Thursday, May 29, 2014

Book Review: Ink by Amanda Sun

Amanda Sun
YA Contemporary
Published: 2013

Image: Goodreads
Ink is like a gateway book to Japanese culture, as told through the eyes of American Katie Greene, who has just moved to Japan to live with her aunt after losing her mother. Her grandparents in Canada are trying to get custody, but her grandfather is too sick to care for her. So, Katie has some baggage. She's struggling to learn the language, deal with loss, and all that aside, she still has to go to school and face all the stuff normal high school students do--cliques, bullying, crushes.

When Katie overhears a tense conversation between Tomohiro and another student, and in a fit of anger, papers are thrown all over, with one landing near Katie. The drawings on the page appear to move.

Katie is curious about Tomohiro despite her friends' warnings--he is known to be violent, and possibly got his ex-girlfriend pregnant. Bad boy alert! Katie and Tomohiro's paths cross, and she is increasingly inquisitive of his drawings and the strange things occurring around him. Ink blends Japanese mythology, this idea of drawings coming to life, as a sort of paranormal plot within the romance. There are a ton of Japanese words and phrases that can make for slower reading, but it's a great "outsider's" look at Japanese culture.

And lest Katie be just another fangirl of a hot, brooding boy, she actively puruses Kendo (a martial arts) and may have an ability of her own.... This is the first in a three-book series.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What's Up Wednesday

Hi Wednesday-ers! I've been away from posting because of involvement with some other blog challenges, but I've tried to stay connected when I can. Glad to be back.
What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk, to help connect writers on this writing journey. With that aim in mind, if you'd like to join us, we encourage you to visit other WUW blogs each week, get to know some of the other writers taking part, and spread some writerly love! 
What I'm Reading

I'm back to 3 books in 3 formats:

Print: No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale, pitched as a YA Fargo. This book is not for everyone, but halfway in I love the writer's voice and the northern Wisconsin setting is integral to the story.

E-book: All Lined Up by Cora Carmack. This is a New Adult book in the vein of Friday Night Lights. Last week some big storms caused a power outtage and wrecked my evenings plans. So I read half of this on my Nook.

Audio: The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen. For eons I've seen people gush about this author. After reading The Sugar Queen last month, I'm hooked.

What I'm Writing

I just finished up three months of Spring Writing Bootcamp that kept me on track. I finished a manuscript, and now on to the next which I'm in a second draft-ish stage, a YA contemporary I drafted for NaNoWriMo 2013. I even wrote a revision outline, ya'll. It helps so much. I color-coded subplots and everything. I just cannot write outlines before I start a story, beyond scribbled notes at least. Ambitiously, I'd like to get this to readers before I go on vacation in June.

I have a revision to work on this summer and intend to do a similar outline as my plan of attack. Depending on how that goes, I'd like to do do Camp NaNoWriMo in July and start on something else. We'll see how many projects I can juggle...

My critique group at RWA's Spring Fling
What Inspires Me Right Now

Other writers' successes! I say this a lot, but it keeps being true. From recent book deals my agent has made for her other clients, to writers in my critique group, one having just pubbed with a small press, and another who will pub in Fall 2015 and has been a part of two panels at two different writing conferences this spring.

I pitched the idea of a writing retreat for just the four of us which I'm super geeked about. That's to come in the fall when cottage rentals are a little more flexible with scheduling and rates than they are in the summer.

(That's us to the left at Chicago North RWA's Spring Fling; me in purple tights)

What Else I've Been Up To

So I mentioned a book that's a YA Fargo? I've been watching the Fargo TV show on FX. It's very dark--really dark (though if you've seen the movie you probably get that already), but it's really great as a writer to see how they put together the story, and the dialogue and character choices they make. It's one of those shows that keeps me guessing (unlike Castle, which I may have to delete from my DVR for being so completely stupid in that season finale).
Molly is so the best.
Here's the thing; not every show has to push boundaries like Fargo or Hannibal (which is also amazingly dark and artistic). But I hate it when shows change a character for the sake of plot (Castle's Beckett waxing poetic about her "dream wedding", her [spoiler] forgotton "whoopsie!" Vegas wedding just days before her own wedding to Castle), or do such totally expected things (again with Castle: [spoilers] ruined dress, whoops-already-married! and the very end scene with the car crash). At least Hart of Dixie knows what it is and plays the fluff well. When I want to see cute clothes and quirky small town characters and ill-advised love matches--HoD delivers!

