Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Countdown - Books in Review

Christmas Tree Made Out Of Books
It's Christmas Eve and I'm sure a lot of you are ticking down the last minutes till the end of the workday or some may have started their holidays already! Perhaps you're traveling to see loved ones or staying put and welcoming guests into your home. Or better yet, perhaps you've got time off to snuggle under cozy blankets and catch up on some great reads.

If the latter is in your near future, here are a few books that made the top of my list this year. Not all YA but sure to knock your socks off. 

ROOM by Emily Donoghue

I watched the movie, then quickly ordered the book. Word of advice if you happen to watch and read in that order: if you are a sleep deprived mother at one of those schmancy theatres where they let you drink win at your seat, WARNING! Your eyes will become overflowing reservoirs of salty liquid for TWO HOURS!

EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU by Celeste Ng

Reading Ng's debut is like listening to Adele for the first time. I know, that's a mighty comparison but you don't make it to the top of Amazon's list of 100 Best Books in 2014 because you're average. Ng's story is about characters that love and live and make you want to hug your child. 

I think I'm noticing a trend here?

THE NIGHTINGALE by Kristin Hannah

A story of two sisters during WWII who couldn't be more different. The author makes writing strong female characters seem easy - but that's because she does it so well. If you're looking for a study in conflict, this is the book. 

Two non fiction books also made my list.

YEAR OF YES by Shonda Rhimes

Shonda, Shonda, Shonda. As blogmate Lauren mentioned, I recommend audio booking this one because Rhimes' voice is like butter and she invites you to drink wine with her. A glass of wine in one hand and Rhimes' voice dancing in your ear and singing words of wisdom (or drink more wine). It's a fabulous treat. 

Apparently wine is another trend in my life.

JUST MERCY by Bryan Stevenson

Real, intense. We take a journey with the author as he battles the broken system that is death row. Hooked by the first page.

PAPER TOWNS by John Green


An oldie but a goodie.  My YA pick for the year. It's young, it's fun and if you finish the book, you can pick up the movie and compare.

What were your picks of the year?

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Fun Sites for Writers

NaNo is over and as you push that WIP aside to mull things over, you may still want to write, so here's a list of a few fun sites for writers:

www.writersden.pantomimepony.co.uk/writers-plot-ideas.com
http://storybird.com/storymaker/?storefront_slug=pascalcampion
http.first50-wordpress.com/
www.fakenamegenerator.com/

And our personal favorite:

www.plot-generator.org.uk/


Happy Writing . . . and writing and writing!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

YA Series That Make Great Holiday Gifts

Piggybacking off Lauren's Book Lovers' Holiday Shopping List post, here's a holiday ideas list with a narrower focus: young adult series. For a young (or not so young) bibliophile, there's nothing better than having a complete series to devour, book after book. Best of all, each of the series on this list comes in a handy box set, perfect for easy gifting.

1. The Hunger Games
It's a perfect time to give Suzanne Collins's trilogy to new readers, since the last movie in the series just came out and those who haven't read the book yet are probably wondering what all the buzz is about.


2. Legend
I gushed about Legend in the first ever YA Book Pick here on this blog, and the rest of the series definitely held up. If your giftee likes dystopian, high-stakes books, this is an excellent choice.

3. John Green
Okay, this one is cheating, because they aren't technically a series, but most teen readers would love to get a set of books from the master of the YA contemporary genre.
4. A Wrinkle in Time
Do you have someone on your list who's into sci-fi and fantasy? Introduce them to one of the most influential and groundbreaking series ever with this quintet of books. It's also a perfect trip down memory lane for adults who grew up reading the adventures of Meg Murry and her family over and over again.
5. Percy Jackson and the Olympians
For a reluctant upper MG/young YA reader, it doesn't get much better than Percy Jackson. These books are quick reads, and Percy is relatable and funny. Your giftee will get through all five books before he or she knows it.
6. Harry Potter
Last, but certainly not least, it would be an unthinkable omission if I didn't mention possibly the most giftable series ever. Depending on your budget and the versions the person owns already, you can choose from a hard or softcover set and different covers. (There are even fully illustrated editions coming out, although only the first one is released to date, so you'll have to wait a while for a box set of those...)
Do you have any young adult series on your wishlist this year?

Monday, December 7, 2015

Book-Lovers' Holiday Shopping List

If you're like me and love giving books as gifts, here are some of my top picks across the age-lines:

YA
 (most of our picks are found here http://thinkingtoinking.blogspot.com/p/ya-book-picks.html, but I added a couple of extra nods to the books that were hot commodities in my classroom with my reluctant readers last year):

Our very own Stacy Stokes' Where the Staircase Ends is a juicy and drama-filled story of friendship while also taking readers on the philosophical quest for what happens after we die/ how that knowledge affects how we live now. My class of reluctant readers nabbed this book right away and passed it around for reading.

Another favorite of my reluctant readers was The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu. This multi-perspective story was honest and haunting about the ways bullying affects a community.


Picture Books


My 5 year old niece is going wild over anything Elephant and Piggy, but really any Mo Willems will do. 

She also can't stop laughing over Josh Funk's Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast

Her sister thinks that The Ghost of Karl Marx is a hoot, delighting her Economics-teaching mother. I'm inclined to agree that it's wonderful. 

Adult Books

While most of us are so deeply entrenched in the YA book world, we may not get outside to see the adult reading offerings so I'm dedicating most of my referrals here. 

