Tag Archive: sixteen to read

2016: The Debut Year

I think I filled my quota of Firsts puns long ago, but… this really was a year of many firsts! So I keep saying it anyway, because the firsts kept coming as the months went on. My first book came out. I got to travel to other cities to promote it. I spoke on panels and attended conferences. I met my critique partner, fellow authors, one of my lovely publicists, and my amazing editor. I had a launch party. I signed more books than I can count. I cheered for my fellow debut authors and read as many of their books as I could. I got to see my book on shelves, was able to call myself a published author. Family and friends bought my book. I heard from so many readers who told me Firsts had an impact on them.

But now that the year is almost over, I’m realizing 2016 was also a year of lasts. It’s the last time I’ll ever get to call myself a debut author, which is bittersweet, because I have had such an unforgettable time being a Sweet Sixteen and Sixteen to Read, and part of the debut community. At the same time, I’m so excited to move forward into what 2017 has in store… I happen to know some very exciting and wonderful things are on the horizon!

I don’t know what word I would use to describe 2016, if I had to sum it up in one word. (I’m an author… there are too many perfect words!) Thrilling. Intense. Full. Busy. Fun. Looking back, the year feels both extra long and super short– like it wasn’t that long ago I was celebrating my book birthday with flowers and champagne, but at the same time, that I have come so far and learned so much since that day. I feel like I’m able to put things in perspective more now than I ever was in the past. I learned from my mistakes, figured out what was working, and was able to achieve balance. I had my moments of stress and anxiety, but took away important lessons from the tough times.

Most importantly of all, I realized what keeps me happy and sustained, after the debut hype started to fade. And that was writing”The End” on three new books.(I amend my earlier statement. “The End” are the most beautiful words in an author’s vocabulary!) That’s what I’m taking into 2017, more than anything else. The knowledge that working on the new thing, the next thing, anything, is what keeps me happy and inspired. Because my heart and soul is being a writer, and that means writing.

I’m so very excited to ring in the new year and so ready for everything that comes with it. Happy New Year, everyone!

A Halloween giveaway spectacular!

Halloween is just around the corner… and what’s even better than candy? How about winning $220 to spend on books? My Sixteen To Read sis Jennifer Bardsley has teamed up with nine authors to stir up a pretty sweet giveaway. In the cauldron is a $220 USD e-gift card to spend on Amazon.

Abby isn't what you'd call an avid Halloween fan...

Abby isn’t what you’d call an avid Halloween fan…

Click on the Rafflecopter giveawayhttp://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/bc26dd6f9/ to enter!

Want to find out more about the awesome authors involved with this giveaway? You can learn about each author at her website!

Amy Allgeyer http://www.amyallgeyer.com/
Jennifer Bardsley http://jenniferbardsley.net/
Jennifer DeGiovanni http://jenniferdigiovanni.com/
Laurie Elizabeth Flynn http://www.laurieelizabethflynn.com/
Donna Galanti http://www.donnagalanti.com/
Shaila Patel http://www.shailapatelauthor.com/
Caroline T. Patti http://carolinetpatti.com/
Meghan Rogers http://meghanrogersbooks.com/
Liza Wiemer http://lizawiemer.com/

Spotlight on Sixteens: Fear The Drowning Deep

I have known the talented Sarah Glenn Marsh since our days of being querying authors. We shared tales of the query trenches and dreams of becoming published authors, so it’s pretty awesome that we both have 2016 debuts! Sarah’s debut, Fear The Drowning Deep, is out tomorrow, so if you like stories filled with magic, love, and sea monsters (who doesn’t?), head to the bookstore as soon as you can!

What an incredibly unique, sumptuous, and vivid debut novel. Set in the Isle of Mann in 1913, Fear The Drowning Deep is the story of a girl named Bridey who is terrified of the ocean– for good reason. When she was a child, she watched the sea claim her granddad, and she has steered clear of it ever since. But when a dead girl washes up on shore, followed by a badly wounded but beautiful boy with no memory, Bridey realizes she can’t avoid what is lurking in the ocean depths–especially when more girls go missing. With the help of Morag, the town outcast (who many fear is a witch), Bridey devotes herself to learning about the monsters feeding on the town girls and protecting her family at all costs. She’s also falling in love- although Fynn, the boy she found on the beach, has his own secrets.

