Monthly Archive: June 2015

June, briefly

Welcome to the first blog post on my new website! You might have noticed some snazzy layout changes, courtesy of my wonderful husband. In the coming months, more changes will be happening, so stay tuned for updates!

It’s kind of ironic that the heading for this post is June, briefly, because that’s exactly what June felt like… brief. I can’t believe I’m writing this post and that it’s the end of the month already. But here we are, and this month, I have been…

My "office" for most of this month.

My “office” for most of this month.

Working on: A variety of different things. My attention has been pretty scattered this month. The cover reveal for FIRSTS happened, which was totally amazing and so much fun! I’m tinkering with a couple finished WIPs that I had put on the backburner for the last several months, and also letting a couple new ideas take shape in my mind. I’m realizing that as a writer, I really need a bit of time every day to just free write, whether it be scenes for an existing project I’m revising or brand new material for a project that’s just getting off the ground. This process helps stimulate my creativity and ensures that I’m focusing on what I love doing—writing. With a book coming out (soon!), it’s easy to lose focus on that and concentrate my energy on other things, but I never want to forget why I love to write. I also want to consistently challenge myself to be better at the craft, so setting aside a bit of time to get out some words every day makes me feel like I’m working toward this goal.

Reading: June has been a fabulous reading month. I have finished four absolutely fantastic books, starting with GOLDEN BOY by Abigail Tartellin. The titular Golden Boy is Max Walker, an intersex teen dealing with the aftermath of a brutal incident while trying to keep his secret– and maybe falling in love in the process. This book is told in multiple POV, but Max’s perspective was my favorite– he’s an incredibly brave, perceptive, thoughtful, and sensitive character. As an author, Abigal Tartellin tackles very difficult subject matter with grace and intelligence, an GOLDEN BOY is smart, emotionally wrenching, and hopeful, all at once.

I also read BONE GAP by Laura Ruby, which  I had heard great things about. Poetic and beautifully written, this is a book I’ll be thinking about for a long time. I loved the mystery, the romance, the hints of magic, and the history surrounding Bone Gap and the people who call it home. The relationships in this book were deep and important, and Laura Ruby’s writing style is flawless and lyrical.

I read VANISHING GIRLS by Lauren Oliver, an author I have admired since reading BEFORE I FALL last year. Lauren Oliver has such a unique way with words and a writing style that always feels so original to me. I loved the alternating POVs between Nick and Dara, two sisters whose lives are shattered after a tragic accident. The dynamic between the sisters is fascinating, and I especially liked how their complicated relationship with each other was portrayed. I thought this book was especially different because it felt like both a YA contemporary and a thriller, with a deliciously twisty plot.

I finished the month with THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS by my fellow Sweet Sixteener, Marieke Nijkamp. I’ll be writing more about this one later, but for now, I strongly recommend that everyone add it to their TBRs. This debut is gut-wrenching and gripping and entirely captivating and you won’t want to miss it. Mark January 5, 2016 in your calendars! (That’s when FIRSTS comes out too– book birthday twins!)

Watching: After binge-watching Season Five of Game of Thrones (I don’t want to talk about that ending!), my husband and I started on Season Three of Orange is the New Black. I’m consistently so impressed by this series. The acting is amazing and the characters are so real that sometimes I forget they’re actors at all. I love the dialogue, the interwoven story lines, and the mixture of comedy and drama. My personal favorite has to be Crazy Eyes, and her space erotica that got passed around the prison had me laughing out loud.

(Her best line this season: “It’s about love. It’s about two people connecting. With four other people. And aliens.”)

I’m looking forward to a hot, sunny, and productive July! Now, if the summer could slow down just a bit, that would be great. Thanks, Mother Nature!

Father’s Day

For my family, June is historically a busy month. (Case in point: two years ago, I got married, my sister got called to the bar and started her career as a lawyer, and my mom and mother-in-law both had birthdays, all in one week.) And every June, there’s Father’s Day. Every June, I feel like my dad gets neglected because of everything else going on. And every June, he never once complains. This tells you just a little bit about the kind of person he is.

MeandDad

The best dad ever. Photo credit courtesy of the wonderfully talented Shirley Vander Heide.

When I was a little kid, I basically idolized by dad. Not for any of the many reasons I do now, but for little things. Back then, my dad was larger than life. He made the best shortbread cookies and didn’t get mad when my sister and I ate the dough. He was always up for playing Lego or running around the block with me or reading to me or taking me to the park for bike rides. On those bike rides, apparently, I wouldn’t ever stop talking. It’s an early example of how even when I had nothing to spout out but gibberish and random questions, he was always there to listen.

When I was a teenager, my relationship with my dad changed, and I respected him for different reasons. I was involved in competitive long-distance running, and my dad was the one who drove me to every practice and cheered me on at all my meets, even the out-of-town weekend ones. He was the one who made me feel like I was doing a good job, the one high-fiving me and telling me I ran the best race I could have, even if I felt like a failure. He was the one who didn’t care that I didn’t win. In those days, making my dad proud was everything to me.

