Black Wings Beating: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

I was beyond fortunate to receive an ARC of Black Wings Beating by Alex London due to publish in September 2018 from Farrar Straus Giroux in exchange for an honest review. If you’ve never read anything by Alex London, I say finish this review and immediately pick up his stellar young adult sci-fi duology titles, Proxy and Guardian. I read them a few years ago and I still think about those books/offer them as recommendations.

When I found out Alex London was publishing another YA book, I squealed, and after having finished it, I can say it’s SO, SO, SOO, good. Before we dive into the review, which will be spoiler free, here’s a brief summary of the book.

BlackWingsBeatingFalconers are a group of people who call, train, and raise birds – a highly praised talent in Uztar. Brysen and Kylee are twins, Brysen who has trained for years to be a Falconer and Kylee who has a gift she doesn’t want and is ashamed of using. The book starts after the loss of their father, who was a terrible person, and a lot of the twin’s behaviors ties into their relationship with their parents.

A war, unknown but whispered about between the Uztar people, is on the rise and it’s in that environment the twins set out to capture a Ghost Eagle. For Brysen, he goes to save the boy he loves. For Kylee, she goes to protect her brother and come face to face with the mistakes of her past.

What I enjoyed about Black Wings Beating the most was the complex duality between Brysen and Kylee. While themes of this novel are power, one’s upbringing, and hard decisions, the plot centers around the relationship between the twins. Brysen and Kylee are constantly on edge with one another because they each have a trait the other is lacking. Kylee is everything Brysen wants to be and Brysen has this vulnerability and simplicity that Kylee wants. These differences have placed them in a relationship that snaps and bends more than it works together, but when it does, it tugs at your heart strings. At the end of the day, Kylee and Brysen do love each other. It merely takes time and a lot of struggle to realize it. These are not your ordinary siblings and their complexity makes them memorable.

Another aspect I loved about this book was the writing. Alex London crafts an extraordinary world that enhances the fantasy genre and brings the reader into the action early on. You get beautiful writing, a great depth of character expression, and small snapshots at the end of each section that set up for what’s to come.

You also get vivid descriptions of birds – so much so they become characters of their own. They’re also epic and monstrous and terrifying. You can see how much effort and research was put into not only building this world, but every other detail to make it as real as possible.

This book is a must read and you should not be sleeping on Alex London’s work.

Black Wings Beating gets a solid 5/5 feathers from me.

Xx

Megan

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Book Expo 2018: The Day Megan Told Her Anxiety to Shove It

Hello Readers & Writers,

I had the wonderful opportunity of attending Book Expo 2018 and wanted to share some of the fun with all of you. Upon attending, there were three goals I set for myself:

  1. Meet some bookish people and authors.
  2. Get books and swag.
  3. Network – aka me spending an hour making my business cards as perfect as they can be.

Prior to every convention, I make a schedule of things I want to do. This year, I had written it on post it notes and tucked them into a pouch where I had my Book Expo pass, business cards, a pen, and my phone. Yes, this was a very big pouch that hung from my neck, but it had everything I needed.

2Day one of Book Expo was me dressed in gothic af attire, scoping out where all the publishers were, and meeting so many bloggers. The perk about waiting in lines is talking to people not only helps pass the time, but you get to chat about books, work, favorite reads, and everything in between. You also find yourself running into these people throughout the day and they become your conference buddies. (Shout out to @CarolinaBookB on twitter for being an awesome friend.)

I also got to meet Kelly Barina – someone I had spoken to on twitter many times and just so happened to find on the same line as me for the Wildcard ARC drop. On top of that I chatted with Claribel Ortega – who is beyond approachable and sweet – about her debut (Ghost Squad coming 2019), how she was handling the crowds, and how pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and reaching out really helps you network in publishing. After that, I spoke with Meg LaTorre, another person I frequently interacted with on twitter and she was beyond wonderful in person. Seeing twitter people at events like this really reinforces the book community and those bonds you’ve already formulated online.

