Sunday, June 19, 2016

Interview with author Melanie Bateman

I'm thrilled to be interviewing Melanie Bateman today who has a new book out.




KAYLEE: Hi Melanie! I'm so glad you're here on my blog today! How long did it take for you to write The Time Key?

MELANIE: I finished writing the first draft within six months, but the ideas and background behind the book are a compilation of short stories and world building that I started in high school. So to put a time frame, it took me at least a decade to write this story.


Wow! I love that you incorporated ideas that you've had since high school. I'd love to hear your publication story. 

To be honest, it’s very uneventful. I finished the book and sent it to a few competitions, but nothing happened. One or two publishers rejected it, but gave me good feedback. I left it alone for over a year before I submitted it to Cedar Fort, and was very surprised when two weeks later they offered me a contract!

That's exciting! Where did you get the idea for this book from?

A lot of ideas from over the years went into writing The Time Key, but it really all came together just before my daughter turned one. My husband and I were having a discussion and he mentioned that if anything ever happened to our daughter and me he would probably turn into a miserable drunk. That’s when Stanley came to life for me, and the rest of the plot just came along as I wrote.

What are you working on next?

Really I’m just trying to build a stronger portfolio for my illustration. As far as writing, I’m starting the research stage of a story I’ve wanted to tell since high school. There are a lot of doodles, but no solid storyline yet. I will say it follows a minor character in The Time Key and a lot of it takes place during a similar version of our own World War I.

Sounds intriguing. Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I’m a dairy farmer’s wife and a mother of two. I was born in Venezuela and came to the US at the age of nine. I studied illustration and it is my absolute passion. I live in Utah and love to find places to hike and be outdoorsy with my family.

What is your favorite writing snack?

Honestly, I don’t snack when I write. But since I do my writing late at night, I do keep a 12 oz Mt. Dew on my desk to keep me awake.

What are your top 3-5 favorite books?

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

The Inkheart Trilogy by Cornelia Funke.

The Book Thief is one of my favorites, too! Thanks for joining my blog today, Melanie. I loved learning more about you and your process!

Click here to learn more about Melanie and her books.
Click here to purchase The Time Key.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

What I've Been Up To...

I love this time of year. Not only is the weather beautiful here in Arizona, but I get to make goals and lists, which rank up there next to eating refrigerated Twix and watching Amanda Bynes' old romantic comedies on the list of things that make me happy.

A contemporary Twelfth Night? Yes, please.

So here's my mish-mashy list of what I've been up to in December and January and some of my goals for 2016:

WRITING:

  • I finished a contemporary YA novel that I'm in love with. It took me over a year to research and write, and then another seven months to revise and edit. It stretched me in all the best ways, and I can't wait for everyone to read it.
  • A few months ago, Jolene Perry and I were chatting about how I wanted (and kind of needed) to write something that was no-pressure, fun. She'd been writing her "Almost" Fairy Tale books and suggested I write one of those. So I did. It's in the revision stages, but it is everything light and fun and romantic that I hoped it would be.
  • As for current WIPs, I'm working on a contemporary romance with the kind of book hero that I always love, and I'm doing research for my next YA novel that is in the outline stage right now.

COMMUNITY:

  • I'm on the conference committee for the LDStorymakers conference over the agents and editors along with the fabulous Michelle Wilson. It's been a lot of work pulling this all together--and the hardest of the hard work is still to come--but it's exciting to be a part of such a fabulous organization. 
  • I am also on the Whitney Awards committee, contacting publishers to let them know that their author's books have been nominated. A bug chunk of my January was devoted to reading and emailing for this, but I love that we do this awards program and I love being involved.
GOALS:
  • I bought a journal and a lovely gel pen and I've been trying to write in it every day. There's just something so nice about handwriting after I do so much typing in the day. I used to do an online journal, but I found myself going back and editing prior posts, and I don't want my journal to be the edited version of me, I want it to be the REAL me.
  • Be more positive/understanding/helpful and less critical of others. It's too easy to judge people's decisions without knowing the whole story and I'm trying to be purposefully generous in my thoughts and always give people the benefit of the doubt. I'm naturally a non-cynical person, but even more than non-cynical, I'd love to be the kind of person who jumps in and helps regardless of circumstances.
READING:
  • Here are the January reads that I loved:
Everything, Everything

This is everything I enjoy about YA. Short, snappy chapters, lovely prose, a sweet romance, and the plot keeps you turning the pages to see what's going to happen next. 

