Girl Made of Stars: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

I had the wonderful honor of receiving a copy of Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Blake from HMH Teen. This book is due out in May 2018.

Before I start this review, there are two things to note:

  • This review will contain minimal spoilers so no need to click away.
  • If you are triggered by sexual assault, please take caution reading this book. Sexual Assault is the plot and deals not only with this, but with consent, slut-shaming, victim blaming, and how sexual assault is handled by the criminal justice system.

With that being said, let’s dive in.

Girl Made of Stars is one of the most powerful, heartbreaking, and hopeful books I’ve ever read. I will not say it is an easy read, because the subject matter is heavy and an overwhelming problem in society, but this book puts it all on the table. Ashley Blake challenges the notion of choosing the easy way out, of being complacent, of what happens when trust is obliterated.

31351689The story opens up with a glimpse into Mara and Owen’s lives. They are twins and they are as close as expected, a pair that has always found comfort in storytelling and constellations. You immediately feel their genuine bond and their unwavering security in one another. You also get a glimpse into their family and social circles. For being teenagers, their lives have a solid foundation.

But all of this unravels quickly as Hannah, one of Mara’s closest friends, doesn’t show up to school and a phone call to her parents reveals Hannah’s family wants to sue for what Owen did to her. It doesn’t click in Mara’s head at first. Her brother wouldn’t rape anybody, let alone Hannah. On the opposite end, Hannah wouldn’t lie about being raped. Quickly, Mara is thrown into a whirlwind of not only deciphering what’s real and what’s not, but memories of her own past she hasn’t allowed herself to discuss. She is also dealing with breaking up with her girlfriend Charlie, as she doesn’t want their friendship ruined by dating.

Throughout the story, we see Mara break apart and the strings connecting her to her family and to her twin snap. We see her trying to deal with a past that has been weighing her down for so long. We see her trying to reconcile with Hannah, if there is anything she can say that will fix what her brother has done. We see her trying to figure out if she is immediately a bad person because of her brother’s actions and if there is any way to mend that relationship. We see her trying to understand love. Ashley Blake tosses us into a whirlwind as Mara breaks apart and it is up to her how she chooses to piece herself back together.  There is no easy way to deal with rape, to have the image of someone you’ve known all your life be destroyed. She is pulled in two directions: needing to be what her family wants her to be and doing what she knows is right.

This book made me angry for all the stories that get swept under the rug, for everyone this happens to without any justice.

This book made me sad because my heart broke for Mara and for Hannah and for anyone who has suffered this.

This book made me hope because Ashley Blake doesn’t leave her readers drowning in darkness and confusion and pain. She offers stepping stones, small bits of light to cling to, to pull yourself up.  She in no way makes it sound as if dealing with sexual assault is easy.

You will not forget this book. I know I won’t. It is thought provoking, emotionally challenging, and leaves you speechless. It takes a close look at sexual assault and how many people it truly affects.  It pulls at your heart strings and it is so well done.

When this book comes out – if you’re able to – pick it up and prepare yourself for a powerful narrative that needs to be read.

Xx

Megan

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Debut Novels, Sisters, and Pants with Rachel Lynn Solomon

Hello Readers & Writers,

Joining me on the blog today is Rachel Lynn Solomon, author of You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone which comes out January 2nd, 2018 from Simon Pulse. This is Rachel’s debut novel and I couldn’t be more than excited for it as I’ve heard it is a heart-wrenching and addicting read.

Before I kick off the interview, here is a synopsis of You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone. 

YOU'LL MISS ME WHEN I'M GONE hi-res finalEighteen-year-old twins Adina and Tovah have little in common besides their ambitious nature. Viola prodigy Adina yearns to become a soloist—and to convince her music teacher he wants her the way she wants him. Overachiever Tovah awaits her acceptance to Johns Hopkins, the first step on her path toward med school and a career as a surgeon.

But one thing could wreck their carefully planned futures: a genetic test for Huntington’s, a rare degenerative disease that slowly steals control of the body and mind. It’s turned their Israeli mother into a near stranger and fractured the sisters’ own bond in ways they’ll never admit. While Tovah finds comfort in their Jewish religion, Adina rebels against its rules.

When the results come in, one twin tests negative for Huntington’s. The other tests positive.

These opposite outcomes push them farther apart as they wrestle with guilt, betrayal, and the unexpected thrill of first love. How can they repair their relationship, and is it even worth saving?

