Miscellaneous

My Favorite Books of 2022

As per tradition, I am back to share my favorite reads of 2022. Before I jump into it, though, I wanted to mention a few caveats. 

My original website template retired. (RIP, Bueno. You served me well–and for ten years!) I’m now using Button 2. I might be changing it intermittently as I try to find a new normal, so while the look may change, the features should all still work. If you notice something wonky, please let me know. 

Other than that, I’m hoping I’m back on my regular blogging schedule again! Though my maternity leave doesn’t end until January, I really wanted to do my end-of-year posts. For my newcomers, I post writing and publishing tips every first and third Monday (with the occasional extra post in-between.)

Now without further ado:

My favorite books of 2022!

I must admit that this year’s list is organized very differently. Normally, I have a bunch of genre and age categories, but this year has got to be the smallest list yet. (Only 47 books! Usually, I clear 90+) Mostly because I was unbelievably busy with pregnancy and then my newborn, not to mention working full time and pursuing my writing career (but I’ll get more into that in my yearly end-of-the-year wrap-up post in two weeks). All that said, because of my smaller list, I decided to forego categories and just list my top reads. If you want to see a full list of everything I read this year, visit my Goodreads.  To add one last stipulation: these are books that I read in 2022, not necessarily books that released in 2022. I hope you find something to read. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments below! I always love suggestions. 

House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland: YA Horror: This was my first five-star read of the year. It’s so atmospheric, and the writing is gorgeous. I loved how the main character didn’t quite know the truth about everything, but suspected something was up. It kept the mystery tense and the magic tenser. The ultimate reveal was horrifying as well, and the body horror throughout the book was done so well. Loved the sisters’ storyline.  

Crave by Tracy Wolff: YA Paranormal Romance: This is the first in a series that has been growing in popularity so quickly. When I saw a huge waitlist at the library I work at for book #4, I just couldn’t stop my curiosity, and I picked up book 1. As of today, I’ve only read book 1 and 2, but they were both really entertaining, especially if you grew up as a teen in the Twilight era. It uses a lot of the same tropes, but has more agency. Still a lot of the same romance tropes and boarding school tropes that were popular around the same time. It’s very campy in my opinion. If you aren’t a fan of the Twilight era books, this one isn’t for you.

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling: Adult Paranormal Rom Com: TREEEEATS. I laughed so hard every time this was said in the book. (And I was reading it right after my cat died.) I needed a feel-good read, and The Ex Hex came through. I never knew I needed a Halloween Rom Com, but now I want a million more of these in my life. I’ve already put the sequel on hold. 

These Hollow Vows by Lexi Ryan: YA Fantasy: I’d heard a lot of good things about this series, but never quite got around to picking it up. Then I put the audiobook on hold and could not stop driving around town just so I could keep listening to it. The story is so good, the twists so delicious, and the drama divine. I loved the ending, and I immediately put book 2 on hold. Read this if you love fairies and deception. 

The Final Gambit #3 by Jennifer Lynn Barnes: (YA Mystery): The ending of this trilogy was superb. If you love puzzles, the drama of rich families, and mysterious inheritances, then pick up The Inheritance Games and get to reading. I loved this book so much it was actually the first book I’ve ever finished in eBook format. (Which I’m totally going to blog about later.) 

Noodle and the No Bones Day by Jonathan Graziano, Dan Tavis (Illustrator): Picture Book: I fell in love with Bones the pug as much as anyone else who followed the online sensation. I loved seeing it in picture book form, too.  

If I Could Keep You Little by Marianne Richmond: Picture Book: My dad got this for me for my baby shower, and I still haven’t been able to finish it without ugly crying. Definitely get this for the new parents in your life.

Marshmallow & Jordan by Alina Chau: Middle Grade Graphic Novel: Probably the most precious read I’ve picked up in a longggg time. If this doesn’t warm your heart, I don’t know what will. The art is incredibly colorful and adorable, and the storyline is very touching. There’s also a pretty big plot twist I didn’t see coming. Absolutely recommended! 

These were my favorite reads of 2022, but I read lots of amazing stories. What were your favorites?

~SAT

Writing Tips

When to Begin & End Chapters

When writing a novel, writers must consider a lot of factors: characterization, pacing, plot, etc. Take a look around the internet and you’ll find tons of articles on how to begin a novel, outline a novel, flesh out a novel, and end a novel, but when it starts to get into the nitty gritty details, that’s where most advice will meander toward “every writer has their own method” or “it depends on the project.”

My advice on beginning and ending chapters is going to stand on that previous sentiment—I’m not going to lie—but I am going to dig little deeper on the following questions:

How do you start chapters? How do you end them? When do you know those points are enough to keep the reader interested? 

Aside from the adage “every writer has their own method,” I want to share some basic tips, and then add specific methods that I use. 

First and foremost, the key to finding your sweet spot is to understand your age category and genre. 

