authors

Dogs, Dad, and THE Best Audio Book #amreading (barely)

Hello, fellow book junkies! Four months into 2017, and I’m already eleven books behind on my Goodreads Reading Challenge. What’s up with that?  I blame it on decompressing after the death in January of my beloved dad. (Sorry to start on a sad note, but it really does get better…) My focus has understandably been off. In my free time after work and family, instead of reading or working on my novel or blogging, suddenly watching TV shows like Chewing Gum (what a hilariously irreverent Brit-com), Long Lost Family, and Feud-Bette and Joan, and practicing Spanish on Duolingo is a lot easier than try to focus on reading words. In actual books. Oh, and I freely admit to spending too much time on Twitter rubbernecking the train wreck that is our current White House administration. Fortunately, I’m starting to wean myself off that because it is just not healthy. So, yeah, the number of books I read in a month seems to correlate to my mental state. My past two months of reading productivity has been super low–three books a month compared with an average of nine books a month before that.

TV Shows April 25

A word about dogs. . .

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned him here in my blog before, but I have this good buddy named Teddie. He is fourteen years old, follows me everywhere, is a white poodle and the smartest dog I have ever known. I swear Teddie is part human. My Yorkshire Terrier, on the other hand, is dumb but with a heart of gold. Except she hates the sound of crying babies. She growls whenever she hears the sound on television.

Here is Teddie all smiley in the car, probably working out how to drive. . .

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An Astoundingly Good YA Audio Book. . .

And finally, because this blog is about my love of reading and writing YA lit, I must mention that I am ADORING the audio book version of Illuminae by Kaufman and Kristoff. Oh, the characters–“Bite Me” Kady, chivalrous-despite-himself Ezra. The interstellar world! And the storytelling style is OFF THE HOOK. What’s really astounding is that the audio book–with its many narrators, ship sounds, computerized voice–VERY effectively captures the genius storytelling style of the print version’s many POVs, redacted confidential reports, ship-to-ship communiques, etc. The audio book fully deserved to win the 2016 Audio Award for Multi-Voiced Performance. Illuminae may be is the most fun audio book I’ve ever listened to.

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Happy reading!

Eve Messenger

P.S. If you love languages, free website http://www.Duolingo.com is the bomb-diggety.

Delightful Interview with Roshani Chokshi, Author of The Star-Touched Queen

In honor of this week’s release of the gorgeous new YA novel, The Star-Touched Queen, I am re-Roshani at ALA Midwinter Conferencerunning a delightful interview I did with author Roshani Chokshi back in February.

 

Why The Star-Touched Queen is a Must-Read:

The Star-Touched Queen is one of the most talked-about YA debut novels of 2016 for good reason. Sarah J. Maas calls Rokshani Chokshi’s writing “flawless.” Then there’s Indian mythology, great world-building (trees that bear memories instead of fruit!?), a unique protagonist you want to root for, plus a cover so beautiful it makes you feel like you’re stepping into a dream.

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Interview with Rokshani Chokshi

Eve:   Roshani, YA fans are already talking about your gorgeous Pinterest page. Where did you find such beautiful pictures to represent The Star-Touched Queen?

RC: Thank you! I guess I got ridiculously lucky on Pinterest. But I also typed in strange things in the search box, like, “gothic jeweled fruit” and “bloody hands.” You’ll get some interesting stuff…

Eve:  What made you fall in love with your novel?

RC: I love this question! I fell in love with it because of its ease. It’s not a new story. It’s threaded with a thousand and one familiar tales, from fairytales to folklore all across the world. But what made me so excited about writing it was tweaking little things and pushing the worldbuilding farther.

Eve:  Are you planning a book tour? If so, what is a question you hope someone asks?

RC: Not sure yet! I know we’re doing a blog tour, and I’m very excited for that. I hope someone asks me what my job would be in the wizarding (and witches!) world of Harry Potter.

Eve:  Now I have to ask. . . What would your job be in the wizarding world of Harry Potter?

RC: I would love to be MINISTER OF MAGIC!!!  Thank you for asking. 🙂

EveThe publishing industry is a notoriously slow-moving machine. From writing to publication, how long was the “birthing” process of your book? What have some of the highlights been?