From debut author Rachel Lynn Solomon comes a luminous, heartbreaking tale of life, death, and the fragile bond between sisters.

1: Thanks so much for joining me, Rachel! It’s great to have you on the blog. To start things off, how did you discover you liked to write?

Thank you for having me! Like a lot of writers, I’m sure, I can’t quite pinpoint “discovering” that I loved to write. It’s something I’ve always done: as a kid, I scribbled stories on stapled-together scraps of construction paper, as a teen, I posted stories on Fiction Press (which are still up there because I can’t remember my password), and in college, I studied journalism. I took a break from fiction during that time because I was pursuing journalism pretty hardcore, but once I graduated, I started and finished my first full-length novel. I queried it and got one request and many, many rejections, but I keep writing. Four books and many more rejections later, I had You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone.

2:  Your debut novel comes out in January! That’s crazy exciting and probably terrifying, I’m sure. Where did the idea for You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone come from?

One day I tumbled down a Wikipedia rabbit hole and somehow wound up on a page about Huntington’s disease. The name was familiar—anyone who watched the show Everwood probably remembers a plotline involving a decision to get tested for HD—and I knew a little about the genetic testing some people with a family history of HD choose to undergo. As I continued researching, one particular statistic struck me: a child of a parent with Huntington’s disease has a 50/50 chance of inheriting it. I wondered, what if twin sisters received opposite results from a genetic test for Huntington’s? How would that affect their relationship and the trajectories of their lives?

3: Family, especially the bond between siblings, is a big influence in your book. Did you grow up with any siblings?

I have a sister who’s two years younger than I am. We were awful to each other until high school, when we started sharing some of our friends and extracurriculars. The sister relationship in my debut is not at all like the relationship between my sister and me. I don’t believe we’ve ever been competitive like they are, and I also don’t think there’s an undercurrent of jealousy between us…but maybe she’d have a completely different answer! J

4: What do you want readers to take away from your book?

When I decided to write about twin sisters, I wanted my characters to be equally ambitious, committed to goals they’d do anything to achieve. I would love especially for teens to see themselves in my bold, occasionally tempestuous girls who want things so desperately and refuse to bend to anyone’s whims but their own. I think the book is also sex-positive and hopefully empowering with regard to female sexuality and desire. Lastly, because there are so few books with Jewish characters that aren’t Holocaust narratives, I would also love for readers to learn a little more about Judaism.

5: Out of your characters, which one do you relate to the most and which do you differ from the most? 

I like to describe Tovah as the person I was in high school, and Adina as the person I was too afraid to be, the thoughts I had but never acted on. Strangely, I relate more to Adina because I was able to pour into her everything I never did but spent a lot of time thinking about 😉

6: Describe You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone in three words. 

Sisters at odds

7: What books influenced you or what books did you enjoy growing up?

Growing up, I inhaled Meg Cabot books. As a somewhat lonely teen who often struggled to make connections with other people, I found solace in her characters, many of whom were exactly like me. Her premises were so compelling, and all her characters were lovable and flawed in different ways. And her voice was just so fun! Even today, The Princess Diaries and All-American Girl are such comfort reads for me.

8: What are some hobbies you enjoy?

I tend to spend most of my free time tap dancing, playing with my sweet rescue dog Wally, and sitting in Seattle coffee shops and drinking anything except coffee! I also love experimenting with makeup, and I am addicted to Indian food. I wish I had more time to play piano and write songs, two things I loved as a teen.

9: Is there any advice you’d offer to other writers?

Write something that scares you a little, something that challenges you. The only way I feel I’m improving as a writer is if I take a risk with each new book.

10: Tell us a fun fact about yourself!

In high school, I sang and played keyboard in an all-girl band. We had a song called “Pants,” and at our very last show, people in the audience took off their pants and threw them onstage.

Author Bio: 

Rachel Lynn Solomon_photo credit Ian Grant

 

Rachel Lynn Solomon is the author of the upcoming
contemporary YA novel You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone (Simon Pulse, 1/2/18). A former journalist, she has worked for NPR, produced a radio show that aired in the middle of the night, and currently works in education. You can find her online at http://www.rachelsolomonbooks.com/ and on Twitter @rlynn_solomon.
Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35297395-you-ll-miss-me-when-i-m-gone

Thanks so much again to Rachel for taking the time to speak with me and don’t hesitate to preorder her stunning debut.
Xx
Megan

Books, Books, Books: Chatting with Amanda Foody

Hello Readers & Writers,

I had the pleasure of interviewing Amanda Foody, author of Daughter of the Burning City which just came out July 25th from Harlequin Teen. This is wonderfully dark young adult fantasy with characters you won’t forget and an ending that will make your heart race. If you’re interested in my review of it, click here.

