Search results for 'l marie'

Writing with Barbie

19 Apr

Prepare for laughter during today’s post. But – before we get onto the giggles – I want to share two important bits of news.

Paris Carter reviewed Seconds Before Sunrise, stating, “The novel also includes several internal struggles for Eric and Jess that sparks tension throughout the entire novel, and it’s the chaos of them struggling to work out their answers and fight themselves that bring Shannon’s novel to a second dimension.” Read the entire review here or check out his review of Minutes Before Sunset first.

I also participated in an interview with Doodles, doodles everywhere. We talked about what hurts me the most as a writer, and I expanded on the research that went behind The Timely Death Trilogy. Check it out.

It’s been a few days since I participated in my first podcast interview, but I wanted to write about something fun since my last post was rather dreary. That’s when my mind immediately returned to The Lurking Voice. (Just a small, Kansas City update though, they found the Highway Shooter, so things feel a lot better around here. Maybe that’s why I’m so eager to post something I can laugh at…I mean, laugh with you…as you laugh at me.)

Back to the topic.

If you listened to the full interview – which you can by clicking here – then you know that I confessed to many writing strategies that I haven’t mentioned before, although “strategies” will quickly turn into a debatable term during this post. My ultimate, reluctant confession happened when we discussed November Snow, my first published novel.

I was 11 when I started writing it and 16 when it was published. It’s safe to say that it isn’t my best work, but I am planning on re-writing it. As we were discussing this, Ryan Attard asked a great question. How does a preteen plan a novel out? That’s when I said it.

November Snow was based on a game that I played out with my Barbie dolls as a much younger kid. Now, if you’ve read November Snow, then you might be concerned, considering how violent the book is, but there’s no need to be concerned – (I think.) That’s what I told my high school teachers anyway when I was asked about the dark nature of it. But that’s another story for another day.

Today, I wanted to share a funny truth to November Snow. No matter how dark the story is, many of my characters were actually based on the dolls I used. I admitted to it on the podcast, and now I am re-confessing it on here. Even better, I dug through some boxes, and I found the old toys, so I’m sharing a few of them as well as small excerpts from the novel that proves this goofy aspect of my writing.

You’ve been warned.

A little background before we begin:

November Snow is a young-adult, dystopian novel, and it is told from dual, first perspectives: Daniel and Serena. Unfortunately, I lost the Serena doll (she might have lost a limb or two or maybe even a head.) But I still have Daniel, who you will see soon. I’m going to share three pictures, and each picture has numerous characters on it. Below each picture, I will have a one-sentence background, and below that, I’ll be sharing the real excerpt from the novel. I’ll also include page numbers as well as who was telling the story at the time (Daniel or Serena.) I am also including a little note, explaining how my 11-year-old brain worked. Got that? Okay. I even think I’m lost, but trust me – it’s organized. Hope you chuckle as much as I did writing this post! Traveling to the past can be a funny adventure.

First picture: from the left to the right: Robert, Daniel, and Calhoun. 

theboys

Robert: 19, leader of the Southern Flock (hates hugs)

“I turned around to see Robert’s dark brown eyes staring at me, and my heart lunged into my dry throat…He muttered something, his brown hair shagging in his face, and I laughed. “ (Serena, 156-7)

Note: Believe it or not, he’s not the antagonist. Sort of?

Daniel: 18, leader of the Northern Flock (all around hunk)

“The guy looked like Daniel. He had the brown, muffled hair and tanned skin. He even had the blue and white jacket down, but he wasn’t responding to his name.” (Serena, 181)

Note: So, if you didn’t notice, I even based some clothes off of these toys.

Calhoun: age unknown, Daniel’s mentor. (kind of a hard ass)

“From the bottom step he could have been mistaken for a modern-day giant. His face was strong, as were his muscles, and he looked like he could barely fit into the sweater he was wearing. He had been in a POW accident, in which he had lost one of his arms, but he refused to tell the story. Normally, he had a fake arm in, but tonight, a gray sleeve dangled at his side, blowing in the chilled November wind.” (Daniel, 25)

Note: if you listened to the podcast, then you know this character actually ended up being very similar to my real father. Except my dad has both arms. And he’s not a vet. But I swear they are alike.

Second Picture: from left to right: Daisy and Maggie

girls

 Daisy: 16, member of the Southern Flock (I hate her.) 

She doesn’t deserve a note or description. Seriously. Have you ever hated your own characters so much that you regret bringing them into existence? I think Daisy might be in my top three of characters I’ve created and despised. #authorproblems.

Maggie: 16, member of the Northern Flock. (crushes on Adam in private)

“The front door opened, and Maggie walked in. She was wearing a small, pink coat and white disco pants that had gone out of style a century ago, but she still pulled them off easily.” (Daniel, 240)

Note: is it just me or is Daniel incredibly aware of fashion trends?

Third picture: from left to the right: Amy, Justin, and Marisa

Now for the youngsters, the category of characters that caused one of my high school teachers to ask if I needed to talk to someone after she read my novel and discovered only a few of the characters survive. (Seriously. It’s on the back of the book…) From left to right, we have Amy, Justin, and Marisa.

kids

Amy: 14, member of the Southern Flock. (Hates being called “Amy.” Her name is Amiel Marie Young.) 

“Amy’s hair was tied back in a French braid.” (Serena, 144)

Note: So this was more of a hairstyle thing, and you can’t really see it in the doll anymore, but it was there. I promise.