The Mistress of Tall Acre

Someone suggested this for book club, and even though it didn't get picked, I wanted to read it. I love a good historical romance, and this one delivered. Laura's attention to historical detail is phenomenal.


My Fair Gentleman

One word for this one: Smile. Because that's what I did the entire time I was reading it. If you are a fan of Sarah Eden, grab this book. Fun banter, hilarious situations, and a romance that made me want to sigh.

What are some of your goals this year?

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Accountability Partners--And Why You Should Think of Getting One

I first heard of the idea of accountability partners a year and a half ago at the LDStorymaker conference. Annette Lyon and Luisa Perkins taught a class on accountability partners (and wrote a book about it). I was unable to attend the class, but heard about it afterward and in the following year had several friends tell me that it had helped with their productivity levels.

Then this past LDStorymaker conference, I had a friend approach me about being accountability partners. I agreed to give it a three month trial to see if it worked for me. I was worried it would be too structured and too much pressure (same way I used to think about outlines) but I was wrong.  It turned out that the structure and planning increased my productivity in ways that I hadn’t foreseen.
Here’s the format me and my current accountability partner use:

1. We email each other the night before our lists for the next day. It looks something like this:

Subject: MONDAY LIST

·         Exercise 30 minutes
·         Write 3000 words in WIP
·         Read at least 2 chapters in book club book
·         Return 10 emails
·         MAKE DINNER (new recipe?)
·         Laundry/dishes/straighten up downstairs
·         Volunteer in kids’ classroom
·         Read with kids for 20 minutes

So it’s a list of goals and tasks for the next day, which I love because it gets me thinking about what I need to get done the next day (and reminds me of things like doctor’s appointments and volunteer commitments.)

2. Throughout the day, we text each other as we accomplish our goals. The AP will respond with some sort of affirmation like “YAY!” “Way to go!” or a super cool fireworks emoticon. It feels weird at first, but you get used to it in a day or two, and then you look forward to it.

3. At the end of the day, you re-email your partner the list from the night before, saying what you did and didn’t get done, and why you didn’t get the task done. It will look something like this:

Subject: MONDAY LIST

·         Exercise 30 minutes—YES. Ran 3 miles!
·         Write 3000 words in WIP—YES! 3,700 words!!!!
·         Read at least 2 chapters in book club book—No. I ended up taking one of the kids to the doctor, so no reading time.
·         Return 10 emails—NO—the doctor’s appointment took two hours. 5 emails, though, and they were the hard ones.
·         MAKE DINNER (new recipe?)—YES. Pecan crusted chicken. SO GOOD.
·         Laundry/dishes/straighten up downstairs—YES.
·         Volunteer in kids’ classroom—YES. They are adorable.
·         Read with kids for 20 minutes—YES. Harry Potter.

4. Upon getting your AP’s evaluation email for the day, respond back with thoughtful comments and words of affirmation. You are showing them that you support them and are in their corner.

5. Make your list for the next day. You can refer to your previous list and build on that, or you can reprioritize tasks, and decide maybe sending those next five emails isn’t something you really want to take on.

6. Repeat Monday through Friday. We take the weekend off because we want the freedom of not planning on those days, but the nice thing about this is that it’s flexible, so you decide with your accountability partner what works best for you.

BENEFITS:

I’ve noticed my productivity increase, not only because I have someone rooting for me, but also because I’m making a plan for my day and prioritized my time instead of starting my day with little direction.