Sarah Glenn Marsh is a beautiful writer. Her use of language is poetic but fierce, lovely but cutting. Reading her prose transported to a part of the world I have never visited and a time I never lived, but the power of the words made me feel like I was immersed right in the thick of the action. That’s writing magic.

Fear The Drowning Deep is a lot of things. It’s a love story and a mystery, weaving folklore and feelings and family ties. It’s about monsters, and how fear itself is sometimes the most intimidating monster of all.

Add Fear The Drowning Deep to your reading list!

Preorder your own copy!

Find out more about Sarah Glenn Marsh and her writing here.

Spotlight on Sixteens: Gemini

I was gripped the instant I heard the premise for this book. As someone with a sister, I know how difficult it is to put words to the special bond siblings share when they’re incredibly close. I’m talking emotional closeness, mental closeness, the kind where you can practically read each other’s minds and show up to an event dressed the same by accident. But in Gemini, Sonya Mukherjee tackles all of this and so much more. Because the main characters in her book, Hailey and Clara, aren’t just sisters—they’re twins, and they’re conjoined at the base of their spinal columns.

Hailey and Clara are in their senior year of high school in tiny Bear Pass, where they don’t have to endure too many stares because everyone knows them. Their parents expect them to attend Sutter College nearby, the same school at which both parents teach, for more reasons than free tuition. The adjustment from high school to college will be hard enough for the girls to handle—the idea of going elsewhere is out of the question.

Or so everybody thinks. Even Hailey and Clara think this, at the beginning of the story. They have managed to live without much scrutiny or ridicule, and they have friends who care about them. But is that really the definition of living, or are they closing doors on opportunities because people think they can’t thrive outside of their small town?

Despite the fact that they’re conjoined, Hailey and Clara are wildly different. Hailey is an artist who dreams of learning at a real art school and traveling the world, savoring new experiences. Clara’s dreams are, in a way, even bigger—an astronomy buff, she knows just about everything about the stars and planets and doesn’t as much want to travel everywhere as travel somewhere the most distant and unattainable of all—outer space, where she could see what Earth looks like.

I found the dichotomy between the sisters to be so powerful, and the exploration of limitations here—both physical and emotional—is brilliant and insightful. Hailey and Clara have to figure out how much of what they’re not doing is because they can’t, and how much is because they haven’t yet found a way to make it happen. Are they limiting each other, or can they find a way to work together and forge a new path? At times, Hailey and Clara think of dreams as a dangerous thing, because they’ll only lead to inevitable disappointment. But dreams are also what ignites a whole realm of excitement and possibility within each girl. Dreams give strength, which comes in different sizes. Strength to ask a boy to the dance. Strength to consider other schools and other life experiences. Dancing. Kissing. Living in dorm rooms.

Clara wants to know what Earth looks like from another planet. She wants a new perspective. In this book, told in alternating POVs, we get two unique perspectives, and two new voices in Young Adult literature that are bound to imprint on readers.

Sonya Mukherjee’s writing is insanely beautiful and profound. She raises so many questions in such a sensitive, nuanced way. This is, unquestionably, a story that the world needs, and I’m so happy that it will be in the world as of July 26!

Add Gemini to Goodreads and preorder a copy!

Find out more about Sonya Mukherjee at her website.

Six months later

Today is July 5. Which means Firsts has officially been out in the world for six months. I can’t even begin to thank everyone who has bought the book, requested it at their local library, wrote a review, or reached out to me to let me know what the story meant to them. My experience as a debut author has been beyond anything I could have hoped for, and I’m extremely grateful.

English and Spanish editions meet!

