Monday, November 23, 2015

The Sweet Sixteens and Gratitude

This week is Thanksgiving (if you're American!) and I'm happily jumping in on gratitude-themed blogging for the month. And, I get to announce I'm now part of the Sweet Sixteens Debut Author Collective!
The Sweet Sixteens is a group of Young Adult and Middle Grade authors debuting in 2016.  We have come together to  share this publishing journey and promote one another’s books. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Only a week into the group, and I'm already so appreciative of the support from other debut authors. Thinking back over the year, and I can point to many moments where I've experienced the support of other writers. This whole journey to publication can be lonely and anxious. While my family is totally behind me in my creative pursuits, they don't always know the details of the struggle. Having writer friends is by far the best thing to come out of my publishing journey so far.

Here are a few highlights:

Romance Writers conference in New York!

Brenda Drake and myself RWA 2015
I officially met contest queen Brenda Drake (and we shared a bathroom early mornings!). Her dedication to helping writers through Pitch Madness, Pitch Wars, #PitMad is constant and ongoing. She brainstormed new ideas and organized meet-ups with two different groups of writers while we were there. AND she thought up the Pitch Wars Roadshow pitch workshop for the RT Convention in Las Vegas next year and asked me to be a part of it. 

Speaking of Pitch Wars, the writer I had the privilege to help received five requests from the agent round. I'm so proud of her and her wonderful story!

My critique group put together our second retreat weekend on the (cold, fall) shores of Lake Michigan. Each of these ladies is either on the board or running a committee through my local Romance Writers Chapter. We talk through plot issues, brainstorm character tragedies, and help each other toward our goals.

2015 critique group retreat

This next one is a little bit of a throwback (2 years ago--note the hair!). On the left is Summer Heacock who I met at Midwest Writers Workshop (standing with our shared agent at the time). This month, the collective online writing community came together to support Summer and her family through a tough time. The #FriendsofFizzy fundraiser raised almost $10,000 (!) to go toward medical bills, and a separate auction was set up with agent and author items up for bid. I am so incredibly touched by seeing so many people pull together to help Summer, who consistently cheers everyone else on.  

I'm thankful for all these wonderful women who make this business easier to manage. 

What are you thankful for? What stories inspire you?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Guest Post: YABuccaneers on Conferences PLUS RT Booklovers panel listing!

Today I'm blogging over on the YABuccaneers about my experience at Romance Writers National Conference in NYC. Plus tips about attending any writers conference! They prettied it up with cool graphics and everything. Hope you stop by!

Ten Lessons Learned From Attending RWA National Conference

Also, the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention (RT for short) just announced their schedule for the 2016 Las Vegas conference. Guess what--I'm on it!

The Pitch Wars Road Show is a session I'm cohosting with Brenda Drake and other experienced Pitch Wars mentors. The goal is to use the workshop to prep writers for RT's Pitchapalooza later that week. Bring a query and pitch, and the mentors will provide hands-on practice prior to the pitch round. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Insecure Writers Support Group IWSG November

It's the first Wednesday of the month which means: it's Insecure Writers Support Group day! 
Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
Make sure to visit a handful of blogs in the IWSG blog hop. Pick a number in the list and visit five or ten up or down the list. That's my pro tip!

November is a special month. Yes, it's my birthday. And my wedding anniversary. More important to you,  it's National Novel Writing Month!

Motivation: I want this badge every year!
I'm sure we'll see a lot of NaNoWriMo posts in the blog hop this month. That's because Nano is the great equalizer. It doesn't matter if you're published and have sold thousands of books, published and sold a handful of books, or unpublished, uniformed, and a total N00B. You can join in the frenzy and work your way toward a first draft.

 Five years ago, I was that newbie. I always liked writing (editor of high school newspaper, I wrote web articles for various small time sites and blogs for years). I'd always wanted to write a book and even started a couple times. The starting part is SO hard. I knew nothing of plot structure, turning points, character arcs. I barely knew point-of-view. But I read a lot. And I had a few writer friends who urged me on. I found out about NaNoWriMo a few weeks prior to November and thought, let me give this a go.

Five years later, I have a literary agent, a signed contract with a publisher for an upcoming book, and I'm on the board of the young adult chapter of romance writers. I've been to writing conferences across the country, I've met writers from around the world through pitch contests and writing forums. I read infinitely more than I did before. I attribute so much of this to Nano giving me the courage to go for it. I had the desire, but no direction.
Not everyone benefits from fast drafting. Lots of people don't finish 50,000 words in November. The best part of NaNoWriMo is none of that really matters. What matters is you are writing, and you're part of a collective of other writers encouraging you along.

Even if you aren't participating, I hope you find inspiration this month to reach your writing goals. If you don't have any writing goals, make some! Why wait until January for New Years resolutions? Start now! Resolve to finish your work in progress or brainstorm a new project. November is full of writers willing to cheer you on.