For the creative friend you want to get a pick-me-up: Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. Jennifer
recommended it to me as read by the author. I agree.

For the cozy down-home literary reader/foodie: Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal. It makes even the unlikable of us more lovable.

For the community-minded: Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me was thought-provoking and a beautifully nuanced letter to his son about his thoughts on race in America today.

For history-lovers and feisty feminists: Meg Waite Clayton's The Race for Paris, the story of the female reporters who broke the rules and laws forbidding them from front-line action in order to tell the stories of WWII. Fast-paced and inspiring.

For hard-core literary fans: Adam Johnson's Fortune Smiles A warning: this book is sad. It's a collection of short stories that takes an honest and surreal eye to the struggles man faces day in and day out, but somehow Johnson leaves the reader feeling both empty and full at the same time. It's easy to see why it won the National Book Award.


***And though it's not out this year, a bonus recommendation to the talented mother/son duo whose blog postings you love, for your MG needs: a story of adventure set amidst the National Parks of America. Mason Davis and the Rise of the Storm Makers by Karen and Mitchell Clayton is always a winner.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Cover Reveal + Giveaway! FACSIMILE by Vicki L. Weavil

Hello all!  Hope you had a great Thanksgiving and a happy and successful NANO! I've been on a bit of a writing hiatus as I think through some pending revisions to my latest and greatest, but that's a tale for another post. ;-)

Today, I'm thrilled to share the cover for fellow Month9Books author Vicki L. Weavil's newest release, FACSIMILE. I am a sucker for Sci-Fi, and can't wait to get my hands on this one. If it's half as good as her debut CROWN OF ICE, then we're all in for a treat.

Be sure to scroll to the bottom for a chance to win your own copy!

So, without further ado, are you ready to see the amazing cover?


....one



...two



...two and a half



...two and three quarters



...Three! Here it is!

 
facsimile ebook final
 

Beautiful, no?  Here's a little more about the book:
For a ticket to Earth, seventeen-year-old Anna-Maria “Ann” Solano is willing to jettison her birth planet, best friend, and the boy who loves her. Especially since all she’s required to do is escort Dace Keeling, a young naturalist, through the wilderness of the partially terraformed planet Eco. Ann‘s determination to escape the limitations of her small, frontier colony never falters, until Dace’s expeditions uncover three secrets. One offers riches, one shatters Ann’s perceptions of herself, and one reveals that the humans stranded on Eco are not its only inhabitants.
Ann’s willing to sacrifice friendship and love for a new life on Earth. But when an entire species is placed in jeopardy by her actions, she must make a choice – fulfill the dream that’s always sustained her, or save the planet she’s never considered home.

What does Vicki Weavil, aurthor extrodinair think about her latest cover?

"I love this cover because it reflects the book so well. The image of a girl standing alone on a desolate world is a perfect depiction of my protagonist, Ann, as well as her "sand over stone" world, Eco. But it's also symbolic, because although Ann isn't really alone, she often feels isolated on her frontier planet. The addition of the image of the Earth is also appropriately symbolic. Ann can't actually see the Earth from Eco, but since her goal is to live on Earth it's always on her mind, so the inclusion of the Earth image is a wonderful metaphor for her hopes and dreams."

I have to agree, it's beautiful . Can't wait to read it, Vicki!

add to goodreads

Facsimile (Facsimile #1) by Vicki L. Weavil Publication Date: March 8, 2015 Publisher: Month9Books

Available for Pre-order: Amazon | B&N
 
About-the-Author
 
Vicki Weavil 11
Vicki L. Weavil is represented by Fran Black of Literary Counsel. Her Young Adult Fantasy, CROWN OF ICE -- a dark YA retelling of H.C. Andersen's "The Snow Queen" -- is published by Month9Books. Two companion books to CROWN OF ICE -- SCEPTER OF FIRE and ORB OF LIGHT -- will be published in 2016 and 2017. Her YA SciFi -- FACSIMILE -- will be published by Month9Books in 2016, with a sequel, DERIVATION, to follow. A new YA Fantasy, THE DIAMOND THIMBLE, will be published by Month9Books in 2018. She also writes adult SciFi.
Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Tumbler
 
Giveaway
Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win. Title will be sent upon its release.
 
Button
 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Twenty Thousand Words and Counting

Frustrated Writer Cartoon

Now that Nanowrimo is behind us, we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief. Whether you made your 50,000 words or fell short a word or two, the Canadian in me salutes you. You tried, you did your best. No go forth and continue writing!

For me, I've started to see a pattern. One that blogmate Lauren has been helping me to overcome. 

It's the "Twenty Thousand Words" mental barrier. That fifty foot fence that creeps up as you hit that word count and all of a sudden nothing seems good, everything you've written is crap and oh my god there's so much more to write but this is all so fricken boring!


It's that point that Lauren pointed out where you've either reached or are about to reach the end of the first act and that gosh forsaken mother of a second act looks like a never ending ocean with no third act in sight. 

And let's not forget there's that new shiny toy in the window. That whimsical idea itching your brain that's going to be the next NY Times Bestseller.  It's sitting there, cute as a puppy, begging you to play with it instead.

We've all been there and I'm still trying to break that barrier. Luckily I have great blog mates with great tools to help me out. Here's a few that might help you.

