Author Interview: Aimee Salter

Pen Friends ~ Meet Aimee Salter, author of A Dark Touch & Every Ugly Word, and 2017 PitchWars Mentor, who is here to share all kinds of writing gems with us.

Hi Aimee! Thanks for joining us. First, please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing? 

Hi there. Thank you for having me!

I’m Aimee L. Salter. I’m an American who grew up in New Zealand, married a kiwi, have a kiwi son, and am now back in Oregon permanently.

I’ve always dabbled with writing and have loved it since I was in elementary school. I had a couple false starts on books earlier in life, but the first manuscript I ever completed with an eye to publication was in 2009, when I was 33. I got my first publishing contract in 2014 when I was 38. Continue reading

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What an English Major Learned at Writer’s Conference: A Guest Post by Hilary Bowen

Recently I attended a writer’s conference in a foreign country. To all of you wondering, foreign in this context means not America.

There were twelve of us there and we were there together for one week. Everyone learned lots of things. Including me. Five years and two English departments at institutions of higher learning and—I still don’t know it all.
So in light of that illuminating statement allow me to share with you three things I learned in my week away.

1. It All Started Because of a Dream:

ross-errillyEvery blog post you’ve read, every lecture you’ve attended, every book you perused, and all of your own experience will tell you that you must buckle down and work. Write that book, edit those sentences, iron out that plot, blah blah blah blah blah. But sometimes you have to cut loose and live a little. The writer’s version of a wild party. Remember why you like to write.

Continue reading

Author Interview: McKelle George

Pen friends! McKelle George, an editor and debut author of Speak Easy, Speak Love –a 1920’s retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, is here to share her writing life and editing tips with us!

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SP: Hi McKelle! Thanks for joining us. First, please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing?

Hi! I’m a young adult writer and my debut Speak Easy, Speak Love comes out this month. I’ve always done a little writing (mostly fanfic and RP), but I made the decision to seriously write the summer of 2011. (:

SP: So lets talk about your debut, Speak Easy, Speak Love. How did this idea develop? How long did it take for you to write it? Unknown-12 Continue reading

Human First, Writer Second: Having the Right Mindset for Setbacks and Shortcomings

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It’s 11:00 P.M., and you’re staring at the blinking vertical line on your screen. Your word count has changed by only 50 words since you sat down fifteen minutes ago, and that’s only from deleting the previous sentence because its sounded like something you would read out of a book titled “Clichés 101.” You sigh, shut the laptop a bit harder than you probably should, then head to bed, feeling exhausted and guilty for not having accomplished any of your writing goals. Continue reading

Book Review: The Epic Crush of Genie Lo

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Author: F.C. Yee

Blurb: The struggle to get into a top-tier college consumes sixteen-year-old Genie’s every waking thought. But when she discovers she’s a celestial spirit who’s powerful enough to bash through the gates of heaven with her fists, her perfectionist existence is shattered.

Enter Quentin, a transfer student from China whose tone-deaf assertiveness beguiles Genie to the brink of madness. Quentin nurtures Genie’s outrageous transformation—sometimes gently, sometimes aggressively—as her sleepy suburb in the Bay Area comes under siege from hell-spawn. Continue reading

Book Review: When Dimple Met Rishi

When Dimple Met Rishi

Title: When Dimple Met Rishi

Author:  Sandhya Menon

Blurb:  Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

Review:

I was super excited to pick up When Dimple Met Rishi because a) I’m a second generation American who grew up in a house of two cultures; b) I’m a devourer of languages and culture besides my own (Bollywood fan here); c) I adore own voices books that represent my wide ranging diverse friends; d) I’m a sucker for slow-burning, friendship building, love stories. This story brings all of those out in a sweet, contemporary, American, fun setting, kind of way.

On plot: The book starts out with a simple premise, and we all kind of know what is coming, but Menon does a great job at sucking us into their story. There is not a ton of conflict but we still find ourselves getting attached to her characters.

On character: First Dimple. She is a strong girl with her own opinions and dreams and plans. We sympathize with her right away when her parents plan this outrageously hidden agenda for her first ever independence from her parents at a dream summer program. We want her to be the one to make her own choices, especially about love and school. (And I LOVE her name–it makes me laugh.)

