Tips for YA Lit: Don't make writing New Year's resolutions

Tips for YA Lit: 

Don't make writing 
New Year's resolutions

Every year, on this particular day, people make New Years' resolutions. A lot of writers do it too. I used to, but now I don't. Well, I do something a little different.

Just like any other resolution people make that fall to the wayside because of life's complications and struggles--dieting, exercise, cutting back on vices, etc.--whatever writing resolutions you make will most likely fall to the wayside as well. The only possible way to fulfill a resolution is to permanently change your life for at least the entire upcoming year. Daunting prospect.

I'm not trying to be negative, but realistic. If you could write more, brush up on grammar, get published, go to conferences--whatever your goal may be--you could've done it by now. We're creatures of habit and habits are hard to break. Life is busy. Life is hard. This is why we probably have forgone resolutions in the past. For example, saying you want to write more is pointless, unless you instead alter your life to leave more room for writing: putting a kid in preschool, cut off your cable to not watch TV--something drastic.

Every year on this day, I would toast to my goal of getting published. "This will be my year" was my motto. Every year, things would come up to prevent me from getting it together and sending queries out. Every year I was distracted by the art of creating and dreaded the art of selling my work. For only a couple years of the last decade, I tried very hard, stuck to my 52 queries in a year resolution, but no leads panned out into representation. It made me depressed, hopeless. I thought I must be a terrible writer. "This will be my year" turned into "It's never gonna happen." Time and time again, I am too hard on myself and set unrealistic and difficult goals that end in disappointment.

This last year, I made no resolutions. I hoped as always I would finally get that book published, but I made no plans at all to make it happen. And here's how my year went. I wanted to write something shorter for fun. I found a novella contest, entered, won a spot in an anthology. Then I queried these publishers, got my debut novel published. Queried another publisher, getting my second novel published next summer. Both these novels were picked up on Twitter pitch parties that I entered on a whim, only having found out about them the morning of.

My point (no, it's not to endlessly brag) is I had no plans, no self-imposed resolutions or goals. Without that stress and obsession with trying to query (I think I sent out 8 altogether the entire year), my year was relaxing. I had things ready, but I put no pressure on myself to try to reach goals that might never be attainable. With this subjective industry, things sometimes just need to be the right place at the right time. Setting up resolutions or lofty goals sets people up for disappointment and, for me, intense stress and anxiety. Being prepared for everything and then throwing your all into chances that pop up is much more rewarding. If you gain anything, it's a bonus; if nothing comes of it, it's okay. There was no pressure, no goal.

Of course, some people have that magical ability to see their resolutions through. If you are one, you're freakin' amazing! And I myself can't help but to have goals, but I make them easy and realistic. I want to publish 2 books in 2019, but I already have one coming out, so halfway there. I want to write a sequel to that book so it will be ready to publish in 2020. I want to get 2 of the many manuscripts I have revised into a querying position. If these don't happen, that's fine. I'll continue these into 2020, like a phone with rollover data. But the point is, I'm not resolving to do anything. I'm not setting myself up for stress and disappointment. I'm going to be ready, for sure, but I'm not hinging my year's happiness on attaining these resolutions.

Have a happy New Year and be kind to yourself by ditching resolutions and creating soft goals. You never know what can happen if you relax and just let things happen instead of intensely focusing on them. Here's to 2019 being a year to remember, not to stress over.

Tales in Publishing: Book Launch Parties

Tales in Publishing: 
Book Launch Parties

I was publishing my first novel. It has always been a dream of mine to have a book launch party.

I imagine all my friends at a restaurant I've reserved, toasting drinks to my accomplishment. There would be a special menu made involving foods drizzled in honey--since my book was about bees--a menu catered by theme. I'd invite a beekeeper I had spoken to before and bring literature on how we could save the bees, take donations for a foundation to help them. At the party, there would be copies of my book, door prizes, and swag for people to take with them. I'd sign books for adoring fans and friends. It would be an amazing charity event, book launch, book signing...birthday party.

When I realized the book was coming out on a couple weeks prior to my birthday, I figured I had to make this happen ... until I started doing the math. Even though I know a few venues who might let me do this for free, I couldn't afford all the rest. It's pricey enough buying bulk of your book to sell, even if you will make it back. Add in the swag--book marks, mugs, door prizes--the food, and open bar, the budget swelled beyond affordability. The idea fizzled out inversely to the budget's inflation.

I moved on to thinking about going to a book store to do a signing instead. But I only have one book and a novella, and it wouldn't be something my friends would be dying to go to nor something I'd want to do on my birthday. I feared a book signing so early in my career would embarrassingly flop.

So the question remained, how could I launch a book affordably while celebrating my success? I had published a novella prior so understood what a virtual book launch party was. That was my affordable solution.

I'm still determined to celebrate in style one day. However, not having a hefty budget, I opted for the online book launch. The only thing it cost me was time and a little cash for prizes. It was a great
compromise and successful. Below are some of the things that worked for me.