A sci-fi thriller is going to have shorter, cut-throat chapters that encourage the reader to keep turning the pages to find out what’s going to happen next. An epic adventure will probably have longer, more descriptive chapters where world-building is key rather than action, especially in the first and second act. Within those genres, age categories will influence word count. Having longer chapters in an adult book is much more appropriate than in middle grade. Not that there aren’t exceptions. There are always exceptions. But these are general tips to keep in mind. 

My first tip would be to go to your nearest bookstore or library and pick up books in your age category and genre. Study their chapter lengths. You should be reading in your age category and genre, too. Seeing how those books find their rhythm will help you find yours. But, at the end of the day, I’m a big believer in finding the right rhythm for your book—not forcing your book into the standard—so make intentional decisions when editing your book. I mention the editing phase on purpose. I don’t worry about chapter lengths until I’m revising. That first draft is just to get the story down. Most of the time, rhythm comes fairly naturally to me, but without fail, I’ll always find a ridiculously long chapter or choppy section that needs reworking. 

As you consider revisions, ask yourself: 

  • How can these chapters be reworked?
  • Are there sections that can be combined? (Especially with “talking head” scenes. If your characters are just talking, figure out if they can be physically doing something in another chapter at the same time.)
  • Does this chapter move the story or characters forward? If not, can I cut it and save it for “extras” for my readers?

Now that we’re past the revision setup, here’s some general tips about ending and beginning chapters. 

The beginning of your chapter should ask a question. The end should answer it. 

This is how I treat every chapter in all my books. I approach each scene like a mini-short story. This is done for many reasons. A) When readers are deciding if they want to pick up a book, they will only read a handful of pages. Show them you can tell a story in that handful. B) Feeling as if you’ve jumped over a hurdle as a reader gives you an accomplished feeling, and that feeling will propel you forward. 

Now, ending a chapter doesn’t mean you’ve answered every question that comes up in the chapter. Oh, no. Quite the contrary. Between asking the chapter question and answering that specific question, you must pose another question. This will end up being your cliffhanger that makes the reader turn the page. 

Formulaic, I know. But trust me, it works. 

For example, I just picked up my book Minutes Before Sunset and turned to a random chapter. In Chapter Thirteen, which is from the perspective of my hero Eric, it literally starts out with the supernatural girl he found in the forest asking him, “What are you going to teach me tonight?” (The literal question I pose.) By the end of the chapter, instead of teaching her magic techniques, which is what she was hoping for (and probably what the reader was expecting), they’ve fallen into a conversation about magic’s past. (Hey there, world building.) This conversation leads to him admitting there’s a war coming that he must survive. He doesn’t tell her he is at the center of it, but she’s grown suspicious. Telling her the truth, though, would expose his identity as heir. Something he’s not allowed to do, at the risk of his own life. But not warning puts her in danger. The new question posed: is he going to come clean about his identity in order to warn her? Will he choose his safety or hers? You must turn the page to find out. 

Now let’s look at how that example specifically begins and ends. The chapter starts out with positive energy. Two secret lovers meeting up in the woods, excited to see each other, learn from each other, etc. But it ends on a negative note. There’s dangerous truths he’s not telling her. She’s starting to sense that. Tension. BAM. Now two lovers are having a bad night. This exchange of rhythm is also key to shaping your chapters. 

Pay attention to your negative and positive energy. I believe this comes from a famous writer’s beat sheet, but I can’t remember who it was at this time. (If someone recognizes it, please let me know, and I’ll edit this to credit them.) Basically, every scene should be shifting your energy. If the beginning of a chapter is negative, it needs to end even more negatively or become positive. There are only four energies. Extra-positive, positive, negative, extra-negative. You shouldn’t have the same one in a row. Especially not over and over again. If your chapters are continuously ending on an extra-negative and starting there, your story will become stagnant, and the reader will grow bored. Even in survival novels where everyone is dying, you can find positive notes to end on. (Example/ Someone finally found food or shelter.) 

Returning to Chapter Thirteen, it begins positive, ends negative. Chapter Fourteen starts negative, ends positive. Chapter Fifteen begins positive, ends negative. Chapter Sixteen begins negative, ends extra-negative. Etc. 

If you’ve had lots of negative chapters, have a positive one, and vice versa. 

And don’t forget those cliffhangers!

When I freelance edited, I always found that most writers had natural cliffhangers in their work. They just didn’t recognize them. If you struggle with where to end a chapter, take a look a few paragraphs up from where you lost steam. It’s probably hiding in plain sight. If not, go back to that question you posed at the beginning of your chapter. What’s the next natural mystery your reader will want to know? Head towards that. 

Before I ramble on forever, here’s some fun facts about my work:

My average chapter length in Minutes Before Sunset: 2,123

My average chapter length in Bad Bloods: November Snow: 3,422

The difference? The format. Both are young adult, but Bad Bloods is formatted to show day-by-day plays, so each chapter covers one day. This meant numerous scenes in one chapter versus Minutes Before Sunset, which was set up to show scene-by-scene. Minutes Before Sunset is a much quicker book and centered on romance, whereas November Snow has a much heavier tone and centered on survival. Longer chapters were more fitting for that audience. 

