Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2016's Good Things

Y'all, we made it. 2016 was rough for a lot of people for a lot of reasons, but we stuck together and survived.

For just a few minutes, I want to ignore all of the nonsense that happened and focus on some of the good things. Because no matter how bad the year, there are still people who make you smile, events that make you cheer, and books that make you cry.

The good things from my 2016?
  • I published two books! Mark this one down in history, because I'm not sure it will ever happen again. It was a lot of work, but I'm so proud of Pieces of You and Me and All Laced Up, and so thrilled that I get to continue making my dream of being an author come true!

  • I got a new job! Same company, different position. It merges my love of writing with my teaching experience, and I love it!
  • I went to NYC again! The 2016 Writer's Digest Conference was a blast. I learned a lot, hung out with some awesome people, and solidified my love for the city.

  • I indulged my inner theater junkie. The theater is one of my favorite places, and I spent as much time there as possible! Some of the shows I saw include Curious Incident, The Lion King, Kinky Boots, Fun Home, Newsies, RENT, A Christmas Carol, and The Grinch. (AND I'M SEEING HAMILTON IN 2017 OMG.)

  • I also read some amazing books. It was impossible to choose just one "best book of 2016," so I cheated and choose several in different categories. (It's my blog; I get to make the rules, right?)
Best Overall

Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner -- This book made me laugh, made me cry, and made me think about it long after I finished reading.

Best Audiobook

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline -- This was a book that made me want to do nothing but go for long drives and walks so I had a reason to keep listening.

Best Contemporary YA

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saaed -- Unique, beautifully written, un-put-down-able.

Best SciFi YA

Purge by Kat Ellis -- This book was incredibly creatively plotted and well-executed. I adored spending time with these characters in this intense world.

There are so many other books I loved...Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown, The Bad Boy Bargain by Kendra Highley, This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp, Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson...let's just say 2017 has a lot to live up to in terms of good books, but I'm both hopeful for and optimistic about another good book year!

Are we ready for 2017? Maybe. Maybe not. But will there be good things next year? Absolutely. Let's go out and find them. Make them. We got this, y'all. See you in 2017.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Cover Reveal: Ruined in Retribution by Valia Lind

It's cover reveal day for Valia Lind's RUINED IN RETRIBUTION (Titanium Series: Book Three)!

Before I share the (awesome) cover with you, here's a little more about the book:

Gone. Gone. Gone.

For the past two months, it has taken all of Logan’s determination to just keep going.
Losing Tasia to Kallos Enterprises shattered his world, but he is not about to give up on what she had started.

Together with her family, Logan works to destroy the company that ruined their lives. The corporation is growing bigger and stronger by the minute, weaponizing the drug and selling it to the highest bidder. But that’s not the only hurdle to overcome. Logan’s past is catching up to him, and the time has come to pay. His family’s secrets are unraveling everything he has built for himself and now, Logan is fighting on multiple fronts.

Save Tasia. Destroy Kallos Enterprises. Stay alive.

Such a simple list, such an impossible mission.

Time is running out and Logan is left with one question: can he save them all?

Sounds exciting, right? Now check out the cover:

Love it! The book will be out December 7. You can pre-order it here and add it to Goodreads here.

If you haven't read the first book in the Titanium series...good news! It's FREE right now! You can get PIECES OF REVENGE here:

Happy reading!

Congratulations, Valia! Can't wait for December 7!

Friday, October 28, 2016

5 Unconventional NaNoWriMo Tips

I'm sad that I won't be a NaNoWriMo 2016 participant (more on that at the bottom of the post), but I am still a huge NaNo fan. I attempted and won three Novembers in a row. In fact, my first novel, Where You'll Find Me, started as a NaNo novel way back in 2010.

Even though I'm not participating, I wanted to share some tips that helped me in Novembers past. I'm staying away from the common-but-still-helpful tips (do word sprints, go to local write-ins, make sure the primary component of your bloodstream is coffee, etc.) and going for some unique ones. Hopefully there's something new here that will help you out!

1. Write your words as close to first thing in the morning as possible. Distractions and temptations and emergencies strike all day long. Reach your word count goal before they hit. Yes, this may involve getting up earlier than you need to or are used to. (I'm a regular participant in #5amwritersclub on Twitter if you'd like to join in!) It may involve writing on your lunch break at work. It's worth it. Still have time/motivation/energy to write at the end of the day? Bonus!

