork kind of done!

I just wrapped up my third book, The Secrets We Bury, sent the proofs in last night, so that book is finished. Whew!

I also turned my fourth book into my agent a few weeks ago and she’s gotten back to me with edits. But honestly, it’s been a hard writing few months lately and I might need a teensy tiny little break before diving back in on this manuscript that I’ve worked on for over 8 years. Book 4 may is definitely pushing me to my limits. For sure.

So before I get my hands dirty with that beast of a book, I feel like taking a reading break. Want to see what’s on my TBR pile now?

I’ve been meaning to get to this next book for a really long time now.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

I’ve been dying to read this for some time now so moving it to the top of the pile. Along with this next little beauty… by Kendare Blake

I’m not usually into this kind of book but I confess the premise has me sort of breathless.

In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

And finally, there’s….Ghost by Jason Reynolds

Running. That’s all Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But Ghost has been running for the wrong reasons—it all started with running away from his father, who, when Ghost was a very little boy, chased him and his mother through their apartment, then down the street, with a loaded gun, aiming to kill. Since then, Ghost has been the one causing problems—and running away from them—until he meets Coach, an ex-Olympic Medalist who sees something in Ghost: crazy natural talent. If Ghost can stay on track, literally and figuratively, he could be the best sprinter in the city. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed, or will his past finally catch up to him?

I seriously love Jason Reynolds’ books and can’t wait to dig into this one.

What are you guys up to reading-wise?

Comment below about my choices or tell me what’s in your TBR.

Free Write Friday when I’ve been anything but Free

It’s been a while since I spoke with you, Tuesday readers, and I’m so sorry about that. Truly.

I know I’m supposed to check in with my Thursday themes even on the weeks I don’t have a big post. Like this one. And I haven’t been keeping to my word with those. It’s not right or fair, but there it is. I’ve been a Themed Thursday slacker! And you deserve my participation on those days. You do. But the thing is, I have had so much going on.

 

I know it sounds like an excuse, but let me lay it on you. And then you judge. And if by the end of this you’re still annoyed, I’ll accept that. I will. But hear me out first.

Last May I started a low residency MFA program. Spalding University to be exact. Pretty cool, right? And I guess I sort of didn’t realize how much time it would take. Each semester, at the very least I have to read 8-10 books and write critical essays on them. I have to put together five packets of creative writing including new work and revised pages. In preparation for next semester I had to read a play (a really cool one) and write an essay on that one. I also have to read 2 more books, 3 short stories, and view a film and take notes on it. Oh, and prepare pages for workshop, and prepare commentary on the pages other people send. It’s a lot. All wonderful things, but still a tremendous amount of work. Have I convinced you of that?

So I’m doing that in addition to working my day job. Sounds exhausting, right? Well, I’m not done….

I also just finished my revisions and copy edits for my upcoming book, The Secrets We Bury. Now I’m working on the proofs. Would you Tuesdays like a little sneak preview of the cover? I think you deserve that. Here goes….

 

Ahhhh….let’s take a moment to simply enjoy this new little beauty!!!

In addition to all of the usually stuff, like writing and critiquing and working and all, I’m also putting together some writing workshops. This Sunday I’ll be giving a Bootcamp with Joyce Sweeney. Which is totally cool since I’ve been her student for years and now I get to teach with her! If you are a SCBWI member, this workshop is free. Info here: https://florida.scbwi.org/2017-boot-camps/

I’m also doing another shorter workshop all by myself on October 21st!

And these workshops don’t write themselves! If only they did.

Finally, I am currently participating in the Young Adult Scavenger Hunt from now until Oct 8th. Prizes galore and lots of fun to be had by hunters and hunted alike. Check it out. I’m on #TeamBlue!  http://www.yash.rocks/

So I hope I’ve convinced you that I’m not simply lollygagging around. I am busy, busy, busy! But I pledge to try really hard to come back into the mix again. Because I’ve missed you, Tuesday Readers. Take me back?

YA Wednesday? Is this a Thing?

Ok. So I know that this is Wed which means it’s Wrap it up Wed, right? Weeeeell, the thing is after Hurricane Irma shook up my entire state….Ohhhh Florida….

I decided I was going to shake things up a little here on the blog….

Yup. There is no controlling me. Instead of wrapping up what went down in critique group yesterday, I’m going to talk about the YA books I’m excited about reading…I know. I KNOW! It’s insanity. It’s too much. It’s going to happen, so you may as well take a seat.

The thing is, Reading was my first boyfriend. And I still get giddy thinking about spending time with him.  So I’m going to let you all know what’s on my TBR pile. Right this minute. Then maybe, you can show me yours after I’ve shown you mine! Fun, right?