  • I used Facebook. Probably still the best place for an interactive launch.
  • Slot a couple hours at at time where most people are free. I did a Friday, 6-8 pm. 
  • Advertise it, a lot. Start with inviting friends, some family, and people from the writing community. If you have a following, invite them obviously. 
  • I didn't get a huge response of "going" right away but a lot of "interested." People rarely like to commit to something unless they know they'll be there for sure. I sent a personal message the day prior to every interested person to remind them. I think the personal touch swayed a lot of them to come.
  • Play a couple games to win prizes. Here, you have to be careful. I read it is against Facebook policy to have contests, so I clearly stated "random winners will be drawn." You should also say that the contest has nothing to do with Facebook. The games I played were fact finding where some of their posts led to details about the book I could give hints about. The other was the common meme/gif prompt of their current situation which is always entertaining.
  • I posted frequently to keep people interested (averaging every 6 minutes). That is a lot of posts, but I wanted a fast-paced atmosphere. I've been to book launches that were slow and I'd lose interest and walk away from my computer/phone. Then I would lose track of time and not be as involved as I wanted to be. 
  • How can you manage so many posts and respond to readers? Two things, vary the posts so that some ask them provocative questions (where you'll need to respond), some are a game (where you can simply like posts), and some should just be pictures, descriptions, links, and excerpts (no follow up needed). Second, Facebook Event has a fairly new feature where you can schedule posts. It took me about a half hour to set up all my posts, but then it automatically did everything for me leaving me free to comment the entire time. It was less stressful.
  • Of course you need prizes. I had a color changing mug with the book cover on it (Etsy $12 with shipping) and a $15 gift card to my publishing company. I was contemplating more prizes if more people were attending, but then the writing community helped me out.
  • A couple fellow authors jumped in to offer prize books, a win-win collaboration: they get some publicity and my launch gets more prizes. So I gave them the last 20 minutes of my two hours, and my partygoers got 3 more books.
  • I planned ahead. Instead of "going live" I recorded videos the night before. Screencast-O-Matic is free, simple, and compatible software. I created my posts, schedule, and content a week prior. I got on the computer an hour before go-time only to realize it couldn't upload videos without crashing. I moved onto my work computer and everything was fine. If I had waited until the last minute, I would've started late or not been able to upload and schedule my posts ahead of time.
  • Definitely do a video. It is more personable. I opened and closed with videos, one to welcome people and tell them about the inspiration for the novel, the second to conclude and to read an excerpt from the book. 
In all, a virtual book launch is a must. I'm contemplating doing one in tandem with an in person one for the next book, but it all depends on the budget.

YA Book Review: Feyland: The Dark Realm (book 1)

YA Book Review: 

The Dark Realm 

Recently, I "purchased" a free anthology of first books in series which comprised of seven novels. One of them I already owned and enjoyed reading, so I figured it would be worth my time even if I only enjoyed one of the remaining 6. This is a common practice done to try to get readers hooked into a series with a free or very low priced first novel.

It starts with Feyland: The Dark Realm, a first novel in a series written by Anthea Sharp. I was pleasantly surprised with the novel, after being unsure about the premise, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The story centers around the wealthy Jannet Carter inside a virtual reality game facing the Faerie Queene, losing much more than she bargained for. Jannet must somehow get back into the game and win it, only she needs a "champion" to do so for her. This leads her to leave everything in her life behind and move to a new town due to her father--and his prototype gaming simulator--being transferred. Here, in a rundown, crime ridden town, she searches hopelessly for the best gamer around to help her who happens to be Tam Linn, a closed-off boy with a complicated home life and poverty stricken upbringing that clashes with her exorbitantly wealthy lifestyle. Together they must fight obstacles in the real and fantasy-sim world and all before a certain date or they won't just lose themselves or their autonomy, but the real world as they know it.

The premise seemed to be out of my taste range, since it seemed to blend genres and I'm no gamer. And yet, the world building in both the Earth future and the simulated virtual reality game was astounding and well done to the point that the reader feels as if there's no game, but a real fantasy world. As a person well read in mythology, I thoroughly enjoyed this well-researched and uniquely envisioned fairy-world. The fact it was in a game made it much more plausible and less fantastical. I'm impressed with the mix of dystopian and fantasy themes, and the well-rounded characters full of rich character building issues. I absolutely love Tam.

I really have no negatives to say, except I felt the ending was done so well and things ended so perfectly that I don't want another novel. Tam and Jannet ended on such a positive note that I'd rather see two new characters in another faerie world than spoil their happy-for-now ending. I didn't look into the second book yet, but when things end so perfectly, I'm not sure what the author will do next--deepen the relationship (yes, please), break them up (no!), or insert new love interest (ugh, another love triangle)?

Despite my worry of where it will go, I do want to know, so it will go on my wishlist for the future. For now, I'll move on to other books. If you'd like this bargain anthology that I know has at least two great books in it (so far), here's the link below.

Buy the 7-book anthology SPARK: Seven Fantastic First-In-Series

Tales in Publishing: Query example

Tales in Publishing: 
Query example

I'm sharing my successful query to others in hopes it exemplifies what to do and helps other authors craft their own. Queries are one of the most difficult things for an author to do. From trying to sell yourself to buttering up the recipient, by far the hardest part is to condense your book baby down to blurbs.

For those who are brand new to the scene, if you want to go the more traditional route of publishing (not self-publishing), you usually will need to send a query letter off to publishers and/or agents to get their attention in hopes they'll read your entire manuscript, love it, and represent you. Sounds pretty simple, but there's a format to follow, expectations, and things you should do to to increase your chances. The letter itself is in white and the explanations are in red.

Dear AGENT'S NAME (unless they specify not to send it to one person),

What happens if bees go extinct? In the not so distant future, scientifically modified Emlyn and Ace find themselves thrown into the role of saviors on a perilous mission where their tenuous relationship could save or destroy mankind. (This is your pitch/hook, so sum up the premise, plot, and main characters in a couple sentences. Imagine you must sell the book with only this statement. I spent the most time on this, revising, revising, revising).

Recently, Evernight Teen published my story “Dare” in the Kissed Anthology. (This can appear later, but I wanted them to recognize me as one of their authors from the start) Let me now introduce you to Apidae, a completed YA dystopian romance novel of 55,000 words imbued with eco-fiction and sci-fi themes. (This is standard. Up front they need to know the genre, length, and the sub-genres might make them see it as unique and worth reading) Since as long as she could remember, Emlyn Apidae had always known she was different. A life as a rebel orphan on the run, a governmental agency constantly after her, and her weird relationship to her kindred species, bees, all set her apart from others. That is until she meets Ace, the cocky walking weapon who is just like her, and apparently the one person mentioned in her mother’s last words. Ace, after a stint as a double agent, finally is united with the girl who is his destiny and mission, only to find her beautiful but prickly. Due to their toxic venom, she is the only woman he can ever have a life with and him for her, only Emlyn doesn’t seem to like ultimatums and secrets even less. As the war between rebels and the corrupt government closes in, Ace is bent on self-sacrifice for love and revenge, while Emlyn must choose between her heart and the future of mankind. (This is the synopsis part, quite difficult to condense hundreds of pages to a paragraph, so start small and add details later. Here, I gave everything you need to know without spoilers, subplots, or other characters. I let the reader get to know the two protagonists, their situation--complications and plot--and a vague climax that makes the readers want to know the ending.)

