Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What's Up Wednesday Year End Spectacular!

It's the last What's Up Wednesday of the year! What's Up Wednesday is a blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk, to help writers connect. Swing by other WUW blogs, get to know other writers taking part, and spread some writerly encouragement around.


I tore through Dahlia Adler's Last Will and Testament, which she self-published this month. This is one of the few New Adult category books I truly liked. The main character swears like a sailor, and this is pretty hot in a graphic way romance, so be forewarned if that is not your thing. The best part is the character development and story did not take a backseat to the romance.

Now onto My True Love Gave to Me holiday anthology.


I've been on a break writing-wise for my mental sanity, though today I actually had the thought "I should reorganize my Pinterest boards," so I guess that's my cue to get back to work. 

My goal is to begin some not-fun-for-me examination of several projects in need of revision. My plan is to read through Michael Hauge's screenwriting book gifted to me by one of my critique group. He's a frequent speaker at RWA conferences, and his teaching translates to novel writing. Think three act structure plus character identity and essence and blending those elements together. Author and uber-blogger Jami Gold has a few extremely helpful posts that dissect his teaching.

Also, I need to submit my manuscript to RWA's unpublished Golden Heart contest. I had a good streak with contests this year, and the Golden Heart is the mega one. Can't win the lotto if you don't have a ticket, right?


Seeing what's selling in Publisher's Marketplace gets me thinking plot stuff the most. My struggle now is turning ideas into sellable, high-conflict stories. 


Holiday everything! Early gift exchanges, parties, food, the All Of It. Also, while relaxing my writer brain I've been powering through Dragon Age: Inquisition. My husband and I are both the same way with video games; when we're in, we're in

Happy holidays everyone! And stop by the other Wednesday blogs.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Book Review: Creed by Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie

By: Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie
Published: November 2014

Creed is the type of book that takes me back to the days of Christopher Pike thrillers. This is a more updated take on the YA thriller, where you will find nary a supernatural being to be found. Just creepy cultists masquerading as perfectly normal townsfolk. *shudder*

At first I thought the tagline was a spoiler: Three went in. Three came out. None even a shadow of who they once were. So, everyone makes it out okay? No suspense there. Except, this doesn't say the SAME three came out. Hmmm.

The story begins with a normal enough scenario: three kids on a road trip to a concert. Dee rides with her boyfriend and his brother, who is along because she bribed him to keep the details as a surprise. Dee forgets her coat since she won't be able to bring it into the venue anyway. When their car breaks down in the middle of northern New York, they trudge through the snow to the nearest town. Cell phone reception patchy at best. In town, they find a gas station completely functional but with no one running it, and no patrons. A walk through town finds the place eerily vacant. Even houses, no one is around. Where are they?

This kept me guessing what would happen next. Violence and gore, so be mindful if that is not your thing. And given how the story wraps up, this is definitely in line with horror, where there isn't quite as neat an ending as you might like, but one that leaves the reader wholly unsettled.

I was lucky enough to meet the authors this fall at a book signing:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Book Review: A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev

image: Goodreads
A Bollywood Affair
Sonali Dev
Contemporary Romance
Published: November 2014

A Bollywood Affair is a great entry point to romance. It offers a little something different, with the staples of a contemporary romance. I've had the pleasure of watching this evolve from manuscript to published book, and I'm so excited to share this debut from my fellow Windy City RWA chaptermate.

Mili arrives to the United States from India after living a sheltered life overseen by her very traditional grandmother, who prepares Mili every day for her impending marriage to a husband arranged for her when she was a child. Only it's been over twenty years, and no husband has materialized.

What she doesn't know, is the village ceremony so many years ago did not result in a legal marriage. At least that's what her husband thinks, especially since he's married to another woman. He'd been told the child bride arrangement was handled and done with, as modern Indians did away with such archaic customs. Now, with a baby on the way, he's desperate. He sends his brother Samir to sort out the whole debacle, and to get the girl to sign papers saying the marriage is null. Only Mili's been coached her whole life that this man is who she should live for. That even bettering herself with education is to please her future husband.

Which all is a perfect recipe for disaster and romantic shenanigans when Samir finds Mili. I loved the contrast between old Indian customs and modern values, and also how different Mili and Samir's experiences were adjusting to the U.S., as well as Mili's roommate who is an American-born Indian. The book shows very distinctly that someone's cultural identity is just one facet of them; their family, upbringing, and values matter just as much. As for Bollywood, Samir is a filmmaker, so that's the tie in. Also, family elements tie into the story, as well as a wedding, so there is a real Bollywood flair to the story, especially toward the end.

Since this is a romance, it gets a little spicy! So be forewarned, this isn't your mama's women's fiction book club pick.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What's Up Wednesday

Welcome  to What's Up Wednesday, a blog hop to check in with other writers. See Jaime Morrow's blog for details.

