Turning Off the Editor Brain

One of the biggest challenges in being an author and an editor is turning off the editor brain. After spending all day proofreading and editing, it's hard to come home and write or settle in with a book. Especially when I'm writing a first draft, it's crucial to turn off my inner editor.

Photo credit: Rob King on Flickr

Photo credit: Rob King on Flickr

Lately, that's been much easier said than done. And it's not limited to my work. I read at least a chapter before I go to bed, and most of the time, I can't help skimming the pages for grammatical errors. 

In some ways, this is good. It allows me to analyze literature, dissect a piece to figure out what works, and emulate it in my own writing. But it also detracts from my enjoyment of the piece.

The same goes for my writing. How am I supposed to finish a draft if I edit it to death? Instead of moving forward, I'm trapped in a hell of my own making (the road to which is paved with adverbs—thank you, Stephen King). Falling into this never-ending editing nightmare is a good way to guarantee I never finish a book.

As writers, it's normal to want to edit your fiction. You may even enjoy editing someone else's work. Even if you're a writer and a freelance editor, you should do your best to keep the two realms separate. Let your writing time be writing time, sacred and non-negotiable. The same goes for your editing time.

For me, I've found that it's best to stick to one project at a time (I'm only just now getting that!) unless I'm first-drafting one and editing another. It's too much stress on my brain, and I'm trying to be kinder to it. I suggest you do the same—we need our brains for building books!

I've learned to turn off my editor brain easier than I used to, but I still have some way to go. What about you? Do you struggle to keep from editing when you're supposed to be writing? Tell me about it in the comments below! I'll see you all back here next week.

Writing Resolutions for 2017

How is it already 2017? Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled to have had the opportunity to watch 2016 die. I think we can all agree it was, on the whole, a pretty crappy year. With that said, let's leave the past in the past, and focus on the future.

Photo credit: cyclonebill on Flickr

Photo credit: cyclonebill on Flickr

This past year was a productive one for me. I published my one-act play TOUCH (which was also performed in a one-act competition!), drafted and revised REFLECTIONS, started a short story that deals loosely with ghosts, and wrote 12K of the BLOOD AND WATER sequel, WATER AND LIGHT. Writing-wise, 2016 was good, but I want this year to be even better. Here are my writing resolutions for 2017, in order of priority:

  1. Rerelease BLOOD AND WATER. I'm releasing a new, revised edition of BLOOD AND WATER (with the same cover, don't worry) in the next month or so. It has a LOT of bonus content, including "deleted scenes" I felt conflicted about taking out in the first place. I cannot wait for you guys to see it once it's finished!
  2. Publish REFLECTIONS. Not long ago, I had the cover shoot for this novel. Since then, I've been anxious to see the finished product. I've also gotten some good feedback from betas and sensitivity readers, and I have an editor(!), so I'm over the moon. I've put my heart and soul into this book. I hope it pays off in the end.
  3. Draft WATER AND LIGHT. I'm having so much fun with the characters in the BLOOD AND WATER sequel, so I should have it done sooner rather than later.
  4. Edit WATER AND LIGHT. Naturally, even if I get the first draft finished soon, it's going to need a lot of work. Thank God I know some editors!
  5. Publish WATER AND LIGHT. THREE BOOKS IN ONE YEAR. Who am I? (Can I do it??)
  6. Finish ghost short story. Because it should have been finished by now.
  7. Outline/start drafting LIGHT AND AIR. I'm hoping to do this one for NaNo this year, but if all goes well, I may even have the first draft 

This year is going to be a big one for me in terms on my writing career, I can feel it. I'm so excited to see what all the future has in store. Happy new year, and may it be your most productive one to date!

What are some of your writing-related resolutions for the coming year?

BLOOD AND WATER Rerelease FAQs

A lot of you already know this, but I’ve been working on a new edition of BLOOD AND WATER for several months now in preparation for the rerelease.

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My announcement that there’s going to be a rerelease prompted a lot of people to ask questions. The book’s been out for over a year now, so why do I feel the need to create a new edition? How different will it be from the original book? Will the cover change? What about bonus material? What about people who bought the first edition but still want the rerelease? It goes on and on. But you know what? Those are EXCELLENT questions. And today, I’m going to do my best to answer as many of them as I can.

Why a new edition?

With any book, when you assign a title a new ISBN, it’s automatically a new edition. Since I went back to self-publishing (rather than publishing through a small press), I have to get new ISBNs for the titles I had with the publisher.

How different is it?

Fundamentally, not very. The plot is the same, as are the characters, but I’ve gone in and added deleted scenes, made some changes to dialogue, fixing typos, and things of that nature. Overall, the new edition feels much more cohesive than the original, and I’m pretty excited about it.

Will the cover change?

No way! Taylor’s cover is perfect and I am so in love with it.

What about bonus material?

There will be plenty of bonus material! Like I mentioned before, I’m including a couple of deleted scenes, as well as a new character and some hints toward the upcoming sequel.

Also, at the end, there’s a short story all about Samson.

What if I bought the original but I still want the rerelease?

You’re in luck! I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but I want to offer some kind of deal to anyone who bought a copy of the original but wants the rerelease. I’m open to suggestions! If you think of a sweet deal, please let me know in the comments or somewhere on social media.