Justin: 6, member of the Southern Flock (borderline obsessed with hockey)

“Justin, blond-haired and brown eyed, was whisked off his feet by the collar of his shirt.” (Daniel, 479)

Note: There’s actually a hockey scene in the book just for this hockey-themed doll. (I really have no shame as I share this, do I?)

Marisa: 7, member of the Northern Flock (too small to crush on Adam, but apparently, all the girls like Adam…maybe I should’ve shared Adam.)

“A small girl struggled her way into Adams’s lap and leaned her bony elbows onto the table. She had long, brown pigtails that rested on the wiggling table and innocent eyes.” (Daniel, 44)

Note: The hair is there. The hair is totally there.

So there you go. My young-adult novel that almost got me in trouble as a teen was originally created during playtime as a kid.

Try to figure that one out.

I sure haven’t.

~SAT

If you want to check out the collector’s first edition, click here.

If you want to check out the collector’s first edition, click here.

 

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My Favorite Books of 2018

15 Dec

According to Goodreads, I’ve read 160 books this year. I read more so than usual, not going to lie, mainly because it was one of the only activities I could do between my job changes and the move. I also started working in a library, which helped my ability to find new books, try more genres, and just explore overall. (This generally happened during “processing,” which is when we check all the books that patrons turn in for damages and such. I saw all kinds of books I wouldn’t have seen if it weren’t for processing.) So this year I wanted to share more of my favorites than I did last year, and in more categories. Just like last year, though, these are books I read this year, not necessarily books that released this year. If you want a complete list of books I read, check out my Goodreads challenge.

I hope you find a read to check out!

Favorite Adult Romance

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

The Kiss Quotient is a diverse romance, full of plenty of fun twists and hilarious interactions between Stella (an algorithm experiment, who also has Asperger’s) and Michael, an escort. Think Pretty Woman, but gender-swapped, more diverse, and a lot more sexy. Even better? There’s a sequel releasing next year! I believe it’s also being made into a movie.

Adult Thriller

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan

Not for the faint of heart, this unique thriller connects a suicide in a book store with Lydia’s dark, twisted past, including an interaction with a serial killer. I don’t want to say much more, because this book deserves to be read without any prior knowledge. You’ll figure out many of the twists, only to realize the author wanted you to figure it out just so that he could surprise you with ones you weren’t considering. If you love thrillers full of strange puzzles and family secrets, this is well worth the read.

Choose Your Own Adventure

My Lady’s Choosing by Kitty Curran

Choose your own adventure is on the rise in publishing, even for adults, which is why I had to check out one this year. And it didn’t disappoint. Another romance, this novel allows you to choose who the main character falls in love with, and it takes you on a wild ride across countries (and gives many possibilities). It’s such a hoot to go back and change your mind, too. If you like romance, definitely check this one out.

Favorite Graphic Novel

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

This is basically the cutest graphic novel ever. Staring a dressmaker who secretly makes dresses for a prince in disguise, this graphic novel is about discovering yourself and being kind to others, not to mention following your passion. And the artwork is beautiful.

Middle Grade

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

This spooky middle grade about a girl who sees ghosts brings a unique twist to the horror genre, especially for kids. It’s refreshing, creepy, funny, and action-packed. Not to mention that it’s set in Scotland!

Favorite Picture Book

Unicorn (And Horse) by David W Miles

I read a ton of picture books this year, trying to find books for storytime at the library, and I honestly never realized how fun they can be, not to mention how beautiful the artwork is. This was my favorite, both for the artwork and the hilarious story. It’s about a preppy unicorn and a grumpy horse, total opposites, and how their lives intertwine.

YOUNG ADULT SECTION

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Sci-Fi

Wildcard by Marie Lu

This is the sequel of Warcross, my favorite novel that was published in 2017 last year. If you’re into near-futurism, definitely check out this series. The plot twists are to die for.

Fantasy

To Kill A Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Confession time: I’m not a huge fan of fairytale retellings. This one, however, is a huge exception. It’s every bit brutal and monstrous that I’ve always wanted from a dark fantasy retelling.

Historical

The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen

The prose in this historical is to die for. And it covers a time period rarely explored in young adult fiction. If you like puzzles, journeys, and secret identities, I recommend this one.

Contemporary

Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter

I’ve been reading Ally Carter since I was a preteen. She is one of my ultimate favs, so it comes to no surprise that her latest stole my heart, crushed it, and put it back together again. This save-the-president’s-son book takes place in Alaska, and it’s badass. Also, super clean for those parents and educators out there looking for that perfect transitional book between MG and YA.

Humor

Kill The Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky

I wish we had more humor books in general. (They’re so hard to find!) While I know everyone’s humor is different, I really loved this book. It’s about fangirls getting together, accidentally kidnapping a member of a boyband, and the following chaos. It’s absolutely ridiculous to the point that it’s believable, and I couldn’t stop giggling throughout.

Biggest Surprise

The Loneliest Girl in The Universe by Lauren James

This book is about a girl on a spaceship heading for a new earth, but everyone else is gone. She’s all by herself. And the following story is really surprising. I don’t want to say much, because it’ll ruin it, and this book deserves to be read without prior knowledge. I absolutely loved it.

Debut

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

This African-inspired fantasy is super lush and exciting! Not only is the plot adventurous, but the cast is also fresh. It’s a big book, so give yourself time to really sink your teeth into it, because it’s quite the start to a new series.

Continuing Series

Giant Days by John Allison

Okay, okay, so I’m cheating a little bit since Giant Days is a graphic novel series (and get this: it’s shelved in the Adult section in a our library, while the novelization is shelved in the Young Adult section), so I’m not sure if this is perfect category, but it deserves major recognition. I love this graphic novel series. It’s about three girls going through college, and it’s priceless.

