Everything Everything book review

IMG_6288EVERYTHING EVERYTHING by Nicola Yoon was a book I kept seeing around Instagram, and honestly picked up once I saw the trailer for the movie (don’t hate). While I love YA, I’m not always a huge YA Contemporary person. I have had my moments with John Green and other authors and loved them, but overall I will admit I tend to stick with Historical Fiction the most.

However, one must always branch out. And I’ve made it a goal to do that more and more this year.

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

I loved the creativity that went into this book. All of Madeline’s drawings, diagrams, lists, etc– it adds so much to the book. I love books in any genre that take everything one step farther, and I really think this book did that.

The only negative thing I thought during my time with this book was how realistic some of it was. Of course that’s the fun of fiction, but books like these you have to wonder and question certain aspects of it all. Not saying things/situations aren’t possible, just saying I couldn’t decide how believable it was to me- even in moments I was immersed in the story.

No spoilers, but there was a twist that I was not expecting. And my goodness how it made my heart throb/break/beat. See what I did there? Now you hopefully don’t know what kind of twist it is!

I would suggest reading this before the movie (May 19) if possible. You won’t regret it!

own the word: you are an author

imageI used to say I was “just a writer.” That I “just write.”

Whenever someone would call me an author, I would humbly respond, “I’m just a writer. I haven’t been published.”

Somewhere in my mind was this idea that I wasn’t a true author until my book was published. Not until I could see it on Amazon or a shelf at Barnes and Noble. Only then would I be a real author.

Not before. Not now.

Right now, I just write and dream of being an author. I’m an aspiring author.

But what does aspiring mean?

aspire

to long, aim, or seek ambitiously; be eagerly desirous, especially for something great or of high value.

Do I long, aim or seek to be an author?

author

person who writes a novel, poem, or essay; the composer of a literary work….

Well, according to those definitions–no. I don’t aspire to be an author.

I AM an author.

If you ask if I’m a person who longs, aims, and seeks to write a novel, poem, or essay, that’s wrong.

I’ve already done that.

I’ve already written a novel. I’ve written two, actually, and I’m working on a third. I’ve already developed the words and sentences and chapters and characters and everything that goes into the literary work.

So, I am not “just a writer.”

(In fact, according to the dictionary, there isn’t a difference. A writer is an author. They can be simultaneous. If someone is in the business of writing books, he or she is an author.)

It doesn’t matter if you haven’t been published. It doesn’t matter if you’re only halfway, or a third, or a fourth of the way through a piece of work.

YOU are an author.
You have come up with a beautiful, new idea. You are writing that idea. You are slaving away over every word choice, every twist and turn. You are getting to know your characters and bringing them to life. You are breathing the story in and out so others can one day do the same.

You ARE an author.
If you have queried a book that has been rejected countless times or you got an agent on your first try, you are an author. If you have gone on rounds and rounds of submissions, only to have to turn to another project, you are an author. If you have self-published and gone through the hard work of promoting your own story, you are an author.

You are an AUTHOR.
You have created a story, a life, a world out of nothing but words and your imagination. You have stayed up countless nights, lived off of coffee alone, and missed opportunities to make a deadline. You have sacrificed favorite characters or storylines for the sake of your art and stuck to your guns when you weren’t willing to sacrifice your hard work.

When you say you’re an aspiring author or you’re just a writer, you are saying that you are TRYING to be something, or you are MERELY something.

Don’t belittle yourself. Enough people are going to try to do that for you as time progresses.

YOU ARE AN AUTHOR.
Own it. Be it. Write it.

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Get your “own the word” tee in pink, blue, yellow, or purple ombre. Available in various styles and colors!

This post was originally posted on Stark Contrast Editing‘s blog and has also been featured on Golden Wheat Literary‘s blog.

 

Originally posted May 2016. 

Dream Eater book review

IMG_5575Happy book birthday to K. Bird Lincoln’s Dream Eater! I did a cover reveal for this book a few months ago, hosted a post from the very author, and now I finally get to share my review with y’all!

Koi Pierce dreams other peoples’ dreams.

Her whole life she’s avoided other people. Any skin-to-skin contact–a hug from her sister, the hand of a barista at Stumptown coffee–transfers flashes of that person’s most intense dreams. It’s enough to make anyone a hermit.