I recently started thinking about where I was two, three, four years ago. Two years ago, Firsts was on submission, and I was probably checking my email for the two hundredth time of the day, hoping for good news but steeling myself for bad. Three years ago, Firsts didn’t yet exist, and I thought maybe I sucked at this whole writing thing. Four years ago, I was finishing my first “real” book, a New Adult contemporary. I was too afraid to tell anyone outside of my boyfriend (now husband) and immediate family members that I was even writing a book. I knew there was a very good chance I’d never have a book published and I didn’t want people thinking I was a failure.

So, for two-three-four years ago me, the one who had no idea what to expect, and for anyone else in the same boat, I thought I’d write about some of the things I’ve learned in my first six months as a published author.

You still have worries and insecurities. They’re just different ones now. Before getting published, all I wanted was to get an agent. Then, all I wanted was a book deal. Now that I’m a published author, I want to keep building on that dream and putting books out in the world. There’s always something else you’re striving for, something bigger and brighter, even when your dream comes true. Try not to obsess about whatever that something else may be, and enjoy the stage you’re at.

You still check your email a lot. At least, I do. I remember thinking that if I ever got an agent and got out of the query trenches, I wouldn’t be such an email addict. Then submission happened. Then a book deal happened. I consistently check my email, respond to emails, and send new ones– in fact, far more so than ever before. But the familiar ding of a new email coming in hasn’t become any less exciting!

Social media is important, but it’s not everything. I stressed out about social media– was I active enough? Was I tweeting about the right things? Was having a blog worth my time? Should I get Tumblr? And honestly, the answers are different for each writer. My thought is, be active on social media when you can and when it feels authentic for you, and use it to engage with readers, librarians, bloggers, authors, and other people in the bookish community. If you hate the idea of one particular platform, don’t make yourself be on it, because you’ll just resent the time spent there. If you don’t want to blog, don’t force yourself to think up post ideas. I love being on Twitter and Instagram, and I really enjoy blogging, so I focus on those areas. I’m finally in a place where I feel comfortable with social media– where it’s fun again instead of being stressful, and where I can not check my feeds for a few days and be okay with it. Know that if you’re absent from the social media world for days, weeks, even months– people will understand. Hell, they might not even notice, because they’re stressed out about the same things.

Promotion doesn’t have to break the bank. Promotion is another thing that varies wildly from author to author. Some writers go on book tours and seem to be in a different city every other day. Some do lots of school visits. Some have snazzy book trailers. Some send bookmarks and postcards to libraries. Some have really cool swag. Some do amazing giveaways. Some do all of the above, and others do none. Do what you can to promote your book, but don’t make yourself miserable over it. For Firsts, some of the most fun I had was writing a series of short stories from the perspectives of the guys Mercedes hooks up with. (You can read the series here!) I shared the stories on Wattpad, where they have now surpassed 190,000 views. I also did giveaways– some of which were successful, others not so much. Get creative: if you want to try something outside the box, go for it!

Read your reviews at your own risk. I quickly learned that Goodreads wasn’t going to be a good place for me to hang out. I love going on there to review books, but I only had to read a couple of negative reviews for Firsts to feel pretty discouraged. That’s different for everyone– some authors love to read all their reviews. After all, we do have to have a thick skin in this industry. But we’re also sensitive and full of neuroses– that’s how we create something out of nothing. I respect all reviews and certainly understand that not everyone will like my writing. At the same time, I don’t need to actively seek out something that might make me feel a little bit less like writing that day.

You can’t control anything but your own words. And once you accept that, it’s a huge relief. There are so many aspects of this business that are beyond our scope of control, but if you focus on your words, your head (and heart) will always be in the right place.

Comparison really is the thief of joy. Being a debut author is an incredibly exciting time, but it’s full of ebbs and flows. One week, you might get lots of great news, then face down a few interminable weeks of radio silence. My advice is to not live in a perpetual state of expectation, and don’t compare yourself to someone else’s news. You’re not competing with your fellow authors. There’s room on the shelf for everyone, so go shout all the happy news and spread the love!

Fellow debut authors are the best people ever. I’m so incredibly grateful to have gotten to know so many other debut authors– online, in person, and in some lucky cases, both. It’s such a positive, encouraging support network of people who understand exactly what you’re going through.Getting to read their debuts has inspired me endlessly, and I look forward to remaining friends and cheering for each other as our careers go forward.