While doing this, I was able to revise a book and write an entire novel (80K) in six weeks.  My inbox is cleaned out. I’ve read the book club book every month since I started doing this. And I haven’t forgotten any appointments or obligations for that day. I’ve also tried out new recipes and carved out quality time with my kids. I feel less stressed in my day, and more accomplished. I’m completely converted.


So grab a willing friend and jump into a trial run of being accountability partners, and see what it can do for your days!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

$0.99 Sale on Books (and Win $200 in Holiday Cash!)


The authors of Echo Ridge decided to organize a multi-author sale during release week and invite our favorite authors to join us. All the books featured on this sale are only $.99 and they are all amazing!
Don't forget to enter the rafflecopter giveaway for $200 in Christmas Cash.
Happy book shopping!

Christmas Kisses: An Echo Ridge Anthology
Christmas Kisses is a collection from five bestselling and award-winning authors. Set in the snowy town of Echo Ridge in upstate New York, these inspirational romances are sure to delight while you sip cocoa by the fire and listen to Christmas carols.
Amazon * iTunes * Barnes & Noble * Smashwords * Kobo * Goodreads


Brownies & Betrayal by Heather Justesen
Pastry chef Tess Crawford thought moving from Chicago to quiet Silver Springs, Arizona would simplify her life. That was before she found the body of a woman with whom she had traded heated words the previous night, left her fingerprints on
the murder weapon, and came under attack for trying to clear her name. When her cheating ex-fiance shows up, intent on convincing her to come back to work for him, Tess—armed with an extra batch of éclairs—decides to take control and solve the mystery herself, with the help of friends and frenemies alike.
But will that be enough to save her when she gets too close and the killer decides it’s safer to get her out of the way?

Simplify & Savor the Season by Connie E. Sokol
Ready to enjoy the holidays again? Use this two-part holiday organizer to help you savor the celebrations. In the first half of the book, brainstorm the Big Four; then, detail the To Dos including menu, gift-planning, etc. with success tips on how to eliminate the unnecessary and focus on the essential. Wrap up with "5 Holiday Juicers" to make life joyful. Keep your notes handy in the companion Simplify & Savor Take-along Planner. 
With the second half of the book. curl up with a cup of cocoa and read "Savory Suggestions and Stories," a collection of laugh-out-loud anecdotal stories including "Let Go of the Cookie Cutter Christmas" and "Thankful for Turkey Warbling". Make this holiday season one you remember and enjoy!

Diamond Rings are Deadly Things by Rachelle J. Christensen
Adrielle Pyper knows how to plan a wedding, and she's especially good at pleasing bridezillas. But when her biggest client and best friend is murdered just three days before the wedding, Adri's world falls apart. She moves to the resort town of Sun Valley, Idaho, and starts from scratch. Thanks to Adri's impeccable taste and unique style, she lands two celebrity clients, and her business seems headed for success—until someone vandalizes the specialty wedding dresses she imported from overseas. Adri must race to uncover the secret hidden within the yards of satin and lace before she becomes the next victim. 
With a delightful blend of mystery, toe-curling kisses, humor, and spine-tingling thrills, Diamond Rings are Deadly Things will keep you turning pages long into the night. 

A Baker's Dozen by Lucy McConnell
Tempt your sweet tooth with 13 delicious, easy, and beautiful dessert recipes. Each recipe has been time-tested and found irresistible. You’ll horde the Lemon Brownies but you might be willing to share the Rock and Roll Cake—with a good friend. 
Recipes include: Chocolate Chunk Peanut Butter Cookies, Pumpkin Bunt Cake, S’mores Cheesecake, No-Fail Lemon Bars 
Impress your coworkers, family, friends, and even the guys at the car repair shop with these recipes. They’re sure to become favorites in your recipe box, lunch box, and ice box. 

