Guest Post: Championing Our Words

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My writing dream all began when an innocent teacher said the fateful words, “Wow! You’re a good writer!”

And a monster was born.

I’ve been writing since middle school, more seriously since high school, and first tried to get published over five years ago. (*I’m still not yet published.) Over that period of time, I’ve made a lot of  mistakes and learned many valuable lessons. But here I am still plugging away at my writing & publishing dream. Why do we writers torture ourselves this way?

We have words inside us that need to be heard.

Continue reading

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Author Interview: Kara McDowell

Pen Friends~ today’s interview is special because I was along side YA debut author Kara Jean McDowell as a fellow 2016 PitchWars mentee, witnessed her get an agent, and then a book deal, and now her book, Just For Clicks, will come out in February!

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SP: Hi Kara! Thanks for joining us. 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?

KM: Hello! Thanks for having me! My name is Kara McDowell. I live with my husband and three young kids in Arizona. When I’m not writing or reading, I like to boat, bake, go on road trips, and watch Netflix.

SP: Your debut, Just for Clicks, will come out Feb 2019. First, we LOVE your incredibly adorable, genius, and timely idea!

Here is a blurb: Continue reading

Book Review: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

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Title: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (first of a trilogy)

Author: Jenny Han

Blurb: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

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Review:  To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was on my TBR list for quite a while. Unfortunately—or fortunately?—the movie adaptation came out on Netflix and I couldn’t resist all the gushing reviews, so I—GASP!—watched the movie first. Let’s just say the book immediately jumped the queue on my reading list and was just as enjoyable as the flick. You’ll cheer Lara Jean on from start to finish, swoon over Peter Kavinsky, and crave a bite of every cookie Lara Jean bakes. The story is charming and will give you all the warm and fuzzies as it takes you back to your first crush and first love.

Netflix's "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" Los Angeles Special Screening

Characters/Voice: What’s not to like about Lara Jean? She is such a compelling, likeable, and relatable narrator…someone you’d want to be friends with. You’ll adore the two other Song girls—Margot and Kitty—too. Even as secondary characters, they shine with their own backstories, motivations, and insecurities. Margot, Lara Jean, and Kitty’s sisterly love will have you wanting to be one of the Song girls as well. And then there’s Peter. And Josh. You’ll be fans of them, too.

Pacing: This is one of those books you can easily settle into a comfy spot and finish in one or two sittings. You’ll keep flipping the pages to find out what happens with Lara Jean and her letters next. 

Plot: The plot is wonderfully executed. The idea of writing secret love letters that are suddenly mailed is irresistible, especially as the consequences ensue and Lara Jean has to juggle all the new complications in her life. The story ends at a point where you’re satisfied, but also giddy with the knowledge that there’s more left to the story—two books, in fact!

Setting: Of all the places described, you’ll want to curl up on the couch in the Covey household and let the scent of freshly baked cookies wash over you as you witness the hilarity, drama, and heartache the Song girls experience together.
Themes: This story deals with relatable themes like the value of family, friendships, and telling the truth even when it’s difficult.

Now onto books 2 and 3: P.S. I Still Love you and Always and Forever, Lara Jean!

Jessica Jade

Jessica, signing off.

 

Author Interview: Sarah Carlson

Pen Friends ~ You’re in for a treat today! We have debut Ya author, Sarah Carlson, here to talk about her upcoming book, All the Walls of BelfastFind out she got her agent and what keeps her going as she shares about her querying, publishing, marketing, traveling dreams, and writing process & journey. Learning from and listening to other authors can help us a lot. Enjoy!

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

SC: Hey, thanks for having me! I write contemporary YA that touches on issues that make you think. By day, I’m a school psychologist working at an elementary school; my focus is on supporting mental health and behavioral needs. I also work to support and directly intervene around children who have been exposed to trauma. I’ve loved writing since 4thgrade, when I got picked to represent my grade at a writing competition. In middle school, it was hundreds of pages of Stephen King fan fic scrawled on loose-leaf paper. Then high school saw me creating an epic universe for a sci-fi novel that grew to over 240,000 words and will never again see the light of day. Continue reading

Book Review: Legendary by Stephanie Garber

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Title: Legendary

Author: Stephanie Garber

Blurb:

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

Author Interview: Helen Scheuerer

Pen Friends ~ As promised here comes another fantastic interview with Australian YA author and Writer’s Edit Guru, Helen Scheuerer! DO NOT MISS her tips for marketing, promotion, social media, editing and more–they’re useful to anyone in the industry that is traditionally or self-published. Check it out!

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SP: Welcome Helen! First, can you please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing?

HS: Sure! I’m a novelist, editor and publisher who lives by the beach in Sydney. I own and run the popular writers’ platform, Writer’s Edit and I’m the author of bestselling YA fantasy, Heart of Mist. I’ve been writing since I was about seven years old 🙂

SP: Reign of Mist, your upcoming release, is the second book in The Oremere Chronicles. Can you tell us a bit more about book one, Heart of Mist, and now its upcoming sequel?HEART-OF-MIST-CHOSEN-web Continue reading

Book Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval book cover

Title: Caraval 

Author: Stephanie Garber

Blurb:

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over. Continue reading

Author Interview: Brittany Fichter

Pen Friends ~ Get ready for a long string of author interviews this month! We just love learning from other authors and hearing their stories from dreams to publication. We hope you do too!

