Book Review: Before Beauty


Title: Before Beauty (First Book in the Trilogy)

Author: Brittany Fichter

Blurb: Prince Everard’s father spent the boy’s youth forging the prince into a warrior. Upon the king’s death, however, Everard realizes he’s lost himself somewhere along the way, and in his pain, makes a decision that brings a dark curse upon both him and the great Fortress that has so long guarded the people of Destin. Continue reading


Query + Pages Critiques + Journals!


Pen Friends ~ Looking for a query critique or your first chapter looked over? Nova McBee, SP host (in charge of Author Interviews & Book Reviews,) is offering her 2nd out of 3 Giveaways in November. Don’t miss out. She does the majority of query critiques at the SP and has become really good at pinpointing just how to make a query successful!

Thanks for all of your support and being part of our writing community!

Check here for details: November Giveaway Part 2!

Signing off,

SP gang!


Nova McBee’s Launch & Giveaway!

Pen Friends, our very own SP host, Nova McBee, will launch a newsletter and start blogging on her new website! To celebrate, she will have THREE Giveaways in November for writers and readers. You don’t want to miss on those or a chance to support this upcoming author!

* Check out her post by clicking the link below!

Congrats, Nova! We’re all excited to be part of your journey!



Many moons ago, on a rainy Sunday in November, two young parents ran out of gas on the freeway trying to get to the hospital to have a baby. They eventually got there and I was born in a whirl of excitement. After this, one of my first memories was of smelling pumpkin pie–obviously, that […]

via NEWS & November Giveaways — Nova McBee

How to Survive in the Creative Darkness

I feel like the only appropriate way to start this post is with a quote from George Washington in “Hamilton” by Lin-Manuel Miranda:

“Check it–

Can I be real a second?

For just a millisecond?

Let down my guard and tell the people how I feel a second?” 


It’s one of those seasons for me where everything feels a little darker than usual. There’s a heaviness to the air, in my limbs, and in my soul. Yeah, it’s dramatic, but we’re writers. Drama comes with the territory.

I’m guessing most of you have been in one of these seasons, and if you haven’t, you likely will be at some point in the future. Especially for creatives, the dark seems to follow us around a little more.

So today, when I just don’t know if I can get the words out any other way, I have this bit of encouragement for you–and for myself.  Continue reading

EDITOR TALK with Heather Webb

Pen Friends ~ We are super excited to hear from PRO EDITOR and Historical Fiction author extraordinaire, Heather Webb as she shares her editing and writing tips. Also check out her latest book, Last Christmas in Paris It’s out now! See below!!

Heather Webb, Smiling 2Hi Heather! Thanks for joining us. Since you are both an author and an editor, we are seriously eager to pick your brain. But first, please tell us who are you and how long have you have been writing? 

Hi all! I’ve been writing since 2008, so about 9  years or so. I can’t even believe that! Sometimes I feel like a newbie with so much to learn.

SP: First love– writing or editing? Which came first career wise? Bonus: How long did it take for you to write your first book? Continue reading

Book Blog Tour & Author Interview: Seize Today by Pintip Dunn


Chapter by Chapter Blog Tours


Seventeen-year-old Olivia Dresden is a precognitive. Since different versions of people’s futures flicker before her eyes, she doesn’t have to believe in human decency. She can see the way for everyone to be their best self-if only they would make the right decisions. No one is more conflicted than her mother, and Olivia can only watch as Chairwoman Dresden chooses the dark, destructive course every time. Yet Olivia remains fiercely loyal to the woman her mother could be. Continue reading

Feature Friday: Alexa Donne of Author Mentor Match

Pen friends, if you’ve spent much time around here, you know how much we love the writing community! One of our favorite ways of learning and growing within that community is by participating in contests and mentoring opportunities, and today we are thrilled to chat with one of the founders of Author Mentor Match, the lovely YA author Alexa Donne!

*The current round of submissions for AMM is open now through October 24th, so if you’ve been looking for a mentor, now is the perfect chance to apply!

AMM logo gradient_edit

SP: Welcome, Alexa! We’re so excited to have you join us. Can you please tell us a little about who you are and what you write?

Hi! Thank you so much for having me! I am Alexa Donne, a YA science fiction & fantasy writer whose debut novel, BRIGHTLY BURNING, will be coming out from HMH Teen on May 1, 2018. It’s a retelling of Jane Eyre, set in space.  Continue reading

How to Survive NaNoWriMo


         Before you can continue with this guide, you first have to know WHAT in the world NaNoWriMo is. It stands for National Novel Writing Month and takes place every November. The standard goal is to write 50k words in ONE MONTH. Sounds crazy, right? Well, now you know why you need this guide. (If you want more info on NaNoWriMo, visit

Okay, so last year I completed my goal of 50k words and managed it in just 28 days. How? It was pretty dang hard, to be honest. But that’s the point, right? The whole idea of Nano is to push your abilities, force you to stop procrastinating, and GET CRAP DONE! YEAH!