Series Conclusion

This Towering Sky by Katharine McGee

It’s over! The Thousandth Floor trilogy has ended, and my heart just couldn’t take it. Not only is this series’ ending exciting, it’s perfect. All the characters’ conclusions make sense and give you this “of course” feeling that is so satisfying and rare.

Top Three Honorable Mentions

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland is about a girl stalked by Death, literally. (Or is it literally?) You’ll have to read and make that conclusion for yourself.

Winner Take All by Laurie Devore is about two very intelligent (and destructively competitive) teenagers who accidentally fall in love. It’s not a rosy-romance, but rather an honest portrayal of examining your strengths, weaknesses, and toxicity, even to those that you love.

S.T.A.G.S by M.A. Bennett almost won the “Biggest Surprise” for me, mainly for the last few pages. Not only is the book unsettling, it’s also exciting, and quite the examination of “tradition” in regards to high society education. And those last few pages! EEK. I wish there was a sequel. 

My Ultimate Favorite!

The Good Demon by Jimmy Cajoleas

You know those horror movies about exorcisms? Well, this is what happens afterward—except Clare never wanted her demon exorcised. She loves Her, and she will do anything to get Her back. This book is incredible. It’s one of the most atmospheric reads I’ve ever had the pleasure of stumbling across, and it sucked me in from page one. Clare’s voice is maddening, delicate, and brutally honest. I cheered her on and also became incredibly frustrated with her, but most of all, I always believed she was real, flaws and all. And I haven’t even mentioned the unique subject matter of this book. I’m normally one that avoids religious-type books altogether. (Yes, including exorcisms.) But this one felt explorative and emotional, even in its small town setting. I highly recommend this book to anyone, if not for the seductive pull of the demon’s presence, then for the plot twists, atmosphere, and prose.

My Favorite YA Books of 2017

23 Dec

I’m judging this based on what I read in 2017, not necessarily books that released in 2017, and I’m only focusing on YA. If you want a complete list of books I read, check out my Goodreads challenge. A lot of these books could fall into more than one category, but I didn’t want repeats, so I tried to stick with a new book each time.

I hope you find some recs you’ll enjoy!

Fantasy

The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron

Labeling fantasy and science fiction can get a little strange, and this novel is a perfect example of that. I honestly can’t say a lot about this book, because, if I did, it would ruin the craziest surprises. Surprises that blew me away. I totally loved how bizarre and brutal and lovely and strange this book is. If you’re okay going in blind into a strange new world with little to no explanation, you will love this novel, because by the time you get answers, it’s a million times worth it.

Sci-Fi

Warcross by Marie Lu

If you’ve ever spoken to me about the types of books I love, then you know I love future tech. (There’s something so much fun about exploring possibilities.) Marie Lu hit the nail on the head with this book that features a futuristic video game and a craze overtaking the world. Her plot twists have me DYING for book 2. (And we need more gamer girls in fiction.)

Historical

My Lady Jane by Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, and Jodi Meadows

Technically a historical fantasy, My Lady Jane is easily the funniest book I read all year. (And I definitely need more laughter in my laugh.) If you’re willing to let your imagination stretch past the point of believability (especially since most of the characters are real historical figures), and you don’t mind the authors breaking the fourth wall, this book is the one you didn’t know you absolutely needed. It’s unique, hilarious, and un-put-downable. Also, My Plain Jane, a sequel following a different time period, releases in 2018. It’s one of my most anticipated reads.

Contemporary

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

At first, I wasn’t sure how this book would play out. I mean, it takes place over one weekend at a convention. What could happen? SO MUCH. If you’re a geek like me, the love for geek culture just seeps out of this quirky story. It really captures how much a fictional character can save a person. The cast is full of diversity, including a female protagonist on the spectrum, and the book features a lot of important discussions more people need to have. A quick, fun, but important read.

Horror

There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

So this novel takes place in Nebraska, which automatically gets points from me, because we do not have enough books set in the Midwest. Despite a lot of Midwest clichés, I really enjoyed this story. I read it one setting. I didn’t see the killer coming. It’s super gory in a way a horror book should be. And I couldn’t stop thinking about when all was said and done. Love, love, loved this spine-tingling mystery.

Debut

Body Parts by Jessica Kapp

Yay for more future tech! This book discusses lots of relevant issues about body autonomy and the power of pharmaceutical companies. It has just the right amount of gore (can you tell I enjoy gore?), and the action is both nonstop and believable. Add a dash of romance, and you’re in for a wild ride. Also, I think this is a standalone, so if you need a great standalone (and want to support a debut author), pick this one up.

Sequel

These Dazzling Heights by Katharine McGee

If you haven’t read The Thousandth Floor (#1), then go get it right now, especially if you’re an old-school Gossip Girl fan. This is another fantastic futuristic novel with believable tech and lots of guilty pleasure drama. The novel does not get enough credit for showing a lot of socio-economic situations that are happening now. I absolutely love this series. It’s uncomfortable and devious in such a flawless way that allows you to enjoy every little moment, even the ones you should feel guilty about enjoying.

 

Series

Tiny Pretty Things and Shiny Broken Pieces by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

I can’t believe I didn’t pick up these books sooner. Competitive ballet + real-life issues = I wish there was a book 3. (Why isn’t there a book 3???) I went from loving certain characters in the first book, to hating them in the second, and it was perfection. Also a series for Gossip Girl fans, this duology keeps you on your toes with betrayal in highly competitive ballet. This diverse duology is written by two diverse authors and published by Cake Literary, a diverse company.