3Aside from being the first person on line for Wildcard by Marie Lu (still shocked tbh), going around to every publisher and passing out my business cards was a highlight for me. I’m a pretty shy person and I urged myself to push past my social anxiety to ask questions and make connections. Thankfully, everyone was beyond nice and willing to answer my questions as well as pass on my business cards to the right departments.

In case you didn’t know, I review Young Adult books, provide sensitivity reads, comp research, as well as freelance edit for YA and MG titles. I know – sometimes I wonder how I sleep too.

Bless the people who work for books and love them.

Also, bless the people who were okay with me going “Hi, I’m awkward, but I’m so happy to meet you.”

1Day two of Book Expo was equally as exciting. I was dressed less goth, but donned a gold crown in order to rep King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo – the amount of compliments on the crown were beyond entertaining. I also got to meet Joan He whose book, Descendant of the Crane, is coming out in 2019 and Caitlin LaRue – another twitter friend. I spent a lot of time with Amanda Foody (author of Daughter of the Burning City and Ace of Shades) and Christine Herman (author of The Devouring Gray coming out 2019), authors who I beyond admire and am excited for any and all books they write. They’re my selfie buddies in the above photo :D.

Onto the giddy part of me. Here’s a list of amazing books I was able to get:

What If It’s Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli

City of Ghosts by V.E. Schwab

The Wicked King by Holly Black

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

The Priori of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

Overall, Book Expo was a wonderful success and I hope to attend next year and have an even better time. To those considering the convention, I recommend going if you’re able to (note: there are a handful of volunteer opportunities prior to the event that give you free access to the show) and meeting some of your book buddies along the way.

Xx

Megan

Book Conventions: A How To Guide

Hi Readers & Writers,

With book convention season upon us, I thought I’d compile some tips and tricks to navigating conventions. I’ve both attended and worked behind the booth so hopefully this list will be able to help you out whether you’re a first time attendee or a frequent show goer.

stock-photo-memories-keys-trinkets-lanyard-ignition-iphone-8e5fd4fa-5961-41db-935d-16b09fa76151

Source: Twenty20.com 

1. Dress Comfortably. There are going to be a lot of people around and the last thing you want is to overheat in the first hour. I always opt for good ole quality cotton and dresses (with pockets) because bless pockets.

2. WATER IS YOUR BEST FRIEND. This circles back to point one, but aside from overheating, you’re going to do a lot of running around. You’d be surprised how quickly dehydration sets in.

3. Try to Arrive Early. For conventions like Book Con, there’s going to be a line alongside a bag check. Take the time you need to eat, park if you’re driving, and prepare yourself for the day.

4. Plan What You Want to See in Advance!! Trust me – this will save you so much time. I would also recommend highlighting what you absolutely don’t want to miss. Chances of doing everything on your list are low between crowds and wait time.

5. Learn the Layout. Spend a few minutes locating all the booths and author signings you’re interested in. This will ground you and save time later.

6. Budget, Budget, Budget. Food and drinks are always overpriced in convention halls. Be prepared for that. But also, be prepared for all of the glorious things you’re going to want to buy.

7. Be Prepared to Wait, A Lot. Between panels and ARC drops, sometimes you’ll need to line up an hour, maybe two in advance. Factor that into your schedule and what you need to either be standing or sitting for long periods.

8. Pack Light Initially. This will save your shoulders and back as you continue to collect swag and books.

Warning: grabbing everything you can may and likely will happen.

9. TAKE BREAKS. Make sure you take time to sit, recharge, and mentally/physically recompose yourself. You’re going to get tired quicker than you normally would.

At book con day two last year, I had a migraine. You can imagine how that went.

10. Make Friends! You’re going to be surrounded by book people. Most of them are super friendly and it’ll be easy to strike up conversations while waiting in line.

11. Respect Boundaries. This applies to convention goers, authors, and booth workers. Ask before taking photos or engaging in any physical contact (hand shakes, hugs, etc.). Every person has a different comfort level.

12. Have Your Badge Visible At All times! You’ll need this to enter the convention hall, but also for book drops and events. In Book Con specifically, they scan your badge before giving you whatever it is you’re lined up for.