 

So this book has been on my radar for a long time! I love Cyn Balog’s work. She’s a Sourcebooks sibling (we both have books published at the same house) Have you read her book Unnatural Deeds yet? If not, why not? It is so so so good. This one is her newest. It releases Nov 1st. Here’s the blurb:

This must-read for lovers of Stephen King’s The Shining will leave readers breathless as Seda and her family find themselves at the mercy of a murderer in an isolated and snowbound hotel. Get ready for what Kirkus calls “A bloody, wonderfully creepy scare ride.”

OMG! The Shining for teens? So there! Add this to your list. We can read it together and compare notes. Kay? Kay.

My secret author crush right now is Anna-Marie McLemore. Weight of Feathers was her debut and I could not get how incredible and lush the writing was. And talk about all the feels! This one releases October 3. Already pre-ordered!

For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.

The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.

 

Finally, there’s this book I’ve been meaning to read since it came out last spring.

Here’s the log-line:

Every story needs a hero. 
Every story needs a villain. 
Every story needs a secret. 

Interesting, yes? That’s the intrigue of Wink Poppy Midnight. 

Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.

So that’s it. My picks for this week.

What are you guys excited about reading?

Free Friday!

It’s that time of year again, time to start back at my day job.

 

For me, it’s a love/hate kind of thing.

I love the kids I work with, but I hate giving up my writing, thinking, walking, just existing time.

It’s kind of like being immersed in a daydream, and having someone snap you back to reality.

The reality is that I’ve got to work. But the dream is that one day I will be able to just write.

Just write.

That sounds good, doesn’t it? But the thing is, we don’t ever get to just write, do we?

There’s the researching and the brainstorming. There’s the outlining and creating. There’s seeing the problems you have in a manuscript, and figuring out how to make it work anyway. And that’s just the writing part.

What about the rest? There’s marketing. There’s making connections with readers. There are appearances to plan and workshops to write.

But the key for me is time management. Because how do I make it all work? It’s a challenge, for sure. But then as an author it’s all part of what we get to do. It’s a privilege to write for kids. It’s a pleasure to meet with them. It’s the reason we do this writing thing to begin with. To have an opportunity to reach as many people as we possibly can and to have an impact on their lives.

So while I’m setting my clock for 5:30 AM and trying to work in bits and pieces of an artist’s life around my day job demands, I still dream of a day when I’ll get to create full time. Or at least Netflix binge, walk, market, plan and then write full time. Life. Is. Full. Especially when you’re an author, and I don’t want to miss a thing.

Writer’s Block or Butt-on-Couch?

There are times that it’s hard to write. Sometimes those times are days. Sometimes weeks. Months. God, I hope they never become years. I don’t consider this writer’s block. I think it’s just recuperation and rebuilding. Each work takes heart. Takes soul. Takes guts.

And with each piece of work we try to dig deeper.

So I give myself a break.

At writing conferences and all over social media I see the mantra butt-in-chair. Butt. In. Chair. And I know that this is the way to get writing done. I get that. But sometimes it’s too much to contemplate writing what we write. How we write it. Even the humorous ones take grit if we do it properly.

So if you see me on Facebook or Twitter talking about the fifth Netflix binge. The seventh viewing of Harry Potter movies, the pure unadulterated joy of not creating, give me a nod of acknowledgment and understand that I’m just refueling.

#writingisabadboyfriend because he wants it all. But even He understands that after bleeding out we may need bedrest and popcorn and movie transfusions. Maybe even Sour Patch Kids and Twizzlers, too. There’s plenty of time to eat healthy, live healthy and be productive. Give me this bout of butt-on-couch bliss.

So I can return to the page renewed.

It’s who I am.

It’s what I do.

It’s how I live.

So. Be. It.

When is a wrap-it-up-Wednesday not a wrap?

Hello Tuesday readers, don’t you look lovely today. I am always so so thrilled to see you all here. And I hate to disappoint you loyal Tuesday Writers followers. It’s the last thing I’d want to do. But, you see, the thing is…..we did not have critique group yesterday. Yeah. No. Oops.

I don’t like to point fingers, you know how affable I am, after-all. Jonathan, affable means good natured. (Sometimes big words upset him). But….someone had to be out of town, actually a few someones were. And that left the rest of us to deal with our unwieldy manuscripts at home, by ourselves.

So what’s a girl with an entire afternoon free, with not just one, but two books that need to be finished, with tons of MFA work to be done, what does she do when the boss gives us a day off? Can you all guess? I bet you can’t. What, you in the back, you think I did all of my work? Awww, aren’t you cute. Nope. Anyone else? Ok you think I did some work and then had some fun? Well, I’ll tell you. I did not work. At all. I should be ashamed to admit this, but I’m not.

You see, with the work world always invading my personal headspace, with the house usually full of people, with deadlines (thankfully) always looming, I found myself needing a tiny little break. I ended up calling in sick– to myself.

To be fair, I did go to sleep very early last night feeling under the weather. And I woke up feeling pretty darn puny. So I actually was sick. But I probably could have done some writing. I probably could have done some revising. But instead I just sat on the couch and watched Downton Abbey. I’m one of those fortunate people that never have time for television series. I can’t be expected to record them because our DVR is full most time or nearly full or I forget to take that record five most recent episodes thingy off. And then we’ve got only part of the episodes of Magician season two recorded. Sorry, JKR.