RC: From writing to sale…about two years. The highlights have been working with my agent and editor who have been incredible champions throughout all my doubts, rewrites and crazy revision ideas.

Eve:  Many YA writers also seem to be music lovers. Did you create a playlist for your novel and, if so, what are some of the songs on it?

RC: Yes! “Satellite” by Guster, “Nagada Sang Dhol” from the Bollywood film Ram-Leela and, don’t laugh, “679” by Fetty Wap. My brain is a many-fangled beast…
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EveYour eclectic song choices make me want to read the book even more! Speaking of music, YA authors Libba Bray, Natalie Standiford, Barnabas Miller, and Daniel Ehrenhaft have been known to perform at publishing industry events with their band, Tiger Beat. If you were in an authors band, what instrument would you play?

RC: Glass harmonica. It’s just so strange. I must possess it.


Eve:  I LOVE the glass harmonica. Great pick. . .  What are some books you recently read that you loved?

RC: UPROOTED by Naomi Novik recently ate my soul (in the best way possible) and I also loved RADIANCE by Catherynne Valente.

Eve:  Having an online presence is a big deal for writers. How do you balance writing and social media?

RC: I think putting my phone on Do Not Disturb has been the most helpful. Maybe it’s just me, but I  can get anxious on social media. So, if I’m not careful, it can take up way more hours of my day than it should.

EveIn the early days of crafting your novel, were you shy about sharing what you’d written with others?

RC: Very much!!! But that’s part of the beauty of writing. We want it to be read, seen and felt. So taking that first step with beta readers and critique partners is a wonderful and terrifying moment.

Eve:  Do you have a critique group and, if so, how did you find them?

RC: Yes. I found them on sites like Ladies Who Critique or Twitter!

Eve:  Your novel has such an evocative title. Who came up with the title, The Star-Touched Queen? Was this the same title you used when querying agents?

RC: When I queried agents, I used the title “THE GLASS GARDEN.” After signing with my agent, we sold the book when it was titled THE BRIDE OF DUSK AND GLASS. AFTER selling, we changed it to THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN thanks to the geniuses over at MacMillan.

Eve:  What’s your typical writing schedule? Do you reward yourself for meeting writing goals?

RC: I try to get most of my writing done in the morning-early afternoon. The light in myRoshani Chokshi fave reward cadbury bar favorite room is at its softest, and it makes me feel deliciously inspired. I do reward myself! Every 1k gets me half a Cadbury bar. I do, however, frequently break these rules…what are rules for after all…

Eve:  Many writers have dark moments while working on their novels, times when they’re not sure they’ll ever finish. If you encountered hurdles like this, how did you overcome them?

RC: When I get this way (and it does happen), I read my favorite books. I return to the worlds of Neil Gaiman, Laini Taylor and Catherynne Valente. I let them guide me back to why I love writing.

Eve:  Was there any particular epiphany you had while writing your novel when you said to yourself, “Hey, I can do this. I’m going to publish this thing.”

RC: No, actually! And I WISH I DID! When I finished TSTQ, there was a great surge of “wow. I did the thing!” But that was what I was celebrating. Not the idea that I could actually find it on bookshelves one day.

Eve:  Lately, YA book lovers seem to be saying there is an overemphasis on romance in YA fiction. What are your thoughts on this?

RC: I love reading romance in YA. But I don’t think it’s critical to a plot. There are some books, like SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo, which deftly handle characterization and takes the focus away from the characters’ romantic entanglements. Other beautiful books, like ALL OUR PRETTY SONGS by Sarah McCarry, have romance but focus on the friendship and the experience of growing. I have no problem with romance, but I personally prefer books where romance is not the ONLY motivation for the character.

Eve:  Who are some of your favorite fictional characters and why?

RC: Howl, from HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE because he was vain and wonderful and my first serious book boyfriend.    Howl from Howl's Moving Castle

Kaye, from Holly Black’s TITHE because she was fierce and gritty.      Kaye from Tithe

Razgut, from Laini Taylor’s DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE trilogy because he was pitiful and deranged and wildly funny.