Biggest Surprise:

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

I hesitated to include this category, because it makes me sound like I expected a book to be awful, but that’s not what I mean by “Biggest Surprise.” Biggest Surprise, to me, means I wasn’t sure what to expect from a book, and then it blew me away. The Love Interest definitely takes YA tropes and turns them on their head in the most glorious (and often hilarious) ways. I’m also a fan of spies, and there’s more future tech, so…

Manga

Jigoku no Enra

If you took a peek at my Goodreads challenge, you might have noticed that I read A LOT of manga this year. In fact, I normally read a lot of manga, but this was the first year I recorded it. Why? I used to hide how much manga I read, because there’s this weird stigma about it, but when I started sharing it, I began to connect to other readers who loved some of my favorites, so I’m recording it from now on. Anyway. Jigoku no Enra has everything I love in a paranormal shoujo: demons, cursed princes of hell, and one unfortunate girl wrapped up in it all. Definitely recommended.

Top Three Honorable Mentions:

The Speaker, Daughter of the Pirate King, and Our Dark Duet.

The Speaker by Traci Chee is book 2 in a Sea of Ink and Gold series. Her prose drips off the pages. A complex, yet brutally beautiful fantasy.

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller has pirates and magic. Need I say more?

Our Dark Duet concludes the Monsters of Verity, and it was a fitting ending for a twisted tale about monsters, music, and mayhem.

But what was my all-time favorite read?

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

It was my first time reading Shusterman, and he blew me away. I LOVED Scythe so much I never put it down. It’s brilliant, morally gray, and gory as hell. Scythe answers the question, What happens when everyone begins to live forever? Well, we hire Scythes, of course. You know, people trained to decide who will die. The book follows two scythe apprentices, and everything they go through—including their first deaths and some pretty horrible plot twists—will keep your head spinning. After every chapter, I kept bothering my roommate because I HAD to talk to someone about each and every scene. This book is also a near-future scenario. Scythe released at the end of 2016, so if you’re talking about 2017 releases only, my favorite book was Warcross by Marie Lu.

What were your favorites?

~SAT

 

Take Notes While Writing a Series

11 Nov

While on Twitter the other day, writer A.J. Forrisi asked an amazing question!

P.S. Give A.J. a follow!

My quick answer? Take notes on your first book, so that writing the sequel isn’t as difficult. (And definitely do a read-through. ) I keep a character bible and chapter summaries for each book in a series. Notes help! But what type of notes should you take? How detailed should they be? Everyone’s method is going to be a little different, but I thought I’d share a couple places to start.

 1. Keep a Character Bible

This should cover all descriptors and main personality traits/issues. Personally, I keep a list of every single person mentioned in the book, even the tiniest characters. Why? Because that side character’s eye color is going to come up in book 1 on page 18 and in book 4 on page 127. It would take forever to read the entire series over and over again every time I need to find a detail. That being said, I still think you should read through your work multiple times. If you want to get fancy, take a note of the page number information is written down. That way, you can always double-check.

2. Organize Chapter Summaries

Sum up each chapter in a couple sentences. What happens? How does it change the book? If your book is heavy on revealing secrets, keeping track of what certain characters know will also help. That way, if those secrets move into book two, you don’t have to skim over and over again to find out where and what they learned. One thing I’m sure to emphasize in my chapter summaries is when certain characters make their first appearances. That way, I know when they entered the story (and the description tends to appear at the same time).

3. Other Notes to Consider

I keep a “General Resources” tab on my Scrivener. This is basically a sheet with links to educational websites on topics covered in book. (You know, in case I need a refresher, especially if I’ve taken a break between books.) I also keep a History sheet that tracks the years leading up to the book. Sometimes these events come up in the book, sometimes they don’t, but it’s good to know how my characters arrived at the first chapter. For fun and inspiration, I also keep a Pinterest board and a list of songs that remind me of my story. That way, if I’m finding it hard to get back into the series, I can connect with that original inspiration quicker.

Do you take notes between books? If so, what types?

Feel free to share your method!

~SAT

Burning Out on Your Fav Genre

28 Oct

Before every YA fantasy writer in the world loses their mind, I want to start out by saying that I, myself, am a YA fantasy writer and reader. Again, try not to lose your minds. This isn’t a personal attack. There’s some AMAZING YA SFF coming out right now. My most recent fav was Warcross by Marie Lu. But lately, I have been so burnt out on YA fantasy.

Being burnt out on YA SFF makes me sad, too.

Honestly, this is really difficult for me to admit. I LOVE YA fantasy. I’ve always read it, I mainly write it, and I’m constantly on the lookout for more of it. But recently, I have picked up book after book after book—and I’ve barely been able to connect. Worse? At first I thought it must’ve been the authors or the stories. Then, after a self-criticizing conversation with myself, I realized it was my fault.

You see, all I’ve been reading and writing is YA SFF—and that’s the problem. While writers are constantly told that they need to be reading what they are writing, we aren’t told as often to read outside of what we’re writing, and reading outside of your genre is just as important. Why? Because it teaches different approaches, different voices, different everything. And it helps you from burning out.

So what do you do when you burn out on your favorite genre?

 1. Try a different sub-genre

One genre has a million sub-categories, so try one you don’t usually pick up. For instance, fantasy is a HUGE umbrella term. Maybe you’re reading too much epic fantasy or urban fantasy. Try historical fantasy instead. Or reach into the fringes and grab that alien-vampire-cowboy mash-up you’ve been secretly eyeing.

