Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 Recap - The Year of Change

Admittedly, I was not going to do a 2013 recap, but then Amanda Foody did this awesome 2013 Musings post and well...

I also got quite recap envy when I saw A.S. King's post

2013 may have been the Year of Learning for Jessica Spotswood, but for me it felt more like a Year of Change.

Quite a few things happened:

* I changed day jobs and into a position that challenged me, kept me on my toes, and pushed me out of the comfortable shell I'd worked in since I graduated college. Plus, I got to visit Google.

* My dog got older. I know we all get older, but she got older in that noticeable way. In that, let's stay here and hug more way. Also, medication schedule.

* My husband's guitar building career took off. Something that he had only hoped to do as a dream, and made it come true. He is the best inspiration (even though now our house is full of saw dust).

* After countless text messages, IMs, emails, phone calls, video chats, I finally met my amazing CP and best friend, Hay Farris!

* Got to tag along with Jodi Meadows at the Frederick Book Festival.

* There I also got to meet incredible bloggers: Cupcake Jen, Hannah Banana, and Liza!

* Went to a bunch of signings at my local indie, my favorites being: Leila Sales, Sara Zarr, and A.S. King.

* Was told Leslie Knope is my spirit animal.

* Got to interview some ah-may-zing authors on my blog series Writers Like Us. Also, made good use of Channing gifs.

* Drove to Boston to meet with my agent, Lauren MacLeod (but forgot to take a picture with her because her bangs were too awesome).

* Rocked some awesome hair. 

But when it came down to writing:

* I read 61 books (and counting since I have 2 days left!). Here were a few of my favorites.

* Wrote 2 stories (both of which will never see the light of day).
* Majorly revised 1 (like with a wrecking ball).

2014 will be the year:

* I finish my current MS and turn it into my agent.

* Rewrite one of the books I wrote in 2013 and wrecking ball that one too.

* Read way more.

* LIVE way more.

* A bunch of my favorite peoples' books come out: 

For the blog, I have quite a few fun things coming!

* Andrea Somberg, Natalie Lakosil, and Lucy Carson will be featured on Agents Like Us!

* I'm going to reinstate my Currently Reading posts.

* I'm trying to bring back the Top 5 lists too.

And my wish for you in 2014:

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Clan MacLeod becomes Poor Little Dead Girls

Hey! Know what today is!? The official release day for Lizzie Friend's POOR LITTLE DEAD GIRLS! 

So the entire Clan MacLeod celebrated by dying in all these weird and tragic ways (I ODed on hair product, naturally). 
Go check out all of our pictures on Jodi Meadows' blog!

And make sure you check out Lizzie here, follow her on Twitter @LizzieFriend, and buy her book there!

What's Up Wednesday - 12.18.13

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.

What up! Wednesday RAH RAH RAH! (this is me cheerleading for Wednesday --> *\O/*)

What I'm Reading
You guys talked me into it. Last week, I was trying to decide what to read before the end of the year and almost unanimously everyone said Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park!

Friday night, I got in bed with the intension of reading "just a few chapters" before I go to bed. That turned into "I devoured half this book and now it's 2 AM). So thanks guys. I blame my sleeplessness on you (and Rainbow).

But very seriously, word crack anyone?

What I'm Writing

I'm writing a lot this week. I've been taking a lot of time to daydream and read and just live and the words keep coming to me. I've been pretty lucky in that I'm balancing everything well (life and work and writing) right now. So I'm not going to jinx it.

I've been listening to Sara Zarr's podcast a lot lately. She interviews writers and they just talk about...writerly things. Things I didn't know anyone else felt or thought about the whole writing/publishing process. Definitely check it out! My favorite interviews are with Stephanie Perkins and A.S. King!

What Else I've Been Up To

My agency sister, Lizzie Friend's POOR LITTLE DEAD GIRLS came out yesterday! Lizzie did Writers Like Us yesterday and the entire Clan MacLeod decided to die to show our support. I ODed on hair product (naturally).

