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YASH Spring 2019!

2 Apr

Welcome to the YA Scavenger Hunt!

Hello! I’m Shannon A. Thompson—YA SFF author, librarian, and neighborhood cat lady.

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About Me!

  • During the day, I work in marketing for the Mid-Continent Public Library, the largest library system in Kansas City, but at night, I write stories about monsters and mayhem. I’m currently working on a monster book that takes place in space!
  • I’m addicted to coffee, KDramas, and Sailor Moon. (Oh, and baking cupcakes at midnight.)
  • I have three cats that I call my little gremlins: Boo Boo, Bogart, and Kiki. Boo Boo is 17 years old and still going strong!
  • I’m on Wattpad! After tons of requests, I started posting my YA dystopian, TAKE ME TOMORROW, on Wattpad. This novel was originally published in 2014, but removed shortly after when the publisher closed down. Now I’m sharing it again, and the sequel, TOOK ME YESTERDAY, will release shortly after. (You might even get a sneak peek today!) Come say hi on Wattpad.
  • This May I’ll be at the LitUp Festival for young adult literature in Independence, Missouri! It’s an amazing event, and I can’t wait. More info here.
  • I’ll also be hosting CampNaNoWriMo write-ins at my branch this July!
  • My YA historical recently won the Authoress Secret Agent contest. Read an excerpt from The Pharaoh’s Daughter by clicking here.

I’m on TEAM GREEN this year.

Green Team

Searching for my exclusive bonus content? You’ll have to keep searching.

Somewhere on this blog hop, you can read an exclusive sneak peek of TOOK ME YESTERDAY, the sequel of Take Me Tomorrow that will soon be going up on Wattpad. You can also enter to win a signed copy of any of my books below. Before you go looking for it, check out the amazing author I’m hosting.

But maybe you need the rules first.

Scavenger Hunt Prize Rules

Directions: Below, you’ll notice that I’ve hidden my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the GREEN TEAM, and then add them up. (Don’t worry, you can use a calculator!)

Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by April 7 at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

Now that we all know the rules, please welcome…

I am super excited to be hosting…

MELINDA R. CORDELL!

About the Author

Melinda R. Cordell is a former horticulturist turned proofreader, a chicken wrangler, and small-time naturalist. She’s written the Dragonriders of Skala series with Pauline Creeden, which is like Game of Thrones, only with Vikings.

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About THE FLAME OF BATTLE

Dyrfinna is a born commander. She bests her peers in dragon riding, sword fighting, and battle strategy. So when the Queen calls the people of Skala to battle to revenge her murdered daughter, Dyrfinna leads her troops to victory in a series of hard-fought battles against overwhelming odds. Yet a commander is raised over her, and a disaster results in the massacre of a quarter of the Queen’s army. Then the commander unfairly blames a second disaster on Dyrfinna. The wrong stroke of her sword could undo everything she’s ever worked for … and exile to certain death.

Bonus Material:

Here’s a little story about how I came up with the idea of the main character for The Flame of Battle.

Well, Pauline Creeden and I met each other in a little collaboration group and decided to write a book together. Pauline said, “I have some cool book covers with Vikings and dragons on them so let’s write a story about Vikings and dragons.” I said, “Oo, shiny!” I’m a dragon fan anyway, so that was a no-brainer. However, I knew next to nothing about Vikings, so I jumped into the research.

Now, I’d just written a nonfiction book about women soldiers in the Civil War. I’d always been interested in military strategy, and war stories. When I was reading about Vikings, I read about a burial mound from Birka, Sweden that contained a female military commander who was buried with high military honors, from all the things that were buried with her. She had a hnefatafl, or a King’s Table, game buried with her. It’s a strategic game that’s something like chess.

This grave was considered to be the iconic Viking grave and the person in it was considered to be a battle-hardened man — until careful DNA study proved that this was a woman.

Then a bunch of archeologists lost their minds, saying, “A woman can’t be a military commander! That’s impossible!” This is pretty much the same thing that some Civil War historians say about women soldiers in the Civil War. But that’s nonsense. Of course women can fight. Of course women can serve with distinction and valor in war. I know women who voluntarily signed up for military service. A bunch of yelling men ain’t going to change these facts.