When can I get my hands on it?

Right now, all I can say is early 2017. I’m hoping sometime in January, but it’ll most likely be February since I’m also working on getting Reflections out soon.

So there you have it. Hopefully in this post, I’ve answered most of the questions concerning my rerelease. If I didn’t get to yours or you’ve thought of something else to ask me (sneaky!), shoot me a message on social media or leave your query below.

Thank you so much for your support! I can’t wait to share this with you!

Guest Post by Lucy Adams: 10 Books That Will Change Your Mind

Hey, it's Briana! I've been running around like a madwoman lately, so today's post is from a lovely lady I've been in contact with recently. Enjoy the post, and I'll be back with a new one on Wednesday!

10-books-that-will-change-your-mind

Looking for the next book to put on your to-read list? Well, here are ten! What makes these books special is that they all have a great takeaway that will change the way you think, act, or perceive things.

This list is perfect for both avid readers and those looking for something inspiring and useful. Let’s dive in along with Lucy Adams, a diligent buzz essay writer.

The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod

Not a morning person? Think again. This book will change it all. Author Hal Elrod has his own amazing story of how he got started in finding a way to not just take every day for granted.

It has been proven multiple times that waking up earlier and spending your first hour awake doing specific actions is extremely beneficial. The Miracle Morning provides an exact outline on how to do it.

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

Although this book was written in 1937, it is one that will never fall behind in the times. It’s applicable to today and has inspired and influences many wealthy people and entrepreneurs. Follow what Hill says and you will experience success.

1984 by George Orwell

After reading this one, you’ll always have it in the back of your head. It’s a classic and an interesting story with a warning to citizens of what can happen if a government becomes too controlling. It’s something that should be kept in mind especially with all the potential surveillance technology nowadays.

Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

On a lighter note, we’ve included this incredibly popular fantasy series. Get through all the books (they’re big), and you’ll have experienced a journey like you’ve never experienced before. These books tell such a good story with amazing creativity that you will get lost in them and come back out in awe with a new perspective on imagination.

The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper

Don’t scoff at this title. I know what you’re thinking: this is a book for children. It is, but we all need a reminder at times, especially as adults. You probably already know the message it teaches. The power of positive thinking is unbeatable. We all need to reread this one every once in awhile.

The Five Love Languages by Gary D. Chapman

Just as we are all unique, we all experience and feel love in different ways. This book describes the five different of ways we like to give and receive love. Each person prefers one or two, and for a successful relationship you need to know your partner’s. Also good for close relationships in general!

The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

This book has changed millions of lives. Yours is next! It’s been translated into thirty-five languages. What most people disregard is that it does take hard work to get to the point that Timothy Ferris writes about, but he is not shy about letting you know it.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

This is the second (and last) young-adult genre book on our list, but also holds a well-deserved spot. It won a Newbery Medal, and also remains one of the most challenged books in the 1990s. It’s about dealing with many emotions in a seemingly perfect society. Check it out and you will be surprised how much it makes you think.

How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

If you’re thinking this book it full of tips of how to control and manipulate people, you’ll be surprised. This wildly popular book will change your mindset. It will make you more popular and not only easy to work with, but the kind of person that people will want to work with. Increase your standing in people’s eyes by changing your own way of thinking with this book as a guide.

Zen and the Art of Happiness by Chris Prentiss

A personal favorite, this book is a short read that leaves you inspired and with tools to turn negative thoughts and happenings into positive ones. There are some truly great anecdotes inside that will make you see your own life in a different light. Plus, who doesn’t want to learn how to be happier?

Well, that should get you started in the right direction! One of these, and probably more than one, has caught your eye. Don’t hesitate to read them. You’re only making yourself better!

Lucy Adams is an essay writing expert from BuzzEssay. She’s a diligent woman who never misses a chance to cover an exciting topic related to blogging, writing, education, and a few more niches. Feel free to share your ideas with this diligent author and go ahead for a mutually beneficial collaboration.

You're Not a Failure for Not Finishing

We're halfway through November as I'm writing this post. If you're participating in NaNoWriMo, that means you should have a word count of about 25,000 right now. Mine is closer to 10,000. If yours is low, too, don't despair! Even if you don't finish, you are not a failure.

youre-not-a-failure-for-not-finishing

Writing a novel is hard. Finishing a novel is even harder. For that reason if no other, many people don't make 50,000 come November 30. And that's okay. Even if you don't "win" NaNoWriMo. you're still a winner. Here's why:

  • You tried. You faced your fears and doubts, buckled down, and made an effort. Don't discount your bravery. I've talked to so many people who have said, "I'm way too scared to try to write a novel in a month!" If you started, you're not one of them. You have a lot of courage.
  • You proved the cynics wrong. So what if you don't get to 50,000? Some people might have doubted you, said you couldn't write. Maybe some of them didn't even think you could get started. Look at you now! You have part of a book!
  • You can always go back. It's pretty cool to write a first draft in a month. That doesn't mean you have to. No matter where in the story you stop, it will be waiting there when you come back. If you don't finish in November, that doesn't mean you never will.
  • NaNoWriMo doesn't matter. Don't get me wrong; I love Nano, and I think it's important. But you don't have to do it. You can still be a writer without NaNoWriMo. You're not any less of an artist if you opt out. The same goes for not finishing. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't make any difference. 

