Monthly Archive: December 2015

On 2015: The Year Of Firsts

I was just planning on writing my regular monthly recap post, but that somehow didn’t feel right. I wanted to put down more words to commemorate the amazing year 2015 has been. It has been a year of many firsts for me and when I look back at it, I’m in awe of how quickly the time passed. It seems like just yesterday I was jumping up and down in the halls at work after getting the call from my agent that we had an offer on FIRSTS. But less than a week from today, I’ll be able to walk into a bookstore and pick up a copy of the book I wrote. I’ll be able to pose beside it and strategically place it on the front of the shelf. I’ll be able to call myself a published author.

When I was a kid, I used to roll my eyes when I heard an adult complain about time going by too quickly. But now I get it. Now I understand why it’s important to savor a moment and not be in a rush to move on to the next. I have done my best to enjoy each milestone, each first that happened over the past year. First edits. First pass pages. First ARCs. First time meeting fellow authors. First giveaways. First trade reviews. First book trailer. And two weeks ago, first finished copies. 2016 will be a year of more firsts. First book birthday. First bookstore panel (coming up soon)! First conference. First time seeing my book in the wild. First launch party. First book signing.

The thing is, you only get one first time of everything. If you’re lucky, you get seconds and thirds later. But nothing compares to that first time, the thrill of the unknown, the fear and excitement and sheer joy. So if you need me, I’ll be over here with a glass bottle of champagne, taking it all in.

And since I’m almost out of words, here’s a photo version of my year in Firsts! (Clumsy happy dancing, excessive pajama wearing, and tears not included.)

December, briefly

I feel like this isn’t just recapping December, briefly, but the whole year in a nutshell, too. There’s something about the last day of a year that symbolizes a lot. The events that have transpired, the moments that have made up the year, the highest highs and lowest lows. The milestones. The triumphs. The failures. And 2015 was a year with plenty of everything. It was a year of firsts, and I’m both excited and a teensy bit nervous for what 2016 has in store!

The Flynn Christmas Tree of 2015, aka Arnie!

I wasn’t sure I would be able to fully enjoy the Christmas rituals of December this year. With FIRSTS releasing in less than a week (!!!), the month has been pretty hectic. But I have managed to stay on top of everything so that I could make time for the things I love most about the holiday season. Going to pick out our Christmas tree and decorating it. Eating shortbread and date-filled cookies made with love by my dad. Wrapping gifts with a glass of Baileys. Taking evening walks to look at the lights in our neighborhood. Making ornaments. Visiting friends and family. It has been a truly wonderful month, and I feel like I have done my best to savor each moment.

This month, I have been…

Working on: I spent the month putting the finishing touches on my NaNo project (and writing an appropriate ending). It’s now a fully finished first draft that is ready to be made shiny in the new year! There’s also another YA contemporary project I’m nearing a first draft of, and I’m equally excited about both WIPs. Revision will be my priority over drafting going into the new year, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to get an effective revision system going and seeing how each story evolves.

Reading: I was able to read two more ARCs from my fellow Sixteener debuts this month. First up was Kim Savage’s AFTER THE WOODS, a twisty, complicated, completely captivating thriller about two best friends who are dealing with the aftermath of being attacked in the woods. I won’t say much more about this one because I’ll post a full review closet to its release date, but I will say this: It’s not one to be missed.

Next, I read UNDERWATER by my Sixteen to Read sister Marisa Reichardt. I had been eagerly anticipating this one for a long time, and I was sucked in right from the first page. It’s the story of Morgan, who has been unable to move on after a terrible tragedy that happened at her high school– one that she feels responsible for. Morgan confines herself to her apartment and grapples with her guilt– but when a new boy moves in next door, she realizes he may be what she needs to finally move on. I’ll post more about this one later too, but warning– this one will break your heart in pieces.

It's Santa Paws! (Aka, a disgruntled Abby.)

It’s Santa Paws! (Aka, a disgruntled Abby.)

Watching: It wouldn’t be the holiday season without some Christmas classics! The following Christmas movies are always on my list of December must-watches: Scrooged, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, The Santa Clause, all of the Rankin Bass cartoons, and The Grinch (the original, not the frightening version starring Jim Carrey). Plus, on Christmas Eve, the ultimate in Christmas feels: It’s A Wonderful Life, which is best accompanied with a glass of wine and a box of tissues.

