Saturday, January 31, 2015

Tea Time: Of Scars and Stardust

**Warning: Spoilers May Abound**

Of Scars and Stardust, Andrea Hannah

After her little sister mysteriously vanishes, seventeen-year-old Claire Graham has a choice to make: stay snug in her little corner of Manhattan with her dropout boyfriend, or go back to Ohio to face the hometown tragedy she's been dying to leave behind. 

But the memories of that night still haunt her in the city, and as hard as she tries to forget what her psychiatrist calls her "delusions," Claire can't seem to escape the wolf's eyes or the blood-speckled snow. Delusion or reality, Claire knows she has to hold true to the most important promise she's ever made: to keep Ella safe. She must return to her sleepy hometown in order to find Ella and keep her hallucinations at bay before they strike again. But time is quickly running out, and as Ella's trail grows fainter, the wolves are becoming startlingly real.

Now Claire must deal with her attraction to Grant, the soft-spoken boy from her past that may hold the secret to solving her sister's disappearance, while following the clues that Ella left for only her to find. Through a series of cryptic diary entries, Claire must unlock the keys to Ella's past—and her own—in order to stop another tragedy in the making, while realizing that not all things that are lost are meant to be found. (source:goodreads)

Narrative-This book is told in the first-person POV of Claire Graham, and it's a wonderful perspective to see the world through. Why? Because, put simply, you really can't trust anybody in this novel: including Claire. Everyone loves an unreliable narrator; it's different, and it puts a different perspective on the events happening within the novel. Most of all, there wasn't a single moment I was positive of what was happening; there was a constant shift in: are the wolves real, is the dad crazy, is Claire crazy, is she being unjustly persecuted, what really happened to Ella?

The roller-coaster ride of questions and uncertainties made this whole book so worth it; it's mind-bending.

Plot-So I'm kind of not exactly sure where to start with this.

The beginning kept me wondering: right away there's talks of wolves, of Claire's best friend, Rae (hey, it's me!), running away. At the time I started reading this, I was thinking, "Okay, I know I'm low on sleep, but what is this going to have to do with the book?"

It was a stupid question, ya'll.

SCARS (shortening because, well, long title) is, above all, a mystery. Claire is totally paranoid about these wolves (who seem to have followed her to New York) and after she returns to her hometown she's determined to prove that the wolves had something to do with her sister's disappearance. An old case comes up-about an eight-year-old girl who was killed-and she begins drawing similarities between the two cases. Above all, the only one who seems to believe her is her old crush, Grant.

It's a roller coaster of trying to figure out what happened. At times, you'll find yourself believing Claire: the wolves are real, and there's something sinister happening. At others, you'll start doubting her. The evidence shifts back and forth (showing how interpretation of events is everything), and the ending will probably leave you as breathless as I was, all while touching on mental illness and the different ways it can rear it's ugly head or else hide frighteningly well. Everyone's a suspect, and nothing in this book is obvious until reaching the last thirty pages or so, when the puzzle pieces start clicking into place.

Characters-Claire, Grant, Rae, and Ella are probably the most important characters (or the ones that stood out to me as being important). Claire and Grant: obvious, since they're  the main characters solving the mystery concerning Ella. Rae because she fueled the stories of the wolves in the town, and Ella because, as the reader, I was constantly warring between the ideas that she simply ran away and that something actually happened to her.

Comparing and contrasting Ella and Rae from before Ella's accident and two years later. In the beginning of the book, Ella is super sweet, carefree, and her love for Claire is obvious. After her disappearance, a new side of her is revealed: a girl who's personality has been tamped down due to her parents' worry over her. For Rae, she's controlling and day-dreamy, and when Claire finds her two years later she's still controlling, but there's a difference in her demeanor toward Claire, and also with what she knows about Ella (it's all twisted, their relationships; it was gold).

Grant is a guy who's totally genuine. He and Claire are close, and even as the entire town turns against Claire and her family he's by her side, both believing and trying to believe her (depending on the moment) about the wolves and Ella. His care is heartwarming, particularly when the evidence is overwhelmingly against Claire: he tries to believe her; I'm pretty sure he wants to believe her.

And then there's Claire. As I mentioned above, she's completely unreliable as a narrator. One moment, you're thinking that the wolves are real, and the next you're doubting her. Then you're believing her, again. her own will to believe the stories of the wolves-and to believe that she would never hurt her own sister-is admirable, and is really the driving force behind her, even after the last chapter when you (the reader) realize that things aren't exactly as Claire sees them.

I enjoyed the characters; I enjoyed questioning who's telling the truth and who's not, who's trustworthy, what their motives are. It made for a book that I've been thinking about long after turning the last page.

Final Answer: 4.33 / 5 stars

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A not-so-simple mystery that will leave you guessing. @Rae_Slater reviews OF SCARS AND STARDUST @andeehannah (Click to Tweet)

Do you believe the wolves are real? @Rae_Slater reviews OF SCARS AND STARDUST @andeehannah (Click to Tweet)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Receiving Feedback: Dos and Don'ts

Last year, I wrote a post on Editing Basics: Dos and Don'ts, which outlined a few key rules to remember when you're editing somebody else's work (on a non-professional level: beta readers, CPs, workshop settings).

