Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Giveaway: Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown

Less than one week until the incredibly talented Jaye Robin Brown's GEORGIA PEACHES AND OTHER FORBIDDEN FRUIT is released! To celebrate, I'm giving away a copy!

Joanna Gordon has been out and proud for years, but when her popular radio evangelist father remarries and decides to move all three of them from Atlanta to the more conservative Rome, Georgia, he asks Jo to do the impossible: to lie low for the rest of her senior year. And Jo reluctantly agrees. 
Although it is (mostly) much easier for Jo to fit in as a straight girl, things get complicated when she meets Mary Carlson, the oh-so-tempting sister of her new friend at school. But Jo couldn’t possibly think of breaking her promise to her dad. Even if she’s starting to fall for the girl. Even if there’s a chance Mary Carlson might be interested in her, too. Right?

Y'all, I absolutely loved this book. It's important and beautiful and completely un-put-down-able. It takes on religion, faith, and sexuality while still being funny and romantic and touching. The characters leap off the page. You will love spending time in Jo's world.

Here's how to enter to win:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
*Open to US (via Amazon) and International (via Book Depository). Winner will be notified on Monday, August 29.

Helpful Links:
Georgia Peaches... on Goodreads
Georgia Peaches... on Amazon
Jaye Robin Brown on Twitter
Jaye Robin Brown's Website

Thanks for playing! Good luck!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Can't Pour from an Empty Cup

Recently I started thinking about the expression "You can't pour from an empty cup." Usually this wisdom refers to taking care of yourself before taking care of others, but I realized how much it applies to writing, too.

You know those days when the words don't come was easily as you want them to? When writing is more of a struggle than a pleasure? Check yourself: are you trying to pour from an empty cup? Are you lacking necessary inspiration?

Confession: this has been a kind of an empty-cup summer for me. I've battled low self-esteem and stress over some aspects of the business side of being a writer. I didn't do a good job of seeking out things that would inspire me as a writer. Even though I kept writing and working on various projects, I felt that emptiness. The words didn't pour like they had before, like I knew they could.

This month, I started filling my "writer cup" (which, let's be honest, is probably a coffee mug).

First, I attended Writer's Digest's Annual Conference. I could do an entire blog post about the conference, but for now, let's just say that three days of conference sessions and keynotes and being surrounded by fellow writers who share the same passions and dreams and goals? Pretty cup-filling.

While in NYC, I saw The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time on Broadway. I'm a theater junkie anyway, but seeing a book I love come to life? Awesome.

Curious Incident... Stage
Two days after I got home from NYC, I went to a concert -- the Tour de Compadres with Mat Kearney and NEEDTOBREATHE. This concert had absolutely nothing to do with writing. It didn't make sense that it would fill my writer cup, but it did. You know Lin Manuel Miranda's "love is love is love" speech from the Tony's? In this case, art is art is art, music included. Cup filled.

Tour de Compadres 2016
Raleigh post-sunset
Today, I went to see Newsies for my third and final time before it stops touring. That one does have some writing tie-ins, but I was mostly in it for the dance and music, which will now be stuck in my head for weeks. I also spent some time wandering around Durham's beautiful American Tobacco Campus. It's one of those places I drive by often without really stopping to appreciate it.

American Tobacco Campus 
I never intended for all of these things to happen within the same ten-day period, but they did, and my cup is full. Overflowing. I've worked on edits and beat deadlines. I'm revising a project that has been stuck for a while. I'm blogging for the first time since May. While driving home from work the other day, I had to turn off the radio because it was distracting me from story ideas.

I'm pouring from a full cup and loving every minute of it.

If your writer cup is empty, do something to fill it back up.

Visit an indie bookstore for an author's reading and book signing.

Watch a movie, maybe one that you wouldn't normally pick.

Check out a museum for a couple of hours -- art, science, history, doesn't matter.

Go to a concert or listen to a new song. (Might I suggest one of these?)

Do something Instagram-worthy. (Or Snapchat-worthy? IDK, I'm old.)