Right now, I’m working on an adult fantasy, and my chapters seem to be landing anywhere between 2,000-3,000 words. As a reader, though, I love those 1,500-word chapters. Turning the pages feels good!

Take that as you will, and good luck,

~~SAT

P.S. I want to thank TJ Horton from my Facebook page who suggested I write about this topic! If you have a topic you want me to write about, let me know in the comments below. 

Miscellaneous · Writing Tips

How to Enjoy Reading as a Writer (And Complete Those Reading Goals)

It’s summertime, which means beach reads are among us. Not to mention the fact that we’re halfway through 2021. (Eek!) How far along are you on your reading goals? I aim to read 52 books a year. I’m definitely not there yet. But I know a lot of us take this time of the year to catch up on our TBR pile, so I wanted to chat about books from the writer’s perspective. 

As Stephen King once said, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” It’s a very popular writing advice quote that most writers have probably heard here and there. I tend to agree with it. Reading is an important step of becoming a writer. But what happens when you don’t enjoy reading anymore? What if reading starts to feel like a chore? 

More often than not, I hear three reading issues from writers:

  • I can’t read while I’m writing. I fear accidentally taking those author’s words and using them myself in my current WIP. 
  • I don’t have enough time to read and write. My schedule doesn’t allow me to sit down and do both, so I have to skip the reading part. 
  • I don’t enjoy reading anymore. All I do is compare my work to theirs and/or I see tropes/mistakes/what’s coming rather than enjoy the moment.  

Sound like you? I’ve certainly been here before. The one that bit me the hardest was the last one. I used to get in such a writing headspace that I felt like I was studying every book I was reading rather than sitting back and enjoying the story. Eventually, I realized that I had to consciously set aside my writing brain and invite my reading one in. But more on that below! 

Combining reading with a beautiful place doesn’t hurt either!

If you’re the kind of writer that struggles with reading, here’s some quick tips:

  • Try reading in a different medium: I love audiobooks. They are absolutely perfect when it comes to my schedule, because I can read while driving, cooking, or doing other chores. They also give me a chance to rest my eyes and hands, which often get sore between my day job and writing. I’ve personally found audiobooks to help with separating reading from writing. My writing brain is easier to turn off when I’m listening to an audiobook because I don’t write in that same format. This required some lifestyle adjustments, though. In fact, I deleted all writing advice podcasts from my phone, so that I would stop associating audio with advice. Audio is now solely a place for joy—not advice—and making sure I honor that has helped my brain stay in that happy place for longer. 
  • Try reading a genre or age category that you don’t write: This is a good fit for those of you who fear accidentally taking something from a book you’re currently reading and putting it into your own words. If you’re reading a different genre/age category, it will feel more separated than if you’re reading something along similar lines. It may also help with the comparison bug. (It’s harder to compare your work to someone else’s when they are so vastly different.) 
  • Embrace how you’re feeling: What you’re feeling is perfectly normal. I find the writers who fight these feelings are the writers who struggle with it the most. I know, because I was one of these people for a long time. I often had to find ways to beat back the comparison bug. For instance, whenever I was reading something amazing and I started to think “I’ll never be able to write like this”, I would immediately flip to the back of the book. There, I would read the Acknowledgements page and read the growing list of people who helped that author get their story to where it is today. This was a factual reminder that my WIP was still a WIP; this book was a story dozens of people had helped shape. Seeing that almost always made me feel better. So yes, embrace what you’re feeling. Ask yourself why. Then tackle it. Once you do, you’ll find a solution. 

There are lots of ways to tackle reading and bring back the joy if you’re struggling. For instance, if I read something I admired—be it a trope, scene, or even a word—I would write it down. That way, I was acknowledging something my writer brain loved, but also took a note to deal with it on another day. At the end of reading, I’ll come back and analyze it.

It may take some experimenting, and you may experience hiccups along the way, but never give up on your love for reading. So many of us started writing because of reading. In fact, if you remember those old favorites that inspired you, I would encourage you to pick them up again. Enjoy that experience again. Remind yourself why you love the written word, and I’m sure you’ll be reading again in no time!

Do you have any reading tricks or tips? Feel free to share them with me! 

~SAT

P.S. Wednesday, June 23 is my 30th birthday! Where has time gone?!

Writing Tips

Why I Don’t Have a Publication Coming Out This Year

If you’ve been following my publication journey over the past few years, then some of you have probably already guessed that I don’t have a book coming out this year. Usually, you’re not supposed to admit these sorts of trials as an author, but I like to be transparent because I wish more authors were transparent when I was an aspiring author (and I wish more industry professionals would stop frowning upon us sharing these experiences). Alas, being transparent about struggles helps others know they are not alone, and to me, that is important, so I wanted to share my story about going unpublished for the first time since 2012.