And, just now, I realized that not only is the title of that post slightly misleading (sorry about that), but that I never did a follow-up: a few basic things to remember when you're the one receiving the feedback, not giving it. So here I am, and here are my own personal rules; I really invite ya'll to share your own in the comments, too!

Just for clarity, also: "editor," here, refers to your CP, beta reader, etc.

Do show your editor respect. This is a two-way street, but in regards to how you, in particular, should treat them: your editor just spent a good chunk of their time reading your entire work (whether full MS, SS, a single poem, etc) and providing detailed (hopefully) feedback. They're doing you a favor. Therefore, it's up to you to allow them the time and environment in which they can describe to you the good, the bad, the ugly, the absolutely beautiful.

Don't become defensive. Your editor is not attacking you. They're not attacking your work, either. In fact, they're not attacking anything. They're not ravenous wolves, they're a friend, a family member (well, hopefully not; most family tends to be somewhat biased), and they're one of probably many who legitimately want to see both you and your work grow.

Do take the time to seriously consider each suggestion and critique, as well. Sometimes your own work is too muddled in your head, so you can't even begin to think of new possibilities or how to patch up current unraveling threads. Being open to new ideas from your editor gives you the opportunity to potentially uncover new paths that you might not have been able to consider before.

Don't assume that every suggestion and every critique is something that has to be changed. As previously stated: take it all with a grain of salt. Consider each one; just as some suggestions might be great for your work, others might not be a right fit. Just remember: if more than one editor has the same suggestion, then it's definitely worth reconsidering.

Do ask questions. Questions, questions, questions. Be the thing that wouldn't shut up (brownie points if you understand that reference). When your editor says that something's not quite working, ask them how they think it could be fixed (remember: whatever they suggest you don't have to use) or even suggest an idea that you have, and see what they think. Asking questions is probably your best tool, and your best way to brainstorm. Talk it out, and see what happens.


These are extremely simple ideas, but they're also extremely important. Retaining a good and trusting relationship with your editor (CP, beta, both, whatever) is invaluable when you're trying to get a book publishing ready, whether you're going the traditional route or self-publishing.

What are some of your basic dos and don'ts of receiving feedback on your work?

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Receiving feedback on your work? Blogger @Rae_Slater has some basic dos and don'ts for good etiquette (Click to Tweet)

Do ask questions, don't become defensive, and other basic rules of receiving feedback from blogger @Rae_Slater (Click to Tweet)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Release Day Blitz: A Cold Legacy

Over my Christmas break, I had the pleasure of finally reading THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER and HER DARK CURIOSITY, by Megan Shepherd. Needless to say, I fell in love with both of them for their take on classic, partially odd and morbid tales as well as their translation into Victorian England. And the main character? Fabulous.

And today's the release day for the third book in the series, A COLD LEGACY, so everyone celebrate with me! Not only do I have all the basics (pitch and author bio), but an excerpt of the novel and a giveaway at the bottom of the post!

A Cold Legacy
Author: Megan Shepherd
Pub. Date: January 27, 2015
Publisher: Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins
Pages: 400

After killing the men who tried to steal her father’s research, Juliet—along with Montgomery, Lucy, Balthazar, and a deathly ill Edward—has escaped to a remote estate on the Scottish moors. Owned by the enigmatic Elizabeth von Stein, the mansion is full of mysteries and unexplained oddities: dead bodies in the basement, secret passages, and fortune-tellers who seem to know Juliet’s secrets. Though it appears to be a safe haven, Juliet fears new dangers may be present within the manor’s own walls.

Then Juliet uncovers the truth about the manor’s long history of scientific experimentation—and her own intended role in it—forcing her to determine where the line falls between right and wrong, life and death, magic and science, and promises and secrets. And she must decide if she’ll follow her father’s dark footsteps or her mother’s tragic ones, or whether she’ll make her own.

With inspiration from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this breathless conclusion to the Madman’s Daughter trilogy is about the things we’ll sacrifice to save those we love—even our own humanity. 

Find it: Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Goodreads



Montgomery stopped the horses outside a tavern. He came to the carriage door, opening it just a crack to keep the rain from drenching us. “I’m going to ask directions. We can’t be far now.”

We watched him saunter over the muddy street as though he didn’t even feel the bite of freezing rain. A face appeared in the tavern window. The door opened and he spoke to a woman in a wool dress for a few moments, then stomped back through the mud. “This village is called Quick,” he told us. “The manor’s only five miles from here.”

“Did you hear that?” Lucy murmured to Edward, still stroking his hair. “We’re almost there. Just hold on. Everything will be all right once we arrive.”

Montgomery’s eyes shifted to me. Neither of us wanted to remind Lucy that the prospect of Edward’s fever breaking—and the Beast’s reappearance—was almost more frightening than the fever itself. Delirious, he was less of a threat.