Amanda also has a brand new book coming out April 24th, 2018 from Harlequin Teen called Ace of Shades, and she was super sweet to talk to me about both.

Before I kick off the interview, here is a synopsis of Daughter of the Burning City and Ace of Shades.


30237061.jpgSixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

No cover yet for Ace of Shades is available, but I’ll put it here once it is. 

Enne Salta was raised as a proper young lady, and no lady would willingly visit New Reynes, the so-called City of Sin. But when her mother goes missing, Enne must leave her finishing school—and her reputation—behind to follow her mother’s trail to the city where no one survives uncorrupted.

Frightened and alone, her only lead is a name: Levi Glaisyer. Unfortunately, Levi is not the gentleman she expected—he’s a street lord and a con man. Levi is also only one payment away from cleaning up a rapidly unraveling investment scam, so he doesn’t have time to investigate a woman leading a dangerous double life. Enne’s offer of compensation, however, could be the solution to all his problems.

Their search for clues leads them through glamorous casinos, illicit cabarets and into the clutches of a ruthless mafia donna. As Enne unearths an impossible secret about her past, Levi’s enemies catch up to them, ensnaring him in a vicious execution game where the players always lose. To save him, Enne will need to surrender herself to the city…

And she’ll need to play.

Out of Character Questions:
1. Through talking with authors, I’ve found that some have always written in one way or another while others start later in life. When did you begin writing? 
Amanda: I started writing around the time I started reading. I genuinely don’t even remember a beginning. I took myself very seriously as a child, and I was always pretty ambitious. At eleven years old, I was checking out those Writers Digest Guides to Literary Agents at my local library, writing and finishing children’s novels, and fantasizing about being published as a teenager. It didn’t quite happen that way, but that drive to work hard no matter what fueled me then and still fuels me now. I take my dreams seriously. 

2. DOTBC or Daughter of The Burning City for those who have yet to read your lovely debut novel, is a pretty dark fantasy. What inspired the characters and the circus setting? 
Amanda: I started the project as an assignment in a creative writing class during a free-writing session. I didn’t have a ton of inspiration, honestly, for that initial project. I just wrote a genre-bending story of fantasy and mystery that I thought was weird and fun, as I usually used my creative writing courses as an opportunity to experiment. A year later, once I actually sat down to write the novel, I read THE NIGHT CIRCUS and fell in love with Erin Morgenstern’s carnival atmosphere. I tried to capture a lot of that in DOTBC as well. 

3. What was your biggest challenge writing DOTBC? 
Amanda: Combining fantasy and mystery. It really does blend the genres, mixing the plot of a classic whodunit with an over-arching world in conflict. It also means combining the mystery elements with the magic of the world itself. I felt like I was building its plot out Jenga towers and praying my readers could envelop themselves in the fantasy world enough that, when magic becomes part of the answer to the mystery, it still feels satisfying. I like to think I pulled it off (hopefully!).

4. If you could bring any of your characters from DOTBC to life, would you? And if so, which one? I want to vote Luca because he’s definitely a favorite of mine. 
Amanda: Luca would definitely be fascinating. I think I’d pick Nicoleta, though, who is Sorina’s very responsible older sister. She started as a true side character before quietly demanding more of the story, and I’ve grown very fond of her. I’d love to give her a hug.

5. Switching gears to your second novel, Ace of Shades, did you have a different writing process for this than DOTBC? Based on the description, it sounds like it falls into the crime genre. 
Amanda: Well, I started ACE in high school. I don’t even remember my writing process–margins of my physics notebook, revisions revisions revisions until the story is unrecognizable from its original form. I’ve rewritten it five times since then (so you know I have to love it to suffer through that!). It is YA fantasy. I’m not positive what genre of fantasy to call it. High fantasy is probably best, as the world and its magic and everything is entirely fiction and fantastical, but it is honestly nothing like any fantasy setting I’ve read recently. The era is circa 1915, the very end of the Belle Epoque, so there are motorcars and public transport and telephones and department stores, with magic blended into all of this. Crime is such an important part of the novel, as the city where it takes place is full of mafias and street gangs, and every character is or becomes a delinquent in one way or the other. I call it SIX OF CROWS meets SPIRITED AWAY.

