Hearing Voices

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I’ve been reading a lot of novels lately, more than usual. Part of the reason is me staying away from social media a bit. I comment on issues when I feel I need to, and as a public school teacher, I definitely aired my grievances about Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. But the truth is, other than organizing protests through social media, I don’t think it’s very effective to keep posting these “Hear Me Now” statements. The people who agree with you will “like” your comments and the ones who don’t will unfriend you or mute you, so what’s the point? But it’s hard for me to keep my mouth shut sometimes, so I read.

My question is, when you read, do you hear voices in your head? Please tell me I’m not the only one! I hear voices in my head all the time anyway–of my characters–I’m not totally crazy. Yet. Right? Hearing voices is acceptable when you’re a writer (so I’ve been told). Although when I was writing the final book in my trilogy, 18 THOUGHTS, I did actually lose the argument to my main character, Olga. That was a whole new level of insanity ūüėČ

But I was thinking about this month’s question: how has my experience as a writer changed me as a reader? For sure, it’s helped me appreciate every story a bit more. I know the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into making a book, and what little royalties you get out of it in the end. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the way I hear different voices for the various characters as I’m reading . . . that’s been going on for as long as I can remember.

How about you–what’s your reading experience like? Read any great books lately? So far this year I’ve read:

Smash & Grab by Amy C. Parker

The Devil You Know by Trish Doller

The Surrendered by Case Maynard

Because of the Sun by Jenny Torres Sanchez

Flamecaster by Cinda Williams Chima

The Night We Said Yes by Lauren Gibaldi

To be honest, I’d give all of these books 5 stars! They were wonderful!! Check them out if you’re looking to hear some new voices in your head ūüôā

This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage.

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Carpe Diem!

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. . . One of my favorite quotes that I wrote at the front of my current journal. I’ve been given a lot of author opportunities as of late. There was my presentation about writing at the Lee County Reading Conference.

LCRC 2016

The third annual authors conference that I organized for my middle school, where I teach eighth grade English Language Arts. Here’s me with authors Kyle Prue, Jeff Strand, Liz Coley, Krystal Wade, Wendy Mills, Teshelle Combs, Erica Cameron, and Lisa Colozza Cocca.

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Riverdale High School Literacy Festival. One of my favorite parts is doing the panel in the auditorium with the other authors. This year I got to promote 18 Thoughts!

RHS Lit 2016

A book signing at the largest independent bookstore in my county (check out the amazing book bridge–I want one in my house!). This is me with my editor and friend, Krystal Wade, who also happens to be an amazing author!

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And I have another author event at a middle school this Friday, followed by a visit to a book club who read 18 Things later this month!

I don’t mention this to brag, but to remind all of us how each day it’s up to us to look for new opportunities, and not to just further our careers. Every person I meet is an opportunity to uncover a new story, see a different perspective, discover a new friend.

Each place I go is an opportunity to try a new route, enjoy the scenery along the way, explore the surroundings, create adventure.

Each book, meal, conversation-Each Encounter–is an opportunity.

We’ve each been given our own unique talents and gifts to share with the world. Nothing makes me happier than shining my light and helping others to do the same. You never know what tomorrow may bring, so CARPE DIEM!!

~How have you seized the day lately?

This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

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What YA Authors Can Teach Us About Writing

This past weekend my teenage daughter and I made our second pilgrimage to GeekyCon in Orlando for their YA Lit Track. Some of the authors we listened to were Veronica Roth, Maureen Johnson, Leigh Bardugo, Jenny Han, Marie Lu, Tahereh Mafi, Stephanie Perkins, Jason Reynolds, Ransom Riggs, Adam Silvera, Holly Black, Courtney Summers, Robin Wasserman, and Sabaa Tahir!!

GeekyCon

Today I’ll share some notes I took during the panels. I tried to give some order to my convulted thoughts, but I’m going through Con withdrawals,¬†so bear with me.

Page Is A Mirror: Authors talked about stories that inspired them, and in some cases changed the way they saw themselves and the act of writing. They addressed the power of representation, how we see or fail to see ourselves reflected on the page, and what we want from YA moving forward.

Some Notes:

A lot of books portray diverse characters, but that’s the whole storyline & not just a person who is going through something¬†who happens to be Asian, Puerto Rican¬†….