“Let’s go then,” I whispered to Montgomery. “And quickly.”

He closed the door and in another moment we were moving again, passing through the rest of Quick. Then all too soon the village was nothing but fading lights. The storm grew and the road became rougher, and all the while Edward’s eyes rolled back and forth beneath shuttered lids.

Thunder struck close by, and Lucy shrieked. Montgomery whipped the horses harder, pulling us along the uneven road impossibly fast, trying to outrun the storm. I twisted in the seat to look out the back window at the pelting rain. A stone fence ran alongside us.

“We must be getting close,” I said.

“Not soon enough,” Lucy breathed. “We’re going to crash if he keeps driving like this!”

The road widened, straightening, letting us travel even faster. Lightning struck close by, blinding me. The horses bolted. Lucy screamed and covered her eyes, but I couldn’t tear mine away. The lightning had struck an enormous oak tree, twisted from centuries of wind. The oak took flame, blazing despite the rain. A smoking gash ran down the trunk—the lightning’s death mark. I watched until the rain put out most of the flames, but it still smoldered, billowing hot ash into the night.

The horses pawed the earth, and I grabbed the window to steady myself. At this wild speed, just hitting a single rock at the wrong angle would send the carriage shattering to the ground. It was madness to go so fast. Couldn’t Montgomery calm the horses?

Just when I feared the carriage would careen out of control, it stopped short, throwing me against the opposite wall. I tangled in Lucy’s limbs as the chains around Edward’s body clinked. Balthazar grunted, jerking awake at last. We scrambled in the bottom of the carriage until the door flew open.

Montgomery stood in the pelting rain. I feared he’d say we’d broken another strut or the horses had gone lame or we’d have to spend the night in the harsh storm.

But then I saw the lights behind him, and the night took shape into a turreted stone manor with bright lamps blazing and gargoyles on the roof vomiting rain into a stone courtyard.

Montgomery’s eyes met mine beneath the low brim of his hat.

“We’ve arrived,” he said.


Meet the Author


I’ve been many things, like a professional exchange student, park ranger in Montana, and LOST enthusiast, but what I am now is a writer.

I think it’s fair to say I was born into it. I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina, raised behind the counter of my parents’ independent bookstore, Highland Books in Brevard. Ah, so many free books. But I never thought being a writer could be a real career. After college I thought I’d end up as a foreign service officer somewhere dashing and exotic, like Canada. I studied French, Spanish, German, and Russian and still speak a few of those. Then I joined the Peace Corps and spent two years in Senegal, where I learned a few more languages I’ll never speak again and lived in a mud hut with no electricity or running water. You can probably imagine how that experience went, but if you’re curious, here are the dirty details

It wasn't until a chance acquaintance read something I wrote and said, "have you ever considered being a writer?" that something clicked and I realized it was possible. My husband encouraged me, and I quickly fell head-over-heels in love with writing and children's literature in particular. I started out writing articles, which have appeared in Faces, Appleseeds, and Calliope magazines, and stories for younger children. I soon realized I wasn’t sweet enough to write fiction for that age and found myself writing young adult literature instead, which doesn’t require nearly as many tender moments and includes a lot more cursing.

When I'm not writing, I can usually be found horseback riding, day dreaming at coffee shops, or hiking in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina. I love to hear from readers, so please drop me a line!

I am represented by Josh Adams of Adams Literary.

Author Photo by Kristi Hedberg Photography

Website * Twitter * Facebook * Tumblr * Goodreads

Also, don't forget to check out Megan Shepherd's Tiwtter chat happening tonight! There's five full sets of THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER series up for grabs, as well as one full set of the UNDER THE NEVER SKY series, by Veronica Rossi!


One (1) winner will receive a signed copy of A COLD LEGACY and swag! US Only.
Ends on February 6th at Midnight EST.

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Release Day Blitz: A COLD LEGACY @megan_shepherd excerpt and #giveaway! (Click to Tweet)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Outlining Your Novel by Looking at the Big Picture

Last week, while I was having difficulties figuring out what to blog about, a friend asked me to blog about my plotting process. We'd had a conversation sometime before that in which I told her that I plot out my novels using index cards, so I thought it might be a good idea to go ahead and write on that.

Then I realized: I'd already blogged about using index cards last year. So, if you're interested, please check out my post: Organizing Your Novel's Plot (a.k.a.: Creating a Murder Board is Extremely Helpful When Plotting (or Replotting) Your Novel). Long story short: use index cards to help outline the most basic plot points of your novel.

I've decided to expand on that post in a very basic way by simply explaining it. In that post, I talk about writing every basic plot point on an index card, and pinning them up on some kind of bulletin board in order: that way, you can easily move the scenes around to come up with the strongest skeleton for your novel.

So what comes next?

