Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!
I’m so pumped to announce that The Spinning Pen & Nova McBee are now selling original, custom-made “Spinning Pen” gift cards!
Our first sale begins today! Discounts from 28th-30th!
Check them out via our new Shop page!
“Spinning Pen Girl in Asia”
Nova, signing off
Pen Friends~ I’m super excited to introduce you to a new book (and the author with an interview soon!) Blood Heir, written by YA Author Amelie Wen Zhao comes out today which means you can now buy it and read it and love it!
In the Cyrilian Empire, Affinites are reviled. Their varied gifts to control the world around them are unnatural—dangerous. And Anastacya Mikhailov, the crown princess, has a terrifying secret. Her deadly Affinity to blood is her curse and the reason she has lived her life hidden behind palace walls.
When Ana’s father, the emperor, is murdered, her world is shattered. Framed as his killer, Ana must flee the palace to save her life. And to clear her name, she must find her father’s murderer on her own. But the Cyrilia beyond the palace walls is far different from the one she thought she knew. Corruption rules the land, and a greater conspiracy is at work—one that threatens the very balance of her world. And there is only one person corrupt enough to help Ana get to its core: Ramson Quicktongue.
A cunning crime lord of the Cyrilian underworld, Ramson has sinister plans—though he might have met his match in Ana. Because in this story, the princess might be the most dangerous player of all.
For those of you who don’t keep up on YA, it’s also a kind of miracle that we get to read Blood Heir, because we almost didn’t get that chance. Amelie & this book went on a crazy journey to get where it is today. Imagine this: from seeing your dream realized to dream book deals at auction to twitter mobs slamming you and pulling your book from publishing…but that wasn’t the end of the story. She did NOT GIVE UP. And, tomorrow is proof of her courage and integrity.
Amelie recently spoke on NPR about this journey. Check out her interview here:
Below, I’m also including her bio (she’s a total global girl!) and a quote from Amelie’s insta post. Readers, this book is going to be so good. Grab a copy and support 🙂
Bio from her website:
Amélie (yes, like the movie!) has adored putting pen to paper since she was in kindergarten. Born in Paris and raised in a multicultural community in Beijing, Amélie has a bone-deep love for traveling and immersing herself in new worlds and cultures. She lives in New York City, working as a full-time financial professional by day, and writer at night.
She hopes to empower young readers with messages of acceptance, strength, and courage through her works, and to continue to push the boundaries of young adult literature by exploring new, cross-cultural themes.
Quote from her Instagram:
“Among the many topics I set out to explore when I wrote BLOOD HEIR were the historic instances of indentured labor and the modern-day crisis of human trafficking. These continue to exist and impact millions of victims today. My fiancé is himself a descendant of a Chinese indentured laborer.
Literature should confront difficult truths and authors must be allowed to make their statements. I’m glad my perspective will shed light on these global issues, and that readers will have the chance to read my book, form their own opinions, and hopefully learn about new topics from my perspective as a Chinese woman living in the United States.”
Nova, signing off.
Explaining NaNoWriMo and showing you how to succeed.
Only a Fool
NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month — an event where writers all over the world attempt to do what professionals generally take months, years, and even decades to accomplish: write a novel.
The official goal is to write 50,000 words in November. 1,667 words a day, 30 days in a row.
If you ask me, it’s borderline foolish. Especially if you don’t prepare.
But it can be worth it.
Should You Participate?
NaNo can significantly boost productivity if done correctly. Here’s a simple flow chart to help you decide if this event is right for you.
If you have even 30 minutes a day, I’d recommend joining the party. Lower your goal to something more reasonable for your current circumstances and stick to it! You’d be amazed at what 30 minutes of writing for 30 days in a row can yield.
How to Succeed
Succeeding in NaNoWriMo requires simple prep-work, a system for making time to write, and a whole lot of perseverance.
The Prep Work
If you’re a Plotter, you likely have your own system for planning a novel. Make sure it’s completed before November 1. Pansters, here’s what I recommend for prep:
Find a character that intrigues you and drop them into a premise that excites you.
I also recommend daydreaming throughout the day and thinking of possible routes you want to take with the story. Just having that rough skeleton will help when you sit down to knock out those first 1,667 words at the start of this coming month. Continue reading
Pen Friends ~ I am so excited for you! In this interview you get to meet the lovely, writer mom, Pitch Wars Alum, YA Author Jessica Olson and hear about her incredible her debut, Sing Me Forgotten, out with Inkyard/Harper Collins in 2021. As you know, we are huge fans of championing author’s debut work, so click here to add it on Goodreads and enjoy all of the amazing gems she has shared in this interview!
SP: Hi Jessica! Thanks for joining us! Before we get into book stuff, we’d LOVE to know a bit about you and your writing journey?
JO: I’ve been writing books since kindergarten, and I’m pretty sure my parents still have stacks of the books I wrote and illustrated as a kid moldering up in their attic. Compelling stories about little girls that got castles for Christmas and went on picnics and ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. When I fell in love with Harry Potter as a young teen was when I moved on from writing (terrible) picture books to writing (even worse) novels. I was constantly scribbling stories in notebooks instead of paying attention in class during middle school and high school, much to my teachers’ frustration.