If you don't finish NaNoWriMo, it isn't the end of the world. I'm probably not finishing this year due to some personal issues and wrist pain, and that's totally okay. The book will still be there whenever I come back to it.

How is NaNoWriMo going for you? What are your thoughts on not finishing?

Vlog: Q&A Again

I urged you guys to ask me questions on Twitter about writing, my projects, and more, so now I'm following through with my end of the bargain.

  1. 0:25 "How did you go about getting your audiobooks produced?"
  2. 1:09 "What key themes did you explore in your writing your 3 works so far? What themes do you want to explore in future work?"
  3. 6:15 "Do you feel you write better plot or characters? Why?"
  4. 8:04 "What does your worldbuilding process look like?"
  5. 9:43 "What was the spark that made you decide you wanted to write?"

Again, a huge, HUGE thank-you to everyone who sent in questions! Please let me know if you can think of anything you'd like to see in future vlogs. :)

Why I'm Doing NaNoWriMo This Year

I’m the busiest I’ve been in a while, and I’m still doing NaNoWriMo. I keep saying I won’t, but I know I will. The lure is far too strong. If I’m the busiest I’ve ever been, why do I want to do NaNoWriMo so badly? In part, because I’ve lost my mind. Mostly, though, it’s because I wholeheartedly believe in it.

why-i'm-doing-nanowrimo-this-year

The majority of the first draft of my debut BLOOD AND WATER was written during NaNoWriMo 2014. Last year, I used the time to start on THE PALEST OF PINKS. Although I technically won NaNoWriMo last year, I didn’t finish the draft, but that’s okay. In fact, I’m hoping to revisit it someday. This year, my plan is to use NaNoWriMo to knock out the first draft of the BLOOD AND WATER sequel, tentatively titled WATER AND LIGHT.

As you can tell, I’m passionate about NaNoWriMo. I think it’s great for so many different reasons, and I never would have finished my debut novel without it. If you need more reasons to participate this year, take a look at this:

  • NaNo teaches discipline. The biggest difference between authors who want to finish a book and authors who have finished a book is discipline. You can’t publish anything if you don’t establish some kind of writing habit.
  • NaNo improves self-confidence. Before I won my first NaNo, I didn't think I was capable of finishing a novel. I questioned myself as a writer. After all, if I never finish a novel, what kind of writer am I? NaNoWriMo changed all of that. It allowed me to silence my inner critic and finally realize one of my lifetime goals: becoming an author.
  • NaNo builds community. I love the spirit of collaboration and encouragement among writers during NaNoWriMo. It feels so good to realize that you're not alone in this adventure.
  • NaNo can lead to a published book! This reason may be the most compelling one of all. As a published author, I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to hold a physical copy of your book in your hands. Needless to say, having a finished product makes all the months and sometimes years of blood, sweat, and chugging caffeine worth it.

If you're still not completely convinced, give NaNo a shot nonetheless. Better to say, "oh well" at the end of the month than "what if?" If you're doing NaNoWriMo, good luck! And if not . . . there's always next year. Want to add me on NaNo? My username is skyeaerrow. We can do this!

What are your thoughts on NaNoWriMo? If you're participating this year, feel free to leave your username in the comments!

One Year + A Giveaway

One year ago today, I released my baby out into the world. My debut novel BLOOD AND WATER went live on October 22, 2015. I was at the Atlanta airport, gearing up for a flight to visit one of my best friends in Chicago. I hit PUBLISH on Amazon, and when that sucker finished processing, I lost my mind. I couldn’t comprehend what I’d just done; how much a single move was going to change my life forever. In that moment, I went from writer to author. There’s nothing like it in the world.

This post is a thank-you to everyone who supported me, encouraged me, and believed in me along this journey—especially those of you who have continued to support me. When I started writing BLOOD AND WATER, I was in a bad place. I’ve written about that before, so I won’t go too much into it. But writing that book saved my life. When I felt alone, the book was there, and so were all of you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m on the verge of tears as I write this post because you all mean so much to me and this book means so much to me and I am just so thankful for this whole roller-coaster process.

I wanted to do something to celebrate today—something big—but all my finances will allow right now is a paperback giveaway. If you still want a signed paperback copy of my book with a super-sweet handwritten note (I promise), you can enter the giveaway using the widget below. You have from Sunday, October 22, until Halloween to enter, and I’ll be announcing the winner on November first. The giveaway is international, and I’m covering shipping and everything. Again, thank you all so much. I love you, and keep dreaming.

For the Love (Not Money)

"Don't do it for the money." Of course, it's impossible to live all your life by this philosophy. We need money to live. Money keeps a roof over our heads, food on our tables, and clothes on our bodies. For some people, the pursuit of money is what gets them out of bed in the morning. You have to go to work to get a paycheck, after all.

Yet with writing, as with anything else, you shouldn't pursue it as a career if your sole focus is making money. For one thing, writing on the whole is not a lucrative career. I made money when I was self-employed full time as a writer and editor, but editing paid my bills, not writing. And during that time, I was so focused on making ends meet that I often neglected my writing. I became stressed and developed a pessimistic outlook toward any career in publishing.