Blending a teenage love story into seemingly hopeless settings and a nonstop action filled plot seems an arduous task, but having BA’s in English, Dramatic Arts, and an MA in English, gives me a vast background of knowledge of character and world building. I’ve published two shorter works, “A Jaded Life” (in Literary Journal Circumambulations) and “Dare” (in Evernight Teen’s Kissed Anthology), and I am also a college English Lecturer. (This is your resume. You only put what you think is relevant to writing. From my experience, they love to hear about degrees in English, and a list of formerly published works is a necessity. If you don't have any, think about working on smaller works to be published on websites, anthologies, literary magazines, popular magazines, etc. Previous works prove that you have what it takes and they'll feel confident taking a chance on you) I strongly believe in the effectiveness of publicity through social media and blogging; however, I am looking for representation in the center of the publishing world to champion my full-length manuscripts. It would be a pleasure to work with an established publishing company such as PUBLISHING CO/AGENCY which truly fosters a welcoming community of authors and staff. It would be a pleasure to extend the relationship already fostered with your company. (Here, you butter them up a bit through researching their site, company, and/or agent. I didn't do much here but remind them they knew me and worked with me. What could go here is flattering them through facts of famous authors they represent, bestselling books they represent, etc. Do your research. Make sure it is personalized for that person or company. You could tell them your book would pair well with their interest in quirky fantasy, for example, if that is true).

I look forward to hearing from you soon and humbly thank you for your time. (Here you might want to add some phrasing asking if you can send them your full-length manuscript or something in addition to whatever they asked for with this query. Pay attention to their submissions website. My publisher asked for the entire manuscript, so there was no need to ask. Some ask for first 3 chapters, 50 pages, a 2 page synopsis, etc. If they do not ask for the entire thing, then ask them if they want it.)


Lisa Borne Graves

(Put in all your links; if you don't employ social media, set it up, as publishers and agents expect you to employ it. If you are serious about your writing, buy a domain name. They're pretty cheap. If you are published, create author pages and link them.)


Overall, this is probably the sixth query letter I've drafted. The first one I based off of other authors' letters and helpful blogs. I also had a published colleague edit my first one for me which really helped tremendously. By the third one, it became much easier. If you struggle, that is completely normal. A lot of authors complain about queries. I don't mind it so much. I write them as soon as I'm finished the rough draft for two reasons: the story is fresh in my mind and so I have time to perfect it, editing it as I edit my stories.
If the query sparked your interest, you can buy the novel here.

Birth Announcement: It's a Book! World, meet Apidae

Birth Announcement: 

It's a Book! 
World, meet Apidae

I am overjoyed to bring to you my debut novel, Apidae, which was released November 30th. You can purchase a digital version here and a print version here.

First, the best feeling ever--okay, well the second best since the first is getting your novel accepted for publication--is seeing the cover. I try not to have any expectations about the cover and refuse to let myself picture it. I trust in those who the experts, the graphic designers. I have a feeling, I'd accept any cover as long as it wasn't cheesy, but when I opened the mockup of my novel, Jay Aheer (Evernight Teen Publishing's graphic designer) did not disappoint. I absolutely love the cover. The hint of characters at the bottom is just what I wanted since it still allows the readers to picture the characters how they see them. The warm color palate and the hint of the background alludes to the setting of a pivotal scene (no spoilers). I love the font which is very computer-like which is fitting as part of the story hinges on the transportation of sensitive data. The colors are warm and yet dry and brittle, like the lingering hope in the desolate world I've created. The bees help explain the's perfect!
Also, as part of marketing, I decided to make a commercial. Not having used PowerPoint in this way before (totally rethinking lesson plans now that I got creative), I was at a loss of how to use music, find properly sized photos, etc. all while trying not to break copyright laws. I tried to go the easy route. I found a very helpful man out there who has made template commercials for authors and downloaded one free. I had planned to change a couple things to make it fit for my book but found at first it was difficult. It took me a while to get the hang of it and then I wouldn't stop perfecting it. I had way too much fun making this ... in the beginning, that is.

Had this puppy ready to go but when I transferred it into movie format, the sound was lost. I tried multiple things, Googled the subject to death and there was no solution (except really long-winded, ridiculous fixes). I tried Windows Movie Maker which said it was free and made a great ad with music, but you can't download without paying. Should've seen that one coming. So I decided to upload the video into iMovie instead. Then I realized that iMovies has a much slower pace for graphics than PowerPoint which made it painfully long. Lots of cropping happened and I was sad to see some of the transition graphics go but timing was more important than pizzazz. Next, the music selection was extremely limited to be honest. I searched and found apps to download royalty free music to transfer into iTunes, but nothing worked. Last, I simply went on iTunes and searched for royalty free music, bought a song for 99 cents and uploaded that. Here is the result.

Some pointers:
  1. Find an already made template that is fitting for you
  2. Search for websites with free, copyright-free photos. Pexels is one I like to use.
  3. The same as number two for music. iTunes is very useful.
  4. Play around with apps' features. I perfected it in PowerPoint or so I thought when I got to iMovies.
  5. Make it yours. It's a way to get your book out there but also shows a bit about your personality.
  6. Research and play around first. I wish I did a practice run for fun because it became time consuming and frustrating.
In all, the creation was fun, the technology was hindering, but the end result was worth it.

YA Book Review: Truth in Lies (The Generators Book 2)

YA Book Review: 
Truth in Lies 

Truth in Lies in the second installment of Jennifer DiGiovanni's The Generators series and is an interesting page-turner that propels the plot forward in unpredictable ways. Review to the first novel can be found here.

In this novel, Cara Scotto and Alex DeMarsh's relationship deepens, while Nate and her become fast friends as he tries to help her control her powers to hide the truth from others. Despite wanting to live a normal life, they fear an old enemy striking again. Alex must come to terms with the idea of eliminating the threat and possibly taking over the underground network of supernaturals if he and Cara want a chance at a happily ever after. As they plan out their future together, these threats come back to haunt them. Will Alex's over protectiveness and impeccable plans protect Cara or will she have to hold her own against their enemies?

