Thursday, December 31, 2015

Goodbye 2015!

Hi everyone!

I'm seeing a lot of year-end posts and thought I'd send out a quick post with a few of my favorite discoveries from the year. More to come in 2016 with my debut book (!!) and likely a new website. Next week, some friends of mine have book releases, so stay tuned for posts on their books!


The boom mic strikes again! Photo: Previously.TV

I wrote a post about podcasts earlier this year, and I have a bunch of favorites. But one major fave is Previously.TV's Again With This: 90210 edition. That's the original Beverly Hills, 90210 dissected in discussion WITH VISUAL AIDS. Thanks to NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour for pointing this one out. A friend of mine and I are hooked. I never knew Brandon Walsh was such a kooz.

Photo: @StephScottYA

I've had this app for years, but only recently connected with the wonderful book and reader community there. On work breaks, I love to scroll through pretty book pics or fashion and photography. I did a December photo challenge hosted by a few bloggers that gave me all sorts of photo ideas. It's such a fun way to connect.

Check out a few favorite accounts below! @thereaderbee  @halfbl00dprincess  @kindredvintage  @bookvibes
I'm @StephScottYA come follow me!

Cheese Plates

I feel super fancy when I bring these to parties. This one is Star Wars themed. You know, all those actual Star Wars cheeses ... or cheeses I made up names for to match Star Wars like Han's Havarti and BB-8s Black Pepper Bellavitano.


This the year I sort of gave up being on top of everything. Too many movies, TV shows, streaming options, not to mention books and OH YEAH WRITING BOOKS TOO. Yeah, I can't keep up. One show I totally loved was season two of Fargo on FX. It's dark, moodly, pitch black in humor, and so well casted and acted. Each episode is like a short film.

And for as many people who die (it's about Midwest gangsters), there is a sweetness threaded through each season with a few good people to root for.

That's my very short list! Just short enough so you can all get on your merry way to celebrate an event we have no control over--time passing. May your time pass with loved ones and good food. See you in 2016!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Thief of Lies by Brenda Drake

Thief of Lies is coming! I'm so happy to be part of this tour to support author Brenda Drake! She's given so much to the writing community with her blog contests like Pitch Madness and Pitch Wars. The twitter pitch event #PitMad was her idea!

Check out the excerpt below and details on the book.  

Thief of Lies (Library Jumpers, #1)
Release date:  1/5/16
Author: Brenda Drake

About the book:

Gia Kearns would rather fight with boys than kiss them. That is, until Arik, a leather clad hottie in the Boston Athenaeum, suddenly disappears. While examining the book of world libraries he abandoned, Gia unwittingly speaks the key that sucks her and her friends into a photograph and transports them into a Paris library, where Arik and his Sentinels—magical knights charged with protecting humans from the creatures traveling across the gateway books—rescue them from a demonic hound.

Jumping into some of the world's most beautiful libraries would be a dream come true for Gia, if she weren’t busy resisting her heart or dodging an exiled wizard seeking revenge on both the Mystik and human worlds. Add a French flirt obsessed with Arik and a fling with a young wizard, and Gia must choose between her heart and her head, between Arik's world and her own, before both are destroyed.

Where to Pre-Order:


I pressed the screen, and it went dark. “How do we know he’s not being forced to say this?”
                “The password, May Agnes guide you,” Lei replied. “She’s the patron saint of Asile.”
                Agnes? That was the silver woman’s name that formed from my globe. Did the saints have something to do with the Chiavi?
                I faced Ricardo. “How did you know I was here?”
                “The werehounds tracked your scent from a shirt Katy…excuse me, your nana…gave us.”
                “Can your pack help us save Couve?” Arik asked him.
                “They will, but Gia must go with me.” He noticed the protest forming on my lips. “Merlin said no exceptions. I’m to get you to the shelter.”
                From the corridor came yells, scuffles, and the continual wail of the warning siren.
                “I can’t go with you,” I said. “I have to fight with them.”
                “She can’t fight with us,” Lei said, glancing at the door. “She almost killed Kale.”
                I turned to Sinead. “You know what I can do.”
                Sinead gave me a pity smile. “Yes, but you have no control over it. Let Ricardo take you to your father and friends.”
                I thought of Kale lying motionless, near death, and I hated that she was right. As much as I wanted to stay, I might be more hindrance than help. I caved. “Okay,” I said, defeated. Lei flew out of the room with the Laniars on her heels.
                Sinead hugged me, then rushed after them. Arik moved over to me and cupped my face gently in his hands. His eyes held the intensity that always drew me to him.
                I swallowed my breath in anticipation. All the sounds around us went silent.
                He bent and lightly brushed my lips with a kiss. His lips were soft and oh, so tender. Butterflies swooped and curled inside me, and it felt like the ground disappeared from beneath my feet. He pulled back a little and said, “Regardless of the fact that you’re a royal pain in the arse, I fancy you. Listen to Ricardo and don’t do anything rash.”
                He gave me another kiss and rushed out the door. My heart twisted in my chest as he disappeared. I touched my mouth and exhaled. He liked me. It was against the laws, but he told me he fancied me. Maybe we had no future, but we had now.
                “What a sweet display,” Ricardo said, dragging me out of my haze. “I’m not one for rules or laws, but I’d be careful there. The punishment would be much worse for him than you.”
                “Why?” I stared at the door as if I’d see Arik there.
                “He’s a leader. He knows better.” Ricardo headed to the window. “Are you ready to fly?”
                “Did you say fly?”

