Monday, September 12, 2016

Monday Reads: A Hodgepodge

Alas, my reading has slowed down a bit lately. I have to keep telling myself it's not a race- I don't have a reading deadline (not counting library due dates). Sometimes I feel this insane urge to hurry and I don't know why.

Anyway, here's what I read:

LONGBOURN'S SONGBIRD by Beau North


 This was a Pride & Prejudice retelling which takes place in the South after WWII. There were so many things I loved about this book- the setting, Elizabeth's backstory, the twist on Colonel Fitzwilliam, the change around Bingley and Jane... Some of the characters were developed so fully that it really brought them to life, more than the original. My only pet peeve was that because of this- some of the other characters were kind of left in the dust. P&P has a huge cast so obviously you can't fully realize everyone, but I felt some were started and then left behind and I would've like a little more there. Otherwise, excellent read.

FLIRTING IN ITALIAN by Lauren Henderson


So, this is the kind of book where I'm dying to talk to somebody who has read it. I have a lot of opinions, most which I will bottle up until I can talk to someone about it (lol). There were some really fun things about this book, and I automatically love an Italian setting. However. My biggest pet peeve was that it ended on a cliffhanger- so obviously there are sequels, but this was a YA contemp romance and having no end to the plot really drove me bananas.

OUTRUN THE MOON by Stacey Lee


I loved like crazy Stacey Lee's first book UNDER A PAINTED SKY so naturally I picked up OtM. It didn't disappoint. Stacey Lee is easily one of my fave historical YA authors. She writes beautiful stories with the kind of characters you want to be besties with. OtM isn't only about Mercy's survival of the earthquake, but also about her journey to be seen and heard as a person, a woman, as being just as good as anyone else despite the way the world saw her. I have no gift for eloquent reviews, just read the book because it is excellent.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Best Laid Plans

Sometimes I look ahead and wonder what in the heck I'm going to write next. 

And then there's the times where I look ahead with a plan in place. Usually this plan is, I will write this first, and then that next, and then go back and revise this, then revise that... you get the idea. At the beginning of the summer I had this plan in place. 

Well, summer is almost over and that plan basically blew up in my face.


I mean, I sorta set the fuse. For one, the manuscript I was supposed to write during the summer- well I only got about 10k written. Writing was lower on my priority list these past couple of months. Now that school is about to restart, I suddenly have multiple other projects I also want to work on, and I'm not sure what to do first. Finish the already started WIP? Write that novella I've been considering? Ignore both and write a new YA? 


I don't do well without a plan. I don't like chaos. I like to be in control. So I have to get my act in gear and just decide. Make a new list, set a new order, and then GO. Because I can't GO until the plan is in place. 

I just have to remember that even the best laid plans can fall apart. But when they do, I will start over, make a new list, set a new order, and then GO. Again. Because what else can you do?


Friday, August 26, 2016

Friday Loves: SUMMER

August is almost over, summer is coming to a close. The kids start school next week. The weather here in Alberta seems to think it's October, not August. And I'm sad.


I love summer. I love not having to wake up to an alarm. I love spending time with my kids. I love that they help me with the house cleaning. I love taking them to do fun things. I love the beach.


I don't get a lot done in the summer, that's the only downside to it. I have a writing to-do list a mile long that I barely made a dent it. But I really relish these two months of being with my kids. Sure, they drive me crazy sometimes. (Mom, I'm bored. Mom, I have nothing to do. Mom, why can't we go somewhere. Mom, if I can't play the computer then I don't want to do anything!) But during the school year, there's barely any time to do anything with school, and four kids different after-school activities.

I'm going to miss the summer. I'm going to miss lazy days, and days spent at the beach, and the nice weather (which we barely got any of this summer). I'm going to miss the slower pace. Summer- I love you. And please come back again soon.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Monday Reads


Fabled by  Vanessa K. Eccles was my first read. It was a fun and action-packed twist on fairy tales. I loved the MC Rowena and her two different love interests. I just wish there had been more of a resolution to the end. It was a total cliffhanger and I want to know so badly who she chooses!

And I Darken by Kiersten White. So. This book-which is a re-imagining of the story of Vlad the Impaler- was really really good. The writing, the characters, the storytelling, the setting, everything. It was like perfect, except... I never really connected to the characters. I don't know why. Book slump maybe, but I didn't love them like I wanted to. I read to the end because I wanted to know what would happen, plus- like I said everything about the book was excellent so I enjoyed reading. I just never connected. Ergh. It kinda makes me mad at myself that I didn't, but what can you do?