For starters, book two is just as well told as book one and is in fact a perfect page turning sequel that left me wanting more. There is a lot of romance, relationships and friendships blossoming, and a lot of character depth, but there is a bit less action. This does not truly detract from the novel because the ending is jam-packed full of nonstop, heart-racing action, but is deeper in other ways. Alex is swoon worthy in this one proving in various ways that he intends to be dedicated and with Cara forever and is adorably vulnerable. Cara is still headstrong but learns she cannot take on the world alone. He will do whatever it takes to have a future with her and for her to be happy, while she is finally coming to terms with who she is and becomes fully supportive of Alex. Without spoiling anything, I'm so happy DiGiovanni avoided cliche plot devices--no love triangle, good doesn't quite fully triumph over evil, and no ludicrous bad guy gimmicks. Its realism actually made it unpredictable since the novel avoids overused plot twists readers are used to.

DiGiovanni instead delivers something fresh and real and we can cheer on the couple as they work toward a happily ever after, but they aren't quite there yet leaving readers wanting more.

Truth in Lies Buy book 2 here

If you haven't read the first one Fire in Ice, you can buy book 1 here

Tales in Publishing: The #PitMad Path

Tales in Publishing: 
The #PitMad Path

Since my first novel was picked up through a Twitter book pitch day, and I'd also sent out queries to a second novel that went unanswered, I thought, "Why not give it another try?" So one morning when I saw another Twitter pitching "party" in my feed, I went for it. This one was called #pitmad which is a day authors can pitch their completed novels to agents and publishers in 280 characters or less. If they like it, you send them your query. You also rewteet to help fellow authors out so they'll be seen more.

I got so involved with retweeting for other authors, the day shot by. I was kind of disappointed by midday when only one "agent" liked my novel. When I clicked on this person, I found out they were "helping" people self-publish, meaning a vanity press. Vanity presses are companies that take unsuspecting authors' money with promises of helping them get their books published, when in the end the author spends sometimes thousands of dollars for editing, covers, etc. and then gets little to no promotion. The problem with vanity presses is an author has no idea the quality they'll give them, potentially wasting money on terrible editing, for example. Yeah, I wasn't falling for that.

So I went offline and came back later that day to find I had two hits, one for each novel! I was excited, but my excitement turned to nervousness and indecision when I found out they were both new publishers without much of a track record yet. New doesn't necessarily mean bad, but there wasn't much about them on the internet. Sending material without a legal copyright to someone is like sending your kid to a babysitter who doesn't have references. It terrified me.

From what I was able to find, one company sounded great with decent royalty rates and was registered with Duotrope as legitimate. The second had some negative comments from people in a forum (but I couldn't sign up to see, for some reason) and standard royalty rates, but the lowest end of standard. I also realized I'd never have the time to edit and market two books simultaneously.

In the end, I decided to go with the first one and hold my other novel for a later date. I sent in my query letter and the first three chapters they asked for. Then right away they wanted the entire manuscript. Once they had that, their reader blew through the 200+ novel in two days unable to put it down. They told me they loved the book but needed to have a video meeting to discuss some things.

I was nervous. But the day the meeting came, they simply had a couple questions for me about my novel, some things they suggested I further explain or alter. Fortunately, with this novel I agreed with them; I knew this novel could do with one more revision but struggled with it, needing that outsider opinion. At the end of the meeting, they officially asked to publish my novel and I couldn't stop grinning. Not only was I happy to have a second novel getting published, I was also happy with my decision to go with these publishers. They're very personal and hands on, by doing everything in person through Google Meet, and are really after helping authors put forth their best novel. I obviously signed the contract with them excited for this venture.

Stay tuned to hear about this novel, coming out July 2019!

Tips for YA Lit: The Romance Bit

Tips for YA Lit: 
The Romance Bit

Recently, I came across the article "10 Couples That Hurt YA Movies (And 10 That Saved them)," by Screen Rant, and as the title suggests it talks about the best and worst couples in YA movies. Since a lot of the movies were book adaptations, I thought this would be cool to explore what works for romance in YA books.

Please Don't:
  • Have an unhealthy relationship--you know, don't make one person in the couple be domineering, controlling, backstabbing, or just an awful human being. Screen Rant uses Bella and Edward (as I have in previous posts) and Katniss and Gale as prime examples. These guys were frankly awful to the girls. I mean Edward controls Bella's every move, and Gale pretty much kills Katniss's sister. Not healthy!
  • Make them too opposite--the age old "opposites attract" can only go so far. When two people are so different that no common ground exists at all, we have trouble as readers figuring out why they ever got together and don't buy into it.
  • Make it too easy--the term is insta-love, where characters fall head over heels in love almost at first sight. Yes, Romeo and Juliet did, but honestly didn't it seem more like lust at first sight for him, and a girl falling for a smooth talker? What changed for the two you'll see below: let love grow. The point is, society today, even teens, like a bit of realism. We like what we see and then we learn more before we love.
  • Be overly sentimental--We love sentimental and sappy overtures, sure, and teens lap it up
    even more since reality of the dating life has not jaded them yet, but don't go overboard to where your reader rolls their eyes at what the guy is saying. We want him strong and emotionally accessible not a sniveling weakling that admits every feeling in words. Let him show us in actions.
  • Have too much romance in a multi-genre story--if your story is a on-the-run page turner where your characters should be focused on living to see the next day, having too much romance rings false. Slip this in through their thoughts an worries over each other, in the small downtime moments they have instead of making it a huge focus. Survival instincts should take precedence over matters of the heart.

