Big News!

I've thought about writing this post over the last few years. I've thought about the gifs I would use and the way it would feel and what an arrival it would be. I daydreamed and nightdreamed and hoped and wrote the best book I could. And guys, it's even better than I thought it would be.

After two weeks of querying, I have officially signed with Mary Evans, legend and literary agent extraordinaire.

I guess I've always wanted to be a writer. I remember writing my first story (about Unicorns, duh) and the power and the wonder there. I wrote my first book in a Hedwig notebook when I was thirteen. Despite my love of stories, I decided to pursue music at the University of San Diego. It was hard and sort of terrible. I minored in English after an amazing creative writing class. Love what you do and study guys. If you don't, you might be in the wrong place.

I spent the next two years revising thirty pages of a novel. I started blogging about baby stuff, then crunchy stuff, then responding to flash fiction writing prompts. I submitted stories to online magazines and anthologies.I started researching low residency MFA programs. I only applied to one: UCR Palm Desert. It had the coolest website, was in driving distance, and just seemed right. If I didn't get in, I would take it as a sign.

And it was. Tod Goldberg was charming and welcoming and funny. I may have cried. He told me the thing that stood out to him in my writing sample was the piece of my novel I sent in amidst flash fiction and short stories. That really surprised me and stuck with me. It gave me the courage to write books.

The last two years have been an amazing adventure. I have learned so much about craft and story and who I am. I've found my tribe, my best friends. These are the people I want with me for the rest of my life.

My final workshop quarter, I started working with Mark Haskell Smith. (I could write a whole book about how awesome Mark is and it still wouldn't do him justice. Go read NAKED AT LUNCH and you'll get a glimpse.) I pitched him an idea for a new thesis, unsure whether I should keep editing the space opera or work on something new. He told me to go for it.

I wrote HEARTS, WINGS, AND NASTY THINGS in four months, and then started editing and editing. I read my novel backwards and forwards. After submitting it officially as my thesis, I polished my query and cultivated my query list. I sent out my first queries on October 23rd, the eighth anniversary of my house burning down. I stole that day away from sorrow, and have turned it into a day of joy. Take that, universe.

After two weeks, I got the Call. I am so excited to work with Mary Evans and fellow Torero Mary Gaule to make my book the best it can be and be partners in my career. This is the stuff dreams are made of, and I couldn't be any happier.

Now the work begins!

Book Review: In Bloom

New Adult (NA) is really big right now. It's been hit or miss for me. I've heard NA called "YA with sex." And since I'm not a huge fan of gratuitious sex in fiction, I haven't really delved into much NA. IN BLOOM is a breath of fresh air. Debut author Katie Delahanty takes the reader on a journey through Hollywood--the good, the bad, and the ugly.

We follow Liv into a new life, with new and fantastic friends. Parker and Blair take her under their wings and pull a full on Pygmalion, turning Liv from a shy Midwesterner to the next It Girl.

From the jacket:

My name is Olivia Bloom and I. Am. Free. 
I left for LA with everything I owned piled into my old Volkswagen and dreams of becoming a costume designer. Little did I know I’d wind up designing for a lingerie company—yeah, not sure how I landed this gig—and taken under the wing of two young Hollywood insiders. The fashion shows and parties were great, but life really got exciting when the seriously hottest lead singer of my favorite band started to fall for me.  
How does someone like me, an ordinary girl from Pittsburgh, wind up in the arms of the world’s sexiest rock star—surrounded by celebrities, fashion, and music—and not be eaten alive? Berkeley is everything I've ever dreamed of in a boyfriend, but the paparazzi, the tabloids, the rumors, it's all getting a bit too crazy. My life has become every girl’s dream come true, if only I don’t blink and lose it all… 

Liv is a great character. Her growth throughout the novel is genuine. There's a little Liv in all of us. We're all pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones, hoping that we'll be discovered professionally, romantically, and as who were are. We don't all have a fairy godmother crew, but I know I have found friends that root for me as hard as Blair and Parker, and family that always has my back.

And then comes Berkeley. Sexy, mysterious, and driven, Berkeley is a fantasy brought to life. Their romance is the kind of fairy tale romance I've been looking for in a novel. I dare you not to get swept away. Team Adventure.

What I loved most about this book was how cleverly it utilized social media. I am a huge fan of Twitter, and Delahanty uses the fast paced reality of it to further the plot and as a fun addition. All her Twitter handles are real. You can follow the characters and interact with them. It's a clever tool and I've really enjoyed chatting with Berkeley (of course, who wouldn't want to chat with Berkeley?!). It also shows off her skill as a writer and grasp on her characters. How many writers can tweet as their characters? It's fantastic.

The novel is also paired with an album from the Remainers. Listening to the songs helped set the tone to the book. It's an excellent pairing for poolside reading. Read this book. It's fun and flirty and everything I was looking for in a breezy, summer read. IN BLOOM is an escape, it's wish fulfillment. And since Liv is gracious, graceful, and all around wonderful, the novel is a pleasure. Her positive energy and outlook make you root for her against all odds.

I can't wait to see how the rest of the series unfolds. It's an easy world to lose yourself in, and hope, that just maybe, you'll be as close to your dreams as Liv is to hers.

Bonus: You can even see the lingerie from the book in real life! (And by see, I obviously mean wear.)

(Full disclosure: I received this book for free. But I also bought a copy to support the author. My opinions are my own.)

Writing and Elsewhere Blogs

You know I write for YAvengers, right? Right. It's proof that I'm still writing, just not so much here. I'm frantically trying to finish my novel, Beads of Glass, before the ides of September. If I don't, I can't post pictures of the boys on social media for a month. A whole thirty days without Vincent and Anthony making the world a better place. Yeah, I need to get on that.