Jason Reynolds said he was looking for a character in books that did fit all his cultural codes but couldn’t find it. He found it in music and movies instead.
Authors also discussed if they¬†feel the pressure to write about¬†their own¬†“group” . . . Impossible to portray everyone in the culture, & we¬†have to swallow readers expectations or it becomes a different book, but we also have to¬†remain sensitive. We want to write what we want to write but feel a responsibility to reach out. For instance, there’s enough images of poor, scary black teenagers, so it’s important to change that. Another stereotype is Pakistan being considered as part of the Middle East and people there speaking Arabic when it’s really part of South Asia and the official language is English. We can learn a lot from another culture who isn’t our own &¬†it’s important to have these discussions so we do learn. There is a call for white authors to make their books more diverse but important to understand the culture so it’s absorbed into the story & it feels organic. It’s hard because there’s this Internet Witch Hunt whenever an author gets something wrong & people calling them out with a vengeance (used Mosquito Land by David Arnold as an example)… But you can’t write colorblind because our country isn’t colorblind so if we do, it feels cheap.

Let’s Make Out & Explode: The Art of Creating Love and Fight Scenes

Notes on Love Scenes: It’s hard sometimes when writing romantic scenes to distinguish between what’s real & what’s wish fulfillment … and then sometimes we include things in books that did happen in real life, but it ends up sounding psycho on the page.¬†Other times, it sounds so cheesy you think it’ll never stick but readers eat it up. Think of¬†‘And so the lion fell in¬†love with the lamb’ line in Twilight¬†or¬†Okay? Okay. in TFIOS & how it became so romantic. The simmer became a beautiful boil.

Keep in mind when writing YA, it’s going to be awkward for a teens first time.¬†Certain body part words are jarring in YA so be mindful of that. Make sure you include the other person in the scene too & what’s going on with them- not just the POV main character.¬†Scenes need strong emotional core readers can relate to & characters who can learn from their mistakes, except learning a lot faster so our readers can learn from them in return. Ambiguity isn’t really rewarded in YA. As kids we want the happily ever after, but many of the panel authors also feel obligated to not have full closure¬†in their books because¬†that’s not life, and it’s also comforting to know others aren’t certain either. Always keep in mind, what’s the end result you want from a scene?

Notes on Fight Scenes:¬†It doesn’t matter if we blowup the building¬†if we¬†don’t care about the people inside. Think of Wes Craven Scream & how every single character in a scene has good lines &¬†you want all of¬†them to live. Think of It by Stephen¬†King &¬†caring so much¬†about the kids. For fights, you’ll most likely be¬†writing scenes you’ve never experienced, so do a lot of research. Yes, there’s Google, but also¬†talk to people- they’re usually very eager to talk about their jobs, lives, etc… Be willing to accept help.

Funny side note, when Veronica Roth (author of Divergent series) was asked about her weapon of choice, she answered wasp spray. Check out an article here about using it for self-defense. Turns out, it was a pretty good answer!

Plot Hospital: Holly Black and Leigh Bardugo helped diagnose problems in people’s manuscripts.

Some notes:
*Think about what the character wants vs. what they need.
*Think from a readers POV & what they want to happen from the end & would be disappointed if it wasn’t there.
*The hardest thing about writing is being at the crossroads & making a decision about where to go.
*Retelling an old¬†story like a fairy tale¬†& stealing the structure is a great idea if you’re struggling with plot.
*Have to know who your main antagonist is and think, what makes a villain a villain? Read MG story The School of Good & Evil for a good example or watch Orphan Black- that show doesn’t save plot; twists that you think will take multiple shows to resolve takes 20 minutes. They are very brave in their storytelling.

There was lots more, but I’ll save it for another day as this post is getting quite long. Incidentally, my only motivation in life after leaving this Con the past two years is to be successful enough as an author to get invited to a GeekyCon panel! Did you hear that Maureen Johnson? That’s the sound of me coming after you *growls, throws pokeball, and utilizes death stare*

This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month!

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No Worries??? I Wish!!!

Recently we moved into a new house. We sorted through nine years of accumulated stuff, and it felt gratifying to finally throw out a lot of unnecessary junk.

