When to Make the Leap to a New Series

fmd_cru6otk-cathryn-laveryHave you ever written a note from yourself to yourself?

I did.

It was back when I first started writing. I wasn’t convinced I could finish writing an entire book, much less beat the odds and get published.

So I wrote a note to myself promising my future self that I would not give up on writing until I’d received over a thousand rejections for my manuscript.

Fast forward to heavy rewrites, beta readers, countless vacations spent editing, and slashing my word count like a ruthless ninja, and my novel still isn’t where I want it to be. The second book in the trilogy is nearly written, the characters loveable and the plot thickening, and yet… the first book in the series is still not query ready.

Ever found yourself in this boat?

The pressures of new jobs, moves, injuries and more steal you away from your love of writing and you can’t quite seem to get where you need to be?

That’s where I was.

Then a major life event happened. I moved from Texas to Beijing!

I’d always wanted to write a book set in China and I figured this was the perfect time. When else would I have so much inspiration?

I shelved my first series and started a new one.

I’ve only been in Beijing for six months but I’ve already more than half way done with my first draft.

It’s crazy the amount of inspiration I had just from moving here. I started a file on all the interesting things I noticed about Beijing. I wasn’t sure if I’d necessarily use them all but I wanted to write them down before they became common place and I over looked their uniqueness.

Here are a few random snippets from that file:

  • I have to wear a giant mask most days to work due to the pollution. My friends all make fun of me and say I look like Baine from Batman. Great… just the look I was going for.
  • There’s a guy who’s pet dog is named Baozi (aka named after a breakfast food) because it was addicted to eating baozi
  • There’s this beautiful part of the city called the Hutongs which are a preserved cluster of ancient Beijing. It’s like stepping into a time warp.IMG_8448

[Pictured left: me on a nice summer day in my “Baine Mask”]

Simple notes like those can turn into significant parts of the plot.

For example, I was fascinated by the Hutongs. Walking through them was almost surreal. One second you’re walking in modern day Beijing with sky scrapers and cars, the next there’s nothing but three-wheel bicycles and ancient buildings. I wrote a short description of the Hutongs that ended up turning into a scene, which turned into a major part of the plot, which turned into one of the main themes of my book.

For my first series, what inspired me were the majestic Sichuan mountains. My plot developed on a tiny little black notebook on a two-week trip I took to those mountains.

For my newest book, the city of Beijing did the trick. Exploring The Great Wall, local markets, interesting restaurants, and people watching gave me so much inspiration.

Sometimes, its ok to put the series you’ve been writing down for a little while and go get fresh inspiration. Just don’t give up!

As for me, I haven’t forgotten my first labor of love. Once I finish my first draft of my new Chinese series, I’ll go back and finish editing. Hopefully, I’ll have fresh inspiration and clarity from taking a nice long break from it. For now, I’m enjoying the change of scenery and my new series.

Where are you at with your stories? Are you stuck on one? What will it take for you to finish your first love?


Candace signing off from a coffee shop in Beijing.


Book Review: Finale

finaTitle: Finale

Author: Stephanie Garber

Blurb (from Amazon):

A love worth fighting for. A dream worth dying for. An ending worth waiting for.

It’s been two months since the Fates were freed from a deck of cards, two months since Legend claimed the throne for his own, and two months since Tella discovered the boy she fell in love with doesn’t really exist.

With lives, empires, and hearts hanging in the balance, Tella must decide if she’s going to trust Legend or a former enemy. After uncovering a secret that upends her life, Scarlett will need to do the impossible. And Legend has a choice to make that will forever change and define him.

Caraval is over, but perhaps the greatest game of all has begun. There are no spectators this time: only those who will win, and those who will lose everything.

Welcome, welcome to Finale. All games must come to an end…

Review:  Finale is the third and final book in Stephanie Garber’s #1 New York Times bestselling Caraval series.

I was fascinated with Caraval, loved Legendary, and eagerly pined for FINALE to the point that I pre-ordered it the day it became available. Stephanie Garber is an author I admire for her perseverance in the industry, her imagination and creativity. Her stories are intricately weaved together and she goes beyond the boundary of what writing can be and creates new paths for authors to learn from. Her writing is captivating and the CARAVAL series is by far my favorite series in the last year.

Setting: From the first book, Garber created a very detailed, colorful and rich world and culture within Caraval. Its full with historic flavor, colors, character–her imagery is provoking and very sensory. Valenda, where Finale takes place, is mixed with beauty, magic, wonder, and danger. There are gardens, and castles, and gambling dens, and spice markets, and hidden magical markets. 

Pacing: As with all of the Caraval books, Finale is hard to put down. Not only are you totally invested in the characters but the conflicts and heart-wrenching choices leave you with a sense of urgency.

Plot: There are many pieces that all must be put together here: Julian and Scarlett and her ex-fiance, Nickolas, and there is that small thing about her true identity…then there is Donatella and Legend’s very complicated relationship. Her mother, the past, and well, a short but deep life changing moment. Jacks, the Prince of Hearts, and his obsession with Tella, and well, finding a way to stop the Fates from destroying and ruling Valenda. And of course, love. It did feel a bit quick in how she wrapped up certain threads, but at the same time, I was fully invested into all of them.