Well, that’s a bit about my December! Tomorrow marks the start of a new year– a year that will bring plenty more firsts (yes, I’m going to keep making that pun). My book birthday is almost here, and then I’m off to Boston for my first ever bookstore panel and the ALA Midwinter conference, where I’ll get to meet some of my wonderful Sweet Sixteen friends. Wishing everyone a New Year’s Eve filled with love and friendship and some delightfully bubbly champagne!

 

Teaser Tuesday #7

Welcome to the last edition of Teaser Tuesday! I hope you have enjoyed this feature. I really loved the chance to share some of my favorite lines from FIRSTS with you all. To end the series with a bang (sorry, I couldn’t help myself), I wanted to share this quote, which is particularly special to me. I think it can apply to anyone in any situation– the unknown is terrifying, but it doesn’t have to be a bad kind of fear. It’s also exciting and carries endless possibility. Going into next week and the release day for FIRSTS (!!!), these words definitely apply to me… my journey to publication has been full of unknowns, but that’s part of what makes it so much fun.

Thank you so much for tuning in to Teaser Tuesday!

#SixteensBlogAbout: Holidays, or My Scrooge Moment

It’s that time of year again, and the Sweet Sixteens are blogging about the holidays. I wrote a post for Pop! Goes The Reader earlier this month as part of her Authors Talk Holidays feature (you can read it here), wherein I shared how the meaning of Christmas has changed for me over the years. So I thought for this post, I’d share a bit about what it means to me now as an adult.

Namely, how I managed to suck the fun out of it.

This Christmas, I'm channeling this girl's big smile.

This Christmas, I’m channeling this girl’s big smile.

I’ll be the first to admit… when I was a little kid, I LOVED getting presents. I never thought anything could eclipse the sheer joy of ripping into a gift I had stared at, shaken, and obsessed about as soon as it was put under the tree. But as the years went by, that excitement got somewhat diminished. It wasn’t the presents I was looking forward to anymore but simply spending time with the people I care about.

But my December isn’t all about the warm fuzzies. Because the other way Christmas changed for me as an adult is that it stopped being fun and started being stressful. There were gifts to buy and trees to put up and things to cook and parties to attend and when all this combined with working full-time and writing, December became one big ball of stress as snarled and tangled up as the Christmas lights in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Instead of looking forward to the days leading up, I dreaded them. Instead of writing a list to Santa like I did when I was a kid, I was writing to-do lists so I didn’t lose my mind.

I won’t lie… this year, I have really felt the stress. Any time someone mentioned Christmas, my insides clenched up and I had this moment of panic, like it can’t be here already! When I was a kid, I started a countdown sometime in November and wished the days would speed up. Somewhere, that turned into wanting time to stand still or even go backwards.

Then I realized something: I’m making Christmas a chore. I’m making it yet another thing to cross off my list of things to do. Instead of enjoying the moments, I was looking at them as things to get through and check off. I was being exactly what I never wanted to be. A Grinch. A Scrooge. Somebody not fun.

The truth is, this month is insanely busy, this year more than ever. I’m probably juggling more things than I ever have before. This frenetic pace will continue, because FIRSTS comes out exactly ten days after Christmas. (Cue happy-dancing, wine-drinking, and general flailing!) I had to accept a hard truth: I will not manage to ever clear my to-do list this month. And you know what? When I accepted that fact, my anxiety actually decreased significantly. I started being nicer to myself. I have been on this amazing roller coaster that is debuting for months and now the roller coaster is about to hit the highest peak, the part just before your stomach bottoms out with anticipation. I don’t want to stop the ride, nor can I. So what is there left except to enjoy it, throw up my arms, and have the time of my life?

Now, if you need me, I’ll be drinking eggnog, trying to dress up my dog in a Santa costume, and watching Scrooged for the hundredth time. I’ll be squeezing my loved ones and squeezing all the magic I can from this Christmas season. Because there’s plenty of it.

Teaser Tuesday #6

It’s Teaser Tuesday again! Today, I’m happy to share what might be my very favorite line from FIRSTS, spoken by one of my favorite characters in one of my favorite scenes in the book.

Want to know who said it? And what it means? Find out when FIRSTS hits bookshelves in two weeks!