Please Do:
  • Have an equal relationship--yes, they can mess up, since we want them to be human and realistic, but not easily forgiven or accepting things blindly. They should both bring the same amount to the relationship and have the same control of their own lives. If they're fighting for survival, make them both badasses working together, neither needing saving. Think Tris and Four.
  • Let Love Grow--start with intrigue in that the characters like the look of each other, move onto having good and flirty conversations, then the lust factor where they become attracted to one another. This is more realistic and relatable, although you can enter in plot devices to speed up the process like a death-defying experience or a stuck-together trope.
  • Make them real and authentic--real people struggling to voice their feelings into words is more satisfying than sappy speeches that no one buys into or would make the guy's friends mock him if it were real life. Yes, boys should have feelings in novels, but they shouldn't play so far away from stereotypes that we no longer identify with them. It isn't believable and it sets up false expectations for younger YA readers. Realism rings true.
  • Have obstacles--nothing is more satisfying than seeing a couple overcome the things against them and working together to get there. It's much better than the damsel being saved (or the "hero" being saved and needy). If there is something in the way, the conquering is as good as the romance that gets us there.
These are merely suggestions and there are exceptions to the rule. After all Twilight was a success, but I wonder if it would be as successful now, ten years later, in a world where women are again fighting against discrimination and strong heroines are applauded. Another ten years from now, we could see a different kind of turn in YA lit where this advice may no longer work, so know the industry by reading as much as you can.

What kind of romantic tips can you add?

YA Book Review: Insidious: An Urban Fantasy Romance by Victoria Evers

YA Book Review:


An Urban Fantasy Romance

Recently, I purchased Insidious: An Urban Fantasy Romance (The Marked Mage Chronicles, Book 1), by Victoria Evers, due to the low Kindle price. For the price, it was a steal. Overall, an enjoyable and creative story, but it had some hitches preventing a 5/5 star status.

This story is told by Kat who's expected to be a perfect country-club teenage girl for her extremely superficial and unloving parents who expect total obedience. She's in a fatal accident but somehow survives with a quick recovery. Soon things start getting crazy and she is opened to a world of magicians, hell hounds, reapers, and an array of demons. The only person who can help her is the guy she loathes, Reese Blackburn, who ends up educating her about this world along with her ex and his father. Only these strange tattoos show up on her arm which Reese informs her are like a target for everyone in their world--good and evil--to eliminate her. As they try to figure out what her tattoo means, hide what she is from everyone, and deal with their budding attraction for each other, there is someone--her mate--out there stalking and harassing her hoping she'll fall right into his trap.

Cons--The beginning is hard to get into. The prologue scene is straight out of a movie--or so close to it I recalled the movie I had only seen once years ago--which is plagiarism. It would've been much more effective to merely have Kat watch a news report on it, since it is sort of important later. Also, there was a weird issue with word choices. People were described more by weird labels than their names as if trying to force a variation of word choices rather than depending on pronouns like "he" or a name. Last, there's a huge amount of references in this book to pop-culture things like TV, movies, etc. but the majority are from the 90's which probably goes over teens head (some I had no clue about myself either). I had to double check that the book was written recently and not back then. Just kind of awkward at times with these references and word choices.

Pros--I loved the characters. Kat had to grow on me but immediately I loved Reese and the sub characters. The mythology business with magicians, powers, demons, and reapers were the making of the book. I absolutely loved this supernatural world amidst our real one, and although I heard of the creatures mentioned before, this was done in a unique way. The mythology dealing with Hell and sinning was kind of a cool twist too. I also loved the attention to detail throughout the book in places and the pick up in pacing at the action scenes where readers want to know what happens quickly. The ending throws in lots of surprises, a couple holy crap moments, and it was refreshingly unpredictable. The plot, characters, and fantasy elements were the best parts of the book.

Overall, it was an excellent read but it needed some tweaking when it came down to the writing and the beginning of the book. I will give it 4/5 stars because I did enjoy it and it was difficult to put down; however, I don't think I'll read the second because I just didn't fall in love with it to care enough, and from the description of the next book it seems to start a love triangle with a character I cannot possibly be on board with. However, I do recommend the first book and would love to have someone change my mind and give me reasons to read the second.

If this sounds like your cup of tea, buy book 1 here.

Tips for YA Lit: The Juggling Act

Tips for YA Lit: 
The Juggling Act

A long time ago, before I revamped this blog, I wrote about how it is difficult to write on top of being
a mother and a full-time career. It's a topic I see often floating around on social media and websites. I feel a lot of us in these modern times are forced--or perhaps choose--to wear so many hats (or roles) in life that it becomes a juggling act, one difficult to handle.

I am a mother. For instance, I have been interrupted by my one child five times before I got to this line. I may only have one, but as a special needs child who is extremely hyper, sometimes it feels like two kids and an animal wrapped up in one little body (like a young child-teenager-Tigger combination). People lament over how hard a stay-at-home mom life can be and I agree until I remember I do that AND more.

I'm a professor. Technically a Lecturer of English, but not many non academics know what that means. I'm a almost-professor, a step lower. but not the bottom. I absolutely love teaching college level young adults; they are part of my audience after all. But it gets hard dealing with grading at home while raising a child who needs more help than other children. And then I remember, there is MORE.

I'm a writer, a YA novelist, and part of the that entails being a blogger. Finding time to write is extremely difficult. I usually pound out a couple books each summer and spend time over the semesters revising and editing, honing them into something better with stolen time when the kid's in bed or school and everything is graded.

It's gotten easier, most of the time. Recently, I was put through the ringer though. I had to turn down interest in a third novel because I was already over booked and worked. First, there was my son and trying to battle the system to get him help--paperwork, denials, interviews, tests, doctor visits, new diagnoses, etc. Second, I had work to do on my debut novel, mainly we're at the editing and marketing demands part. Third, there was a hurricane in my area followed by a flood which canceled school for my child and me and my students. This meant grading was put off for weeks and I had to shift an entire course to being online all while the wild child was home 24/7. Fourth, I got a couple publishers interested in two of my manuscripts back to back. There were video meetings with the first publisher and contracts to sign. There was too much cropping up, despite my amazing support system (thanks hubby and parents). I soon would be playing catch up in work revamping lesson plans, grading back to back assignments and papers. I would be finishing up one novel and have to market it, while negotiating and starting a new venture. There was no way I could start another project in the midst of this because I'm ALWAYS writing new novels too.

I'm a writer and I'll give up a publication and wait for another chance so that I have time to write, to be a good mother, to be a professor my students truly learn from. It's okay to say no and to put something off. After all, if you're juggling too many things, something will end up falling.

Tales in Publishing: I'm expecting...a book!

Tales in Publishing: 
I'm expecting...a book!

