Thursday, December 19, 2013

Writers Series: Introducing Lisa Casian

My good friend, Lisa Casian's romance novel, BLOODROSE, debuted on November 29th. 
Check out the steamy cover! So I thought we'd spend some time chatting with Lisa about romance novels.

So be honest, how old were you when you read your first romance novel?

I was about fifteen. It was historical and I vaguely remember the story. I remember it was pretty steamy and everyone looked amazing. It was my sister's book.

Yes, eye candy is one of the fun parts about reading romance novels. What inspired you to start writing romance? What was your inspiration for BLOOD ROSE?

I have no loyalty to a particular genre. I read horror, contemporary, fantasy...all in binges. I picked up a Catherine Coulter regency romance book and it led me to read most of her titles. I was completely hooked. I wrote BLOODROSE in 2008. I never meant for it to see the light of day. I wanted to write historical, romance, action-adventure, and paranormal and BLOODROSE was it. I actually had no clue what I was doing. One scene led to the next and on and on it went. Because it was a vampire story, and the market was saturated with them, I decided not to pursue publication. But then this year Breathless Press had a five page critique opportunity for a romance piece and I decided to send BLOODROSE. That led to a full request and here we are. 

I think there is some misunderstanding out there about what romance fiction really is, and some people unfairly group it with erotica or call it closet porn for women. What are your thoughts?

First, let me just say that romance doesn't equal sex in books. It can have sex but the major indicator is the relationship between the main couple. Nicholas Sparks is a great author who gleams over the "sex" part. And then you have JR Ward and Sherillyn Kenyon who can fill pages of the act.  Any book that makes you feel something is worth the read. Horror makes me sleep with the lights on, fantasy lets me dream of dragons, contemporary reminds me I'm not alone, and romance makes me feel that I deserve to be loved. People read to feel something, to connect with the characters, to be thrilled with plot. There shouldn't be any stigma attached to it.

Well said, Lisa. Who are some of your favorite romance authors?

I've been blessed to have picked up some great books. My favorites are Christine Rains, JR Ward, and Sherillyn Kenyon.

I've always thought that with the increase of e-reader use it would help / boost romance novel sales (not that they need any help). Who wants to be caught holding a book with a shirtless man with glistening, bulging muscles, and a swooning half dressed buxom lady draped over his arm? What are your thoughts?

That sounds like the cover of BLOODROSE. LOL.  I don't have the formal numbers, but I want to say that paperback sales were huge with romance. I mean, I used to go into the corner store and their shelves were lined with romance paperbacks. Maybe because they were easier to hide inside a purse, or you can cover the cover with your hand as you read in public, who knows? The e-book is a great substitute for that. Again, I know romance sales are huge, but I'm not sure of the actual numbers.

Thanks for chatting with us, Lisa!

Thanks for having me, Anita. It was fun!

If you're interested in checking out BLOODROSE, you can find it on Amazon, here. And if you'd like a chance to win a copy of the book, the giveaway is here.

By Lisa Casian
Dark Fantasy
Publisher: Breathless Press

Isabeau's life is haunted by nightmares her brother insists are a lie. Bowen's looking to revenge himself against his father while helping his friend. When they meet, all hell breaks loose against Isabeau. Can Bowen protect her? Is love ever the safe choice?
Newly convinced by a mentor to value human life, Bowen, a Shade Hunter, has withdrawn from aristocratic society in pursuit of the creature that made him into the evil that consumes him—his father. Bowen's plans are thwarted when he assists a wealthy earl in finding his missing fiancĂ©. He's drawn to the man's beautiful sister, Isabeau. Bowen soon realizes that their fates are intertwined and she's aroused a passion in him he'd never thought possible.
Isabeau Harington has always lived in fear. Surviving an attack that killed her parents, she always believed the monsters would return for her. When she meets Bowen, a mysterious, charismatic stranger who drives away those fears, she learns that the very man she's falling in love with may be in league with the monsters hunting her. As a pawn in an Immortal's scheme, Isabeau must make the ultimate decision—love or safety?

ISBN: 978-1-77101-181-5
Heat Rating: 3

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

My Favorite Books of 2013

2013 was an odd reading year for me because I  spent a lot of time re-reading and re-listening books that were familiar to me. There's something comforting about sinking back into a story that you know you love. So my reading list of new books for 2013 is actually quite small because I have to admit to spending a lot of time with HARRY POTTER, ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS, and LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR amongst other books I hold close to my heart.

So here are my favorites for 2013 in no particular order:

I loved Gayle Forman's previous books and when I heard that this book takes place in Paris (partly)--well, I was sold. I devoured this story about Allyson Healey and her "perfect" life. Allyson is a smart student, who always does what her Mom tells her too, what the world tells her too. And somewhere along the way Allyson was doing what others expected of her, but not what she expected of herself. (I totally related to this plot point. Been there, done that.) Until, one act of spontaneity, when she decides to ditch her high school tour group and spend a day in Paris, where she meets "free-spirited, roving actor" Willem. And everything changes. Goodreads has a great summary here.

