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2019 Wrap Up

Welcome to December! I should be working on my WIP right now instead of tallying up numbers from this year, but what is a writer if not a procrastinator, right? So I bring you my 2019 writing stats. People often ask me how long it takes to get a book written and what a writer does (besides the actual writing part), so here’s a little peek into what 2019 looked like for me.

2019 Writing

Books published: 1
eBooks published: 1
Audiobooks produced: 1
Signing events attended: 5
Independent Book Award Entries: 4
Independent Book Award Finalist: 1
Independent Book Award Losses: 1
Independent Book Award Unknown Outcome: 2
Manuscript words written: >86,000
Manuscripts finished: 1
Manscripts queried: 3
Query rejections: 39
Requests for partial: 1
Requests for full: 2
Total accumulative completed manuscripts (2011-2019): 5
Online pitch contests entered: 2 (if you count tomorrow’s #PitMad on Twitter)
Blog posts written: 26
Number of new SCBWI critique group members discovered: 3
Writing friends made: too numerous to count

Happy Holidays, friends! I wish you a happy, healthy, and successful 2020!

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If I’m Dreaming, Don’t Wake Me Up

So a little thing happened today.

A Thousand Years to Wait was listed as an Award-Winning Finalist in the Fiction: Fantasy category of the 2019 Best Book Awards sponsored by American Book Fest!

Someone pinch me.

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12 Books—Month 9

It’s time for another Twitter friend book review and this time it’s Roselle Lim’s Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune.

I didn’t think twice about picking up this book. It has everything I love – a romance, a little bit of magic, a girl finding her place in the world. I wouldn’t think of missing it!

Natalie Tan's Book of Luck & Fortune

What I found when I opened the pages and dove in did not disappoint. In fact, it’s such a unique story that I almost don’t want to delve into the details and give anything away…

Suffice it to say the story follows a young woman who returns home to San Francisco’s Chinatown after many years away (and a not-so-happy parting with her agoraphobic mother). She returns because her mother has passed away, and she’s plagued with sorrow and guilt at having left her mother on bad terms. She finds her community in disrepair and longs to help in a way she couldn’t have before she’d left. According to a mystic, the neighborhood will prosper if she makes three recipes to help three neighbors.

Because Natalie Tan’s recipes come from her grandmother’s magic recipe book–a book that features recipes for the tastebuds, but ingredients for the heart, her cooking contains just as much magic, repairing damaged relationships and helping love to flourish. It’s the story of a woman who finds her place in this world.

But it’s also a story of suspending disbelief, of allowing magical realism to take over. Lim’s descriptions are poetic, her writing lyrical. The book was a delightful read full of mouth-watering recipes that made me wish I had my own personal chef.

In the end, I have only one question. Who cleans Natalie’s kitchen after all that meal preparation?

12 Books—Month 8

Hooray, we’ve reached one of my favorites in my Twitter friend book reviews. This month, I read Jean Grant’s Will Rise From Ashes. If her name looks familiar, it’s because I’ve mentioned Jean before on my blog. Several times, actually, as Jean is a critique partner and beta-reader extraordinaire. In fact, I mentioned Will Rise From Ashes when I featured an interview with her several months ago.

Now I get to tell you all about how much I loved it! Will Rise From Ashes is a women’s fiction, near apocalyptic, mother’s journey and romance that will take you on a ride. (And not just because A.J., the main character, is traveling thousands of miles to find her missing son.) I’m talking emotional rollercoaster.

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Before I had kids, stories like this would have been entertaining. Now? Now they’re terrifying. As a mother, there is nothing more horrifying than the feeling of helplessness where your kids are concerned, and Grant captures it perfectly.

Our main character A.J. has already faced emotional loss with the accidental death of her husband a year prior. Now, with help from her brother, she vows to take her two children to Yellowstone National Park–a vacation they were supposed to take as a family before her husband died. There’s a catch, though. It’s not an easy trip. A.J.’s older son Will is on the autism spectrum, which makes hectic airport environments challenging. When Will has a meltdown in the airport due to a delay caused by an overbooked flight, A.J.’s brother insists that she and Will take the last two seats, that he and her younger son Finn will catch the next flight.