Eve:  What’s something you really hope people say after they read your novel?

RC: I hope they forget they were reading. I hope they think they’ve tasted fairy fruit and fallen in love and spent time wandering through Otherworldly palaces.

Eve: Best of luck to you, Roshani. Ever since I read your short story, The Star Maiden, in Shimmer magazine, I knew you’d be a great success. Thank you for all your fantastic answers to my questions.

RC: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about writing. I deeply appreciate it.

Eve: Where can your fans reach you?

RC: Pretty much everywhere!

 

 

Top Three “Author Uniforms” Big-Name Y.A. Male Writers Wear #amwriting #amreading

I am a writer. I daydream. Sometimes I daydream about what it would be like to attend my own book signing or to speak at a conference. (My introvert palms are sweating about that one already.) The obvious question, “What would I wear?” got me browsing through photos of my favorite female Y.A. authors, whose outfits apparently run the gamut  from T-shirts and jeans to designer dresses. No help there. Then I noticed something interesting. Big-name male YA authors sport a kind of “author’s uniform.” If you’re a male (or female) author searching for a good public look, here are three options you might want to consider.

The Rock Star

I challenge anyone to find a photo of Neil Gaiman not dressed in black. (Costumes don’t count.) Gaiman’s “author uniform” (which he totally rocks) consists of a black shirt, black blazer, and black pants. Occasionally, Gaiman mixes things up with a black sweater, black trench coat, or black bomber jacket. Are you detecting a theme here? Gaiman prefers clothing that’s dark like his stories, one of my favorites being The Graveyard Book.
  

The Boy Next Door

Imaginative and prolific author Patrick Ness’s go-to author uniform is a polo shirt with zip-up hoodie and jeans. Hey, whatever works, as long as he keeps writing books like The Knife of Never Letting Go.

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It is worth noting that for gala events, Ness cleans up very nicely. Guys are so lucky to be able to slip on a gorgeous tuxedo and call it a day.

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The Friendly Professor

Yep, that would be John Green, who meets with the public wearing a tieless dress shirt, blazer and jeans.

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Which author uniform is your favorite? If you were to attend an event as an author, what would you wear?

–Eve Messenger

We Have a Winner! @amreading @kathrynpurdie

Congratulations to Erika @ The Book’s the Thing!Swag Winner Erika cropped

Erika is the lucky winner of book swag from Kathryn Purdie’s book, Burning Glass, which was featured last week in my “Best YA Debut Novels” interview series. By “liking” that post, Erika was entered to win Burning Glass book swag kindly provided by the author.

Erika, if you’ll message me with your mailing address I’ll be happy to get your prize out to you.

–Eve Messenger

 

My First Time Couldn’t Have Been More Perfect @amreading @amwriting

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Marie Lu, V.E. Schwab, Gretchen McNeil  – photo by Eve Messenger

Within a week of reading (and loving!) my first V.E./Victoria Schwab book, A Darker Shade of Magic, the author tweeted that she would be doing a book signing 15 miles from my home. My first book signing? With my new favorite author? Sign me up!

A Darker Shade of Magic

Though I was crazy nervous, I got myself to the event without hyperventilating. Alas, I had to go alone because I couldn’t find anyone else who was available.

My First Book-Signing Event was. . .

PERFECT

Perfect even though the meet-and-greet line was super long and slow-moving (over a hundred fans were there!) But here’s thing, the REASON the lined moved slowly was that fabulous Victoria Schwab spent lots of time talking with each and every fan. I LOVED watching fans step away from the authors’ table carrying freshly-signed books in their hands and HUGE GRINS on their faces.

Perfect because Marie Lu and YA horror writer Gretchen McNeil were there, too! Marie Lu signed my copy of Legend. 🙂 All three super-talented authors were friendly, enthusiastic, smart, and super fun. They were obviously good friends, and their banter created a positive vibe for the entire event. (Note to self: Someday, when I have my own book signings, I will ask author friends to join me.)

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Perfect because, even though I THOUGHT I didn’t know anyone there, I ended up running into and chatting with a writer I’d met through NaNoWriMo. Unbeknownst to me at the time, writer/reader/blogger, Jennifer F. Santucci, was also there. And SHE noticed that Nicola Yoon (Everything Everything) was there as a fan, too!