This book is so beautifully written that it makes you want to cry. It opens with a simple quote: "Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well." I was sucked into the story, and became completely enchanted by the main character, Karou. She sketches monsters and is an art student in Prague. And when she isn't spending time with her entertaining best friend, she's always flitting off on secret errands. And then everything changes when she meets Akiva in Marrakesh. I don't want to give too much away. But, there's a great summary over on Goodreads. And I must say that the sequel, DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT, was definitely one of my favorites of the year as well. I am impatiently waiting for the third book in the series to come out.

It was kind of interesting how I came to read this book. I had the wonderful opportunity of hearing Leila Sales speak at an SCBWI conference in Birmingham, AL. Ms. Sales is an editor at Viking books and she gave an excellent talk about tropes. 

The main character, Elise Dembowski, is the epitome of an unpopular person. She is different to her core and from a young age was never accepted by her peers. And so rather than wallow in her unpopularity, she decides to dedicate her entire summer to learning how to be cool. She immerses herself in pop culture, researches fashion magazines, and even spends money on clothes she doesn't really like. And then when school starts, her efforts turn into an epic fail.

I'd tell you more, but I don't want to ruin the book for you. But, Goodreads has an excellent summary here.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thanksgiving Recap

I got to spend Thanksgiving with my best friends, husband, parents, and brother-in-laws. And now that it's been a week since I had that abundance of uber-delicious food, I finally feel safe to talk about it.
  • I played way too much Plants vs Zombies 2 and became quite frustrated with the Wild West level will all the chickens. I said a few choice words during my repeated tries at that level.
  • We had three different types of apple pie. You're probably thinking...whaaa? Is that even possible? Yes. Yes, it is. There's regular apple pie. And then you've got your no-sugar apple pie. And, of course, the gluten-free apple pie for people like me who break out into hives when I eat the stuff.
  • We watched Catching Fire. ZOMG. It was amazing. Jennifer Lawrence is amazing. And I just found out Mocking Jay is actually going to split into two movies. Two more things to look forward to!
  • We also watched AFTER EARTH, which I thought was a great example of taking your traditional absent-father-trying-to-build-a-relationship-with-his-teenage-son story and executing in a totally different dystopian, apocalyptic, sci-fi, alien sort of way.
  • I got to spend a lot of time with my favorite mix lab puppy, Miss Molly Yeung. We played fetch in the front yard everyday, and she'd keep my feet warm while I wrote.
  • I worked on my Pitch Wars submissions. A big hearty thanks to Brenda Drake and all the mentors who dedicate their time to help aspiring writers.
How was your Thanksgiving?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Gossip Time...THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE by Leila Sales

It was kind of interesting how I came to read this book. I had the wonderful opportunity of hearing Leila Sales speak at an SCBWI conference in Birmingham, AL. Ms. Sales is an editor at Viking books and she gave an excellent talk about tropes. How to avoid over done tropes. If you plan on using a trope what are somethings that you can do to make it work and be unique. Anyway, what she said really stuck with me. And I can definitely say the YA Contemporary project I'm submitting to agents and the MG-Sci Fi that I'm currently drafting are trope-free (or at least I'd like to think so).

But enough about me.

We're here to gossip about the amazing book, THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE. So when I saw it sitting on the shelf, the reason I picked it up was because it was written by Leila Sales. I recognized her name and was so impressed to see she is an editor and YA author. *Bows Down to Leila* And I knew this story would be unlike any I had read because of the sheer fact that Leila gave an expert talk on tropes. And I was right!

The main character, Elise Dembowski, is the epitome of an unpopular person. She is different to her core and from a young age was never accepted by her peers. And so rather than wallow in her unpopularity, she decides to dedicate her entire summer to learning how to be cool. She immerses herself in pop culture, researches fashion magazines, and even spends money on clothes she doesn't really like. And then when school starts, her efforts turn into an epic fail.

I'd tell you more, but I don't want to ruin the book for you. But, Goodreads has an excellent summary here.

What I loved about this book:

  • Voice
  • It's funny!
  • Voice
  • It's sad!
  • I love gushy first love stories as much as the next person. But what I loved about this love story, is that it wasn't a mushy love story. It was real, the way often first relationships are. I applaud Miss Leila for capturing that.
  • I believe that everyone has something that they're good at. Sometime it takes people awhile to figure it out their talents. The main character, Elise, is no different. But what she discovers she's good at is so unique and special (definitely not a trope!). Again, you'll have to read to figure out what her mystery talent it. 
And last, but not least...
You know how they always say...if you could meet this writer...or do something with so and so...what would it be?

I want to go to a warehouse party with Leila Sales. =)

Monday, November 11, 2013

You're Never Too Old

So over Labor Day weekend I competed at the Peach Classic Competition in Atlanta, Georgia. And I was so inspired and amazed at the adult skaters who were not going to let a number (their age) keep them from doing something they love--ice skate. I hope that as I age, I continue to have the desire and drive to keep skating, just like the adult competitors you'll see in the intro of the video below.

You're never too old. It's never too late. Keep reaching for your dreams whatever they may be.

