How to write a book A Novel Idea

Inside Publishing Slushpiles

What's on my Bookshelf

0 In Life

Life Update

It’s been ages since I’ve updated the blog and I have to say, I miss it. I miss writing and posting my reviews and doing things that are writing related. And being on this albeit unplanned hiatus from the site has gotten me thinking. I’d like to keep sharing information with you all about my writing process, what I’m working on, and where I’m headed. I want to keep being a source of information on the industry as a whole. And what I really want to do is help you and your writing get stronger.

I’m not talking about literally lifting weights together and becoming gym buddies, but something a little similar here.

See, I started blogging back in 2008. Yes. It’s been nearly 9 years of my sporadic shouting into the void of the internet. I’m glad you stuck around. I started blogging when I was a member of inkpop.com — a critique site run by Harpercollins for developing writers and aspiring authors of YA fiction. I loved it because it was the first community space where I finally felt included. I was meeting writers who were on my level and some who were way past me and on their own adventures through the query trenches. I learned to hone my spelling and grammar from fabulous critique partners and really got to know the composition of a story from both a reader’s and writer’s perspective as I worked through my atrocious first drafts of manuscripts that probably won’t see the light of day again.

I’ve been deeply missing that community space. And I know as a writer it’s hard to find others working on similar projects, or interested in reading your work with a critical eye. One of my goals in the next few years is to create a community space similar to inkpop–focused on criticism and development of craft, with its own perks of course.

I’m realizing in order to build that community space, I need to look at the platforms I already have (this one), and really think about how they’re being used and what I’m putting out into the universe content-wise.

Which is why I’ve decided to rebrand and restructure the blog. All of the posts from my slushpile series will still be available, as will all my reviews. But just think of it as a facelift. I’m excited to add some fresh content with freebies along the way. You’ll get to see how I structure my most recent manuscripts in Scrivener (my god this thing is a writer’s dream, and so worth the one-time $40s). You’ll get to learn some extra insider tips about my experience as a literary agent assistant. And finally, I’m opening a little editing service. I’ll be looking for query letters and first chapters to critique, so if you’re in the process of revising or looking to start your query process, keep an eye on the blog for more soon.

Like I said, some changes are coming. And I hope you’re as excited about them as I am! 😀

0 In Reading

A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab

Title: A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2)
Author: V.E. Schwab (Victoria Schwab)
Genre: Adult Fantasy (though arguably okay for YA readers as well)
Pages: A lot (512)
Publisher: Tor (MacMillan)

It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift–back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games–an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries–a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

Continue Reading →

0 In Life

The One Thing that Keeps Me Organized

Let’s face it, I’m a planner of a person–especially if you’ve watched me transform from a pantser to a plotter over the last six years of running this blog (and a couple before it). But there’s one thing that keeps me organized for my year–a good planner or agenda book.

I’m in love with scheduling things. Like, it’s bad. It gets to the point where most days I’m scheduled down to the minute–be that scheduling time for meals, or just to give myself space to think, it’s in my schedule.

The last couple years I’ve been using the At-A-Glance calendar books. I liked their layout and their ease of use, but the one thing I wanted it to include was a general spot to list my To-Do’s or my goals for the week or month. So, being the designer I am, I adapted.

And made my own this year.

My very own planner

What I love about the ability to make my own things, is, well, I can be as adaptive as I need to. I got to choose the color scheme, fonts, style, and general layout for the entire calendar year of 2017. I got to decide if I wanted to note when holidays are (I chose not to. If I get the day off, I get the day off. That’s fine. And if I want to make sure I remember an event, I’ll write it in.)

I also love the fact I got to organize the order of the calendar and eliminate those pesky “This calendar belongs to _____” pages or other things I never ended up using, like contact pages or a space for longer notes–who uses that? If you do, sorry. This agenda book may not be for you then.

When you open the book you get a general look at the year, all those little days listed by month. All 365 of them. (Thank God 2017 isn’t another leap year.)