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Author/fan Nicola Yoon is on the left. The top of a blonde head in the back is me. 🙂 Photo by V.E. Schwab.

Meeting Victoria Schwab

Okay, so I mustered up the courage to ask Victoria Schwab if–since I am an aspiring writer–she might write something inspirational in my copy of the first book of hers I’d read. She wrote something nice in all three books. 🙂 Thank you, Victoria Schwab!

Interesting Things the Authors Said

Victoria, Marie, and Gretchen have known one another since before they were published, as members of a writers’ group called “YA Rebels.” They initially “bonded over all things evil.”

Victoria Schwab calls herself a “chipmunk author,” or a “connect the dots writer,”gathering little pieces for a year and a half until she has enough for a story. Darker Shade of Magic started with an image of a boy walking through a door covered with blood and then running into a girl dressed as a boy. Once she has images for her story, she asks herself questions about them to fill out the plot. Before she starts writing, she needs to have five to ten moments, one of which must be the ending.

Gretchen McNeil’s microphone kept cutting out, so she said, “No problem. I can project because I used to be an opera singer.”

Marie Lu said that when she was a little girl there were two things she wanted to be, a writer and a fighter pilot.

Marie Lu said that her agent, Kristin Nelson, is so blunt that when Marie sent Kristin the first 100 pages of her early draft of Young Elites, Kristin asked,“Marie, when you sent this to me, did you think it was good?” Ouch. Marie ended up completely rewriting Young Elites from the villain’s point of view.

All three authors agreed that every single book is, in its way, painful to write.

Victoria said she bought an audio version of her own book, A Gathering of Shadows, so she could repeatedly listen to pp. 307 to 308– a super hot scene between Prince Ry and his ex-boyfriend. 😉

One of My Favorite Author Questions: Do You Listen to Music While Writing?

Victoria said she listens to a lot of music–but never while writing. Because she started out as a poet, listening to music messes with the rhythm of her words. Instead, she listens to white noise and uses a site called noisli to build her own white noise with sounds of rain, static, coffee shop sounds, etc.

Marie Lu said she has to listen to music while writing because the “silence gets too loud.” She splits up her playlists by mood, e.g., exciting, evil, happy (which she says she never uses, haha).

Writers are fangirls, too.

YA fangirl

All three authors talked about writers they get totally starstruck around. Victoria is a huge Neil Gaiman fan and wears her WWNGD (“What Would Neil Gaiman Do?”) bracelet every day. Why? Because Neil Gaiman was the first writer to teach her that she didn’t just have to write one thing, that no matter what genre she writes, her voice will still come through.

I am now seriously toying with the idea of getting my own “What Would V.E. Schwab Do?” bracelet. I am so glad I overcame my introverted nature and got up the nerve to attend my first book signing. I honestly don´t think it could have gone any better. I´d love to attend another one, and the only thing I´d change is to find other people to go with next time– there was just too much excitement to keep all to myself!

–Eve Messenger

Best YA Debut Novels of 2016. Author Q&A: Randi Pink – Into White

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Hello, book lovers! In this, the “month of love,” I’m celebrating one of our greatest loves, YA fiction, by featuring Tuesday interviews with authors of 2016’s BEST YA DEBUT NOVELS.

Today’s Must-Read Debut YA Author is. . .

Smart, funny, fashionable Randi Pink whose talent and passion for beautiful writing is about to skyrocket her to literary stardom.Randi Pink Into White

The Book:

Into White is set to release in September 2016.

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Why Into White is a must-read:

Compelling, controversial, magical. “In a moment of desperation, a black girl prays for the power to change her race and wakes up white.”

The Interview:

Eve: In the early days of crafting your novel, were you shy about sharing what you’d written with others?

R.P.: I was terrified! I wrote the first chapter of INTO WHITE as an assignment in a Children’s Literature Workshop, and I was so nervous that I could hardly sleep the night before. I knew the subject matter was controversial, so I feared judgment, but the class was so supportive and kind!