The Colony by Cami Checketts
To protect her sons from the mistakes of her past, Brinlee Trapper escapes to a secluded mountain home. But there are dangers lurking in the mountains she has never encountered. The little family is saved from injury by Jed, a mysterious hunter. Brinlee is drawn to him, but she worries about his involvement with a peaceful commune hidden deep in the mountains behind her property.
Lance, Brinlee's attentive neighbor, has his own troubled history. Between his obvious attraction to Brinlee and his developing love for her children, Brinlee finds it more than difficult to guard her heart against this tender intrusion.
While Jed offers a life of excitement and freedom, Lance holds the key to the family Brinlee always wanted. When it comes time to choose, she learns that both men have secrets that could shatter her fledgling trust in men and the wrong decision could leave more than her heart exposed to danger.

Torn Canvas by Donna K. Weaver
Modern-day pirates took more than Jori Virtanen’s friends; they stole his face. Not only does the twenty-four-year-old former model have to confront months of reconstructive surgery, he discovers his previous life was as superficial as his looks. Up-and-coming talk show host Olivia Howard wants an interview. She, like the rest of the press, expects a hero, but Jori knows the truth. His beauty masks a beast.
In seclusion and evading the press, Jori struggles to make a new life as an artist. But he can’t hide from himself; more than his face is damaged. How can Jori possibly make amends for all that he’s broken? When Olivia finally tracks him down, he must decide if he can trust her. Could this unlikely woman be a key to freeing his heart and healing the beast?
The audiobook is only $1.99 with the purchase of the ebook.

Son of War Daughter of Chaos by Janette Rallison
Aislynn is accustomed to watching for the enemy. Her parents instructed her from the time she was young to look for people with the signs: greater than normal strength, eyes that can glow green, and the ability to jump long distances. Over the years, Aislynn has come to view her parents' fears as quirks-things that get in the way of having a normal high school life. When Aislynn's mother dies under suspicious conditions, her father doubles his restrictions. But all his precautions can't stop the boy with glowing green eyes from finding Aislynn. She realizes too late she's been drafted into an ancient Egyptian war, whether she's prepared or not.

Vocal Crush by Lisa Swinton
Can you ever out run a broken heart?
Lexi Court spent seven years traveling the world, living the nomadic Broadway life, in an attempt to outrun the broken heart Nick Rivers gave her. Now, there’s nowhere left to go.
When she accepted a position as a high school drama teacher in Las Vegas, Lexi hoped to get over Nick, find a nice guy, and settle down. But what should be a quiet summer gets turned upside down when Lexi's best friend, Taffy, drafts her to be an emergency replacement coach on a televised vocal competition.
Feeling out of her league among the other three celebrity coaches, Lexi fights for the most promising contestants to be on her team. One note from a single voice shatters her summer. Nick unexpectedly auditions and joins Lexi's team. With her vocal crush on him raging as strong as ever, she has nowhere to run from Nick’s dreamy looks or siren voice.
Lexi has no doubt that Nick can win the competition. The question is does he want to win her heart as well or will he damage it beyond repair?
Think television reality show The Voice meets Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

Picture Perfect by U.S.A. Today Bestseller Heather B. Moore

Gemma has never done anything out of the ordinary, until her boyfriend Randy starts to ignore her. But even cutting and dyeing her hair doesn’t get his attention. She decides to join her old high school friends for spring vacation, only to be faced with Drew, her best friend who suddenly seems interested in her as more than a friend. Gemma must determine if her heart is on the rebound or if it’s finally met its true match.


Endless Modern Cinderella by Jaclyn Weist
Sydney lives her nightmares every night. While other teenagers are dreaming of boys or traveling to exotic places, she must run a staircase with no beginning or no end, or a terrible debt will never be paid. 
Just before her seventeenth birthday, the dreams change. She is no longer alone.  
But her nightmares don’t end when she wakes up. Her stepmother and stepsisters threaten to ruin everything she holds dear. She must protect the secret that both she and her father have magic or they will use it to their advantage. 
As Sydney learns to control her magic, what seemed impossible before—escaping her stepmother and those ever-present stairs—is now at her fingertips. When she learns the ultimate plan of her evil captor, Sydney must stop her at all costs, or she will forever be trapped inside her nightmares. 