Easy. In my own experience, this method works best because my mental process tends to work from big picture, to small. So I imagine the basis of the plot (theme, main character arcs and motivations, etc). But when it comes to knowing what the characters are going to do between those scenes (smaller arcs, reactions, dialogue, etc), I tend not to know until I'm actually writing.

Think of your index cards as your outline. The most basic outline of your novel. Once you have those stepping stones in place, you can begin filling in the blanks with pebbles.

In this case, pebbles = details. Once you don't have to worry about the big picture (the main plot points), your brain might be more willing to focus on the smaller things. Think of it this way: you can't connect the dots before you have any dots to connect. Bob has to get to the store before he runs into his old flame, and odds are none of ya'll knew he was going to run into his flame until he actually got to the store.

I'm the kind of person who doesn't know what's going to happen until I actually write it, which is why this method works for me. All I need to know is where the character's going: they're walking from point A to point B, but anything can happen in between. It helps me keep an open mind, which allows my characters (in my opinion) to come off as more natural and individual beings.

So, that's my plotting process. If you're having difficulties with your novel, I invite you to try it out (check out that post I linked to for a more in-depth explanation on exactly how I use the index cards and bulletin board). Admittedly, though, if you're the kind of writer who has to have an extremely detailed outline of the entire novel before starting to write (which, honestly, I envy those of ya'll who can do that), then perhaps this method won't work so much.

In any case, there you have it: how to look at your novel from the big picture to the small and why I think it's useful.

Let me know what you think, and I'd love to hear other outlining processes if ya'll have 'em.

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Blogger @Rae_Slater explains her outlining process: index cards, and looking at the big picture before the details (Click to Tweet)

Sometimes, taking a look at the big picture of your novel now can help you figure the details later (Click to Tweet)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Tea Time: Blackout

**Warning: Spoilers May Abound**

Blackout (Annum Guard #2), Meredith McCardle

Seventeen-year-old Amanda Obermann (code name: Iris) has more on her mind than usual. As a member of a covert government organization called the Annum Guard, which travels through time to keep history on track, Iris has been getting some particularly stressful assignments. Plus, Jane Bonner, the Guard's iron-fisted new leader, seems determined to make life as hard as possible. Thankfully, Iris has Abe (code name: Blue), her boyfriend and fellow Guardian, who listens to her vent,and helps her cope with her mentally ill mother's increasingly erratic behavior.

When Guardians start to disappear on their assignments, Iris makes a terrifying discovery: a blackout squad is targeting anyone who gets in the way of a corrupt force that's selling out both the Annum Guard's missions and Guardian lives. Together, Iris and Blue must go undercover to untangle the Guard's elaborate web of secrets and lies. But when Iris discovers that the terrible truth may involve her own father, a former Guardian undone by his own greed, she must decide how much she's willing to risk to rescue her friends, and how dangerous the consequences will be for all of humanity.

A thrilling time-traveling adventure that spans from Abraham Lincoln's assassination to the Cuban Missile Crisis and back to the present day, this pulse-pounding sequel to The Eighth Guardian reveals that playing with time can turn into a deadly game.(source:goodreads)

Narration-BLACKOUT is told from the first person POV of Iris/Amanda, and just like in the first book there's a return to a lovely, snarky, sometimes serious and sometimes sassy voice of a girl I've kind of fallen in love with for her badassery.

And, personally, I felt that in this sequel she's grown a lot from who she was in the first; instead of focusing so much on her own problems, there's also a focus on wanting to fix everyone else's and helping their lives remain somewhat stable. Not quite sure if that's the intent, but there you have it. And I think it takes quite a bit to make that shine through the voice.

Plot-What can I say about this series that I haven't already said? The time-traveling history-altering government agency known as the Annum Guard is back, and this time the members are trying to unravel the conspiracy uncovered by Iris/Amanda in the previous book. The previous leaders are being questioned as to their involvement, and meanwhile the younger members are trying to investigate each history alteration that was bought and paid for by someone in the present.

And? Those members of the Annum Guard are going missing. Like, disappearing in the middle of the past despite a new kind of tracker-implemented by their higher ups-that can't be removed (*coughs* like Iris did) being implanted into them.

Really, everything that could go wrong in this book, did. Which means it was high-intensity straight from the beginning, covering everything from the missions that Iris/Amanda has to take back in time; her relationship with boyfriend, "New" Blue; relationship with her mother; relationship with the rest of the Guard; and attempting to figure out why the heck everyone she knows and loves is suddenly going missing.

Just like in the first book, it kind of becomes up to Iris/Amanda to figure out what's really going on behind the walls of the Annum Guard, all while dodging the time-traveling assassins who've been sent to capture her. And if she just so happens to accidentally alter history in a really big way that completely and totally changes everyth-

But, of course, I'm not going to tell you. Not much, anyway. Only that the ending will blow your mind and make you cry and beg for the next book in the series.