Re-read a favorite book that's falling apart from being opened so many times.

Walk around somewhere beautiful.

Then pour your heart from the full cup onto the page.

I can't wait to read what you write.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Write Like You're Running Out of Time

Like most people, I have become a fan of (*cough* obsessed with *cough*) the musical Hamilton. Despite the fact that I used to think history was boring, know little to nothing about hip-hop or rap, and haven't actually seen the musical, I've been listening to the soundtrack on repeat for months. One of my favorite songs is "Non-Stop."

The song centers around Alexander Hamilton writing the Federalist Papers in support of the US Constitution. Long story short: Hamilton wrote 51 important essays in a span of six months.

Through the lyrics of Hamilton's genius writer and creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Aaron Burr asks Hamilton a series of...well...fairly reasonable questions:

"Why do you write like you're running out of time?

Write day and night like you're running out of time?

Why do you write like it's going out of style?

Write day and night like it's going out of style?

How do you write like tomorrow won't arrive?

How do you write like you need it to survive?

How do you write every second you're alive?"

I have to think if Hamilton were alive today, he'd teach the ultimate workshop on how to avoid writer's block and make writing a priority. Getting tickets would probably be harder than getting tickets to the musical, but I digress.

As a writer, I find these lyrics convicting and inspiring. Realistically, we all know we're running out of time. We don't know if tomorrow will arrive.

But do we write like that?

Five years ago, I might not have related to this song as much as I do now. Five years ago, like most twenty-somethings, I thought I was invincible. An exercise regimen led to a foot injury that proved I wasn't a teenager anymore, but still. I wore an air cast, and my foot got better.

But then I developed pain in my calf. It hurt so bad it kept me up at night and made me cry into my cereal at breakfast. My leg and foot swelled. My doctor was pretty sure it was a muscle strain from the cast but sent me for a test to rule out a blood clot. The ultrasound technician did her work and called in the radiologist, who told me I did have a blood clot, deep vein thrombosis, and needed to go straight to the emergency room.

Slightly stunned, I went to get up from the table, but the technician stopped me. "Don't walk," she said. "We'll get you a wheelchair."

What I didn't know at the time was that if any part of the clot in my leg broke off and traveled to my lungs, heart, or brain, I could die. Learning there's something inside your body that can kill you at any minute is rather sobering. I was admitted to the hospital, placed on blood thinners, and eventually allowed to walk and go home.

A month later, I felt a familiar pain in my thigh. Another ultrasound, another blood clot, another hospital stay. Another reminder that I was far from invincible.

Looking back, it makes sense that the book I wrote during this time, Where You'll Find Me, was my first to be published. Though I didn't have a constitution to defend, I did have a goal to accomplish and a realization that life is short. Like Hamilton, I wrote non-stop, and my tenacity paid off.

Fast forward to 2013. My doctors deemed me well enough to stop taking blood thinners, hoping my body had worked out whatever had gone wrong. Not long after, I woke up with pain in my other calf and immediately knew I had another DVT. While I waited for an ultrasound of my leg, my chest started hurting. As much as I hoped and prayed the pain was just caused by my anxiety, a CT scan revealed that what I'd feared had happened: part of the clot in my leg had broken off and traveled to my left lung.

It feels weird to say I was lucky, but I was. For 25% of people with a pulmonary embolism, the first symptom is sudden, unexpected death. Obviously I lived to tell about it, and thanks to a new medication I've been free of blood clots for three years, but that same medication comes with life-threatening risks. Right now, the benefits outweigh those risks, but every time I take that pill, every time I hear the lyrics to "Non-Stop," I'm reminded that each day is a gift, not a promise.

Hamilton had wisdom to impart. Lin-Manuel Miranda had a story to tell. So do I. So do you.

Don't wait until next year to write that novel.

Don't wait until next month to revise that chapter.

Don't wait until tomorrow to share your story.

Do it now.

Write like you're running out of time.

Write like you need it to survive.

And if you somehow stumbled across this post and you're not a writer?

Paint like it's going out of style.