Cookie Girl Christmas by Christene Houston

Molly Hayes has one more job before Christmas and then she can put her plans for a storefront bakery of her own in motion. What she doesn't bargain for is the handsome young Scrooge who insults her cookies and makes her blood boil. Toss in a heaping helping of snowstorm and a pinch of romantic old Inn and you've got yourself the perfect recipe for a not-so-silent-night.



And Something Blue by Paige Timothy

Bridal consultant Laurie Fletcher spends all her time helping others prepare for the most special day of their lives. Logan Reese is easily the most irritating man on the planet, and for some reason, he's made annoying Laurie his mission in life. Will true love ever come Laurie's way, or is she doomed to watch others get their happily ever after while she sits on the sidelines?



Six Days of Christmas by Kaylee  Baldwin

When Natalie goes home with her best friend for Christmas, she expects plenty of quiet time to work on a winning ad so she can turn her dream internship into her dream job. Instead, she gets time-consuming Christmas festivities, a house full of children who seem to be multiplying, and Jimmy, her best friend’s brother—someone who makes her question everything she’s always thought she wanted. 



Ring Around the Rosie by Julie Coulter Bellon
As the ex-wife of a law enforcement officer, Sarah Reed has known loneliness and loss. In order to cope, she makes a life for herself that's full of routine while building a wall of ice around her heart. Everything about her is as predictable as she can make it until a tiny detour for her ex-husband, Ron, changes her life forever. Caught in a bomb crisis, Sarah is taken hostage by a man who wants Ron and everyone around him to suffer---and his idea of suffering is more terrible than Sarah had ever dreamed. 
Captain Ron Reed has seen the worst of humanity in his job with the Hostage Negotiation Team, but he never expected his past to come back with a vengeance---literally. Aaron Starks, a criminal explosives expert, has stolen next-gen bomb technology. He uses it to force Ron to bargain for the lives of his team and his ex-wife, Sarah, the woman he still loves. But the situation escalates when Ron discovers that Starks has an even bigger objective in mind---using the bomb to show how vulnerable America and her people truly are. 
Ron is willing to risk everything to save his country and those he loves, but when negotiations break down, will his sacrifice be too little too late?

Yesterday by Amanda Tru
Her yesterday was five years ago. What will her tomorrow bring? 
When Hannah Kraeger saves a family injured in a car accident, she has no idea she has changed events in the past. Waking the next morning, Hannah discovers her yesterday was really five years ago. 
Each trip Hannah takes through time changes the timeline and her own life. With help from Dr. Seth McAllister, Hannah must unravel the mystery of why she time travels and who she actually is before the strange ability costs her future, the man she loves, and even her life. 
YESTERDAY is a thrilling Christian Romantic Suspense filled with unexpected twists, mystery, and romance. 

My One and Only by Shannon Guymon
Meredith Jensen has seen her share of ups and downs. She’s found love twice already and lost it in spectacularly traumatic ways. Now? She just wants a peaceful life, free from love and drama. Meredith’s plans for the future center around planning other people’s weddings and her new online dating website. Just because she works to help other people find love doesn’t mean she wants any part of it though. Unfortunately for Meredith’s plans, Asher Murphy is determined to get her to give love another chance. But then again, so is Pule Matafeo. Meredith has never denied that she’s stubborn and feisty so it might take the combined forces of all their friends in Fircrest to get her heart back on track in time for Valentine’s Day. 