Basically, it's fast-paced, emotional, and there's oh so much action. I loved the focus on relationships (now that Iris/Amanda's kind of officially inducted and a part of the team) and how deep the conspiracy goes: affecting many well-known historical events that make you question (even in our world where supposedly time-travel doesn't exist) how much of any story is the truth and what's fabricated. How do you know who to trust? Who do you keep secrets from and why? How far will your friends go to lend you help when you need it, and what are the consequences when things go wrong?

And have I mentioned that ending? *dies*

Characters-Our favorite team of secret government time-travelers are back, guys! Remember when I reviewed THE EIGHTH GUARDIAN and said that I wished we could spend time with more of the characters? This book made my dream come true. Not only do we get more Yellow and Violet, but also Red and, particularly, the "New" Blue, who's Iris/Amanda's boyfriend from their spy school. In addition: new characters, like Jane Bonner who might not really be Jane Bonner and who may or may not be involved in a brand-new conspiracy against the Annum Guard, and three mysterious new interns who are supposed to be "helping" sort through paperwork.

Once again, I was overjoyed with the way McCardle handled such a somewhat large cast. Not only did she expand upon previous characters, but every new character was as much a mystery as Zeta and Alpha were in the first book. They always felt very well thought out, and very cemented into their world; so much so that their mysteries pushed the novel along just as much as the plot. The idea of the whole Guard being more like a family than simply co-workers was very well played upon, which helped bring out a darker side to Amanda/Iris that I really enjoyed watching play out.

GUYS. *pokes* Seriously, this series has kind of stolen my heart. I really encourage ya'll to go buy yourselves copies and just love these books to death. 

Final Answer: 4.33 / 5 stars

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@Rae_Slater reviews BLACKOUT @MeredithMcP and calls it fast-pace and emotional, a series worth reading (Click to Tweet)

Friday, January 23, 2015

Sisterhood of the World Blogging Award

So, this actually isn't the first time I've been nominated for this tag, but (and I feel awful about it) I never had the time to respond and participate in it. So my two nominators are Anah (@AnahSpiers) from Turtles in My Soup and the lovely Rachel (@Queenie_Rachy) from Stained Glass Windows.

Rules for the Tag:
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you, and link back to their side.
  • Post the Award Logo on your blog.
  • Answer the ten questions they've sent you.
  • Make up ten questions for your nominees to answer.
  • Nominate ten people (you're supposed to nominate ten, but I'm going to nominate about half that because, reasons).
And here goes, my questions (provided by Rachel), plus my hopefully somewhat-interesting answers:

1. When writing, do you keep a notebook nearby to write down anything that comes to mind?

Um...okay, so this first answer is complicated. If I have a notebook nearby (say I'm at work or in class), then yes, I use it. If I'm about to go to bed, or I'm out and about, I use the notepad on my phone.

2. Are you a morning or a night person?

Jeez, okay. Another sort-of complicated one (I'm sorry, okay? I'm weird). I'm more of a dark person? I used to call myself a night person, but recently I've changed my scheduling habits so instead of staying up late, I just get up early. So I'm more of a whenever-the-sun's-down kind of person.

3. Song you have stuck in your mind?

At any given moment there's about five that qualify for this. Most recently it's been Cell Block Tango from Chicago, since I saw the play last week. I also get Immortals, by Fall Out Boy stuck a lot. On a more normal basis (and here comes my nerdy side) it's been Unravel, by TK from Ling Tosite Sigure (the song is the opening theme for Tokyo Ghoul) and/or Kyoukai no Kanata, by Minori Chihara (opening theme for Beyond the Boundary).

4. What was the last book you read?

Easy question, yay! I actually just finished 10:04, by Ben Lerner. Still not sure what to make of it, but it was somewhat interesting in the way it was told.

5. What is the meaning of life?

To experience it.

6. Have you ever started crying when writing a scene?

Never. Actually, I'm a bit of a masochist in that I start smiling like an idiot when writing emotionally intense scenes (intense in both a good or a bad way).

7. Have you ever met an author face to face? If so, what was it like?

Technically, yes. I mean, my thesis adviser is the author of some books (I think she said four?), and one of the other professors in the English Dept. at my school is also an author (she's also the professor leading my Online Publishing class). It was very...normal, I suppose? I mean, I respect them a great deal, and I hope to get to actually read their books when I'm not busy trying to get school work done. Although, my reaction might be different if I met, say, Natalie D. Richards or Courtney Alameda or Marissa Meyer (three of my favorite authors) since I've basically fangirled over their books more than I'd like to admit.

8. Tea or coffee?

Both. Coffee in the morning, tea at night. The reason is that I've learned that I absolutely love peppermint tea and that coffee tastes really strange when I haven't just woken up. Still not sure why.

9. Your life is now the last movie/TV show you watched. What was that? And are you happy or worried?

Lord of the Rings (the whole trilogy). So...does this mean I get to be an elf and that I'll suddenly have a mastery of archery? If so, I'd be happy. Or if I became a wizard (witch? wizardess?).

10. You one day stumble upon a time machine. You can go to one period in time. And you can take someone from your current time with you. who would you take? Where would you go? Plot twist: you have to stay in that period forever, with that one person you took with you. Choose wisely.