Below is my performance from the Masters Junior/Senior Freestyle event. I didn't have any competition, which I was ok with. I just wanted to practice performing my program so I can hopefully get it ready to test Junior Free. And yes, you'll see that a lot of the jumps necessary to pass a Junior Free are missing--but I did what I could do with the hip injury that I had at the time. And I'm pleased with what I put out. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed performing it.

Many thanks to Elite Media Productions for filming the event and posting it on the SVP Vimeo Page.

Anita Saxena Adult Master Jr-Sr Free Skate from Saxena Video Productions on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

In Honor of National Cat Day

So apparently yesterday was National Cat Day. Didn't even know that was a thing. But now that I do--I'd like to honor my three crazy, but cute fur balls.

Meet my oldest and sweetest Sasha. She is my love muffin and if there is a box she can't help but jump inside. When she's not snoozing in my lap, she enjoys eating salmon.

This is Miss Jasmine. And oh is she special. There are actually very few pictures of her because she's shy of the camera. Actually, she's shy of everything. Sometimes even her own food bowl scares her. But she's pretty and prissy and loves her sister Sasha.
This is our unplanned kitty. Found her by the Tennessee River on July 4, 2012 so we named her Indie after the national holiday. She is a purr machine and it's taken almost a year for Sasha and Jasmine to semi-accept her. She's like that kid in class that tries too hard to be your friend. When she's not irritating Sasha, Indie likes to puke up hair balls and get in between me and my laptop.

Hope all the cats out there had a wonderful National Cat Day!

Monday, September 16, 2013

My Thoughts on Bad Reviews

I've been spending more time on Twitter as of late and there has been quite a hub bub over author's receiving bad reviews of their books. In fact, Chuck Wendig has a great commentary going on his blog. And I love how he so perfectly puts it as "The juice ain't worth the squeeze."

So I'm not a published author, hence I've never received a bad review of my writing (I have gotten some harsh constructive critiques though). But I can imagine that mean or negative reviews probably don't make the author feel too hot. I talk about books on my blog and I never talk about any published works negatively. One time I even had a commenter say that it seems that I only review books that I love. That it just seems like I love everything I read. That maybe I don't have a discerning eye about books.

But, there's a reason for this folks.

For one, I don't do official book reviews here. I call them gossip time posts for a reason. I like to gossip about books that move me. Books where I think about the characters long after I've finished the last page. Books that I want to read over and over again (Confession: I've read and listened to Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins at least five times each in the past six months. And that's just in the past six months. I don't even know how many times I've listened or read to these novels since their publishing birthdays).

So if I gossip about a book over here I usually really really like it. If I don't gossip about a book maybe it didn't really move me, or maybe it did move me, but I was just too busy too gossip about it. But I just don't see the point in talking about books negatively. As any aspiring writer, I read and listen to audio books in massive quantities, and by doing so I've become quite picky. And I can actually understand why agents and editors end up rejecting as many manuscripts as they do. You end up developing a select taste. I may start a book and after five pages I may decide I don't want to read it anymore. Does it make it a bad book? No, absolutely not. It just mean's that it's not up Anita's quirky alley. But the same book may end up being something that someone else is going to repeatedly read until the binding cracks and the pages start falling out. So why would I want to say something negative about a book I didn't like (or why would I even want to read an entire book I didn't like just so I can say negative things about it) because it could potentially cause a reader to miss out on a novel that moves them? I don't want to be the reason someone doesn't discover their Anna and the French Kiss. (Please note that I do read more things than just Stephanie Perkins).

I don't want to be the reason that someone misses out on a book that they uniquely connect with. Because, hey, we all connect with different things.

The other reason I don't believe in speaking ill of another author or their work is because of in my profession (outside of the awesome world of writing) there is a rule that you never ever put down another professional in your field. You can listen to other people complain about the professionals they work with but you, yourself, should never be the one to dole out the criticism of another person in your field.

It's just unprofessional.

There's a fine line between discussing the qualities of a novel and its author versus an outright bashing. Bashings are bad. And for the author to respond to said bashing, well, I'd like to fall back on Chuck Wendig's motto: "The juice ain't worth the squeeze."

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Back to Competition at the Peach Classic

During Labor Day weekend I competed at the Peach Classic in Atlanta, Georgia. The competition was hosted by the Georgia Figure Skating Club and they did a phenomenal job, especially Rob Lichtefeld the competition chair. Kudos to him! And for working so hard on his birthday!

Peach Classic was the first competition that I had participated since like 2007 and it was the first competition since I had ACL surgery in 2010. I spent most of the summer diligently working out and trying to stay on top of my programs. But my training was plagued with inconsistencies because my knee did not want to cooperate. And then two weeks before competition my SI Joint in my left hip was injured.

Well, great, I thought. But I didn't stress, which surprised me. When I was a teenager and competing I was always a ball of nerves and self-doubt. There was one time I remember before a freestyle test I had started crying before I skated because I was so certain I would suck. My attitude and skating self-esteem were horrible.

But now, I look at things differently. One, I am so thankful that I can still skate. For so long after ACL reconstruction I simply thought it would never happen again. And two, the whole point of this is to have fun, right?