Spotlight on Sixteens: ARROWS

Last week, I started a new series on the blog spotlighting some of the amazing 2016 debuts I have been lucky enough to read before their release dates. This week, I’m sharing my review of ARROWS by Melissa Gorzelanczyk!

When I first heard about ARROWS, I had a really bad case of the GIMME GIMMES. Elements of Greek mythology combined with the drama of MTV’s Teen Mom? YES, please. (I actually studied Greek mythology in university and I loved watching Teen Mom back when I had cable, so it sounded beyond amazing to me.) So when I got a chance to sign up and read the ARC, I snapped to it. And ARROWS was everything I had hoped for and much, much more.

ArrowsARROWS is the story of Karma, who gets shot by a Cupid arrow and falls instantly in love with Danny, a boy who doesn’t treat her very well. Danny was supposed to be struck as well, but the other arrow in Aaryn, son of Cupid’s pack was useless. So while Karma’s dreams are ruined, she is also stuck loving Danny for reasons nobody else can see or understand. ARROWS is also the story of Aaryn, who is sent to Earth from Mount Olympus to fix things… only to find himself falling for a girl he can’t have.

Melissa Gorzelanczyk is an extremely talented writer, weaving love and loss and romance and heavy emotion with humor and lots of heart. The perspectives in this book change between Karma and Aaryn, and both voices felt very distinct and unique. I was whipping through pages because I needed to know what happened to both characters– I became very invested in them. And this is the sign of a really, really good book.

There are some difficult themes brought up in ARROWS. Teen pregnancy, unhealthy relationships, unrequited love. They are handled so well and with so much grace. As a character with so much stacked against her, Karma still manages to see the hope in small things and think toward the future. Melissa does an amazing job with the Karma-Danny relationship. As a reader, you want Karma to see what’s really going on so badly, and you feel for her every step of the way. The excuses she makes for Danny’s behavior ring so true for someone being manipulated, even without being under a Cupid arrow spell. Her emotions are raw and believable and, at times, heartbreaking.

I loved reading from Aaryn’s point of view as he got used to life outside of Mount Olympus. Being inside his head was at turns funny, adorable, and painful as his feelings for Karma grew and his deadline to fix things loomed nearer. I’m a huge fan of boy POV, and it’s done so well here.

This is such an important book, and I think it’s one that should be on everyone’s bookshelf as of January 26th. Melissa Gorzelanczyk is a debut author to watch for!

Add ARROWS to Goodreads here and preorder it here!

Check out Melissa’s website here.

Are you intrigued by the Sweet Sixteens? Read about the other debuts here!

Teaser Tuesday #5

Hi everyone! It’s Tuesday again, which means another FIRSTS teaser!

This is a quote near and dear to my heart because it shows Mercedes’ realization that all the time she has spent trying to be a version of someone else’s dream girl has resulted in her uncertainty about her own identity outside of the bedroom. She’s not sure what personality even fits her anymore. But by the time she discovers the person she wants to be, will it be too late?

Stay tuned next week for another one of my favorite lines from FIRSTS!

Spotlight on Sixteens: THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS

It’s that time of year again… Christmas trees have been decorated, holiday music is playing, gifts are being wrapped, and last-minute shoppers (ahem, me) are trying to squeeze in time to visit the mall. And after the festivities are over… 2016 will be ushered in. What better time than to introduce a new feature I’ll be showcasing on the blog– reviews of my fellow Sweet Sixteen debut books!

I’ve been lucky enough as a debut author to be able to read some seriously amazing debuts as part of the Sweet Sixteens ARC tour. I wanted to kick off the series with my review of THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS by Marieke Nijkamp, which was actually the first ARC I read. I’m proud to share a book birthday with Marieke– mark January 5th on your calendars, people!

Without further ado, here is my review of this incredible story.

TIWIETold over 54 minutes during a high school shooting in Opportunity, Alabama, this book grapples with the emotions and complicated relationships between the boy with the gun and his victims in the auditorium It isn’t often that I read multiple POV done to perfection like this. THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS has four main POV characters, each with a unique tie to the shooter, and I really think this was such an effective way to tell this complicated, heartbreaking story. Each voice was distinct and it was fascinating to put together the intricacies in each person’s relationship to the shooter, and their feelings of anger, fear, and guilt that they could have done something to stop the tragedy from unfolding.