But Koi’s getting her act together. No matter what, this time she’s going to finish her degree at Portland Community College and get a real life. Of course it’s not going to be that easy. Her father, increasingly disturbed from Altzheimer’s disease, a dream fragment of a dead girl from the casual brush of a creepy PCC professor’s hand, and a mysterious stranger who speaks the same rare Northern Japanese dialect as Koi’s father will force Koi to learn to trust in the help of others, as well as face the truth about herself.

I read through this book pretty quickly when I received it. I was very excited about the Japanese folklore inside, as I have little to no knowledge of it and was eager to learn and explore alongside the characters. Koi quickly drew me in with her hermit-like tendencies and desire to not touch anyone. It was easy to get sucked into what was going on, fast.

Kept entertained through the book, I only had trouble following sometimes as it was hard to figure out what was going on with Koi and the dream fragments from time to time. Once more, I also really wanted more character development from her sister, her father, and even Koi herself. Thankfully I know this is the first in a series, so I’m hoping more comes to life through more books!

My favorite part of this book was the descriptiveness. It was so easy to see Koi, the other characters, and the surroundings.

As Koi drew closer to accepting who she was and interacting more with those around her, it grew harder and harder for me to put the book down. Needless to say, I will definitely be looking forward to the rest of the series!

 

writing for quality over quantity: beware of the dreaded word count

IMG_4939These days, every genre has its requirements/preferences.

Adult Novels can be up around 80k, sometimes higher.

YA it’s good to be between 55k-80k.

PB you shoot for 28-32 pages, keeping it below 1,000 words so it doesn’t seem too long.

MG is safe between 20k-55k, depending on subject matter.

(Thanks for the info, Writer’s Digest!)

But the truth of the matter is, focusing on word count while you’re writing can throw off your groove. You’re afraid to add that subplot that the book needs because it will push you over that high number of word count. Or, you’re book is a little shorter and you’re worried that will scare away agents/editors/publishers. Whatever it is- it’s hard not to think about the word count.

So how do you do it? How do you write, submit, edit (and so forth) without worrying about the end number of words that will be sitting at the bottom of your word document?

Remember it will CHANGE

Word counts change with every draft, every edit, every time you sit down to look at your masterpiece. This is why it’s so important to have writing counterparts- your critical readers and writing buddies and critique partners and editors and fellow writers. If you do it all on your own, then your work is more than likely never going to be as good as it can be.

Keep exceptions in mind 

Books push boundaries. As readers and writers this is good to keep in mind. I’m not saying that you should be like Ulysses and have your opening sentence being pages and pages long, but it’s good to keep in mind that there are always authors who can push those boundaries/limits/suggestions and do it well. Maybe your MG is a little long, and it worries you– but it is all together and beautifully rafted. Don’t worry. Either someone will love it, or someone will help you tender it to the right word-length.

Just keep WRITING

Goodness knows that if you focused on everything that could go wrong, or everything that is wrong, or everything that you NEED to do to get your novel there– it would never be written. My first book I was so concerned with the chapters being the same amount of pages that it almost kept me from writing certain scenes, and almost made me write in things that weren’t needed. In fact, if you ask my editor, she’ll tell you these things were there in the first draft. Because I was SO worried about hitting a certain amount of words, that I lost track of what I was really writing.

As always, my final suggestion is to just keep going. Write what you have in mind, and then whether you need to add or cut- it’s going to be alllllll right.

All The Missing Girls book review

17308699_435957483418193_4427007164832455838_nI picked up this book of the recommendation of my agent, and I’m not sorry at all. I absolutely love crime/mystery/thrillers, although I don’t read them as often as I did in the days of Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie (when I was younger). This book took me a minute to stick with it, but once it started tugging with clues and suspicion, I could not stop!

It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.

Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago.

Like nothing you’ve ever read before, All the Missing Girls delivers in all the right ways. With twists and turns that lead down dark alleys and dead ends, you may think you’re walking a familiar path, but then Megan Miranda turns it all  down and inside out and leaves us wondering just how far we would be willing to go to protect those we love

I loved that this book was written “backwards.” At first I wasn’t sure. I thought, how is this going to work? But once I got pulled into it, it was such a cool way to read. When you got to earlier chapters, things continued to make more and more sense as the mystery unfolded. Not only that, but things from earlier in the book, but later in the timeline, became clearer, hoping me draw conclusions and call the killer.

Just so we’re clear, I’m pretty sure no one can guess the ending of this book. That’s why you should read it!

I gave it four stars on Goodreads, mostly because there were some parts where I wasn’t really sure it was helping the story, but overall this book was so worth the read. More than worth the read.