All right folks, what's up with your Wednesday?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

YA Spring Writing Bootcamp--Last Update


This is the last check in for the YA Buccaneers Spring Writing Bootcamp!

This has been really great to keep me goal-oriented and motivated. Even when I didn't post a blog update for the week, I was still working on meeting my writing goals. Thanks to everyone who has been such a support!

To everyone who signed up, congratulate yourself on meeting ANY of your goals. Think of how many people say they want to write a book and never do. That to me is inspiring--we're working toward finishing books every day, every week. Be proud.

Goals from last week:
  • Completed writing course assignments (Margie Lawson online writing course)
  • Completed judging and critiquing all of my assigned YA-RWA Rosemary contest entries. The last 3 I read were really great with the very last one being the best I'd read for the contest. Inspiring!
  • Completed revision of opening 2-3 chapters of WIP 
  • Completed an outline of WIP to tackle my revision (this was huge! I hate outlines, but this really helped, especially with color-highlighted subplots to visually see where I need to add or remove). 
Goals for this week:
  • Ambitious, but I would love to get through the changes I tagged in my outline and send to a few readers. I have a vacation planned in a week and it will be the perfect break. That's going to be my only goal--get through the outline!
Overall Spring Bootcamp goals:
  • Complete revision of WIP (YA contemporary) -- Complete!
  • Complete 2nd draft of YA contemporary written during NaNoWriMo 2013 -- I'm close! I consider this a success b/c I have an ending, I worked out plot issues, and made a revision outline.  
  • Write synopsis and send synopsis to agent for review. --Not yet (but soon).
  • Send SUNSET SUMMER to readers. -- Goal to do this by next week. My in-person critique group has been working with me on the first half & I sent the revised first chapter which went over well.
  • Potentially work on an outline and character development for a new project. --I have rough notes for a potential new YA Contemporary which I may do Camp Nanowrimo in July to fast draft.
  • I'm going to add one here: I had a call with my agent on another project, and now I have a little more direction on to work on revisions. So I have lots ahead for me this summer! 
Thanks to everyone in the challenge. Let's keep each other motivated through the summer :)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Love & Leftovers YA Book Blitz!

Love and Leftovers
Paperback Re-Release: 05/13/14
Katherine Tegen Books

Summary from Goodreads:

My wishis to fall
cranium over Converse
in dizzy, daydream-worthy love.
(If only it were that easy.)

When her parents split, Marcie is dragged from Idaho to a family summerhouse in New Hampshire. She leaves behind her friends, a group of freaks and geeks called the Leftovers, including her emo-rocker boyfriend, and her father. By the time Labor Day rolls around, Marcie suspects this "vacation" has become permanent. She starts at a new school where a cute boy brings her breakfast and a new romance heats up.

But understanding love, especially when you've watched your parents' affections end, is elusive. What does it feel like, really? Can you even know it until you've lost it?

An Explanation

My mother
took two weeks off
back in June.

I asked her
(in July)
what we were doing.

I think she meant to say, “Vacationing”
but she said, “Running away.”

Which might have been okay,
even though I thought that
if I ever ran away,
I’d do it with
a certain emo-sensitve rocker boy
and not my mother.


The worst part of
this overextended summer vacation
is leaving


a perfectly good boyfriend
with the deepest
espresso-brown eyes
a girl
could ever
get lost


Available from:
Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * Book Depository

About the Author
Raised without television, Sarah Tregay started writing her own middle grade novels after she had read all of the ones in the library. She later discovered YA books, but never did make it to the adult section. When she's not jotting down poems at stoplights, she can be found hanging out with her "little sister" from Big Brothers Big Sisters. Sarah lives in Eagle, Idaho with her husband, two Boston Terriers, and an appaloosa named Mr. Pots. Her next book, Fan Art, will be released in June.
Author Links:

Win a signed paperback copy of Love and Leftovers and a guitar-pick necklace. (USA and Canada)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Blitz Organized by:

Monday, May 12, 2014

My Writing Process and Spring Bootcamp Update

Young Adult writer Deana Barnhart tagged me for the My Writing Process blog hop. 
You can find her here: blog twitter

Fun Fact: In 2012, Deana hosted an agent pitch contest called Gearing Up to Get An Agent (GUTGAA) which yielded page requests from agents. This eventually led to signing with my literary agent (networked through another contest) which happens to be Deana's same agent!