6. What do you want readers to take away from Ace of Shades? 
Amanda: I’m working on the sequel now, so I’m hoping readers love the world and the characters enough to stick around to read book 2 (because it’s already feeling pretty epic to me!). ACE does have a little bit of everything in it: heartless, shiver-inducing villains; romance that has already made a lot of people yell at me in my DMs; a magic system and world that are absurdly complex but also incredibly unique; group cast moments to warm your heart; and an exciting culmination that sets the stage for the sequel, when essentially the whole world is on fire (No one is safe. I aim to build worlds and break hearts).
 
Also, there are boys kissing at cabarets and girl gangsters. There’s a lot to love right there.

7. Can you share a fun fact about Ace of Shades? This may be a bit of a self-serving question as I’m so ready for this book, LOL.
Amanda: Three of its main characters are based, in part, on three characters in Spirited Away: Chihiro, Haku, and Yubaba. There might even be a No Face (and he’s so awful you would literally rather serve No Face a thousand meals than stand in a room with this guy).

In-Character Questions:
For these last three questions, Amanda picked any character of her choosing to answer. 🙂
8. You’re stranded on an island. What three things would you want to have?
Luca, from DOTBC: his favorite watch, a good book, and a bottle of gin

9.  If you can have anything, without consequences, what would it be?

Levi, from ACE OF SHADES: glory


10. Tell us your favorite joke or any joke that tickles your fancy. 
Villaim, from DOTBC: I cook with wine. Sometimes, I even add it to food (from W.C. Fields that Villiam would def appreciate)

Author Bio: 

amanda_foody_author_photo_2016.jpgAmanda Foody has always considered imagination to be our best attempt at magic. After spending her childhood longing to attend Hogwarts, she now loves to write about immersive settings and characters grappling with insurmountable destinies. She holds a Masters in Accountancy from Villanova University, and a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature from the College of William and Mary. Currently, she works as a tax accountant in Philadelphia, PA, surrounded by her many siblings and many books.

DAUGHTER OF THE BURNING CITY, her first novel, will be published by Harlequin TEEN on July 25, 2017. Her second, ACE OF SHADES, will follow on April 24, 2018.

If you’d like to follow Amanda and her work, here are some links:

Website: amandafoody.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmandaFoody
Tumblr: https://amandafoody.tumblr.com/

Once again, a huge thank you to Amanda for taking the time to answer my questions! Be sure to pick up a copy of DOTBC and preorder Ace of Shades.

Xx
Megan

Finishing My First Draft

Hi Readers & Writers,

As of three weeks ago, I completed the first draft of my YA dystopian novel or rather, a first draft that has been edited and changed as I searched through it for every error possible. Of course, this is an impossible task to accomplish alone.

It’s a surreal feeling now that it’s done and is slowly being handed off to my readers–whilst I try not to throw up every meal I’ve eaten. I didn’t expect to finish it or rather, there were days where finishing it seemed unlikely. I went through a three month period of not writing anything due to being stuck on a plot. This was extremely disappointing after writing two or three chapters a week for months straight.

Stepping away helped as well as discussing the entire plot with those I could trust. It took some wiggling, but eventually I unlocked the plot and was able to progress. I got stuck around the last three chapters which once again warranted a talk. Before I knew it, I was writing the final sentence. I stared at it for a good ten minutes, in shock, in awe, in question of what I was going to do after. P.S. It involves creating a new story.  

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Writing a book is no easy task, despite what some people will say. It requires plotting, putting your emotions out there, killing your darlings, and pushing past what may seem like an insurmountable amount of doubt. But what I’ve forced myself to think about, and what many others have told me, is I’ve completed something huge. I focused over a year of my time onto this story, allowing it to grow from its bare bones into a completed piece. I will still need to edit it and change parts, but the fact is I already showed I would put in the work. It’s a pretty awesome thing to see your work in progress become a tangible whole.

Since I finished my first draft, I figured I would offer tips to anyone who may be struggling or anyone who needs a boost of confidence.