Prep School Confidential by Kara Taylor, a YA mystery. Love the voice in this book! So voicey! And fun. Fast-paced and great characters. Maybe a bit too many characters sometimes (I forgot who some of them were at times), but an all around excellent book.


Dangerous Boy by Mandy Hubbard. This was a similar mystery to Prep School Confidential. It didn't have the humor PSC had, but I read this book in one day because I couldn't put it down. The only downside, is the blurb on Goodreads totally gives the twist away so I knew what was happening the entire time. Also, and weirdly- the blurb on GR mentions a characters who is named something completely different in the book. WTFudge??? Weird. 

What have you read lately?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Conferences, And Why They're Important

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend WHEN WORDS COLLIDE for the second year in a row. WWC is a Calgary based writer/reader con that I was pleasantly surprised to discover last year. This year, I not only got to attend, but speak on four different panels as well. My mother-in-law also came with me and we had a great time at the different classes and panels.

Me and my MIL Debbie right before the keynote speeches (plus a photo bomber!)

Before I heard about WWC, I would hear other writers speak about cons near them and think, I don't have that luxury. There's nothing nearby, I can't afford to travel to one, but oh well, I'll survive. And of course, you do. But there's a lot you miss out on when you don't get to attend a conference.

Last year, I went to a lot of YA panels. I didn't learn a whole lot that I didn't already know. (disclaimer: not because I know everything about YA, they were just topics that I was already familiar with, I only attended them because my daughter was with me.) This year, I went to a lot of marketing kinds of panels- how to build your author brand, how to reach your readers, how to do a successful book signing. These were things I needed to hear right now. I took pages and pages of notes and learned A TON.

On a panel about ratings, trigger warnings, and language with authors D.C. Menard, Angelica Dawson, and Jane Ann McLachlan (not pictured)

That doesn't mean I wish I hadn't gone the first year (instead it gave me the courage to participate on panels myself), nor did it make me wish I'd gone to different classes. Because no matter if you learn brand new stuff or if you're hearing things you've already heard before, that's not really the point. It's the camaraderie. It's being among other people who share the same goals and passions you do. It's getting motivated again, filling your well, getting fired up for whatever part of the journey you're on in that moment. It's being with people who get you, whether you're chatty with everyone or you're like me and keep more to yourself- you still feel that bond.

On a panel about romance heroines with authors Lori Whyte and Jessica L. Jackson, and Harlequin senior editor Victoria Curran

Whether you learn a bunch of stuff or learn nothing, whether you sell a bunch of books or sell none, whether you make a ton of new friends or stay the same introvert you always were, no matter what, you leave lifted. Filled. Ready to tackle a new year, a new project, a new path. You're ready to keep going. You're rejuvenated.

P.S. So I thought there were no conferences in my Canadian town. I don't remember how I found out about WWC, but if you think there's nothing near you, research. Because I'm betting there's something out there a lot closer than you think.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Monday Reads: A Wide Variety

These past couple of weeks, I read a wide range of books.


Continuing on my YA drama theme, I read EXIT STAGE LEFT by Gail Nall. I found this book compelling, and I wanted to know what was going to happen, though the MC drove me absolutely batty. This is one of those books where the MC isn't all that likeable, but you want to know what's going to happen to them anyway- you want to see them succeed in the end. So, well done with that.


Off and on, I read a short story collection called SUN-KISSED: EFFUSIONS OF SUMMER. This book is similar to the Austenesque winter short story collection I took part in called THEN COMES WINTER. This book came out first and I was saving it to read for summertime (for obvious reasons). I really enjoyed the wide range of short stories in this book, some of which I wished were novel length. If you like Jane Austen retellings or continuations, this is a great book to pick up.


I also spent about a month reading a non-fiction book called THE POWER OF EVERYDAY MISSIONARIES by Clay M. Christensen. I don't read a lot of non-fiction, or a lot of LDS books. This book is about how members of the Latter-Day Saint church (my church) can become everyday missionaries. I was challenged to read this by a member of my church leadership and I accepted. The book turned out to be a really great read. For someone who isn't very comfortable talking about my beliefs, this helped open my eyes to different ways I can do that in an easier, more natural way.