2. Have at least one 5K day by November 7. Let's be honest. There's probably going to be a day or two when you just can't write. When life gets in the way or you get stuck. If you write 5K words on at least one day before that happens, you can deal with life or recharge without worrying about your word count! I always use my first NaNo Saturday to get as far ahead as humanly possible.

3. Prepare for the mid-month slump. It happens. Usually right around November 15, when you're solidly in the 20K to 40K word range and wondering why you're doing this stupid thing anyway. Prepare for that slump now by getting yourself a mid-month treat. A new notebook or pen, a special writing snack, wine...whatever it is that you think will break you out of your slump. Get it now and hide it from yourself or give to a friend...a "break in case of emergency" kind of thing.  (And hang in there...I promise words 40K to 50K are much more fun!)

4. Keep a "to revise later" list. So you're writing chapter seven, but think of something you need to change back in chapter two. You probably know by now not to go back and change it right now. However, don't make yourself remember it, either. Chances are you'll forget about it, or you'll remember it, but it will be taking up precious brain space that could be used for coming up with new words and ideas. Instead, make yourself a "to revise later" document or notebook. Add notes to the list and keep writing. You'll know where to start with revisions in December!

5. Have a plan for Thanksgiving (and Gilmore Girls Day). If you're in the US, Thanksgiving is one of those days that can throw your NaNoWriMo progress for a loop. You might think you're going to write, but then your aunt wants to show you all 4,562 pictures form her summer vacation or you fall into a turkey coma. Make a realistic plan now. If you're taking the day off, which days are you going to up your word count to compensate? If you're going to write, when and where? Can you write on an airplane or in the car on the way to see relatives?

Similarly, have a plan for Gilmore Girls Day. (Yes, I'm assuming you're marathoning the Gilmore Girls revival. If you aren't, you should be. The writing is fantastic!) You have six full hours of Netflix to watch (and possibly some Black Friday shopping and another turkey coma to endure). If you write 417 words before each episode, you'll still meet your word count goal! Let the fast-talking girls inspire fast-typing fingers.

So why am I not doing NaNo this year? I'm currently working on the next book in the "Breakaway" series. I started it in mid-October, already have more than 10K words, and can't really take the month of November off from that to work on something else. But I will be with you in spirit and on Twitter, probably writing at least 1,667 words most days, and cheering you on from the sidelines! Happy novel writing!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

All Laced Up Release Week Roundup!

All Laced Up is out in the world! Thank you so much to everyone who has read it, shared it, reviewed it, and made me feel like the luckiest author in the world! I appreciate it!

Want to learn more about Pierce and Lia's story and maybe win a copy? Here are some links for you:

Goodreads Giveaway (ends 10/18/2016)

Blog Tour Giveaway (ends 10/21/2016)

Read the first chapter!

Read a teaser excerpt!

Read an interview with the main character, Pierce Miller!

Author Kat Ellis interviewed me about All Laced Up!

Check out my blog post about being a figure skater

And of course, you can find All Laced Up on Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, etc.!

Thank you again for all of the release week love! I hope you enjoy reading Pierce and Lia's story!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

5 Facts from a Former Figure Skater

In addition to being a writer, I'm also a former figure skater. Skating tights, hair in a bun, spandex dresses...yep. That was me! My experiences played a big part in the writing of my most recent novel, All Laced Up.