Stealing Adda by Tamara Leigh
WRITER’S BLOCK, NIBBLED NAILS, PLAGIARISM, OH MY! AND DID I MENTION ROMANCE? Life for Adda Sinclaire, New York Times best-selling author and historical romance writer extraordinaire, reads more like a country song than a breathless, bodice-bursting affair. For starters, she has no romance in her own life. That might have something to do with the fact that her husband—correction, ex-husband—ran off with Stick Woman, whom everyone knew would never be more than a mid-list author anyway. To add insult to injury (and another verse to the country song), her ex not only took their dog but gave it to Stick Woman. If that isn't enough, Adda has come down with a horrible case of writer's block, finds herself gifted with a Bible that is determined to speak to her, and is the unwitting target of a romance cover model's misdirected advances. Just when she catches her breath—and quite possibly the eye of a certain fabulously good-looking man (ahem…her new editor)—her arch-nemesis gives the pot one final stir.

Spy by Night by Jordan McCollum
After watching her parents’ marriage crash and burn, CIA operative Talia Reynolds doesn’t believe in “happily ever afters.” Besides, her job entails eighty-hour weeks, juggling a dozen covers and disguises, and tracking down a dangerous Russian spy ring. She hardly has time for romantic entanglements, even if she could let her guard down enough to get close to anyone.But all the rules she lives by could be broken when she meets aerospace engineer Danny Fluker.
Danny moved to Canada for a great job — and a chance to start over after a bad breakup. Dating definitely isn’t in his plans . . . until beautiful and enigmatic Talia throws a perfect storm right in his flight path. When he catches a glimpse of the real woman behind her façade, he has to get to know her better.
Talia has to find a Russian spymaster before he figures out she’s not who she claims, and failing to keep her two lives separate in the process could mean the death of more than just her budding relationship. Danny has to decide if a future with Talia — and facing the past — is worth the risk of getting hurt again. If they can break through the barriers keeping them apart (and avoid a major international catastrophe), they just might have a chance at being happy together.

Saving Grace by Michele Paige Holmes
From #2 Amazon Bestselling Historical Romance Author and Whitney Award Winner, Michele Paige Holmes, comes SAVING GRACE, a regency romance from the Hearthfire Romance series: 
After the death of her grandfather, the Duke of Salisbury, Grace Thatcher wants nothing more than to live quietly in the country with her younger siblings. Her father’s debts thwart those plans, and to protect her sister, Helen, Grace must marry a man of her father’s choosing. 
As each suitor proves less than desirable, Grace comes up with clever schemes, causing each to reject her. While staying at the mysterious Sutherland Hall, a middle-of-the-night mishap sends Grace into the arms of a stranger, Nicholas Sutherland—and provides inspiration for her grandest plan yet—one that will leave her reputation in tatters yet free both her and Helen from all possibility of marriage. 
Too late Grace regrets her rash actions when her father’s last choice, Mr. Samuel Preston, proves to be a gentleman and a friend. But Samuel is the sworn enemy of Nicholas Sutherland, the man responsible for her “ruin.” Now instead of being free, Grace is caught between two men—each with his own agenda. 
Other Hearthfire Romances: LOVING HELEN & MARRYING CHRISTOPHER

An Unexpected Proposal by Annette Lyon
While working at a wood camp in the Logan canyon during the winter of 1880, Caroline Simpson is forced to thwart the aggressive advances of Mr. Butch Larson, and in the process discovers that her long-time friend James has genuine affection for her. But as stubborn as Caroline is, she minimizes the emotions James has awakened in her, and it takes almost losing him to admit her true feelings.
 An Unexpected Proposal was introduced in the first volume of the bestselling and award-winning Timeless Romance Anthology series, Winter Collection:
Amazon #1 Bestselling *New Release* in Clean Romance, Top 10 in Regency Romance, Top 5 in Victorian Romance