Second Rishi. He was a breath of fresh air for me. He was not the typical YA boy who acted cool or knew what to say. Actually, he was the opposite, which made him feel so real. He didn’t always know what to say, but was kind-hearted and genuinely cared for people, his parents, and Dimple. And since he cares so darn much, we like him instantly!

On VOICE & DUAL POV: Lately, I have really loved DUAL POV books. Done right, they can build even more tension and sympathy, and Menon does this well. I enjoyed both Rishi and Dimples voices and narratives and felt they were both unique and relatable.

On Themes: I enjoyed learning about different cultures and traditions, the topic of arranged marriage in America, and pursuing risky dreams (Rishi and his graphic novels).

On pace: It wasn’t a fast page turning novel for me, but I didn’t feel it needed to be for the story being told. It was building friendship, slowly but surely. And then the end came perfectly together.

So, if you are looking for an adorably chill, end-of-the-summer contemporary read, snatch it up.

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Nova, signing off.

Prompt Reply: In Hiding

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Thank you to all of you who participated in our Prompt!

We selected Lily Cushman’s to share:

 

As I descended the crude man-made trail through the ruined city, pungent scents of smoke and mildew sting my nose. Graffiti filled walls guide me to the once safe haven to find a young soldier, very young, gasping for air on the ground, lying in pooled blood, though whether it was all his own blood I couldn’t tell. The smoke was thicker around here, reminders of the firefight we had interrupted with our medical helicopter mission. 

 I knelt beside him, QuikClot gauze in my hands and my jump kit heavy on my shoulders, filled with my field gear, IVs, medicines, bandages. Do you know how many pounds medics carry on a battlefield? I don’t know, but it’s a lot. A lot for my skinny person. 

 The soldier looked at me, fear and hope in his eyes. He didn’t say anything, but I could tell he could see me. That was a good sign. If he started babbling about seeing lights and such I would worry more. 

 “Hey,” I said as gently as I could. “I’m a medic. I’m here to help you. We are going to help you so you can go home. You read me, buddy?”

 He nodded vaguely. I gave him a small smile and then started looking at the damage. There were multiple gunshot wounds, and some lacerations on his hands and face. He was in bad shape, bleeding a lot, and his breathing was ragged. But I had seen worse. I started treating with QuikClot, a gauze that helped stop bleeding quickly, and then bandaged the small cuts on his face. The bullet holes, beyond QuikClot, could not be treated anymore effectively at this point. I started getting a 20 GA needle, an extension set and a saline bag ready so I could start an IV. 

 “I won’t – die?” He asked quietly. 

 I looked down into his face, and saw the hope taking over the fear in his eyes. You’re never supposed to lie to a patient or tell them something you don’t already know the answer to. But I had hope. Hope that he would pull through. Not just hope like ‘I hope it won’t rain this weekend.’ A genuine hope, like a ray of light piercing a dark cloud cover. A glimmer of good after so much evil. 

 “You’re going to be fine.” I said. I squeezed his hand and he squeezed back. “We are going to get you home. Home to your family. I promise.” 

 Hope filled his whole face, even during the pain. 

 Hope is a gift, and when you can give it, it gives you a little hope as well. Hope that the darkness you face every day in everything won’t win. Hope that life is worth living, it’s worth pushing through the hellishness to see a hurting person smile, a broken heart be healed, beauty pulled from the ugliness that is rampant around our world. 

 As I descended the crude man-made trail through the ruined city, pungent scents of smoke and mildew sting my nose. Graffiti filled walls guided me to the once safe haven to find hope. Hope even in the despair. 

 

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

Pen Friends ~ Summer is not OVER yet. We still have more books to read and review for our Summer Reading Challenge  & Summer Writing Challenge – So send us your reviews of any books you love or find helpful for craft.

Thanks to Dawn Shipman for her review below!

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Title: A Court of Thorns and Roses series

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Blurb: When 19-year-old Feyre, the sole provider for her poverty-stricken family, ventures into the bleak, ice-cold forest to hunt, a giant wolf stands between her and her prey. She knows the stories of the Fae who are rumored to haunt the forest and can sometimes take on other forms…but her family is starving. She kills the wolf and sets in motion the plot for this three-book series. For her crime of killing the wolf, who was, indeed, a disguised Fairy, Feyre’s life is forfeit. She can allow herself to be torn to shreds by the beast who appears to enforce the law, or be dragged away from her family to the land of Prythian, to serve out her life sentence. Choosing the latter, she is soon introduced to that place of magic and wonder, a land both beautiful and terrible, where mystery, violence, and political intrigue abound. She also learns to love the ‘beast’ who brought her there—Tamlin, the High Lord of the Spring Court.