I competed freestyle on Saturday. My coach couldn't be there, but my pals from the Birmingham Figure Skating Club were there to cheer me on. And I was so calm, even though I had forgotten to take my anti-inflammatory drugs and my knee and hip were throbbing. I was calm. And I calmly searched for some Ibuprofen (thank you Heather Mumper!). And then during the warm up, I did my elements, and only put my hand down on my last double toe loop, which I had tried to squeeze in after the referee had announced the warm up was over anyway. Again, I was amazed at how I was not freaking out. My legs weren't jello and there were no butterflies in my stomach. And I didn't feel like I had to pee. You can ask any skater and most will tell you they feel like they have to go to the bathroom before they skate even though they may have just already went. I watched three people skate with the IJS judging system--which meant it took forever! My body got cold. I didn't freak out again. I just put my jacket on. Where was this zen state coming from? I had no clue. And then it was my turn to skate. I took the ice knowing exactly which jumps I was going to do and which ones I was just going to do singles on (because I didn't want to aggravate my hip). And then I skated clean. No major mistakes. I got off the ice in awe.

Saturday night I had a little too much fun spending time with the fantasy characters roaming the streets of Atlanta at Dragoncon and I went to bed a bit to late for the day before a competition.

But when I woke up Sunday morning I did not fret over the fact that I was not well rested and my gal pal Anjali and I headed back to the rink for a morning of competition.

Did I mention how awesome adult competitors are? There is oodles of sportsmanship and pats on the back and have a great skate!

I competed Junior/Senior Freestyle:

I competed Pre-Gold Dance:

I also competed in Adult Gold Compulsory Moves (before this event there was a mega power failure at the ice rink and the entire city within a ten mile kept things interesting):

All in all, I had an excellent experience, injuries and all. And I can't wait to compete again. Shout out to Deavers Photography for these fun action photos. And shout out to my gal pal Anjali Patel for showing me an awesome weekend!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Winner and Reflection

And the winner of the signed copy of The Second Shadow is.....

*drum roll*


Congratulations Sheri! I will forward your information to Elizabeth Arroyo and she will contact you about sending you your signed copy! Many thanks to everyone who participated!

On a more somber note, Liz had a sudden death in her family. My thoughts and prayers go out to her and her family during this difficult time. 

At the skating rink there is an older gentleman that brings his granddaughter to skate every Thursday. He always asks me how I'm doing and I reciprocate. Today when I asked him, "How are you doing today sir?" His face broke into a big wrinkled grin. "I'm just happy to be alive today." 

When he said that, it made me pause and remember that every day is a gift. Sometimes we get stuck in the daily grind and we stop to appreciate the beauty around us, give that extra smile or hug, or listen a bit longer than we want to. I try to reflect on these things as much as I can, and enjoy each day to the fullest. But sometimes it's hard. Everyday is different. But we still should try =).

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sunday Sketch

It has been an urge growing for months--wanting to sketch. I had stopped many years ago when I was an insecure teenager. I had been in art classes for as long as I can remember, but somewhere near the end of eight grade I decided sketching and art in general weren't for me. I had the blessing (and the curse) of being in art classes with some extremely talented people (some of whom have turned art into their full time career). Everything they created was always exponentially better than my own work. I think a lot of my dissatisfaction with my own artistic skill had to do with a lack of patience. I wanted to sit down and draw something spectacular in less than an hour. I was deluded I know. But when you're thirteen you're priorities are a bit different.

Before middle school, I used to write stories complete with illustrations. And then I'd bind the books stamp the cover, with "By Anita Saxena" and I was a triumphant self-published author. My biggest fans were of course my parents and my grandfather.

About a week ago I picked up a pack of drawing pencils and I started drawing. I can't figure out why I ever stopped. It's so relaxing and fun. And art seems to compliment writing somehow, like I'm using a part of my brain that had been dormant for over a decade. It's so nice to have use of that portion of my brain again. Writing seems easier now somehow. But the feeling may just be temporary. We'll see.

So in the vein of Natalie Whipple's Saturday Sketch (which by the way she hasn't posted a Saturday Sketch in a very very long time), I'd like to share my Sunday Sketch of a mardi gras magnet I found in the infamous everything drawer in my kitchen.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Second Shadow....COVER REVEAL & GIVE AWAY!!!

I love cover reveals! And today we are sharing Elizabeth Arroyo's cover for THE SECOND SHADOW--the sequel to the THE SECOND SIGN. It's fiery and appropriately reflects the hotness of Jake.

THE SECOND SHADOW will release on September 5, 2013 by Sapphire Star Publishing.

Jake thought being demon meant a shredded humanity, stripped of all human emotion. Chaos and self-preservation dominates a demon’s instincts. But Jake feels every ounce of pain and despair around him.

And it’s driving him deeper into Hell.

Gabby’s choice to save him last summer left a fissure in Hell’s gate that released a malevolent evil. When Jake’s given a mission by the demons to shadow a human girl who may know the whereabouts of an ethereal weapon, he doesn’t expect to see Gabby. 

But Fate has her own agenda.

When Jake and Gabby are thrown together on a camping trip with a group of delinquent teens, Jake begins to grapple with the haunting choices he made in the past.  When the evil finds them, the group begins to battle for their lives, alliances are made, and truths revealed.