I'm thrilled to announce the upcoming publication of my debut novel, but I'm holding off on too many details until it's in print. At this time, I'm pleased to give you some of the behind the scenes process thus far. My novel Apidae will come out most likely towards the end of next month although the exact date is not yet finalized. I don't want to give too much away, but I'll give you the pitch of the book that got publishers interested:
Artwork by Krista Gargano (not official cover)

What happens if bees go extinct? In the not so distant future, scientifically modified Emlyn and Ace find themselves thrown into the role of saviors on a perilous mission where their tenuous relationship could save or destroy mankind.

In the beginning, I pitched on Twitter and got a lead from the publishers of my novella (TIP: #Pit2Pub Path).  Next,the publisher requested my query and manuscript, and then I waited. This is normal. Some publishers ask for anywhere from four weeks to six months to peruse your manuscript and sometimes they want exclusivity, meaning you cannot send it off anywhere else. My publishers wanted twelve weeks and boy was I happy to hear back in two! I got commendations for my premise which honestly was born of a conversation with a neighbor at the pool one day about the honey bee being endangered. A plot instantly hatched in my head. A lot of research later, I changed my mind about bees (still hate the useless evil wasps and hornets though). The plight of bees gave me a backdrop and plot device for my novel. Although this book will have romance, and it's in a possible dystopian future, there is a little bit of altruistic eco-fiction buried in, and a touch of sci-fi. I'm hoping it raises a bit of awareness while entertaining people.

Forgive me, I digress. Thus far, I've signed my contract and sent in info about possible ideas for the cover artist to show me some options. Then it really was a waiting game to get the novel back from the editors, fix what they said, fix additional things I found as well, and soon I'll be turning in a large amount of info from dedication, thanks, and marketing materials. 

And now again, we wait until they pull it all magically together for me and start promoting the novel. So stay tuned for the upcoming cover reveal and my first attempt at making a book trailer.

I hope it entices you to stay tuned and grab your own copy. And after the book is out, I'll release my query letter as a model for aspiring authors.

If you'd like to read my novella with six other amazing authors, buy Kissed anthology here

Tips for YA Lit: How you can help a writer (aside from buying the book)

Tips for YA Lit: 

How you can help a
writer (aside from 
buying the book)

Recently, I came across two things that just seemed to coincide with each other, so I thought I'd discuss it in a post. The first, a friend asked me what it really does if she clicks "like" on social media. The second was a writer begging for help to boost book sales. How do these relate? Well, clicking that like button (a very valid question for us not-so computer savy folks) ends up doing just that. It can help a writer boost sales. I explain it below and discuss further ways you can help out a author with a few simple clicks of a mouse.

1. Like everything of theirs. When you click like, your friends can see the like, so if the author shares it with let's say 500 friends, you click like and you have 500 friends, now the post can be seen by 1000 friends. Note for authors, make sure you set the privacy settings to "public" so it can be seen by everyone.

2. Share/retweet etc. The same as above. People will see your friend's post (as long as it's public). This spreads their post to more people. Sharing is caring people, so share from one account to another for them as well. Takes less than a minute and you might help the author sell a few books by getting it to an interested audience.

3. Follow them. But not just on social media. Go on Goodreads and Amazon and follow them. The more people who follow, the more strangers might be interested. It gives an author validity if people support that author. It makes others read their books.

4. Leave a review. Okay, so this one might take you more than a minute but if you really want to help the author, this might be the best way. All avid readers scour reviews before they buy, afraid to waste their money. This is essential for an author's success. Remember, you can reuse the same review on various websites like Goodreads and Amazon. If you end up doing this frequently and have a little spare time, you could start your own blog. It's a great way share your passion and score free copies of books in exchange for a review.

5. Show up to their book launch and book signing parties. There's comfort in numbers. If there's a small crowd, whether virtual or in person, it will attract strangers. It will get people talking. People you know will see you're going and this might make them ask you about it. You never know. You might win some prizes too.

6. Word of mouth. The age old telling people about it can work as well. It's not your job as a friend to advertise, but make every opportunity that arises to promote it. If someone says something about a writer or a good book, simply bring up your friend's. They would love to be friends with someone who knows a published writer. You could be forging a new friendship between them as well.

There are more ways to obviously help authors, but I wanted to limit it to the easiest ways possible that won't infringe on your time. Please feel free to comment on more ways to help below.

YA Book Review: The Hidden Legacy (Book 1)

YA Book Review: 
The Hidden Legacy 

The Hidden Legacy, by Christine Rees, has unique and engaging storytelling, with well-developed characters and plot which make it worth reading.

Faye Lithyer is cursed by premonitions of strangers dying, so when she moves in with her grandmother in a new town, she is surprised to have one about her new friend, Rachel. For the first time in her life Faye fits in, but soon learns it’s because Rachel’s clique is “different” too. Together they race the clock to bring their enemies to light in hopes to prevent Rachel’s murder, but how will they succeed if they cannot master their powers and the answers they seek are so deeply hidden?

The narrator, Faye, was a great character overall. I loved how she was socially inept because she'd always been bullied and never had any friends because she was different. However, at times, Faye over explained clues that gave away too much--repetitiously in conversations, thoughts, and observations. I think it was done to lend realism to the story, but it didn't make Faye appear very clever and allowed perceptive readers to surmise events before they happen. I think had the narrative been cut down, since it is fairly long, it would give the plot and character due justice while lessening the predictability of the novel.

That being said, the strengths of the novel outweigh the predictability aspect. It is still an interesting and enjoyable read. Overall, each character was unique, yet identifiable, and completely believable as high school students. Faye’s friends and her grandmother all show a great bond that improves her life and makes readers emotionally vested. I found the premise itself noteworthy, not having read a YA story that involved the paranormal present with a historical motif. The plot is complex yet easy to follow, and the author gives a lot of detail which transports readers into Faye’s story, making us truly envision being there. Even with the fantastical elements, there is an equal mix of everyday high school realism which suspends our disbelief. The action is well told—particularly the descriptions of characters using powers—making a large portion of the book a page turner. The cliffhanger ending leaves readers wanting more, as well as yearning to see possible blossoming relationships fulfilled.