There were quite a few factors.

1. I got really sick last year.

Like really, really sick. I danced on the line of homebound more days than not, and to be perfectly honest, I’m still going through treatments with specialists to get better. That’s all I really want to say about that topic, but I’m hopeful that my health will continue to get better and return soon.

Despite being more or less homebound, I was working three part-time jobs from home. Two to pay regular bills and another one to pay off medical bills. Trying to keep up with all of that while trying to get better was too stressful to handle most days. Basically, being sick wasn’t something I could predict on my busy calendar. Scheduling time to write was an impossible, if not laughable, idea at the time.

Sometimes life gets in the way of your responsibilities, let alone dreams, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up the dream.

I still wrote when I could, even though my writing time was dwindled down to a miniscule amount, and I tried not to be too hard on myself when I stared at the number of words (or lack thereof) I was completing any given week.

I am happy that I still managed to finish one novel, a half-novel, and outline a few others. Which brings me to the steps after writing.

2. Choosing Between Opportunities & Taking Risks

About a year ago, I decided I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to write new genres and explore types of publication I haven’t considered before, and so I did.

I only had so much time to write, so I had to take chances on what I wanted to invest my time in. This often meant choosing between an opportunity that was 99% likely to work out that I felt comfortable in or an opportunity that was 10% likely to work out but I truly, truly wanted. I decided to go for it and tackle the opportunities that scared the hell out of me, the ones that I knew were less likely to work out than not, but also the opportunities that would challenge me and push me to push myself to learn new and exciting skills. In the end, those investments didn’t end with a publishing deal, but they did end with new lessons learned. At least I tried. And I have four great books sitting on my laptop that might one day see the light of day. 

I am proud that I submitted a lot. I am excited that I tried new things. I am trying.

Nothing is going to stop me from trying again this year, or next year, or the year after that.  

But there is disappointment. 

3. So How Does One Cope? 

One thing I try to stress to new writers is that publishing has many, many ups and downs. You’ll have years where everything seems to fall into your lap and years where you feel like you’re falling off every mountain you’ve climbed. (Okay. So my metaphors are awful in this piece, but you get it.) Just because one door opens up for you doesn’t mean that all the doors after that will open in unison. It doesn’t even guarantee that the doors you’ve already opened will stay open. Writing a great book doesn’t guarantee an agent. Getting an agent doesn’t guarantee a book deal. A book deal doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get another book published. And so on. Writing is a business, and you have to keep working every day. There is no finish line, but you can keep running. (All right, I’ll stop with the metaphors.)

Basically, coping is important. Staying energized is important. Focusing on the positive but understanding the negative is also important.

Try to remember you are a person, not a writing machine.

Despite all this…

I can’t help but feel like I’m letting down my readers, but I also hope my readers understand that I am trying my hardest to follow the right path, and finding my footing on this new path might take a long time.

Heck, I might not even be on the right path, but I won’t know until I try.

Is it scary? Absolutely. Could it be a massive mistake? Sure it could. But what is art without risk? What is pursuing your dreams without exploring possibilities?

I have no clue when or if I will be published again, but I still love writing, and I am determined to share my words with world again one day. I hope that if you’re struggling with what I’m struggling with that you know you’re not alone and we can share our disappointments/frustrations/confusion just as much as we share our successes. No one’s path is paved in publishing. Every journey is different, but we can at least celebrate that fact.

So let’s keep writing,

~SAT

Writing Tips

Writing in a New Genre

Maybe you hit a slump with your usual genre. Maybe you’re feeling the urge to explore. Maybe you just want to. Sometimes, authors want to write in a genre they’ve never written in before, but they don’t know where to start. Well, that’s what I’m here for. In fact, I recently went through this myself, so today I’m sharing three tips and a little story about what I learned from this attempt. I hope it helps you explore a new genre!

1. Ask Yourself Why

First and foremost, I truly believe every author should ask themselves why they want to write the project they are currently sitting down to write. Why? Because being honest with yourself might save you some heartache. If you’re chasing a trend, you might find your passion burns out rather quickly (or when the trend passes…because it will, probably before you finish your first draft). This will make you feel like you wasted your time and energy, even if you did technically learn from it. So…take a step back before you sit down to write. Why are writing this book? Why are you writing in this genre? Are you following trends? Are you the best person to tell it? What is the main reason for switching genres: the story, the genre, the characters, the challenge, etc.? What drives you the most is up to you. Knowing why you’re writing it and what your goals are for it will help you stay focused.

Isn’t it fun to discover a new genre?

2. Read the Genre

If you’re not reading, you don’t have the tools to write. I know, I know. There are so many people who loathe that rule, but it’s true. Reading within and outside of your genre helps you see what has been done before, what is expected, and where you can succeed. Have you read widely in this genre? Have you seen gaps that need to be filled? Do you understand your reader’s expectations? What about successful tropes or overused ones? Read, read, read. You will love it. And if you don’t enjoy reading it, then you probably won’t enjoy writing it. Find the genre where you feel at home.