2. Try a new age category

Don’t forget that there’s a fantasy section in the children’s, YA, and adult sections. Heck, grab a graphic novel. Each age category tends to have a unique approach, and it might help freshen your understanding of your genre. If you’re super unsure, see if any of your favorite writers write in different age categories. Ex. Victoria Schwab writes YA and adult fantasy.

3. Try a new genre completely

Yes, you’re supposed to write what you read, but seriously, reading other genres is just as important. Pick up a contemporary book. Browse some poetry. Reach into the great unknown. Honestly, this option is the one that helps me the most.

I’ve recently been reading more—*gasp*—contemporary, like Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde and Tiny Pretty Things by Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra. (Both highly recommended by the way). And, honestly, I wish I started reading them earlier this year. I wasn’t paying attention to how burnt out I was getting—how much reading and writing only fantasy was drowning my creativity and enjoyment—but these books quickly pulled me out of a slump once I started them. I’ve even been able to read fantasy again—and sure enough, after a little break, I started loving each story.

Basically, the point of this post is to remind writers that, yes, while you should always be reading what you write, you should also make time to read genres and age categories that you don’t write. Why? Because it expands your pallet. It resets your writing gears. It resets everything.

And it’s fun.

~SAT

YA Female Protagonists in STEM

7 Aug

We need more female protagonists in STEM fields, especially in YA. For those of you who don’t know, STEM covers science, technology, engineering, and math. The reason STEM needs to be explored more in YA fiction is to encourage young women to explore those fields in real life more.

Hold the eye rolls.

I get it. I know that there are real-life role models to look up to in those fields already. But a lot of younger people—myself included—enjoy looking up to fictional role models, too. When I was a kid, fictional characters strangely felt more attainable, more inspirational, more…like me.

Sometimes, it’s easier for a fourteen-year-old to look up to a fourteen-year-old scientist rather than Marie Curie. (And more fun.) This is why I’m advocating for a bigger emphasis on STEM in YA fiction, but there’s another, more personal reason as well.

Oh, hey there, science.

Here’s the deal. I hated science in school. Loathed it. Biology was the hardest course for me in high school and college. I hated biology…but I loved chemistry. I also love math. I also love technology and engineering. But as a young girl, I hit a couple roadblocks while studying it.

In school, for instance, I signed up for Tech 101 instead of Home Ec. I was immediately approached by an office clerk who thought I made a mistake. On top of that, one of my teachers actually had to the gall to “make sure” I wanted to take Tech 101 instead of Home Ec since I didn’t have a mother at home. If that wasn’t discouraging enough, I came second place in a bridge building competition later that semester…only for the teacher to pull me aside and tell me I should’ve won. (The winner, it turned out, had cheated. But did the school correct it? No. I just got a secret pat on my back.) If I could tell you what it felt like to then see that boy congratulated, to hear my fellow classmates say “You almost lost to a girl, dude” like that was the worst thing ever, I would. But I still don’t have words for it.

STEM didn’t exactly welcome me.

I recall these moments in my life where I loved science, technology, engineering, and math—and I was good at it, too—but numerous adults in my life discouraged it anyway. Granted, I’m not saying I would’ve chased an engineering degree if these things hadn’t happened. In fact, I’m pretty sure I would’ve chased English no matter what. Why? Because my university asked me to become a math major after I scored 100% on one of their harder exams…and I still turned it down.

Now I’m an author…and authors are engineers of stories. So, I set out to write a book where my protagonist is involved with science.

Kalina came to me that night. She’s sixteen, a botanist, and she invents machines that help water her plants when she’s too busy studying them. Botany takes on a huge role in my book. So much so that one of my critique partners asked an interesting question: How are you going to get readers to sympathize with plants instead of people?

Well…I’m not.

I’m not asking readers to sympathize with plants over people. I’m asking readers to see how interesting plants can be. To see an awesome, smart, and talented young woman studying her scientific passion. To open their minds to science.

Kalina opened my mind, and I love everything she taught me. Granted, I still can’t grow a flower to save my life (especially with cats in the house), but I have a deeper appreciation for botany. Above all, I have a deeper appreciation for science.

YA readers deserve more of that, too.

~SAT

#WW Heroes I Want to See In YA

24 Aug

In the real world, heroes come in all shapes and sizes. They can save the world, or they can save one person. Heck, they can even just save themselves! But every hero we read about has a different story to tell, a background unlike any other, and most of all, a story to tell.

However, in young adult fiction, heroes aren’t always so diverse. So, here are three heroes I’d like to see more of in YA fiction.

1. Introverted Protagonists

I want to see more Hermiones as the protagonist instead of the sidekick. You know, the kid who reads or observes from the sidelines and saves the day. Think Velma from Scooby Doo. More quiet heroes who save through intellect over throwing punches. Which brings me to my next point…

2. Fight with Brain instead of Fists

I LOVED The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski. Though there was violence, especially in the last book, most of the warfare was puzzles and mysteries and alliances. The characters were often observing rather than fighting, and through trickery or other brainpower fighting tools, they could solve their problems. As much as I love a girl with a sword, I would love to see more brainpower used and less literal violence.

Heroes in YA

Heroes in YA

 3. Bisexual Protagonists

Of course I would love to see protagonists across the entire LGBTQIA spectrum, but I would really love to see more bisexual protagonists, because I think bisexual people are often labeled incorrectly due to who they “choose” in the end. If you’re unfamiliar with this discussion, please read Goodbye, Bad Bi: The Lose-Lose Situation of Bisexual YA. Personally, I LOVED Mark in Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare. Him as the protagonist would be the best.