The only problem? The super volcano beneath Yellowstone erupts, causing devastation and havoc while A.J. and Will are safely on their way home. When A.J. learns what happened, she’s determined to get to Finn at any cost, even though all flights are grounded. She loads Will into the car and the two begin a cross-country journey from Maine to Colorado (where her brother and Finn were supposed to catch a connecting flight). If they are still alive, that’s where they’ll be.

As if the tension weren’t enough, Grant throws in a hero by the name of Reid, and a sizzling sweet romance to last the ages. It’s a fantastic read that has everything one could want in a book. I keep hoping the right person will read this and make it into a movie… (Hollywood, you hear me? I’m talking to you!)

12 Books—Month 7

Yes, I’m playing catch up. Since we’re actually in the 10th month of the year, I’m reviewing 2 books by Twitter friends in one month, but this one was an easy pick. Why? Because it’s The Ventriloquists by E.R. Ramzipoor, and I had the pleasure of getting to meet Ramzipoor in person when she visited my lovely little library just a few weeks ago for an incredible presentation as part of Literatour Berks. (<— That’s an amazing program, by the way, and I’m honored to have been a part of the committee that’s helped pull it together.)

The Ventriloquists

The Ventriloquists isn’t the kind of novel I would have picked up on my own. While the cover is gorgeous (It is, isn’t it?), I have a difficult time with historical fiction. It’s not that I’m uninterested, but I get bogged down in the details. But this…this I couldn’t resist.

Inspired by true events, the novel follows a ragtag gang of journalists and resistance fighters in 1943 Belgium who risk their lives for an elaborate scheme to undermine the Reich in the practical joke of the century. When we think of World War II stories, we tend to think of the war stories told time and again—the soldiers’ tales, the bombings, the rescues, the planes and the ships, the big picture heroes. Often overlooked is the story of the everyday resistance fighter, and that’s what Ramzipoor brings to light in The Ventriloquists.

The Ventriloquists features a large cast that can be overwhelming in the beginning (not going to lie), but is well-worth the time spent getting to know them. Beloved characters with charm and wit, LGBT representation that’s more often than not erased from history in most works, and a precocious child (our narrator) at the center of it all.

In all, 60,000 copies of a fake newspaper (Le Soir) were distributed at the Nazis’ expense on November 9th, 1943. The newspaper was real enough, you see, but it wasn’t the paper that should have been distributed that day. Instead, it was a spoof paper written to poke fun at the Nazis, at the Reich, and at Hilter himself. It was a prank of epic proportions and a story I can’t believe hasn’t been told before.

Do yourself a favor. Pick up The Ventriloquists, read, and enjoy history coming to life before your very eyes. Ramzipoor has crafted a winner in this incredible debut.

12 Books—Month 6

Okay, okay, so we’re a little more than 6 months into the year. Perhaps I was being a tad ambitious about reading 12 Twitter friends’ books in a year, especially when my own book launched a few months ago and I’ve had several signings and events and I’m still trying to keep up on recommended reading from friends and coworkers (which will bring me to 12 Books—Month 7 in a few short weeks).

Without further ado, I bring to you Planetside by Michael Mammay. It’s been a long time since I’ve picked up a science fiction novel. I veer more toward fantasy. What can I say? I’m a sucker for magic and dragons, and I tend to get a little lost when it comes to hard sci fi.

Planetside

That said, there was no way to get lost in Planetside. (I mean, there is, but that’s getting lost in the very best of ways.) I’m not even sure I would classify it as hard science fiction. Does it take place in space? Yes. Are there space stations, and aliens, and hostile planet takeovers? Yes, yes, and yes. Okay, I guess it really is hard sci-fi. But that’s difficult to remember that when the entire novel is wrapped up in what’s essentially a murder-mystery. (Missing person mystery? Can it be a murder mystery if there’s no body?)