Seeing your book on a shelf is the coolest thing ever. It really is, and it never gets old.

Hearing that your family/friends/coworkers/strangers have read it is surreal/awesome/terrifying. But mostly just awesome.

Hearing from readers who loved your book will mean the world. Seriously, there’s no feeling like this. When a reader reaches out to me and lets me know Firsts made an impact, my day is made. This is why I write what I write.

Writing doesn’t get any easier. If there’s a magic formula for writing a book, I sure haven’t stumbled upon it. If anything, the writing got tougher after my book deal, perhaps because I felt a sense of expectation that wasn’t there before. Worries like, is this right for my brand? Will my agent like it? Will my readers like it? chiseled themselves into my brain and stuck there like banners. Everything I have written since Firsts has challenged me in new ways… and made me question whether or not I have any clue what I’m doing. (My critique partner can attest to this… I’m pretty sure I’ve sent her some panicky emails along the lines of, “I forget how to write a book!”)

Writing the next thing trumps all. This is what it all comes back to. That’s how you grow, and learn from mistakes, and keep getting better as an artist.

So, those are some of the things I’ve learned over the past six months as a published author. Looking forward to the next six months, and the six months after that, because I really am living my dream, and I know how lucky I am to be able to say that!

Spotlight on Sixteens: Genesis Girl

Genesis Girl by my Sixteen to Read sister Jennifer Bardsley is such an original, thought-provoking book. It’ll hit bookstores everywhere June 14, but you can read about it here first!

Some days, I feel kind of horrified by the influence technology holds over my life. I’m joined at the hip with my phone. My fingers are glued to my tablet. My iPod is on full blast. So I was immediately intrigued by the premise for Genesis Girl, which is set in a future where the aftermath of a brain cancer epidemic brought on by cell phones scared parents though to entrust their children to a leader who would keep them safe and technology-free. These children would grow up to be Vestals, and would have no Internet footprint. This makes them extremely valuable. Companies want them to advertise their products, knowing there is no chance that a Vestal could have a sordid backstory traceable online.

The main character in Genesis Girl is Blanca, a Vestal who is auctioned off to the highest bidder. Except instead of being on billboards and magazine covers selling soap, Blanca’s buyer, Cal, has a different idea. He wants her to act as his daughter, and help him gain a relationship with his estranged son, Seth, who is the total opposite of Blanca—technology-addicted and the operator of an online blog intent on exposing Vestals. But even though she’s fundamentally opposed to everything he stands for, Blanca finds herself falling for Seth, although she’d never admit it. When she starts to learn more about the Vestal leader and the secrets of her past are brought to the surface, Blanca must tap into the courage to do what she’s never been able to—think for herself, and make her own decisions.

Fast-paced and action-packed, this was a book I had a hard time putting down. I desperately wanted Blanca to claim the life Cal wants her to have, complete with freedom and the ability to do the things she wants to do. As a main character, she’s very intriguing—because of how she was raised, she has no idea what she wants in life or how to achieve it. Her journey to find herself is, for me, the most fascinating part of the story.

I love how completely original the concept of the story is. Jennifer Bardsley has envisioned a future wherein technology isn’t just at one’s fingertips, but in them, in the form of finger-chips. Blanca is disgusted with how dependent people are on technology. Having never been online, she’s at the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s a commentary on our society today– how sometimes, it’s almost impossible to disconnect from our devices.

A thought-provoking, imaginative, and totally unique story—I’m looking forward to the sequel!

You can add Genesis Girl to your Goodreads bookshelf and preorder a copy!

Visit Jennifer Bardsley’s website to learn more about her!

Spotlight on Sixteens: How It Ends

How It Ends is one of my favorite debuts of 2016, and it just so happens that Catherine Lo is one of the sweetest and most thoughtful writers (and she’s a Canadian gal, too!). Getting to know her and her writing has been a highlight of my debut year! Her book comes out on June 7, but for now, here’s my rave review!

Confession: I was totally awkward in high school. I never felt comfortable in my own skin. I focused on track practice and schoolwork and most of all, friendships. As a teen girl, my friendships were everything to me. But since my best friend went to a different high school, I was kind of a loner.