3. Research the Genre

This is a step I’m not sure many consider, but researching the history of your genre can give you excellent insight. You’ll come across controversies, learn how it correlated with history, and watch it expand into what it has become today. By knowing this, you might be inspired by the greats or see where the shape of your genre is most likely headed. Rather than chasing trends as they pop up, this might help you walk down an educated path of where that trend might pop before it ever happens…and you’ll have your book written, rather than scrambling to finish something. Again, this isn’t about chasing trends, but rather—at a fundamental level—knowing what needs to be done next in order to fulfill readers’ wants/needs/desires ahead of time. Make sure to check out writing blogs. Look up your favorite authors in that genre and see if they offer writing tips in interviews or elsewhere. They’ve already written this genre and made mistakes, so listen to their lessons ahead of time. You might still make the same mistakes, but at least you’ll recognize it for what it is and move on to the next step. Let knowledge guide your passion.

As an example, I generally read and write YA SFF, but last year, I set out to write my first historical. I still haven’t finished. It’s been SUPER hard, much harder than I anticipated, but I set out knowing I wanted to learn first and worry about publication later (if I ever pursue publication with it at all).

I began by reading all the historical fiction I could get my hands on. (I already read historical fiction, but I pushed to read more.) I tried different sub-genres and time periods and styles. In between books, I researched my time period thoroughly. I took notes. I researched again. I took MORE notes. I visited libraries and museums. I took notes again. I organized. Then, I began to write. Funny enough, even though I thought I had all the notes I needed to write, it became quite clear the moment I sat down that historical fiction demanded more than I expected and totally different tools than SFF. I made mistakes. I backtracked. I set it down. I came back to it. I wrote again. I took it to my beta readers. I deleted over half of it. I started over. I continued to write. Most recently, I’ve set it down again. But I still love it. And I don’t feel like I wasted a second of my time.

In the end, I was passionate about the tale. I was willing to learn and make mistakes. I still haven’t finished the novel, as it was my first attempt, but I believe in the story. I might pick it back up. I might not. But I believe in trying new genres and following your heart and challenging your art. Just don’t let bumps in the road convince you that you’re failing. You are trying. You are learning. And that’s something to be proud of.

Every author in the world had to write in their genre for the first time.

Why can’t this be your first leap toward success?

~SAT

Writing Tips

NA or YA? College-Aged Protagonists

If you live on Twitter like me, then you probably saw last week’s discussion on college-aged protagonists in young adult fiction. Many were calling for it. Others pushed back. Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle.

I desperately want college-aged protagonists, but I want them placed in NA, and I want NA to rise up on its own as an age category full of various genres.

Why?

Fun fact: I graduated high school in 2009. I graduated from the University of Kansas in 2013.

1. The Teens I’ve Listened To:

When I sign books at Barnes and Noble, specifically for BFest (a teen festival), I get to speak with a lot of teens. And I listen. I listen a lot.

Teens are already telling me that they feel left out of YA fiction. They ask me for sweeter, funnier, feel-good stories about friendship and finding your place in the world. Many tell me they’ve stopped buying YA altogether (opting out for fan fiction online) because YA feels too dark, too violent, too sexy for them.

Where are the sweet, just-for-fun road trips? Summer camp stories? Where are the books about friends? Not everything has to be a twisted romance filled with fighting to the death over a crown. (Not hating on those. In fact, I love them. But you know what I mean.)

By adding college-aged protagonists to YA, I fear that YA will only be aged up even more. It will get darker, with more violence and more sex. And that’s fine if teens want to read that. But there is a large portion of young teens that don’t want that, and we’re ignoring them.

Basically, I feel like we’re failing younger teens, and they need to be prioritized when it comes to YA.

2. We Need to Embrace NA

New Adult is a long-existing category. It isn’t new. But unfortunately it carries the stigma of erotica-only. Not that erotica is bad. (I work as an editor, and many of my clients are erotic authors, and I LOVE them. They SLAY.) But if a consumer base thinks that’s the only plot that exists within NA, then NA will turn those away who don’t want erotica. It will also set up those who want erotica to be disappointed if they buy a book in that age category when it’s clean. NA should be full of space pirates and sweet romances and twisty heists, with and without the X rating. But it isn’t right now. And that’s our fault. I understand that we’ve tried to expand NA before, but we need to try again. There’s no reason it should be for only romance. And now that there are more people pushing for NA, I think this is an optimal time to use our fan bases to spread the word about the age category and all the potential it holds.