What I love most though is the two-page spread monthly calendar at the beginning of each month. I left plenty of space on the left for you to write your goals for the month or any other notes you need to make, and the days themselves are blank and open.

I’ve been filling them in, though.

Last year I started a habit of writing down one good thing that happened to me each day. This, I found, tended to improve my mood and outlook greatly. So I’ve smashed that habit into my calendar, using that monthly overview spread to fill in each day’s “good thing” as it comes. This way my “good day” list and me general life schedule are all in the same place. But you can use this space for whatever you want–doesn’t have to be “good things” only.

Finally, we reach my favorite part of this planner: the weekly overview.

We start our weekly overview with Monday. Because most people’s official work weeks start on Monday and let’s face it, we all want to just get Monday over with. So it’s first.We file on through Friday with each day broken down hourly from 7 am to 8 pm. Each line breaks the hour into 15-minute increments–another feature I’ve loved about some other agendas that I wanted to include here.

Then to the far right, we have half the page dedicated to your Weekly Goals or To-Do list. This is the section I fill in first when looking at my week. Then I look at each day and examine what I can get done–more on how I organize my calendar below.

And beneath that we have Saturday and Sunday on the last half of the page, because really, who needs a full-length column for the weekend. None of us really want to use that time to hustle and get shit done. At least not that much stuff.

What’s even better is that you can buy my agenda book. I’ve got it up for sale through Blurb for a list price of $25 plus shipping. I’m doing this to provide a solution to some scheduling and planner frustrations. But if you want your own copy, it’s there.

How I organize my calendar

Let’s take a look at the lovely weekly spread below:

When I examine a fresh week, I know my days will start at 6:30 or 7:00 am with a walk for my dog, so I fill those in first and block out our half-hour walk and half an hour for breakfast and a shower using the side margin. I later highlight these in blue.

Next, I fill in my day job’s work week. These are hours I know are locked in, no question, so they get put down as soon as possible.

From there I examine the To Do list for the week, which I’ve copied over from my handy-dandy spreadsheet I shared last week (New Year, New Resolutions).

Then I take the elements on the list and add them in throughout the week. It’s not that hard. But at this point, we have a lot of white space with some black dashes across to mark start time and end time for tasks.

This isn’t fun. Especially when I’m such a color nerd.

So I have highlighters to help me visually differentiate between types of task.

My color codes

Blue – home or friend-oriented events. These are the things I need to get done to survive. (i.e. walking my dog, going to the gym, meals, and get-togethers with friends.

Green – anything that has to do with work of any of my freelance jobs. Green is for money. Easy, see?

Pink – writing or reading that I’m doing for myself. This also includes some artistic endeavors, like learning hand lettering, which has been really fun the last couple weeks.

Yellow – any business-oriented tasks, or future opportunities. I use these for job application time and working on strategizing the business I want to start before the end of 2017.

Purple – this blog. Always. Because I love purple and it matches the blog’s color scheme. 😀

Orange – any reading I’m doing for reviews that will eventually end up on the blog. My 100-book challenge, really.

And this book is really the one thing that keeps me organized, not to mention sane. Since I’m ambitious as fuck, which in turn translates to being busy a lot of the time. So it’s good that I can plan ahead a bit, and know that I’m using a system that works (for me). Plus, it looks so pretty.

Get your own copy of my 2017 Agenda book here.

0 In Art

Top 10 YA Covers of 2016

Let’s face it, pretty things are pretty, but identifying them takes a very specific eye. I like to think I have a good eye for good design. It comes as part of the territory of being a graphic designer. As a reader, I have a problem with buying books just for their covers. So this year I decided to round up my top 10 book covers of 2016 to show you all that I deem “pretty.”

I made my list after sorting through roughly 1200 entries for the YA 2016 List on Goodreads. Really, there are that many titles on there. And frankly, I judged based on thumbnail images. I didn’t read any of the book descriptions until I had narrowed down my list to these 10 books. I didn’t care about “story” with this, just what caught my eye, and based on how quickly people make decisions and how expansive both bookstores and online stores can be, we’re all judging based on that tiny little thumbnail beside the title. It’s something designers have had to focus on in recent years, which means covers have gotten a bit simpler (depending on genre), and a lot cleaner in style. Because those little guys are near-impossible to read the titles on if they’re not clear or short.