  1. Every writer writes at a different pace. If you have friends who are managing to finish books in a few months, while you’re taking a year or longer, don’t panic. Books are a big deal and not everyone will work at the same speed or the same way. The bottom line is you have to be happy with your progress.
  2. Your first draft will be edited. You do not have to catch all the missing pieces of the puzzle in the first, second, or even third go. That’s what other sets of eyes are for.
  3. Find a group of people you can trust to read or discuss your work. Do not let this group grow too large. You want opinions, but opinions you can rely on by people who are not trying to harm you or your project. Also, make sure these people encourage you and are equally as excited about your story as you are. Enthusiasm can motivate.
  4. Plot if you need to. There are pantsers and plotters and people who fall in between these categories. Do what you need to do in order to get your story complete. If writing without a plan feels more natural to you, do it. If you need a thirty page outline to get your ideas down, then make it.
  5. Sometimes, you’ll need a break. Whether you’ve written a really gut-wrenching scene or your mind and body are creatively spent, taking a few hours or days away from your story will not hurt. You need to recharge and feel good again.
  6. You will second guess yourself and everything you write. Writers, unfortunately, are equipped with an endless amount of self-doubt, questioning, and skepticism. Read one of your favorite scenes. Step away for a while. Remind yourself why you started writing to begin with. Watch your favorite movie or television show. Read your favorite book. Find ways to remind yourself that your story matters.
  7. Be open to critique. Every book requires help to get to a final draft and one that is not only plot hole free, character strong and grammatically correct, but one that is mindful of the issues it tackles.

The bottom line is to keep writing. You’ll be surprised how quickly your words add up over time.

If you would like to know more about my WIP, you follow this thread I made about it on twitter.

Xx

Megan

Publishing 101 for Teens

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Publishing is a complicated business that takes time and experience to fully grasp. However, even with these tools, one has to be able to adapt. The market changes often as do the writers and literature that emerge.

Because of this, and the recent discussions on twitter about the lack of listening to teen voices, I decided to open up the door to teens to freely ask any questions they have about publishing. The response has been fantastic and thus I have my first blog post on the issue.

Q1: What should you major/study in college if you want to have a career in publishing?

A: For publishing, I would highly advise a B.A. in English or Creative Writing. When you apply for jobs, these degrees are often the baseline education requirement alongside experience (internships, summer programs you may have taken, previous jobs etc). There is some leeway here. You can major in other arts/humanities courses, but what publishers look for in a potential employee is the ability to write well, analyze and critique a piece of writing, pay attention to detail, and know your way around a computer. What is greatly important, and if anything the number one thing to bring to a job interview, is your passion for the industry. Do you like to read a lot? Have you taken interest in books and research in school? Have you kept up with the market? Even the blog you run can make you stand out. Competition is high for publishing jobs and unfortunately, they’re often centered in major cities. Freelance and remote opportunities do pop up, but the same rules as above apply.

I advise to keep in mind that this answer does not stay the same for what major do you need if you want to be a writer. That question is a little trickier for the answer is anything you want. What you need to be a writer is passion, patience, the desire to work hard, understanding rejection and critique, as well as wanting to learn. These skills do not link up side by side with any major. They are about you and what you want out of your writing. If you want to be published, great! If you don’t, that’s fine too. Success is not merely measured in publication.

Q2: How do you break through and be successful in such a competitive industry like publishing?

A: Following from my answer above, it comes down to what makes you stand out. With the growth of social media, I strongly recommend getting an account on Twitter. This is the number one marketing site for writers. It’s quick, fairly easy to learn, and the writing community is only growing larger. Make connections with others. Hear about their journeys and what they have done. Share what you’re working on. Everyone’s publishing road will be different, but it is important to stay connected and have a presence. You never know what will happen from there.

Q3: How do you find a critique partner around your age and a mentor?

A: I would definitely utilize the twitter community here. There are lots of wonderful people offering to be critique partners or mentors.

For teens, I recommend the following hashtags to find critique partners:

#YATeenSpace
#Teenpit *This happens certain times out of the year, but it is definitely a good way to connect and find other writers, agents, and editors who are willing to help teens.*
#Ontheporch

Note: For the latter, it is not catered for teens, but it is a spot where people post about their WIPs and connect in all things writing related. If I find others, I will definitely add them here!

Another way is to simply post if anyone wants to exchange stories. Most of these posts get a handful of responses as everyone is looking/needs another pair of eyes on their story.

As with any exchange, especially writing, make sure you check out the person beforehand and make sure you’re comfortable with sharing your work. If anything seems off or questionable, don’t follow through or check in with trusted friends/peers.