What I'm Reading

image: Goodreads
I finished a holiday romance Sleigh Bells in the Snow which was nominated for a Romance Writers of America RITA award this year. It got me in a sufficient holiday mood.

Now I'm reading an agency-mate's urban fantasy Dangerous Calling by A.J. Larrieu. The first book Twisted Miracles was an excellent start to a series, setting up the world of shadowminds and exploring Cass' past. I used to read a lot of UF, and the world building here is really good with some unique takes on fantasy elements I hadn't seen before.

What I'm Writing

I'm on a break after Nano to catch up on reading and holiday stuff. I have a few different projects to choose from, so deciding what to tackle next.

What Works for Me

Speaking of that time off ... I spent almost the entire last year working on two different manuscripts on and off, so it's strange to not be working on something. My brain goes into story mode daily, so I can't really shut it off. I just want to be really mindful on what I take on next, so I'm giving it time.

What Else is New

photo credit: Stephanie Scott
Holiday shopping, wrapping, planning! I need to mail stuff and I'm getting together with my Mom early this year so I have days not weeks.

Friday was my RWA chapter's holiday party. The picture shows me with two writers from our smaller critique group--the third couldn't come. We have a little program time to acknowledge people's accomplishments and contributions. Really good stuff this year--multiple book deals for our members, with Big 5/NYC, small press, and some self publish successes. Contest wins, and Nanowrimo conquerors. Also, we recognize those who serve the chapter.

What hits me every time is none of these people are not busy. Everyone has families, many have full or part-time jobs, and other commitments. Writing is what they love and they make time. Serving the organization is all on top of that.

Tell me how your week is going! And please check out the other What's Up Wednesday posts!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group IWSG

To find out more about Insecure Writer's  Support Group, check out their website here.

National Novel Writing Month just ended. If you participated, you're either in possession of a finished draft or a partial draft. Or you're cackling somewhere buried beneath a pile of plot charts and character sheets. Come on out, November's over.

If you finished, celebrate the victory! Even if your draft has plot holes, inconsistent characters, or nonsensical scenes, you are still further along than the majority of people who say they want to write a book. I  know because I used to be one of those people.

"I'd like to write a book someday," I'd say.

And then I'd never do anything toward trying to write a book. Or learn about writing a book. I read books, sure. But writing a novel seemed such an intangible concept, I didn't know where to start.

NaNoWriMo was a jumping off point for me. I love how encouraging the experience can be. It's proof that when you set goals and surround yourself with encouraging people, you can accomplish much more than you expect.

If you did not finish, or had to quit somewhere mid-month, there's still a lot to be gained from attempting. Again, you have the point that many, many people who say they have ideas for books, never attempt to do anything with those ideas. The hard truth is you can't copyright an idea. Your ingenious series about a boy wizard defeating evil is nothing if you don't sit down and write it.

So, this week, stay encouraged! Celebrate the small victories. You have a draft to work with, an idea to work with, and every day going forward to turn around and make it happen.

Please visit a few other IWSG blogs linked here and share the support.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Book Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins


Isla and the Happily Ever After
Stephanie Perkins
YA Contemporary Romance
Published: August 2014

In the world of YA fiction, this third book in a series of loosely interconnect characters was highly anticipated. Readers return to the elite private school in Paris we were first introduced to in Anna and the French Kiss. Isla is a wonderfully quirky, charming gal whose hometown is NYC, and she crushes hard for dream boy Josh.

They're lovely people who make mistakes and survive many blunders both relatable and fantastic (not many of us have the dilemma of whether to share our secret Paris rooftop hideaway which overlooks the city. Oh, to have such problems). I enjoyed this same world in Anna and the French Kiss, and it's one of the few YA books I've reread in recent years. Both books are romances that don't pretend otherwise. Perkins has a distinct voice that nails the emotion of being young, naive, open, and impulsive. She's built a loyal fanbase, including myself, who want to be friends with her characters.

The curious point for me, as a writer as well as a reader, is only a certain type of author can get away with a book like this, mainly because not much happens in Isla and the Happily Ever After. If you study plot structure, or the Hero's Journey, or Save the Cat beat sheets or any other number of writing advice sources, reading something like this will either be a gentle reprieve from such frustrations as stage acts and turning points, or  you may question, loudly, why nothing is happening other than a crush who doesn't show up for class one morning. The plot here is really secondary to the characters' experience and emotions. Sometimes I need a show like Breaking Bad or Hannibal, other times Rory's failing grade on Gilmore Girls fills what I'm looking for.

This is a book only Stephanie Perkins can write, and I'm grateful for her addition to young adult fiction. These are books about first love that will be exactly what you want if you already like her books. If you're a completist, then you're already going to read it anyway.