I started pursuing publication in college with a YA contemporary issue novel that I thought was the best thing ever written but was actually a pile of stinking garbage. I obviously was not able to get an agent with that manuscript, but I did not give up. I queried twice more over the next few years with two other manuscripts, slowly getting more and more interest in my stories—which showed I was improving—but no bites quite yet.
It wasn’t until I submitted Sing Me Forgotten to PitchWars in 2018 and was chosen as a mentee that things kind of took off. I received several requests from the PitchWars showcase, and I had my first offer of representation within 48 hours. After multiple offers, I chose to sign with Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis, and we went on submission shortly thereafter.
SMF went on to receive multiple offers from publishers, so Christa conducted an auction, which was a surreal and insane experience. I didn’t sleep or eat basically that whole week! Though all of the editors who made offers were wonderful, and they all seemed to be so excited for SMF, we decided to go with Lauren at Inkyard because she felt like the best fit for the book and shared the same vision I had for what the story could be.
Today we have Jenni Claar, a social media manager, sharing a very basic, go-to, take on Social Media–the pros and functions on how to use the major ones like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Take a look!
- If you want to….
GATHER YOUR COMMUNITY, use:
It is useful for:
Business/Author Page (affected by algorithms – will only reach roughly 10% of your audience without paying for more…don’t waste your money!)
Post daily (mornings and evenings have the highest audience traffic)
Comments, likes, and shares increase audience.
1/3 Audience Engagement Posts, 1/3 Self-Promotion/Product Promotion, 1/3 Audience Care
*Images carry more weight in Facebook algorithms than links – share links in comments
Other ideas for Facebook-
*Facebook Groups Street Teams
*Book Clubs Personal Blogs/Newsletter
2. If you want to….
FIND YOUR READERS use:
Instagram – #bookstagram
YouTube – BookTube
3. If you want to….
NETWORK, FIND YOUR PEERS, MENTORS, AND ROLE MODELS use:
Lots of community happens here, be kind, active, and engage. Twitter circles grow quickly.
Pen Friends ~ Our author interview today is with Jennieke Cohen, (who I met through the 2016 PitchWars gang.) Not only does she share about her debut, Dangerous Alliance, (which you can pre-order!) but about perseverance, Jane Austen, favorite books, fictional crushes, publishing, and more. Enjoy.
SP: Hi Jennieke! Thanks for joining us! Before we get into book stuff, we’d LOVE to know a bit about you and how long have you have been writing?
JC: Thanks so much for having me! Even as a child, I liked telling stories and acting them out, and by high school, I thought I wanted to work in the film industry. I wrote my first screenplay—a dark, suspense story about a serial killer—in high school and even made it into a movie for one of my classes. After college, I started my first novel, which would later become Dangerous Alliance. Having ruled out working in the film business, I decided to intern with a literary agent (I later got promoted to her assistant), and then at Prima Games (then an imprint of Random House) while I pursued a master’s degree in professional writing from the University of Southern California. Nowadays, in my spare time, you’ll find me re-watching and over-analyzing old movies (a hard habit to break!), singing opera arias and show tunes, or discovering new foodie spots with my husband.
SP: Your debut, Dangerous Alliance, will come out December 3rd, 2019.
Here is the blurb:
Lady Victoria Aston has everything she could want: an older sister happily wed, the future of her family estate secure, and ample opportunity to while her time away in the fields around her home. But now Vicky must marry—or find herself and her family destitute. Armed only with the wisdom she has gained from her beloved novels by Jane Austen, she enters society’s treacherous season.
Sadly, Miss Austen has little to say about Vicky’s exact circumstances: whether the roguish Mr. Carmichael is indeed a scoundrel, if her former best friend, Tom Sherborne, is out for her dowry or for her heart, or even how to fend off the attentions of the foppish Mr. Silby, he of the unfortunate fashion sensibility. Most unfortunately of all, Vicky’s books are silent on the topic of the mysterious accidents cropping up around her…ones that could prevent her from surviving until her wedding day.
SP: Can you tell us a bit more about how this idea came about?
JC: This may sound somewhat cliché, but when I was twelve, I read Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre and they had a much bigger impact on me than I could have guessed. I was expecting them to be dry and boring because they were “classics,” but the witty intelligence Jane Austen brought to her novels spoke to me in a way not many of the other books I’d read had. And I simply loved the romance and mystery elements of Jane Eyre. I found myself looking for all the historical novels I could find. That led to reading a lot of adult fiction and nonfiction because, at the time, there were very few European-set historical novels written specifically for teens and young adults. With Dangerous Alliance, I wanted to create the kind of novel I would have really enjoyed reading as a teen. Continue reading
As we know, a good first line of a book (and chapter) can do much more than just begin the story. It grabs our attention, sets the tone, reveals something to come, lets us taste the narrative & voice, gives the first impression, and can be locked into our memory for years to come IF it is done well.