My own figure skates...all laced up!
To get in the skating mood, I thought I'd share five facts about figure skating. Stay tuned to the last one to see a clip of my synchronized skating team (yes, it's a thing) on the ice!
Me, circa 2004. (We skated to music from
Pirates of the Caribbean, so I think
I was holding a "sword.")
  1. Hockey player/figure skater romances happen in real life, too. From Kate and Doug in The Cutting Edge (toe pick!) to Pierce and Lia in All Laced Up, there are many romances featuring a hockey player and a figure skater. Truth is, those romances happen in real life, too. Skaters and hockey players share ice arenas and open skate time and sometimes even locker rooms. It's only natural. Plus, it helps that hockey boys are swoony.
  2. Skating jumps are as much fun as they look. Like Lia from All Laced Up, jumps are my favorite element. I especially love flips and loops. When you pick up speed and launch yourself into the air, it really does feel like flying. Learning and mastering a new jump is incredibly rewarding.
  3. Tip: never borrow a figure skater’s gloves. It’s cold in ice rinks. Between that and all the spinning, noses run. Skating dresses don’t have pockets for tissues. ‘Nuff said.
  4. Figure skaters do fall. A lot. Especially when learning a new jump. Landing one-footed on a sheet of ice on a 1/4-inch wide blade is a challenge. But you learn how to fall the “right” way, and it doesn’t always hurt. The one time I landed directly on my knee and had to be carried off the ice by a complete stranger? Yeah. That was the "wrong" way. That one hurt.
  5. Synchronized skating is a thing. Yes, it’s like synchronized swimming except the water is frozen. I was on my university’s team. We were relatively terrible (the highest we placed in any competition was second place…and there were only two teams), but it was a lot of fun. Here’s a video clip from one of our performances (I can't remember which one is me...I'm probably near one of the ends because that's where short people go!):

The team during the medal ceremony
Good times!

Want more figure skating, including a figure skater/hockey player romance? You can find All Laced Up on Goodreads, Amazon, and B&N, out October 10, 2016!

You can also enter to win a signed copy of all three of my books HERE!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Giveaway: Signed Copy of All Three of My Books!

This time next week, my third novel will be out in the world! (For the record, that's not a sentence I ever thought I would type. Publishing one book was a dream so big I wasn't sure it would ever happen. Publishing three? I. Am. Lucky. And excited!)

My newest book is a figure skating/hockey contemporary YA romance titled All Laced Up:

Everyone loves hockey superstar Pierce Miller. Everyone except Lia Bailey.

When the two are forced to teach a skating class to save the rink, Lia’s not sure she’ll survive the pressure of Nationals and Pierce’s ego. Not only can’t he remember her name, he signed her bottle of water like she was one of his groupies. Ugh.

But if there’s one thing Lia knows better than figure skating, it’s hockey. Hoping to take his ego down a notch—or seven—she logs into his team website under an anonymous name to give him pointers on his less-than-stellar playing.

Turns out, Pierce isn’t arrogant at all. And they have a lot in common. Too bad he’s falling for the anonymous girl online. No matter how much fun they’re starting to have in real life, she’s afraid he’s going to choose fake-Lia over the real one...

Disclaimer: This book contains a swoony hockey player (and his equally swoony friends!), one-too-many social media accounts, kisses that’ll melt ice, and a secret identity that might not be so secret after all...

As a former figure skater (who definitely crushed on a hockey player or two or seven), I had a blast writing this one!

To celebrate the release, I'm giving one person a signed copy of all three of my books: Where You'll Find Me, Pieces of You and Me, and All Laced Up!

This giveaway is US only and ends 10/9/16. Here's the Rafflecopter to enter...

Update: This giveaway is now over! Congratulations to Brookie C!

Good luck!

Friday, September 30, 2016

5 Reasons Why I Love Writing Contemporary YA Romance

Contemporary YA romance. I love reading it, and I adore writing it. Second chance romance, boy next door, friends to lovers, enemies to lovers...bring all of it on!

To celebrate Entangled Teen Crush's epic $0.99 sale, here are five reasons why I love writing contemporary YA romance!

The boys are swoony. Let's be real. You can't get away with using the word "swoony" to describe anyone much older than 21. But contemporary YA romance boys? SWOONY. And so much fun to write.

You can forget adulting (but nothing is "too adult"). I've never written an adult book, but if I did, I imagine it would be pretty boring. Taxes, blah blah blah. Paying bills, blah blah blah. Doing laundry, blah blah blah.

Teens have so many more exciting things to write about! First loves! College choices! Prom!

But I also love that no "adult" topics are off-limits. Romance, sex, heartbreak, drinking, mental health issues, etc. are all things teens deal with. Therefore, they can and should be included, just from a uniquely teenage perspective.

First kisses. Need I say more?

Teenagers. Are. Awesome. And I don't just mean characters. I mean the teens I meet when I'm speaking or doing a signing or hanging out on Twitter. They are sweet and real and make me laugh and sometimes make me cry and always give the best book recommendations. They're infinitely cooler than the grown-ups I hang out with.