Stepping into that class and opening myself up to criticism taught me a valuable lesson about writing – as long as the story is rooted in truth, the audience will respond positively. I also learned that fear and creativity can’t live in the same place – one kills the other.

Eve:  Many YA writers also seem to be music lovers. If you created a playlist for your novel, what are some of the songs on it?

R.P.: Yes! I wouldn’t have made it through the process of creating this novel without Johnny Cash, India Arie, Cyndi Lauper, and especially Willow Smith. Every musician on INTO WHITE’s playlist has one thing in common, they embrace their own artistic uniqueness. I imagine Toya listening for the courage to be herself, because that’s what I listen for.

[Click here to hear some of the songs on Randi Pink’s Into White playlist.]

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Cyndi Lauper Photo

Eve: Do you have a critique group and, if so, how did you find them?

R.P.: I do! We’re called The Night Writers, and we met at an SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference. We had our first meeting nearly three years ago, and the group has produced such beautiful writing! I encourage every aspiring children’s book author to join, not only SCBWI, but a critique group. Creative minds need to be around other creative minds. Even the most solitary writer needs a regular dose of creative companionship.

creative minds © Sarella77 Dreamstime.com - Creative minds smaller

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Creative minds

Eve: What’s your typical writing schedule? Do you reward yourself for meeting writing goals?

R.P.: I don’t do writing schedules. I write because it’s my compulsion. Example: I can’t get through the pastor’s sermon without scribbling a haiku, poem, or short story on the tithing envelop. J

I usually don’t do rewards either. My reward is the calm that comes when I search my mind for innovative ways to articulate a story. And the feeling of accomplishment when I read (and love!) my own words.

Eve: What’s something you really hope people say after they read your novel?

R.P.: I hope INTO WHITE encourages an honest dialogue about self-denigration. In many ways, we are all Toyas. Hoping to lose those extra pounds. Praying for lighter or darker skin. Wishing for a smaller or larger nose, or waist, or rear-end. Secretly haunted by our own self-doubt.

I sincerely hope that Toya’s vulnerability and openness will inspire the reader to reveal his or her own insecurities to someone they trust, because honesty is the first step to self-love. Accessing true happiness begins with accepting ourselves as imperfect beings. If you’re chasing perfection, there will be no rest.

For more information about Randi Pink and her exciting new YA debut novel, visit:

Best YA Debut Novels of 2016. Author Q&A: Kristy Acevedo – Consider (Holo Series#1)

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Happy February, fellow book lovers! Each Tuesday in this, “the month of love,” I’ll be celebrating one of our greatest loves, YA fiction, by interviewing an author of one of 2016’s BEST YA DEBUT NOVELS.

Today’s Must-Read Debut YA Author is. . .

The talented and super-smart Kristy Acevedo who, in addition to writing YA fiction, works as a high school English teacher and is a huge Star Trek, Doctor Who, and Harry Potter fan.

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The Book:

Consider (Holo Series #1) is set to release in April 2016.

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Why Consider is a must-read:

Great writing, a distinctive voice, holograms, “a girl with anxiety disorder meets the end of the world,” and chapter one kicks booty–check out the excerpt here.

The Interview:

Eve:  Kristy, your debut novel,  Consider, has already won the prestigious PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery (CBD) Award. Congratulations on this well-deserved win. How did it happen?

K.A.: Funny story. 2015 had record breaking snow in New England. I was home from teaching due to a snow day, and Michelle from my critique group texted me about the award, telling me the deadline was soon. I had the extra time, so I put a package together and walked three blocks through ridiculous snow banks, literally falling twice, to the post office. A month later, I got a call that I won.

The same week that I won the CBD award, I also got the call from TJ da Roza, Editorial Director for Jolly Fish Press, offering a two-book deal.

Talk about an amazing week.

Eve:    What made you fall in love with your novel?

K.A.: Alexandra Lucas, the main character. Her honest struggle with general anxiety disorder and panic attacks, and the complex relationships in her life give the story a gradual depth that hits at gut level. Alex is strong, vulnerable, compassionate, flawed, and becomes the hero of the series. I love that. She also doesn’t need to kick butt or have a weapon in her hand to wield her strength. I think it sends a good, relatable message to people struggling in their own lives. The idea of recognizing the individual power you have to create change.

