Hey all! So quick announcement: I actually won’t have a new post this Thursday because I AM GUEST POSTING ON GO TEEN WRITERS (i feel like ...

Hey all! So quick announcement: I actually won’t have a new post this Thursday because I AM GUEST POSTING ON GO TEEN WRITERS (i feel like a real blogger, lol, doing a guest post on a blog that has inspired me for years)!!!! Technically, that post will go live on Wednesday not Thursday, however, it’s also my birthday this weekend, so I’m taking the week off to get ahead on some blog post scheduling and also comment on some of your blogs (hopefully. But please don’t hold me to this as I very well may end up binge-watching Supernatural instead and trying to catch up to the 7 seasons I’m behind on. How are there so many episodes anyway??????).

Anywho. On to the posts! :D

10 Entirely Secretive Book Blogging Confessions by Cait. As with all of Cait’s posts, this one is a ton of fun to read and fairly relatable for other book bloggers, lol.

Interview with Silanoc (Starbloods)! by Victoria Howell. Say hi to Victoria’s awesome character, Silanoc! I think my favorite answer from him was either the reply to the shapeshifting question or the one about boys trying to court his sister. Both were gold.

3 Ways to Embrace the Writer You Used to Be, guest post on GTW by Alicyn. I’ve been writing seriously for about 5 years now, so I definitely have a lot of stories that cause me to shrivel up on the inside whenever I think of them. But she’s right: if I hadn’t written them, I wouldn’t have had anywhere to start with and I wouldn't be headed to where I am now. :)

Writer’s Block by Alyssa Clark. Sometimes it’s hard to write, but that doesn’t meant you can’t do other things to study and absorb the craft while you’re trying to get past that block. :)

And that’s it for this week! What are some ways you’ve embraced the writer you used to be? What sort of things do you study to help you get past writer’s block? Don’t forget to check out my GTW post on Wednesday, and I’ll see you all in the comment section! :D

So as I mentioned in POTW last week, I went to my second writers’ conference on Sunday!!!! I was way calmer going into it than I was going...

So as I mentioned in POTW last week, I went to my second writers’ conference on Sunday!!!! I was way calmer going into it than I was going into YoungArts, haha; among a lot of other things, YA taught me not to let anxiety over a new thing get in the way of enjoying said new thing. For James River, I was determined to be more excited than afraid, to reach out and speak to people often. I was going to be me, I was going to talk, and I was going to have fun if it killed me.

Incidentally, it did not. I also learned a lot, so things went pretty well overall. ;)

One of my first events of the day was a one-on-one meeting with a literary agent. I was terrified to begin with, but she immediately put me at ease so I could just... just talkabout my novel. I could tell that she got Low Expectations right away—so of course I was thrilled when she asked to see the first three chapters *insert distant screaming and prayers that this works out*

After that, I went to as many classes as I could, spoke to authors I met at the sales table, went up to the speakers at the end of classes to ask about prologues, promotion, pen names (I kid you not, pen names is a huge topic. One author was awesome enough to spend her entire lunch talking to me about pseudonyms and the business decisions behind them. There’s quite a bit more to it than I knew). I got to hear authors’ stories on how they got published, buy their books, get them autographed; I even got my first two pages critiqued by David L. Robbins, who definitely had some edits, but also said I’m a dynamic writer. So, you know. That was a little exciting. ;D

All-in-all, the conference was a fantastic experience, amazing in every way, and I will hopefully go again next year... but by the time 3:00 rolled around, I was in desperate need of either sleep or caffeine. Either one really.

But there was still one event left: The Agent Dating Game.

Throughout the conference, there had been these buckets, settled unassumingly at a table to the side. On colorful paper taped to the front, they named several genres. You put your name into whichever bucket best fit your book and then waited for the game to begin. For each genre, the host picked three random names from the bucket, the authors would go up on stage, and the selected agent could ask them any three questions about their manuscript. All the participants answered to their best ability, and when it was all over, the agent picked a winner. There wasn’t necessarily an offer of representation, but the agent would at least get in contact, so they could talk a little more about the novel.

The first category to go was YA-Children’s, my category. When the host pulled the first two names and they weren’t mine, I didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed. I knew I was ready to pitch my manuscript (I’d already done it once that day), and I knew I knew my story well enough to answer almost any question somebody asked... in private. But on stage? Into a microphone? In front of every one of some 2-300 souls at the conference?

I was beginning to wish I’d left after the last event. Or even better, never put my name into the bucket in the first place.

I could feel my stomach coiling as the host called the third name.

It wasn’t mine.