13. Pushing Gets You Nowhere. I know there are a lot of cool things at conventions, but you don’t want to be that person.

14. Thank the Workers! It gets hectic and they’re working several days in a row to keep the show together.

Last year there was a wonderful Harper Collins woman who cleared a very crowded aisle and I thanked her once I got to the front of the line. Her smile was heartwarming.

15. If You Want to Network, I Highly Recommend Business Cards. They’re an easy way to have all your important information in one place and pass on after talking with someone.

Protip: Keep some business cards tucked behind your name tag if you’re wearing a lanyard.

16. Know the Rules. Author signings require a separate ticket from general admission (at least for Book Con). You will register for these before the con itself and they will not cost you anything – unless it’s a special entertainment guest. Every person, I believe, gets two signings per day.

17. Check Twitter. A lot of pub houses will tweet about contests, book drops, and author signings during shows. Turn on notifications so you can stay up to date.

18. Have fun! Get those books and swag and take tons of pictures.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave them below.

Xx

Megan

When To Put A Book To Rest

No one’s writing journey is the same. Sometimes, a writer will land an agent after a few tries, while others will take a handful of manuscripts and false steps. Time doesn’t invalidate success and each writer will have a different story about how they reached their goal. Publishing weighs heavily on luck, the market, and what agents and editors have in their inboxes. A rejection does not always mean your story isn’t where it needs to be.

Seriously, I highly encourage writers to read blog posts by agents. They can help your mindset beyond words.

Bearing this in mind, writers can reach a crossroads where after so many unsuccessful attempts, a question arises – does this story need work or is it time to shelve it? The answer depends upon so many factors, but it’s an important thing to discuss. The story of one’s heart is not always the one that gets an agent or a book deal. Maybe it’s the second book of your heart or the fifth. Maybe it’s one you didn’t expect.

The bottom line is you need to do what’s best for you, your story, and what you want to achieve.

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If you plan to shelve a story, here are some things you should consider:

  1. Where are you in the revision process? Have you gone through multiple revisions from a variety of reliable people (critique partners, editors, agents) and it still hasn’t gotten requests or offers of representation?
  2. What’s the market like? What’s desired fluctuates. Maybe your story falls into a bracket that is no longer being asked for by the publishing industry. This doesn’t mean your story isn’t good. It just means the interest isn’t as current as it once was. Interests tend to come back around so your book may be relevant later as opposed to now.
  3. Are you wearing emotional blinders? Writing is and always will be personal. Has being attached to a story clouded your judgment? Separating yourself from the story could allow you to see what may or may not be working.
  4. Are you burnt out? Now, this isn’t always a factor that ties into shelving a story. Life could be stressful. A personal issue could prevent you from getting words down. You’re jumping between projects. What I’m referring to here is more specific. Has writing a story left you feeling more exhausted than happy? If you find you’re struggling with your love for a story or it seems to be draining you, leaving it alone may be what you need. What may have started off as a positive experience might have tipped into something you didn’t anticipate.
  5. Have your ambitions or goals changed? Another issue could be the story you began with isn’t the one you want to succeed or your views on it have shifted. Maybe you’ve decided to pursue a different genre or audience altogether. Maybe this story wasn’t what you hoped it would be. Shelving it to work on something you’re more excited/hopeful for could bring muse back and a newfound drive for the publishing process.

Of course, shelving a book will always be an intense and personal decision that is never easy. For some, it may hurt. For others, it may be a relief, but this is up to the writer and the writer alone.

Feel free to share your experiences if you’ve shelved a project. What made you decide this? How did you get through it? What are you working on now? No author has the same writing experience and it’s important to see the variety of paths.

Xx

Megan

 

New Year, New Publication

Hello Readers & Writers,

Though I approach every new year with a bit of hesitation, this one has kicked off to a good start. A short story of mine has been published in an anthology and it is available for purchase on amazon! -insert confetti here-

The story in this anthology, Chaos of Hard Clay, was one I wrote a few years ago, taking a favorite character of mine I had written on the side and giving him his own story. With the help of my friend Erin, who created the second main character, Verity was born. It follows the protagonist Aleks, who has been living in exile after waking up to find his life for the past year was an illusion created by the government. He reunites with his best friend only to learn about what a disaster the world has turned into.