Also, I have not read all the books on this list. I’m not interested in reading all of them. But what I do know is that every time I’ve gone to the bookstore this year, these are the ones I pick up most and gravitate toward for their imagery. Let’s talk about why I like them.

What are some of your top covers for 2016? Were they on my list or not? What are some of your favorite books from 2016 (let’s try to make a not-so-great year a little better by talking about something we love–books). Share your favorites in the comments!

0 In Life

New Year, New Resolutions

Hey, everyone! Sorry, the blog got kind of quiet at the end of the year (holidays tend to do that to me).

With the new year now two weeks gone, I wanted to update you all on what I’ve been up to. There are a few new elements to my life, such as my new dog, Moose, who I adopted in October. Additionally, I’m back to writing and working part time in sales while I continue my search for a job in the publishing industry (in Marketing, Design, or Editorial), and save to move to New York City.

I wanted to share something, though. I found an article via Startups (I’d link you to it if I could find it) about prioritizing your life. This wasn’t your typical method either. This was to list 100 things you wanted to do before you die (essentially creating your bucket list). From there you would go through your 100 (after sitting on it for a few days and constantly reviewing/changing until you felt really solid about the list) and write whether your goal/task could be done now, later, in the future, or should have been done already. I built mine in a spreadsheet like this:

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-8-14-22-am

But from there, I started thinking about what I wanted to accomplish by 2018, and so I broke my year down into tasks separated by category and then divided into week so I can reach my ultimate goals:

Detailed Goals

So let me explain some of the goals I have for this year.

Fitness

fitness

Personal fitness and health have become a priority for me. Two years ago I lost feeling in my right hand for an extended period of time due to a stressed tendon (since fixed), but I’m also trying to take better care of myself. I have an aging grandmother who hasn’t been very physical since she was in her 40s (she’s now 80 and barely mobile). I’ve decided I want to still be able to walk and maybe jog by the time I’m 80 and stay around 130lbs on average. My goal is 124, but based on my height and muscle mass, we’ll see how close I get. I’ll be ecstatic if I can hit 130.

So I’m working on my diet and exercise. I have a Withings’ Active watch that counts my steps and tracks my sleep, and I also work out using the 8fit app (which I love, oh my gosh!). I also become a vegetarian last May, and I’ve never felt healthier. It’s weird. Like every day seems fresher somehow now.

But what I’m really working toward, and especially excited about, is participating in a duathlon in May. I’ll be running a total of 3 miles and biking a total of 20 miles in one day. And, bonus, I’ll be doing this with my mom (who’s in her mid-50s)! We’re pumped!

So my goal by the end of 2017 is to have ridden at least 500 miles on my bike in the course of the year and to have run over 100 miles. Think I can do it?

Reading

book-reading-learning-letters

My goal for 2017 is to read 100 books. That’s basically 2 a week, and I’m dreading watching my savings slowly go down the drain since I have a lot of 2017 releases and debuts on my list. They’re all going to be amazing, but I’ll be pressed to keep to that 2-books per week schedule. If you want to join me, or follow my challenge, follow me on Goodreads!

Writing

writinggoals

2017 is an ambitious year for sure. On top of editing a recent draft and hopefully sending it out to agents this spring, I’m also aiming to write the first drafts (and rewrite) two brand new projects. I’ve already finished off the Character Interviews for the first manuscript of the year, and my plot’s been charted and solidified. So I’m looking forward to writing those opening chapters next week!

I’ll also be sharing my process for plotting, character development, and world-building on the blog through my How to Write a Novel series starting in a couple weeks! Get excited! There’ll be freebies!