Eve:   Your Twitter pitch for #PitMad [a way for writers & agents to connect through one-line pitches on Twitter] was genius: “If a hologram said it could save your life, would you believe it?” Okay, maybe that’s not a question, but care to comment?

K.A.: Normally for #PitMad, the advice is to focus on character in your short pitch and never pose a question. I broke the rules, and it worked out for me. The best advice I can give about #PitMad: Make sure your manuscript is finished and edited before participating. Ten days after submitting, I received “the call” offering a two-book deal.

Eve:   What’s something you really hope people say after they read your book? YA fangirl.jpg

K.A.: I hope they finish reading and send me Tweets like:

                      “Whhhhhaaaaattt????!!!     
                                          Devastated.
                                                   Book. Hangover.
           WTF–I need book 2 NOW.
                                                    OMG—dying!!!!!!

On a real note, I hope people read Alex’s story and find empathy for those struggling with anxiety disorders. I hope readers with mental health issues see Alex’s story as a step toward acceptance and courage.

Eve:   You have a GORGEOUS author’s photo [see above. . . right?]. What was your experience with getting the author’s photo done? Who sets it up? Hair and makeup? Photographer? How do you decide which picture you like best? 

K.A.: One of my best childhood friends, Jessica Lavoie, happens to be a NY model and photographer. She was visiting family back in Massachusetts and offered to do my author photo. Ha, I did my own hair and makeup, so it shows you how good she is 🙂

She sent me tons of digital photos using a special password, and I was able to heart my favorites to narrow it down. It was so hard, I asked friends for help, but my author photo popped out as the clear winner.

Eve:   Who is one of your favorite fictional characters and why?  Luna Lovegood

K.A.: Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter. She thinks differently and doesn’t care what people think about her. I love people who know themselves and live their truth without needing the approval of others. It’s admirable to be unique and lovely under tough circumstances.

Eve:   What’s your typical writing schedule? Do you reward yourself for meeting writing goals?

K.A.: I write 500 words a day minimum. I teach high school English full-time, so I usually write after 8pm. On vacations, I do writing marathons. My typical reward is dark chocolate or ice cream and Netflix.

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Eve:   Who came up with the title of your novel? Was it the same title you used when querying agents?

K.A.: I came up with CONSIDER early on. It refers to a repeating line in the text, and it’s thematic since the novel is thought-provoking.

For book 2 of the series, I couldn’t think of a good, companion title. Then the Apple commercial came on TV, the one where Robin Williams reads Walt Whitman’s poem. The line, “The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse” jumped out at me, and I thought, “CONTRIBUTE–that’s perfect.” Weird how inspiration works.

Eve:   Many writers have dark moments while working on their novels, times when they’re not sure they’ll ever finish. If you encountered hurdles like this, how did you overcome them?

K.A.: For me, this happened as soon as I thought of the concept. It was so epic and big (two-book series with apocalypse and time travel), that it scared me as a writer. I didn’t feel ready to handle a story on that scale.

To overcome this fear, I broke up the story into a three-part structure and used small events in Alex’s life to represent the whole of society breaking down. The overarching structure gave me a framework to build on creatively.

Eve:  How did you find your critique group?

K.A.: Four years ago, I was lucky to find a local critique group through NE-SCBWI [Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators]. Our group leader is non-fiction PB writer and school visit guru, Michelle Cusolito (repped by Jill Corcoran; michellecusolito.com), PB and MG writer, Peter Arenstam (author of several books, including The Mighty Mastiff of the Mayflower; peterarenstam.com), YA writer, Scott Blagden (repped by Rubin Pfeffer. Author of Dear Life, You Suck), and me, YA writer with a 2016 debut series.

Eve:   Was there any particular epiphany you had while writing your novel when you said to yourself, “Hey, I can do this. I’m going to publish this thing.”

K.A.: Yes, I jumped out of a sound sleep with the missing link for the middle of the book that made everything finally click. I scribbled it into a notebook, went back to bed and thought, “Holy crap, this book works.” Like magically, every gear suddenly aligned, and I knew it could be something great.