Pow Wow with Your Writer Friends


Coffee time, chocolate time, or happy hour.  This is when you need your writing buds the most. Maybe they're going through the same thing or have suggestions on how to overcome it. More importantly perhaps they have ideas that may push your project forward. Worst case scenario? A great night out with the gals (and guys).

Plot with Help


During my pow wow with Lauren, she recommended The Plot Whisperer Workbook by Martha Alderson.  During Nanowrimo, we right like hell, but sometimes we need a break because we're worried we're going in the wrong direction.  But we have no time, cause it's Nanowrimo for gosh sakes! But now it's December and we have some time and this is a good way to plug into some exercises that may help jog your brain or give you a new perspective on your manuscript.

Take a Break! 

Seems counter intuitive but your brain needs a breather. Go to the beach or the skating rink or spend time with family and friends. Your brain is still subconsciously working on that book, I guarantee it. 

Seek Deadline Motivators

Groups like San Diego Writers Ink have page review sessions with professional writers that meet once a week. This might be just the deadline driven motivator you need to make it to that next five pager. Can't go to a professional meeting? Meetup.com is a great place to find like minded individuals in your area who already meet weekly to do the same thing. 

Keep Writing

Self explanatory. It's hard but it's going to feel real good when you write "The End". Then it's onto revisions, yay!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Kiss and Tell, Not Show and Tell

It is almost mistletoe season, so pucker up.  Kisses are wonderful, powerful even, and are especially important in YA literature.  But how to write those all important kissing scenes?  Here's a few sites that just might help your characters to lock lips.

www.pyschologytoday.com/blog/one-true-thing/201508/seven-tips-kissing(like)-you-mean-it
www.pscyhologytoday.com/blog/world-connections/201405/what's-in-a-kiss.
www.psychologytoday.com/blog.hide-and-seek/201503/why-do-we-kiss.
www.malindalo.com/2012/04/writing-about-kissing.

Warning this last site is a bit steamy!!!

www.epicreads.com/blog/11-unforgetable-YA-kissy-scenes.



A short summary:

1. Be somewhat descriptive & include the five senses
2. Show not tell (give us the character's POV)
3. Give us the meaning behind the kiss (POV can help with this)
4, Most of all - Have fun!

Happy Writing!!!

Kiss and Tell, not Show and Tell

It is almost mistletoe season, so pucker up.  Kisses are powerful, especially in YA Literature.  Here's a couple of sites to get your characters to lock lips.

www.pyschologytoday.com/blog/one-true-thing/201508/seven-tips-kissing-(like)-you-mean-it.

www.pyschologytoday.com/blog/wildconnections/201405/what's-in-a-kiss

www.pyschologytoday.com/blog/hide-and-seek/201503/why-do-we-kiss

Basically the sum of the three articles is that the initial kiss is so important because this kiss is how couples gather information about one another and that any further kissing is important because that is how the couples bond and build on their relationship.

Even if it is puppy love - kissing is important.









So have your characters slow down, breathe, and enjoy.  Your readers will also enjoy the slowed pace and some of the extra details. 



Monday, November 23, 2015

Plotting the Mystery: Helpful Link Roundup

I'm about 10,000 words into my new work-in-progress, a YA mystery. This is a departure from my usual sci-fi/fantasy bent (although it does have a speculative element, because I really can't help myself), so I found myself at something of a loss when it was time to plot the novel.
Where to turn? The internet, of course! Here are some of the most helpful resources I found online for plotting mysteries.

1. Dramatic Structure and Plot, by Hallie Ephron for mysterywriters.org
This extremely useful overview of mystery writing gives you some of the basics, like giving your sleuth a hard time and how to write a hook-y opening. The list at the end of cliché endings to avoid is especially helpful.

2. 5 Tips for Plotting a Mystery, by Pamela Fagan Hutchins
The first piece of advice here (start with an end and work toward a beginning) gave me my first aha! moment in my novel plotting. I figured out my climactic scene and the big reveal of whodunit, then worked backward. That made it much easier to flesh out the beginning and middle of the story.

3. Understanding the Essentials of Writing a Murder Mystery, by Bronwyn Hemus
Having read quite a few mysteries, I knew a progression of clues was a must, but I was foggy on how that worked, exactly. This article discusses the importance of feeding the reader clues that aren't obvious, but that could be followed to arrive at the solution to the mystery in retrospect (easier said than done, but at least I know that I should be doing it...)

And, just for fun...

4. Mystery Plot Generator
This mad-libs style blurb generator is perfect when you're stuck on some aspect of your plot and need some comic relief. My favorite part is the automatically generated critics' reviews—brilliant! :-)

Happy plotting!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Ten Things to Do When You're LOSING YOUR MIND During NanoWriMo

If you are still hanging in there during NaNoWriMo, CONGRATS! (you are seriously amazing. To make it this far is really really hard) This is also often when it gets even more challenging to push through and keep going so here are some ideas to help you refresh and make it to your goal. 

10. Breathe. Seriously. Inhale, count to ten, exhale. Repeat 5-10 times.

Face mask reward= good for sleepless skin



9. Bribe yourself. What will you get when you hit your word count? Bubble bath? McDonalds drive-thru french fries? An episode of The Big Bang Theory? Finally try out that soothing facial mud mask you got in Birchbox last month?

8. Take a ten minute walk around your block, and notice your setting. Dostoevsky took long walks most days when he was writing Crime and Punishment, and it turned out pretty well for him.
Walking at sunset isn't a bad idea


7. Find a picture of your someone who looks like your ideal reader and put it next to your screen so that you can look at him/her and remember why you're writing the book to begin with. What does he/she need to hear? Why does he/she need you to complete this book?