3. Libraries/Families and How They Work 

Cycling back to the sweet stories in YA and non-erotic NA. They are out there, but they aren’t being prioritized on the shelves. Personally, I see younger YA and non-romance NA in the indie industry, but the indie industry is not as accessible. Libraries often chose what to carry from publishers’ catalogs, which automatically discount self-published or small press books. If they go to the edges of publishing, libraries still want books that have been reviewed by recognized editorials, and those editorials? They generally favor traditionally published novels. At my library, they carry very few indie titles, even when I put in requests. So while there are sweeter YA and non-erotic NA, libraries, schools, etc. might not have access to those, which is why I think pushing college-aged protags into YA wouldn’t be fair to young readers in particular. Also, Teen Librarian Toolbox has a fantastic thread on how families will chose reads for teens, why libraries label books the way they do, and how labeling college-aged teens as YA could negatively impact shelves. She also explains why YA was a wrong term to begin with in the first place. Definitely worth the read.

https://twitter.com/TLT16/status/954698350783356929

So what age category are you in if you write college-aged protagonists?

That depends on three things:

1. Voice: A lot of YA books have literary prose (Like “The Reader” by Tracy Chee), but if your book is written in the style of George R.R. Martin, you’re probably leaning more towards adult rather than young adult, even if your character is nineteen. An example: “Don’t You Cry” by Mary Kubica follows a college-aged woman dealing with her roommate acting very very strangely, but the voice isn’t YA. If NA was a thing, I would put it there, but since NA is still struggling, I personally think it leans more toward adult. Voice expectations are something you’ll pick up on by reading within your genre and age category.

2. Themes: Even the agents/publishers calling for college-aged protagonists in YA were clear on one thing: it still had to feel coming-of-age. If your book has a nineteen-year-old protagonist, but they are pretty settled into their life, then you’re probably looking elsewhere. In this case, think college-aged protags struggling to leave home, trying to find independence, a place between home and ultimate adulthood. However, this is largely going to depend on how YA and NA swing in the coming months.

3. Who you are submitting to: Always, always read submission guidelines and research agents/editors/publishers thoroughly. What works for one might not work for another, especially in this case. One agent might think a college-aged protag is YA as long as it features coming-of-age themes, while another might think you have no idea what you’re doing if you query them a YA novel with a nineteen-year-old protagonist. Adjust accordingly. Find a good, professional fit for you and your work.

In the end, everything is just a label, and labels can change overnight. In fact, this whole article is my little, humble opinion. Nothing more than that. And, honestly, my opinion could change.

Still, my best piece of advice has never changed: Read a lot. Write what you’re passionate about. Research thoroughly. Stay up-to-date on the latest news and shifts in the industry. Make friends. And you’ll be just fine.

~SAT

Miscellaneous

Can Genres Die?

“Why are you writing a vampire/dystopian/princess novel? That won’t sell today! It’s been overdone. It’s dead.”

If you’re a writer, you’ve probably participated in a conversation similar to the one above. Trends have a lot to do with the publishing industry. If you’re lucky enough to have something written and ready to go as the trend is escalating, chances are you’ll have an easier time getting published than if you were pitching a genre that previously trended. Why? Because business has a lot to do with timing, and writing is a business. When a topic is hot, similar books will follow. And after the market is flooded with said genre, it’ll be harder to get that chance again. That is an inevitable fact.

But do genres die?

Some would say yes. Some would SCREAM yes. But I would disagree. Granted, will it be harder to get your book published if it follows an old trend, such as vampires or dystopia? Absolutely. But if your book is truly unique—if it stands out from what was previous done—your writing can rise to the top, whether or not the genre is “dead.”

Take RoseBlood by A.G. Howard for example. It was published this year, and it more or less had vampires in it. (I don’t want to mention specifics, because spoilers…but check it out.) Despite following a lot of tropes (new girl goes to a new school where paranormal, romantic interest waits…because fate), the book stood out, because it twisted those tropes into something new. Instead of blood-sucking nocturnal Draculas, readers met…well, again, you probably have to read it for yourself. But it was unique.

Not that I have anything against blood-sucking nocturnal Dracula vampires…I actually might miss them.

Genres work a lot like tropes. Some readers will pick them up solely because that’s what they love. They will read those stories over and over and over again, and they will never tire of them. For instance, I will always love a good dystopian book. But if you shove me in an arena with a braided archer who wants to take down the government…I mean, come on. There are a million ways a society could be dystopian and a million ways a government can fall. It’s blatant repetition that causes readers and publishers alike to flinch away and claim something is “dead.” But it’s not dead. It’s just…boring. And it’s boring, because it’s predictable.

If you’re a writer and wondering how you can surpass your “dead” genre, consider what is unique about your work and amplify the hell out of it. Whether that’s your voice, viewpoint, twists, or expertise, pinpoint why this story stands out. (And if you can’t, reevaluate your work.) This is why reading the genre you’re writing in is so important. By doing that, you will know what is overdone, and you will be able to avoid it (or, at least, make your version stand out). And never stop writing just because something is “dead.” If writers made decisions based on that, writers would never write anything, because—let’s be real—everything’s been done to an extent. Don’t let trends or rumors or “dead ends” stop you. Write what you want to write, trends be damned. Your voice will thrive, and your stories will thank you for it.