Take a look at all the pics on Jodi Meadows' blog!

What Inspires Me Right Now

I'm starting to think out some New Years resolutions. Admittedly, I really don't stick to anything once about February hits, but this year I really want to try:

  • To finish this book. Really finish it. Get it to that place where I'm okay sending it to people and getting their feedback and then ultimately sending it to my agent.
  • To try to balance out my life and my writing a little more. With me, it's all or nothing. I write and everything around me suffers: my home, my fitness, my relationships. I'm a girl obsessed with the story in my head. I'm getting better at finding the balance. Of actually taking a night off and writing when the inspiration hits.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Writers Like Us - Lizzie Friend

Lizzie Friend, agency sister and writer of twisted secret societies and DC boarding schools is here to share her Writers Like Us answers!

Lizzie's answers are below in bold.

Lizzie on Writing
  • I've written 1 book, and 1 has seen the light of day. Beginner’s luck? 
  • My favorite thing to write is dialogue. This is probably a little strange to admit, but I’ve always had a weird thing about daydreaming entire conversations in my head. Writing dialogue has always felt like a really fun, much-less-embarrassing extension of that.
  • No matter how long I've been writing, I still have issues with motivation. Writing is just like anything else, no matter how much I enjoy it, I also really enjoy vegging out on my couch. It’s so easy to put it off for yet another day, and once you get out of the habit, it’s really hard to get back on a consistent schedule. I wrote most of Poor Little Dead Girls during my commute when I was living in Chicago, and it was such an easy way to make sure I wrote a little bit every day.
  • A typical comment from my critique partner is “tell your characters and their wiggling/raising/narrowing eyebrows to calm down”. Also, “Did you steal that plot point from a Lifetime Movie or a Mexican soap opera?” (Answer, usually both).
  • The book I wished I wrote is Gone Girl, or Where’d You Go Bernadette. Only wish I was half as talented as those funny, creepy ladies.

Lizzie on Getting Published
  • When I was querying, I felt like a kid on American Idol circa 2005 right before Simon Cowell started talking. “Please Mr. Cowell, won’t you validate my existence?” 
  • The biggest mistake I ever made querying was including a (gasp) prologue in my sample pages.
  • The craziest thought I've ever had while writing is “This book is totally going to make me famous,” *finishes bottle of wine*
  • When I got "The Call," my first thought was ”This book is totally going to make me famous,” *finishes second bottle of wine*

Lizzie on Life Outside Writing
  • If I weren't a writer, I'd probably be an analyst, which is what I do now. I’m about six bestsellers, a major surprise inheritance and some serious black magic away from this being a full-time gig. 
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of snakes, though that one is no secret.
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I unironically enjoy trashy reality-show marathons. Also, not so secret.

Want more Writers Like Us? Check out the entire series, including interviews with A.S. King, Sara Zarr, Jennifer E. Smith, Kristin Halbrook, Tara Lynn Childs, Robin Benway, Katie McGarry, Trish Doller, and many, many more.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

For your TBR pile - Heartbeat

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Published: January 28th

Thanks Harlequin Teen and NetGalley for the eARC. In exchange, I've written this unbiased review.

From GoodReadsEmma would give anything to talk to her mother one last time. Tell her about her slipping grades, her anger with her stepfather, and the boy with the bad reputation who might be the only one Emma can be herself with. But Emma can't tell her mother anything. Because her mother is brain-dead and being kept alive by machines for the baby growing inside her.

Meeting bad-boy Caleb Harrison wouldn't have interested Old Emma. But New Emma-the one who exists in a fog of grief, who no longer cares about school, whose only social outlet is her best friend Olivia-New Emma is startled by the connection she and Caleb forge.
Feeling her own heart beat again wakes Emma from the grief that has grayed her existence. Is there hope for life after death-and maybe, for love?

Rating: ALL THE STARS. All of them.