6. Read one paragraph from the writer you most admire. Notice what you love about his/her writing, and get excited about trying to infuse that in your draft.

5. Chocolate. That is all.
Or get a hot chocolate in nature :)

4.Throw something. If you want to be mature, you can play a bit of catch, but when I'm really frustrated, I like to find a blank wall and throw unbreakable objects at it until the frustration turns into comedy.

3. Get in nature. Look at beautiful pictures of nature. Watch a web cam of nature. If the Pandas are sleeping, check out wolves or birds or something else beautiful from one of the cameras on these sites  Maybe consider the ways your characters are animals and the ecosystem in which they operate and riff on that for a bit.

2. Go on Twitter and challenge someone to a one-hour word-count write-off. Use the hashtag #amwriting or #nanowrimo and see if anyone bites.

1. Dance Party!!!!! This is by far my favorite. I throw a record on (yes. I like my T. Swift better on vinyl) and jump around in socks as much as I can for the duration of a single song. It gets my blood flowing, and makes me feel like I can do anything in life if I choose the right song. By the time the song is over I'm ready to dive back in.

Good luck, and remember, YOU CAN DO THIS. For every page you've written so far, I'm proud of you, I believe in you, and I wish you all the best. 

XOXO,

Lauren

Monday, November 16, 2015

YA Book Pick: Popular: A Memoir by Maya Van Wagenen

Once a month we choose an outstanding YA book to review.  We want to spotlight books of interest to aspiring writers, as well as highlight some of our favorite books and authors.

This month's book is Popular: A Memoir by Maya Van Wagenen.  Maya is a teen author and thus has a refreshing point-of-view.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Stuck near the bottom of the social ladder at "pretty much the lowest level of people at school who aren't paid to be here," Maya has never been popular.  But before starting eight grade, she decides to begin a unique social experiment:  spend the school year following a 1950s popularity guide, written by former teen model Betty Cornell.  The real-life results are hilarious, painful, and filled with unexpected surprises - but through it all, Maya's positive approach helps her to reveal a new understanding of self-confidence, kindness, and acceptance.

First line: "School is the armpit of life," my best friend Kenzie once told me.  Amen.

Highlights:  The book is fun, entertaining, and hilarious.  Maya has such a strong voice and really opens up to her readers and pretty much holds nothing back.  In addition, to have such an authentic, raw quality, the book also has an even stronger message on what it means to be "popular."  Some critics doubt that a teenage writer could be this wise and write so well, but then what published book hasn't been reshaped and polished by countless helpful hands?!  Don't most books pass through a series of Beta Readers, agents, and editors?  Whatever the case, this book does shine - its both funny and insightful. 


Notes for Writers:  Voice. Definitely the voice.  Maya also provides a great message along with her story, but this book's strongest attribute is the voice. 

A great read for:  YA and tween girls and their parents.  Boys would learn much from the book as well, but some of the subjects are just too girlie.  I would say this is a good book for girls entering Junior High and even High School.  Wish I could have had a book like this for when my eldest went to school.  At our school, the "popular" girls were asked to buy Michael Kors purses and carry their lunches in brown paper bags.  This book will help to put some of this into perspective. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Nano 33.3333, Forward! and Retreats.

Two chairs by the lake with words "Insert Writers Here"
We're about a third of the way into Nanowrimo and wherever you are in the process, give yourself a pat on the back. Whether you're ahead of the curve, racing to catch up or extending your plan into December, the fact that you've put words to page is a great start. 

I've spent a lot of time these past few weeks writing away at my local Starbucks and it's been productive but the start of November also means the start of Christmas season and there's only so much seasonal music I can take. 

As important as it is to find time to write by yourself, sometimes it's great to be with like minds and in a setting totally different from the norm. 

Enter the writing retreat. 

It's a great opportunity not only to write but to meet new people or spend time with old friends. The bonus is breaks usually include scenic tours, great stories and a glass or two of wine. 

Not all of us can afford to take a week off to the mountains of Colorado or the vineyards of Tuscany but have no fear, there are mini-retreats usually right at home. 

Here are a few to give your search a boost. 

Gifts of the Night Writing Retreat - November 15 in San Diego with Judy Reeves

The Art and Craft of Children's Book Writing - July 2016 in Martha's Vineyard with renown editor Emma Dryden

Breakout Novel - April 2016 in Hood River, Oregon with Donald Maass

Looking for something in screenwriting? Try:

Nosara Screenwriting Retreat - May 2016 in Costa Rica with Bill Boyle

Check out your local writing groups for news on what's in your neck of the woods. 

Happy Nano-ing!




Monday, November 9, 2015

The Skimm: How to Keep Up With Current Events When in Your Writing Cave

It's November, which means that thousands of writers will disappear into their writing caves for NaNoWriMo, churning out 1,667 words per day until they hit 50,000. When you're cranking on a new project, it can sometimes feel like you've literally fallen into a hole, with barely any time to eat or sleep, let alone keep up with current events.



Allow me to introduce you to The Skimm, a daily email that compiles the previous day's headlines into one quick, easy-to-skim article that arrives in your inbox each morning. The tongue-in-cheek writing makes even the most boring headline enjoyable, and it takes all of about five minutes to finish (for you multitasks out there, you'll be done by the time you finish brushing your teeth.)