I relaxed, listened to the other participants pitch their works, paid attention to the way the agents responded, and took notes on it all. One thing I noticed was that agents are people just like us, lol: what intrigues us, intrigues them. I’ve always worried that Low Expectations isn’t deep enough or high concept enough to be intriguing yet too broad to fit accurately into a short pitch—unless said pitch is boring and cliche.

But what I discovered was that if you phrase it right, anything can be interesting. And if you phrase it wrong, anything can be boring. Whatever you write, the trick is to make it sound different, unique, like something people never knew they needed but now should be ravenous for. It’s definitely not easy, but many of those writers on stage showed that it’s 100% possible.

The final round came, Sci-fi/Fantasy. The winner was selected, and the agent stepped down from his chair.

And then the host announced they were doing a second YA-Children’s round.

I ‘bout died. The second name they called was mine.

I put down my backpack, now bulging with books, and slowly, composedly—I hoped—crossed from my intentionally back-of-the-room seat to the front, the stage, the microphones that would carry my voice through an entire room of people I did not know. I would have to explain Low Expectations on the spot, open up my heart, my child, to be loved or judged, criticized or accepted.

Somehow, this felt much more personal than sending a query.

My face was hot. I made it to the stage without tripping over my feet and gave a half smile to the audience as the agent took a seat on the other side of a makeshift, paper wall.

My heart pounded. I could feel it almost like the cartoons, as if it were leaping out of my chest with every split second breath. Then again, I was about to subject my story to the ears of all. So maybe that wasn’t completely inaccurate.

I reminded myself that I already had a request for a partial. So remain calm.

The questions began. The first thing he asked was what our MCs learned throughout their stories. I could semi-answer that: Elliot learns trust, acceptance, and that he’s more than he ever thought he could be (no, I did not say it that concisely on stage).

The second question was comp titles and give a quick pitch on what your book is about. Everyone else had comp titles; I did not. I’ve always known that Low Expectations is kind of out there market-wise and there aren’t many books to compare it to. So I asked if I could just give the pitch instead. He said yes, and I gave the two-sentence pitch I’d been practicing for weeks.

At least the host liked it, pausing to tell the audience, “That is an elevator pitch,” before we moved on to the last question: what books have you read recently? Being a book blogger, that was harder than it should’ve been, since I immediately forgot every book I’d ever read the second I was asked, but relatively easy compared to giving my pitch. I mentioned The Replacement Crush, a book I reviewed on Verbosity a while back.

And then the questions were over, and the moment of the truth had arrived.

The others were more interesting, I knew it. They weren’t cliche adoption stories with zero action. They weren’t character-driven, slice-of-life concept mashups impossible to fit into a paragraph much less a sentence. He wouldn’t pick me.

He did.

Now to be clear, none of this means that I’m being published. It doesn’t even mean I have an agent. It means that he asked me to send him a quick letter saying hi, and I’ll probably hear back in a couple of weeks. At this point, neither agent has read any of the book, so it could easily end up not being right for one or both of them. I know that.

But I can’t stop smiling either. :D

Altogether my second conference was an absolutely fantastic experience, as good as I’d determined to make it and more amazing than I dared to hope for. If you’re able to attend the JRW Conference next year, I highly recommend it. Hopefully, I’ll see you there. ;)

Have any of you ever been to a writers’ conference? Meet anyone cool? What was the most helpful thing you learned? Can’t wait to hear from you all, and I’ll see you in the comment section!

So. Guys. I am minorly excited because tomorrow... I AM GOING TO MY SECOND WRITER’S CONFERENCE. I really enjoyed YoungArts , so my dad enc...

So. Guys. I am minorly excited because tomorrow... I AM GOING TO MY SECOND WRITER’S CONFERENCE. I really enjoyed YoungArts, so my dad encouraged me to look for events like that in the area, and I found one nearby that I can go to for just the last day. Hopefully, I’ll even get to meet with an agent and pitch Low Expectations. *insert distant screaming* Fingers crossed, lol, and pray for me!

Anyways. TO THE POSTS!

I’m Not Into Politics, But... by Keturah. A really thought-provoking post about a Christian’s role when it comes to being informed and active in political situations. I’m not 100% sure I agree with everything, but the post definitely gave me a lot to consider.

The Surprise WEP Entry by C. Lee McKenzie. If you happen to want a spooky short story just in time for Halloween, this is my personal recommendation. ;)

Editing (A Tutorial on How to Bathe a Cat) by Sam. LOL, I’m just gonna let you all check this one out for yourselves. ;) It’s rather amusing and the two processes are surprisingly similar.