The highs are really high (and the lows are really low). There's a quote from the move 17 Again that I absolutely love:

The first part of that quote is so true. Every breakup, every snub from your crush, every time he picks the other girl...it all feels like the end of the world. But while those lows are low, the highs are also high. Every kiss, every sweet text, every touch is euphoric.

Those extremes are the biggest reason why I write YA, and specifically why I write contemporary YA romance. I can't imagine writing anything else.

Looking for a new contemporary YA romance read? Check out PIECES OF YOU AND ME, on sale for $0.99 through 10/2/16!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Cover Reveal + Interview: SAY NO TO THE BRO by Kat Helgeson

Talented author? Check.
Must-read plot? Check.
Catchy title? Check.
Winning cover? CHECK.

SAY NO TO THE BRO by Kat Helgeson has it all. Kat is 1/2 of the author duo who brought you GENA/FINN (which, if you haven't read that one, what are you waiting for?!). This is her first solo novel, and it sounds AMAZING.

Here's a first look at the cover. Keep scrolling to learn more about Kat and the book that should definitely be on your 2017 TBR!


So what's SAY NO TO THE BRO all about?

Ava’s plan for surviving senior year at her new school is simple: fly under the radar until graduation. No boys. No attachments. No drama. But all that goes out the window when she gets drafted into the Prom Bowl—a long-standing tradition where senior girls compete in challenges to be auctioned off as prom dates to the highest bidder. Ava joins forces with star quarterback Mark Palmer to try and get her out of the competition but their best laid schemes lead to more self-sabotage than anything else. And to make matters worse, they both begin to realize that the Prom Bowl isn’t all fun and games. When one event spirals dangerously out of control, Ava and Mark must decide whether shutting down the Prom Bowl once and for all is worth the price of sacrificing their futures. 

What word or words would you use to describe your main characters?

Ava is introverted, loyal, and stubborn. Mark is charismatic, funloving, and entitled.​ 

Prom superlatives time! Which one of your characters would win...
...best dressed?​ - Charlotte​
...most likely to spike the punch?​ - Cody​
...worst dance moves?​ - Coach Vanguard​
...most likely to leave with someone other than his or her date?​ - Solstice​
...cutest couple?​ - Denise and Zoe​

Did you go to your high school prom? If so, what was the best or worst part?

I did, but it wasn't a red-letter event for me. I think, like Ava, I wouldn't have minded doing something else that night. My favorite part was getting ready with my friends.​ 

What song would you definitely put on your characters' prom playlist?

​Ava and Mark's relationship dynamic was partly inspired by this dance:

I think they'd dance to this song.

If you were in high school today and got asked to go to prom tomorrow, what would your dress look like?

When I went to my real high school prom I wore navy blue both times, and so did all my friends, so I'd probably pick bright orange or something.​

Your first novel, GENA/FINN, was co-written with Hannah Moskowitz. How was it writing solo this time?

Cowriting is a million times more fun. It's like playing in the pool with your friends versus swimming laps. Writing alone is less emotionally taxing, though, because it's easier to maintain distance and step away when you need to.​

If you had to pick one Hamilton song to keep while getting rid of the rest forever, which one would you keep?

I'd pick "Non-Stop" because of the lyrics about Hamilton writing every second he's alive.​

Oreos. There are approximately 9,472 flavors these days. Do you have a favorite flavor, do you like the classic, or are you not an Oreo fan?

​Classic. You can't improve on perfection.​ 

What have you read and loved recently?

I just finished the graphic novel MAUS, which is a tough read, but one I recommend highly. ​

What was the best part about doing GISHWHES this year?

The best part of GISHWHES is always the new friends. This year I was lucky enough to be placed on a team with a group of kids from Sweden. We called ourselves the Supernatural Swedes. I'm Facebook friends with several of them now.​ 

If you could make your own nail polish, what color would it be, and what would you name it?

​It would be steel-grey, and it would be called NAILED IT​

Thank you to Kat for the interview! Can't wait for 2017.

You can add SAY NO TO THE BRO to your Goodreads TBR here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

All Laced Up

Surreal and exciting news: my third book comes out October 10, 2016! ALL LACED UP is another contemporary young adult novel from Entangled Teen Crush!

Everyone loves hockey superstar Pierce Miller. Everyone except Lia Bailey.