Oooh, okay. Good question. The person would undeniably be my roommate, Melissa, because we simply wouldn't be able to function without each other (or so I assume. Melissa, speak now or forever hold your peace). The time period...the twenties. I understand that the Depression and WWII are just around the corner, but man all the jazz and booze and life was meant just to be lived in, no matter who you were.


There you have it: me in ten questions. Aren't I a loon?

My Questions:

  1. Favorite genre to read or write?
  2. Favorite genre to watch in a TV show or movie?
  3. Favorite social media platform? Why?
  4. Winter, Summer, Spring, or Fall?
  5. Pancakes or French Toast?
  6. You can have any job in the world. What is it, and why? And, no, you can't say "writer" or "author" for this one.
  7. Captain America or Iron Man? Whoever you don't choose becomes your mortal enemy, so choose wisely.
  8. What's the best piece of advice you've ever gotten, and who gave it to you? What was the situation?
  9. What inspires you?
  10. It's the apocalypse. Would you rather be stuck fighting zombies for the rest of your life (probably ending by getting eaten or at least bit by said zombie), or be stuck in some kind of environmental disaster (intense heat, water shortage, flooding...)?

My nominees: Briana @ The Novelista, Hannah Hunt @ Write, Read, Sleep, Repeat, Taylor Lynn @  Paper Daydreams, Brianne Moore @ A Curious Affliction, Nicole Lautore @ Nicole Lautore and Aimee Meester @ To the Barricade!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Interactions That Have an Impact

So yesterday I was at a loss about what to write about for today's post. Then @chris_mahan challenged me to write a blog post about him, and this was my response:
Sadly, though, Chris' ego will take a slight hit: this post isn't going to be entirely about him. This post is, actually, about the fact that one of the most important things that I've learned since entering the Twitter writing community, is that making connections and forging new friendships with people-no matter how alike or different you are-is incredibly important. 

Something that I feel like people (me included) forget when writing, is that it's not as much as a single-person profession that many like to believe. Sure, there might be one person writing it (and all of the editing and team-work that goes into book releases is a completely different story), but never forget that every interaction you have in the world impacts you and your writing.

Every. Single. Interaction.

Particularly when it comes to interaction with other writers. If you want to be published traditionally, read self-pubbed, and vice-versa. If you're a fiction writer, read nonfiction and poetry, as well (and every combination thereof). Read short stories if you normally write novels. Trade pieces of writing and let yourself be critiqued.

These are all ways to make yourself not merely a better writer (which yes, is important to a certain level), but also a more rounded one. Every person and writer you meet will have different struggles in their life. Listen and share your own (although, disclaimer: only if you're close enough to actually share stories like those). Read styles that differ from your own, and ultimately take away from every encounter the fact that you can always learn something.

Which brings me back to Chris: he and a handful of other Tweeps have become a kind of go-to community for me. I've read their work and processed their writing styles; I've chatted to some of them at length about their writing processes, as well: how they plan out their novels, develop characters, etc. While not every trick that they use will work for me (and vice-versa; always remember that your process will be slightly or even majorly different than someone else), it's always worth thinking about, and observing how it plays out in their works as a whole.

As my nonfiction professor says: steal everything. And figure out how to make it work for you, which will invite you to think in new ways. In my experience, the information you get from actively interacting with other people (and writers) can be the most valuable knowledge you ever get.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Cover Reveal: Dare to Dream

I hope ya'll are ready for another cover reveal, because today's is one you definitely don't want to miss! Check out the pitch for DARE TO DREAM by Carys Jones, coming soon from REUTS Publications, and then check out the amazing cover for the book!

Dare to Dream
Carys Jones

The world was going to end. Of that, Maggie Trafford was certain.

Fourteen-year-old Maggie Trafford leads a normal life. Well, as normal as being crammed in a three-bedroom house with four siblings and a single parent can be, anyway. But despite being somewhat ignored at home, Maggie excels, earning top grades, a best friend who would do anything for her, and stolen looks from a boy in Maths.

It’s not until the dreams start that Maggie realizes “normal” is the least of her problems. Every night, she lives the same nightmare—red lightning, shattered glass, destruction. But nightmares are just that, right? No one believes her when she says it’s an omen. At least, not until the already mysterious pillars of Stonehenge start falling.

No longer alone in her fear, Maggie and the world watch with bated breath as one after another, the historic stones tumble, like a clock counting down. But only Maggie knows what it means: when the last stone falls, destruction will reign. And when the world ends, there’s only one option left—survive.

Horrifying and raw, Dare to Dream is equal parts tragedy and hope, detailing the aftermath of apocalyptic catastrophe, the quest for survival, and the importance of belief.

Meet the Author

Carys Jones loves nothing more than to write and create stories which ignite the reader's imagination. Based in Shropshire, England, Carys lives with her husband, two guinea pigs and her adored canine companion Rollo.

When she's not writing, Carys likes to indulge her inner geek by watching science-fiction films or playing video games.