Go get it!

trackback thursday: remember the Alamo

 

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photo credit: history.com

On March 6, 1836 For Alamo fell to Mexican troops after a siege that lasted around thirteen days.

The bravery and resistance of those at the Alamo made for the rallying cry, “Remember the Alamo!” The Texans went on to defeat General Santa Anna in the Battle of San Jacinto in April.

Many months before this, Texans had driven Mexican troops out of Mexican Texas. About 100 Texans were garrisoned at the Alamo, and the forces only grew slightly when joined by co-commanders James Bowie and William B. Travis. On February 23rd, around 1500 Mexicans marched to retake Texas.

Over the next ten days, the armies engaged in many skirmishes with few casualties. Travis was aware that his men could not withstand an attack by such a large force; he wrote multiple letters pleading for more men and supplies, but they were reinforced by fewer than 100 men.

In the early morning hours of March 6th, the Mexican Army advanced on the Alamo. After repelling two attacks, the Texans were unable to fend the Mexican Army off a third time.

“Remember the Alamo” created two sparks: a rush of men, wishing to join the Texan army, and a panic that led to many soldiers and settlers fled the new Republic of Texas, away from the advancing Mexican Army.

 

Honestly, when I think of the Alamo, I think of the movie that came out years ago… 2004… with Dennis Quaid and Billy Bob Thornton. I know, kind of pathetic. But it’s one place I would love to visit! Raise your hand (or leave a comment) if you’ve been there.

REMEMBER THE ALAMO!

 

damaged goods by jennifer bardsley, a book review

IMG_0637If you haven’t read Genesis Girl, the first book in the BLANK SLATE set– stop right now, and go read it.

After you’ve done that (and I don’t think it will take you long, because it consumes you until you’re finished), you can come back and read this review about the second book of BLANK SLATE.

Here’s what Goodreads has to say about Damaged Goods:

Blanca has everything she ever wanted, a hot boyfriend and the loving support of her foster father. She’s finally escaped the abusive control of her birth father and her tortured childhood at Tabula Rasa School.

But the scars of Blanca’s Vestal upbringing run deep, especially when the FBI start asking questions.

Blanca feels abandoned by her boyfriend, who is hunting for Lilith, Blanca’s only blood relative. The Defectos, a support group of Vestal-Rejects, offer Blanca comfort which she readily accepts.

While the Vestal order crumbles, Chinese rivals, the Guardians, rise to power and wrest control of important Tabula Rasa contacts. As Blanca’s life is thrown into chaos once more, she struggles to recognize friend from foe, and one miscalculation can have devastating consequences.

This sequel to Genesis Girl sucked me in, fast. Thanks to having a sick day, I read the majority of this book in one setting, and I’m so glad I got to do just that.

I loved the questions that were answered in this book, the ones we were left with after reading Genesis Girl, and I loved the twists and turns this sequel took us on. The twists, in the end, that were presented might have made me gasp out loud.

The biggest thing I love about both of these books is the big idea it presents with the Vestals. A community of kids being raised in a hunkered-down school that is technology free does not feel like it’s something too far off from our future. In fact, all the ideas that Bardsley presents gives a person pause, considering the technology age we live in today.

I love Blanca’s character and how she struggles with not wanting to be a brainwashed Vestal, but still hold true to the way she was raised without the burden of too much technology.

The only thing that left me a little puzzled were the questions we didn’t get answered in this book, which makes me hope/hanker for a third book.

If you haven’t read these books, I’m very serious: Go. Now.

guest post from author K. Bird Lincoln (author of “Tiger Lily” and “Dream Eater”) + giveaway

For those of you who don’t know, the cover reveal for K. Bird Lincoln’s Dream Eater happened just a month ago. This book is the first in a new series, and is released April 4th. I would highly suggest looking into it and preordering if you can! It was addicting, and I can’t wait for the next book. I will offer a review of Dream Eater come release day- April 4th!

While reading Dream Eater I was able to be put in touch with her and she kindly agreed to write a guest post for y’all! After all, you can read my advice all day long– but Ms. Lincoln is someone who has made it to that “final step” of releasing her words upon the world.

I won’t keep babbling. But don’t skip reading this– the giveaway details are at the end!