Entrepreneurship

woman-hand-smartphone-desk

I’ve always been an independent person, and a visionary. As an INTJ I like to build things, which is why I find writing so enjoyable (it’s like solving a puzzle you made for yourself but with words). But this year I want to do something that both gives back to a community of people I love (writers) and connects a bunch of areas of my interests. So stay tuned for watching me attempt to start my own business and slowly take over the world. Slowly. We’ll see.

(If you’d like to learn more about what this business idea is, go ahead and ask me questions via my Contact page. I’d love to talk one-on-one!)

Artistry

transmissiondigital

I’m a graphic designer and an artist by trade and sheer force of habit. Two things I want to get my hands dirty with this year are abstract painting (which I did a series of over the last year and a half depicting how I see music), and hand-lettering.

If you know any good hand-lettering tutorials or worksheets, let me know! The cheaper (freer) the better.


And those, my fine friends, are my goals for 2017. I’m a couple weeks late on announcing them and already behind in a couple areas, but those are the big plans. And also moving to New York City, and working for one of the Big 5 Publishers would be great too. Primarily the job thing, but everything else is something for me to do in the meantime.

What are some of your goals (writing or otherwise) for the New Year? Share them in the comments!

0 In Reading

Review: STILL LIFE WITH TORNADO by A.S. King

STILL LIFE WITH TORNADO
by A.S. King
Genre: YA Magical Realism
Pages: 295 (HC)
Publisher: Dutton

“I am sixteen years old. I am a human being.”

Actually, Sarah is several human beings. At once. And only one of them is sixteen. Her parents insist she’s a gifted artist with a bright future, but now she can’t draw a thing, not even her own hand. Meanwhile, there’s a ten-year-old Sarah with a filthy mouth, a bad sunburn, and a clear memory of the family vacation in Mexico that ruined everything. She’s a ray of sunshine compared to twenty-three-year-old Sarah, who has snazzy highlights and a bad attitude. And then there’s forty-year-old Sarah (makes good queso dip, doesn’t wear a bra, really wants sixteen-year-old Sarah to tell the truth about her art teacher). They’re all wandering Philadelphia—along with a homeless artist allegedly named Earl—and they’re all worried about Sarah’s future.

But Sarah’s future isn’t the problem. The present is where she might be having an existential crisis. Or maybe all those other Sarahs are trying to wake her up before she’s lost forever in the tornado of violence and denial that is her parents’ marriage.

“I am a human being. I am sixteen years old. That should be enough.”

Continue Reading →

0 In Reading

Review: FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP by Sarah Glenn Marsh

FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP
by Sarah Glenn Marsh
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pages: 304 (HC)
Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Witch’s apprentice Bridey Corkill has hated the ocean ever since she watched her granddad dive in and drown with a smile on his face. So when a dead girl rolls in with the tide in the summer of 1913, sixteen-year-old Bridey suspects that whatever compelled her granddad to leap into the sea has made its return to the Isle of Man.

Soon, villagers are vanishing in the night, but no one shares Bridey’s suspicions about the sea. No one but the island’s witch, who isn’t as frightening as she first appears, and the handsome dark-haired lad Bridey rescues from a grim and watery fate. The cause of the deep gashes in Fynn’s stomach and his lost memories are, like the recent disappearances, a mystery well-guarded by the sea. In exchange for saving his life, Fynn teaches Bridey to master her fear of the water — stealing her heart in the process.

Now, Bridey must work with the Isle’s eccentric witch and the boy she isn’t sure she can trust — because if she can’t uncover the truth about the ancient evil in the water, everyone she loves will walk into the sea, never to return.

Continue Reading →

0 In Uncategorized

Review: A SHADOW BRIGHT AND BURNING by Jessica Cluess

A SHADOW BRIGHT AND BURNING (Kingdom on fire #1)
by Jessica Cluess
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pages: 416 (HC)
Publisher: Penguin RandomHouse

I am Henrietta Howel. The first female sorcerer. The prophesied one. Or am I?

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she is brought to London to train with Her Majesty’s sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she’s the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city–and the one she loves?

Continue Reading →