Q4: Do you know about getting published as a teenager – if it dramatically lowers your chances of getting an agent, if you should disclose that you’re underage in your query? Also, what are the legal requirements for getting published underage?

A: I haven’t had too much experience with agents, but I did do some research on the matter. Putting your age in your query is up to your discretion. If you do get a publishing contract, I would prepare yourself for the work it brings and the steps you’ll need in order to get from your draft to a completed book. I would also research one’s background before you sign with an agent. Unfortunately, there are some who are inexperienced or looking to take advantage of those who are not familiar with the industry.

I can’t entirely say if placing your age into a query will lower your chances. I feel like that would vary by agent and publisher – some not minding/encouraging a younger author while others would shy away from it.

You will have to disclose your age if an agent expresses interest and ultimately decides to represent you. This is important because if you’re under 18, you will likely need a parent or guardian to cosign a contract.

If I find out any more information, I will definitely update this!

Q5: How long does each phase of writing and publishing take? 

A: Writing will always vary based on the individual. Some are able to writer faster than others. Some may need to rethink their plot. Some may have to rework their entire story. There will never be a specific amount of time for any of these stages.

In terms of when you’re signed, you will likely be given a due date for your edits and your final manuscript. Your editor will read them over, give their comments, and you will once again be given edits to complete until the final draft. These will likely take a few weeks to a few months.

I can’t give a specific date for how long the whole process takes, but writing a book is very much a long term gratification experience. You won’t see your book by the end of the week after you submit your manuscript, but in a year, maybe even two, it will be there. If you’re willing to wait and put in the work, it will be worth it.

Q6: What if your manuscript is always rejected?

A: Rejections are probably the hardest part of the writing process, especially when you put so much work into your story only to see the same email over and over again. There are several things that can be done in this situation.

  1. Keep trying. Sometimes, you need to find the right agent or the right publisher to represent you. Even famous authors received hundreds of rejections before success found them. I know that sounds daunting, but trust me, keep trying.
  2. Find beta readers and critique partners. Maybe something in your story isn’t working. Have another set or sets of eyes read over your manuscript. Do the same for your query letter and synopsis. A simple rewording could make all the difference.
  3. Make sure you’re following guidelines when submitting. A handful of publishers and agents will not read your work if it is not properly formatted nor fits the mold of what books they’re searching for.
  4. Step away from the story. If you constantly work on the same piece, you may be overthinking it and have to take a breather. Come back to the story in a while with a clearer head. You may notice something you hadn’t before and be able to strengthen your story.
  5.  Your story may be rejected by publishers and agents due to their schedule or inability to give your story the attention and detail it needs. Don’t take it personally. Not all rejections are about your writing or about you. I can’t stress this enough. Sometimes, it just can’t work out.
  6. Don’t stop writing. This story may not be the one picked up by publishers, but it doesn’t mean your next one will follow the same direction. Write the story you need. Write what feels right. Just keep doing it.

Q6: How much should we write each day?

A: There is no correct amount of words to write per day nor is there a correct way to write. Me personally, I don’t write everyday. I used to as a teen, but life and stubborn muse got in the way so now I write when I can and often in large chunks. This is my method, but you most certainly have to find your own as a writer.

I definitely enforce getting into the habit of writing often, even if it’s not everyday. It’ll keep your thoughts and motivation fresh, but I also understand why this can’t always happen. As long as you’re moving towards your goal, I think that is important.

I would also mention taking into account achievements that may not be writing. For example, reading a good book or watching a movie that inspired you. Taking a long walk through a park or simply having a passionate conversation with a friend or family member. Each of these things can build up to writing and push it forward. Take rewards in both the big and small and finish whatever story you have in your head.

This is the first in what I hope to be more blog posts on this issue. If this has helped you, or you think it would be beneficial to someone else, please share this. It is greatly appreciated. If you’re a teen and have questions, feel free to message or tweet me and I’ll get to your questions in the next post!

Xx

Megan

Daughter of the Burning City: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

It has been a while since I posted a review so here I am, reviewing an ARC of Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody. I won this book in a contest hosted by the editor and I am so happy I did.

Note: There will be no major spoilers in this review so feel free to keep reading past this point. 

The cover was a huge hook. It is a lovely shade of purple with circus tents on the bottom and smoke rising into an ominous sky.