As the evil begins to influence Jake, he questions his link to the demons, his purpose, and his love for Gabby. But the answers to those questions are only found in Hell. And it may cost him his soul.

Check out the rafflecopter giveaway below to win a free signed copy of THE SECOND SHADOW (open to U.S. residents only).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, July 28, 2013


My awesome crit partner, Liz Arroyo, sent me FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB by Antony John. First, I was supremely excited because it was an unexpected book present. I love getting books as presents. They're the best, right? Second, isn't this an awesome cover? And then you've got the quote from The Philadelphia Inquirer saying this book is "A love letter to rock music." I grew up on alternative rock music so anything that takes me back to the days of Nirvana, Toadies, and Pearl Jam--I love. Third, there was a sweet note from Liz saying this book made her "laugh, cry, and cheer." So, needless to say, I was eager to tear into this one.

Here's a summary from Goodreads:

The Challenge: Piper has one month to get the rock band Dumb a paying gig.
The Deal: If she does it, Piper will become the band's manager and get her share of the profits.
The Catch: How can Piper possibly manage one egomaniacal pretty boy, one talentless piece of eye candy, one crush, one silent rocker, and one angry girl? 
And how can she do it when she's deaf?Piper can't hear Dumb's music, but with growing self-confidence, a budding romance, and a new understanding of the decision her family made to buy a cochlear implant for her deaf baby sister, she discovers her own inner rock star and what it truly means to be a flavor of Dumb.

What I enjoyed about this book:

  • The evolution that becomes Piper Vaughan, the main character. She irrevocably changes from the beginning to the end of the book--I love it when novels do this well.
  • The rock music (the music came off the page) and the realistic portrayal of the problems that come with trying to get a bunch of teenagers together to play music.
  • I don't know or understand the intricacies of leading life as a deaf teenager. Antony John does a great job of showing how Piper gets through life with her capacity to read lips, but that this too has limitations. He touches on the dynamics of a family that not only has one deaf child, but two, and then throws a third kid in the mix--a middle child that can hear perfectly fine.
  • Piper may be deaf but she's also been blind in some senses to the world around her, specifically Ed. He sucks at chess but joins chess club just to spend time with her. It's one of those not-obvious-love-stories that isn't all sweaty palms and burning cheeks. It's genuine and well written.

Monday, July 15, 2013

He Never Gave Up

I started seriously writing in 2004 and my concept of the word "serious" has transformed over the past nine years. And I'm sure nine years from now "serious writing" will mean something different to me than it does today. I've written many novels and gathered a lot of rejection. Sometimes the rejection hurts and other times I brush it off and focus on the other things I've accomplished in my life the past nine years. It helps to focus on those other accomplishments otherwise sometimes rejection can leave you feeling like a total failure.

Sarcastically Delicious (aka husband) had a dream too. He started studying and applying to dental school back in 2008. His rejections piled up as well. So many different reasons why he wasn't suited as a candidate. Some lame. Some understandable. None legitimate, in my opinion. And I promise you that I'm not being biased. So S.D. moved to Miami last year to get a Masters, to prove to all those naysayers in Dental School admissions that he was worthy of a spot in their class. He graduated at the top of his masters program and finally, in 2013, was offered letters of acceptance to dental schools all over the country.

It took him five years, but today he's off for his first day at UAB School of Dentistry! So proud and inspired by him. He never gave up, I'm not giving up, and to all those aspiring writers and dentists out there--you don't give up either!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Gossip Time...IMPOSTOR

IMPOSTOR is the sequel to Jill Hathaway's debut novel SLIDE. I enjoyed this fast paced read. The main character Vee Bell has an affliction where if she touches an object that a person has left a strong emotional imprint on, she gets drowsy, and slides into their body. 

Here's the book description from Amazon:

Vee's gift (or curse) of "sliding"—slipping into the mind of another person and experiencing life, briefly, through his or her eyes—has been somewhat under control since she unwillingly witnessed the horrific deaths of her classmates six months ago.
But just as things are getting back to normal—and her relationship with her best friend, Rollins, is heating up—Vee has a bizarre experience: She loses consciousness and finds herself in a deserted area, at the edge of a cliff, staring down at the lifeless body of the boy who had taken advantage of her last year. As Vee finds herself in stranger and stranger situations with no memory of getting there, she begins to suspect that someone else she knows has the ability to slide.
And this "slider" is using Vee to exact revenge.

Some things I love about this book:
  • Vee's taste for 90's alternative rock. Smart girl
  • It's a murder mystery, who dunnit type book with a paranormal twist.
  • Awkward best friend teenagers in obvious love but too silly to realize it.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

From Small to Big

As I've been chugging away at new novel I've come to appreciate the concept of little things making big things.

Take for example these seeds. They'd been sitting in a ziploc bag for a year. But, then you stick them in the ground and add some Alabama torrential rain.

And you get baby okra plants! I don't even know how to cook okra. But I'm so excited and in absolute awe of nature.

Or how you can tap on these.

And the keys make words. And the words make sentences. And the sentences make a story (or a partially printed novel because I ran out of ink along the way).