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A graphic I put together in order to represent Verity 

This story is close to my heart and I hope to do more with the characters in the future. Anyone who has a writer’s brain knows that stories appear out of nowhere and you can’t forget the characters closest to you. They also tend to chat in your brain regardless of your opinion on the matter.

That being said, if science fiction excites you, then consider buying this anthology as it contains twenty story of post apocalyptic disasters, alternative worlds, insane experiments and plot twists. Also, me and the other authors will be super appreciative. The full synopsis is as follows:

51pP-2IwknL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Imagine a world gone horribly wrong. Nuclear war. Climate Change. Zombies. Aliens. Science Gone Mad. Twenty authors present twenty horrific scenarios detailing the end of society. The good guys, the bad guys, and the murderers are all here, eking out a scant survival…or destroying all they come across. Who will live? Who will die? And will there be an Earth left when they do? Read these compelling, shocking stories to find out. Crystal Leflar: NO TEARS TO SPARE Daniel Willcocks: WHEN THE WORLD FLED EAST David Henderson: GAME OF TAG G. H. Finn: GRIM DIESAL Hákon Gunnarsson: WHAT’S BELOW THE SURFACE Han Adcock: A SHORT HISTORY OF THE FUTURE Jack Stone: AFTER Jessica Mizell: BEEN HERE BEFORE Jim O’Donnell: HANGING, JUST OUTSIDE THE WORLD Justin Bloch: THE BEGINNING, AGAIN Kamron Taylor: WHAT REMAINS Luke Kondor: DUST AND FINGERS Megan Manzano: VERITY N. J. Reynolds: BLACK WATER Ray Prew: HOW DO THEY LIKE IT Roxanne Dent: GHOST WOMAN Olin Wish: TAKE ME TO YOUR FUCKING LEADER Vonnie Winslow Crist: DEAD WRONG Steve Bissonnette: AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT! G. Allen Cook: ENDGAMES AND EPILOGUES

Purchase on [Amazon]

Read any of these stories, or even mine? Leave your thoughts below. I’d be happy to hear them. And as a final shout out, this anthology wouldn’t be possible without G. Allen Cook who put so much work into this project and believed in my story. I am still in awe of his drive and constant communication.

Till next time,

xx
Megan

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

What to Know: Publishing

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So you want to work in publishing?

YAY – shoots confetti from a cannon- The publishing world is happy to have you, but there are a few things you should know. These tips are mostly from my experience with publishing as well as some friends of mine and in no way dictate the experience you will have. Also note that I work in the United States so not all of this information may apply to international publishing houses.

Before Applying for a Job in Publishing:

  1. A large percentage of jobs will require a college degree. The most commonly asked for degrees will be a B.A. (Bachelor of Arts) in English or Creative Writing. I’ve seen some jobs extend outward to Communications, Journalism, and even just an arts degree in general, but the main two are listed above. The reason for wanting these degrees is so employers know that you’ve had experience with critical reading and writing.
  2. Be familiar with Microsoft Office. Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel are three main programs used constantly in publishing. Get acquainted with them now. Learn how to do track changes in Word, which is critical for reviewing manuscripts, how to set up PowerPoints, and how to format a data sheet in Excel. Upon getting a job, you will likely be trained on software that is specific to your company. This software will hold all of their information regarding their books, authors, and the like.
  3. Know the market beforehand. This is a super impressive thing when you’re meeting with potential employers and companies. They want to know that you’re paying attention to their brand, but also to a genre’s audience, trends, and popular books. If you want to work in fiction, it wouldn’t hurt to browse through a list of best-selling books, top publishing houses, and social media.
  4. Get an internship. Not everyone may have the time or means to acquire an internship, but if you can, please do. These will help make your application stand out and show employers you’re working towards your goal. Also, your chances of getting a job increase for a particular publisher if you’ve interned there before.I will warn you that a lot of internships are unpaid. You will either be offered a small stipend or request that you do the internship in exchange for college credit. Another important fact is the majority of internships are not offered to graduates (those going for a master’s degree or above). Publishing internships are geared for seniors in high school and those attending college. If you want an internship, plan ahead. Some publishers offer internships all year round, while others strictly in the summer.
  5. Publishing is not an easy business to get into. It is very competitive and often constrained to major cities, New York being a central hub. It took me six months to land a job. For friends of mine, it took over a year. Prepare for this, both physically and mentally. It can wear you down.Some companies offer remote positions, where you can work from anywhere, or chances to work from home. Unfortunately, these are still the minority.
  6. Where to look. Here are the sites that I used to search for jobs.http://bookjobs.com
    http://jobzone.publishersweekly.com/
    https://www.publishersmarketplace.com/jobs/
    https://www.mediabistro.com/