Brenda Drake, the youngest of three children, grew up an Air Force brat and the continual new kid at school. Her fondest memories growing up is of her eccentric, Irish grandmother’s animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. So it was only fitting that she would choose to write stories with a bend toward the fantastical. When Brenda’s not writing or doing the social media thing, she’s haunting libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops or reading someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).

Friday, December 11, 2015

Fall Reading Challenge Wrap-Up!

Technically, it's still fall for a few more days, so I'm going to wrap up my personal fall reading challenge! Here are some mini reviews of what I read November and December:

21893566Author I know:

Dating Down by Stefanie Lyons. I met Stefanie when we sat next to each other in a Story Studio Chicago class. She had just finished her MFA and had written this very book, but it was not yet published. This is a book told in verse, which stretched me a little since I don't read a lot of poetry. I liked the variety of poems, and how each word mattered to the tone of the page.

Book by a Favorite Author

Indecent Proposal by Molly O'Keefe. This author writes consistently deep and engaging characters. The heat level in her books (meaning the degree of explicit sexy-times) is about my max, which is probably tame for some, but just a word there if you're new to her or romance books. She is an author who uses the romance wholly in the development and conflict with her characters. Her characters are always interesting and never one-note. Every book of hers I read seems better than the last. She takes a trope and destroys it. Or jumps on board and makes it work. This is a marriage of convenience book, and it's contemporary. And it works. Molly O'Keefe is awesome, ya'll.

Something New

22875451The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. These are the authors behind the Fug Girls fashion blog, where the snark is focused on the outfit and not the wearer (take that, junky tabloids!). I've been following their blog for close to ten*cough* years,which seems crazy, but yeah. I trekked to Chicago's Printers' Row Lit Fest this summer to see them! The signing line was verrrry long, so I bought my copy later and now finally read it. Imagine Wills and Kate in England are Nick and Bex and Bex is American. This is a saga-of-sorts that follows their relationship from college, where Rebecca "Bex" Porter is an exchange student, through their royal wedding. The same feeling I had when I read Lauren Weisbergers' books (The Devil Wears Prada, and Everyone Worth Knowing) cropped up when reading this. Call it chick lit with pop culture savvy. I want these ladies to keep writing books. They also wrote two YAs which are fantastic!)

A Holiday or Seasonal Book

Unwrapping Her Perfect Match by Kat Latham. I sneaked in this freebie by a writer at my same lit agency. This is set in England and part of her rugby romance series, but it's a stand-alone novella that doesn't require reading the rest of the books. But you should, obviously! I remember when she was putting this book together, she asked readers to vote on her blog between different covers. I love feeling a part of things!

These next two don't fit any of my reading challenge categories, but I read them so they count! 

Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older. I listened to the audiobook version, which I highly recommend. the narrator is fantastic and brought the characters to life. This is urban fantasy YA with beautiful imagery of shadowy spirits using New York City's art and murals and music to communicate. It's a super cool concept told through the eyes of teen Sierra and her group of friends in Brooklyn. And it's a series! I am so on board. It's funny, creepy, haunting, and a lot of fun.


Magnolia by Kristi Cook. I've had this on my To Read list for awhile and found it on a library trip (where I was supposed to be returning books, but you get how that goes). A sweet but not shallow YA romance that's like reverse Romeo & Juliet--two southern families bound by generations are ecstatic to join up a son and daughter who are "meant to be" ... to everyone but the two who are pressured to get together. When a hurricane rolls through their small town, the two must rely on each other to stay safe and take care of the family farm.

A few more: How to Lose a Bachelor by Anna Banks, a sweeter and funny romance from Entangled related to a reality show competition, and What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick, a YA contemporary about a sleepy beach town and the help vs. the wealthy. This took me awhile to get through (I think I started it over the summer), but it's a lovely book with some beautiful characterization.