Thanks for stopping by! What's your favorite part of NaNoWriMo? What's a writing goal you've set for yourself?

Friday, October 30, 2015

Friday Fun and Fall Reading Challenge Update

When I started my personal fall reading challenge, the point was to read off my own shelves. I pick up a lot of books at conferences, events, and because you know, I like books.

Let's just say that "like" of books is a little hard to wrangle.

I live in a big city, so even my branch library gets in most of the latest YA books. A few holds I had came in, and if I have to go in to pick that up, I might as well swing by the new release bookshelf!

There's also BookBub's many .99 - $2.99 ebook deals. Then author event signings... so basically, I'm ADDING to my shelves.

All this and my husband says: if books are your vice, you're doing pretty well in this life. What an enabler!

Here is my recent progress. And look how pretty and coordinating the covers are!

A book written by a celebrity or personality:
OK this one is a book I own. Felicia Day is an actress who's played parts on Supernatural, Eureka, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and she starred in Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog. She also created the webseries The Guild. One of my favorite parts of her story about building her online business (Geek and Sundry, affiliated with Nerdist), is she was part of a group of women who met for breakfast once a month to check in with creative goals. For a year, Felicia was in a depressive slump where all she did was play World of Warcraft. She used that experience to launch The Guild, written and produced by herself the woman who started their accountability group. Go women!  

Library Audiobook:
I added a new category to my Fall Reading Challenge (hey, it's my list!) This hold came in through Overdrive. This is one of the best audiobooks I've listened to. The narrator nailed the accents and tone of the story. Many audiobooks I tend to tune in and out of, even if it's a good book, but this held my attention. The book follows Hong Kong immigrant Kimberly Chang and her mother through impoverished years living in an unheated New York City apartment, working in a factory, and somehow rising above every challenge. Most heartbreaking is when she feels relieved that high school frees her from school projects of younger grades since she never had the craft materials at home to complete them.

Another Library Lend:
I devoured this book. I loved the writing and the fast pacing. In Hit, a bank bought up all the debt in the U.S. and has taken over the government. The bank is now calling in on the fine print in their credit cards: pay your debt now, or you're killed. This is book 1 of a series, so there's an ending here, but a lot of questions left and larger factions at work (not all is what it seems!). This had the same unsettling feeling as The Hunger Games given it involves teens killing people. It's dark, but the subject is handled well. I also appreciated a look at our consumer culture, debt, and the values of our capitalist country. 

I also read two ebooks: The Whiskey Rebellion #1 by Liliana Hart; if you like Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books, this is along that same road. It's actually so much like those, it sort of drove me crazy. And there was a glaring plot hole that was kind of hard to get over. The other was The Bargain, serial #1 by Vanessa Riley about a black woman in the Regency era. I loved that someone out there is telling a story about Regency era that isn't a Pride & Prejudice clone. 


The Pitch Wars agent round! Next week, the mentee that Valerie Cole and I have been working with will put her entry up on Brenda Drake's blog for a frenzied agent round!

National Novel Writing Month! NaNoWriMo starts Nov. 1. Join or die! 
(just kidding. join if you want because writers are super supportive.)

YA and MG writers:

The Adventures in YA Publishing blog opens their 1st Five Pages workshop October 31. Get feedback from a host of mentors (including me!) and final round an agent. This is ongoing, monthly. 

Happy Friday! What are you reading?

Friday, October 23, 2015

Spring Fling Conference 2016!

One of the writer goals I set for myself over the past 2 years was to be part of a panel or workshop at a conference. I'm super happy to share I can check this off my list! Well, I can check off the organizing of it. My panel debut will be at Chicago North Romance Writers' Spring Fling Conference in Schaumburg, Illinois May 20-21, 2016.

Here's the listing on the website:

Yes, I came up with that Game of Thrones title myself.

And the link here:

Clara Kensie at RWA New York 2015
Little old me, with my debut release, gets to be on a panel with Erica O'Rourke, paranormal and fantasy YA author of the fantastic Torn series and Dissonance trilogy, and Clara Kensie, winner of RWA's Best First Book Rita award in 2015 for her YA book Run to You, and author J. Leigh Bailey who wrote an LGBTQ New Adult series for Carina Press and has a forthcoming YA Guyliner with Spencer Hill Press.

 This is a great regional conference, and what brought me into Romance Writers of America back in 2012 when I swore I didn't write romance (even though my YA characters had a relationship that was central to the story). Check out the workshops list and maybe this conference will be a fit for you.

J. Leigh Bailey at RWA New York 2015
Headliners are Courtney Milan, Robyn Carr, and Christina Lauren, who are all top in the industry. Courtney has done traditional and indie publishing, and is known for her detailed workshops on her self-publishing experience. Christina Lauren is a writing duo who famously turned their fan fiction into a major NYC pub deal. And Robyn Carr you can find in bookstores and drugstores across the country. Her books are everywhere.