Sometimes I only get 30 minutes to write and it doesn't seem like much. I might get half a scene or just a few sentences. But if you put all those short writing sessions together, it will eventually become a draft of a novel. I love watching the word count on the bottom of MS Word go from 0 to 152 to 1582 to 5824 words and today to 14,882 words. So don't give up! Just do what you can, and eventually you'll get a tiny okra plant or a half printed novel like me. LOL.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Happy Release Day, Laura Golden!

I first met Laura at an SCBWI conference in Atlanta back in 2012. Back in 2012. It really wasn't that long ago, but it feels like I've known her a long time. She's just one of those sweet people you instantly feel comfortable around. I'm thankful to have her as a friend and to be able to turn to her when I need writing advice and encouragement. I am so happy and proud to announce that Laura Golden's middle grade novel, EVERY DAY AFTER (Delacorte Press/Random House) releases today! Congratulations!

Saturday, June 8, 2013


I'm happy to say that I made it safely through wedding planning land, enjoyed a fairy tale wedding, a tropical honeymoon, the reality crash land, and finally after so long a return to my writer life.

Last week was full of book reading. I read JUST ONE DAY by Gayle Forman. I heart this book. It's about finding yourself, breaking through parental molds, some European travel, and of course love abroad (the best kind). After that I started reading PRODIGY (the sequel to the awesome LEGEND by Marie Lu). And it is intense. It's hard to imagine that in this dystopian world, the United States of America has turned into well...what it has in PRODIGY and LEGEND. But no matter what I continue to cheer on the two main characters June and Day, who were at first enemies, and then realized they had more in common then what they thought. And then when I wasn't reading I was listening to THE DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor. OMG. This book takes fantasy to a whole new level and talk about forbidden love. Yikes. After finishing THE DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE on audio book, then began the hunt for the sequel on audio book, DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT. It only took me two libraries and renewing an expired library card before I found it. This sequel is beautifully written, but it is haunting and sad. I'm still at the beginning though, and so I hope things start looking up soon.

Last week was also the return of me drafting my new shiny novel about an ice skater. It's actually a rewrite/revision based on a critique I received from an agent from an SCBWI conference (SCBWI...if you're children's writer you should be a part of this organization. Seriously). But, I'm enjoying writing it so much this time around because I'm not stressing about wedding planning anymore. My mind is soooo much more free. And creative. And just me. I'm so happy that I'm back to being me again.

I also have a vegetable garden. Yes, I know it's random. But, it's something I take pride in cultivating along with my writing. I have a cherry tomato plant that has exponentially increased in size. So far I've only harvested three tomatoes. But, they'll be more. Just wait. Beside that I've got a cucumber plant. It's feeling a bit overshadowed by the tomato plant, so it's being timid in it's growth. I keep encouraging it to grow up the trellis. But, it's yet to built it's self esteem up for that. On the other side of the garden is Japanese Eggplant. I love the purple hue of it's stems. And this little guy had a rough start as well. At first it's lower leaves kept turning yellow and falling off and I thought he wasn't going to make it. I think he too was getting intimidated by Mr. Giant Cherry Tomato plant. But, in the end I think the eggplant decided enough was enough, it wasn't going to be pushed around by any weenie tomatoes and so this past week, it doubled in size. Last but not least are the sweet banana peppers. I think this trio of plants may have been planted a bit too close together, and so they were like roommates fighting for closet space. And then last week they realized, that growing up and not strangling each other was the answer. And so they too have increased in height. Tomorrow, I plan on planting some very special okra seeds. I have no clue how to cook okra, other than to give them to my best friend and beg him to grill them for me (grilled okra is AMAZING!). The okra seeds are special because they are from a friend of my aunt's. And this lady, Ms. Norma, has had these seeds in her family for over a hundred years! They're like from her great great grandmother, and after every year's harvest they would save some seeds for the next year. Talk about tradition. I'm very honored to be growing these seeds in my garden.

And last but not least, you have got to check out this blog, Open Hands, Overflowing Heart. It's a blog written by a teenage girl that was recently diagnosed with cancer. It really touched my heart and I admire her bravery and how forthcoming she is about her disease.

And last but not least, author Natalie Parker is now hosting critique camps. Two years ago Natalie donated her time to a project she dubbed CALL ME ICARUS, through which she gave aspiring writers free critiques of their work. She was giving back to the writing community to celebrate signing with agent Sarah Davies. She gave three levels of critique, peach, apple, and coconut. Her critique was so valuable and helpful. It really helped turn my novel around. And now Natalie is offering critique camps and I highly suggest checking it out.

Monday, May 20, 2013


While I was away on my honeymoon I laid out in shaded cabanas along the beaches of Mexico and devoured books. I re-read some of my favorites and then ended up purchasing THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT by Jennifer E. Smith via the Nook app on my iPad. 

I had never heard of Jennifer E. Smith and so I didn't purchase the book solely on author familiarity, but there were several reasons I decided to give the book a try (and I'm so glad I did):

  • I'm a sucker for people falling in love at airports.
  • I LOVE the title. It's so nerdy and cool at the same time.
  • It was on sale.
The prologue captured my interest right away because it was something I could relate to. It talked about how our fates are often whims of chance. If this didn't happen then this wouldn't have happened.  