That sounds like a lot of books! A few I started months ago and only now finished, and I also had ten whole days off in November to get caught up with reading and writing projects.

What have you read lately? Are you planning any reading challenges for 2016?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Insecure Writers Support Group IWSG December

Welcome to the last IWSG post of 2015! The purpose of Insecure Writers Support Group is to share and encourage. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! 

Head here to Insecure Writers Support Group and visit a few new blogs. Pick your favorite number, click on the corresponding blog, and make sure to leave a comment. This is a great, supportive community for writers. There's also a Facebook group!

Today I want to talk about the opposite of writer's block. The reverse of procrastination, when you're so fueled to write you kept going, and going, and going. Maybe you have deadlines and projects other people are counting on. Maybe writing is your job and it pays your bills. Sometimes writing takes over, but after awhile, that constant mining for creativity can take its toll.

I'm taking an online course about organizing life to enhance creativity, which brought up how our creative minds need a break. The same way we need to get up from the chair and physically stretch, our writer brains need to defrag and do something else. Or? Burn out. Nobody wants that.

And then the instructor went ahead and listed some alternate activities. Including....


I did a double take. Right there with scrapbooking and gardening and going for a walk was the suggestion to play video games.

My Writing Instructor Told Me Video Games Enhance Creativity!

Do you know how long I've been waiting for someone to say this? It's especially timely for me since my favorite game franchise released a new edition: Fallout 4 last month. I may or may not have coordinated time off work with my husband over the release of this game. (Hey, us adults can do that and not just call in to work for a "sick day.") Fallout has everything; epic world-building, hundreds of quests, excellent writing (bonus!), great voice acting, doses of humor. It's so, so fun. 

And I felt like I needed permission to play. I've drilled it in my consciousness that I won't be a multi-published author if I don't multi-finish books (true). I also know, my brain gets fried if I don't take breaks.

We writers are hard on ourselves. I wrote two rough drafts in four months. I have projects in the works. I love it, but I also need to give my story-crafting brain some downtime.

And I need to build a not-up-to-code shanty in the irradiated wastelands for my settlements. Yup.

poorly constructed settelment Fallout 4

Have you ever had a time where you felt like you needed permission to take a break? What's your outlet from writing? 

Make sure to stop by the IWSG blogs!

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


Want to read bonus scenes? Sign up for my newsletter to get them!

You can also join my Facebook fan group for early excerpts of my upcoming books, giveaways or to just hang out with me :)

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

Blitz-wide giveaway (INTL)
  • $50 Amazon Gift Card
  • Name a character in Elodie’s next novel…
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Insecure Writers Support Group #IWSG

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. 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! Check the full list of blog participants here, and make sure to visit a few new names.


Writing is all a matter of decisions. If you and I both start with the same concept for a book, and then go our separate ways to write, the outcomes will not be the same.  Each writer brings their own voice, bias, interests, and storytelling techniques to his or her pages. That's why you can't patent an idea. Joe Writer's idea of a boy wizard going to magic school thought up in 1994 is no good against J.K. Rowling's powerhouse series because she wrote it, Joe didn't. Ideas are nothing! Execution is everything!

Which all leads me to how crippling this: writers must decide everything in the story. Every name, every action, every plot development, twist, progression, relies on the writer deciding which way is best to tell the story.

No wonder we see images of writers dependent on caffeine and comfort foods. So much pressure! 

Right now, I'm helping a writer shape up her manuscript for the Pitch Wars contest agent round in November. Where to start the story and how much information the reader should know are debatable. There is no one right answer. Together, we need to decide how to tell the story best. (Sidenote: check out an interview with myself, my co-mentor Valerie Cole, and my Pitch Wars mentee Jenn Kompos on Brenda Drake's blog.)

I'm pulling out every strategy I can think of. Any advice for writers stuck in a land of decisions? What makes decision making in writing easier for you? 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Chicago Writer's Conference, September 25-27

Chicago Writer's Conference September 25-27 in Chicago 

Here's a great CWC2015 Storify recap on the conference (Storify captures tweets, photos, and other media on a chosen topic for easy viewing later.) A few of my tweets made it in!

This was my first time attending Chicago Writers, and the conference itself is only a few years old. I drove down only for the Saturday section of the conference, as Sunday was more of a half day with focus on pitching to agents. This conference is a great opportunity in particular for writers not tied to an age category like YA, or genre like romance, sci fi, mystery etc., as the content is geared toward general fiction, poetry, writing for magazines, and a bunch in between. Also great if you're new to conferences (smaller size, not overwhelming), are looking for general information on wider areas of writing, you want agent pitch opportunities or basics on the submission process, and you're fairly local to Chicago area. Even if you're traveling in, fall in Chicago is the best time to visit!