Who says you have to lose touch with the world just because you've fallen into a writing cave?

Happy reading Skimming!


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Top Ten Wonderful World of Boys

Here's this seasons insight into how to keep those boy characters real.

1. Jumping is a perfectly acceptable mode of transportation. 
They will jump off the roof just as happily as they would jump on your furniture.  They have no problems have jumping off a rope swing into the pool, but don't be surprised if they won't jump rope.

2. Everything is a competition - even fastening seatbelts or using the restroom.

3.  Creative cleaning system.
Half of the spoons have been licked before sticking back in the drawer and the other half are just plain missing.  Time to look under their beds again.

4. Break everything.
This week they left my car door open all night while it rained and then flooded the upstairs bathroom which then flooded the kitchen.  This doesn't include even include the toy truck my son bought and broke within the first five minutes.  Ah,really?  So much for saving up for college. 

5. Miss the toilet seat but are nice enough to clean up using perfume and hand towels.  Gee thanks.

6. Mom's makeup makes for great camo paint and Halloween makeup.  Again thanks guys.

7. Love to do artwork!!!  Why, I have their sticky handprints all over the walls and windows.  I even have a few nose prints too.

8.  Good at redecorating.  I hear furniture being dragged around all the time only to find sheets and bookshelves now make for instant forts.  Socks, shoes, jackets, backpacks, and toys are strewn all over the place the minute they walk through the door, but don't bother to clean up, but they had it there for a reason. 

9.  Silence is golden right?  Um, not so much with boys.  If it is quiet, better investigate.

10.  Good news is that boys give some of the best hugs!!!  It is a competition right?!

Monday, November 2, 2015

How to Do NaNoWriMo Even When You Can't

It's November, and you know what that means. Hundreds of thousands of writers are stealing whatever time they can this month, pounding the keys to get an average of 1,667 words a day. The dedicated will reach 50,000 words by the end of the month and win National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.

Participating in NaNo has many benefits. You get motivation to finish (or make good headway) on your novel and the chance to meet like-minded people. If you like writing in a group, there are lots of local meetups in libraries, coffeeshops, and other locations.

Sounds great, right? But what if the idea of committing to write 1,667 words every day for a month makes you want to laugh hysterically? Whether it's because of a slower writing speed, a job that takes up too much time, or family commitments, many people can't figure out how to make it happen.

But that doesn't mean you can't benefit from all that NaNo has to offer. Why not set your own goals? Maybe 1,667 words per day isn't realistic, but what about 800, or 500? You'll still be able to cheer on your fellow writers online and in person. Better yet, you'll still be making writing a daily habit.

I'll be shooting for 500 words per day on my new project throughout the month of November. I'm using the excellent (and free!) project tracker at http://writetrack.davidsgale.com/ to make sure I stay on target.

If you want to do a modified NaNo but don't think you can stick to a daily word count, what about putting in a certain amount of time each day? The Pomodoro Technique discussed in this NaNo post on the Project Mayhem blog might work for you, just like the author of the post.

Will you be NaNo-ing this year?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Writing Advice from NY Times best selling author Beth Revis + Giveaway!

I'm so so  excited to have Beth Revis, author of the NY Times best selling trilogy Across the Universe and The Body Electric, as a guest blogger today. (Yes, I am totally fangirling right now.)

To celebrate the release of her latest work, Paper Hearts, Volume 1: Some Writing Advice, she's graciously stopped by to tell us a little more about the three part series and to share her personal writing philosophy. Oh, and there's a giveaway!

But enough from me. Let's hear what Ms. Revis has to say!

DON'T MISS THE GIVEAWAY AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST!  Also, all orders of Paper Hearts made before November 15 from Malaprops will come with a special gift--more details below! 

You can win a journal with this cover!
I wrote Paper Hearts for the writer I used to be. The questions I used to have plagued me when I was starting this career path. How do I get to the end? What's the proper way to structure a novel--is there even a proper way? How do I make my book stand out from all the other ones on sub?

Now, fifteen years, eleven unpublished books, three New York Times bestsellers, one self published book, and countless hours working on craft and working with other professionals, I think I finally have the answers that I needed way back then.

Unfortunately, I can't travel back in time.

But what I can do is try to help others. I've been compiling articles on the things I've learned about writing, publishing, and marketing for years, first informally on blog posts, then more collectively on Wattpad. After hitting 100000 reads, I realized that I should take Paper Hearts more seriously...and that I had not one book, but three.

 Fully revised and expanded, the Paper Hearts series will feature three volumes, one each on writing, publishing, and marketing. Paper Hearts, Volume 1: Some Writing Advice will be out on November 1, with the other two following in December and January.

 Preorder it now from: Independent Bookstore ~ Amazon ~ BN ~  Kobo ~ Smashwords
____________________________

Your enemy is the blank page. When it comes to writing, there's no wrong way to get words on paper. But it's not always easy to make the ink flow. Paper Hearts: Some Writing Advice won't make writing any simpler, but it may help spark your imagination and get your hands back on the keyboard.