1.)     What am I working on?

A YA summer contemporary set on the Oregon coast. Here's the cozy cottage that inspired the story. The road ends into sand with the ocean just steps away. I love how it looks like you're at the edge of the world:

Photo: Stephanie Scott
(The first photo inspiration is on the McBee Cottages website with the flowering tree, go check it out.)

2.)     How does my work differ from others of its genre?  

Like any writer, I think we all strive for our own unique voice. I try to combine interesting settings with complicated family drama, using relatable characters. I also emphasize female friendships and aim for funny depending on the story.

3.)     Why do I write what I do?

I write the books I would have loved to read as a young adult, and what I find interesting now. I LOVE summer beach stories. Jessi Kirby's Moonglass is one of my favorites. I've written another contemporary that's more urban with a fashion flair, which was incredibly fun because I drew on my own interests. And I also wrote a YA set 50 years ago which I loved researching.

4.)     How does my writing process work?

The idea begins in my head. I think over it for days or weeks. I jot notes in a notebook. Everything I've done started as at least one handwritten page of notes. The more I write, the more I plan ahead. Setting, characters, sample pitch, and premise. My pre-work is a hodge-podge of notes, opening lines, character data (birth dates, a few facts), impressions, the big picture plot. Something that's 10 pages and bullet-pointed is not going to happen. 

After a first draft I try all sorts of methods. I've printed out the draft and made notes on post-its. I've pulled the doc into Word (from Scrivener) and select reading layout for an overall impression. I use a beat sheet or a plot outline to see how my draft can be streamlined. Or sometimes I go right back to chapter 1 and start fixing (which I don't recommend). I will try out any revision method once, honestly. Whatever works, I'm open! 

Since last August, I've been working with a critique group which has been fabulous. I highly recommend working collaboratively, though I think having a full draft helps before submitting to others.


Next Monday, go check out these writer's blogs for their writing process:
Valerie Cole lives in Philadelphia where she works in marketing and advertising. A graduate of The Art Institute of Philadelphia and Drexel University, her love of storytelling began as an intern in MTV’s animation department. She loves words and numbers, but hates being called Val. Follow on twitter @ValerieColeYA
Aimee Hyndman is represented by Laura Zats of Red Sofa Literary. She is a Sophmore in college, attempting a triple major in Creative writing, English and Film Studies because she is, arguably, crazy. 
She reads the slushpile as an intern for Kimberley Cameron & Associates and she is also a contributor at Operation Awesome. She has been writing since her toddler fingers first grasped a pencil. Her area of specialty is Fantasy of all sorts but she dabbles in many genres. Whatever she feels compelled to write at the moment.The plot bunnies are never ending but, luckily, so are the words! Follow on twitter @AimeeHyndman

YA Spring Writing Bootcamp

I haven't updated for the past two weeks, though I've been busy with lots of writing stuff. I finished the A to Z blog challenge and networked with new writers (I may even have a new story idea thanks to a seed of inspiration found on a writer's blog. Hint: horses). 

I also attended a regional Romance Writers conference which was wonderful and encouraging. Here are updates from April and goals for May. 