Now, I'm fortunate enough to have a day job I love. It pays my bills. Outside of that, I sell some books on occasion, but it's not enough to retire early or anything like that. Still, I consider it a worthwhile use of my time. Why? Because I love it.

I've heard from several people lately that I should invest my time in more lucrative affairs, to make some extra money wherever and however I can. Those people see my writing as a waste of time and effort because it doesn't generate income. Some of them even think I'm foolish for writing like I do.

To those people, I want to make one thing clear: I wouldn't write if I didn't enjoy it. Even when I complain about the writing process (because sometimes it's difficult), there's nothing I would rather do. To me, that's the meaning of passion. No amount of money in the world can stand up to honest passion.

On the hard writing days, when the words don't come easy and it's all I can do not to give up, it's my love for the craft that keeps me going—not any promise of monetary gain. I still think about making money from writing someday. That's the dream. But I try not to let the idea consume me.

At the end of the day, it's love that keeps me coming back to the keyboard.

Vlog: Three WIPs

I have three WIPs going at once right now, because I'm crazy. Want to know what they are? Check out this video!

So, basically, these are the books I have on tap for the next couple of months:

  • REFLECTIONS (I need to leave it alone)
  • THE NEW AMERICAN HAUNTING (which will hopefully be a serial on the blog this month)
  • THE TRAGEDY OF NUMERIUS CORDUS (which needs heavy edits) and
  • WATER AND LIGHT (the BLOOD AND WATER sequel)

Even though there are four books listed there, REFLECTIONS is finished (I just need to quit messing with it). I haven't started WATER AND LIGHT yet, either, but I'm listing it nonetheless.

What are you working on at the moment?

Finding Pockets of Time

One of my favorite things about having purchased the mobile version of Scrivener is that I can now write almost everywhere, utilizing pockets of time that previously might have been wasted on Candy Crush, or updating various social media channels.

The thing about writing is that it's almost never convenient. You never have time to write. Even when I worked from home, I found about a thousand other things to do besides writing. You do have to make time to write if you want to get serious about writing. Although the word "make" bothers me, because it's more about finding the time. In today's post, I'm sharing how I learned to use pockets of time to meet my daily writing goals.

  • Your commute. If you drive, ride a bike, or walk to work, this idea won't work for you. If you carpool or ride the train or bus, you can use that downtime to get some words down. Bonus: when you get off work, you can spend the rest of the day relaxing.
  • Waiting. We waste a lot of lives in waiting rooms, standing in line at the grocery store, or sitting in an empty theater before the previews start. Why not use that time to finish a chapter in your WIP?
  • In bed. Right when you get up, and right before you go to sleep, open your project and work for a few minutes. Most of the time, that's time that would just be wasted (in my case at least) checking social media. Writing is a much more productive use of your time.
  • On planes. I travel a lot, which means I spend a lot of time in the airport and on planes. These are perfect places to write because you have a fair amount of downtime and not much to do otherwise.
  • Commercials! If you watch television, write during the commercials. Although this won't work if you use Netflix instead of cable...
  • In the tub. If you take baths, consider drafting some of your book while you soak. I *may* have used this shortcut to write a lot of BLOOD AND WATER. Be careful not to drop the phone in the water though!
  • While cooking. If you're making something that doesn't have to be watched, you can use cook time to get a few sentences into your project.

I'm a firm believer in the benefits of daily writing. I also know how busy almost everyone is these days, including myself. Still, I do what I can to make writing a priority, which means finding pockets of time in which to write. I hope these tips will inspire you to look for more time to work on your projects.

How do you make sure you meet word counts when you're busy?

I'm Not Here for You

I don’t exist for anyone’s aesthetic pleasure. I don’t go out of the house so men can look at me. I don’t. I wanted this blog post to be about writing but I'm currently too angry to talk about writing. So today, we’re going to talk about feminism. We’re going to talk about why I need it. More than anything, though, today’s post is for the men. I want you to get a glimpse of what it’s like to be a woman just living her life and going out in public. Here’s a hint: it isn’t great.

You see, two weekends ago, I attended Dragon Con with my friends. And we had an absolute blast. But Friday, for me, was the most trying day. That was the day we dressed up as the girls from Heathers the Musical, complete with short skirts, colorful blazers, and croquet mallets. A lot of people loved the costumes and asked to take pictures of our group. There were a lot of people who didn’t ask permission (a cosplay no-no) and took our picture without our consent. And I don’t have tangible proof, but I feel like there were even a few special animals trying to take some upskirt photos.

For the most part, though, the costumes were well received. And there were a few comments from men, but they were tame. It was mostly things like “You ladies look great” or “Good costumes, girls.”

But then, two middle-aged men approached and asked to take a picture with us. Now, keep in mind, this next bit of conversation took place not even a foot away from us, and we could hear everything they were saying.

“Do you know what they're dressed as?” one man asked his friend.

“My wildest fantasy,” the man replied.

Here's the thing: I've been catcalled before. I've even been catcalled at Dragon Con before. Don't get me wrong—we knew our outfits were going to get us some attention. We've all been around men before. But none of us expected for men our fathers' ages and older to say inappropriate things within earshot, sometimes even right in front of us, as though we weren't there. None of us expected to think about using our prop croquet mallets on them.