Anyway, I read about this warrior, and wanted to write a story about that woman on the battlefield and how she might have gotten her start as a military commander. Except with dragons. And so that’s how I came up with the idea of Dyrfinna, leading her army division into battle.

The Flame of Battle also has dragons, and swords, and a little bit of romance, and a battle-hardened young woman willing to make the heartbreaking choices that come with war.

Thank you for coming on, Melinda!

I love hearing what inspires writers. They’re like super hero origin stories, right? (And, seriously, how cool is that tidbit of history?) The last time I read such an interesting origin tale was 23 days ago. I suggest taking that information and entering the YASH contest for a chance to win a ton of books by me and many more. Just check out all these awesome titles on the GREEN TEAM.

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To enter, you need to write down my fav number, and find all the other numbers on the GREEN TEAM, add them up, and you’ll have the secret code to enter for the grand prize!

Exclusive Giveaway!

Thank you so much for stopping by! While you’re here, don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter bonus contest I am hosting exclusively during the YA Scavenger Hunt. One lucky reader will win a signed copy of ANY of my books. They will also win signed swag from both of my series. Good luck!

Enter this Rafflecopter for your chance to win.

Ready to move on to the next link in the hunt? Then head on over to visit author SARA B LARSON’s page.

LINK TO NEXT BLOG

Learning to Write from TV: The Umbrella Academy Edition

2 Mar

Writers are often told to read (and read a lot) in order to know how to write. And while I totally agree with that sentiment, I also think writers can learn from other forms of media. Yes, including TV shows. (Even TV shows adapted from a novel or comic book.) In fact, I think TV is often an easier reference for writers to discuss. Why? Because there are dozens of best-selling novels that come out every week, whereas there’s only a handful of TV shows that everyone seems to be talking about. Recently, for instance, the Netflix show The Umbrella Academy began to trend, and it seemed like everyone was chatting about it, including the publishing industry. Perhaps this is because it was adapted from a comic published by Dark Horse Comics. But what I want to concentrate on is how we can use popular TV to teach writers about trends, topics, and storytelling.

How can we use TV to discuss writing? By picking out the pros and cons, of course.

Here’s a few based on The Umbrella Academy.

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Also, major spoiler alerts begin here. I will discuss major events, including the ending, so if you don’t want this show spoiled, bookmark this article now and come back later. If you’re not planning on watching, I think this can still be a beneficial example of using TV to discuss writing. If you’ve already watched and don’t care about spoilers, awesome! But make sure to warn your followers of spoilers if you decide to share this piece.

Thanks for keeping entertainment fun!

Let’s start with a pro, since I like to concentrate on the positive:

Pro: Siblings with Personality

The Umbrella Academy follows seven children adopted by an eccentric billionaire after they were born in quite an unusual way. Six of these seven appear to have superpowers and are raised practicing these powers, with the seventh “ordinary” child being kept from lessons. That being said, the actual show takes place in their adult years. Rarely, do I see siblings depicted so realistically (especially in fantasy, especially in big families). Each sibling has their own personality, struggles, and place in the family. Even better? They treat each other differently based on their past selves, present relationship, and future desires. I really enjoyed watching the brothers and sisters bicker as much as joke, and lift each other up (while also pushing each other down). You know, complications. Too often we see a brother or sister appear in a minor supporting role with little to no depth or personal drive. And we definitely don’t see enough big families. I absolutely loved them and thought they were believable, round characters. (My only complaint on these particular siblings was the relationship between Allison and Luther. Non-biologically related siblings who have romantic tension isn’t necessarily my issue. My issue is that I found it uncomfortable, based on the fact that they were raised from birth together, as compared to similar tensions found in cases where they were not raised together, i.e. Avery and Atlas in The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee.) But that is a personal preference and a different discussion for another day.