Paris Cravings by Amazon #1 Best Selling Author for Clean Romance, Kimberley Montpetit
Can life really turn on a dime, a missed bus—or a stuck pastry shop door?
Chloe Dillard's life has always been complicated. Her mother is a neurotic romance novelist and her boyfriend, Mathew, has been pressuring her to go "all the way".
But after The Worst Night of Her Life, Chloe escapes on her Senior Class trip to the swoon-worthy city of Paris which takes her mind off her troubles—temporarily. On the final leg of her dream trip, Chloe squeezes in one final run for a last-minute box of decadent pastries. Add a broken shop door, subtract a broken four-inch heel from her cute strappy sandals, and Chloe ends up one stuck girl on the bakery shop floor with a sprained ankle.
Rescued by the shop owner’s dreamy son with chocolate-syrup eyes, the beautiful city of Paris suddenly becomes Chloe’s personal secret adventure. And even though Jean-Paul, the oh-so-kind La Patisserie shop boy is the gentlemanly guy Chloe has always dreamed of, even he has a girlfriend.
The police are tracking her down as a run-away, Mom’s having a nervous breakdown over her daughter’s “disappearance”, and Chloe’s just trying to have a Happily-Ever-After even as her dreams with Matt are swirling down the drain.
What’s a girl to do in the most romantic city in the world?
Easy Pastry Recipe in the back of the book!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

August Reads 2015

Bone Gap

I really didn't know anything about this book before reading it, other than I'd heard from a few people that it was one of their best reads of the year. It is well-written (beyond well written, the words are like works of art) and the images are very vivid. I love reading these kind of books because I feel like I learn how to be a better crafter of words by studying their art.

Saint Anything

I've been a Sarah Dessen fan for a long time. I loved the layers of conflict in this book and how they blended together in the end.

Brown Girl Dreaming

Beautiful story, beautiful writing. I love books in verse. And this one is a memoir in verse written for the MG audience, which intrigued me a ton. She was able to take a very limited number of words and use them to her full advantage--evoking images of a past that almost made me feel like I was there.

Becoming Bayley

How have I not read this book sooner? I have had the sample saved on my Kindle since the book first came out a few years ago, but I've never gotten around to reading it. A few weeks ago, I was in the mood for some LDS romance, so I pulled this one up remembering that several trusted friends recommended it. I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. Read it in one night, something I haven't done in a long time! Well written, emotional, real, and humorous, plus it had a fantastic love story and took me straight back to my BYU days. I love books that do that. I will now be stalking Susan while I await the release of her next book.

Keeping Kate

This one is a Jane Eyre retelling, a book which I hadn't read until a few years ago when a friend badgered me until I read it. How could I graduate with a degree in literature without having read Jane Eyre. I don't know. Anyway, going on my LDS romance kick, I picked this one up. She stays pretty close to the plot while managing to make it relevant for today.

A Worthy Pursuit

Confession: I was working on a romance outline in August (which is now my current WIP) so I read a lot of romance to immerse myself back in the genre voice and conventions after writing and revising a few YA books. Witemeyer is one of my favorites in the Inspirational Historical fiction genre. Her characters always have great growth, the conflict is perfect, and the romance is sweet as can be. Her books are very clean and focused.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

July Reads

Here are my July reads--which were mostly fantastic!

P.S. I Still Love You (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #2)
Jenny Han writes such readable prose! This is the kind of book that you sit down for a minute to read, and the next time you look at the clock, you've been reading for two hours and half the book is finished. This is the second (and final, I believe) book in the series.
Contemporary YA


Heart of Gold
I've mentioned this before, but I have a huge soft spot in my heart for LDS romances. Miller has a way of making even the smallest touches and looks make you feel swoony inside. She writes great male leads.
LDS Romance


The Kiss That Launched 1,000 Gifs
Sheralyn Pratt=The Banter Queen. This romance is based on the banter between the two main characters, who are co-hosts of a battle of the sexes radio show, and it's non-stop fun from beginning to end.
Clean Romance.