Eve:  Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I enjoyed your answers. 

K.A.:  No one has asked those questions yet. It was fun.

Eve:  Where can your fans reach you?

K.A.: Kristyacevedo.com (You can read Ch 1 of CONSIDER there.)
Twitter: https://twitter.com/kristyace
Tumblr: http://kristyace.tumblr.com/

 

A brief word about writing success, featuring Eve 1 and Eve 2

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EVE #1: How are you ever going to publish novels if you keep spending too much time online?

EVE #2: But going online is fun! I’m learning about all kinds of books I’d like to read, and I love talking with other book lovers and writers.

EVE #1: Seriously, though, as soon as you progress to a point where you might actually complete a really good novel–as in ready to send out to agents–you get distracted and start spending more time online. What’s up with that?

 EVE #2: Yeah, what IS up with that? I think I may have a fear of success.

EVE #1: Fear of succe–what even is that? . . . Okay, here. . . Susanne Babbel, Ph.D., M.F.T., could you please tell us what you wrote on Psychology Today about fear of success?

Susanne BabbelSusan Babbel, Ph.D., M.F.T.: People who have experienced trauma may associate the excitement of success with the same physiological reactions as trauma. They avoid subjecting themselves to excitement-inducing circumstances, which causes them to be almost phobic about success.” 

 

EVE #2: Whoah, that’s deep. Is anyone else finding it difficult to ignore that “Babbel” is a hilarious surname for someone who probably engages in a lot of talk therapy?

EVE #1: Focus, Eve. You’ve been through trauma. It’s something to keep in mind. You don’t want it to hold you back from your dreams.

 EVE #2: Alright, I will definitely keep it in mind. Now. . . I have an admission to make.

EVE #1: Uh-oh.

 EVE#2: I think today might have been first.

EVE #1: A first? So you made good headway on the novel?

 EVE #2: A little. But, nope, this is about headway I made on someone else’s novel. . .

EVE #1: So you’re reading other books? That’s great. They say reading lots of novels makes you a better—

 EVE #2: Better writer, blah-blah. Listen. . . today I may have made my first book purchase based purely on the gorgeousness of the author.

EVE #1: You bought a book because the guy in the picture was cute?

 EVE#2: Sort of, well. . . definitely. He had great hair and looked really clean. He was wearing a sexy winter coat, and his face had this perfect expression between serious and smiling. And he was on the chubby side —you know how I love those teddy bear guys.

EVE #1: Care to tell us who it was?

EVE #2: No way!

EVE #1: So you bought this guy’s book? You just went and bought it based purely on his looks?

EVE #2: Well, I read the excerpt first.

EVE #1: And you’re probably HOPING his writing is as “cute” as his looks.

EVE #2: I cannot disagree with that statement.

 

–Eve Messenger

Writing and Balancing Social Media #amwriting

social-media

graphic courtesy of Ryan Lanz @ A Writer’s Path

As writers, most of us have four jobs: our day job, family life, writing, and social media. For obvious reasons, we have to spend time at our day jobs. We also have to spend time with our families because, well, relationships make life worth living. As for writing, that’s non-negotiable. Except it is. Even when our life’s ambition is to publish novels, we don’t always make enough time to write, and sometimes (often) the culprit is our fourth job, social media.

If you’re like me, you worry that you might be spending too much time on social media. Try not to beat yourself up about this too much. Marketing experts and industry specialists universally agree (I know, that surprised me, too) that, if you’re serious about building a writing career, social media is necessary. Authors must be visible to the public, accessible, and connected to what is happening in the publishing world.

Yay, so we don’t have to worry that we’re spending too much time on social media!

Well, maybe.

How Do You Know You’re Spending Too Much Time on Social Media?

Most of us have an innate sense for when we’re spending an unhealthy amount of time online. And our manuscripts definitely know because they’re not growing as fast as we’d like them to.

According to literary agent and writer’s-best-friend, Jane Friedman, “If it’s starting to drag on your resources and time to do other things more important to you (such as writing), then it’s time to re-assess.”

Why is social media so tempting?