Con: Female Tragedy for Male Depth

Far too often female characters suffer trauma, including death, in order to push male characters forward. Now, I’m not saying female characters cannot suffer, or die, but when the suffering of a female character (or any minority character) exists solely to push the male character into growth, then I’m not happy. This particularly happens with Diego, whose girlfriend Eudora dies for no other reason than to have Diego question his purpose, not once, but a number of times. When it isn’t Eudora pushing him, then it’s his mother, a robot, who he has to turn off at one point. A simple solution would’ve been emphasizing Diego’s desire to make his childhood suffering mean something by becoming a superhero (though this is only mentioned once, by – you guessed it – Eudora, right before she dies), while highlighting Eudora’s personality as someone who always had to follow the rules, who then dies when she finally agrees to break the rules (though this only happens, because – you guessed it again – Diego dared her to). Ultimately, these topics were barely touched in comparison to Diego’s rage over her death. This caused an uncomfortable situation where the male character could not grow without two female characters being hurt, or more specifically, killed. This also happens later in the show with Luther and Allison, as Luther consistently decides he exists in order to protect her by forcing his decisions on her. Not to mention Allison gets her throat slit once, which further takes her voice away. Now, granted, I will acknowledge that Allison’s powers exist in her ability to speak, so her losing her voice is far more symbolic than just Luther trying to oversee her decisions, but the combination of Luther’s lack of boundaries mixed with her silence bothered me. (Probably because the other brothers become complicit in it.) In contrast, the female characters are not driven by male pain. Allison is driven by her daughter, and Vanya is driven by her need to be accepted. The only instance where we see a female character driven by male pain is with Vanya, who reacts violently when her boyfriend “Peter” is hurt in a fake fight. Even then, though, the ultimate attention is averted from Peter and placed back on Vanya’s inability to control her powers. This sort of emphasis could’ve easily gone the other way with the male characters as well. Basically, it’s not about one gender causing another gender to react, but rather the emphasis at which it is focused on and what it means. We can do better.   

Pro: Humor Mixed in with the Serious

We do not have enough humor in fiction. That goes for flat-out humor books, as well as humor sprinkled throughout other genres. It’s one of the reasons I often find 600-page fantasy novels exhausting. (Which, by the way, is the main type of book I read.) I have found that the fantasy novels I love the most include moments of quiet, as well as humor (and from numerous characters and situations). The Umbrella Academy kills with their humor, especially with Klaus. I wish I could expand (because my negative sections feel longer than my positive), but this love is pretty straight-forward. I want more humor in everything.  

Con: Villains Suffering From Mental Health and Broken Homes

Listen, I get it, villains are supposed to be evil, and evil things can happen because of untreated mental illness. I’m not denying that. However, evil comes from non-mentally ill places as well, but modern entertainment is still leaning towards one more than the other, especially when it comes to female characters. I feel like it’s an overused trope, especially when clear lines aren’t drawn and discussed. The worst part for me in The Umbrella Academy is how unclear they made Vanya, especially when using her childhood flashbacks. It is never clarified if her powers are causing her to kill or if she, herself, has mental health issues and those issues were exacerbated by her powers, not to mention her father’s decision to cover her powers up without telling her even into adulthood. By not clarifying, especially when she begins to hallucinate (something that could be seen as schizophrenia), the art is setting up viewers to interpret mental health vs. evil, or even blending them, and I don’t like that message. We need to do better when it comes to depicting mental health. Take the time to clarify, even it means clarifying that no one truly knows. Without that, we will continue to get the same images, in this case, a young Ellen Paige discussing anxiety and nerves while shakily popping pills, then adding a montage of killing nannies as a child before she was on medication, (when no one else is depicted to be using medication or to have anxiety or anything), and that’s unacceptable. On a side note, I also hate that the male villain comes from a broken one-parent home. Is it just me, or is the only “positive” depiction of one-parent homes in popular entertainment Gilmore Girls? I’m probably biased, because I grew up in a one-parent home after my mother suddenly died. My dad raised me, and he is awesome. (I’m obvs. sick of seeing deadbeat dads, too.) Most of all, I’m really, really tired of watching motherless children become the epitome of evil, while orphans become heroes. Not that orphans can’t be heros, but why is it that losing two parents equals a superhero cape and adventure, and losing one means anger and doom? And where are the villains who come from “good” homes? And the heroes with two parents? And, and, and. We need more variety.   