And as someone who felt painfully uncool basically a hundred per cent of the time, I still remember the heady feeling when someone I thought was way out of my popularity league talked to me. So when I first read the blurb for How It Ends, I knew I could relate to Jessie completely—how when Annie, the cool new girl, first talks to her, she feels like Annie must be talking to someone else. I’ve been out of high school for years now, but that one line brought me right back.

Reading about the evolution of Jessie and Annie’s friendship was so visceral and real. Catherine Lo intertwines their vastly different personalities so beautifully and shows how they complement each other and make each other stronger. I loved the use of dual POV here, because with a story like this—a story so intricate and brimming with so many emotions—getting inside both girls’ heads was really important.

But while Jessie and Annie complement each other, they achieve the level of closeness that only comes with a lot of trust that the other person won’t hurt you. Trust, which is precious and fragile, and can be chipped away at in bits or torn apart completely.

It was fascinating to me to see Jessie and Annie interpret people’s words and actions in such different ways. There were times when Jessie didn’t understand Annie and Annie didn’t understand Jessie, and you just want to hug them and tell them to talk it out and make up, since that’s what best friends do. But they’re teenage girls, and it’s not that easy. When the secret Jessie is keeping from Annie gets out and Annie lets Jessie in on what she’s hiding, you just know those secrets aren’t going to stay contained— I was literally holding my breath waiting for the fallout.

I saw parts of my teenage self in both Jessie and Annie. I was insecure and lonely, but I was also bold and stubborn. I was both a leader and a follower. I made good choices and bad ones. It’s impossible to put labels on girls, because the second you slap us with one label, our instinct is to slither out of it and become someone else. I loved that Jessie and Annie had so many facets to their personalities. They felt like real people. They felt like parts of me from years ago. And a book that does that— a book that makes you see yourself in the characters, that makes you think what you would have done in their situations, or what you would have done differently— well, that’s not just a book anymore. It’s an experience. This one will hurt your heart and make you think long after the last page.

Add How It Ends to Goodreads and preorder your own copy!

Check out Catherine Lo’s website to learn more about her!

Spotlight on Sixteens: In The Shadow Of The Dragon King

When I was a teenager, I was full-on obsessed with The Lord of the Rings. I had practically memorized the maps of Middle Earth and imagined how cool it would be to escape my life and go on a quest with the characters. (I also had a huge crush on Aragorn, but that’s beside the point…)

Anyway, reading Tolkien spurred my love of dragons and fantasy. I have massive amounts of respect for any writer who can create a fantasy world out of nothing and make it feel real, as real as the world in which we live. J. Keller Ford proves that she is such a writer in the first book in her Chronicles of Falhallow series, out May 31 with Month 9 Books!

In The Shadow Of The Dragon King is a riveting read. It’s rich with details and has an ethereal quality that’s hard to describe, but as I was reading, I felt like I could escape into the words and be in the world Ford created. The main characters, Eric and David, feel so genuine and authentic. Eric lives in the enchanted realm of Falhallow, while David lives in the modern world—until he finds himself called to Falhallow. Further complicating the plot is David’s best friend, Charlotte, who he has more than friendly feelings for. To destroy the dragon, Eric and David have to learn to work together and trust each other, which is a bit more difficult in reality than it sounds in theory.

I’m so excited for teens to discover this book and fall in love with it like I did with fantasy when I was a teenager. In The Shadow Of The Dragon King is a story with a timeless, classic feel, and I’m looking forward to the next installment in the series!

Add In The Shadow Of The Dragon King to Goodreads and preorder a copy!

Check out J. Keller Ford’s website here.

Spotlight on Sixteens: Summer of Supernovas

Some books are so vivid and lifelike that they practically sparkle… well, Summer of Supernovas, out May 10, is one of those books!