Erica O'Rourke (left, with Brenda Drake, right) RWA NYC

So that's my plug! The early pricing for Chicago North Romance Writers' Spring Fling conference ends 10/31! Tickets will still be on sale after that until they sell out, just at a slightly higher rate.

Let me know if you have questions on this conference and I'll get you answer if I don't know!

What conferences are you excited about? Or, have you accomplished a writing or a career goal you're excited about?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Gilmore Girls Returns and TV That Never Ends

If you're a Gilmore Girls fan and you spend any sort of time on the Internet, you know now that long-suffering fans will finally get the resolution they've been fan fic-ing since the show ended in 2007. GILMORE GIRLS IS RETURNING. For a limited run on Netflix

Gilmore Girls
Hardcore fans know the series was troubled when the network let go of series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino before the uneven last season. While the show managed an adequate send-off, many fans were upset at the lack of resolution for their favorite characters. 

And now, because TV makes our dreams come true, any series can live forever. Shows once thought to be put to rest have been creeping back: 24 and Arrested Development, and more to come: my personal fave The X-Files, Heroes (eh), Full House, and Coach.* Because sometimes TV brings back what no one asked for. 

*Coach, by the way, is a show that ran for NINE SEASONS and filmed almost 200 episodes, but apparently someone thought there were more stories to tell. It looks like NBC has scrapped the project but possibly another new network could pick it up.

I've got to be honest, though. There's no way I'm NOT watching Mulder and Scully again. Sign me up. 

While it's amazing and wonderful that streaming services are resuscitating shows like Community and The Mindy Project (and how about Hannibal? Anyone? Anyone?), it seems like our culture has reached the point where we are unable to let go of TV shows. Any show in danger of cancellation, a fan group exists somewhere to start a petition to get the show saved. Actors themselves go on social media declaring they'd be game to come back if networks play along. Conventions stage reunions that bring actors back together. We all want what's already ended. 

The very talented TV writer Todd Vanderwuff wrote a great article about our inability to let go of our pop culture devotions. (I searched The AV Club site for it and can't find it. If I ever do I'll link it.) It's like we are gluttons for punishment. Instead of envisioning our beloved characters living a happily ever after somewhere free of government conspiracies or that pesky Stars Hollow mayor, we want to drag them all back, put them through the wringer to suffer again. After all, stories need conflict. You can't bring your TV show back and show everyone living happily with no problems to challenge them.

Every time a show comes back from the grave, even a show I like such as Gilmore Girls, I have to wonder if a resurrection will ever satisfy what it is we really want. I imagine we all want Luke and Lorelai to be married. Many want Rory to get together with Jess (I'm a no on that). 

That being said, here's a few wishlist items I posted on twitter:

And finally, a wish I hope is already on the show creators' minds:

That's all these are: wishes. Musings and nostalgia. The new age of TV and social media is making it so that we never leave our TV heroes behind. The bigger question is, should we?

What do you think of all the resurrected TV shows? Which ones will you watch?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Book Blitz: Always Second Best by Elodie Nowodazkij

Today I'm happy to host a book blitz with a fellow Young Adult RWA member Elodie Nowodazkij.  She's helping host our monthly twitter chats, and she writes fantastic books.

Book & Author Details:

Always Second Best by Elodie Nowodazkij
(Broken Dreams, #2)
Publication date: October 13th 2015
Genres: Romance, Young Adult


Sometimes being first isn’t what you expected.

Seventeen-year-old ballerina Emilia Moretti is tired of always being second best. And she’s going to prove the world she deserves to be first. In her upcoming School of the Performing Arts showcase. In the eyes of her birth parents. And in the heart of the guy she loves. She spends hours rehearsing, hours dreaming about becoming number one, hours imagining how her entire life is about to change. But when nothing goes the way she planned, she’ll need to realize what it really means to be first.

Eighteen-year-old Nick Grawski doesn’t want to follow Daddy Dearest’s rules any longer. He’s going to prove he’s meant to be a dancer—not a lawyer—and he is not going to stay away from Em just because his father demands it. He needs to show Em that—this time around—he’s there to stay and that he won’t break her heart again. Even when her world goes down to shit, even when he finds out his dad may have been trying to protect him all along, even if being there for one another is harder than falling in love.

ALWAYS SECOND BEST is a novel of hope and heartbreak and broken dreams. It’s a novel about falling in love and discovering that being first isn’t always what matters.

Purchase: Amazon B&N itunes Kobo ADD TO: Goodreads


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Elodie Nowodazkij was raised in a tiny village in France, where she could always be found a book in hand. At nineteen, she moved to the US, where she learned she'd never lose her French accent. Now she lives in Maryland with her husband, their dog and their cat. She's also a serial smiley user.

Visit Elodie online at: website Facebook Twitter

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