She lists John Green, Jodi Picoult and Virginia Andrews as her favorite authors and draws inspiration for her own work from anything and everything.

To Carys, there is no greater feeling then when you lose yourself in a great story and it is that feeling of ultimate escapism which she tries to bring to her books.

Website * FacebookTwitter


Ready for this awesome cover, ya'll? Ready? You sure?

Dare to Dream
Author: Carys Jones
Publisher: REUTS Publishing

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Check out the new cover for DARE TO DREAM @tiny_dancer85, coming soon from @reutspub! via @Rae_Slater (Click to Tweet)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Conversations with a Character

I'm sending out a PSA to say that after reading this, you might be questioning my sanity a little more than you probably already do. So. Just warning ya'll.

If you're in the middle (or beginning, or end, or still plotting) of your novel, and you get stuck, there's a really fun exercise you can do to both get your own gears working in terms of how things inside your novel work, and how to get inside one of your character's heads.

Try talking to them.

I know what you're thinking, "Rae, I can't have an open conversation with them. People will think I'm crazy!"

News: if people don't already think you're crazy, you're probably doing this whole writerly thing wrong.

Here's where this is coming from: I've been working on my WIP for a little over a year, now; unfortunately, not consecutively. The last two semesters of college took a lot of writing time away from me, so it's mostly been during the summer/winter break. But still. I'm on my third draft (well, draft 3.5; don't have me get into why  have so many half-drafts. It just kind of happens), and I was working on beginning this most recent drat in December when I was completely stuck. I mean: something was so strangely wrong with my WIP that I couldn't figure out what in the world I was doing wrong. It was maddening, and no amount of talking with my CP was helping to fix it. The really scary thing was: it was the first time ever that I doubted myself with this idea.

So, finally, I said, "Rae, we're going to go have a conversation with Moe." (Moe's one of two main characters, and she's a doll when she isn't being mean to me).

And here's what some of that conversation looks like:

Me: Okay, Moe. Obviously I'm doing something wrong with the beginning of your story. Any ideas?

Moe: *snorts*I'm a thief. And Hadley and I don't work well together. You've got it right, there-

Me: Yeah, but...Come on, Moe, this doesn't feel at least a little fishy?

Moe: Well...I mean, if you really want to get technical: Jackson. don't get me wrong, I like him-

Me: You *like* him?

Moe: /blushes/ He's genuine, okay? But, still. I don't want anything to do with Hadley, *or* her life. How the hell do you expect us to meet? What makes you think I'd give him the time of day?

Me: Huh...I think you've actually got a point there.

Moe: And for that matter, Kara's *smart*. She's not stupid. How the hell do you think me or Hadley could keep Hadley's work from her for *three years*? I get that she was only eleven when Mom died and all, but seriously? Give her more credit than that. And Hadley's hangovers, really? If she's supposedly so good at hiding her inebriation then why the hell would she be mumbling shit to me when I'm dragging her ass home? It's lazy plot filling. Lazy hints. I can figure shit out on my own.

Me: ...Inebriation's a really big word....


And it went on like that for a total of 2200 words, most of which was Moe criticizing me and calling me an idiot. And I realize that a lot of the above conversation probably doesn't make sense to ya'll (it makes perfect sense to me, which is kind of the point), but what I really want to point out is the fact that my own character called me out on lazy plot filling. She called me a lazy plot filler. My own freaking character.

But you know what? She was right. I re-looked at a lot of things from my beginning, and a lot of things I was able to find through this conversation with my character were actually huge problems. Moe pointed out that one character was worthless and had no reason being in my plot whatsoever, and another was being treated as major when, in this point in time, he's actually pretty minor.

Here's the thing: as strange as it sounds, your characters know the world of your novel a heck of a lot better than you do. So sit down, have a conversation with them. See what happens when you're not busy making their life miserable. I recommend either writing it by hand, or (if you're like me and need to be typing it) use an incredibly simple word processing program like Notepad: you don't need fancy bells and whistles for this.

Chat with your character, ask them questions, let them call you out on the places you're being lazy and where you should reconsider things, or where you're getting a character completely wrong. Who knows? It might just help you in the end.

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If your character calls you out on lazy plot-filling, consider listening. Talk with your characters via @Rae_Slater (Click to Tweet)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Tea Time: The Eighth Guardian

**Warning: Spoilers May Abound**
The Eighth Guardian (Annum Guard #1), Meredith McCardle

Amanda Obermann. Code name Iris.

It’s Testing Day. The day that comes without warning, the day when all juniors and seniors at The Peel Academy undergo a series of intense physical and psychological tests to see if they’re ready to graduate and become government operatives. Amanda and her boyfriend Abe are top students, and they’ve just endured thirty-six hours of testing. But they’re juniors and don’t expect to graduate. That’ll happen next year, when they plan to join the CIA—together.