Find your own tricks to keep writing: how small children taught me I didn’t need three hours of uninterrupted quiet to write

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Author K. Bird Lincoln

By K. Bird Lincoln

Before I had my first daughter at age 30 I was a writer. A Writer. I had a desk in a quiet room, where I could look out the window at the San Francisco Bay. There was a ritual—stovetop latte from my Bialetti Mooka Express, soothing music, a quick check of email that often turned into an hour long session, and then several uninterrupted hours of writing.

Of course, I usually only managed like 800 words, but I was Writing. I was a Special Snowflake with delicate writer sensibilities and this was my artistic process.

Cue snort.

Then I had girl1 and for two, sleep-deprived years I pretty much lost all ability to write. My creative batteries were drained by the end of the day by tending to my daughter.

Somewhere in the tangled mess of diapers, wet bras, playdates, spilled sippy cups, and applesauce packs, I discovered I was Still. A Writer.

I just wasn’t writing. The stories were there, but nothing was getting on paper because people in real life don’t have two to three uninterrupted hours in which to light candles and listen to soothing music before they get down to work.

It was time to get brutally honest with myself. If I was going to be a Writer, I had to Write, no matter what. But first I had to figure out what my own, personal writing avoidance excuses were.

“No time”

“I can’t possibly meet word count goals every day because I don’t have time”

“There’s laundry to be done”

“It’s too hard to get my head in the right place for writing”

And then I began to trick and bribe myself.

I started to carry a small notebook around. I found there were 10 or 15 minutes I could wring out of the day. Times when girl1 was eating. Or playing with something safe. And as she got older, those 10 or 15 minutes were the times I was waiting to pick her up from preschool, or watching her at swim class in a steamy room, or right before she came home from school and I’d already done the laundry and had a snack out on the counter. Of course, things had to adjust when girl2 was born. The creative battery ran down for a few months. But I recovered my Writer identity more quickly after girl2 because I had experienced the tricks and the bribes. I was a Writer and that might go on hold, but it would never go completely away.

Girl1 is now 15 and girl2 is 12, and I could have two hours back in front of a computer in a quiet room with coffee and music. But you know what, oddly enough, it’s getting to Ballet early and sitting in the car for 15 minutes that I do most of my hardcore writing. If I have too much time, I tend to get ensnared by Facebook or updating my Amazon sales page or other writer-related stuff.

Being honest with myself about my writing avoidance behavior helped me to find ways to trick myself into writing.

No time” turned into “just write for 10 minutes.”

I can’t meet writing goals of 2000 a day” turned into “so reward yourself with the easy writing goal of 1000 a week, and anything over that is icing on the writing cake.”

There’s laundry to be done” turned into “okay, you have two minutes to put laundry in the machine, and then you have to sit down at the computer until you have written.”

It’s too hard to get my head in the right place for writing” turned into “stop whining.” And then I started making playlists of songs on Youtube that made me think of a character or an emotion I wanted to convey. Now when I sit down to write a particular novel I turn on the Youtube playlist and like one of Pavlov’s dogs, I start literally salivating…er…my brain is conditioned to jump right into that feeling or character. A few years ago I read an interview with YA fantasy/science fiction author Scott Westerfeld who said he prints out the last two pages of whatever he’s written and starts each writing session by editing/reading those last two pages.

Voila! No more need for candles or music or anything. Reading the last two pages somehow not only kicks my story juices into full gear, but also has the added benefit of being an initial editing, without the danger of getting sucked into the endless black hole of editing. There’s only two pages to edit, and then I have to create content

There’s also the fact that I don’t allow myself to buy lattes at Dunn Bros or Starbucks or Caribou Coffee unless I’m writing there or I walked there. Pure bribery, I know. But at the end of the day, I have several pieces of paper with scribbled dialogue on it that I didn’t have at the start.

But you have to be honest with yourself. What are your writing avoidance excuses? What kinds of bribes will get you to write?  Meanwhile, here are some tricks I’ve heard from other writers. Maybe one will work for you.

  • Daily word count instead of weekly—with strict no internet policy until its met
  • Writing with a timer on instead of word counts
  • Change your writing place. Go somewhere physically different to write.
  • Write the scenes you really want to write first to get yourself going, or alternatively, save the juicy scenes as a reward for after a certain word count
  • Use the voice recorder on your phone or ipad if carrying around a notebook doesn’t work for you in order to jot down ideas as they come.
  • Make yourself accountable to a writer (or non-writer) friend for word counts. Set up a mutual pledge to text or post about word counts with someone else so you’ll be shamed into doing it.

Sign up for K. Bird’s Sporadic Newsletter and get a free digital story or book!