A few days later, I took MARTA (Atlanta's metro system) to the Atlanta airport. It's about an hour ride from my stop to the airport, so I settled in with a book. For the most part, it was fine. No one really talked to me. I felt some people looking at me, but thankfully, they left me alone . . . until I got the airport. It was the end of the line, so this one man and I were the only ones in the train car. He had an earpiece in, so at first, I assumed he was talking to someone else. He had sunglasses on, too, so I couldn't be sure where he was looking.

"Do the people who interact you on a daily basis know you're stunning?" he asked.

I was in a state of shock, so I responded without thinking. "Maybe."

"Remind them."

My whole body flushed, and then I heard my heartbeat in my ears. We both got off the train, and I thought that was the end of that. I felt pretty uncomfortable by this point, but just chalked it up to being alone in the city—unfortunately, it's more or less par for the course.

But then the man caught up to me. Apparently, he wasn't finished.

"Are you going to tell your friends?" he asked.

"Tell them what?"

"That you're stunning. That some guy on MARTA said you're stunning."

I couldn't have responded at this point even if I wanted to. You see, I was clearly not comfortable talking to this man. On the train car, I hadn't looked at him or smiled at him or engaged him in conversation. He had absolutely no reason to come up and talk to me. On top of that, he was at least in his forties. On a good day, I look like I'm in my twenties (I'm twenty-four, by the way), but on that day, my hair was braided, so I probably looked eighteen.

To say I haven't had the best experience with older men because of my young looks is an incredible understatement. At some point, I'd like to go into more detail about that, but for now, just understand I have every reason to never want to play nice with an older man for as long as I live.

Once I got to the airport, no one bothered me. On the airplane, no one bothered me. At the next airport, no one bothered me, either. I had calmed down. I was looking forward to seeing my friend. And for a while, everything was fine.

I don't know how many times I was whistled at or honked at in Chicago. Again, unfortunately, I guess that's part of city life. And no one approached me anywhere, so I didn't think too much about it. When it came time for me to fly home, however, I ran into trouble again.

I had to call a taxi to take me to the airport. The man who picked me up was nice, helped me with my bag, asked me where I was going, the usual stuff. Then, as we got on the interstate, his questions became more personal. How old was I? Where did I live? Was I married? Did I have a boyfriend? At first, I gave short answers, hoping he'd get bored. When he persisted, I made up a story. I said I lived in Chicago, was going to Atlanta for my cousin's wedding. I told him my boyfriend was an accountant, and we'd been dating for three years. We wanted to get married, but he wanted to move into a bigger apartment first. And on and on and on . . . for an hour and fifteen minutes.

At some point, the guy started saying things about my appearance, talking about how pretty I was, how nice my eyes were, how he liked my long brown hair. I chose to act like I hadn't heard those compliments at all. It was easier, and by that point, I just desperately wanted to get out of the car and make it into the airport. When we finally did arrive at O'Hare, I was sweaty and a little shaky. The man, once again, helped me with my bag.

"I wish I could marry you," he said.

"Thank you for the ride," I said.

And that was the end of that. Everything proceeded as normal, though I felt nothing short of uneasy for the remainder of my travels.

What bothers me most about these encounters is the blame I've gotten from several people. "What were you wearing?" they want to know. "Did you smile at him? Did you look at him the wrong way?" As if any of that would have made a real difference. 

What's more, some people have even expressed annoyance at my frustration. "They didn't do anything to you. They didn't even touch you." And thank God, but that doesn't change the fact I was uncomfortable. I was going about my own business, and those men came into my personal space and tried to force an agenda on me. In one case, I felt the need to lie to protect myself.

Tell me there's nothing wrong with our society. Tell me feminism doesn't matter. Tell me I don't deserve to feel safe and comfortable traveling alone. Because by telling me women complain too much or saying feminism isn't something you believe in or support, what you're essentially saying is that I don't deserve to be treated like a human being.

I don't exist for you, men. I exist for me.

The next time you feel the need to approach a woman in public to tell her she's stunning or ask her to smile, think back to this post and decide if that's really your best course of action. Spoiler: it's not.

Most Anticipated Fall 2016 Releases

I've gotten back into regular reading recently. It's taken far too long for me to get to say that. For me, unfortunately, reading is one of those things that gets pushed to the back burner whenever I'm busy—and I'm essentially always busy.

I only just got around to reading ELEANOR AND PARK and I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN and let me tell you, they were well worth the hype, and I wish I hadn't waited so long to read them. (My biggest reason for not wanting to read them right away was that they’re both YA contemporary, which I’m not the biggest fan of, but I thoroughly enjoyed these books. Heck, I devoured them!)

I want to make reading much more of a priority than it has been in the past. Part of that involves getting excited about new releases. And as it turns out, there are plenty of releases this fall to get excited about. I’ve seen a lot of fall-release buzz floating around the internet lately, and I wanted to join in. While this post will mostly be concerned with YA novels—as that’s what I write and therefore read the most of—this list is by no means exclusive. I’m sure I’ll add more to it as we go along. For now, though, here are some of the releases I’m the most excited for.