Practical Advice Meets Real Experience
With information that takes you from common mistakes in grammar to detailed charts on story structure, Paper Hearts describes:
  • How to Develop Character, Plot, and World
  • What Common Advice You Should Ignore
  • What Advice Actually Helps
  • How to Develop a Novel
  • The Basics of Grammar, Style, and Tone 
  • Four Practical Methods of Charting Story Structure
  • How to Get Critiques and Revise Your Novel
  • How to Deal with Failure
  • And much more!
BONUS! More than 25 "What to do if" scenarios to help writers navigate problems in writing from a New York Times Bestselling author who's written more than 2 million words of fiction.
____________________________

Remember: if you pre-order the print copy from my local indie bookstore, Malaprops, you'll also get a chapbook of the best writing advice from 12 beloved and bestselling YA authors included in your order for free!
____________________________

MY PERSONAL WRITING PHILOSOPHY

It’s not always helpful to get too meta when it comes to art, but figuring out how you best work can help you figure out what to do when you get stuck. This is by no means a formula for how I write, but it is my typical evolution of a novel.

 ONE: EXPLORATION 

My most common advice for young people who want to write is simply, “Whenever you have the option to sit in your room and write or go off and try something new, go for the adventure.” Too often we forget that there would be nothing to write about if we didn’t have experiences and discover the stories in the world. A life lived well is the best resource for becoming a writer.

So the first part of writing actually has nothing to do with writing—it’s about living. Seek adventure. Learn new cultures and worlds. Read about topics you’ve never considered before. Meet people who have lived vastly different lives from you. Explore everything.

You have to find your story before you can write it.

TWO: REFLECTION

That exploration may take years before it comes to fruition in the form of a story. A journey I took to Malta while a college sophomore became the setting of my fourth published novel nearly a decade later. A piece of classical Renaissance literature I studied in high school became a key clue to another story. And don’t get me started on how much I hated science as a student…and then became a science fiction author.

The exploration of the world is important, but don’t forget that you may not be able to use everything you discover right away. Reflect on the experiences and education you gather, and let them develop into a story organically. I keep an “ideas folder” on my computer desktop where I jot down quick ideas and bits of inspiration. They can be images of beautiful locations, weird trivia facts, or a poem that inspired a “what if” question. I go back to the ideas folder often. I don’t use every idea, but so far I’ve written a whole novel, three short stories, and several added details to existing novels based on these little snippets I’ve gathered, magpie-like, into the folder.

 Beyond this, keep in mind that writing is a mental game. You need time to ruminate with the story. You’re not a machine. You can’t just bang out words and make them great. Reflect on what the story you want to write should be. Think. Never disregard thinking time. Staring at a wall and just thinking about your novel can very well be the most important part of the process. So next time your significant other yells at you for napping instead of writing, shove this book in his or her face and remind them that your brain needs thinking time.

 THREE: OBSESSION

I know an idea will become a novel when I start obsessing over it. I think about it constantly. I have conversations—usually in private, sometimes in public—with the characters. I start making charts in my notebooks. I doodle maps. I talk to myself about plot points. Every synapse in my brain that’s not working to keep me alive as a functioning human being is dedicated to the story.

I love this stage. This is where the first draft happens. This is where the book becomes real. I live and breathe the story. It utterly consumes me.

 FOUR: SEPARATION 

But that obsession stage is immediately followed by a separation stage. The obsession stage is all about love, but love is blind and you need to see the flaws to edit. This is the most difficult stage in writing for me, and I don’t always handle it well. This is the stage where the work—the real work—begins.

I have to consciously separate myself from the book, to look at it as a whole and as the individual words, to create a working mindset of revising and editing. This is where the “kill your darlings” attitude comes in. This is where I slash away tens of thousands of words at a time, where I rewrite whole plot points, where I ruthlessly alter characters.

It helps, of course, to invite readers in at this stage. I never show my work to anyone until I’m at the stage where I can separate myself from it. I need to be able to hear criticism of my work without thinking that people are criticizing me. And I need to be prepared to hear that feedback and take it. It’s not until I can separate myself from the work that I can benefit from critiques and edits—anything before that will fall on my very deaf ears and just be a waste of time.

The separation stage of writing is cold, and I don’t like it. It’s about letting go, though, and in the end, if you want your work published, that’s exactly what you have to do.
____________________________

____________________________

About the Author: Beth Revis is the New York Times bestselling author of the Across the Universe trilogy, as well as The Body Electric, Paper Hearts, and the forthcoming A World Without You. She lives in the Appalachian mountains with her boys: one husband, one son, and two very large dogs. 
You can find out more on Facebook, Twitter, or online. If you never want to miss a thing and also get exclusive insider opportunities, sign up for her newsletter here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Tony Robbins and the Stories that we Tell


Last weekend my mom took some of my family to hear Tony Robbins speak about unleashing the power within oneself. The title of the weekend was officially called "Unleash the Power Within" and after some initial joking about making matching t-shirts with Robbins's face that might read "Unleash Me," I agreed to go. Why not? He's supposed to be the best in the world at being able to change something in a person in an instant (imagine him snapping his fingers here because he did that a lot), and I wanted to see him in action. I'm a teacher at heart, and if I could learn how to stop my students from beating themselves up, I wanted more tools.

We attended the event in matching t-shirts we'd made (his face with a tongue-in-cheek quotation of his "In life you need either inspiration or desperation" with "the Icarus Philosophy Club" at the bottom), and over the course of the weekend it became clear that his goal was to re-write the damaging stories we tell ourselves that are often set in our middle grade and YA years.

As I began to realize what he was doing, I felt a deep well of joy. I know so many of the women and men who are writing the stories for our nation's youth. Not only do I know so many of them, but I love them.