April Updates:
  • Completed edits for my agent. Yay!
  • Read and scored more YARWA contest entries. I read a fantastic one in a genre I don't usually read, so that's a testament to the writing.
  • SPRING FLING CONFERENCE! The sister Chicago chapter of RWA runs this every other year and it's pretty much amazing. Most of these writers have day jobs and some have publishing deadlines, not to mention families. It's seriously amazing how they pull this off. I should probably do a separate post about this, but overall, it was such a different experience than 2012 when I knew no one and had no connections to RWA. I met more new writers this year and talked YA books with contemporary romance author Kristan Higgins who is just so cool and kind in person. She doesn't even write YA but she's good friends with Huntley Fitzpatrick who wrote My Life Next Door, a book I wish I wrote!
Goals for May:
  • Tearing up SUNSET SUMMER to make the conflict stronger. I would like to have a solid second draft by the end of the month with all my new plot points, even if it's still rough. (Big Goal)
  • Complete the Margie Lawson online writing course and all the assignments. It's about opening scenes, along with pitches and general editing techniques.
  • Complete all the YARWA contest entries (I'm 2/3 done).
Goals for the Week:
  • Complete writing course assignments--since this ties directly into my WIP, it will help me solidify my opening chapter. 
  • Complete revision of opening 2-3 chapters and/or outline (*shudder*) revision plan. 
  • Read and score two contest entries.
  • Attend RWA chapter meeting.
  • Update photos to our chapter website from the fantastic librarian appreciation dinner this past Friday.
Thanks for reading through my long check-in post!

Visit me in the comments! Let me know about your writing process, or any goals you have going for the week. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Cover Reveal: Who R U Really? by Margo Kelly plus Giveaway

Today, Young Adult author Margo Kelly is revealing the cover for her contemporary novel Who R U Really? Check it out below:

by Margo Kelly
Merit Press
Release Date: September 18, 2014 

Thea's overprotective parents are driving her insane. They invade her privacy, ask too many questions, and restrict her online time so severely that Thea feels she has no life at all. When she discovers a new role-playing game online, Thea breaks the rules by staying up late to play. She's living a double life: on one hand, the obedient daughter; on the other, a girl slipping deeper into darkness. In the world of the game, Thea falls under the spell of Kit, an older boy whose smarts and savvy can't defeat his loneliness and near-suicidal despair. As Kit draws soft-hearted Thea into his drama, she creates a full plate of cover stories for her parents and then even her friends.
Soon, Thea is all alone in the dark world with Kit, who worries her more and more, but also seems to be the only person who really "gets" her. Is he frightening, the way he seems sometimes, or only terribly sad? Should Thea fear Kit, or pity him? And now, Kit wants to come out of the screen and bring Thea into his real-life world. As much as she suspects that this is wrong, Thea is powerless to resist Kit's allure, and hurtles toward the same dark fate her parents feared most. Ripped from a real-life story of Internet stalking, Who R U Really? will excite you and scare you, as Thea's life spins out of control.

Here is the cover:

Margo Kelly is a native of the Northwest and currently resides in Idaho. A veteran public speaker, Margo is now actively pursuing her love of writing. Who R U Really? is her debut novel and will be published by Merit Press in September 2014. Margo welcomes opportunities to speak to youth groups, library groups, and book clubs.
How to Find the Author:
Pre-Order Here:


To celebrate the cover reveal for Who R U Really? Margo Kelly is giving away TWO Advance Reader Copies of the book! Visit to enter by Sunday, May 11, 2014!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Reflections: Blogging A to Z 2014 and Giveaway!

The A to Z blog challenge ended last week. This was the my third year participating! Here's my reflections post. Make sure to stop by other blogs reflecting on the challenge here.

A few observations:

  • There seem to be just as many blogs in the challenge this year (or more) but fewer actual comments on the posts. I noticed this even with the blogs I was visiting.
  • Short posts with a consistent theme and an accompanying photo usually had the most interaction.
  • Unique themes pulled me in: haunted places, fake book covers, pop culture themes. 
  • I enjoyed several travel themes this year featuring gorgeous photos of far-off places.

What helped my success in the challenge:

  • Choose a theme. Something somewhat universal (I've done TV, authors, and now memorable characters).
  • Keep the posts short but try to offer a few insights or facts.
  • Pose a question at the end to engage readers.
  • Pre-post! I wrote and scheduled all of my posts by April 1 (minus a few tweaks) so I could spend my blogging time in April visiting other blogs. If your posts are short and keep a similar format, this is not that difficult..

Thanks to everyone who commented or followed my posts for the month. As a thanks, I'm offering a giveaway with a few different book choices! See the Rafflecopter below. TWO winners will be chosen. Let me know in the comments which book you prefer if you enter:

Kristan Higgins: The Best Man (Contemporary Romance)

Send: Patty Blount  (Contemporary Young Adult)

a Rafflecopter giveaway