I also loved the inclusion of tweets and blog posts– I found myself really invested in those characters as well, and the tweets especially lent both urgency and emotion to a situation wherein the people inside the school and on the outside didn’t know exactly what was happening. Marieke doesn’t need to use a lot of words to create emotional attachment to her characters, and that’s a mark of a great writer.

Marieke put me right inside the heads of each character, thanks to her incredible attention to detail. Her writing is the perfect blend of emotion and action– the pacing is fast, but the emotional weight is heavy. As devastating as the tragedy in this book is, Marieke also infuses it with glimpses of hope, and those moments are truly beautiful.

Marieke Nijkamp is an author to look out for– add this gorgeous, heart-wrenching book to your bookshelf on January 5th!

Add THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS to Goodreads here and preorder it here!

Visit Marieke’s website here or follow her on Twitter @mariekeyn.

Want to find out more about the other Sweet Sixteens debuts? Check out our website here!

Teaser Tuesday #4

Welcome to another edition of Teaser Tuesday! This week’s quote is one of my very favorites because it shows how much Mercedes values and clings to control– and how vulnerable she feels when it starts to go careening away from her. She has built her “system” with the virgins and makes sure they don’t break the rules she created, but she’s not prepared for what happens when she breaks them herself.

Stay tuned next week for another teaser!

FIRSTSTeaserTuesday4

One month out, three years later

The other day, I told someone that my book comes out next month. Then I had to wrap my brain around the fact that I’ll be a published author one month from today. That I’ll be able to step into a bookstore and buy my own book. That people who aren’t related to me can step into bookstores and buy FIRSTS.

(I’m still working on wrapping my brain around that.)

Some things change but look remarkably the same.

Some things change but look remarkably the same.

I like to think that I’ve accomplished some pretty cool things in my life, but nothing else I’ve done has been close to this important to me. Being an author is something I’ve thought about since I was a kid, something that has seemed both close enough to touch and so completely far out of reach over the years. Even when I wasn’t writing, even when I was busy doing other things and chasing other dreams, writing never left me. Getting published was at once my most farfetched goal, the one ambition simmering just beneath my skin, the something pressing against my brain, never letting me forget about it. Writing has always been my second pulse.

I used to be scared to call myself a writer. Until a year ago, most of my friends and family members didn’t even know I wrote. I spent a good chunk of two years working away in secret on my lunch break at work and at home, snuggled on my couch with my dog. I had notebooks full of my nearly indecipherable handwriting and a computer filled with Word documents, and I had no idea if any of it was worth my time.

Today holds even more significance for me than being one month from publication. It’s the anniversary of the day I sent my first-ever query letter, for a New Adult contemporary book, on December 5, 2012. That realization made me think about what I’d tell that version of me, the one from three years ago, the one psyching herself up to hit “send.” This is what I came up with:

Dear Three-Years-Ago Laurie:

I know you worked really hard on this book and agents will have to know that, right? They’ll definitely be clamoring to represent you. But here’s a hard truth: They won’t. This book isn’t it. You’ll have to write two more and learn a lot with each one before you get an agent. That third book—the one that pours out of you, the one you don’t plot at all—that’s the one.

But don’t for a second feel like you wasted your time. None of your words have been a waste. Not a single deleted chapter, not a single page of notebook paper or that napkin you scribbled on at the bar at last call. Let me tell you, you’re in for a serious roller coaster the second you hit send. You’re in for a loop of highs and lows that wreak havoc with your emotions. You’ll jump on the couch, Tom Cruise style, and shriek when you get your first full request. You’ll spend a lot of time refreshing your email. (And I hate to break it to you, but you still do.) You’ll feel totally worthless when you enter contests and don’t get picked. You’ll get rejections—lots of them. Each one stings, but you wisely file them in a separate email folder so that you don’t have to see them. You make decisions and learn how to trust your gut, because it’s your compass in this industry.

You feel a little buzz, a jolt of electricity, each time you send a query. But it takes a particular brand of courage to hit “send” for that very first time. It takes a half an hour and a glass of wine. You don’t see it as a huge accomplishment at the time, but it is.

It’s the best thing you’ll ever do. Because you don’t know it yet, but you hitting that “send” button is what a dream coming true looks like.

Love,

Almost-Published You

Oh, and December 5 is also special because it’s my dad’s birthday. Happy birthday, Dad! You’re still my hero and always will be.

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