Despite the predictability, this was a successful first book to a series due to its strong characters, overall plot, and how it leaves readers wanting more. I'm looking forward to the next one, but for now, you can purchase the first book at the link below.

Buy book 1 here

Tales in Publishing: The #Pit2Pub Path

Tales in Publishing: 
The #Pit2Pub Path

Every aspiring author wants to know the secret to getting published, as if there is some close-held pact between published writers to keep it away from the rising competition. Honestly, it's not that way at all. I've found other writers are my best champions, in fact. Why published authors most likely don't share with aspiring authors is because there is no magic formula for getting published. There are many different paths authors have taken to become published, from self-publishing and getting picked up that way, to entering contests, publishing smaller works to build up a resume, going to writing conferences, pitching to agents and publishers directly, querying agents, querying publishers, etc.

So here is my story into getting published. A while back, with a book that honestly needed work, I tried to query to agents and got some feedback, but once they read the manuscript they lost interest. The book needed work, but I also knew I needed a resume of some sort. I published a short story but happens...and I finally got back to it. I searched for submission calls in my YA genre and found one that was utterly perfect. I wrote the piece, submitted, and got my novella in an anthology (see TIP: Acceptance here). It was an amazing experience, but I wanted more. I wanted a novel of my very own.

Feeling as though I had an "in" with a publisher, I sent in one of my manuscripts. It was denied. I was deflated. I had to boost my confidence up by reminding myself that there are highs and lows in life (see TIP: Peaks and Troughs here). I took to editing my second manuscript one more time when something came up in my twitter feed. It was called #Pit2Pub day. I Googled it.

It stands for "pitch to publish" and is a Twitter hashtag campaign where writers pitch their books to get published. It seems to happen twice a year usually, but that depends on whether there are enough publishers in it for the event. This is also not the only pitching event on Twitter. The deal is, you do a blurb under 280 characters with the hashtag Pit2Pub and then the genre your book is. You can do each manuscript twice an hour (but no more) throughout the day. If a publishing company likes your book blurb, you send it to them. They may even comment details of how to submit. When you submit to the publisher, you need to include Pit2Pub in the subject line of your email so they pay special attention to it. The official details and steps can be found here.

I had three books and I had to do some variations to my blurbs. Just hearing about this late in the game (there really isn't a lot about it out there on the web), I only had time to post all three books--including the denied one--twice late in the day. Out of my measley five entries, considering I could've done it all day had I known prior, one instantly got picked up by my publishers. They wanted to read my second manuscript, and unlike the first one they accepted it within two weeks of me submitting it.

I know writers who have gotten published by pitching at conferences, who self-published and are successful without representation, but my path was an anthology submission call and #Pit2Pub.

Comment below about your path whether it was successful or not. I'd love to hear.

YA Book Review: Fire in Ice (The Generators)

YA Book Review: 

Fire in Ice
(The Generators)

I couldn’t put Fire in Ice, by Jennifer DiGiovanni, down. It’s a quick, fun, read with excitement and romance intertwined with moments of great tension and irony created by a he said/she said dual narrative.

The book dives right into the action with Cara Scotto being severely ill and waking up with strange new powers. Alex DeMarsh, a rich celebrity type, returns from prep school for winter break to instantly realize the little Cara he vaguely remembered from childhood has grown up to be hot and exactly like him, a Generator. The headstrong Cara must come to terms with being a supernatural being, gifted through her ancestry to be able generate and manipulate energy. Alex must teach her to control her energy, hide it from everyone, and he must protect her from their kind’s enemies. Only neither of them plans on the feelings that surge between them, both supernatural and natural. Tensions and dangers arise, and it becomes unclear whether they can make it together or even stay alive.

At first, the narrative seemed a little too clean cut for me, without some of the detailed descriptions one longs for in a book, but the quick to the point pacing proved it to be a page turner and I enjoyed the quick chapters and plot. The dual point of view switching between Alex and Cara is what made this book amazing. I love when narratives overlap slightly so it creates this rich irony of misunderstandings only the reader is privy to. This is often difficult to do in first person while making the characters unique but DiGiovanni makes it happen. Cara is headstrong, insecure at times, and untrusting. Alex is used to the limelight but is resentful of playing a part and deep down is lonely. Frankly, he is adorably cheeky and irresistible.

Overall, this novel has some familiar tropes, like the hot rich guy meets the headstrong girl and must introduce her to his supernatural world, but it felt unique and well told due to the point-of-view, strong characters, and a fast plot that leaves you wanting more. And with it being a series, readers will get exactly that.

Book 2 of The Generators series, Truth in Lies, was just released on Sept. 7th. We will see Cara and Alex's relationship deepen as he tries to help her control her powers to hide the truth from others. Despite wanting to live a normal life, they fear an old enemy striking again. Alex must come to terms with the idea of eliminating the threat and possibly taking over if he and Cara want a chance at a happily ever after.

You can bet I already bought my copy, so stayed tuned for another review this winter.

Buy book 1 here

Buy book 2 here

Tips for YA Lit: Genre

Tips for YA Lit: 

Often times, people ask what genre I write. I usually try to just say "young adult" and move on. I don't like to explain which genre exactly because sometimes there is no clear-cut distinction. For example, my next book coming out is young adult and I guess you can classify it as dystopian, but is also is a romance, but there are also traces of eco-fiction and sci-fi in it as well. I don't stick to one genre, and I tend to like books that mix elements from other genres as well. It makes things more interesting and it also prevents predictability.

Break down of genres common to YA literature--
  • paranormal--real world with fantastical elements or characters, more believable than fantasy
  • dystopian--post apocalyptic settings after some catastrophic event 
  • fantasy--not realistic at all, think alternate universe, planets, etc. not own world as we know it
  • eco-fiction--human impact on nature or just nature oriented
  • sci-fi--has advanced scientific thinking in it or technology like time or space travel, usually futuristic
  • romance--the crux of the story is centered around a romance
  • contemporary--takes place now, complete realism without any fantastical elements
  • historical--obviously, takes place in the past
  • horror--anything from psychological thrillers to blood, guts, and scare factors
  • mystery--who did it? Also some crime fiction of solving cases
  • steampunk--a type of sci-fantasy that uses Victorian motifs of machinery, material, or clothes but the story may employ them in a modern way, mixing centuries
  • LBGT--main character is part of the lesbian, bi, gay, transgendered community
To keep this short, I only gave very limited concise definitions and suggest looking them up in more detail. For writers, my advice is to pick 1 or 2 genres to be your main focus. For example, in my upcoming book dystopian is the focus as it occurs in the future when the country has fallen into turmoil. That is the main focus and the driving force behind the conflict. It also centers around the romance between two people whose destiny and relationship are determined by these dystopian parameters. Their world shapes their romance.