Review: Not only do I love sad books, I thrive on them in this weird, creative way (because, really, the reason I read is to FEEL something shake me down at my core). Not only was this an incredibly heartfelt book, but Elizabeth Scott writes grief in this really raw, honest way. Not just in how she describes it, but in how her characters live in it and around it and wade their way through it.

There were so many things I loved about this book: the conflict between Emma and her stepfather Dan over the decision to keep Emma's dead mother's body alive until her brother is born. It's not just about their conflicting views, but their conflicting relationships with Emma's mother--and ultimately, their relationship with each other at stake. It was such a unique way to present a blended family. What do you do when that one person who glued everyone together falls through?

Also, the common ground Emma could find with bad boy Caleb. It's so interesting to me as a reader to see how ultimately tragedy and grief is present in all of our lives. Sometimes we just bury it deeper than people know.

Oh! And also, there's this scene where Emma gets drunk and it's basically the greatest scene ever written, not because it was hilariously honest, but because I'm pretty sure that's been teen me a time or two.

I'm not putting together an annual Favorite Books of 2013 list this year, but this is one of them (even though, technically, Heartbeat isn't out until January 2014).

Recommended For: everyone and anyone. In fact, if you don't read this one, I might threaten to hurt you (or just come over to your house and read it out loud to you).

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What's Up Wednesday - 12.11.13

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.

What a snowy, slushy way to kick off Wednesday!

What I'm Reading

This week, I'm reading Elizabeth Scott's HEART BEAT. I'm about 50% in and it is so heart wrenching. I love sad books.

This year, I've read 55 books (my GoodReads Reading Challenge goal was 50), and I was starting to eye up my stack to figure out what I'm going to round the year out with. So I thought I'd ask you!

I have:
Corey Ann Haydu's OCD Love Story
Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park (also, Fangirl)
Simone Elkeles' Wild Cards
Marissa Meyer's Cinder
and A.S. King's Please Ignore Vera Dietz

Any suggestions?

What I'm Writing

I have this weird superstition. I don't like to talk about my writing much. Especially when I really start to like what I'm writing. I feel like this is the only time the writing is ever going to be just "mine." Because the minute I start telling someone my half-baked idea (with that moony, in-love-with-my-story look in my eye), something is said to suck the wind out of my sails. And then I feel incredibly stupid for even wanting to write something so dumb (but about two seconds ago I thought was awesome).

So, it's going well. I don't want to talk about it right now. <3

What Else I've Been Up To

Last week, A.S. King participated in my Writers Like Us blog series! She is so awesome. One of the best bits from her interview was the same advice she gave to me a few weeks ago when I met her on book tour. 

Consider this fact: It took me 12 years and 8 novels to get an agent. But I also felt that if I was getting rejected, then I was working. I still think this way. 

She's amazing. Just so amazing.

What Inspires Me Right Now

A writing lesson Shannon, my guitar builder husband, taught me this week. He basically takes a block of wood and shapes it into this, a working, functional guitar (that is even sometimes played on stages). All these guitar guys are clambering for him to come out with new stuff and to sell it so they can play it! But Shannon takes his time. If it takes months, it takes months. The guitar in the video took almost a year for him to build.

"People will wait for good art," he told me. It gets to the point where he spends so much time crafting his builds, he hates to let them go. When he came back from this show, the first thing he said to me was, "I miss that guitar. I want it back."

So I'm learning to take my time with my writing and enjoy the actual writing without thinking of what will happen once I'm done. (Also, not talking about it so it can stay mine for as long as possible.)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Writers Like Us - Jenny Kaczorowski

I am so excited to help Jenny Kaczorowski kick off her blog tour for her book, THE ART OF FALLING. Not only is Jenny one of the nicest writers I know, but her premise sounds fantastic. Militant vegan girl with purple hair falls for the football captain? I love these types of contemps! It comes out December 19th from Bloomsbury Spark so be sure to pick this one up.

So without further adieu,...