I met a writer who rode the train in from eastern Michigan (Hi, Mica!). She was enthusiastic from the start, introducing herself, passing out business cards, asking questions. She even organized a lunch group by holding up a sign for Sci Fi / Fantasy writers. (I joined in, though I write neither. Proof though, that genre writers will find each other!). Conferences are absolutely what you make of them. Put yourself out there, and you'll find someone to connect with.

Lunch: Maxwell Street style sausage at Al's
I did manage to find YA content! A YA author panel for one, and a session taught by author Lindsay Currie, a former Pitch Wars mentor, who shared tangible strategies for author promotion. I am definitely tapping her to come to Windy City RWA next year to teach that same workshop. Another valuable session was with Laurie Scheer who runs The Writer's Institute conference in Madison. Look her up and learn!

The variety of writers I encountered were so interesting. I met beginning authors, writers who had experience with screenplays (two who had produced and acted in stage plays), and freelance editors, one of whom used to work for the NY Times book review (wow) and another who is a professor writing her first fiction series. These were all women, by the way, and I was blown away by their experience and expertise. 

A few noticeable differences than other conferences I've attended: no meals provided, and no free books. Maybe I'm spoiled by RWA functions. Though Midwest Writers Workshop provided several meals and a bag full of resources and materials, too. Chicago Writers provided a attendees a bag--an empty one. My guess is that this conference will grow each year, and likely gain sponsors to provide materials conference attenders have grown to expect.

Definitely a good experience, and I'd recommend going especially for reasons listed. 

What writing conferences have you attended?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Fall Happenings!

Happy October! The leaves are changing and it's boot and cardigan weather. What, you don't label seasons by fashion options? I'm a fall girl forever. My favorite season by far. 

Time to check in on my personal reading challenge.

The point of this challenge was to read books from my own shelves. Let's just say a slew of new releases, a member discount sale at my indie bookstore, and some tempting ebook additions at my library equated to me reading almost exclusively NOT from my own shelves. Oh, I read books, just none of them were books I already owned.  

It's a nice problem to have--too many books. 

My updates so far:

image: Goodreads

1.) A book you really want to read: 

THE WALLS AROUND US by Nova Ren Suma. I loved this author's YA Magical Realism book IMAGINARY GIRLS. I saw this option at in my library's ebooks and had to download. From the first page, this book was haunting and captivating. Girls in a juvenile detention center run free (or so they think) after all the cell doors mysteriously release. The story kept me guessing at the connection between the two main character narratives--one girl imprisoned, another girl on the outside. This is the perfect fall YA book. Highly recommended if you liked WE WERE LIARS.

image: Goodreads
2.) Something small
THE CATCHING KIND by Bria Quinlan. This was about 200 pages. I love her type of contemporary romance set in the city around a busy coffee shop. This one involved a YA writer in need of a publicity boost, a star athlete with an out-of-control social life, and two enterprising agents who fix them up. Cue shenanigans.

image: Goodreads
3.) Read an ebook
JOYRIDE by Anna Banks, YA contemporary. Another library ebook download. I really liked this story about a teen girl living with her brother and working herself to the bone to earn enough money to bring her deported parents back from Mexico. The story gets a bit soapy & sensational at points, but I liked seeing many sides of what people experience with immigration. 

Image: Goodreads
4.) An author you've been meaning to try

IT'S YOU by Jane Porter, contemporary women's fiction. I saw this lovely cover awhile back and added it on my To Read list. I thought I might meet her at RWA but didn't. I ended up winning this book from a blogger after commenting on the review. I liked some of the unconventional storytelling, but overall this read a bit like a catch-all of every women's fiction concept. The main character was a successful dentist which I thought was pretty cool. How many dentists do you read about?


#BloomsburySpark chat Myself and other Bloomsbury Spark authors are hosting another twitter chat next week October 8, 8pm EST. Drop in and chat books with us!

Fall Writing Bootcamp with YA Buccaneers 
This is just for OCTOBER this time and focusing on preparing for National Novel Writing Month, or finishing up a project. Also, anyone joining can option in for a private Facebook group for more interaction. Join here on YABuccaneers

My Romance Writers YA chapter just hosted a chat with author Clara Kensie (see Storify link here).
Our next chat is October 20, 9pm EST. Topic TBD. This is a moderated, topic-focused chat. Join us!

Writers: October contest and pitch opportunities courtesy of Sub it Club 

AND My own RWA chapter's Four Seasons Contest with really good final round editor and agent judges for each category plus overall top finalists receive a bonus critique from 1 or 3 excellent authors in our group. Ten days left to enter, deadline 10/10/15

Thanks for catching up. What are you reading? What is your favorite thing about the fall season? Chat with me in the comments!