When the two are forced to teach a skating class to save the rink, Lia’s not sure she’ll survive the pressure of Nationals and Pierce’s ego. Not only can’t he remember her name, he signed her bottle of water like she was one of his groupies. Ugh.

But if there’s one thing Lia knows better than figure skating, it’s hockey. Hoping to take his ego down a notch—or seven—she logs into his team website under an anonymous name to give him pointers on his less-than-stellar playing.

Turns out, Pierce isn’t arrogant at all. And they have a lot in common. Too bad he’s falling for the anonymous girl online. No matter how much fun they’re starting to have in real life, she’s afraid he’s going to choose fake-Lia over the real one...

Disclaimer: This book contains a swoony hockey player (and his equally swoony friends!), one-too-many social media accounts, kisses that’ll melt ice, and a secret identity that might not be so secret after all...

I had a blast writing this one and hope you'll enjoy reading it, too! Can't wait for you to meet Pierce and Lia!

You can add All Laced Up to your Goodreads TBR here. You can also pre-order it on Amazon or B&N.

See you on the ice in October!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Interview with PURGE author Kat Ellis

There's no one who does intense, kinda dark, super-exciting YA better than Kat Ellis. Seriously, Kat's novels keep you on the edge of her seat! Luckily for us, her third novel, PURGE, is out today!

Mason has a habit of getting into trouble. He's been kicked out of every place he's ever lived in. Moving to the cult-like community of Alteria is definitely a last resort, even if it's better than braving the wastelands outside. But following their strict rules is a hundred times harder when Mason meets Eden, who has a wicked streak to match his own. Caught with contraband, Eden is forced into a programme to purge her bad behaviour. But Mason has seen what happens to people who get purged, and knows he will lose Eden if he can’t help her find a way out.

Out in the wastelands, Noah has no memory of what happened before he was abandoned in a war zone. All he wants is to know who he is, and if he can trust the strangers who rescued him from the rubble.

With lies surrounding them on all sides, Mason and Noah must piece together the truth if they want to escape. Failure is not an option when it means being purged from existence.

Kat was kind enough to answer a few questions about PURGE and writing to help celebrate her book birthday! Check out her responses...

If you had to describe PURGE in five words or fewer, what words (or phrase) would you use?

Two trapped teens: no escape!

Finish this sentence: PURGE will appeal to fans of...

... THE MAZE RUNNER (maybe? I think?)

If you were making a playlist to go with PURGE, which songs would you choose to represent Mason and Noah?

For Mason, I'd choose You & Me by Disclosure feat. Eliza Doolittle (Flume Remix) because it's kind of trippy, and the video is super hot and reminds me of Mason together with Eden - the girl who changes the way he thinks about everything.

Noah's song would have to be something angsty and confused and intense, so I think Can You Feel My Heart by Bring Me The Horizon is perfect!

As an avid and talented photographer, what's the most interesting photo you've taken recently? Can you share it with us?

Haha, thank you! I love taking photos of the weird and wonderful Welsh scenery, and this is one of my recent faves. It looks so desolate and creepy, I think it fits in well with certain scenes in PURGE.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

The YA landscape is constantly evolving, so read as much as you can - especially new books that are coming out - and don't get tripped up by trying to write to trends. Find your own niche, and if it doesn't exist, create it!

Thank you so much for sharing with us, Kat!

Want to get your hands on PURGE? If you're in the UK, you can purchase via Amazon, The Guardian, or Waterstones. If you're in the US (or elsewhere), you can get your copy from The Book Depository.

Other helpful links:

Add PURGE to your Goodreads TBR
Follow Kat on Twitter
Follow Kat on Instagram (seriously...do this...she takes amazing pictures!)
Visit Kat's website

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Giveaway: Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown

Less than one week until the incredibly talented Jaye Robin Brown's GEORGIA PEACHES AND OTHER FORBIDDEN FRUIT is released! To celebrate, I'm giving away a copy!

Joanna Gordon has been out and proud for years, but when her popular radio evangelist father remarries and decides to move all three of them from Atlanta to the more conservative Rome, Georgia, he asks Jo to do the impossible: to lie low for the rest of her senior year. And Jo reluctantly agrees. 
Although it is (mostly) much easier for Jo to fit in as a straight girl, things get complicated when she meets Mary Carlson, the oh-so-tempting sister of her new friend at school. But Jo couldn’t possibly think of breaking her promise to her dad. Even if she’s starting to fall for the girl. Even if there’s a chance Mary Carlson might be interested in her, too. Right?