Dance day and night like you're running out of time.

Run like tomorrow won't arrive.

Be you every second you're alive.

Don't throw away your shot.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

February Wrap-up!

What happens when you take the shortest month of the year and cram 2,981,569 things into it? March. March happens. Because March is suddenly here! And so is my end-of-month wrap-up!

What I Wrote

February was devoted exclusively to final edits and proofreading of PIECES OF YOU AND ME, coming April 2016 from Entangled Teen Crush! All of the last minute stuff like proofreading the galley and working on the back cover copy and writing acknowledgments takes a lot of time, but it's done! Woohoo! Can't wait for y'all to meet Chase and Rylee in April!

What I Read

I read a lot this month! The combination of audiobooks on car trips and regular books on airplanes added up to six books read in February:
  • Four by Veronica Roth
  • An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes by Randy Ribay
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Aimee and the Heartthrob by Ophelia London
  • Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally
  • Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
My favorite of the month had to be Symptoms of Being Human. I learned so much about people who are gender fluid and absolutely loved Garvin's choices and style in this sometimes painful but always beautiful book. Highly recommend. 

I also adored listening to Breathe, Annie, Breathe. The romance storyline was like eating candy, but it had all this depth and layers hiding underneath. Also in the "like candy" category? Aimee and the Heartthrob. It took me back to my boy band fangirl days, and I loved every minute of it. Can't wait to read the rest of the Backstage Pass series!

Other February Life Stuff

For the day job, I had six business trips in three weeks, so that took up most of my month. When I was home, I finally got to see The Lion King musical!

Also, I shopped at Trader Joes for the first time. Pro tip: never tell the employees at Trader Joes it's your first time there. There's bell ringing and some kind of loud chant involved. Also, red velvet Oreos were back, which are far superior to any other flavor of Oreos.

Hope you had a great February and have a fantastic March!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

January Wrap-Up!

How is the first month of 2016 already over? I swear we were just singing Auld Lang Syne yesterday...

Alas, tomorrow is February 1, so here's my January recap:

What I Wrote

A majority of my writing time was devoted to editing PIECES OF YOU AND ME, coming from Entangled Teen Crush on March 14, 2016! I also got to see a mock-up of the pretty! Can't wait to share it with you!

I'm also working on my yet-to-be titled September 2016 (ish) release! It's another contemporary YA romance. I'm 40K words in and having so much fun writing it! I can't wait for you to meet Pierce and Lia.

What I Read
The award for best January book goes to THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS by Marieke Nijkamp. Painful? Yes. Heartbreaking? Yes. But also gripping and beautiful and completely unputdownable. Check it out on Goodreads here and Amazon here.

I also finally got around to reading INSURGENT and ALLEGIANT. I'd read DIVERGENT a long time ago, before the movie came out, but held off on reading the other two when I heard the furious reactions to the series ending. However, seeing the second movie reminded me how much I enjoy that story and those characters, and...I caved.

Somehow, I hadn't been officially spoiled regarding the ending of ALLEGIANT, but I had my suspicions, which ended up being correct. I'll just be over here hoping they change the ending of the movie...

Lastly, I beta read an amazing and beautiful manuscript by Julie C. Dao. It was the kind of story that left me thinking for days after I finished, so you know it's good! You can find Julie on Twitter or her website, and can read her MG, PUMPKIN PATCH PRINCESS, on Wattpad.

Other January Life Stuff
  • It was my birthday! I turned a prime number less than six squared. I'll let you guess which one.
  • Snowmaggedon happened. At my house, we got an inch or two of ice and snow. In true southern fashion, I was trapped at home for three full days. When I was able to return to work, the ice in our parking lot (on a hill) started melting, and parked cars slid into each other. Crazy:

  • I signed up for Audible! I do a lot of traveling for my day job, and listening to a book makes the time go by much faster! Currently I'm listening to FOUR by Veronica Roth. I got some great suggestions on Twitter, but if you have other recommendations, I'm all ears! (Get it? Audiobooks? Ears? Yeah, okay. Please leave recommendations in the comments!)
Hope your January was great! Enjoy February...all twenty-nine days of it!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Memory Books

Most of us can remember where we were when certain events happened: when we got asked to prom (in my high school auditorium), when found out we got into our dream school or got our dream job (standing in my living room), when September 11, 2001 happened (in Mr. Brandt's English class), etc.