Only now, as an adult, do I fully understand and appreciate the full extent of what my dad has been to me. A role model showing me what’s important in life: dedication to family, hard work, and taking chances, even if they don’t pan out. A mentor, living proof of what discipline and principle can achieve. A listener, someone who gives honest advice. A friend, someone to laugh with and talk to about anything. A supporter, someone incredibly generous and giving, the kind of person who would do anything to make life easier for somebody else. When I found out that FIRSTS was going to become an actual book, I was so excited to tell him my news and hear the pride in his voice. But the truth is, he was already proud of me. He has been proud the whole time.

I got my dad a chain necklace one Christmas, a dog tag engraved with Father, Hero, Friend. It was a great gift, except for one limitation. It just didn’t have the space to include the other things he is to me.

It’s not the dog tag’s fault. It’s just kind of impossible to find the space for everything.

To all the dads out there—I hope you all get to spend an amazing day with your families and the people who love you. To my dad, the father who is everything—you deserve the world, but I hope you’ll be okay with a backyard barbeque instead.

FIRSTS has a cover! (And it’s stunning!)

Hello, everyone! You might have seen the cover for FIRSTS revealed at YA Highway yesterday, or over at Griffin Teen. But if you haven’t, here it is in all of its glory, along with my thoughts!

4_28_FirstsCover

My first (pun intended) reaction when I saw the cover? I was floored. The insanely talented cover designer, Danielle Christopher, captured the essence of FIRSTS perfectly. It’s bold without being too provocative, edgy without being too suggestive. The color palette took my breath away. I was lucky enough to have the wonderful Amanda Maciel, an author whose work I greatly admire (TEASE is one of my all-time favorite young adult books), provide a blurb that makes my heart beat faster whenever I read it, and having her words on the cover is such an honor.

The first time I saw the cover turned into the second time. And third time. I whipped out my phone to check it while I was at work, oh, probably a hundred times. (I think I walked into a wall one of those times….)

FIRSTS is a story about a lot of things. It’s about sex and rumors and secrets and slut-shaming. It’s about mistakes and friendship and lust and love. There’s laughter and tears and heartbreak and at the very core, a girl who is slowly learning that the only way to find the control she craves is to stop looking for it. And in one image, I think this cover conveys all those things.

Don’t forget to enter the ARC giveaway on YA Highway before the contest ends!

FIRSTS is available for preorder on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and for the Canadian crowd, Indigo!

#SixteensBlogAbout: Summer Reading

With the summer months practically here (seriously, how is it June already? Slow down, 2015…), the Sweet Sixteens are blogging about a particularly timely topic: summer reading.

This got me thinking about a lot of things. All the fabulous books I want to be reading right this second. The massive TBR list I’m dying to catch up on. The chair on my deck, beckoning me to sit down with a glass of Riesling and my Kobo.

Beach

Beach reading: one of the ultimate reading locations.

But the very first thought that came to mind? Being a kid and having the whole summer off, and not even appreciating how awesome that was. I  remember complaining to my parents, loudly and dramatically, that I was bored during those summers. Bored. There were only so many hours that could be spent playing outside, so many afternoons reading The Babysitter’s Club and hacking the hair off Barbies with my sister. So many days with nothing to do.

(It goes without saying that I also didn’t appreciate nap time back then. Because I had a lot to learn.)

As an adult, I relish any free time I get. There’s absolutely nothing more exciting for me than a whole day stretching ahead with no plans at all, nothing to do at all. It’s funny how things change— how what I now call the perfect day used to be a dime a dozen, ferociously underappreciated. What would summer reading look like for me, if I had back those endless summer days bereft of responsibilities that I didn’t value as a kid?

Summer reading would be both leisurely and fervent. It would involve starting and finishing a book in the same day. Maybe two books a day, since there wouldn’t be laundry to do or groceries to buy or meals to burn cook. Summer reading would happen everywhere. On my deck, where a waiter would magically refill my champagne when my glass got empty. (Hey, it’s my fantasy here!) At the beach, where I’d be careful not to get SPF 60 all over the pages. In the passenger seat during road trips, because let’s face it, I’m a useless navigator anyway. In my bed, where I’d sleep until at least noon like I did when I was a teenager. In an inflatable pool chair, floating from the shallow end to the deep end and back again, my toes dangling in the water. (In this wishful summer, I of course have a pool.) In the park, on a blanket in the grass. On a boat while my husband fishes. Summer reading would swallow up my days and the word “boredom” would never be used.

But that’s not the summer I have to work with. In reality, summer reading fits in wherever it can. On my breaks at work. While a TV show plays in the background. At the library. In coffee shops, accompanied by lattes. In my office. While I’m quickly eating breakfast before work. With a little lamp-light, under the covers at night. (Maybe I have something in common with kid-me after all.) I’ll read everywhere and anywhere, in whatever time I have, because quite simply, there is no better summer vacation than the ones found within a book’s pages.

And just for fun, here are some of the (many) books I hope to read this summer:

The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

In A World Just Right by Jen Brooks

Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre

Learning Not to Drown by Anna Shinoda

Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu

Mania by J.R. Johansson

Black Iris by Leah Raeder

Love and Other Theories by Alexis Bass

How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

Happy reading, everyone, whether it’s under the covers after dark, on a deck with champagne, or everywhere in between!

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