“When we go on these sites, our underlying drive is to satisfy that innate need to connect to others. It comforts us and fulfills us to know that we are not alone.” Well put, Melissa Joy Kong.

Speaking mostly for myself, I’ll hazard a guess that writers are particularly susceptible to social media’s siren call. Since we writers are not the world’s most extroverted creatures (hence, we immerse ourselves in imaginary worlds), the “comfort” of social media is logically a huge temptation.

Now for the Big Question . . . How to Balance Writing and Social Media?

#1 Set Goals and Prioritize

Just like setting goals for your writing, also set goals for the time you spend on social media. Joshua Graham recommends that you “Make to-do lists every day and put tasks in priority order.”

#2 Quality over Quantity

Don’t try to do it all; stick to social media platforms you enjoy and do them well. If blogging every day doesn’t negatively impact your writing time, then go for it. However, Chuck Sambuchino suggests, “It’s very possible to have a platform with the ‘less is more’ philosophy, as long as you focus on the absolute quality of your efforts.”

#3 “Batch” Your Time

There’s this term efficiency experts use called “batching” time. This means setting aside blocks of time for, in our case, writing. During that time block, all you should do is write. Then you can set aside other blocks of time for blogging and each social media platform. You’ll get far more accomplished if you’re not constantly switching between blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and, of course, all-important writing.

If resisting social media during your writing block is too difficult, consider downloading the Anti-Social app ($15), which you can program to block overly tempting websites during time periods that you set.

#4 Frontload Blog and Social Media Posts

During your “blog time block,” frontload blog posts. For example, set aside each Sunday afternoon to write all your blog posts for the week. You can also write and schedule social media posts in advance using programs like Hootsuite.

#5 Set a Daily Limit on Your Social Media Time

What is a reasonable amount of time to spend on social media? “It varies from person to person” is an answer I hate, so I won’t say that. Instead, I’ll give you Jody Hedlund’s wise answer, which is: “The time we give to our writing should be greater than the time we spend on marketing.” This makes sense, right, writers?

Here’s my favorite answer. (Way to be bold with your very specific answer, Katie Wagner.) In her video blog, Wagner says you should engage in social media for “fifteen minutes, three times a day.” During each fifteen-minute social media block spend:

  • Five minutes posting;
  • Five minutes responding to posts from others;
  • Five minutes reading and commenting on other people’s blogs and social media accounts.

There you have it. If you follow all these suggestions, you will never again have to worry about spending too much time on social media.

Right?

Well, except that we’re writers and we’ll always find reasons to worry. Plus, we’ll probably still spend too much time on social media. But even if you incorporate one or two of these suggestions into your daily or weekly routine, you’ll be making more time to write, which will move you ever closer to your ultimate goal of publishing novels.

If you’ve found other ways of balancing writing and social media, please share!

— Eve Messenger

This Summer’s Three Favorite Reads and What They Taught Me

Gaiman coverSeraphinaHolly Black

My three favorite reads this summer were The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, and The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black.

Neil, Rachel, and Holly, thank you – you not only captivated, thrilled, and entertained me with your wonderful stories but, by your example,  you proved to be wonderful writing teachers. Here’s what I learned.

Neil Gaiman – The Graveyard Book
Omniscient POV
headshot neil gaiman
– Make sure there’s tension with very high stakes from the get-go.
– Cleverly reveal characters and events in ways that allow readers to put together clues and figure out for themselves what is happening, like an inside secret between author and reader.
– Do a little historical research then let your imagination soar.

Rachel Hartman – Seraphina
1st Person POV
headshot rachel hartman
– Know your world so well you don’t have to explain it. Start the story in a way that reveals your alternate world in all of its differentness without confusing the reader.
– Have a clear understanding of the desires and weaknesses of each of your characters, not just the main ones, so that each one shows growth by the end of the story.

Holly Black – The Darkest Part of the Forest
3rd Person POV
headshot holly black
– Set up the story in vivid detail, making the reader think they’re stepping into a normal teen world but then gradually revealing that this is not, in fact, a normal world at all. That kind of creeping revelation is so satisfying.
– Be a keen observer of human nature.