Let’s jump right in!


1) Find the Motivation

In order to get anything done, you have to have motivation. So that’s where we’ll start. (This is where I get you HYPED!)

A. Break it Down Now, Y’all! So, 50k words seems a little overwhelming, right? Yes, yes it does. But let’s break it down here using some complex Calculus and rocket science.

50k words/30 days in November/16 average hours awake in a day. So, you need to write 105 words per hour. Not horrible, right? Realistically, you won’t have a chance to do it every single hour. A better approach is to do it 1-3 times over the course of the day. Mostly you just need to know what style works best for you. Are you best at cramming it all in at once? Then write 1,667 at once all at once. If you’d rather spread it out, set aside two-three times a day to do it and write 835 or 555 words. Manageable, right?

B. Tired of Procrastinating. Yes. We are all there at some point.  As Dorothy Parker said, “I hate writing, I love having written”. NaNoWriMo basically forces you to stop procrastinating and get those fingers flying across the keyboard. Especially if you’re an achievement/goal oriented person like myself.

Seriously, think about it. If you follow through with this, you could end up with 50 FREAKING THOUSAND WORDS WRITTEN IN ONE MONTH!!! If that’s not a good enough reason to be absolutely hyped, I don’t know how you help you.


C. Accountability and Friends. While this goes along with point B), I feel like it is worthy of a separate category. Some of us have writing “accountability partners” to make sure we don’t waste our time getting everything EXCEPT writing done. But not all of us have that privilege. NaNo builds that benefit in. It makes it easy to connect with people online who are also taking place in the “Great Writer’s Race”. Not only that, it makes it easy to talk to people you may know in real life about writing, thus helping you create that accountability that may continue beyond NaNo!

2) Find the Time

So now you’re HYPED! But you’re still thinking, “How in the world will I find time to write 1,667 words a day??” Valid question. Let’s jump into the answer.

A. Schedule It. Yes, you’ve heard it before, and yes, it’s still true. You’re probably going to have to schedule out your writing time. It might not be the same time(s) every day, but that doesn’t matter. Schedule it like a meeting!

Truthfully, I didn’t schedule an exact time, but my strategy was “Get home early every night and write for two hours”. Simple, yet very effective. I purposely left events early, said no to plans, etc. This is going to take sacrifice. But keep the goal in mind! Like these two adorable dogs!


B. No Breaks. At the beginning, you might start really strong and manage 10k in the first 3 days. If this happens, you’ll be tempted to slow down and say, “Yeah, I’ve got this. I’ll take a break.” DO NOT SLOW DOWN. The worst thing you can do is break the habit of writing you have developed throughout the month. Do not stop unless you absolutely have to. You never know what’s going to happen in your life, especially when Thanksgiving rolls around. If you get ahead, stay ahead.

C. Drop the ‘Flix, the ‘Lu, and the ‘Gram. You heard me. This is something I preach on relentlessly in my blogs. Netflix is not necessary. Hulu is especially unnecessary (c’mon, you still have to watch ads even with Hulu+?), and Instagram gives you unlimited garbage to mindlessly sift through. As someone who runs a large writing Instagram account *cough* follow @write_or_left on Instagram*cough*, this advice is BAD for business. So you KNOW I mean it.

Yes, all of them have some benefits, but very few will help you write. If you REALLY want to reach your goal, you’ll find a way to do without for a month. Or at the very least, cut back.

That’s basically all you need at this point. In review:

  • Find the motivation from deep within yourself, like a tribal warrior summoning the spirits of his ancestors.

  • Make time as if J.K. Rowling offered to tutor you for 1-2 hours every day for 30 days straight.




Tell me what you think! Did I miss any vital tips?

Until next time, Caleb Robinson

Author Interview: Tracey Neithercott

Pen Friends ~ We are delighted to have Tracey Neithercott, debut author of Gray Wolf Island and an Author Mentor Match mentor, here with us today!

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

Hi! Thank you so much for having me.

I’m a magazine journalist and the author of the YA novel Gray Wolf Island. I’ve always written in some way or another: There was my sixth grade The Princess and the Mean Genie, which really made me aware of my inability to draw but had me feeling pretty proud of my talent for coloring within the lines.

In high school, I started (but never finished) a bunch of books in the voice of whatever I’d last read. I somehow ended up sounding like both Pip from Great Expectations and Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye. This was not a good thing.

As I began thinking about college, I shifted my focus. It’s weird looking back at how my brain worked back then, but I was convinced authors were these super-special people who were, I don’t know, given their super-special talents from the heavens or something. I figured journalism was a more realistic career. And in a way, I was right: I did become a journalist.

Only after I began reading YA writer blogs—watching them go from unagented writers to agented writers to published authors—did I start to believe writing a novel was something I could actually do. And in 2010, I finished a novel for the first time. Continue reading