That’s why I love series binging. I love not having to wait for the next episode. I hate waiting for the next season. Which brings me to Downton. Right now I am all in for my binge watching. All in. But when it’s time to move on to the next show or series or movie, I’ll be just as bought in.

That’s the true power of story.

And with Netflix and Prime and Hulu and all now we can all be all in. Whenever we like. As many episodes as we can cram into a sick day. Hooray!!!

You might ask me what I do in the evening directly following a sick day of series binging?

Movie time!

Tonight’s feature, Kong: Skull Island

Bring on the super species. Bring on the the cool 1970’s music and vibe. Bring on the cool camera with the film you have to load and have catch on the reel in order to take pictures, the way I learned to. I am all the way in. All the freakin way.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s the real Beauty and the Beast. (sorry, Emma).

And until the movie ends, I’m going to be there with those people on the island. (hopefully not with the big spider thingys) but definitely with Kong. One of my fave monsters (which may explain my dogs…) And his struggle to survive a world gone mad. I’m betting on it being nail-biter. I’m hoping Kong is huge and over the top. Most of all I want to be entertained.

Which, by the way, is what we are supposed to do as writers. So count this as homework.

See you all next week when, hopefully, we have a class to wrap up. In the meantime I’m going to keep doing this #authorlife the way I know how.

 

And that’s what I call a wrap!

 

 

Do you ever lie to yourself?

Sometimes I lie to myself.

When I’m waiting for news on a project, sometimes I lie to myself. Sometimes I tell myself it’s already sold to an editor who loved it. Sometimes I envision the letter I’ll get. The launch party I’ll plan. Sometimes I lie to myself and allow myself  that amazing feeling of being happy about my writing.

Some people would say this isn’t lying at all. It’s simply envisioning the future, putting it out there, for the benevolent Universe to provide. Sometimes I believe that, too.

But then the days turn to weeks and the weeks to months and how do we sustain ourselves in the meantime when all we can see is the next five minutes and the emails that don’t miraculously appear just because we’ve closed our eyes and believed our intentions?

We just keep writing. The next book. The book after. The one we always wanted to, even when we thought nobody would want it, because nobody wants (fill in the blank) this year. Good thing, too, because this year is going to turn into next year and then the next and then maybe this book, the one we want to write will get noticed.

And it’s the thought that the only thing we can do is keep writing that feels so beautifully simple. Because sometimes the lies do come true. Most times they don’t. Most times that particular editor doesn’t take the book or doesn’t even respond. At least not on our timetable.

I was watching a Winter’s Tale this weekend (for the fifth time) and I loved the part when Lucifer says demons  don’t understand the concepts of now and time.

Writers definitely don’t.

Because sometimes the it-didn’t-sell blues is just the it-didn’t-sell-yet blues…yet. Man, I love that word. Yet.

So we keep writing, counting our progression in terms of word counts or chapters or drafts or revisions. And at some point that writing amounts to something. Maybe it’s not a deal. Yet. Maybe it’s not an agent signing. Yet. Maybe it’s just the time that it takes to get better or to see more or to understand entirely. But until then I’m gonna be honest with you, I’m probably going to lie to myself.

I’m doing it right now.

Right now I’m telling myself that this book, the one I’m working on now, that I wrote initially six years ago. This is that book’s time. Right now. Good thing, too, because this book has me distracted enough to not check my emails every five minutes concerning my last book. The one I started last year. The one that hasn’t sold. Yet.

I always say Writing is a bad boyfriend, and it’s true. But right now, Writing believes in me. Truth is he always has. Through every draft and every revision and every rejection, He has shown back up, held his hand out with a really cute expression on his face as he asks. “Wanna dance?”

And my answer is always the same.

Writing distracts me from everything bad in my life. Writing listens to all my sad stories. The funny ones, too. Writing tells me other people will want to hear them. One day. Maybe not this day, but that’s cool. Because Writing may be an audience of one, but he always, always throws roses on the stage for me when I’ve dug so deep I’ve spilled blood all over the place. Writing bandages me up and tells me we can always paint over that damage.

Writing is always, always there, even when I stay away, even when I’m sure I can’t do it anymore, even when I’m at my lowest with this whole process. Writing tells me all I have to do is write the next word. The next scene. Writing tells me I just have to keep going. Because even with all the times I’ve lied to myself, I know Writing never lies to me. And if I’m going to be honest with myself, I’m going to have to admit that Writing makes my life better. Even when he makes it worse.

Writing’s like that. Complicated. Deep. Difficult. Demanding. Gut wrenchingly honest. So when he tells me to get back in that chair and do the work, I listen. But I don’t tell him that the whole time I’m still telling myself little lies…I can live with that.