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Pro: Mashup of Tropes

The Umbrella Academy is a master of mashing up common tropes in unique ways. What do I mean by that? Well, as most writers know, nothing is new. With hundreds of years of literature behind us, everything has been done before. Writing isn’t about creating something no one has created before, because – spoiler alert – someone has created it. Instead, writing is about creating something new by using what we already have in unique ways. And The Umbrella Academy kills it, specifically with science fiction and fantasy tropes. To name a few, we have superheroes saving the world, a boy who sees dead people, a time-traveler, a monkey who has been experimented on until it’s more human than monkey, and a girl who thinks she doesn’t have powers (but, duh, she does), who is also the person who can’t control their powers. We’ve seen these characters and abilities depicted dozens of times. So how was this show unique? Let’s look at Klaus, the boy who sees dead people. Instead of trying to scare the viewer with Klaus’s powers (think Fifth Sense), The Umbrella Academy focuses on how Klaus himself is scared and how he has coped (or failed to cope) with his powers. Not to mention his dead brother Ben who follows him around to try to help him cope with his drug abuse. Learning to utilize tropes is an important aspect of writing in any genre, and I’d point any sci-fi/fantasy writer toward The Umbrella Academy for a lesson on that. In fact, I could probably write another ten pages on every trope the show used and how it spun it in a fun, entertaining way. But I’ve already rambled enough on here.

Netflix Hargreeves GIF by The Umbrella Academy - Find & Share on GIPHY

Con: Non-Ending Endings

There’s a big difference between a cliffhanger and a non-ending. Cliffhangers leave the reader or viewer wondering what will happen to the characters after the ending wraps up most (if not all the questions) posed at the beginning of the book or show. A cliffhanger is a hand popping up from a grave after the characters killed the villain, only for the villain to come back to life. A non-ending ending is when the villain and the hero are finally facing off and someone holds up a gun and shoots, but we never see where the bullet goes or who shot the gun or if it did anything at all. In my opinion, I felt like The Umbrella Academy has a non-ending ending. The entire time it’s focused on surviving this impending apocalypse, only for when it hits for them to disappear to some mysterious non-named time period in the past due to their time-traveling brother. It feels really cheap. Honestly, I think it could’ve been a cliffhanger if they had showed us exactly what time period they went to. Or even their childhood with the father standing before them, ready to train Vanya with them instead of ostracizing her. It would wrap everything up, but would still make us wonder if the solution would work. The fence between a cliffhanger and a non-ending ending is thin, but I feel like creators have begun to favor non-ending endings more than actual cliffhangers, and it drives me crazy. (And not in a good way.) I love cliffhangers. I’m happy to be enticed to the next season. But don’t make me feel like I wasted my time by telling me nothing by the end either.

In non-writing related notes: I loved the soundtrack and cinematography and the storyline in general. In fact, they played one of my favorite writing songs (“Run, Boy, Run” by Woodkid) and even made it the title of Episode 2. (If you haven’t watched the music videos for Woodkid’s entire album, do it now. It’s pure art.) I also loved the sets and directing style of nearly every scene. And not going to lie, I was super happy to see Hazel and the donut lady end up together. (I’ve never been so invested in a side characters before.) The show is super entertaining, and I’d highly recommend it to sci-fi/fantasy fans. I enjoyed myself a lot, and actually made the time to finish all 12 episodes (which is rare for me). I would definitely check out another season. And I felt like I was reminded of a lot of writing skills.

So do you think writers can learn from watching and discussing TV and movies?

If so, what shows do you think are good examples?

Tell me about them!

~SAT

 

My Average Day as an Author

2 Feb

Despite tons of movies and books revolving around authors and publishers, the life of the average author is still pretty mysterious to most. Why?

