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!