What made me want this book was the buzz it received on twitter. The description was right up my alley – a dark YA fantasy book.

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I liked this book a lot. It follows sixteen year old Sorina, an illusion worker who leads an act like the “freak shows” we have in our world. Each of her illusions possess an odd feature or power. She considers them her family and it was interesting how these bonds were explored as well as how Sorina’s powers work. The descriptions of her powers were absolutely lovely. I pictured them in my head with ease. What I also loved was the Gomorrah Festival and how it had a life of its own. The author did an excellent job of creating a setting that was, at the same time, a character. It gave me vibes of a grittier The Night Circus which I loved.

The main plot is one of Sorina’s illusions, who she believed could not die, is murdered. From there, she launches an investigation while facing obstacles like betrayal, dead ends, false leads, grief and identity. Sorina is not the most active narrator and is easily conflicted, causing a portion of the investigation to be muddled up in her own thoughts and uncertainty. She has to come to terms with who she can trust and if some aspects of the investigation hold merit.

The reason I wouldn’t give this book a five is because it had a few slow chapters, that inch towards the resolution but can act a bit like filler. Once I moved past these however, the journey to the end was a wild ride. I was shocked by the twists and I needed to know who killed Sorina’s illusion and why they would do such a thing by the last few chapters. The ending was worth the parts that dragged.

I think this is a great fantasy story and will draw in those who prefer a bit of dark magic. The main characters are not typical and that is a huge strength of the novel for Amanda creates them as they should be: people. Not freaks or devil spawns as the stereotypes placed on them suggest.

Overall, this gets 4/5 moths from me. You’ll understand this reference once you give it a read.

Xx
Megan

Games & Best Friends Featuring Anna Priemaza

Hello Readers & Writers,

I had the pleasure of interviewing Anna Priemaza, author of Kat and Meg Conquer the World releasing November 2017 from HarperTeen. This is a book I’ve been excited for and I was even more thrilled when Anna agreed to talk with me about the book. She raises some really strong points about friendship and identity.

Before I kick off the interview, here is a synopsis of Kat and Meg Conquer the World:

33877998Kat and Meg couldn’t be more different.

Kat’s anxiety makes it hard for her to talk to new people. The only place she feels safe is in front of her computer, playing her favorite video game.

Meg hates being alone, but her ADHD keeps pushing people away. Friends. Her boyfriend. Even the stepfather who raised her.

But when the two girls are thrown together for a year-long science project, they discover they do have one thing in common: their obsession with the online gaming star LumberLegs and his hilarious videos.

Meg’s pretty sure this is fate. Kat doesn’t know how to deal with someone who talks faster than she thinks. But if they can stick together and stay out of their heads, they might figure out how to help each other—and build the kind of friendship Kat never knew she wanted and Meg never believed she’d find.

Q1: Where did the idea for Kat and Meg Conquer the World come from?

Anna: When I’m brainstorming a book, I don’t think about plot, I think about people. My ideas notebook is full of characters and their relationship to each other. Kat and Meg Conquer the World stemmed from the concept of best friends who are opposites.


Q2: Did you grow up playing video games? If so, what did you love to play and on what gaming system?

Anna: I owe everything I am to the computer game Math Rabbit, which I played for hours and hours and hours when I was a kid. You don’t know joy until you’ve saved up enough e-tickets to buy the rollerskating poodle from the prize tent.

Also:

Gameboy – Super Mario Land, Kirby’s Dreamland, Yoshi, Rolan’s Curse, Tetris

N64 – MarioKart, Smash Brothers, Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Computer – Daggerfall, Heroes of Might and Magic, Jagged Alliance

We had only one computer and one console, so I spent a ton of time watching my sister play Zelda or my brother play some dungeon crawler game I can’t remember the name of. (How old do I sound? I swear I’m not that old. Technology changes quickly, kids!)


Q3: Do you share any traits with the characters you’ve created?

Anna: Well, like both of them, I’m a fangirling nerd and gamer who values friendship fiercely. I am also intimately acquainted with panic attacks and anxiety, like Kat, though some of the things that trigger my anxiety are different than hers.


Q4: What was it like getting into the headset of both Kat and Meg? Did you have an easier time with one character versus the other?

Anna: Kat came alive for me from the moment I set pen to the page. I have a vivid memory of writing the first few paragraphs of her first scene and thinking, “Oh! Hello, Kat! You’re here! It’s so nice to meet you!”