Do House Systems in Fiction Appeal to You? by Heather. In which she compares and contrasts 5 popular house systems from books. My personal favorite will probably always be PJO, lol, but it was really interesting to get a closer look at how the various systems worked on their own and in comparison to each other.

Well, that’s it for this week! I am off to bed early to be up on time for the conference (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), but in the meantime let me know which house systems you like most and which... un-fun activity you would compare editing too? Can’t wait to her from you all, and I’ll see you in the comment section! :D

Note: this post is based solely on the movie adaption as I have not read the book. So, strangely, I watched Me Before You a couple of ...

Note: this post is based solely on the movie adaption as I have not read the book.

So, strangely, I watched Me Before You a couple of weekends ago. I know. It’s not really a me-movie (I love romance as a subplot, but I don’t always love the genre); however, I happened to be shelving our new copy at work and thought, “Why not?”

My overall opinion of the movie: I loved it. Only fifteen minutes in, and I already adored everything because the characters were fantastic and the acting was superb and I hated that I loved it because I knew it would break me. And it did. If I was not as hardened as I am when it comes to fiction, I probably would’ve bawled. Long and loud. As it was, I sat at my desk, sniffled a bit, and thought about how stunningly feels-full the last 100 minutes of my life had been.

But later, as I got to thinking about the movie, I realized there was one thing that annoyed me.

Lou before Will is a charming, sweet, quirky young woman working at a local cafe. She’s kind, helpful, friendly; in her very first scene, it’s clear that she’s fairly known in her community and loved by everyone she meets. Because of her family’s financial troubles, much of the money she makes goes to supporting them—but that doesn’t seem to bother her. She doesn’t feel restricted or empty; in fact, she’s happy with her job, happy with her life, happy to continue helping her family, and spend every extra moment with them. She did seem to have some slight regret over not being able to return to school, however, I saw nothing of her feeling stunted or unfulfilled. True, she didn’t become a world-famous fashion designer, but she seemed to have come to terms with that, replacing that childhood dream with her new life, one she was delighted to be living.

Yet, throughout the movie, she was portrayed as someone who needed to change. Someone who wasn’t living her life to the fullest, a girl who needed to... “get out more.” Experience something beyond her small village.

But based on my view of her, I have to disagree.

Yes, in many cases, characters (and people) feel stunted in small towns. Like they need to grow beyond that small circle if they’re ever going to live the life they desire. Clearly, that was the case for Treena, Lou’s sister, who was practically desperate to return to school and get her degree. Also, probably for Patrick; not excusing any of his actions, but living life to the fullest for him clearly meant the athletics, running faster, getting stronger, winning competitions, those things made him feel fulfilled.

But the thing that makes one person feel fulfilled isn’t the same thing for every person, so living life to the fullest won’t look the same for everyone; some people need to move far away to achieve that, others can do it right where they are.

The movie version of Lou clearly felt most fulfilled in meaningful relationships. She wanted to reach out to the people around her, to see that special smile on their faces, to know that something she did had made their day better. She didn’t need worldwide trips or university degrees; she just wanted to know that she had made a bad day bright, that she had fulfilled a gap in someone’s life, and made some small difference for them.

And she did! She was helping elderly ladies and supporting her family long before Will Traynor came along. And it’s true that he showed her new things and new places, but I honestly believe that a large portion of the reason she enjoyed those things (particularly the trips) was because she was with him, because for the first time in two years, he smiled. Because she could see him actually beginning to enjoy life again. She had developed a meaningful relationship with Will and was flourishing within it and because of it, but it was one of many, an experience of many experiences, a relationship of many relationships, all of which together made up her entire life. I don’t think she would’ve been better off if she hadn’t met him, but she also didn’t needhim to broaden her horizons and show her real life.

Aside from Patrick, Louisa Clark was already fine the way she was, helping the family around her, bringing brightness to every room, wearing her crazy-colored tights for all the world to see. She was always herself, already loving the life she was living; and sometimes such happiness can mean complacency... but sometimes it just means contentment, that you’ve found exactly where you need to be.

All that to say, I don’t think it’s wrong to expand your horizons—if that’s what living life to the fullest means for you. It’s just that... there are different kinds of lives for all the different kinds of people, and I think this quieter, small-town one has the right to be acknowledged. For Louisa Clark, I don’t think she needed a change because she was already living her life, and as Will himself asked her to, she was living it well.

So have you seen Me Before You? Do you think you could flourish in a small-town life or do you want to get out and do all the things (me, I’m kind of in between: I would love to see the world, but I can also write from the daybed by my window, so either way, ;) )? Can’t wait to hear from you, and I will see you in the comment section!

Hey peoples! Quick note before we get to the posts: Serenade , the sequel to Dissonance by Mariella Hunt , was released this week in ebook ...