  1. Hollywood never gets publishing right. Ever. This is the one fact agents, editors, publicists, and authors agree with.
  2. An author’s journey to publication is unique, VERY unique, and authors’ lives reflect that.

Being an author is hard work. And most authors—yes, even famous New York Times bestsellers—can’t afford to be full-time writers without someone else supplementing their income, health care, etc., and even then most of us have day jobs or a side hustle or both! I could go on and on about the different types of author lives I’ve seen out there, but I thought I’d share mine instead.

So what’s my average day as an author like?

Morning: Time to get up and go to work

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Also, my co-worker got me a desk blanket, so I stay warm all day.

Yes, I work a full-time day job. I currently work in marketing for the Mid-Continent Public Library. Basically, I study our demographics and choose programming that I think would best suit our community. I also change out displays, research tools we could utilize, and work on desk serving the community. (Librarians have to be super flexible. You go wherever demands are needed, and that changes any given minute.) It’s an 8-5 instead of 9-5 (because librarians don’t get paid for their lunch break at my location), so I actually spend a minimum of 45 hours a week at work. That being said, I love my job. It’s pretty fulfilling.

Lunch Break, a.k.a. Precious Writing Time

At my day job, we are required to take a one-hour lunch break (again, not paid). Which is fine with me. I spend about 15 minutes slamming whatever meal-prep nonsense I made the night before, and then I spend the rest of the 45 minutes writing whatever I can in my book. I actually just hit my first 10,000 words accomplished on my lunch break alone, which felt like a huge stepping stone for me. If the writing isn’t working that day, I spend my lunch break writing blog posts (like this one!) or updating my author website, scheduling social media posts, checking my e-mail, reading my beta partners’ latest, or editing work for my clients. Clients, you ask? Yes, I have another job on top of my library job. But I’ll get to that in a minute.

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Finishing Work

Sometimes at work, I get to process books, which basically means checking returned books and giving them the all-clear to go back out on the floor. My work is nice enough to allow us to listen to podcasts or music during these shifts. (They don’t happen every day, but I thought it important to mention since I get some work done during this as well.) Basically, if I’m lucky enough, I can listen to a writing podcast or a podcast focusing on my current research. It helps catch me up some weeks, not going to lie. Also, I’ve learned to love processing as a reader. I stumble across all kinds of books I never would have found on my own, and it’s broadened my reading spectrum like no other. I read more adult books than ever before, and it’s nice to have a reprieve from YA every now and then.

After Work to Bedtime

I drive home, generally listening to more research podcasts. If errands need to be run—groceries, gas, etc.—they’re typically done here. When I get home, it’s time to feed the cats, clean the dishes, make dinner, meal prep for the next day, exercise (or so I tell myself), and get to bed. Very rarely do I have the energy to write during this time frame, but I usually have the time to read. I catch up on my latest and head to bed, ready for another day.

So what about my weekends?

04cc48864d346eebfdf2a4d7e6747617On Saturdays, I spend the entire day working on my services. Between editing during my lunch breaks and editing all day Saturday, I spend about 15-20 hours per week editing. Sometimes more, sometimes less. I won’t lie, I considered shutting down my services when I started my full-time job, but I just couldn’t. I love editing too much, and I have a number of clients I love to work with over and over. (Shout out to Steven Ramirez, C.E. Johnson, Grant Goodman, J.N. Colon, Rich Leder, and more! Seriously, check out their books. They are all so talented.) At the end of the day, editing is still one of my passions, and I want to spend time working with authors on their novels. Not going to lie, though, while I’m editing, I spend time catching up on housework. (Those dishes and laundry won’t clean themselves.) And I drink a lot of coffee. Obviously

I take Sunday off. No emails. No editing. No writing. I even try to refrain from social media. It’s time to spend with family without distractions. And then, Monday starts the chaos all over again.

That’s my average author life.

I work one full-time job and one part-time job, but I try to fit my author life in with everything else.On average, I work 60 hours per week. I may not have the most writing time or personal time or TIME, but hey, I’m doing the best I can every day. Every novel was written one word at a time, just as this blog post was, and I’m about to put more down after this!