I’m not going to lie though. If you wrote a novel about a vampire princess surviving in a dystopian world, I would die to read it.

~SAT

Writing Tips

#WW When You Shouldn’t Write That Book

There comes a time in every writer’s life when they realize they cannot write that book….and I’m not talking about writer’s block. I’m talking about when you want to write a book, but you know you shouldn’t. Maybe not yet. Maybe never.

Of course, I’m not saying a writer CAN’T write that book. Not forever anyway. But just like a construction project, certain books require particular tools, and if you don’t have those tools, building anything might be for naught…or even dangerous.

So here are three questions to ask yourself while deciding if you are ready to write that novel or not.

1. Have You Researched EVERYTHING Properly?

This is particularly true in historical fiction, but research shouldn’t be overlooked for any type of fiction. This means you are researching your setting, your themes, and your characters thoroughly. If you are writing anything outside of your personal experiences—which is more likely than not—it’s best to read articles, watch documentaries, and even talk to those who do have those personal experiences you’re lacking. If you haven’t done this, you most likely don’t know enough to write about certain topics and people from a respectful and knowledgeable place. You might even add to damaging stereotypes or incorrect presumptions. Take the time to get to know your novel’s needs…as well as your audience’s.

2. Have You Read This Genre?

You should be reading in and outside of any genre you want to write in, but you should definitely be familiar with trends in your market. Being able to recognize writers, publishers, and various novels is key to understanding your audience and what purpose your book serves. What does it add to the market? What does it give to your readers? If you’re unsure where your book would be on a shelf, you’re probably not ready yet. But don’t worry! All you have to do is read more. (And who doesn’t love reading?) I went through this myself recently. As someone who mainly reads and writes YA fantasy, I wanted to tackle a contemporary novel when I wasn’t fully equipped to do so. Though I read contemporary still, I knew almost immediately that I wasn’t familiar enough with the current shelf to proceed. I need to collect more tools. I need to read more. And I am.

Who doesn't love an extra excuse to read more?
Who doesn’t love an extra excuse to read more?

3. Why Are YOU The Right Person to Write This Book?

Listen, I’m not here to tell someone if they are the right person to write a book or not. That’s between the author, their book, and the creative process. But I honestly believe we can get to a moment where we realize a book—while it’s good—might be better for someone else to write. This is going to vary from person to person, and it ultimately weighs on how much you are willing to dedicate yourself to a story. If you’re hesitating to research, for instance, you’re probably the wrong person for that book. That doesn’t mean you can’t overcome obstacles or hurdles in your way, but it’s also okay to move on from something you realize isn’t right for you. If you’re on the fence—and you’re unsure how you’re feeling about this topic—one question you can ask yourself is WHY you’re even writing it. Seems obvious enough, but when you take a step back, you might see that you were, in fact, chasing a trend or a surface idea without the will to dive deeper. That’s okay. There are a million stories out there for you to write, and I’m sure you already have plenty more to chase. It’s a matter of figuring out which one feels right to you.

When you should write a book, it will come to you.

Enjoy the adventure,

~SAT

Read my latest interview on Crazy Beautiful Reads: “Every writer’s life is paved with rejections.” Comment for your chance to win some awesome books!

It’s official! Author Natasha Hanova will be sharing a table with me at Penned Con in St. Louis this September! Check her out, say hi, tell her I sent you, and come visit us in September. We’ll be signing books, talking books, and just having a great ol’ time.

*FREE BOOK ALERT*

Bad Bloods: November Rain is FREE!

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Bad Bloods: November Rain
Bad Bloods: November Rain

Writing Tips

#WW Connecting Books Across Genres

I’m a young adult author who writes in various genres. I have contemporary, paranormal romance, fantasy, and science fiction published, but my two main series include a Dark vs. Light paranormal romance that takes place in the small Midwest town of Hayworth—The Timely Death Trilogy—and a science fiction duology—Bad Bloods—about children with hindering abilities fighting against an election that decides if they will continue to be executed or not. While The Timely Death Trilogy takes place in modern Kansas, Bad Bloods takes place in an undisclosed southern city bordered by the ocean and locked in by walls in the year 2089. Despite having different locations, time periods, and genres, these series are connected.

What? How?

Well, let me tell you without spoiling it for you: the characters.

If you read The Timely Death Trilogy and you also read the Bad Bloods Prequel (FREE on Wattpad), you will get to know a little girl named Violet. She is the key to the connection. But that’s all I’ll say for now.

Why did I connect these two, seemingly unrelated stories? Because they ARE related, and they always have been in my mind. I mean, they existed in my mind at the same time, after all. And so do all of my stories. Which, basically means I connect all of my novels in some way or another.

Consider it a wink to all those readers who follow every book by an author.

My books I'm discussing, The Timely Death Trilogy and Bad Bloods
My books I’m discussing, The Timely Death Trilogy and Bad Bloods

But how do I do this?