Hey peoples! Quick note before we get to the posts: Serenade, the sequel to Dissonanceby Mariella Hunt, was released this week in ebook format! The cover is absolutely gorgeous, and I got to beta-read for this one, so I can tell you it is really good. ;) You can check out the second book here, and if you haven’t read the first one, you can read my review and find purchase links here. :)


Top 10 Excuses for Buying Books (Not That We Need Excuses) by Emily from Loony Literate. Really funny post. Also, great reasons (not that we need them) to give to non-bibliophiles. ;)

Star Wars vs. Star Trek by Jessi. A super interesting and in-depth post examining the facts behind both universes to determine who is most likely to come out the victor.

ZENITH // So. Many. Trolls and How About We Don't Bully Authors, both by Liz. I haven't read the books she talks about, but I'm sharing the posts because of what she said about trolls bullying authors: it's never okay, especially when trolls crash into other people’s posts and berate them for something they enjoyed. Explaining why they disliked it, even being a little sarcastic, isn’t bad, but being a bully, saying horrible things about the author as a person, that’s a line that should never have been crossed.
And that's it for this week! What's your favorite excuse to use for buying books? How do you handle trolls (if you've ever come in contact with them). Leave a comment and share your favorite post you read this week. I'd love to hear from you. :)

Original Pic from Pixabay : artistlike Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been agonizing over some things that come up in the firs...

Original Pic from Pixabay: artistlike

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been agonizing over some things that come up in the first few chapters of my book, Low Expectations. I found some plot issues that needed a deep fix, so I went back to rewrite, and my characters... they just spoke to me in a new way, bringing out a lot of new pieces and personalities that I never really noticed before. Plus, there was another issue I’d been ignoring for a while, but came face to face with in the rewrite and had to resolve. The result: first chapters that are more difficult, more intense, and more honest than I ever realized they could be.

They’re also more controversial. There’s some offensive language, violence, and character archetypes some might see as stereotypical or generalizing. I’ve gone over these things in my head 100 million times trying and trying to figure out a way to write these chapters that will be more “user-friendly.” To write them in such a way that no one will have a reason to put the book down, not for my writing, but for an issue they disagree with.

But I couldn’t do that. Or more accurately, I very well could have done that. But Low Expectations came from Sketchy Moments, which came from Take Me As I Am, which came from the heart of a 14-year-old girl who just wanted to tell a story. I’m not invoking the age as a “feel sorry for her/me,” but as a “this is why I wrote it.” I didn’t write it for anyone but us, me at the time and those characters. As much as I wanted then and still want now for other people to enjoy my story, my first priority is and was telling the story that these characters came to me to tell in the best, most engaging, and most true to them way possible. I’ve come to the point where I’m willing to add to my story to make it better, but I refuse to subtract from it to make anyone more comfortable.

I don’t know that this is the right standpoint for everyone. If you want to write to a certain market, you’ll probably make a lot more money than me, lol. You’ll spend less late nights pacing your bedroom, agonizing over whether or not you should remove the time someone called your main character a fag. You won’t worry that someone will consider his best friend a cliche retelling of black side characters when he is so much more than comic relief. You won’t worry about people leaving bad reviews without even finishing, not because of the story or the writing quality, but because of something one of my characters said or did that the reader didn’t agree with.

But this is the position that I have to take because I’m a strong believer in the writer’s right to tell their story and as much as I do want other people to enjoy my work, I started writing for me and for Elliot and for his family, just the way they were and just the way they have slowly revealed the nuances of who they truly are. I’m going to write them honestly and, from there, it’s up to other people to take them or leave them.

And little disclaimer, it’s actually okay if readers leave them. I mean, I won’t like it. It’ll hurt my feelings if someone doesn’t like my characters, or doesn’t really understand them, or leaves a one-star review. But people are allowed to do that because that’s the contradiction of freedom: I have the freedom to write what I want, to express myself and my characters in the best way I know how, and then readers have the freedom to reject that expression (politely) and say it wasn’t for them. I mean, I’ve done it for other books and I believe that those authors probably love their characters as much as I love mine and wrote the best stories for their vision of their characters. But that vision didn’t work for me, just as mine won’t work for every reader who picks my book up.

I’m not pretending that I’ve already come to a point where that doesn’t hurt, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I have to get there if, one, I’m going to get any sleep, and two, if I’m ever going to truly write my characters as they are, let them be taken as they are, and find those people who will see them as I do and love them as they are.

I think those people will make it all worth it. :)

So do you have any controversial topics in your book? Something else you minorly agonized over or a writing revelation you’ve recently come to? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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