Read K. Bird’s tasty fiction reviews on Goodreads

Check out random thoughts and Japanese recipes on her blog or writing news and book deals on Facebook

Listen to K. Bird sing Japanese lullabies or read free short stories on her webpage

Read “A beautifully-written genderbending tale of rebellious girls, shifting disguises, and forbidden magic, set against the vivid backdrop of ancient Japan.”—Tiger Lily, a historical fantasy novel set in an alternate medieval Japan available on Amazon.com.

Great advice from someone who has succeeded in reaching her dreams! Did you see that last little bit about reading her book Tiger Lily?

5162dw5dklLucky for you, she’s agreed to give one lucky reader a copy FOR FREE.

Enter HERE:  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway starts today and ends Monday, March 6, 2017 at midnight EST. Good luck!

trackback thursday: bombardment of Ellwood

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Map of Ellwood/ Ellwood Offshore Oil Field showing location of well damaged during 1942 attack. Map credit: wikipedia.com

Just two-and-a-half months after Pearl Harbor (Dec. 7, 1941), the first attack on the U.S. mainland happened on February 23, 1942.

The Bombardment of Ellwood was a naval attack when a Japanese submarine targeted an oil refinery near Santa  Barbara, California. An oiler named G. Brown later told reporters that the enemy submarine looked so big to him he thought it must be a destroyer, until he realized that just one gun was firing.

Although there was minimal damage, this attack was key in triggering West Coast invasion scare and influenced the decision to intern Japanese-Americans.

I have to admit that there is so much WWII history that is beyond my personal knowledge bank, and it’s something I absolutely love to learn more and more about.

What’s your favorite period of history?

bouncing genres as a writer

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As a writer, you hear a lot of things in the rumor mill/professional tips/ writing tips, that often you want to question. For example, one of the first things someone told me was I needed to settle on a genre in order to make it as a writer.

At the time, I was dipping my toes into the publishing world by querying my first project (which eventually got shelved and is now under revision with my agent). I told someone that my Young Adult Contemporary was going out into the world, but I had this Young Adult Historical Fiction I just had to start getting down or I was going to go crazy. I might have mentioned some Picture Book ideas I had as well, and that I always wanted to do a cookbook.

This is what you get when someone asks you what you are writing/ want to write/ etc.

After a nice pause, this person said, “I think, as an author, you should probably stick one thing you’re good with and keep writing that. Like, Contemporary, right? That’s what John Green does?”

I bit my lip, nodded my head, and responded: “Well, they’re just ideas right now, after all. I guess we’ll see.”

I was nervous.

I started second-guessing my writing goals, and stayed away from the computer for a little bit– worried I was doing myself an injustice by writing a Historical Fiction rather than trying my hand at another Contemporary.

Thankfully, I have an amazing bestie/CP/beta reader who told me something very important:

Write what you feel called to write. Write what you want. Write. If you’re writing, you’re doing it right.

Or, it was something like that.

So, here are a couple things to think about if you can’t shake that Middle Grade idea when you typically write Romance, or however the skipping around goes for you.

Write it. Get it out of your system.

Get that MG down on paper. You might find that MG is more of your calling than Romance! Or, you know what I mean. OR you might find out that it isn’t. Or you might find out you love both! Whatever the case, you’ll never know unless you try. And that’s one of the biggest things about writing, isn’t it?

Do some research.

There are plenty of published authors who have written in more than one genre (like, I don’t know- J.K. Rowling?). Don’t just google authors and what they write, talk to some fellow writers who are writing in the genre you want to try. Or who write more than one type of book. This is going to help you grow! You can never get too much help. Well, maybe that’s not entirely true, but you definitely can never ask too many questions!

Never listen to naysayers.

People are going to put you down all the time in life. This, I find, especially happens when you are in the creative sphere trying to spread your wings. Don’t listen to people- particularly people who have NO IDEA what they’re talking about. Talk to more than one person about your idea, and always make sure you include a fellow writer or two.

 

By the way, if I had never written that YA Historical Fiction- I never would have snagged my agent. Letting fear and doubt dictate what you do is never good.

Remember:

Write what you feel called to write. Write what you want. Write. If you’re writing, you’re doing it right.

 

 

Also, Congratulations to @darkchiibsb for winning the Amazon $10 gift card! Please contact me @ emily.herring.dunn@gmail.com to connect and receive your prize! Thanks so much for following, everyone!