An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes, #1)
The world building in this novel was astounding. I'm not a huge fantasy reader, and yet I loved the premise so I checked it out from the library, and was drawn into the story from page one. This was one of the best-written books I've read all year. Content warning: Violence.
Fantasy


Trouble in Paradise
Ah, Hawaii. I felt like I was almost there. Tuft builds up her secondary characters and uses them in a natural-feeling way to help us learn more about the main characters.
LDS Romance


A Most Inconvenient Marriage
I love a good historical romance. This was a near perfect execution  of the trope of where they don't like each other at first and then grow to love over time. She took a well-used idea and twisted it to make it unique.
Inspirational Romance


A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1)

I absolutely loved this book. I loved it so much, I lent it to a friend the day after I finished it, and she read it in one day. And then she passed it on to another friend who read it in only a few days. Maas does an incredible job of making it impossible to put this book down. The way she twists the plot and reveals new things, the way she makes us love the characters and raises the stakes at every turn, it all added up to an fantastically entertaining read. Content warning: Innuendo and a steaminess toward the end.
Fantasy/Romance

Monday, August 3, 2015

Critical Reading=Becoming a Better Writer

If you want to improve your writing, one of the best things you can do is learn to be a critical reader.

Critical reading is active reading. 

Becoming an active reader takes practice. It's more than consuming stories the way you might binge-eat buttery theater popcorn while watching the latest Marvel movie. The movie's over and though you feel satisfied, you didn't give a second thought to the handfuls of popcorn you shoved in your mouth. Consumed then forgotten.

Analyzing how successful authors work their craft into something that catches the eye and imagination of their readers (and agents or editors) will help you to do the same.

One way to get started with learning how to read critically is to pretend you are the author's critique partner or that you are a contest judge and this book is one of the entrants.

Read through the book carefully and thoughtfully. Make note when something isn't working for you--and here's the important part: Think about WHY it isn't working for you. Because the answer to this is where you will learn.

Just as important: Take note when an author does something brilliantly--when you laugh, cry, can't put the book down for a second, are impressed, when you gasp out loud, or have any sort of visceral emotional response. Then think about how the author managed to make you feel that way. What did she do, how did she built the narrative, to a point where you were connected on a real level with the story?

If you can figure out some of the mechanics of connection, you can incorporate those pieces into your own writing.

Channel your inner-Simon Cowell from the original American Idol episodes.

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 He was the man we loved to hate, and he could sometimes appear to be overly harsh, yet he was an active listener. More than saying he didn't like someone, he could tell us WHY he didn't like their singing--most times because they were forgettable, trying too hard, or there was a disconnect between who they are and what they were trying to do. Viewers may not have always agreed with him, but he knew what would sell and could articulate why something didn't work for him. That kind of insight comes from years of practice and analysis.

Here are a few examples of questions I might ponder while I read:

--Why did the author choose to write the book in this style (multiple point of view, verse, lyrical prose, first person, etc.)?

--Why did the author start with this scene? What about their first sentence/chapter hooked me or didn't hook me? Was the inciting incident clear and compelling?

--What were the turning points in the book, or places the main character made decisions of no-return?

--What parts did I set the book down? When did I get bored? What made these scenes boring?

--Why did I connect with this character and at what point was the connection firm? Or why did I never connect with this character--and what could the author have done differently to help me understand his/her motivations?

--Why does this narrative structure work/not work for this story? What does it do to drive the pacing forward?

--What made this story memorable or forgettable?

I hold myself accountable by posting on my blog the things I've learned from the books I read the month before. I focus on the positive things I learned because I'm not interested in publicly trashing anyone's book, but we have just as much to learn from the parts we hated as well (so I do that mentally.)

My challenge for you: Try it out. Actively read the next novel on your list and apply the principles you learned while reading to the manuscript you're working on.

The more you do it, the more natural it will feel until you actively read every book you get your hands on. Your writing will be better for it.

Girl Reading Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Simon Cowell photo courtesy of SimonCowellOnline.com