But when the graduates are announced, the results are shocking. Amanda has been chosen—the first junior in decades. And she receives the opportunity of a lifetime: to join a secret government organization called the Annum Guard and travel through time to change the course of history. But in order to become the Eighth Guardian in this exclusive group, Amanda must say good-bye to everything—her name, her family, and even Abe—forever.

Who is really behind the Annum Guard? And can she trust them with her life?

Narrative-This book is told from the first person POV in the perspective of Amanda Obermann (code name: Iris, of course; warning: I might switch between both names). The voice itself is fairly simple, and extremely relatable (not for the first time: I'm calling "relatable" a word, okay?); she's a teenager in the best sense, and I appreciated her thought processes as she's thrust into this world of time-travel and government conspiracies. It was fabulous, Amanda/Iris was funny, and I loved every page I spent with her thanks to her sarcasm and blunt feelings toward everybody she meets.

Plot-Here's the thing: badass teenage spies, spy schools, secret government agencies? They're not really a new thing. What was new (to me) was adding time travel into the mix, and considering that the effects and consequences of time travel are downright intriguing, McCardle had me hooked. Besides, for somebody who loves history, it was absolutely fantastic the amount of research McCardle must have done to make all of the historical backdrops come to life, and even to simply re-imagine them (because in this world, JFK's assassination was bought and paid for by someone in the present).

Okay, ya'll caught me: I just really needed to gush and get that out of my system.

But, really: I loved the way this idea was handled, right down to the fact that things don't make sense from the moment that Amanda/Iris arrives at the Annum Guard. There's a motto, "Enhancement, Not Alteration," that's nailed up, and Amanda/Iris (plus me, the reader) basically spent the entire book going, "Um, there's no difference?" And, yes, that question mark is needed.

After spending some time at the Annum Guard and finally becoming official, there's the sudden blow that officially alerts Amanda/Iris to something incredibly wrong: she's supposed to go back in time, persuade the creator of the time-turning watches to change their design, and if he doesn't comply: kill him. And then, all hell breaks loose and it's a literal race through time for Amanda/Iris to find the truth and prove that she's not an enemy.

And because of that race through time, I say again: lots of awesome historical research must have gone into this; everything was extremely vivid.

It's intense, guys. Occasionally heart-stopping, head-turning, and suspenseful.

Characters-My biggest regret with this book is that there's quite a number of interesting characters, but we don't actually get to spend that much time with some of them.

Amanda/Iris is, of course, the character we get the most of: she's intense, she likes to think she knows what she's doing, and, in all honestly, it's obvious that much of her attention is pre-occupied with her own life (as later pointed out by the fashionably fantastic Yellow, who I wanted to high-five at the time).

Here's the fun part. Amanda's teammates are: Yellow, Blue, Red, Green, Indigo, Orange (who, as Amanda/Iris points out, unfortunately has the hair to match his name) and Violet. If I'm being completely honest, I was extremely confused at first, but trying to keep them straight became remarkably easy after a few chapters, with some standing out more than others (Like Yellow and Indigo, and Blue only because Amanda/Iris actually knows his real name). All in all, I was impressed with the way McCardle was able to handle such a wide range of characters: their personalities were all unique, and in the long run nobody sounded just like anyone else. Even more fantastic: not all of them are stone-faced under pressure. Violet surprised me with actually getting nervous and fearful during a mission, and I appreciated the wide range of reactions that the characters had under different circumstances. In the end (after they were done hunting and shooting at each other, of course), they all kind of felt like a family.

Alpha and Zeta are the team's "bosses" of sorts: they oversee everything. Zeta trains Amanda/Iris, and Alpha coordinates many of the missions. Zeta comes across as the more, well, rude and mean of the two, and Alpha is somewhat more fatherly. Now the question: could either of them be wrapped up in this conspiracy?

That's for me to know, and for you to find out, now, isn't it?

Like I said: my biggest wish is that I could have spent more time with some of the characters; since there were so many in Amanda/Iris's team, and two of them are about ten years older than everyone else, there's some that you simply don't get to interact with. Which makes sense, but given how great Yellow (so controlling and fabulous and I love her, okay?) and Indigo (he's just weird, and the entire book I was trying to figure out his intentions toward Amanda/Iris; he's like the big brother I never had), for example, were, it would have been absolutely lovely to see some of them in more action.

This is one of those books that I found myself extremely lucky to get to read. It was all thanks to Meredith McCardle, herself, that I got a copy of both THE EIGHTH GUARDIAN and its sequel BLACKOUT (just out on January 13, 2015) during a random Twitter contest, and I was so pleased with these books (read them both in a week; stay tuned for the review of BLACKOUT). All I can say is: if you love history, secret government agencies, and an awesome lead character, then you've got to pick up this book!

Final Answer: 4.33 / 5 stars

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Enhancement, Not Alteration. THE EIGHTH GUARDIAN @MeredithMcP. Read the review via @Rae_Slater (Click to Tweet)

A fan of YA time-traveling thrillers? Blogger @Rae_Slater reviews THE EIGHTH GUARDIAN @MeredithMcP. Check it out! (Click to Tweet)