    A publisher’s website. A lot of the times, a publishing company will have their own section on careers and how to apply.

    Twitter. Editors and sometimes publishing companies post when jobs are open and the contact person to go to. Keep an eye on these!

 

The Interview:

Congratulations, you’ve secured an interview, maybe even several. Here is where you should go from there!

  1. Have a writing sample or portfolio ready. A good handful of jobs I applied to wanted a writing sample or several pieces gathered into a portfolio. Plan ahead and organize which pieces you want for this. They should be pieces that showcase your talent, voice, and how you analyze a text. Sometimes, the company will tell you what to write about and in that case, it’s up to you to craft a piece.Bring these samples with you, (I suggest two to three copies), to your interview even if you send them ahead via email. There could be multiple people who want to see your work or have a physical copy to read later as they make their decision.
  2. Include your social media on your resume. Publishing is very much an industry about getting the word out and that is mainly through social media, bloggers, etc. If you have a blog related to publishing, writing, editing, or similar topics, mention it on your resume. Note: This should only apply if it’s mainly professional and updated regularly. Employers don’t want to read about your daily life, but rather things that relate to the field. This can help show them your engagement.
  3. Questions you’ll be asked. No interview is the same, but there are some questions you should have answers prepared for. Taking time to think is fine. However, you don’t want to be caught on the spot with a potential employer. Interviews are already nerve-wracking enough.A) What’s your favorite book or a book you read recently?
    B) How do you react under pressure/how do you stay organized?
    C) What do you know about (insert genre, publishing house, assigned task here)?
    D) Why did you choose our publishing house?
    E) What is your biggest strength?

 

The Work Itself:

You’ve got yourself a job! I hope you’re celebrating because this is a big deal especially if it’s your first one in publishing or your first one out of college. Here’s what you should know.

  1. Timelines change. There are so many things that can happen that affect a schedule you were originally given. Be prepared for sudden changes that can either push back a book, make it jump weeks in the schedule, or make you scramble for documents you thought you had ready ages ago. Like any job, publishing relies on a lot of hands and not everything runs smoothly. Keep a schedule, a planner, post-it notes, tons of computer folders-whatever you need to stay on top of things.
  2. People can suck. You’re going to have to talk to a lot of people on a daily basis, whether it be other editors, different departments, or authors. When you work with authors who put a lot of time and effort into their projects, they can get upset/angry if you have to tell them no, change schedules, or give edits on their manuscript. This is bound to happen, hopefully not daily, but there are occasions where you’ll get a nasty email or voicemail. There isn’t much you can do other than be as understanding as you can or realize in your mind their words are not valid and they’re venting because the process didn’t go as they wanted. Or you know, they wonder why you didn’t take them when they’ve written the next Harry Potter.Don’t take the harshness to heart. If something is really bothering you, talk to a coworker of your boss or even step away if you can.
  3. Book people everywhere. My favorite part about my job is being surrounded by book lovers. A few weeks ago, I went to lunch with my coworkers and had an hour long conversation about classic literature-what we love, hate, and want to reread. It makes time fly and also puts me in a comfortable place. You will hopefully get this feeling as you enter publishing, because you can’t do this job if you don’t have a love for reading and stories.

Those are my main tips, but if you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Xx

Megan