Fun fact: I’ve actually covered this three times in the past, because my life has changed that much. If you’re curious, this is what my life was like as a night-working full-time freelance editor and publicist in 2015, and here’s my post in 2013 that covered what my writing life was like as a full-time college senior working part-time at a publisher.

So what’s your average day as an author like?

~SAT

Is it Possible to Read Too Much as a Writer?

5 Jan

Last year, I read 167 books according to Goodreads. Granted, this is a mixture of everything under the publishing sun: adult fiction, YA, MG, graphic novels, and, yes, even picture books. My job at the library has definitely broadened my reading sphere, for which I’m super grateful. (I never knew picture books could be so extensive—and gorgeous! When I was a little, I feel like we had two options: Dr. Seuss and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. But that’s beside the point.)

I read a lot, and lately I’ve wondered if I read too much.

Is that even possible? (Especially for a writer.)

I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not. I don’t think this question has a simple answer, as it depends on the writer’s life: how much free time they have, their access to books, how reading affects them, their writing goals etc. If, for instance, you are on a serious deadline, you probably need to put writing ahead of reading in order to meet that. In contrast, if you’re a new writer, it’s recommended you spend more time reading in order to understand storytelling, the market’s needs, etc. As Stephen King famously said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or tools) to write. Simple as that.”

But what happens when you spend all your time reading and not writing?

When I look back on 2018, I know I read a lot more than I wrote, which is fine. Between starting two new jobs and having to move, writing often felt like too much. But I could handle reading. It was my reprieve from everything else. Writing usually is as well, but almost every time I sat down to write, I felt way too weighed down by everything else. Now that I’m more adjusted to my new life, though, I feel a bit burnt out on reading—and yet, I’ve struggled to tune down my reading time to make more room for writing. Why? Maybe I got used to reading more and writing less, and now I have to readjust again. Who knows. One thing that’s helped me is taking my laptop to work and writing during my lunch break; then, when I come home, reading. It’s still a lot more reading time and less writing time, but I’m hoping the slow adjustment helps my writer’s brain turn back on.

It’s such an isolating feeling watching your fellow writers crank out chapter after chapter when you’re only reading them. But reading is definitely good for writers too. That being said, I have a goal of reading less this year. I spent so little time writing I feel like I need to re-fill that well in my life. So far, writing during my lunch breaks has helped me write more than when I was trying to sit down at home. Even if it’s only a couple hundred words a week, it’s enough. I can see my word count moving again, and I can feel myself getting into the motion of writing more. I’m being more critical about the books I take home, and putting down ones that I don’t want to finish (instead of forcing myself through them).

In the end, I don’t think I spent too much time reading this year, because of my circumstances. It was right for me at the time. But I definitely can see how reading can take over a writer’s life if they aren’t careful. (I mean, most of us started writing out of a love for reading, right?)

In the end, I think a writer can spend too much time reading. But they can also spend too much time writing, or querying, or editing, etc. It’s all about balance and figuring out what works for you.

So what do you think? Can a writer spend too much time reading?

~SAT

P.S. I’m blogging again. Thanks for your patience! To be honest, I have a very small goal of posting once a month (on the first Saturday), but I hope you enjoy them regardless!

P.P.S I’m also posting TAKE ME TOMORROW on Wattpad again, with the plan to follow up with the sequel. I plan on blogging about the decision, but you can read more about that on Wattpad by clicking here. A new chapter goes up every Saturday! I hope you’ll stop by and support me.

2018: The Year of Writing Limbo

29 Dec

Last year I wrote this article—2017 Wasn’t My Writing Year—and I talked about failing my top three goals. Those goals were wanting an internship at literary agency, working for a library, and signing with a literary agent.

Every year, I write an article like this. But this year, despite struggling to find time to blog, I had to make myself follow up about this year. I mean, come on, I succeeded at one of my major goals! Two months after my past article, I was hired by the library, and last month, I was promoted and became full time. In regards to my other goals, I actually had the opportunity to speak to two literary agencies about internships this year, but with all my life changes going on, I had to back out. But hey, I’m still in contact with them about a future opportunity once life settles down.