I've got a post up today on character darkness. Here's an excerpt:

The secrets we conceal inform our actions. We are what we hide. What we choose to reveal and how we reveal it shapes us. These are the lies we tell ourselves, the things we cover up, the fears we drive into the hollows beneath our hearts. We live, hoping that no one will ever know the truth.
Thanks for reading, friends!


Book Review: Blackout

Books are often written in response to a resounding “What if?” Writers, especially in speculative fiction, imagine changes and tell stories about those possibilities. What if teenagers suddenly had powers that could help the world? What if teenagers suddenly had the power to destroy it? Robison Wells answers this question with his novel BLACKOUT. Wells utilizes a power of his own, he utilizes his characters venturing from the known to the unknown to invoke the same emotions and experiences that unite to form the teenage experience.

Aubrey taps into every high school girl’s psyche. Her ability is invisibility: “she knew it wasn’t as plain as just disappearing. Instead, people simply didn’t notice her.” (18) From the beginning, she invoked the feeling from my own high school years. That is the power of young adult literature. It reminds us of the times when we were that young, that vulnerable, that invincible. The appeal goes beyond the X-Men adjacent powers and the thickness of the plot. I loved this book because it could have been me, had I caught the virus. I could have been Aubrey as she grew in self-confidence and awareness, as she fell in love. Combining oncoming adulthood with the imposition of superpowers was a really fun way to make truth fantastic.

Jack too, encapsulated the teenage experience. His yearning for love and surprise in his own self-discovery felt incredibly real. Laura was that awful, moody teenager that we all know and don’t really love. Pairing this characters like Alec and Dan were harder to identify with because their motives were so unclear. Since there is an upcoming sequel, I won’t consider this lack of depth a failing, but rather a cliffhanger to lead the reader into the next book.

The pacing in the novel is faster than an adult novel. It had a great deal of action and intrigue as the mysteries surrounding the terrorist attacks and the virus unfolded. While there were brief moments of reprieve, the novel moved along with new information, new betrayals, and new action without missing a beat. It maintained tension in scenes of micro-tension, while carrying the novel as a whole. Each chapter had a breathtaking moment. And unlike some thrillers, it didn’t leave the reader winded.

Wells juggled multiple viewpoints. He revealed who the terrorists were from the beginning, which was served to amp up the tension as they befriended the other protagonists and plotted their next strike. He laces the novels with snippets from “SusieMusie” which he doesn’t explain until the end. This worked really well. The inevitable parts of the story—the main characters making their love connection, the terrorists betrayal—weren’t annoyingly obvious because there were other questions that drove the story.

This story had a huge impact on me. This wasn’t because of the story itself, but because the way it made me look at my own novel. I’ve been waffling between whether Beads of Glass is young adult, new adult, or just plain adult. It seems obvious now, but for the last six months or so since I started writing it, I’ve felt like I straddled a line. BLACKOUT made me fully aware that I’m writing young adult. BLACKOUT is about characters discovering who they are Vesper’s story, at its core, is the story of a girl finding out the pedestals she held her father on were formed on falsehood and that she’s not who she thinks she is. I’m writing (or trying to) with a similar pace and movement, while trying to reveal certain things slowly while waiting for the bigger reveal at the end.  The thing is, I love YA. I read it for breakfast. But for some reason I felt like I wanted to be different in my novel. I don’t need to. Young adult novels are fantastic, and while they may not juggle the intense philosophical themes as some adult novels, they still have the power to draw in a reader and make them feel.

BLACKOUT worked because it helped me discover greater truths about myself. That’s the goal of any writer, I believe, to give the reader an experience that changes them in some small way. Robison Wells did this for me, with great powers, pace, and characters.

Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper Soup

It is the season for summer storms--thunder and lightning and big heavy raindrops. It takes the edge off of the heat, and it's perfect weather for soup. We have a plethora of fresh veggies from the garden right now, and since our fridge is already full of zucchini soup we decided to try something new: Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper Soup.

Here's what you'll need:

A mess of tomatoes, we used about a dozen big ones
3 bell peppers (roasted)
2 carrots
2 stalks of celery
2 potatoes
1 Zuchinni
2 onion (one roasted, one in the pot)
1 whole garlic 
Fresh basil, paprika, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper to taste. 

  • Scoop the insides of the tomatoes into a bowl and place the rest of the tomato onto a baking sheet. Make sure the baking sheet has raised edges because there's a lot of juice. 
tomatoes for days

  • Peel garlic and chop two cloves. Put the remaining cloves on the baking sheet to roast. 
  • Chop onions, placing half in the pot and half on the sheet. 
  • Drizzle your roasting veggies with olive oil and salt and pepper and roast at 400 for about 40 minutes.
  • While they're roasting, cut up the rest of the veggies sauté. Add tomato insides and simmer low on the pot. This is in lieu of any sort of broth. Better to make your own, fresh. Add two cups of water. 

  • Add your now roasted veggies to the mix. Salt and pepper to taste. We also put in about five sprigs of fresh basil, because the world is a better place with it. 
  • After simmering for about twenty minutes, blend. We used the Vitamix and then strained for seeds. Had there been any, we would have re-blended them and added them back into the soup. But it strained clean. Next time I'll skip that step. and move right to serving.
  • Eat, enjoy, and feel good about your life.

how do people live without one of these babies
I don't mean to toot my own horn, but this soup came out amazing. Easy and delicious, it's a great way to use up summer veggies! It also made a ton. A share-ton. Soup for everyone!