Next, if you want to genre-blend even more, pick up a few attributes or themes from other genres but keep it limited since some readers get a little startled or annoyed at books that aren't at all what they expected. For example, I use a problem in our society with the environment and my characters are trying to be the solution, hence eco-fiction. And I use sci-fi because my characters are "different" in that they are genetically modified. But these are minor details when it comes to the fact that the entire story centers on survival and love in a decimated world.

What books have you read or written that genre blend?

YA Book Review: Upon Broken Wings

YA Book Review: 
Upon Broken Wings

Although this book’s beginning is hauntingly depressing, taken as a whole it is inventively brilliant, and ends with an uplifting message. I felt as if I were reading a cross between literary fiction and commercial fiction, stuck between an art form and a book for entertainment, much as the characters Andrew and Kiernan are trapped between damnation and salvation.

Kiernan’s younger brother, fourteen-year-old Casey, spins a tale of utter sorrow and redemption by looking back in time with the help of omniscient angels. Andrew, a fourteen-year-old boy with autism, loses everyone he ever loved and is left alone in a cruel world with only Kiernan who secretly cares about him. Yet Kiernan’s love for Andrew comes much too late and with a high price. Bound in separate simultaneous suicides, Andrew must recall and come to terms with his past while in purgatory and Kiernan must find his way back to life while struggling away from a demon in the borderlands, for he is not quite dead nor alive. Being bound, Andrew must find the one thing that eluded him in life and use it to save Kiernan’s life: hope.

First, this book is mainly for those who aren’t sensitive to depressing or serious topics. The first third of this book is utterly full of darkness, despair, and social topics such as autism, homosexuality, death, suicide, alcoholism, bullying, and hate crimes. But this was necessary to show how hard it would later be for Andrew and Kiernan to find hope. It is very authentic when it comes to these topics, well-research or experienced. And although this book is starkly realistic, you have to be open to fantasy or religion to enjoy this book. The world building is phenomenal and packed with symbolism--landscapes of purgatory as beautifully serene, borderlands as terrifyingly dry. Also, this book is not for the untrained reader. Personally, I didn’t find it difficult to figure out the timeline, who was whom, or the shifts into other characters’ heads, but I can see how some readers might get lost. The narrator often uses foreshadowing to help readers figure out what is going on while it cushions the blow since readers can surmise what events could follow.

Although some might have to read carefully, this unique narrative style is actually what I liked most about this book: a boy from the fringes of the action telling a story but given direct information from celestial beings. Casey’s first-person account gives readers a personal experience and yet we get that all omniscient god-like detail of others’ thoughts. The style of the prose itself was incredible as well, pushing the boundaries towards literary fiction—almost modern in its straightforward tone and yet post-modern in its disjointed, shifting narration. And yet, there are these times of heightened emotion, with poetic descriptions and profound realizations that shake you to your core, mind blown.

If you like a cross between fantasy and reality and don’t quake in the face of sadness, then this book is a must read. It is a mind-blowing book you’ll likely never forget.

Click here to buy this book

Tips for YA Lit: Point of View (Part 3)

Tips for YA Lit: 

Point of View 
(Part 3)

This 3-part blog won't be only tip giving, but also showing the struggles that arise with narrative point of view in young adult literature. Narrative style can make or break a book and turn off some readers, at least for me. Part of the narrative style consists of point of view, meaning the way in which the story is told or the lens of the storyteller. There are three commonly used points of view (I'm skipping second person "you" as it isn't very popular in novel form) defined in bold below followed by pros and cons when it comes specifically to YA storytelling. You can find other POVs here (Part 1 and Part 2).

Third person omniscient--"He/she" is used by a god-like all-knowing being who can see in every character's mind and sees all the action even when some characters aren't present.
  • Pros--the readers aren't lost at all or have to connect the dots or make guesswork of character intentions. It is clear-cut and allows the author's personality to come through. It is pretty easy to do as you are the one telling readers a story.
  • Cons--a major con is something called head-hopping. This is when an author jumps from one character's mind and thoughts to another character's in a way that makes it too confusing for readers to know whose head they are in. I've noticed some great authors have large spaces, chapter breaks, or asterisks to mark this shift for readers to prevent this. Another con, for me at least, is it doesn't create as much mystery or tension. Imagine if Harry Potter also included Dumbledore's perspective? We'd know the end of the series by book two. The fix for this is to not use omniscience or plan a story not based on the need for mystery, suspense, or irony. 

Popular YA novel in all omniscient POV--Honestly having trouble coming up with any, after researching as well. The internet (or people on it) doesn't seem to get the difference between limited or all omniscient. This suggests it was only popular in the past or in for novels reserved for adults which makes me conclude it is not often used. Articles about the lack of this POV are out there suggesting the cause is due to it distancing the reader from the main character. This ability to connect to the main character seems paramount in YA lit, almost a necessity.

These POVs aren't set in stone. In fact, a lot of authors in out post-modern literature times mix them--Ender's Game, The Book Thief, Upon Broken Wings, and many more. This mixing of POV seems to prove equally popular as first person, so much so I had to actually research books with limited or only omniscient person (without first mixed in). What writers can get out of this is do whatever you want, experiment. If you want to take the safe route go with first person. It is the most popular and teens can relate better. But if you want to be unique try something new. As long as the reader can figure out whose head they are in throughout the book, you've done your job. This makes me want to experiment right now. 


Tales in Publishing: Query example

Tales in Publishing:  Query example I'm sharing my successful query to others in hopes it exemplifies what to do and helps other au...