Characters/Voice: Here is where the book shines. Her characters have unique voices/personalities and are very relatable, complicated, funny, deep, thoughtful, and daring. Even her sub-characters are all interesting with backstory of both pain and love. We’re drawn to them all and want what they want. The main characters, Scarlett, Julian, Tella, Jacks, and Legend are some of my favorite characters in fiction. It’s like Garber embodied some of the deepest human emotions and put them into characters. It shows how much thought and time she put into developing them.

Themes: Love and sacrifice. Honesty and bravery.

*I’d recommend this series for older teens and adults.

Signing off,  Nova McBee



Author Interview: Joanna Hathaway

Pen Friends, I’m so excited to introduce you to debut YA Author, Joanna Hathaway who will talk about her YA Fantasy (with Historical aspects), Dark of the West, which comes out February tomorrow, the 5th!!! Let’s hear what she has to say about books, publishing, marketing and more!

JHSP: Hi, Joanna! Thanks for joining us! Congrats on your debut coming out in February! I bet you’re getting excited!  But before we dive into all the book stuff, can you please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing? 

JH: Thanks so very much for having me! Yes, it’s getting very exciting, and as you mentioned, Dark of the West is my debut. It’s my first book to be published — but it’s also the first book I’ve ever finished! I started working on it when I was in university, over a decade ago, and it was the only story that stuck with me through the years. I like to say that I “grew up” as a writer with this book. I’ve revised it so many times, and in so many different ways, that it’s taught me most of what I know about craft at this point. I know many authors write a few different books before they reach The One, but for me it took agonizing over countless drafts to makeDark of the West become The One!Dark of the West

SP: Your debut, Dark of the West, will come out February 5th! From the first moment I read your description, I knew I would LOVE this book!

Here is a blurb:

Aurelia Isendare is a princess of a small kingdom in the North, raised in privilege but shielded from politics as her brother prepares to step up to the throne. Halfway around the world, Athan Dakar, the youngest son of a ruthless general, is a fighter pilot longing for a life away from the front lines. When Athan’s mother is shot and killed, his father is convinced it’s the work of his old rival, the Queen of Etania—Aurelia’s mother. Determined to avenge his wife’s murder, he devises a plot to overthrow the Queen, a plot which sends Athan undercover to Etania to gain intel from her children.

Athan’s mission becomes complicated when he finds himself falling for the girl he’s been tasked with spying upon. Aurelia feels the same attraction, all the while desperately seeking to stop the war threatening to break between the Southern territory and the old Northern kingdoms that control it—a war in which Athan’s father is determined to play a role. As diplomatic ties manage to just barely hold, the two teens struggle to remain loyal to their families and each other as they learn that war is not as black and white as they’ve been raised to believe. Continue reading

Book Review: Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles)


Title: Cinder (The first book in The Lunar Chronicles.)

Author: Marissa Meyer


Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

With high-stakes action and a smart, resourceful heroine, Cinder is a Cinderella retelling that is at once classic and strikingly original. MM.jpg

Review: I want to start my review with the quote (below) from Entertainment Weekly. This quote–the concept for Cinder–hooked me into reading the book in a way my friends couldn’t. I was so intrigued by mashing these genres/titles together, I simply had to see how she had done it.

“An interesting mash up of fairy tales and science fiction . . . a cross between Cinderella, Terminator, and Star Wars.” ―Entertainment Weekly


All I can say is WOW. I was blown away by the creativity and imagination that went into creating this plot & series!

Characters/Voice: Once I started the book with this quote in mind I easily slipped into Cinder’s voice. She was sympathetic and I loved getting to know her story, and of course the quote had me rooting for her from the beginning. Prince Kai, Queen Levana, Peony and Cinder’s step mom were all well done; easy to read and follow and had depth. I could easily see their motives. The book moved between the scenes and characters with such great timing I was invested in each story line and character.

Pacing: The pace kept me reading and invested the entire time. It was hard to put down.  Mainly because that same quote had me asking questions. How will Meyers do this? I loved the weaving of the plot and the mystery. Seriously, it was so well done!

Plot:  The plot is super creative because as you read in the blurb, Cinderella is a cyborg set in a future world with the threats of wars and conspiracy. The main plot and sub plots are complex and full of mystery and suspense. It’s believable and fun.

Setting: Loved this imagined future world. Loved the scientific developments and new technology. Loved the descriptions of New Beijing and the Eastern Common Wealth and Luna, the moon civilization. Loved the backstory on the history of World War 3 and 4, and how the earth was redivided. Her writing and description was not dry in any way.  A perfect balance between setting and plot and character and pace.

Themes/ Audience: The themes that were most obvious were standing for what is right and finding your true identity and being ok with who you are. As for audience, I gave this book to my Dad because he loves Sci-FI and he loved it! LOL. He is already on book 3 (as am I.) It is also totally appropriate for younger ages. Needless to say, I would totally recommend this book to younger and older teens (and even adults who love fantasy, fairytales, or sci-fi-fi action books!)

wagas cafe author photo 1


Nova, Author of YA Contemporary Action/Adventure & Fantasy, signing off! See Nova’s book stuff here and her latest book news announcement – I’ll give you a hint–film is involved.

Book Review: Legendary by Stephanie Garber

Legendary cover

Title: Legendary

Author: Stephanie Garber


A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister Scarlett from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name. Continue reading