The entire book reminded me of a feel-good chick-flick that you might pop in on a rainy Saturday afternoon. It's a happenstance love story that starts in a New York airport, crosses the ocean, and finishes in (my favorite city) London. It's a love story not just about first loves, but that special love between a father and a daughter, or a father and a son. Families.

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?
Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. Having missed her flight, she's stuck at JFK airport and late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon-to-be stepmother Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's sitting in her row.
A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more?
Quirks of timing play out in this romantic and cinematic novel about family connections, second chances, and first loves. Set over a twenty-four-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.
Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Wedding, Matrimony, Wedlock, Espousal, Marriage....

Weddings are like mutant worms. First you have three worms. Pick the date. Pick the venue. Pick the caterer. Then you learn these three worms are actually alien mutants and when they hit their season (three to six months before your wedding) they start multiplying at exponential rates. They wriggle themselves into every facet of your life. And every worm has a specific need. Time lines. Programs. Shopping. Correspondence. Freak outs when you learn your reception venue is double booked.

And then these worms congeal together in your brain, ultimately resulting in nocturnal hysteria. Symptoms usually appear about two weeks away from the wedding and manifest as insomnia  restless sleep patterns, and a variety of daily wedding nightmares.

Seriously. These worms are heinous.

Despite the worms though, I'm so happy I'm marrying Sarcastically Delicious (aka fiance) on April 27th.

So because of pre-wedding crap, pre-wedding festivities, wedding festivities, post-wedding festivities, and honeymoon I will return to this blog in the middle of May. I can't wait to start writing again and rejoin my usual haunts in the writing community. So keep writing and inspiring and I'll see you next month!

Monday, March 18, 2013

It's Not Always About the Ending But How You Get There

I've got to admit that I've always thought the BACHELOR was a stupid show. I have trouble believing that a flock of girls vying for the same man can live in close quarters without clawing each other's eyes out. Or how they can immediately fall head over heels for some guy they don't even know. When it comes down to it, there's just too much drama and estrogen for my taste.

But somehow my best friend got me hooked on this season's BACHELOR. The earlier episodes seemed fake and I must have rolled my eyes so much my eye muscles literally hurt, but as the girl pool started to narrow and it became apparent to me that Sean was actually a stand up guy, I started to care.

Once I started to care I hit "record series" on the DVR.

I've always been a week or so behind with my episode watching so *SPOILER ALERT* eventually I found out that Sean ended up with Catherine. After that I figured there was no point in watching the last three episodes. I already know the ending. So what's the point? Right?

It turns out it matters to me how Catherine ends up with Sean. So even though I know the ending, I want to see the whole thing go down. This of course made me think about writing and movies and plot. And how it's not about the ultimate outcome, that book deal, that epic ending to the paranormal-fantasy-romance-dystopian saga, but it's really all about the journey, how you or your characters get there.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

To Scrivener? Or Not to Scrivener?

I've always been a Microsoft Word kind of gal or enjoy using purple ink pens and composition notebooks. But I have to admit that sometimes I get lost in my own work. All the scenes sort of blur together sometime when you are juggling 70 to 80 thousand words and sometimes I find myself re-reading more than actually writing. I've even started making plotting tables like J.K. Rowling just to keep all the story lines straight.

The past few months I've noticed more and more writers who profess to using Scrivener. Even Authoress has mentioned on more than one occasion how much Scrivener has helped her.

I've been spending some time on Scrivener's website and these are the things that are attracting me to it:

  • I wonder if Scrivener is like Final Draft. To me it seems inconceivable to write a screen play without using Final Draft. Obviously, I know one can write a novel without Scrivener, as I have done it several times myself. But would it make the process more organized and less confusing for me?
  • I love Scrivener's motto: Outline, Edit, Storyboard, Write. It just makes the whole process of writing a novel seem so approachable.
  • It allows you to organize your research files (images, movies, docs, etc..) within the program.
  • There is a virtual cork board that you can rearrange index cards on.
  • You can export your documents into multiple formats (even for e-readers!)
  • There's a free trial download
Do any of you guys use Scrivener? What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Best Skating Day EVER

Skating, like writing, is an emotional creature. We go so far as to entwine our self worth to it. It's not healthy and it can be down right irrational, but it is what it is. And just as in writing, in skating, I have goals. I'll be skating twenty-two years this May and more than anything I want to finish all my United States Figure Skating (USFS) freestyle tests. I have two left: Junior and Senior.

But then I tore my ACL back in 2010 and I honestly thought I there was no way I could possibly, realistically, even imagine of taking the Junior Freestyle test. EVER.

The reason: The test has a double flip in it.

It's not that I'm scared of the jump. I don't have a love-hate relationship (yes, jumps are like people) with it. It's nothing like that. It's just that doing a double flip on a reconstructed knee just plain hurts.

Until recently.