So, to all my writer friends out there... remember: there is a TON of responsibility in being a story-teller to our youth. Instead of getting tempted to dream of book sales, good reviews, etc. as you write, keep up the great work of remembering kids. You are showing them the ways to process this crazy world. You are choosing which stories get told (and which don't). As a group, we are all choosing how our nation process the complexities of this world. It's a lot of responsibility, and I'm so happy it's in the hands of such awesome men and women.

XOXO & Happy Wednesday!
--Lauren

In case you want to get pumped up to write with Tony Robbins and 10k others in a dance party, click here.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Oh That Voice

Woman with headphones on
Once in awhile you stumble upon a book that's so special, it takes you on a ride that you never want to get off.  The prose is beautiful, the characters have depth and as a writer, you spend half the time thinking "I want to write like this." Such is the case with EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU by Celeste Ng. From New York Times Bestseller to being named one of Amazon's best books of the year in 2014, it's got it's fair share of accolades and with good reason.  Ng interweaves complex characters between present day 1970's and a 1950's past like it's the easiest thing to do. I could go on and on about the book but the main point of this blog is that truth be told, I never read the book...I listened to it. 

Cover of Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
With traffic jams and longer commutes, audio books are becoming increasingly popular.  Sites like audible.com make it easier than ever to access them instantaneously.  But it wasn't until I read EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU that I truly appreciated the importance of a skilled narrator.  

Ng's novel is narrated by the talented Cassandra Campbell. Her voice is literally like butter to me. Smooth in all the right places and distinct when speaking in the voice of various characters.  Once I finished the book, instead of searching for more Celeste Ng, I looked up Cassandra Campbell. 

Interested in learning more about these little known audio book makers and breakers?  Check out this article on one of the queens of audio books Lorelei King and a more in-depth discussion of the rise of audio books here. Happy listening!

Monday, October 19, 2015

YA Book Pick: All the Major Constellations

Once a month we choose an outstanding YA book to review. We want to spotlight books of interest to aspiring writers, as well as highlight some of our favorite books and authors.

This month's book is ALL THE MAJOR CONSTELLATIONS by Pratima Cranse.


Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Laura Lettel is the most beautiful girl in the world. . . and Andrew’s not-so-secret infatuation.

Now he’s leaving high school behind and looking ahead to a fresh start at college and distance from his obsessive crush. But when a terrible accident leaves him without the companionship of his two best friends, Andrew is cast adrift and alone—until Laura unexpectedly offers him comfort, friendship, and the support of a youth group of true believers, fundamentalist Christians with problems and secrets of their own. Andrew is curiously drawn to their consuming beliefs, but why? Is it only to get closer to Laura? And is Laura genuinely interested in Andrew, or is she just trying to convert him?

This provocative and compelling debut novel will resonate deeply with readers as it explores questions of identity, sexuality, and spirituality.

First Line: (note: this is from an early arc/uncorrected text so it may change by the time it hits shelves Nov. 10) "He stood at the top of the stairs and listened."
This is a great example of simple writing that works. Who doesn't want to know what's being said when we stumble upon someone snooping?

Highlights: The complexity of emotion. Our loves and relationships and reactions in life are so rarely as simplified as most media paints them, especially when we're teenagers. This novel does a great job of re-creating the ordinary pulls of emotion in multiple directions without making it seem campy or too dramatic.


I liked how Andrew felt like a real teenage boy. He didn't ask a lot of questions, and while he would fixate on one thing (his distant crush), the rest of his falling-apart-life nagged at the interiority in subtle ways. He moved from one philosophy/friend group/etc. to the next without ever articulating how lost he was. His self-awareness grew and fluctuated and he reacted in ways that only make sense when following his well-crafted observations/lines-of-thinking.

Notes for writers: The interiority in this piece worked well for me. I admired how much "showing" she did in his thinking. I think sometimes we consider the "show-don't-tell" rule to be limited to external actions, but I'm learning that a gradual curve of observations/thoughts that have nothing to do with emotion can "show" us an emotional state even when we're being "told" what he's thinking/feeling.

A great read for: A snuggle-up by the fire day for those who want to see real people marching along an ordinary confused life during times of distress.

Happy fall & happy reading!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How much violence is too much in YA?

Halloween is one of my favorite times of year - of course it is I'm writer.  Nonetheless, I really do love fall!!! But as October 31 fast approaches and I see all the Halloween decorations go up, I can't help but wonder how much gore is too much especially in YA.  Here are some of the best answers I could find:

1. Voice is key.

     Anything goes so long as it is written from a YA's point-of-view.


2. Keep your audience in mind.

    YA covers a wide range of readers from middle grade into adults.  Some readers will shy away
    from violence while others will embrace it.  This is one time I might recommend not too keep
    it too real.


3. Balance is also key.

    Bad things sometimes happen to people.  Our writing reflects the world thus bad things often
    happen to our characters.  Just remember to balance the bad with a strong positive message (but
    don't get pedantic about it). A simple bad things happen, but good will prevail can work wonders.


4.  If all else fails, just remember the old saying:  if in doubt, do without.


                                      Happy Haunting. . . just a little.



Monday, October 12, 2015

The Importance of Travel for Writers

I'm on a short vacation right now which included a 10-hour road trip. After a long discussion with my husband about how the picturesque landscape we were passing was going to figure into his novel-in-progress, I started thinking about travel as a writing tool. Here are some of the ways travel can make you a better writer:

1. Improved settings.
Let's go with the most obvious benefit first—there's nothing like actually experiencing a place to help you write about it effectively. Tools like maps, internet photos, and travel books can help, but it's going to be difficult to describe the heady smell of a French patisserie or the way desert air feels on your skin if you haven't been there in person.

