Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What's Up Wednesday - 8.28.13

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up.

You can participate by going to Jaime's blog here. Or Erin's blog there.

Yay! Another What's Up Wednesday! Hope you all are doing swell!

What I'm Reading

I'm double reading (do you ever do that? Read two books at once?) Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner's THESE BROKEN STARS (which is so incredibly awesome. It's Blue Lagoon...IN SPACE!), and Jennifer Laam's THE SECRET DAUGHTER OF THE TSAR (my first non-YA read of the year. Russian historical!).

What I'm Writing

Saaaame MS. Still love. <3

Agency sister, Helene Boudreau challenged some of us to a 10K by Labor Day challenge and I'm forgoing barbecues and showers (okay, maybe not showers) and going for that this weekend. Anyone else want in?

What Else I've Been Up To

I've got hard-core writing going on, and because of the day job, I only get a small window at 6 AM, nights, and weekends to get my word count in. Sarah Dessen said it best, "I just have to be super strong when it comes to my work time. Shut the browser, ignore the email alerts, and just WRITE."

But, see, when I try to do that, I'm afraid I'm being super rude and neglectful of people. And I most likely look like this:

What Inspires Me Right Now

My very first internship was at MTV's animation studios in Times Square when I was 19. It was around the time of Carson Daley and TRL, and it was pretty much the greatest job I ever had (unpaid and all). So every year the VMAs are like my Super Bowl. 

I know there were a lot of scene stealers during Sunday night's show (*cough* Miley), but I think Katy Perry kicked the most ass. Plus I love this song.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What's Up Wednesday - 8.21.13

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up.

You can participate by going to Jaime's blog here. Or Erin's blog there.

Hello, hello, What's Up Wednesday-ers! Hope you are having a gorgeous week!

What I'm Reading

I'm finishing up THE RAVEN BOYS and moving on to Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner's THESE BROKEN STARS. I'm super excited about this one.

What I'm Writing

Something that I'm still slowly and quietly falling in love with. I had a write-a-thon weekend and got a lot of word count down. You know how we rush to get count down and finish our MSs? I'm actually enjoying the writing so much I hope I never finish.

What Else I've Been Up To

It's my birthday on Saturday and I plan to sit down on the beach in Cape May and read all day and make a last-ditch attempt to get tan this summer. So all this week I'm trying to make word count and prepare for a day off.

I hope everyone wished Jaime Morrow a happy birthday because hers was this week too!

What Inspires Me Right Now

Having the most amazing friends. The kind that tell you to keep writing and trying and dreaming and hoping. Specifically...

Kelly who has been the most supportive non-writer friend a writer could have, because she says things like, "Oh. Well, go write and I'll see you when you're done," and we both know that means when I crawl out of the Writers Cave and back into reality.

HayFay who has not only the best stories, but the most fantastic morning hair.

And Jodi Meadows who still loves me even though I threw a notebook at her face

Sunday, August 18, 2013

For Your TBR Pile - The Vow

The Vow by Jessica Martinez

When it will be published: October 15th

From GoodReadsNo one has ever believed that Mo and Annie are just friends. How can a guy and a girl really be best friends?
Then the summer before senior year, Mo’s father loses his job, and by extension his work visa. Instantly, life for Annie and Mo crumbles. Although Mo has lived in America for most of his life, he’ll be forced to move to Jordan. The prospect of leaving his home is devastating, and returning to a world where he no longer belongs terrifies him.
Desperate to save him, Annie proposes they tell a colossal lie—that they are in love. Mo agrees because marrying Annie is the only way he can stay. Annie just wants to keep her best friend, but what happens when it becomes a choice between saving Mo and her own chance at real love?

What I liked most: I loved that Martinez wrote a story about two completely plutonic best friends having to make the ultimate commitment to save their friendship. The dual POV was excellent and I felt for both characters and the very different consequences they experienced based on their decision. Mo's voice was excellent--full of intelligent snark, but would melt when he spoke about Annie or his sister. Plus, he had that damn cat to deal with. On the other hand, Annie was fierce and defiant against her parents' over protectiveness. I admired the way she made sacrifices so that the people she loved could be happy, and was happy to see her find her own in the end.

Why you should have it in your TBR pile: I love stories about friendships that become more, but in this case, it was so much more than more. There really isn't quite enough books about friendships that go beyond romance. Mo and Annie cared about each other in a way that went beyond lust or love or even this reader's expectations.