I don't know if I've just gotten stronger from working out at PURmotion, or if it was changing my technique, or if my coach got extra awesome, or God, or what, but I was able to start working on them the past few months--pain free. But even though the pain was gone, I still had to battle the demons surrounding the jump, because it was on the entry to this jump that I tore my ACL. And I'd be lying if I didn't admit to the fact that I sometimes still freak out over it, which means I've been two footing the landing on the double flip--ALOT.

Now that you know the back story, let me describe the best skating day EVER.

I ran my Junior Free Test program this morning for my coach and best friend Danny. I landed every jump, did every spin, even hit the illusion in my footwork. But, I, of course, did a single flip. But it was the first time since I had surgery 2 years 11 months and 3 days ago that I skated a pretty much clean (except for the flip) Junior Free Test Program. I was so happy. After I caught my breath, retied my skates, and stuck my crash pads in my pants, I decided that I wanted to work on the double flip. And look what happened...

The first one I actually landed wasn't as squirrely, but of course that wasn't on camera. And then when the double flip knew it was being filmed it became a little shy. But I coaxed it out of hiding and Danny caught the second one on camera.

Junior Free Test here I come!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

When Do You Write Your Log line?

If you've been writing a while then you know what a log line is. But if you're just entering the self-inflicted neurosis that is writing...I mean, wonderful life in which you find joy in writing things that aren't real, then I will explain what a log line is.

In the world of screen writing a log line is a one sentence pitch that describes your movie. In the world of novels it seems you can get by with an extra sentence or two, but the shorter the better.

When I first started writing back in 2004 I didn't know what a log line was and if I had to describe my novel to a stranger on an elevator there would be a lot of "umms," followed by a couple "and then," interjected with an "oh yeah, I forgot to tell you about the," closing five minutes later with with "Well, it's pretty complex. You'll just have to read it to get what it's about."

The first novel I ever wrote I didn't even write a log line for it, primarily because I didn't know what one was. Novel two didn't have one because I didn't think it was worthy enough for any type of summarization. Novel three didn't have a log line because the notion of trying to describe my entire novel in less that sixty words was just too daunting. Around Novel four I started spending some time at Miss Snark's First Victim and reading Blake Snyder's SAVE THE CAT (which if you haven't read I highly suggest). I wrote a log line for novel four to enter it in a contest. Novel Five (which was just a massive over haul of Novel Four) had a succinctly designed one sentence pitch, three sentence pitch, and one paragraph pitch (as advised per the awesome former-agent-now-author Nathan Bransford). Having these three different type of pitches really helped out when trying to write my query letter.

But, here's the thing, when I wrote the log line for Novel Four and Novel Five I did it after the novels were completed.

But this time around I'm doing things quite differently. I'm actually working on two novels at the same time, an MG fantasy and a YA contemporary. At first I thought I'd feel like I was cheating on one novel with the other, but it hasn't felt like that--primarily because I told myself if Shannon Messenger can do it then I can too!

I've been struggling with both novels (maybe because I'm working on two...eek!) so I thought I'd re-read Blake Snyder's SAVE THE CAT. And Mr. Snyder said something that made me completely stop in my tracks. He says that you should write the log line before you do anything else. Write the log line before you even start plotting and definitely write the log line before you even start writing.

I think I'm going to give it a try, but just wanted to see how many others out there actually write the log line before they do anything else.

Friday, February 8, 2013

I Am So Inspired by Liz Arroyo

It would have been more appropriate had I posted this yesterday, but real life got in the way of my desired blogging schedule.

Elizabeth Arroyo's novel THE SECOND SIGN published by Sapphire Star Publishing debuted February 7, 2013 and I couldn't be happier for her.

Liz and I met way back on April 10, 2011 through Natalie Whipple's Critique Partner Classified. It started out with an email. She wanted me to look at her contemporary YA and I needed someone to give me big picture comments on plot, pacing, and character for a YA Fantasy.

After reading the first three chapters of Liz's contemporary novel, I wrote back: "Girl, you can write." From that point I knew I wanted Liz in my corner. She has been an awesome critique partner because she keeps it real. She doesn't just read my writing and pour compliments down my throat. She tells me what works and what doesn't. She knows how to combine the right amount of encouragement with criticism. And sometimes I don't like what she has to tell me, but if I let myself stew over it for a few weeks or months (LOL) I almost always come to the realization that she's right.

Liz is also such an inspiration to me. Not only is she a Mom of more than one child (she must have the patience of a saint), she works, and writes consistently every day. This woman is always cooking up stories. She doesn't give up. There are so many times when I want to burn my notebooks and wipe my hard drives, but watching Liz persevere not only with her writing, but by putting herself out there through queries and submissions, and social networking--it encourages me to keep going. The publishing world can be a lonely place with your only friend being a grumpy old man named Mr. Rejection. So it's nice when you can surround yourself with people like Liz who can help you kick that old man Rejection in the butt.

And over the years Liz has become a friend. I haven't been the most dedicated writer the past few months. But Liz cares about things other than my writing. She watches my skating videos and gives me advice to keep me sane as I plan my wedding to Sarcastically Delicious (aka fiance) in April.

Liz, I am so proud/happy/excited for you/inspired by what you have accomplished through the publication of THE SECOND SIGN. I can't wait to critique more of your writing, have you help me improve my own, and read all of your published works to come!