Today’s interview is fantasy and fairytale-inspired author, Brittany Fichter! If you love fairytale spin-offs and heart throbbing arcs and characters, you have a list of books to choose from–See below for Brittany’s book pics!

Brittany Fichter

 

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

 

Continue reading

Book Review: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

StarfishTitle: Starfish (standalone)

Author:Akemi Dawn Bowman

Blurb: Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin. Continue reading

Author Interview & Book Release: Lorie Langdon / Olivia Twist

Photo Lorie Langdon

Pen Friends, Welcome YA Author Lorie Langdon as she talks about her new book, Olivia Twist, an historical retelling of a loved classic! 

SP: Congrats on your latest release, Olivia Twist!

Thanks so much!

SP: Can you tell us how you got the idea?OliviaTwist_cover.jpg

Like all the best stories, this one began when I was a child. After my Grandma took me to see a rerelease of the movie musical Oliver!, I became obsessed with the story and would sit in my room and listen to the double album soundtrack for hours, making up new stories about the characters. In my favorite daydream, Oliver had been born a girl and was disguising her true gender as a safety measure. This way, I could imagine myself as the heroine of the story and the Artful Dodger as the hero. In my childhood fantasies, the two would have endless adventures and eventually fall in love and escape from poverty. I blame this train of thought on the actor Jack Wild, who played Dodger in the film and became my first celebrity crush!

As a teen, I devoured every bit of historical fiction I could get my hands on, including the classic Dickens’ novel, Oliver Twist. I quickly realized two things: The Artful Dodger was not the hero I’d envisioned, and the film had missed a major character; Oliver’s half-brother, the villainous Monks. When I began writing my own books, the dynamic duo of Jack and Olivia would not leave me alone, and a mash-up of the original novel and the film began to solidify in my mind.

SP: How long did it take you write Olivia Twist?

I began the first draft of Olivia Twist in 2011. I continued to work on it in-between writing the DOON Series and finally finished it in 2013. Sadly, the young adult publishing world wasn’t ready for a historical novel without steampunk elements or vampires, so I received rejection after rejection. But I didn’t give up hope. After four years of being on submission to publishers, it sold to Blink YA Books. Now, it is receiving strong reviews and is my first book to be sold in Target stores across the US!

SP: The ever popular DOON series (who’s rights recently sold to a TV studio!) is also a retelling of Brigadoon. Do you think retellings are your thing?

I really do love writing retellings. I wrote a YA thriller, GILT HOLLOW, which is a contemporary mystery with all original characters. (Gilt Hollow just released on audiobook!) But I do enjoy reinventing classic stories and giving those characters fresh life for a new generation.

I’m currently working on a top secret spin-off of Olivia Twist that features the orphan leader Brit a few years in the future, and it is a retelling of sorts.

SP: Do you see any parts of yourself in Olivia?

Like Olivia, I’ve learned that perseverance is the key to accomplishing my goals. Despite the constraints that society puts on females of her time, Olivia finds ways to overcome obstacles in order to help others. Her selflessness actually inspires me to want to be a better person!

SP: When writing and crafting Jack- did you have a person we might know in mind?

I did have a physical character model for him…the actor Matt Lanter. You might know him from Timeless or the remake of 90210. The characters I’ve seen him play have that indefinable rakish quality that fits perfectly for The Artful Dodger. Not to mention he has the straight dark hair, ice blue eyes, dashing smile of Jack!

SP: If Olivia and Jack were living today, which cause do you think they would go after?

Child hunger and homelessness for sure! It isn’t an epidemic in the U.S. as it was in Victorian England, but nevertheless, they would fight to eradicate it!

SP: Now, fun stuff — if you could be any character in Olivia Twist, which one would you be?

Of course, Olivia! Because Jack… ;-D

SP: You will also travel to Asia to do an International Writing Workshop — which part are you most excited about? Teaching? Exploring?

I have a heart for educating and encouraging aspiring authors, so the workshop is what drew me originally. But now, I can’t wait to meet readers and writers at our various visits in China! The exploration is the icing on the cake!!

SP:  In May, you will also help judge a Travel Writing Contest in which the winner can win a free trip to TIBET! And last year you were in Ireland– so, what is your DREAM adventure and where and if you could take one fictional character with you, who would it be?

Oh my, that’s a tough question…so many possibilities! I think I would chose to visit Alloway, Scotland and the real Brig o’ doon with Vee and Kenna. We’d stay at Aunt Gracie’s cottage (which is based on an actual cottage you can rent there), visit Poet’s Corner Coffee shop for cinnamon hot chocolate, and perhaps find our way to the mythical kingdom to meet a couple of kilt-wearing princes!

SP: That sounds soooo nice. Can I come?

Thank you, Lorie!!

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANova, signing off!