My favorite scene: Definitely when Mo moved into his own apartment and Annie had to come over and help him learn to live like a real human being and not a cretan teenage boy. Also, any scene with Satan's Cat.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What's Up Wednesday - 8.14.13

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up.

You can participate by going to Jaime's blog here. Or Erin's blog there.

This my very first What's Up Wednesday and I'm exciiiiited! Hello, hello, What's Up Wednesday-ers!

What I'm Reading

Maggie Steifvater's THE RAVEN BOYS and OH MY GOD is it good! I wish someone would have told me "you know this book is about cute rebellious boys who drive cool cars, right?" about six months ago. 

What I'm Writing

Something that I'm slowly and quietly falling in love with. This hasn't happened in quite a long while for me so I'm keeping it close to the chest for the now. <3

What Else I've Been Up To

Settling back into work after a pretty awesome vacation to Key West. It's really strange opening the laptop and realizing you have to start all over again. 

What Inspires Me Right Now

This gif of Channing feed a puppy is pretty much the greatest thing in my life right now. I have a thing for him, you know. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Writers Like Us - Liz Fichera

I've been eying up Liz Fichera's HOOKED for quite a bit. I absolutely love an opposites-attract, girls-can-do-what-boys-can type of romance. But from what I've read about Liz's book, HOOKED is so much more.

"Not just a Romeo and Juliet story, the book examines the conflicts of white versus Indian and rich versus poor, giving it far more heft than the average romance. Bravo." (Kirkus STARRED Review)

I'm sold! I'm reading this one in September!

Her answers are below in bold. Let us know what makes Liz like you in the comments.

Liz on Writing

  • I've written 6 books, and 3 have seen the light of day.
  • My favorite type of scene to write is the anticipation before a first kiss. My favorite type of character to write is someone who’s unpredictable, who can catch the reader off-guard. 
  • My favorite type of setting to write is the desert. 
  • No matter how long I've been writing, I still have issues with ending a story. Ending a story that you’ve spent so much time with is like saying goodbye to a best friend. I suck at good-byes.
  • A typical comment from my critique partner is to weave in more back story. 
  • The book I wished I wrote is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Thrillers are usually not my go-to books but the pacing and unpredictability in this book blew me away. I loved how the author created unlikable characters that you had to care about because you had to see how the mystery unfolded. Genius.

Liz on Getting Published
  • When I was querying, I felt like my fingers had become glued to my laptop. I became (overly) obsessive about checking email.
  • The biggest mistake I ever made querying was querying before my manuscript was ready for publication.
  • When I got "The Call," my first thought was that my agent had obviously dialed the wrong number. She had to have me confused with someone else.
  • When I saw my book sale in Publishers Marketplace, I got all choked up. It finally felt real.

Liz on Life Outside Writing
  • If I weren't a writer, I'd probably be an artist—albeit a starving one. 
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of heights. I can barely climb a stepstool to reach for something in my kitchen cabinets. It’s embarrassing.
  • My secret boyfriend is Lou Diamond Phillips and, seriously, any of the men in LONGMIRE. I am totally in crazy love with that show. 
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I crank up songs from The Proclaimers to almost ear-bleeding levels and dance around à la Risky Business-style.
Liz is an author living in the American Southwest by way of Chicago. Come visit her at to learn more.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Channing Fridays - Writing Is Hard

Someone once asked me what the writing process was like and while I started to explain, I couldn't.

Because, and I know we always say it, but writing is hard. Really hard. Indescribably hard. How do you describe just how hard it is to someone who has no idea what they are getting themselves into when they decide, "I'm going to try to write a book"?

So, naturally, I thought, "Maybe Channing can help!"

Let's be real, it usually starts after being rejected from a manuscript you've sweated and slaved over. So the whole process starts when you're like this.

Even the idea of writing another book makes you want to laugh, then puke, then laugh some more.

But, eventually, if you have good writer friends or an awesome agent or a supportive family, they will listen to your whining and wallowing for days weeks months, and convince you to give it one more try.

So you cleanse yourself, release the bad energies from that last dead-in-the-water manuscript. And you come up with an idea.

Then you take what's left of your bleeding heart and throw it in front of your writer friends and agent. 

...And they approve.

And for just a minute, you're like, "This is it. This will be 
The One.
Representation. Publication. Sales. Awards. It will all be yours!

And then you sit down at your computer and feel like an asshole.

Because every word you write feels like "oh my God, I have no idea what I'm doing! What am I doing?! I'm doing all this wrong, aren't I? I AM! I AM DOING THIS WR--oh. Wait."

Eventually, you find your groove. And the words show up and decide to party.