There are so many different types of heroes I want to see, including heroes with disabilities, heroes across the entire LGBTQIA spectrum, heroes that are people of color, and heroes who come from different religions and backgrounds.

What are some heroes you would like to see?

Who are some of my favorite recent heroes in YA? Grace in See How They Run by Ally Carter, Mercy in Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee, Marguerite in Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray, and Joana from Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. (Click any links to read my reviews.)

Also, if you have any recommendations, feel free to share!

~SAT

Here are two of my FREE books:

Bad Bloods: November Rain

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Minutes Before Sunset

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#WW The 90-10 Rule for Marketing and Writing, and How To Love It.

18 May

I recently attended the 101st Annual Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference, and a lot of aspiring authors asked about how much marketing they would be expected to do. One instance in particular seemed to shock many. Janell Walden Agyerman from Marie Brown Literary Agency stated most of her authors followed the 90-10 rule. What’s the 90-10 rule? 90% marketing, 10% writing.

This is a standard many writers don’t like to hear, and it’s true all across the board. Whether you’re self-published, indie published, or traditionally published, you should prepare for the 90-10 rule.

Granted, I understand dreading marketing. I understand worrying about getting so caught up in the sales part that you forget the writing part. I understand feeling like you’re not sure what to do or how to do it.

This is why I suggest keeping a writing-marketing calendar.

What is a writing-marketing calendar? It’s a calendar ONLY used to keep track of how much marketing and writing you’re doing and why.

And today, I’m going to show everyone mine. Granted, this method is NOT for everyone, but I swear by it. My calendar keeps me organized, inspired, and motivated. I can see where I wrote, how far I’ve come, and if I need to step up my game somehow. This particularly helps me, because I work a full-time job outside of my writing. Granted, I consider my writing career my SECOND full-time job. Why?

Well, you’re about to see. But my writing-marketing calendar keeps me motivated outside of my other job. It forces me to keep going, even when I’m exhausted, even when I feel like I want to lay on the couch and watch TV, even when I don’t feel like I can go on anymore. So…here we go:

My Author Calendar

In reality, I keep a notebook, but I couldn’t take a picture of it, because I have information in there I can’t release publicly. So, to show everyone what I do, I adjusted my calendar onto the iCalendar. This is my real-life events for April of 2016. That being said, this is the BASICS. For instance, I wrote down when I wrote articles on this calendar, but I didn’t take note of when they were posted or how many comments and interaction I had to do. Why? Well, I always post on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, and I record social media stats every first of the month. So that’s an entirely different file I keep. (Can you tell I’m a file person?) Writing is business. Staying organized is key…and below, you can read my calendar key.

If you want a calendar key:

Red is physical work: moving offices, book swaps, shipping, shopping for desks, organizing my stock piles of books, letters, stamps, etc.

Orange is my website only: writing articles, updating links, etc.

Green is meetings: This is the stuff I have to censor. It includes discussions with my publisher, with fellow authors, with bookstores, and other business professionals. I kept some details in there, like my attendance to the Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference and prepping the first pages for said conference, but it’s too complicated to fit and/or get into. This would be where you’re calling bookstores for signings or a beta reader for progress and suggestions.

Purple is marketing: This includes my Twitter series #AuthorinaCoffeeShop, and shopping around for stock photos and creating teasers and book trailers. I include formatting here, since it was visual, but this is mainly where I work on my overall marketing plan for upcoming releases. That being said, this is BY FAR all that I do. I post on FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc. almost every single day, and I don’t include any of that, because it’s a give-in.

Only blue is my writing…if I got to write that day. You’ll probably notice I don’t write in novels every day, but hey, I went from 27,457 words to 76,617 in one month. I was pretty happy with that. You might notice I have different books, too (S and D). I also include research and editing under this. I probably won’t record any writings I do “for fun.” This is strictly for books heading toward a publication path.

Again, this is everything I do OUTSIDE of my full-time job. You might notice that I’m missing this lovely thing called weekends. Out of thirty days, I either took two days off or I was too exhausted that I didn’t write my days down. It’s honestly hard to say, but if I had to guess, it’s probably the latter. I try to do something every day, no matter what, even if only for an hour.

I highly believe in keeping track of your progress for organizational purposes as well as motivational ones. For instance, if I see I’ve been marketing a lot but not writing a thing, I know I can give myself a day to step away and get some words down, and visa versa. Some might be discouraged by this, but I suggest trying it out for one month before you decide. You might be surprised by how much more you get done or how nice it is to see a physical representation of all of your hard work. I don’t know about you all, but since almost everything is on a computer, I sometimes walk away feeling like I did nothing all day. This helps me see that I, in fact, accomplished a lot. It helps me feel proud. It helps me feel like I’m moving forward and working as hard as I can for a better future for both myself and my readers.

I live the 90-10 rule, but I don’t FEEL like I live to 90-10 rule. I feel like I live the 100 rule. 100% focus, work, and dedication to the thing I love most: writing. And now, after I record this article in my writing-marketing calendar, I’m going to sit down to do just that. Write another chapter.

~SAT

instaThe news is out! Come see me at the Barnes & Noble in Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, KS on Saturday, June 11 from 1-3 PM for a book signing and author panel. More info on my Events page.

Did you see this week’s #TeaserTuesday? If not, check out my right side panel. You can also pre-order BOTH Bad Bloods books. A newsletter will go out later this month with more details and prizes, so I hope you’ll sign up for your chance to win.

