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?

Hurricane Evacuation and New York Books!

Hello Tuesdays!

OMG, it’s been forever since I’ve posted! Actually, it’s been forever since any of The Tuesdays posted. You see, for those of you who don’t know, The Tuesdays all live in Florida, and we had this little thing called Hurricane Irma. You may have heard of it? I think the news might’ve mentioned it a couple of times.

But, anyway, this thing was forecast to be a MONSTER! And we Floridians were kind of busy with hurricane prep and then dealing with the aftermath! There was also the question of whether to stay and hunker down or flee elsewhere. I kind of wanted to stay and hunker, but my family wanted to flee. So, we compromised and did what they wanted. But, as far as fleeing goes, we picked a great spot to go to . . . New York!

Now, I’m originally from New York. A Brooklyn kid, to be exact. So, I love going back and visiting. Still have a ton of family and friends there, so this became somewhat of an evacuation vacation. I got together with a few friends, and what was really fun this trip, was being able to meet some new ones, who until this getaway, I’d only known virtually. I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s amazing how through social media, you can feel like you know someone for real, and that’s how it felt for me. But, this trip it was really great to finally meet personally.

 

While I was there, I started getting nostalgic for all the stories I used to read as a kid, which featured New York. New York is such a vibrant place, that the city almost becomes another character in the story. So, I decided to make a small list of some of my favorite books which take place in NY.

And away we go!

  1. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg

You CAN’T have a New York book list without this one! I used to love this book as a kid. Just the thought of staying overnight in a museum was thrilling. I wanted to be those kids! There’s a fun mystery to boot, but really, the appeal was staying in that museum overnight.

  1. The Night at the Museum, by Milan Trenc

This is the picture book which inspired the movies. A night guard at the Museum of Natural history, has to deal with the exhibits coming to life. Spending overnight in a museum? Are you sensing a theme in books which I like?

  1. Under the Egg, by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

This is a fun mystery about a girl who discovers famous paintings which belonged to her late grandfather, and she worries that, since he used to be a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, he might’ve stolen them.

  1. Stuart Little, by E.B. White

Always enjoyed this book about a mouse in a family of humans, who gets to have adventures in NY. Really sweet story.

  1. Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh

Another classic, which Harriet keeps notes about all her classmates, but then loses her notebook. Unfortunately for her, her friends find it and read the things she’s written about them. She has to fix things, before her life falls apart.

Of course, there are many, many more, as well as some great new books featuring New York City, which are coming out all the time. Be on the lookout for them!

Hurricane Irma Madness

The Tuesdays met yesterday before hurricane Irma headed our way. Melody is moving along with lots of emotion in her current WIP. Faran started a new story, sure to please all sports fans. I read a revised edition of the last two chapters of my WIP. Jonathan entertained us all with the wit in his next hilarious middle grade novel.

We are all in the midst of hurricane prep or driving out of the state to avoid Irma so the Tuesdays will not be postingfor a while. We hope those of you who live in Irma’s path stay safe and that your electricity returns quickly.

 

 

One Day More!!

Hello Tuesdays!

Hope all of you are well today! As for me, I’m a mixture of excitement, hopefulness, and plenty of anxiety. For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, or even for those who have, I’m here to tell you that my book, Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies, comes out TOMORROW!

Like, seriously, OMG!

Sorry, I wanted to appeal to the tween readers, in a language that they’d understand. But, in truth, I’m feeling very much, that way. I can’t believe that after all this time, what I started working on, almost three years ago, will finally be out in the world. I know there are some who roll their eyes and say about me or any author, “They’re posting about that again?” Well, I get it. Honestly, I do. There’s a fine line between necessary self-promotion and too much. And even authors feel, almost embarrassed to be posting about their books. Okay, some do. But, you’re all going to have to bear with me this week. It’s been such a long road to get here, and I want to savor every moment.

From the years of rejections, to the times of agonizingly, near-misses, to finally, acceptance and breakthrough. It’s been a lot of work and struggle. People who don’t write, don’t realize the amount of effort that goes into it. Thankfully, I’ve been fortunate enough to have such a strong community of writers, either surrounding me, or virtually, who have all endured similar experiences, and have made it easy to commiserate with, as well as, support each other.

As far as this book, it’ll always be special to me. For many reasons. The obvious one, is that it’s the book that finally broke me through to the promised land. As I said, I’d been so painfully close before then, that it was made all the sweeter, when it finally happened. I vividly remember the elation that I felt when I received the phone call. To say that I was stunned, is putting it very mildly. I didn’t know who to tell first, and was even scared to tell anyone at all, since it didn’t feel real and I didn’t want to jinx it. Thankfully, I got over silly superstition and managed to start informing people.