I must say one of the most surprising aspects of this book…was finding out that the protagonist wasn’t a misogynistic jerk.

What’s that, you say? Why should that be surprising? Well, I’ve read a number of mystery-thriller novels with a smart-ass male protagonist who’s on the tail-end of his career, but somehow manages to solve an incredibly difficult case no one else possibly could have cracked while snagging a beautiful woman half his age, while also admiring eight other women’s asses in the entire length of the novel. It gets old. Really old. Is it a male fantasy thing? Probably. But I like a good mystery, too, and I love a smart-ass protagonist! (Still…he doesn’t need to be checking out every woman’s breasts or rear throughout the entirety of the book!)

Guess what? Mammay not only doesn’t have a misogynist as his main character, but he also HAS MANY WOMEN CHARACTERS ALL THROUGHOUT THE BOOK AND YES I AM SHOUTING BECAUSE I AM HAPPY. Do you know how annoying it is to see 90% of the cast as male in just about any random book (especially science fiction)? Not only is the main character in Planetside happily married and looking forward to retirement, but he also happens to interact with dozens of female officers, soldiers, and hospital personnel throughout the book, all of which is done without a bat of the eyelashes. Women. Treated as equals. It’s a novel concept. (See what I did there? Novel concept.)

All in all, this book was stellar. My only hitch is in the ending because now I have to pick up Spaceside… Well-played, Mammay. Well-played.

End of Summer Odds and Ends

Okay, so it’s been almost two months since my last blogpost. Please don’t yell at me! I’ve been busy. I promise. And yes, busy with so much book-stuff I can hardly keep track of it all. Not that I’m complaining…

First up, I got to visit one of my most amazing-est (Yes, that’s a word. I have deemed it so.) online friends IN REAL LIFE. My book-blogging buddy, Shanah McCready (also known as the Bionic Bookworm)! Life is SO good, and the internet really does have a positive side, I swear. We vacationed together this summer with our families and had a blast.

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I hate selfies. She hates selfies. But we took this one about 10 minutes after meeting…with both of us nearly sick with the anxiety of meeting an internet friend in real life!

Second, the kids were home all summer, so I didn’t do much in the way of writing. BUT. I did at least start writing Tarrowburn #2, so I’m moving in the right direction. I hope to wrap up the first draft by the end of this year. Ambitious of  me, but we’ll see what kind of things life throws at me in the mean time.

Third, I was invited to a signing event at Barnes & Noble in Lancaster, PA! Yes, really. No, I’m not joking. Who even am I? (If you know the answer, please tell me because I still haven’t figured it out.)

 

Even cooler? One of the authors I sat next to during the signing event was Greg Cox, a talented and established writer of many of the Star Trek novels. (Among many, many, MANY others.) I might be intimidated except that he was so darned nice and handed out good advice like it was candy. (If you’re reading this, “Hi, Greg! And thank you!”)

Lastly, I’ve been busy making arrangements for other appearances in Berks and surrounding counties and will have an updated list soon!

In the mean time, please remember the holidays are coming, books make great gifts, and Amazon reviews are gold.

 

ADDENDUM: Um, hello? This is why I should not write a blog post at 10 p.m. on a Monday. I completely forgot that I was contacted by a new imprint of major publishing house and had the chance to work on a children’s book this month!! (How does one forget this, exactly?) So, more book news! Yay! I’ll let you know when the book releases and when I can say more about it.

Book Launch Parties, The Meaning of Family, & Other Musings

This week has been one heck of a whirlwind. Wait. I mean last week. (See? It’s already gotten  away from me…)

TresLast week, I spent my Wednesday and Thursday driving to & from Massachusetts to bring this sweet girl to her new home. I am so very glad this cat is now living with one of my dearest friends because I’ll be honest. During the time she was with us, she put down roots in my heart. I will never forget how special she is. (And if I didn’t already have two cats and two dogs, she never would have left our house for sure!)