This year, I didn’t make any goals for myself.Mainly because I realized how hard I was on myself last year due to the goals I created. In fact, I took a long, hard look at those goals and realized I shouldn’t have goals with uncontrollable results. Ex. “Signing with a literary agent” shouldn’t be a goal dependent on one year. The goal should’ve been “finish writing that new book,” or “query X amount of good fits this summer,” or “take a query workshop to improve your skills.” So, yes, signing with an agent is still a dream of mine, but I’ve learned how to redefine my goals overtime.

So what did I do this year to achieve my dreams?

To be honest, I barely wrote. I sent out a limited number of queries. I didn’t have a single publication come out for the first time in six years.

I could concentrate on the negative, or I could concentrate on this:

I was hired by the library, one of my dreams, and I was promoted eight months later. We moved into a better, healthier house and neighborhood, and my health is improving. I was featured in YASH (the Young Adult Scavenger Hunt) twice! I was invited to speak and sign books at the LitUp Festival, a YA festival run by teens. They were amazing, and I had so much fun. I even got to meet one of my memoir heroes, Ishmael Beah. Clean Teen Publishing released  Bad Bloods: November Snow as an audiobook, narrated by Jonathan Johns, and Minutes Before Sunset also released as an audiobook, narrated by Sarah Puckett and Steve Campbell. They were a blast to work with. I also signed books at the Local Author Fair here in Kansas City, and saw my books in a library for the first time. And I never stopped writing. I finished writing my first historical fantasy during NaNoWriMo, worked on lots of beta reader notes, beta read many books myself, and began writing my next sci-fi.

2018 highlights

So you know what? I did just fine, new publications or not, agent or not, internship or not.

I did my best every day, and I’m going to continue doing my best every day, and I feel pretty good about it in retrospect. Now, to be kinder to myself on a regular basis. I think I’d be a much happier, healthier person.

This is my only goal for 2019.

~SAT

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.

SAT Update

1 Dec

So I thought I’d stop in and say hi since it’s been a while.

Since October, I had another huge life change that is pretty exciting. I accepted a full-time position at the library in marketing, as the Branch Programming and Community Engagement Associate, which means I am focusing on understanding our demographics and making sure everyone in our community is being served equally. I survived my first month! It’s been a blast, and I’m really looking forward to continuing this work. And before you panic, I am still providing my services, including editing. (What can I say? I’m a workaholic.)

The Local Author Fair

Last month, I signed books at the Local Author Fair in Kansas City, Missouri! It was so much fun. We even had pastries paired with our books. Mine was a mocha muffin (and they were delicious), so if you came out, I hope you had fun. In regards to future signings, I’m not actively pursuing events right now. Life’s just too crazy. But if something happens to come up and it works with my schedule, I’ll definitely show up with a smile. I’ll let you all know if I have another one.

I also participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time in my writing life. I’ve never been against NaNoWriMo, it just never felt like something for me. But with all these life changes happening, I’ve been feeling really bummed out about my writing, and I thought NaNoWriMo might help push me to put words down regardless. And I did! I was also able to host NaNoWriMo at my library, so that was fun! I learned what a five-headed Hydra word sprint was, and word wars, and so many other fun events. I’m now trying to host a Camp NaNoWriMo in July too.

In my personal life, I can gratefully say that we’ve finally moved everything. (Now to unpack.) But hey, life shouldn’t be so crazy anymore now that we’re settled. My health is improving, which is so relieving, and I am planning on continuing my tradition of end-of-the-year blog posts this month. For those of you who are new to my blog, I like to sum up the year at the end by sharing my top ten blog posts, writing journey summary, my favorite books, best new writing tools, and my publishing predictions. Granted, I’ll probably only share my favorite books and writing journey summary. But I hope you enjoy them regardless!

Happy Holidays, friends,

~SAT

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