2. Reduced stress.
It's harder to let the words flow when your day-to-day life is loaded with stress. There's nothing like a relaxing trip to refresh and rejuvenate your muse, even if you don't write a word.

3. More realistic characters and plots.
Meeting new people from all walks of life and being willing to experience new situations is essential for any writer who hopes to accurately depict the human experience. Don't just stick to guided tours or pre-defined paths. Most of my richest (and most useful) travel experiences have directly resulted from wandering around small neighborhoods or living like the locals.

4. A broader view.
We can all think of a book with a too-narrow worldview. Don't let this happen to you. Experiencing different cultures, exposing yourself to different points of view, and being open to new ideas will always result in better, richer writing.

One thing I wish I was better about is keeping a journal or diary when I travel. There's really no excuse for it now, either, since I always have my phone with me and can jot down notes when there isn't a scrap of paper in sight.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Homecoming Queen Now Does Cross Fit and Other Observations From a High School Reunion


Recently I attended my high school reunion and right before the event a thread began on Facebook where a student said that she would not be attending the reunion because the people with the happy smiling families posting online had been cruel to her in school and she had no desire to see them. Immediately after others started posting apologies, support, and stories they were finally comfortable enough to tell.

As we write for young adults, I thought I'd jot down a few observations from the confessions and the night:

*Some kids didn't hit anything that hard in life until after high school. One of the girls who I remembered as being a little self-absorbed confessed to being in an abusive relationship after school. Because she knew what healthy was, she was able to leave, but it took her longer to figure out what was going on. I remembered how important showing kids both what healthy looks like and what danger looks like in literature so that they are best equipped to be healthy later on.

*The bullies were being bullied. Of course this is the tired trope of bullying, but it served to be true most of the time here as people confessed being bullied by others and at home then taking it out on kids.

*A LOT more was usually going on under the surface for the kids who were struggling in school.

*Regardless of how many other experiences we've all had since high school, the ones from that time still evoke powerful reactions, and shape us more deeply than most that happen after. That is often true of the books we read at that time as well. As writers, I think that's a sacred responsibility, and I'm glad that the people I know writing for this generation are strong and good and pushing to write the best darned work they can.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A tale of two books: writing stats on the first novel vs. the second

In July I finished the first draft of my second novel. After I typed the last word, I closed my laptop, flipped on the TV, and put my feet up. I didn't look at it again for a month.

Compare that to my first novel. The day I completed my first draft I practically threw open my living room window and shouted down to anyone that would listen that I had just written a novel. I thought for sure that in a few short months my creation would be available in bookstores around the world, because how could it not be?  Because I had written a beautiful, polished, ready-to-query piece of first draft art.Because getting a book published would be simple, right?   RIGHT?



Here, in numbers, is a little comparison between my first and second novels:

                                                                                                   Novel 1                          Novel 2

Months spent writing the first draft:                                               3                                     24
Quality of first draft on a scale of 1 to 10:                                     -6                                      7
# of queries sent before starting revisions:                                     10 (ack!)                          0
# of Beta readers who reviewed before sending MS to agents:      0  (ack!)                           4
Months spent revising before (re)submitting to agents:                  21                                     3
# of Beta readers reviewing before sending MS to more agents:     6                                      tbd
Hours spent day dreaming about NYTs Best Seller List:                 1,023,848                   132 (so far...)


Net, when it's all said and done, it took me about the same time to write each story when you factor in revisions. The biggest difference has been my attitude once I completed my latest and greatest. I know I need to walk a way for a while before I take another look at it.  I know that I should not query a single agent/editor until it's been vetted through beta readers and gone through several rounds of edits. And I know that even if it gets picked up by a publishing house tomorrow, it still won't hit store shelves for another two years. Because the process is long and takes patience. And it's worth the wait. So why risk it by skipping steps?

Am I still excited? Hell yes. Am I still going to dream about best seller lists? F*ck yeah. What's the point of writing if you can't dream, right? I'm just a little more tempered in my approach these days.

How about you guys? Have any first novel first draft submission "don'ts" you wish you could erase?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Mums The Word

In Texas we have this crazy, but strangely wonderful tradition called the homecoming mums. 




Apparently, boys and girls exchange and then wear mums (for girls) and garters (for boys) to the homecoming football game.  What are mums?  Really nothing more than piles and piles of flowers, ribbons, and trinkets.









Currently, I am in the middle of making both a mum and a garter and as I sit waist deep in flowers, ribbons, bears, stickers, and other various trinkets, I can't help but to think about writing.  Why?  Well, for starters I wish I was writing, but the real reason is that the mum making process is pretty similar to the writing process.









First comes research - internet and pinterest are wonderful tools by the way.
Second, gather materials.
Third, come up with a plan or outline.
Fourth, cut ribbons, decorate ribbons, and start to assemble ribbons.
Fifth, rearrange everything.
Sixth, edit.
Seventh, glue it all to together.
Eighth, exchange mums or garters and pray that the person likes all your hard work and that at the very least it all stays together.

So, what I've learned.  Writing is a process and that writing process can be a useful skill in live and can be applied to pretty much anything . . . even mums.