Photo credit: Goodreads
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As I Descended by Robin Talley (September 6) YA Fantasy

Goodreads summary:

Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them.

Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey.

Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word.

But what Delilah doesn’t know is that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to make their dreams come true. And the first step is unseating Delilah for the Kingsley Prize. The full scholarship, awarded to Maria, will lock in her attendance at Stanford―and four more years in a shared dorm room with Lily.

Maria and Lily will stop at nothing to ensure their victory—including harnessing the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school.

But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what is imagined, the girls must decide where they draw the line.

From acclaimed author Robin Talley comes a Shakespeare-inspired story of revenge and redemption, where fair is foul, and foul is fair.

Photo credit: Goodreads

Into White by Randi Pink (September 13) YA Speculative Fiction

Goodreads summary:

Sixteen-year-old Latoya Williams, who is black, attends a mostly white high school in the Bible Belt. In a moment of desperation, she prays for the power to change her race and wakes up white.

Photo credit: Goodreads

Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig (October 4) YA Mystery

Goodreads summary:

Flynn's girlfriend has disappeared. How can he uncover her secrets without revealing his own?

Flynn's girlfriend, January, is missing. The cops are asking questions he can't answer, and her friends are telling stories that don't add up. All eyes are on Flynn—as January's boyfriend, he must know something.

But Flynn has a secret of his own. And as he struggles to uncover the truth about January's disappearance, he must also face the truth about himself.

Photo credit: Goodreads

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown (YESTERDAY) YA Contemporary

Goodreads Summary:

Joanna Gordon has been out and proud for years, but when her popular radio evangelist father remarries and decides to move all three of them from Atlanta to the more conservative Rome, Georgia, he asks Jo to do the impossible: to lie low for the rest of her senior year. And Jo reluctantly agrees.

Although it is (mostly) much easier for Jo to fit in as a straight girl, things get complicated when she meets Mary Carlson, the oh-so-tempting sister of her new friend at school. But Jo couldn’t possibly think of breaking her promise to her dad. Even if she’s starting to fall for the girl. Even if there’s a chance Mary Carlson might be interested in her, too. Right?

Photo credit: Goodreads

Marian by Ella Lyons (November 3) YA Fantasy

Goodreads summary:

When Marian Banner moves to the glittering city of Nottingham with her father, Sir Erik the Fortunate, her entire life changes. She is no longer allowed to run about the countryside in trousers and braids, climbing fences and shooting turkeys, but is thrust into a life of dresses and jewels and dancing lessons, none of which Marian is particularly pleased about. Her dark mood changes when she meets a tiny whip of a girl called Robin Hood. Robin is fierce and brave, and wants more than anything to become a knight, regardless of her gender. Together they explore the city, becoming fast friends along the way.

As time passes, their friendship into something bigger and scarier and far more wonderful. But then Marian’s father is killed in service to the king and she catches the king’s eye.

Can Robin save her one more? Or will Marian discover how to save herself?

How do you think these books sound? What fall releases are you most excited for?

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Staying Organized and Creative

Photo credit: me!

Note: I received a free notebook from ColoringNotebook in exchange for writing this review. Nevertheless, all opinions are my own.

I'm as obsessed with organization as I am creativity. Growing up, I was led to believe—for a while, at least—these two elements could never coexist. Everyone who told me this was wrong. You know how I know?

For one thing, I just got a ColoringNotebook, and I think I'm in love. I found out about this beautiful product through the company's Instagram account, and it was fascination at first like. According to the brand's website, the ColoringNotebook is a "paper notebook with coloring pages for adults." True to its word, the product features gorgeous, clean lined pages broken up with coloring spreads just begging to be filled.

I started bullet journaling not too long ago, and after running out of pages in my old notebook, decided to give this new notebook a shot. It's great because it has plenty of room for me to write out lists, story ideas, blog posts, and more—all while allowing me to unwind and destress by coloring the interesting patterns, shapes, and objects scattered throughout the pages.

After receiving this notebook, I found out it also comes in dot-grid format, which would be absolutely perfect for bullet journaling! With thick, high-quality paper, a sturdy cover and binding, a ribbon bookmark, and plenty of inspiring images to color, this notebook is everything I didn't know I wanted. The next notebook I get is going to be one of these. If you're in the market for a new notebook, pop over to the website and get a ColoringNotebook right away.

Special thanks again to the ColoringNotebook folks for sending me such a sweet product!

What do you think of the ColoringNotebook?

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Why I Love Scrivener for iOS

Photo Credit: Joe Flood on Flickr

I love Scrivener. I don't know how I got any writing done without it. I used to use Word to write my novels, and that was all right, but I had to write linearly and sometimes had a hard time keeping my thoughts organized. With Scrivener, 90 percent of my problems have been erased. The only thing I ever lamented was the inability to write via some kind of mobile app.

Then, Scrivener released Scrivener for iOS. I teared up. Finally! Next, I discovered you could sync projects between Mac and iOS via Dropbox. I wept tears of unbridled joy.

I do a fair amount of writing on the go and love the idea of not being tied to my computer. With Scrivener for iOS, I can (and am right now, in fact) write by the pool or at the beach. I can write in the car (if someone else is driving). I can even write at the dermatologist’s office.