Feyre was already a hunter, a fighter, but when Tamlin and all his people are taken captive by the murderous queen Amarantha, nothing will stop her from attempting to save him—even at the risk of her own life.

The next two books add, layer upon layer, to the complexity of this world, where violence and brilliance live side by side and masks come in many forms. Book 2—A Court of Mist and Fury—follows Feyre as she attempts to recover from the emotional devastation she endured in Amarantha’s dungeon and Book 3—A Court of Wings and Ruin—unite many plot lines and lead to the final battle that will determine the future of both the Fae and humankind.

Review:

I was pulled into Feyre’s story by the happy thought of another Beauty and the Beast re-telling, but was immediately led deep into the dazzling world of the Fae—a mythology I was unfamiliar with. For me, the first book began rather slowly but once I got past the first few chapters, Feyre and Tamlin’s story had me turning pages as fast as I could. The story was anything but predictable. As soon as I thought I knew what was coming next, author Maas worked in another twist that slammed one door and threw open another.

Feyre is a strong and passionate character, replete with doubts and conflict, but also with unwavering loyalty to those she loves. Before the story even begins, she’s had to endure privation and terrible difficulty just to survive. She is not perfect and often makes decisions that made me cringe, but I still found it easy to like her, cheer her on, and fear for her life. At the end of book one (and without giving too much away) she is gifted with Fae power that she cannot always control, but bit by bit, grows in her strength until she truly becomes a Wonder Woman—though a believable one, thanks to Maas’s careful character- and world-building efforts.

The evil in this world is real—but so is the good. The appearance of the dark High Lord of the Night Court—Rhysand–half-way through the first book introduces a mystery that is not resolved until much later. Other characters, even those who appeared secondary at first, wormed their way into my heart. The love stories—and, yes, there are more than one—are magnificent, and the themes of loyalty, sacrifice, redemption, and family are woven seamlessly into the plot.

My only concern with this series is its rating as Young Adult. The love scenes are graphic beyond anything I’ve read in adult romance. “Steamy” doesn’t seem a strong enough descriptor. I’d hate for a young teen—or even a not-so-young one—to get ahold of these. FantasticFiction agrees: “Contains mature content. Not suitable for younger readers.” I’m thinking they fit better in the publishing category New Adult, but, unfortunately, the YA designation seems to be sticking.

Even though the major conflicts are resolved by the end of book three with much blood, death, and gore, the avid fan wants to know what happens to some of those so-called minor characters—Cassian and Nesta, Lucian and Elaine, Mor and Azriel. Therefore, I was quite delighted to see a 4th book in the series is due to be released in 2018.

New SP Contributor: Caleb Robinson

Pen Friends ~ We are super pleased to announce that we have a new contributor at the Spinning Pen–Caleb Robinson, a very talented Middle Grade & YA writer, has joined us! 

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Welcome Caleb! Tell us about yourself…

Caleb: At a deeply secretive college in an unknown location between a floating mountain and a cloud city, I study the shadowy and dark arts of… Chemistry. Well, at least I do until my writing decides to turn itself into a full-time job that actually pays (opposed to just being my full-time hobby that doesn’t). Until that time, I am content studying tiny things we can’t see (chemistry), playing basketball, reading (shocking), being an RA, and just hanging out with other humans or other creatures. I have been writing stories since the day I learned to form sentences with crayons.

Glad to be here! Ask me about anything–writing, chemistry, books, magic…Go.

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To learn more about Caleb, click this link to his last post: Obsessed Writers, which for convenience also links to his other posts, also be sure to find him on his Instagram -a widely popular writing account- and his twitter! Look for his posts in the future!

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Nova, signing off.

 

 

 

Obsessed Writers

How To Super-Charge Your Story With Energizing Word Sprints | The Spinning Pen

Writers have always struggled to write. As far as I know, it has been that way since the dawn of stories. Even when that first caveman picked up the piece of charcoal to scratch his tale on the wall of his home, he thought, “Do I really have time for this? I have a life. My family needs me to keep them safe from sabretooth tigers, after all. Maybe I’ll do it tomorrow.”

This brings us to an equally old question that I will attempt to answer. Continue reading