I came back from Massachusetts and immediately started cleaning house because another wonderful friend (and fellow creative) was headed to my house from Brooklyn on Friday afternoon. Why? Because she wanted to support me in my dream and be there for me during my book launch party and signing for A Thousand Years to Wait. 

I know what you’re thinking.

I have superheroes for friends. 

It’s true. I do. They rescue animals and drive hundreds of miles to cheer on their friends’ creative endeavors.

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Speaking of friends, Friday evening, my friends and coworkers at the Exeter Community Library threw a book launch party for A Thousand Years to Wait. As an indie author with my first book, I expected a handful of people and maybe half a dozen book sales. Instead, I spoke to over 50 people and sold 26 books. I hardly had a moment to breathe.

To be fair, about half the people in attendance were friends and family. Some of my friends flew in from California or drove from Pittsburgh or Brooklyn. And my family? My family came from Massachusetts and Connecticut; they drove from Stroudsburg and Bethlehem. I wish I could reward them all for the miles they traveled to support the release of A Thousand Years to Wait and listen to me speak. (Perhaps I need to invent a frequent traveler miles system for my groupies…)

And the party was spectacular. I was surprised with a gorgeous arrangement of flowers, a beautiful cake decorated to look like my book cover, and amazing cookies with my book’s cover in edible ink. Spectacular! I was floored.

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But what was even more spectacular than anything were the perfect strangers who showed up—the people who didn’t know me beyond the library’s advertisements for the launch party. People who wanted to hear about writing, about the process, about persistence, and about the journey I took to get where I am. That was surely the most wonderful surprise of all!

To every aspiring author out there, never think you can’t make it happen. You can. You will. And when you do? Well, I hope you have the same support from friends, family, & community. The journey will never NOT be difficult, but times like this make it oh-so-worth-it!

Birthday Presents

Welcome to June! It’s my birthday month and this year is a BIG ONE. But I don’t care about the numbers. I care about the gifts. No, not gifts to me…

I’m giving away a talisman necklace and signed copy of A Thousand Years to Wait to one lucky winner. All you have to do is:

  1. Follow my Facebook page or my Twitter profile.
  2. Repost or Retweet my announcement of this giveaway on FB or Twitter.
  3. Perform any ONE of the following actions:

– Donate blood at your local blood bank.
– Donate money ($5 or more) to the ACLU.
– Adopt an animal from your local shelter.
– Donate to YOUR favorite charity and tell me why.

(Send me photo evidence of #3 – screenshot, photo of you, etc. You can tag me, @ me, DM me, or email me at writingupstorms@gmail.com.)

I’ll draw a winner at noon on July 1st, 2019. Open U.S. and internationally.

So spread the love! We can make a difference by doing the little things!

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12 Books—Month 5

This month, in my Twitter-Friend Book Review, I chose Katrina Ariel’s Wild Horse Heart. I first glimpsed this book when Katrina and I became friends on Twitter and I was lucky enough to read some of her other work as a critique partner long ago. Since I already knew I enjoyed her writing, I bought a copy of Wild Horse Heart and jumped in.

Given my love of horses, this book was an obvious choice. A light contemporary romance, Wild Horse Heart is a story about taking big chances, starting over, and learning to love yourself. It was an easy read and I finished it in about two days. Plus, let’s take a moment to talk about this gorgeous cover art, shall we? Love.

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Ariel obviously enjoys the outdoors and her love of nature shines through in her work. The descriptions of landscape in particular had me itching to get in the car and start driving westward once more, longing for fresh air and wide open spaces.

If you like romance, enjoy a little Hollywood escapism, and love the idea of stepping out of your own life and into a new one, this is the perfect read.

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My horse is a Standardbred, a retired racehorse. My sister has a mustang, just like those in Katrina Ariel’s book!