Before this app, I had to write in either the Notes app or Evernote. Once I got back to my computer, I had to transfer whatever I’d written into the Scrivener project. And I couldn't access the whole project once I was out, which meant I could only really write one scene at a time. Annoying, to say the least. Scrivener changed all that, and I couldn't be more thrilled. Now, everything syncs via Dropbox and I can easily pick up right where I left off.

Scrivener for iOS also includes a nifty word count feature, which is great because word counts give me such life. It's nice to be able to look up and see how close I am to meeting my daily goals.

If you're on the fence about shelling out $19.99 for the Scrivener mobile app, go ahead and take the plunge. I'm one of the cheapest people in the world, and I'm glad I made the investment. I've only begun using the new app and I still think it's worth every dollar. I can't wait to see what other cool things I can do with it.

How do you feel about Scrivener for iOS? What feature are you most excited about?

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How Writing REFLECTIONS Changed My Life

How Writing REFLECTIONS Changed My Life As I edit, polish, and refine my manuscript for Pitch Wars (eep!), I can’t help marveling at how much this one book has changed my life. When I started out writing Reflections, I knew it was going to be important. It tackles several difficult issues that need to be addressed, and it has more than one personal connection to my own life. However, I never anticipated it becoming a kind of nourishment for me.

Writing this novel changed my life, and I don’t say that lightly. I learned so much while writing this book--about myself and the world around me--that it almost doesn’t matter to me if anyone else reads it. Of course, I do want someone to read it, and even better if they’re as effected by the novel as I have been so far. This book is more important to me than anything I’ve written. Writing Reflections changed my life because it allowed me to connect with victims, confront my own issues and experiences, and move through tough stuff toward positivity and acceptance.

WRITING REFLECTIONS ALLOWED ME TO CONNECT WITH VICTIMS

I know a lot of women who have suffered various kinds of abuse--too many women who have been hurt in ways non-victims can never understand. While I was in college, I was lucky enough to participate in a production of The Vagina Monologues. One of my favorite parts of the show, and arguably the most profound, happened toward the end. After a brief video conveying sexual assault statistics, the show's director asked everyone who had ever been hurt or abused to stand up. The number of women rising to their feet was staggering. It hit me like a punch to the gut. These were women I saw on campus every day, women I had classes with, even women who had just performed onstage with me. It was heartbreaking, yes, but it was also powerful.

These women deserve to have their stories told. They deserve to know that what happened to them in the past does not define them. More than anything, they deserve to get a taste of what it's like to be the hero. No matter how broken they may feel, they are stronger than they know. Writing this book--writing Rama--not only allowed me to grasp the truths I most needed to hear, it also allowed me to connect with other victims of various kinds of abuse, including physical, emotional, and sexual.

WRITING REFLECTIONS ALLOWED ME TO WORK THROUGH MY ISSUES

In the past, I've been betrayed by men. My trust has been destroyed more times than I can count. For the longest time, I thought I would never be happy. I had a hard time making peace with myself because of my extensive trust issues. After all, if I couldn't get over myself, nobody would love me, and if nobody would love me, I couldn't get married and then I wouldn't have kids and then andthenandthen--

But that isn't what matters. Ideally, I'd like to learn to trust the men I meet, but I recognize now that isn't necessary for my happiness. I can still be happy and comfortable with myself, flaws and all, by embracing my lack of perfection. Sure, I've been let down, but none of that was my fault. At the same time, the fact that I've been a victim doesn't mean I have no control of my life. Instead of focusing on the past, writing Reflections helped me forgive those who have hurt me and redirect my energy toward building the life I desire.

If I can be happy being alone--if I can accept myself fully for me--then and only then will I find any kind of peace.

Of course, this philosophy applies to physical features as much as it does emotional ones. Like everyone else, there are things about my body that I've often wished to change. As a teenager, I struggled to come to terms with my height, cystic acne, and the shape of my nose. I was even bullied because of the way I looked. Instead of considering all the things my body did for me and the aspects of it I actually liked, I dwelled only on the negative. My self-esteem eroded and dwindled down to nothing. Over the years, it has slowly improved, but while writing Reflections, it skyrocketed. I honestly can't remember the last time I've loved myself so fully. I adore and appreciate every part of my face and body. Sometimes I have off days, but for the most part, I am now able to drag myself out of the funk and smile at myself in the mirror.

This post might be the longest on my blog to date, but it's also the most important. While I am of course hopeful that Reflections will be picked up by someone someday, if nothing else, I can say it's made a difference in my life. I should be so lucky if it helps someone else.

What do you think? How has writing helped you?

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Going Beyond the Bechdel Test

Going Beyond the Bechdel Test Most people nowadays have at least heard of the Bechdel Test. If you haven't, here's a primer: According to this website, the Bechdel test is a simple way of analyzing film, television, or literature using the following three criteria:

(1) it has to have at least two women in it, who (2) who talk to each other, about (3) something besides a man.

The test was popularized by Alison Bechdel's comic Dykes to Watch Out For, in a 1985 strip called The Rule. For a nice video introduction to the subject please check out The Bechdel Test for Women in Movies onfeministfrequency.com.