You even feel a tiny bit smitten with your project. Because, even though that last one hurt you, this one is kinda cute. 

Who are you kidding? This project is NOTHING like that old one. It's adorable and awesome. And...Nom nom nom.

Then you finish writing it, and you realize you have to send it out for people to read.

And they send you feedback.

And you revise.

But the manuscript is better and stronger and then you hear:

Then your project goes out into the world, either on submission or to be published or whatever. And you divorce it. You let it go.

And then the whole cycle starts again.

So, there it is. Basically, writing is hard and gut wrenching and full of ups and downs. But it's also ridiculously awesome. Just like this gif of Channing feeding a puppy. Because OH MY GOD, CHANNING FEEDING A PUPPYYY!

And this, my friends, is why we have Channing Fridays.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Writers Like Us - Sara Zarr

I would be completely and totally lying if I did not admit that having Sara Zarr participate in Writers Like Us isn't part dream, part oh-my-god-do-not-fangirl-out, Valerie! Sara has written some of my favorite contemporaries: ONCE WAS LOST, STORY OF A GIRL, SWEETHEARTS. Her most recent release, THE LUCY VARIATIONS, picked me back up when I thought writing had knocked me down for good.

For me, Sara Zarr has been this strong touchpoint, who's work is always there for me when I seem to need it. So, without further ado...

Her answers are below in bold. Let us know what makes Sara like you in the comments.

Sara on Writing
  • I've written 9 books and 5 have seen the light of day (so far).
  • My favorite type of scene/character/setting to write is dialog between/among characters in some kind of emotional conflict.
  • No matter how long I've been writing, I still have issues with lay/lie.

Sara on Getting Published
  • When I was querying, I felt anxiety, hope, despair, fatigue.
  • The craziest thought I've ever had while being published is imagining myself winning an Oscar (which really has nothing to do with writing books, so that was very crazy).

Sara on Life Outside Writing
  • If I weren't a writer, I'd probably be still trapped in administrative assistant hell.
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of spiders, but that's not really a secret.
  • My secret boyfriend is Mark Ruffalo. Also not a secret.
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I have Erasure dance parties.

Sara Zarr is the acclaimed author of five novels for young adults, including The Lucy Variations, to be published in May 2013. She’s a National Book Award finalist and two-time Utah Book Award winner. Her books have been variously named to annual best books lists of the American Library Association, Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, the Guardian, the International Reading Association, the New York Public Library and Los Angeles Public Library, and have been translated into many languages. In 2010, she served as a judge for the National Book Award. She has written essays and creative nonfiction for Image, Hunger Mountain online, and Response as well as for several anthologies, and has been a regular contributor to Image‘s daily Good Letters blog on faith, life, and culture. As of summer 2013, she’s a member of the faculty of Lesley University’s Low-Residency Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program. Born in Cleveland and raised in San Francisco, she currently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband, and online at

Friday, August 2, 2013

Currently Reading - August 2013

It's been kinda crazy since I got back from vacation. It was the one last book binge before I came home to write like a maniac.

BFF Kelly and I even started reading on the plane (orrr maybe we just tortured Bria Quinlan because we had an ARC of WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE in our possession)!

So in July, I read:
  • Sara Zarr's THE LUCY VARIATIONS (completely, ridiculously awesome. Read this one right now!)
  • Deb Caletti's THE STORY OF US (gorgeous prose)
  • Melissa Landers' ALIENATED (doesn't come out until next year but needs to go to the tippy top of your TBR pile!)
  • Gemma Burgess' BROOKLYN GIRLS (funny and sweet. I adored it up and down)
  • Jodi Meadows' PHOENIX OVERTURE (AHHH! So excited for this one to come out in September)
If you're curious, Kelly read Trish Doller's WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE and Bria Quinlan's WRECKLESS. And then she made me do social things like kayak and go out to dinner because she's the best friend an introverted book nerd can have. 

So here's what I plan to read for August:

  • Jessica Martinez's THE VOW (which I already started and OMG is so good!)
  • Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner's THESE BROKEN STARS
  • and one more crack at Maggie Stiefvater's THE RAVEN BOYS (which, I swear, I will start and finish one of these days!)

Happy August reading! Also, remember to let your best friend make you do some activities this summer. It's good to take your nose out of your book and take a look at the world around you. 

And if that's not your speed, look at this turtle, yo!

(PS do not judge my weird, gross hair. I was in FLORIDA! Enough said.)

2013 Reading Challenge

2013 Reading Challenge
Valerie has read 11 books toward her goal of 50 books.
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