Jenny on Writing
  • I've written 5 books, and 2 have seen the light of day. The first two are such a mess they have no hope. None. The third I queried before setting aside until such a time as paranormal is desirable again. The fourth has been in edits for two years and the fifth is THE ART OF FALLING.
  • My favorite type of scene to write is almost kissing. I love romantic tension!
  • No matter how long I've been writing, I still have issues with brevity. My degree is in journalism, so I spent my entire college career learning to be as concise as possible. It’s a hard habit to break and I almost never hit my word count goals until well into edits.
  • A typical comment from my critique partner is MOAR KISSING! That brevity thing again – my CPs always want more details and more kissing.
  • The book I wished I wrote is A Wind in the Door. The romance – in all it’s quiet, understated glory - still makes my heart still.

Jenny on Getting Published
  • If my editor really knew how crazy I was, she would find out just how much we’re alike ;) The fabulous thing about Meredith is that she gets my particular brand of crazy and fully supports it.
  • When I was querying, I felt vulnerable. I queried my first serious book for a long time – longer than I should have. Every time I posted for crit, entered a contest or sent a query, I felt like I was sending out bits of my soul. When I finished FALLING, I went much slower and never really queried beyond pitch contests. I was very lucky that Meredith, my editor, saw my pitch and fell for FALLING so fast. Querying is terrifying!
  • The biggest mistake I ever made querying was including the wrong personalization. I got the agent’s name right, but mentioned an article about another agent. I was so embarrassed I didn’t even email again to explain it was a copy/paste error. I got a form rejection half an hour after sending.
  • The craziest thought I've ever had while querying is waking up at 6 am for a query feedback contest - on my birthday. I just couldn’t miss the opportunity!
  • When I got "The Email," my first thought was it was another rejection! Meredith sent me an email and I opened it without reading the heading. I was halfway through the first paragraph before I realized what it was!

Jenny on Life Outside Writing
  • If I weren't a writer, I'd probably be a photographer. I majored in photojournalism and planned to work for National Geographic when I grew up, but life is never what we plan, right? I still love photography and dabble in portrait and product work.
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of fish. Seriously terrified. I have nightmares about them and can’t fall back asleep. If I’m in a room with a fish tank, I keep one eye on it the whole time. Guppies, goldfish, minnows. They freak. Me. Out. But I’m totally okay with sharks.
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I sing. I have no natural rhythm (I throw large groups of people off beat if I clap) and no musical ability whatsoever.

Want more Writers Like Us? Check out the entire series, including interviews with A.S. King, Sara Zarr, Jennifer E. Smith, Kristin Halbrook, Tara Lynn Childs, Robin Benway, Katie McGarry, Trish Doller, and many, many more.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Writers Like Us - A.S. King

A.S. King is here! A.S. King is here! A.S. King is heeeeeeeere!

I recently read REALITY BOY, which is at the top of my list of my "Read This ASAP or I Will Threaten to Hurt You" List. You may have heard of some of A.S. King's other books: ASK THE PASSENGERS, PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ, and EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS, among others.

Very seriously, A.S. King is one of my favorite contemporary YA authors right now, and after meeting her at a recent signing, I can vouch that she is one of the most supportive, knowledgable authors out there.

Her Writers Like Us answers are below in bold.

A.S. KING on Writing

  • I've written 20 books/collections, and 8 have (or will have) seen the light of day.
  • My favorite type of scene to write is on the edge of its own seat, usually present tense, and completely by accident. 
  • No matter how long I've been writing, I still have issues with endings and it takes me a while to get them right.

A.S. KING on Getting Published
  • When I was querying, I felt all the normal feelings: despair, doubt, fear, frustration. Consider this fact: It took me 12 years and 8 novels to get an agent. But I also felt that if I was getting rejected, then I was working. I still think this way. 
  • The craziest thought I've ever had while being published is that I actually understood any part of the publishing business. There is nothing to understand. It is crazy and everyone entering it should read Joseph Heller's Catch-22 to prep themselves.

A.S. KING on Life Outside Writing
  • If I weren't a writer, I'd probably be a psychologist or an abstract painter. 
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of dying.
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I wear a scientist's lab coat all day long.

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