Y'all, I absolutely loved this book. It's important and beautiful and completely un-put-down-able. It takes on religion, faith, and sexuality while still being funny and romantic and touching. The characters leap off the page. You will love spending time in Jo's world.

Here's how to enter to win:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
*Open to US (via Amazon) and International (via Book Depository). Winner will be notified on Monday, August 29.

Helpful Links:
Georgia Peaches... on Goodreads
Georgia Peaches... on Amazon
Jaye Robin Brown on Twitter
Jaye Robin Brown's Website

Thanks for playing! Good luck!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Can't Pour from an Empty Cup

Recently I started thinking about the expression "You can't pour from an empty cup." Usually this wisdom refers to taking care of yourself before taking care of others, but I realized how much it applies to writing, too.

You know those days when the words don't come was easily as you want them to? When writing is more of a struggle than a pleasure? Check yourself: are you trying to pour from an empty cup? Are you lacking necessary inspiration?

Confession: this has been a kind of an empty-cup summer for me. I've battled low self-esteem and stress over some aspects of the business side of being a writer. I didn't do a good job of seeking out things that would inspire me as a writer. Even though I kept writing and working on various projects, I felt that emptiness. The words didn't pour like they had before, like I knew they could.

This month, I started filling my "writer cup" (which, let's be honest, is probably a coffee mug).

First, I attended Writer's Digest's Annual Conference. I could do an entire blog post about the conference, but for now, let's just say that three days of conference sessions and keynotes and being surrounded by fellow writers who share the same passions and dreams and goals? Pretty cup-filling.

While in NYC, I saw The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time on Broadway. I'm a theater junkie anyway, but seeing a book I love come to life? Awesome.

Curious Incident... Stage
Two days after I got home from NYC, I went to a concert -- the Tour de Compadres with Mat Kearney and NEEDTOBREATHE. This concert had absolutely nothing to do with writing. It didn't make sense that it would fill my writer cup, but it did. You know Lin Manuel Miranda's "love is love is love" speech from the Tony's? In this case, art is art is art, music included. Cup filled.

Tour de Compadres 2016
Raleigh post-sunset
Today, I went to see Newsies for my third and final time before it stops touring. That one does have some writing tie-ins, but I was mostly in it for the dance and music, which will now be stuck in my head for weeks. I also spent some time wandering around Durham's beautiful American Tobacco Campus. It's one of those places I drive by often without really stopping to appreciate it.

American Tobacco Campus 
I never intended for all of these things to happen within the same ten-day period, but they did, and my cup is full. Overflowing. I've worked on edits and beat deadlines. I'm revising a project that has been stuck for a while. I'm blogging for the first time since May. While driving home from work the other day, I had to turn off the radio because it was distracting me from story ideas.

I'm pouring from a full cup and loving every minute of it.

If your writer cup is empty, do something to fill it back up.

Visit an indie bookstore for an author's reading and book signing.

Watch a movie, maybe one that you wouldn't normally pick.

Check out a museum for a couple of hours -- art, science, history, doesn't matter.

Go to a concert or listen to a new song. (Might I suggest one of these?)

Do something Instagram-worthy. (Or Snapchat-worthy? IDK, I'm old.)

Re-read a favorite book that's falling apart from being opened so many times.

Walk around somewhere beautiful.

Then pour your heart from the full cup onto the page.

I can't wait to read what you write.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Write Like You're Running Out of Time

Like most people, I have become a fan of (*cough* obsessed with *cough*) the musical Hamilton. Despite the fact that I used to think history was boring, know little to nothing about hip-hop or rap, and haven't actually seen the musical, I've been listening to the soundtrack on repeat for months. One of my favorite songs is "Non-Stop."

The song centers around Alexander Hamilton writing the Federalist Papers in support of the US Constitution. Long story short: Hamilton wrote 51 important essays in a span of six months.

Through the lyrics of Hamilton's genius writer and creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Aaron Burr asks Hamilton a series of...well...fairly reasonable questions:

"Why do you write like you're running out of time?

Write day and night like you're running out of time?

Why do you write like it's going out of style?

Write day and night like it's going out of style?

How do you write like tomorrow won't arrive?