There’s also a FREE Bad Bloods Prequel releasing on Wattpad, and you can now read Adam’s origin story as well as Michele’s. On top of that, Maggie’s story will release THIS Friday! I hope you’re enjoying it! Don’t forget to pre-order your Bad Bloods books while they’re on sale for a limited time. 😉

November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016

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November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

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#SATurdate: MWG Conference, The Crown, Allergies, and Silicon Valley

7 May

Since last Saturday was a Ketchup post, this Saturdate post covers two weeks of information. TWO WEEKS?! Yes. Two weeks.

What I’m Writing:

13177904_1037600996287081_998105092686369145_nOkay! This is CRAZY, but I finished writing D, clocking in at 92,722 words! I’m officially in the editing stages, which is perfect, because this past week, I actually received some AWESOME feedback at the 101st Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference about this particular work, so I’m more excited than ever to keep fine-tuning this project. I mean, it has been in the works for nearly 5 years. That being said, I finally feel like it’s DEFINITELY headed in the right direction, so special thanks goes out to all the panelists behind all the workshops who helped me make a couple major decisions regarding this work. (Then, I can start working on The Tomo Trilogy again, right? Right?) For the record, D is a YA fantasy project I’d like to get off the ground AFTER The Tomo Trilogy, so trust me, I haven’t forgotten you tomo fans. I will get back to it. I will. But for now, I have a few things I’ll be adjusting in D for the coming weeks, so expect to hear more about that novel this month.

What I’m Publishing:

You can officially sign up for Bad Bloods Book Blitz through Xpresso Book Tours! I hope you’ll sign up to support this little author out. (You might also win some awesome prizes while you’re at it!)

BadBloodBlitzBanner-1

As many of you saw, the Bad Bloods book trailer released via YouTube, but in case you missed it, I am posting the video below. (Isn’t it beautiful and dramatic?)

Clean Teen Publishing’s lovely designer Marya also created Bad Bloods business cards and a banner for Penned Con. The first teaser released, too! Along with the next short story in the Bad Bloods Prequel. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, check out Michele’s story today. Who is Michele? Well, in Bad Bloods, she’s the “mother” figure of the Northern Flock, but in the prequel, she’s just a kid. A kid with a gift. And her prequel story actually shows up in November Snow, so reading her story will give you more details when you read the novels this July. Now…for more previews.

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All those lovely goodies discussed above

The #1lineWed preview one week was “pull,” so here is your preview: He pulled me against his chest, and either his, mine, or both of our hearts pounded between us.

The second #1lineWed preview was “pretty,” so here is that preview: Tessa was always there, growing flowers when we needed tomatoes more than pretty things.

Pre-Order Bad Bloods

November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016

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November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

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Visit the Pinterest and Facebook Pages.

What I’m Reading:

I finished The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, and of course, I loved it as much as I loved it the first time. I recommended The Raven Cycle to paranormal YA fans and readers who love sass and class. Light romance (with great tension) and beautifully poetic prose. Favorite quote? Solutions were easy, once you knew what was in your way. A magical and frightening tale of secrets and sarcastic heroines. You can read my five-star review by clicking here.

I also finished The Young Elites by Marie Lu. It was a gorgeous, dark, and stunning story of betrayal and magic. Recommended to young adult fantasy readers who enjoy darker elements, Italian Renaissance type settings, and anti-heroes or villains as the protagonist. Also to those of you who love first-person, present tense. Favorite Quote? Beauty and pain go hand in hand. You can read my four-star review by clicking here.

saturdate

And while attending MWG, I got my hands on two Month9Books: Emerge by Tobie Easton and Genesis Girl by Jennifer Bardsley. I’m currently reading Emerge. Granted, I had to put it aside to read The Crown by Kiera Cass, because I’ve been waiting on this finale FOREVER. And yes, I finished The Crown in one night, and you can read my four-star review here.

Despite some pacing issues, I thought The Crown was a lovely ending to The Selection Series. I recommend it to YA readers of romance. Despite being labeled a dystopian, The Selection Series has little to no emphasis on the dystopian elements, especially by the time you get to Eadlyn’s story. Still, I enjoyed it as a fairy tale-princess-prince-finding-a-soul-mate story. It’s cute, it’s fun, and it’s definitely swoon worthy. My favorite quote? Maybe it’s not the first kisses that are supposed to be special. Maybe it’s the last ones.

On top of that, I received a LOVELY gift of 1800’s books directly from Scotland, along with a Thompson crest bookmark. I’m definitely in love.

What I’m Listening To:

What I’m Watching:

Season 3 of Penny Dreadful began, and so did Season 3 of Silicon Valley—two of my favorite TV shows (among the only ones that I watch), so I definitely started those seasons. I also watched the documentary Bridegroom and bawled my little writer eyes out.

What I’m Baking, Making, and Drinking:

I attempted to bake a rustic peach tart this week, but it came out more like a peach pie than a tart. I also burnt my thumb. Both of my thumbs. But not every baking experience can be perfect…and at least this mistake turned into a pie. I’m not sure mistakes get any better than that.

What I’m Wearing:

I have new sandals! Whew. Now to fight my cats from eating them…

What I’m Wanting:

13062327_1033327780047736_6389651930362409756_nMore time to smell the spring flowers. Despite my allergies… Wait. That just occurred to me. Can’t you tell this is my first time ever dealing with allergies?

What I’m Dreaming Of:

Lowes? I have no idea what I dreamt about, but all I remember is waking up thinking my dreams were sponsored by Lowes. I’m assuming this is because I get all of my paint palettes from there…so in a weird way, my dreams are sponsored by Lowes.