The next reason is far more personal. You see, this book was completed during the last year of my dad’s life. He had been suffering from cancer for a long time, until it finally consumed him. Believe me, it’s tough to write “funny” when that’s going on. But, my dad had a great sense of humor and looking at the funny was how I was raised. Also, he’d always wanted to write a book, but never got to it. It was one of his dreams. So, he always asked how it was going with me. He was intrigued by the process and had been proud that I was actually doing it, and that helped. It almost felt, like it was an extension of him.

Unfortunately, his last few months, he started not comprehending things any longer. When I told him that I got an agent, he said he was happy for me, but I knew he wasn’t really understanding what that meant. Shortly after that, he passed away. Amazingly enough, a couple of months after that, I found out that I had an offer and signed the contract. I was beyond thrilled, but felt sad that I never got to tell my dad that it had finally happened.

Until, recently.

I mean, I went to the cemetery and told him. On the anniversary of his passing, which was coincidentally the same time as his birthdate, I was able to go there and show him the finished product. Yes, it was bittersweet, but I was still happy that he got to see, up close.

And, while I’m proud of the finished book, and feel it’s very funny, it’ll always feel like something more, to me. Whether it sells a million copies or just one, I’ll know that I managed to fulfill a dream, and maybe, even two. I’ll always associate Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies with that time.

So, while I’m sure there are some of you who are tired of hearing about it, this week is mine. Next week, I’m sure, it’ll start to lessen, and the week after that, even more. But, this week, you’re going to have to grin and bear it.

I thank every one of you for indulging me, and for the generosity and friendship shown by everyone who has helped with this. From words of encouragement, to sharing posts, leaving reviews, and genuine excitement for me, it was very much appreciated.

Tomorrow, will be the culmination of all of it. Everything that has happened to me, the last three years, comes true tomorrow, when I unleash Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies into the world.

Again, thank you, and I truly, hope you enjoy it.

One Day More.

Jonathan

Wrap-It-Up Wednesday: True Confession

Well, it’s my turn for Wrap-It-Up Wednesday, but I have a confession to make. I didn’t go to critique group this week, and not only that, I didn’t have have a real excuse other than, “I’m not in a good head space right now,” which was totally true. But it’s not like me to flake out on my obligations. (And since when is going to the Tuesdays an obligation? It’s not!)

So now I’m sitting here trying to figure out what made me not want to go to critique group this week. It’s not my writing. My book is progressing well. I think it’s because—even though I’m normally a very positive person—I’ve been feeling a little depressed, not in the clinical sense, but in the sense that, I turn 48 in a few days and today I spotted two gray hairs and I’ve been dealing with a lot of sickness and death lately.

So maybe it’s okay that I allow myself to miss a week of critique group. Or maybe I should have sucked it up and gone. Regardless, I think it’s important to realize that we all have days when we don’t feel like getting out of bed, and it’s okay. The trick (for me) is not to wallow in it for too long. I know this feeling will pass and I know in a few days I’ll be back to my positive self, plugging away on my book and feeling excited about meeting with the Tuesdays.

Wrap it Up Wednesday for the Tuesday Writers

The Tuesdays met at Jonathan’s house shortly after the rain stopped in West Broward. Parker, Jonathan’s dog, trekked down the stairs to greet us all and spent an extra amount of time checking out Faran who is back after a hiatus at summer camp.

Faran read the climax of a Y/A baseball novel he’s been working on. The pacing and tension were amazing. We were on the edges of our chairs feeling a whole range of emotion for the main character, his best friend, his girlfriend and the entire baseball team.

Cathy has a new character that just showed up in her novel. He’s wreaking havoc all over the place. The Tuesdays love the chaos he’s creating.

Melody’s chapter had her main character grappling with issues about a boy she likes. It related concepts regarding money and morals. Melody reflected the morality beautifully with a slimy smile on a character’s face.

I read a scene that I added to the climax of my work in progress. The Tuesdays liked the addition, but suggested relocating it.  We discussed moving it forward and adding to an existing scene to maximize the ramping up of tension for the grand finale.

 

Jonathan is cranking out another hilarious middle grade novel. Even though he has a short deadline with his publisher, he manages to continue to ace the funny stuff. The Tuesdays were excited to find a small fix for Jonathan’s WIP. We know it was only because he’d had a busy week hosting his launch party.

Stacie didn’t join us this week. She’s spending quality time with her daughter before college starts. We’re looking forward to seeing everyone next Tuesday.

Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies Launch Party Recap!

Hello Tuesdays!

I have to tell you, I am wired right now. I had my book launch tonight and it was beyond anything, that I’ve thought about.