How do you write like you need it to survive?

How do you write every second you're alive?"

I have to think if Hamilton were alive today, he'd teach the ultimate workshop on how to avoid writer's block and make writing a priority. Getting tickets would probably be harder than getting tickets to the musical, but I digress.

As a writer, I find these lyrics convicting and inspiring. Realistically, we all know we're running out of time. We don't know if tomorrow will arrive.

But do we write like that?

Five years ago, I might not have related to this song as much as I do now. Five years ago, like most twenty-somethings, I thought I was invincible. An exercise regimen led to a foot injury that proved I wasn't a teenager anymore, but still. I wore an air cast, and my foot got better.

But then I developed pain in my calf. It hurt so bad it kept me up at night and made me cry into my cereal at breakfast. My leg and foot swelled. My doctor was pretty sure it was a muscle strain from the cast but sent me for a test to rule out a blood clot. The ultrasound technician did her work and called in the radiologist, who told me I did have a blood clot, deep vein thrombosis, and needed to go straight to the emergency room.

Slightly stunned, I went to get up from the table, but the technician stopped me. "Don't walk," she said. "We'll get you a wheelchair."

What I didn't know at the time was that if any part of the clot in my leg broke off and traveled to my lungs, heart, or brain, I could die. Learning there's something inside your body that can kill you at any minute is rather sobering. I was admitted to the hospital, placed on blood thinners, and eventually allowed to walk and go home.

A month later, I felt a familiar pain in my thigh. Another ultrasound, another blood clot, another hospital stay. Another reminder that I was far from invincible.

Looking back, it makes sense that the book I wrote during this time, Where You'll Find Me, was my first to be published. Though I didn't have a constitution to defend, I did have a goal to accomplish and a realization that life is short. Like Hamilton, I wrote non-stop, and my tenacity paid off.

Fast forward to 2013. My doctors deemed me well enough to stop taking blood thinners, hoping my body had worked out whatever had gone wrong. Not long after, I woke up with pain in my other calf and immediately knew I had another DVT. While I waited for an ultrasound of my leg, my chest started hurting. As much as I hoped and prayed the pain was just caused by my anxiety, a CT scan revealed that what I'd feared had happened: part of the clot in my leg had broken off and traveled to my left lung.

It feels weird to say I was lucky, but I was. For 25% of people with a pulmonary embolism, the first symptom is sudden, unexpected death. Obviously I lived to tell about it, and thanks to a new medication I've been free of blood clots for three years, but that same medication comes with life-threatening risks. Right now, the benefits outweigh those risks, but every time I take that pill, every time I hear the lyrics to "Non-Stop," I'm reminded that each day is a gift, not a promise.

Hamilton had wisdom to impart. Lin-Manuel Miranda had a story to tell. So do I. So do you.

Don't wait until next year to write that novel.

Don't wait until next month to revise that chapter.

Don't wait until tomorrow to share your story.

Do it now.

Write like you're running out of time.

Write like you need it to survive.

And if you somehow stumbled across this post and you're not a writer?

Paint like it's going out of style.

Dance day and night like you're running out of time.

Run like tomorrow won't arrive.

Be you every second you're alive.

Don't throw away your shot.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

February Wrap-up!

What happens when you take the shortest month of the year and cram 2,981,569 things into it? March. March happens. Because March is suddenly here! And so is my end-of-month wrap-up!

What I Wrote

February was devoted exclusively to final edits and proofreading of PIECES OF YOU AND ME, coming April 2016 from Entangled Teen Crush! All of the last minute stuff like proofreading the galley and working on the back cover copy and writing acknowledgments takes a lot of time, but it's done! Woohoo! Can't wait for y'all to meet Chase and Rylee in April!

What I Read

I read a lot this month! The combination of audiobooks on car trips and regular books on airplanes added up to six books read in February:
  • Four by Veronica Roth
  • An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes by Randy Ribay
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Aimee and the Heartthrob by Ophelia London
  • Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally
  • Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
My favorite of the month had to be Symptoms of Being Human. I learned so much about people who are gender fluid and absolutely loved Garvin's choices and style in this sometimes painful but always beautiful book. Highly recommend. 