Meg took a bit longer to show herself, but once she did, I had a complete blast getting into her head. Meg is impulsive and gregarious and hilarious and although she is so very different from me, I adore her with my whole heart, and I love being in her head.


Q5: ADHD and anxiety are both important issues that need to be discussed in literature, but can also be complicated to write about given how they affect people differently. Did you do any research for these issues and what was that like?

Anna: Let me say first of all that I don’t consider Kat and Meg to be an “issue book.” It’s not a book about anxiety or about ADHD. It is a book about friendship, fandom, video games, and how people can be rocks for each other even when they themselves feel like quicksand.

I like to make this distinction because my own disabilities and mental health diagnoses feel similar to the fact that I have size 9 feet (okay, okay, size 9.5).

(Wait, what?

Bear with me, I have a point. You’ll see. I hope.)

The size of my feet is an unchangeable, defined part of me that impacts me in obvious (what shoes I can buy or wear) and not-as-obvious (how I walk or stand or balance) ways. I can’t wear the shoes of someone who has different sized feet than me–at least, I can’t wear them and be comfortable. My foot/shoe size impacts me on a day-to-day basis.

At the same time, though, if someone painted a picture of me, and it turned out all they painted was my feet… that’d be upsetting (not to mention creepy). I am more than my feet. I am more than my handicapped arm. I am more than my anxiety. I am more than my dermatillomania. I am more than my sensory processing disorder. (Though these things are all still a core part of me and impact me every day.)

Kat has severe anxiety, and that impacts everything she does throughout the whole book. But so does the fact that she is clever and thoughtful and ambitious and witty and completely badass at video games.

Meg has ADHD, and that impacts everything she does throughout the whole book. But so does the fact that she is fearless and brimming with ideas and passionate and hilarious.

All of this is to say that yes, I did a crap-ton of research for the aspects of Kat’s and Meg’s lives that are outside of my own experience–from reading through forums to watching YouTube videos to asking friends hundreds of questions to having numerous sensitivity readers. But my research did not define who they are, it just helped me paint various parts of their portraits with a bit more precision.


Q6: Describe Kat and Meg Conquer the World in three words.

Anna: Gamer girl BFFs


Q7: What do you want readers to take away from your book?

Anna: Friendship is badass and just as swoon-worthy as romance.


Q8: What is something you nerd out about?

Anna: I fangirl over YouTube gamers so much that I dressed as one for Halloween. I own at least 20 articles of Doctor Who-related clothing. At home, I live in my Hufflepuff hoodie. My husband and I own over 200 board games. I am…oh, wait, you said just one.


Q9:  Do you have plans for future books and if so, will they be a genre similar to Kat and Meg or a new one all together?

Anna: I’m currently working on my first round of edits for book two, which will come out from HarperTeen a year or so after Kat and Meg. It’s also a contemporary YA, about a girl who travels across Canada to search for her missing sister, accompanied by her sister’s best friend and the cultist accused of her murder.

As you can probably tell from that description, it’s a lot darker than Kat and Meg, but it still has a lot in common with my debut. It’s about relationships–friendship and family–and is still woven with nerd references and humour.

One thing you can expect from all my books is a primary focus on non-romantic relationships. Romance is great, but it’s only one of the thousands of ties that bind us to the people around us. We can have our heart broken by a friend, be supported by a rival, learn something from a younger sibling, be betrayed by a celebrity, be profoundly impacted by a stranger…*trails off, picks up ideas notebook, and starts writing frantically*


Author Bio: 

_DSC5200 v3 webAnna Priemaza is a contemporary young adult author and a practicing family and immigration lawyer in Edmonton, Alberta, where she lives with her husband. She can never quite remember how old she is, as she knits like an old lady, practices law like an adult, fangirls over YouTubers like a teen, and dreams like a child.

 

If you’d like to follow Anna and her work, which I highly recommend, see all these lovely links:

Website: http://annapriemaza.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33877998-kat-and-meg-conquer-the-world

Twitter: https://twitter.com/annab311a

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/annapriemaza/

Amazon (US): http://a.co/3Egl2G7

Amazon (CA): http://a.co/7XifUqO

Once again, a big thank you to Anna for joining me today.  Be sure to preorder/pick up a copy of Kat and Meg Conquer the World. I sure will be. To see more book related posts on my end, keep an eye on the blog.

Xx

Megan