Last, but definitely not least, I read HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD. I had this on hold at my library, but after going to a HP party with my oldest daughter, it got me all excited about it so I went out and bought it the next day. This book was EVERYTHING. Sure, the format took a bit to get used to. I definitely would've preferred it in novel form, written solely by JK Rowling. Though people's comments about how she didn't write this- I just don't get that. No, she didn't write the script, but it's her story. I could see her humor and wit in it. I loved it. Honestly, I can't understand any HP fans not loving it. Now I wish I could see the play. Trip to London anyone?

Monday, August 1, 2016

How I Got My Agent!!!

It's finally arrived.

That moment most writers dream about but secretly doubt will ever happen.

Yep, I HAVE AN AGENT!!!


This is something I've dreamed about and have been working towards since 2010. Yep, that's right, SIX YEARS.

So here's my story, six years of hard work summed up as brief as possible.

I finished my first novel, DAZE & KNIGHTS in 2010. It was YA time-travel. I revised it a couple of times and then queried it. I know. Rookie mistake. DON'T DO THIS. Anyway, I spent a year and a half in a cycle of revising, then querying. I learned a lot in that time- both about the craft of writing and queries. Once I work-shopped my query and got it to sparkle (and it did), the MS started getting lots of attention, and did really well in contests. It ended up with an R&R from a small press, but all to no avail. I cried when I shelved it.


Enter book 2 (which was actually book 3 because I'd written a sequel to DAZE, but couldn't query it, obvs). SWAY was a quiet, clean adult romance/Jane Austen retelling. It got a little bit of attention, but not as much as book 1, and it didn't do great in contests. I stopped querying it a lot sooner because I thought, since it was adult and I knew the market, I could try small pubs or even self-publish it. I put it aside until I could figure out what I wanted to do with it.


Book 3 was a YA UF called EPONINE. I started it off in a contest where it got a couple of fulls off the bat. Querying, it got some interest, but I heard multiple times that UF just wasn't selling and maybe it wasn't the right time. So after only 40 queries, I set it aside.

This is pretty much how I felt shelving EPONINE, what I felt was my best written MS.

I could've queried EPONINE longer, but it seemed pointless when the genre was struggling, plus I had a brand new YA ready to go, a mystery with a hint of fantasy called JAR OF HEARTS. It was a book I'd written for my first ever (and only so far) NaNoWriMo. I sent a few queries, made it into Nightmare On Query Street- garnering a few partial requests, then queried some more. (At this same time, SWAY was becoming an Actual Novel, published by Samhain!) 

Waiting. All the waiting.

While in the trenches, I considered querying a certain agent I sort of "knew." We are both members of the YA-NA Sisterhood. I worried that querying her would be a conflict of interest, or make things awkward between us, so I decided to straight up ask her. She was all sweet and lovely and said, "query me!" So I did.

Nerves...

A day after querying, she asked for my full. A month and a half later, I got that email. You know the one. The one that says, "I liked what I read, can we talk?"

WHUT?

I was at the mall food court with my kids when I got this email. I will admit with no shame that I celebrated right there in the middle of the packed food court. My kids thought it was funny. I think the table closest to us was slightly alarmed.

This is kinda how I looked, though more crazy, less cute.

So I did "The Call" and it was nerve-wracking and scary and I hung up and felt like I botched it. It was one of those times where afterwards you think, I should've said this and this and this! but it's too late.

Despite my awkwardness, she offered representation.


I let all the agents with fulls/partials/queries know. The full requests came flooding in. So did the rejections. Luckily, the sting of those wasn't quite as bad because you know there's already someone rooting for you/your book.

A day after nudging, I received a second call, a second offer.


Cue the anxiety and stress of making this decision. I kinda felt like Jojo from The Bachelorette. Okay, maybe I shouldn't compare this to that, but I've been watching it, and listening to her cry and say, "what if I make the wrong decision???" really got me.


Anyway, after a lot of thinking and praying (and stressing), I decided to go with my gut.

I signed with offering agent #1. Now I'm officially represented by Vanessa Eccles at Golden Wheat Literary! I loved what she said about the book, I really connected with her whole agenting strategy/philosophy, and I can't wait to work with her!


So this is where the story ends, for now...