Look at the 7 approaches below and study them. (FYI: Thanks to Lorie Langdon for sharing these with us!)
I’ve also added links to some of the most popular first lines in YA Literature. Compare, enjoy, and then mentally put them into their correct categories. Then look at your own first lines. Where does it fit? Practice rewriting your first sentence. And if you are so bold, share it in the comments!
- A statement of eternal principle
– Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
– Paper Towns by John Green: “The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle.”
- A statement that conveys the narrative
– Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa: “I had a farm in Africa.”
– Stardust by Neil Gaiman: “There once was a young man who wished to gain his Heart’s Desire.”
– Stephen King’s 11/22/63: “I have never been what you’d call a crying man.”
– The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway: “He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish..”
- Start mid-action
– Lorie’s current WIP:“A brisk gale whipped the sea into peaks that pitched the Skylark around like a leaf in a flooded stream.”
– The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner: “Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting.”
- A statement of paired facts
– Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo:“Joost had two problems: the moon and his mustache.”
– A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
- 6. Statement laced with significance and/or conflict
– Heather Webb’s Becoming Josephine: “The missive arrived in the night.”
- DOON by Corp and Langdon:“I skidded to a halt in the crowded corridor, totally unprepared for a showdown with the evil witch of Bainbridge High.”
- 7. Start with setting that evokes emotion, establishes mood, or raises questions
-A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas:“The forest had become a labyrinth of snow and ice.”
-Maria V. Snyer’s Poison Study: “Locked in darkness that surrounded me like a coffin, I had nothing to distract me from my memories.”
Nova, signing off!
Pen Friends ~ Today’s interview is with YA Author Annie Sullivan talking about her latest book, Tiger Queen! We also just learned that she and Lauren Mansy (from our last interview) will go on tour together promoting, The Memory Thief, and Annie’s Tiger Queen, (& her debut, A Touch of Gold!) Be sure to check them all out!
SP: Hi Annie! Thanks for joining us! Before we get into book stuff, we’d LOVE to know a bit about you and your writing journey?
AS: Thanks so much for having me! I’m the author of fairytale and fantasy young adult novels. I love taking stories readers are familiar with and giving them an unexpected twist—whether that’s a new character or a new ending. I have a master’s degree in Creative Writing from Butler University and have been writing seriously since college. It’s always been a dream of mine to be a published author, and now, I’m so excited that it’s come true!
SP: Tiger Queen was just released into the world! Congrats! Can you tell us how this idea & its characters came about?
AS: Tiger Queen is actually a loose retelling of Frank Stockton’s infamous short story “The Lady or the Tiger,” which has a cliffhanger ending. Ever since I read the story in grade school, I’ve always wanted to give that story the ending it always should have had (in my opinion.) So I’m so excited that I was finally able to make that happen in Tiger Queen as we follow Princess Kateri as she fights suitors in an arena to win her right to rule.
Here is blurb:
In the mythical desert kingdom of Achra, an ancient law forces sixteen-year-old Princess Kateri to fight in the arena to prove her right to rule. For Kateri, winning also means fulfilling a promise to her late mother that she would protect her people, who are struggling through windstorms and drought. The situation is worsened by the gang of Desert Boys that frequently raids the city wells, forcing the king to ration what little water is left. The punishment for stealing water is a choice between two doors: behind one lies freedom, and behind the other is a tiger.
But when Kateri’s final opponent is announced, she knows she cannot win. In desperation, she turns to the desert and the one person she never thought she’d side with. What Kateri discovers twists her world—and her heart—upside down. Her future is now behind two doors—only she’s not sure which holds the key to keeping her kingdom and which releases the tiger. Continue reading
Pen Friends ~ Today’s interview is with YA Author, Lauren Mansy, talking about her debut, The Memory Thief. From what we have heard it has incredible world building and an intriguing premise! You can still pre-order it and it will arrive on your door on when it releases on October 1st!
SP: Hi Lauren! Thanks for joining us! Before we get into book stuff, could you share a bit about you and your writing journey?
LM: Thank you so much for having me, Nova!
I’m from the western suburbs of Chicago, where work alongside my parents in our family business. In my free time, I love grabbing coffee with friends, staying active outdoors, and traveling – I have two nephews in California, so I’ll use any excuse to spend time with them! 🙂
My writing journey first began the summer after my college graduation. I’d hoped to go into children’s publishing, but my senior year, I’d been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease, a form of lymphatic cancer. I’m so thankful to say that I’ve now been cancer-free for seven years, but that was a very difficult time for me. After completing my treatments, I wasn’t healthy enough to find a job, so my parents suggested I do something creative to help in my healing process. For some reason, all I could think about was writing a book. And once I started writing, I found that I never wanted to stop! Writing fiction helped me express myself in ways that I’d never done before and helped me process through some of my most difficult memories. I’ll be forever grateful for that! Continue reading