First off, it was surreal, to walk in and see my name and face on a poster. Right beneath that, was a stack of my books. I couldn’t believe the thrill of actually seeing my book out on display. Nothing prepares you for that. It’s a better feeling, than I’d ever thought it would be. For all those years, when I picked up books at the store, I’d always pictured what it would be like to pick up my own. I’d thought about it, but actually doing it, was sooooo much better.

It’s amazing to see, in physical form, the product of all the hard work that you’ve put in.

After that, my friends and family started pouring in.

Seeing, so many people you know, come and support you, is such a heartwarming feeling.

There were writing friends, non-writing friends, and members of my family. For all of them, it was helping out and supporting a friend. But, for me seeing them all there, meant so much more. There were tons of kids roaming around, and also quite a few people who had just come in, after reading about the event, That, to me, was the coolest. People you know, might feel obligated, but just seeing people who came by, because they were interested in your book, was overwhelming. That made me incredibly happy.

Overall, I was relaxed, had fun, and everything felt like a party atmosphere.

So, thank you, once again, to all who came out to help me celebrate. It really meant so much to me, and I can honestly say, this was a night that I’ll never forget.

Interview with Leah Henderson, Debut Author of One Shadow on the Wall

Hello Tuesdays!

Today, I’m pleased to be joined by my fellow 2017 Debut member, Leah Henderson, whose debut, One Shadow On The Wall, came out June 6th from Simon & Schuster/Atheneum

JR: Hi, Leah and thanks for joining us today.

LH: Hey! I’m thrilled to be here. Thanks for having me.

JR: Before we begin, can you tell us a little bit about One Shadow On The Wall and the impetus behind writing it?  

LH: One Shadow On The Wall is the story of a newly orphaned boy choosing between what is right and what is easy in order to keep a promise he made to his father. It is laced with magical realism and set in contemporary Senegal, a place near and dear to my heart.

The impetus for writing it came a few years ago during a trip to Senegal. I happened to see a young boy sitting on a beach wall and asked myself what his day might be like and tried to collect my thoughts in a short story. When my grad school professor read it she remarked, “You know this is the start of a novel, right?” Although I wasn’t quite sold on the idea at first, after many, many drafts, and a couple more after that, I found Mor—my main character—and his story.

JR: I saw on your website, www.leahhendersonbooks.com, that you like taking in different traditions of people when you travel around the world. What are some of the more interesting traditions you’ve observed?

LH: That’s a tough one. I travel a lot. Wanderlust skips through every inch of my body—always! I have seen a number of things over the years that have definitely left an impression from the art of tea service in Senegal or Mali, having henna decorated on my hands and feet during a weeklong Indian wedding in Bangalore, but really my fondest memories are of each places cultural notes that are all their own. The differences between the souks of Muscat, Oman and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia compared to the shops in Dubrovnik, Croatia, or those in Beijing, Istanbul, or Capetown. There are so many differences and similarities around the world that are always so fascinating to witness.

 

JR: Can you tell us a little bit about your writing journey getting to this point?

LH: I’ve always loved writing, and after spending almost a year writing a novel on a speaker in an Italian nightclub, I decided to go back to school for a MFA in Writing. But I didn’t truly put writing blinders on and focus until after I graduated.

I started One Shadow on the Wall during graduate school, but really dragged my feet about finishing it. I truly didn’t believe I was the one to tell this story. I was worried I’d get everything wrong about a culture I knew so little about. And it wasn’t until my father reminded me that I had the opportunity to help kids like Mor see themselves on the page that my focus intensified.

So with the help of my amazingly supportive mentor I finished One Shadow On The Wall about a year later. Then I submitted it to a very small number of agents. I heard some really encouraging things about the story and my writing, but unfortunately no offers. I knew this quiet story set in a little known part of Africa would have an uphill journey to publication, so I decided to put it in a drawer for awhile and started writing something new. But about seven months after those rejections, I crossed paths with one of the first agents who’d read it and they wanted to take a second look. After that, things happened pretty quickly. I signed on with that agent at the end of 2014, went out on submission the last day of February 2015, and the manuscript sold by the beginning of March 2015.

 

JR: What’s your writing process like?

LH:  It varies for each project I write. But generally an idea sits in my head, twirling around for a while before I actually start to put anything down on paper. Sometimes I will write a brief outline, and other times I will dive right in because certain scenes are so vivid in my mind.

I kind of let the story dictate how things will go. But at some point I definitely stop and assess where I am in the process and either start outlining for the first time, or add to an outline I already created, sometimes even shifting around scenes.

JR: What was your favorite childhood book and who’s your favorite author?