People put their faith in a lot of things. Science, religion, music, friendship, love. Wilamena Carlisle puts her faith in the stars. But when Wil fears that her Fifth House—the house of relationships and love—is doomed, she’s on a mission to find her perfect astrological match before time runs out. Problem is, she falls for two brothers—one whom the charts deem right, and the other who couldn’t be more wrong. And Wil made a promise to honor her mother’s legacy, so she’s not taking any chances with cosmically doomed love.

On the subject of love… quite simply, I fell in love with this book. I know people often say how they couldn’t put a book down, but Summer of Supernovas was literally glued to my fingertips. One page—more like one line—of Wil’s voice had me completely starry-eyed. It’s quirky, unique, hilarious, and so insightful, all rolled into one unforgettable character. I wanted Wil to burst from the pages and become my BFF. Thanks to Darcy’s exquisite writing style, it often did feel like Wil was about to jump from the pages, vintage dresses and all.

This story is everything. It’s humor and heart and risks and disappointment and self-discovery. It’s fear and chance and comedy and tragedy and regret and forgiveness. Most of all, though, it’s about different kinds of love. Family love and friend love and romantic love. I adored Wil’s relationship with her Gram, who raised her after her mother died. And Wil’s dueling feelings for Grant and Seth, the brothers at opposite ends of the astrological spectrum, left me breathless and at the edge of my seat.

Wil ties her fate to the stars, and puts her faith in everything they offer. No matter how much or little a reader can relate to that, we can all relate to putting our faith, our hopes and dreams, in something another person might not understand. For this reason, I think Wil’s words are going to feel like a warm hug for all readers. She’s a heroine who is trying to do the right thing and honor her mother’s wishes and also make her own heart happy in the process.

There’s a line somewhere in this book that I love so much I wrote it down after reluctantly turning the last page: “Because it isn’t the stars keeping us together, it’s… love. And it always will be.” Whether you believe in destiny or not—if you read your horoscope religiously or couldn’t care less about signs—this is the kind of cosmic beauty immersed in every page of Summer of Supernovas. A book like this—a book this funny, heartwarming, and completely one-of-a-kind unique—comes around about as often as a supernova. Don’t miss out!

Add Summer of Supernovas to Goodreads and preorder a copy!

Check out Darcy Woods’s website for more sparkle and swoon!

April, briefly

April was definitely a whirlwind of a month, and my routine got derailed by a lot of fun non-writing stuff! My sister’s bridal shower happened halfway into the month (I’m her matron of honor), followed by a trip to Las Vegas for her bachelorette party. The mini-vacation was a blast– full of great weather, delicious food and drinks, and good friends– and proved to be just the getaway I needed to feel rejuvenated and ready to tackle anything.

This month, I have been…

Working on: I finished a second draft of the YA contemporary project that has been consuming most of my time (I wrote about it earlier this month here). Since it’s about sisters, it was quite serendipitous to finish on National Siblings Day. I wasn’t sure what to work on when I was done… I have a first draft of another project that I’m itching to start revising, plus another couple brand new ideas kicking around in my brain. Then all of a sudden, a different idea appeared out of nowhere and it’s all I could think about. (The last time that kind of urgency happened, Firsts happened). Sometimes that’s what being an author is all about– not just following but trusting your instincts.

Reading: I started the month with In The Shadow of the Dragon King by my Sixteen to Read sister J. Keller Ford. It’s a really awesome fantasy featuring dragons and time travel. Next, I read Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke, which was twisty and magnetic and lush and everything I love in a book. While in Vegas, I finished Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler (I heart everything Dahlia writes), and 99 Days by Katie Cotugno, which dealt with slut-shaming and guilt and really resonated with me. I ended the month with Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow, which was one of my most anticipated 2016 reads. I can say beyond a doubt that it’s one of the most beautifully written, moving, meaningful books I’ve ever read.

Watching: I was finally able to watch The Revenant, which I’ve been excited about for a long time. (Although, to be honest, I’m excited about anything Leonardo DiCaprio does!) I can definitely see why he won an Oscar for this one. It’s a raw, powerful performance in a brutal but beautiful movie.

Now that the warmer weather seems poised to stay (touch wood, because in Canada, you never know), I’m looking forward to a relaxing but productive May that hopefully involves some deck writing!

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