I have book-related memories as well. There are some books, places, and times that will forever be associated in my mind.

I remember reading Hunger Games in 2010 while on a family vacation. I was reading while standing in line for security, weaving back and forth through the ropes, and hating every second it took for the book to go through the x-ray machine in my carry on.

Room by Emma Donoghue was another 2010 read that I could. Not. Put. Down. I was in my bed in Michigan, awake way too late because I had to know what was going to happen before I went to sleep.

Though I tend to read a lot of books before bed, I specifically remember reading TFIOS in the bedroom of my old apartment. Those memories mostly consist of crying so hard I couldn't breathe, and falling back against my pillows like I'd been punched in the gut. Naturally.

Going way back, I remember reading The Notebook in my college dorm room. I even remember the way my roommate and I had arranged our furniture at the time.

It's strange how I can think about some books I've read, some even as recently as 2015, and I can't remember anything about where or when I read them, but for others the details are so clear. It seems like the more invested I am in the characters and the story, the more it leaps off the page, the more I remember it and my life outside of it.

As a reader, I want more of these memory books, and as a writer, I want to produce them.

What are YOUR memory books? Where and when did you read them?

Monday, December 21, 2015

My First and Last Blog Post of 2015!

Y'all. I haven't blogged in a whole year. How did THAT happen?

Okay...I probably know how that happened.

2015 has been busy. One big reason? I signed a three book deal with Entangled Teen Crush!

The first book, PIECES OF YOU AND ME, will be out on March 14, 2016. It's about Chase and Rylee, two best friends who were inseparable until they were torn apart completely. Five years was long enough for both of them to change, but once they're reunited they discover that some things, like their feelings for each other, only changed for the better. But the threat of being torn apart again is very real, so they're faced with forgetting the risk and taking the fall.

The second book (title TBD) should be out in September-ish. It's about an upcoming professional hockey player/YouTube star and the girl who shouldn't fall in love with him. I'm having SO much fun working on this one!

And I suppose there will be a third book at some point!

When I wasn't writing, revising, and editing, I did some reading this year. Best read of 2015 has to go to EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING by Nicola Yoon. I loved the premise, the characters and, of course, the part. If you've read it, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't read it, what are you waiting for?!

Other books I read and loved in 2015:

  • EXTRAORDINARY MEANS by Robyn Schneider
  • I'LL MEET YOU THERE by Heather Demetrios
  • MORE HAPPY THAN NOT by Adam Silvera
  • HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL by Nathan Bransford

Another cool thing that happened in 2015? I went to NYC for the first time! Kristi C. and I went for the Writer's Digest conference this summer and had a BLAST. We crammed a LOT of NYC into a short trip. Three days worth of conference sessions! Empire State Building! Central Park! Broadway! Times Square! Staten Island Ferry! Drinking a tiny bit too much wine and margaritas! Subway! Walking 8,472 miles!

Patricia P, me, and Kristi C., crammed like sardines on the subway but still smiling!

From the Empire State Building


It was definitely a trip I won't forget!

The other major thing that took up much of 2015 for me was my day job. I started working in a new position with my company in February, and I absolutely LOVE it. I get to talk about writing all day every day, and I get to train teachers on how to help their students write more and write better. Awesome, right?

Not only that, but I get to travel all over the beautiful state of North Carolina to do my job! All of these pictures were taken on business trips:

New Bern, NC

Asheville, NC
Greensboro, NC

2015 has been a pretty incredible year for me, and I hope it has been for you, too!

I'm not big on New Year's resolutions, but maybe I will resolve to blog more in 2016 than I did in 2015, which shouldn't be hard to do!

Happy holidays! See you in 2016!