The aforementioned website includes a list of several movies that pass the test--for example, Captain America: Civil War, Finding Dory, and Ghostbusters. Some books that past the test include The Hunger Games, The Book Thief, and The Fault in Our Stars. As for television shows, think Orphan Black, Scandal, and Parks and Recreation. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Recently, there's been a lot of talk about the way women are represented in the media. The commercial and popular success of the Ghostbusters reboot, as well as that of female-led movies like the Oscar-winning Mad Max: Fury Road, proves that people want to see women in more prominent roles. For decades, women have been shoehorned into one-dimensional, stereotypical roles that reinforce outdated perspectives and encourage sexism and misogyny. The Bechdel Test is arguably more relevant than ever.

But we should strive to write beyond the Bechdel Test. Instead of settling for the bare minimum--writing novels that meet these three criteria--we should work to surpass them. This means not only writing female characters that have conversations about subjects other than men, but writing female characters who are real, have hopes and dreams and goals and weaknesses and flaws; women with hobbies and careers and relationships and souls.

It's not enough to write to appease the Bechdel Test. We have to move forward, rise above, do better. More than anything, we have to go beyond the Bechdel Test. We owe it to not only future generations, but also to ourselves. That's what keeps me writing. How about you?

What do you think?

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The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Writing (Take Breaks!)

take-breaks No one who knows me will be surprised to hear that I frequently work too hard. I'm a perfectionist and have a serious type-A personality. Combine that with an insatiable curiosity and desire to achieve my goals no matter what, and you've got a recipe for burnout. I'm notoriously terrible about taking breaks. It's gotten me in trouble before. Still, I'm stubborn. I never learn.

Recently, I got sick. It was just a cold, but it absolutely drained me. I couldn't stop coughing, I had a fever, and I was exhausted all the time. It was all I could do to get dressed in the morning, let alone go to work and then come home and do housework and writing tasks. It got so bad that I even went to the doctor to get checked for mono (which I didn't have, thank God).

This bout of illness opened my eyes to a truth I'd been trying to ignore: I need to rest. I need to take breaks. Every once in a while, I need to make time for myself, spend a day on self-care, and things of that nature. I can't spend all my time working or I'll wear myself out. And if I'm worn out, I can't be productive. To me, a lack of productivity constitutes a death sentence. There were no bones about it: I had to scale back.

Since recovering from being sick, I've been working on a plan to reduce my stress levels. I'm scheduling blog posts and bills and things as much as I can, and the rest of the time, I'm setting limits on how much I can work outside of my day job. While it's still too early to have seen real results, I'm positive more breaks will make a difference in my writing.

Learn from my mistakes, people. Take more breaks. Go easy on yourself. Your writing will thank you.

What do you do to make time for yourself? What are some tips you have to help avoid burnout?

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What Ghostbusters Can Teach Us About Writing Female Characters

What Ghostbusters Can Teach Us About Writing Female Characters I am a massive Ghostbusters fan, and I have been for quite some time now. When news of the Paul-Feig-directed reboot came up in the world, I had fixed feelings about it. However, when I heard that the reboot would include a star-studded cast of powerful ladies, I got a little more excited. I was optimistic, if not cautiously so.

You see, for the longest time--and I'm sure you've noticed this--women haven't exactly had the most coveted roles in film and television. Maybe you've heard of the Sexy Lamp Test. Basically, what this "test" does is ascertain the strength and depth of the female characters in any given medium. If the character can be replaced by a sexy lamp with no real issues or effects on the plot, then the female character is considerably lacking in depth. Any women who do have some kind of depth are usually relegated to familiar, comfortable roles, such as the shopaholic, the ditz, the slut, the nerd, and the sexy sidekick.

Ghostbusters changes all of that. In the female-led, character-driven reboot, Feig puts Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones in positions of respect. Wiig, McCarthy, and McKinnon all play intelligent, capable scientists, while Jones's character puts in hours as a long-suffering  MTA employee who works hard to do her job no matter what--even if that means confronting some ghosts. These characters are not only women I could see walking down the street day after day but also most definitely worth looking up to. I kept thinking, I want to be her when I grow up, even though I'm already (technically) grown-up.

Another thing I love about the film is its depiction of female friendship. Throughout the movie, the Ghostbusters develop a close, familial bond built on trust and mutual admiration. There are no love triangles, no catfights, no betrayals or name-calling. Instead, the woman cheer each other on, utilize each other's strengths to work together as a team, and help each other out in every battle that takes place. I can't remember the last time I saw female characters in a movie getting along like this. It is such a refreshing change of pace.

 

 

What I love most about Ghostbusters is its potential to change popular culture. If the film does as well as I hope it does commercially, it serves as a statement to Hollywood that people want female-led films. We want to be entertained, certainly, but we also want to see strong, capable female characters banding together to save the world. We want to see friendships, teamwork, and heroism. More than anything, we want to see women who are real.

When developing female characters, I hope to keep in mind the way I felt emerging from the theater after watching the new film, and that is triumphant. Ghostbusters succeeds not only at an entertainment level, but also from a cultural-critique perspective as well. It serves as the spark that could ignite the powder keg of traditional, male-driven filmmaking, and more than anything, I want to be around to witness that explosion.

What do you think? How do you feel about the new Ghostbusters movie?

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