LH: Agh…this question… As a writer and avid reader I have soooooo many favorites! They depend on what I need at the moment. But I will say the childhood book that has left the deepest impression is Corduroy. It was the first book where I got to see an image of myself and my mom having a simple adventure and I loved it.

 

JR: What’s your favorite movie?

LH: Many of my favorite things depend on my mood. So any questions about “favorites” are tough for me. I like and love so many things for what they are and for how they make me feel. I’ve never been one to put a limit on my “happy” or shy away from things that evoke strong emotions in me.  

But one movie I can play again and again and not get bored of no matter how many times I see it is: Beauty and the Beast though Slumdog Millionaire, Love Actually, The Piano, and Notting Hill are up there as well. But right now my whole soul is waiting for the Black Panther. I know that movie will give me life!

 

JR: Something people would be surprised to learn about you?

LH: To be honest, I’m not really sure anymore. I am always surprised by what people find surprising. I’ve never run off and joined the circus or anything, but I once packed up my brother’s Batmobile and headed off for a cross-country trip in my red rain boots (didn’t make it out of the cul-de-sac though . . . Momdukes convinced me there was an adventure waiting for me at the playground).

 

 

JR: Do you do a lot of research when you write?

LH: Absolutely, especially for One Shadow on the Wall. Even though I’ve traveled to Senegal a number of times, her culture is not my own, so I definitely needed to research EVEYTHING. But I have also done a far amount of research on some of my other stories as well. I have a very curious soul, so I love to research. Though sometimes it can quickly turn into a procrastination technique. But I generally do quite a bit of exploring before I ever start writing anything. And in some cases a lot more after I get a completed first draft down, because that’s when I truly know what I need.

JR: Here at the Tuesdays, a big part of our success and the purpose of this site, has been being involved in a critique group. Are you involved in one and if so, how has it helped you?

LH: Critique groups are amazing! Or at least having one or two solid critique partners can do a world of good. And I’m fortunate enough to have both. Critique groups have helped me brainstorm when I’m stuck, and have called me on things that I’ve tried to slip in unnoticed (even though I already knew they weren’t going to fly). They are also a great source of encouragement and kinship if you are fortunate to find the right one.  

 

JR: What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received and is there any advice you can give to writers looking to break in?

LH: Just remember that: “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something – anything – down on paper.” –Anne Lamott

And I would offer this: Believe in yourself, and if you can’t completely do that yet, surround yourself with others who believe in you wholeheartedly, even when you falter, and from who’s example you can learn from.

 

JR: What are you working on next?

LH: My heart-place is middle grade, so I am working on another middle grade that is very different from One Shadow on the Wall, but it combines similar elements—family, friendship, and finding your possibilities and stars.

 

 

JR: Before we go, I always like to ask, who’s your favorite member of The Tuesdays? And I really hope you choose me, though, You see, everyone picks Faran, and I would really appreciate it, if for once, someone chose me. 

LH: There goes that word “favorite” again. This time I’m not pickin’ favorites! I’m all about people that make others smile and I’m sure each of you have a talent for bringing out a smile in someone else so I’m staying out of this one (call me a coward if you want to). 

JR: Sigh . . . okay. Anyway, thanks again for joining us, and the best of luck with One Shadow on the Wall!

A Very Busy Writer!

Hello Tuesdays!

Hope all of you are well.

Well, right now, I have to tell you, I am swamped! Absolutely swamped. But, when you’re a writer and you’re swamped, that means you’re working, and that’s a good thing. Right now, I’m working on a sequel to Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies, as well as, another project, and also trying to prepare a book launch.

But, I’m going to brush all talk of that other work aside for a few minutes, and talk about next week. You see, next week, is that book launch for Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies. So, for anyone who happens to be in South Florida, it’ll be on Thursday, August 10th at 7:00 p.m. at the Plantation, Barnes & Noble, to be precise! I can’t even begin to tell you, that’s going to be very exciting for me, since it’s the culmination of a very long journey. When you work hard for years, it’s gratifying to see results. That’s finally happening, for me. When I first saw the book cover with my name on it, it was such an indescribable feeling. Just happiness and awe. Although, that particular book didn’t take years, the whole process itself, did. It’s about reaching a goal. Learning your craft, getting to a point, where you’re good enough to have someone interested in your work, and then, finally publishing it. It really is rewarding.

So, I know, for some, it’s becoming interminable listening to me talk about this, but for me, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime feeling, and I plan on enjoying and savoring every moment.

Hopefully, I’ll get to see as many of you as possible next week, because sharing it with friends, is the majority of the fun.

Until next time . . .

Jonathan

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.