I’m not sure there’s a method, necessarily. I always tell aspiring writers to follow their gut, and this is often why. For instance, I definitely don’t know every book I will write in my life time, but by keeping my mind and heart open to the characters (and honest), I guarantee they’ll reveal a weird twist of how they got to know each other while hanging out in my mind space.

As an example? Many readers were dying for a continuation of The Timely Death Trilogy (or a happily ever after epilogue), but the truth of it was, whenever I attempted to tackle a shiny, pretty ending, I only saw my characters lives becoming more and more complicated as they grew older. (A reality, really.) And while I wanted to leave everyone on a happy note, Violet’s character in Bad Bloods is so powerful to The Timely Death Trilogy, I couldn’t deny what she wanted to say: the truth. And that truth became the connection, and to me, these connections remind us an important truth to every story.

Connecting books across genres shows that a character’s story never ends, even when the pages do.

~SAT

I have new author photos! Check out my right side tool bar to see it, and of course, special thanks to Huntress Photography!

My publisher is also hosting an August Back to School Giveaway! You can win a $25 gift card to Amazon, CTP mystery boxes, November Snow, and many other books!

Bad Bloods: November Rain

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Bad Bloods: November Snow! 

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Bad Bloods: November Snow
Bad Bloods: November Snow

Writing Tips

#MondayBlogs: Writing Tips for a Trilogy or Series

So, you have an idea for a trilogy or series. Awesome! Writing a series can be a lot of fun. I mean, who doesn’t want to spend more time with their characters and worlds? But many aspiring writers aren’t sure where to start, and writing a series is a lot of work. With these three steps, though, it might be a little easier than you think.

1. Determine the arc for the series—and each book

This step is important for your series whether or not your books will be standalones or need to be read in order. Each book should have an arc (and don’t forget that every character in your series should have an arc, too). On top of that, your overall series should have an arc. This means each book is building up to something by itself and working together to build up to something bigger. One easy way to do this is to consider your “sub-genre.” Maybe your first book of your paranormal romance trilogy will be a mystery (Who is the villain?), while your second book will be a thriller (We have to run from the villain!) and your last book will be your adventure (We have to go after the villain!). This method ensures each book brings something new to the series, while also working through an overall arc (in the example’s case, defeating the villain). Again, this is only one method, but you can mix and match to study your series and determine if you are keeping your books fresh and exciting but also unified.

Writing Tips for a Trilogy or Series
Writing Tips for a Trilogy or Series

2.  Keep Notes

Consistency is SO important. You might think you know your characters from top to bottom, but chances are, you don’t. We’re only human. We can only remember so much, and as your cast grows and changes, it gets harder and harder to remember every little detail. That being said, you must remain consistent throughout each book. You wouldn’t want a side character who is allergic to chocolate in book one to eat chocolate ice cream in book five. Same goes for scenes. If you’ve said a door was to the right, it better be to the right in the other books, too. Personally, I keep a file on places and characters, and I create an overall timeline. What’s a timeline? This tracks years before and during the books. This means if I have a character who says she broke her leg at five years old in book one, she says she was five in book three, not nine. Another file I keep is a summary of what was told to each character in previous chapters so I know what my characters know from scene to scene. It seems easy to remember, and it might be for some, but sometimes, we have to go work on something else or step away for a few months, and it can be hard to remember when you return. Keeping notes is never a bad idea.

3. Be Open

Writing a series is hard, even with a plan. But don’t fret! We all know that writers aren’t completely in charge of their characters, worlds, or ideas. Sometimes, the protagonist throws a curve ball, and everything changes. That’s okay! Think of writing a series like a road trip: You know where you’re starting, you probably know where it’s going to end, and you might have places you want to visit in between. But there might be some surprises along the way. Embrace them, and keep going. That’s where the fun is. And don’t give up! Following your dream is worth it, even if you have to rewrite that dream a couple of times along the way.

Original posted September 5, 2013

In this article, I discuss lessons I learned while writing my first two trilogies.

~SAT

A new review came in for November Snow! “Truly, Thompson has done an incredible job here of story weaving. Just wonderful. Don’t underestimate your need for tissues here people, don’t do it. Prepare yourself with tissues and a cuddly stuffed animal.” – Babbling Books (Seriously, listen to her advice. Tissues will come in handy.)

Catelyn's Story on Wattpad

Catelyn’s Story on Wattpad

This week, Catelyn’s Story released on the FREE Bad Bloods Prequel on Wattpad. This is also the first origin story seen from the Southern Flock’s perspective. They formed later than the Northern Flock, so from now on, you’ll see stories flip back and forth between the two flocks. If you ever wondered why the groups of bad bloods are called flocks, this origin story explains why! In Bad Bloods, Catelyn is Serena’s best friend. Here is a preview: The girl was pretty enough for plenty of crimes. Read her story by clicking the link.

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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