What Else Is Going On:

Allergies. I hate them. I’ve never had them before, but my older brother has, and I’ve constantly given him a hard time about them. I will never give him a hard time ever again. I can barely breathe. It’s terrible.

On a side note though, I managed to control my allergies enough to go to the 101st Annual Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference, and I had a great time! I met some wonderful people, I received some wonderful feedback, and I am marching into the future more hopeful than ever. Attend those conferences, folks! They will make your day.

~SAT

#SATurdate: Batman V Superman, Full Wrap, Audio Books, & Dreamthief

9 Apr

My week has been full of superheroes and villains.

What I’m Writing:

As promised, I’ve put Take Me Yesterday aside, so I’m writing in “D.” I’ve mentioned D before, but I also haven’t said much about it other than I first wrote it when I was 19 and that it is a colorful novel. This week, I’ll add that it’s a YA novel. (Hehe, not much of a hint, eh?) My plan is to add more description every week. So far, I’m 36,000 into this draft, and although this is a fifth draft—maybe even a sixth—it feels like a first draft since I was missing so many vital elements before. Still, I love how it is coming together. The characters feel rounder, the setting is magical, and the voice is fresh. I can’t wait to continue. I also worked on another manuscript I call “S.” S and D are not related. D is old. S is brand-new. I’m quite enjoying both, but S is still in the world-building stages.

What I’m Publishing:

The final full wrap for November Rain was completed this week, and let me tell you, it is awesome. I’m glad you all loved it, too! But in case you didn’t see it:

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I spent WAY too much time this week searching for stock photos and creating teasers for whenever Bad Bloods goes up for pre-order. I love them though! It gave me a much-needed break from my editing job and writing novels. In fact, I think I obsessed over them a little too much…

This week’s #1lineWed preview was “Up,” but my actual tweet wasn’t an exact quote from the book, so I thought I’d give you a paragraph this week. Click here to read my tweet. Read the paragraph below to see an excerpt from November Snow.

Snowflakes. Millions of them.

Across the town, thin white blankets began to build on the streets and buildings. Between each bright light was a glittering stream of silver, and I couldn’t tear my eyes away from them. It looked like a thousand stars had broken up over the sky and drifted down to be with us.

Add Bad Bloods to Goodreads: November Rain and November Snow

Visit the Facebook, Pinterest, and the Extras page.

What I’m Reading:

12901085_1018903768156804_4321670349204755421_oI finished Dreamthief by Tamara Grantham, and I really enjoyed all of the magic in her double world! Read my full review here, especially if you love magic, elves, pixies, goblins, and dragons.

Favorite Quote:
“I realize you have attachments to someone else—someone far below my merit. Yet, if you choose him over me, I will understand, and I will not bother you any longer.”
“Someone below your merit, huh?”
“Far below, I believe, were my exact words.”
“And you feel that you’d make a better match for me?”
“I am certain of it.”

What I’m Listening To:

No shame.

What I’m Watching:

Batman V. Superman. I’m sorry, but no. Just…no. I really, REALLY tried to like Batman V. Superman, but you probably saw my Stepbrother comparison meme on Twitter. If not, click here. It’s not that Batman V. Superman was terrible. I’ll admit that I’m not the biggest fan of DC superhero movies. I’m more of a Marvel person. (Go, X-Men!) I’m definitely not a superhero hater. I mean, Sailor Moon Crystal is back, and I fangirled for twenty-four hours straight. That being said, Batman V. Superman came across as silly mash up of a lot of overdone clichés. On a side note, I’m definitely looking forward to the YA books of superheroes—including Batman—coming out by YA authors, like Marie Lu and Leigh Bardugo. Those sound awesome. But I’ll get to that below.

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What I’m Baking, Making, and Drinking:

I baked peanut-butter chocolate chip cookies this week, because why not? I’ve been using those new fill-in chocolate chips when baking cookies, and I’ll tell you what, those are awesome. I love the cherry ones and the peanut butter ones so far.

What I’m Wearing:

Spring flowers in my hair! Just kidding. I think.

What I’m Wanting:

Some of you may have heard the news, but YA is getting four superhero novels, written by AWESOME authors in 2017.

“There’s Leigh Bardugo (The Grisha Trilogy) on Wonder Woman, Marie Lu (The Young Elites) on Batman, Matt de la Peña (Mexican Whiteboy and The Living) on Superman, and Sarah J. Maas (The Thrones of Glass series) on Catwoman.” –Mashable

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What I’m Dreaming Of:

Fun fact: I’m obsessed with Jamie Campbell Bower and Lily Collins. I’m not normally so celebrity crazed, but I’ve sort-of-maybe-kind-of stalked them since The Mortal Instrument movie in 2013. Like many of their fans, I was UBER excited when they got back together last fall, but alas, they broke up again, and I had a dream that I devised a plan to trick them into getting back together. (I really need to stop stalking them.) Well, they did get back together, but they were really mad that I tricked them into doing this, so they hired a hacker to break into my phone and get physical proof that I was stalking them and tricking them, and then, both of them shared the proof on Instagram…but no one knew whether to think I was awesome, creepy, terrible, or all three, but in the end, I was pretty satisfied. (Seriously. I need to stop stalking them.)

What Else Is Going On:

Clean Teen Publishing is giving away $120 worth of prizes! Do you hate long car rides and traffic? Are you tired of the same old cleaning the house routine? Do you find yourself wishing you had more time to read? If so, then we have the answer for you: LISTEN TO FICTION! That’s right. Audio books. Enter the Listen to Fiction Giveaway by clicking the link.

Audio-Book-Giveaway

~SAT

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