I also adored listening to Breathe, Annie, Breathe. The romance storyline was like eating candy, but it had all this depth and layers hiding underneath. Also in the "like candy" category? Aimee and the Heartthrob. It took me back to my boy band fangirl days, and I loved every minute of it. Can't wait to read the rest of the Backstage Pass series!

Other February Life Stuff

For the day job, I had six business trips in three weeks, so that took up most of my month. When I was home, I finally got to see The Lion King musical!

Also, I shopped at Trader Joes for the first time. Pro tip: never tell the employees at Trader Joes it's your first time there. There's bell ringing and some kind of loud chant involved. Also, red velvet Oreos were back, which are far superior to any other flavor of Oreos.

Hope you had a great February and have a fantastic March!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

January Wrap-Up!

How is the first month of 2016 already over? I swear we were just singing Auld Lang Syne yesterday...

Alas, tomorrow is February 1, so here's my January recap:

What I Wrote

A majority of my writing time was devoted to editing PIECES OF YOU AND ME, coming from Entangled Teen Crush on March 14, 2016! I also got to see a mock-up of the cover...so pretty! Can't wait to share it with you!

I'm also working on my yet-to-be titled September 2016 (ish) release! It's another contemporary YA romance. I'm 40K words in and having so much fun writing it! I can't wait for you to meet Pierce and Lia.

What I Read
The award for best January book goes to THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS by Marieke Nijkamp. Painful? Yes. Heartbreaking? Yes. But also gripping and beautiful and completely unputdownable. Check it out on Goodreads here and Amazon here.

I also finally got around to reading INSURGENT and ALLEGIANT. I'd read DIVERGENT a long time ago, before the movie came out, but held off on reading the other two when I heard the furious reactions to the series ending. However, seeing the second movie reminded me how much I enjoy that story and those characters, and...I caved.

Somehow, I hadn't been officially spoiled regarding the ending of ALLEGIANT, but I had my suspicions, which ended up being correct. I'll just be over here hoping they change the ending of the movie...

Lastly, I beta read an amazing and beautiful manuscript by Julie C. Dao. It was the kind of story that left me thinking for days after I finished, so you know it's good! You can find Julie on Twitter or her website, and can read her MG, PUMPKIN PATCH PRINCESS, on Wattpad.

Other January Life Stuff
  • It was my birthday! I turned a prime number less than six squared. I'll let you guess which one.
  • Snowmaggedon happened. At my house, we got an inch or two of ice and snow. In true southern fashion, I was trapped at home for three full days. When I was able to return to work, the ice in our parking lot (on a hill) started melting, and parked cars slid into each other. Crazy:

  • I signed up for Audible! I do a lot of traveling for my day job, and listening to a book makes the time go by much faster! Currently I'm listening to FOUR by Veronica Roth. I got some great suggestions on Twitter, but if you have other recommendations, I'm all ears! (Get it? Audiobooks? Ears? Yeah, okay. Please leave recommendations in the comments!)
Hope your January was great! Enjoy February...all twenty-nine days of it!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Memory Books

Most of us can remember where we were when certain events happened: when we got asked to prom (in my high school auditorium), when found out we got into our dream school or got our dream job (standing in my living room), when September 11, 2001 happened (in Mr. Brandt's English class), etc.

I have book-related memories as well. There are some books, places, and times that will forever be associated in my mind.

I remember reading Hunger Games in 2010 while on a family vacation. I was reading while standing in line for security, weaving back and forth through the ropes, and hating every second it took for the book to go through the x-ray machine in my carry on.

Room by Emma Donoghue was another 2010 read that I could. Not. Put. Down. I was in my bed in Michigan, awake way too late because I had to know what was going to happen before I went to sleep.

Though I tend to read a lot of books before bed, I specifically remember reading TFIOS in the bedroom of my old apartment. Those memories mostly consist of crying so hard I couldn't breathe, and falling back against my pillows like I'd been punched in the gut. Naturally.

Going way back, I remember reading The Notebook in my college dorm room. I even remember the way my roommate and I had arranged our furniture at the time.

It's strange how I can think about some books I've read, some even as recently as 2015, and I can't remember anything about where or when I read them, but for others the details are so clear. It seems like the more invested I am in the characters and the story, the more it leaps off the page, the more I remember it and my life outside of it.

As a reader, I want more of these memory books, and as a writer, I want to produce them.

What are YOUR memory books? Where and when did you read them?