It’s a good analogy for our emotions, too. Many of us have a habit of holding onto feelings we should’ve let go a long time ago. Too frequently, we allow the words of others and the discouragements of life to build up in our hearts and minds.

I’m struggling with this as I prepare for the release of the last book in my trilogy, 18 Thoughts, later this month (January 27th!!).

When I released my first book, 18 Things, I donated all of my opening¬†day sales to charity, but I didn‚Äôt tell anyone at the time. Then last year when I released the sequel, 18 Truths, the only reason I announced it was to promote the charity I was donating to¬†this time around¬†(Mitochondrial Foundation) and help out the sales of a 9-yr-old girl who had written a book that was benefitting the same charity (her book released the same day‚Äďit was planned that way). Half of my sales were going to the charity and the other half was going to the media center at the middle school where I teach English Language Arts. Then all of a sudden, I had people calling me out, saying it wasn‚Äôt right for me to ‚Äėguilt‚Äô them into buying my book because of the charity aspect. That never even crossed my mind. And honestly, I think a person has to be pretty broken if that‚Äôs their first thought about why I must be doing something to give back to my community and promote literacy with adolescents. But ya know what? It still broke me. I was crying in my bathroom for days. I had serious doubts about finishing the trilogy. But then I went to two book festivals shortly after and had long lines of teens telling me how my novels changed their lives . . . even saved some of them.

Here’s the thing. We can’t wait nine years to clear out the crap we’ve been holding onto. If we don’t rid ourselves of emotional baggage on a daily basis, we’ll get so bogged down, we’ll barely be able to move.

Olga’s story (my heroine in my series) has been all about faith.

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Walking in faith can be a difficult road. For whatever reason, it’s easier to remember the hurtful things of the past and start worrying about the future (at least for me). Author Ed Foreman says worry is “nothing less than the misuse of your imagination.” My 2015 wish for all of us is that we’ll doubt, worry, and fear less, and free up that space in our heads for our stories instead.

This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. We post our thoughts the first Wednesday of every month. Feel free to join us, or just add your own thoughts in the comment section below.

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Happy*New*Year’s*Eve*Treat!!!

Ten hours until 2015 and counting!! And I have 2 things to celebrate.

#1: My publisher, Curiosity Quills Press, is hosting a side-wide sale from January 1-3, with a whopping EIGHTY-SEVEN! titles discounted to just 99 cents! 18 Things is included in this sale, the first book in My So-Called Afterlife Trilogy. And with the last book, 18 Thoughts, releasing on January 27th, NOW is the perfect time to purchase and read if you haven’t already done so (I know some of you stubborn readers wait until a trilogy is completed before reading).

CQ sale

Which leads me to #2 . . . the trailer for 18 Thoughts is here! Check it out and let me know what you think. I made it myself, and I mainly use it for my school visits.

 

See you next Wednesday for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group post! Until then, I’ll be wearing my party hat because 2015 is going to be the B*E*S*T year yet!

Listening to Your Intuition

In the beginning of July,¬†I received an email from a fan named Kerri. Immediately, I thought of my childhood best friend with the same name, even spelled the same way! I knew it wasn’t the same girl I once counted as a sister, but my heart began pounding out of my chest, and I didn’t ‘think’ . . . maybe I need to find her today? I KNEW! Granted, I’d tried many times to search for her online but to no avail. I hadn’t had any contact with her since I married in 1998. Her last name was different. I had no idea where she lived. Make a¬†looong story short, I paid one of those stalker sites a dollar that EVENTUALLY led me to finding my long-lost friend that day. Her mom, who might as well have been my mom from fourth to eighth grade, died the day before, too young at the age of 57. Was the immediacy I felt at the need to find her THAT particular day a coincidence?

Kerri and I reunited at her mom's memorial

Kerri and I reunited at her mom’s memorial

So what does this have to with writing?

On July 23rd, I received an email with my first round of edits for the last novel in my 18 Things trilogy. She had this to say about my ending:

“Then the epilogue happens. I’ve never been so angry and confused and bipolar in my emotions as what this ending gave to me. NOT in a good way. I edited this AS I READ IT for the first time. That was my immediate, instinctual reaction. If this were a finished, completed MS that I’d picked up and were reading to review for enjoyment, the rating/review would not be positive.”

krystal and me

My editor and me at the UtopYA2014 conference ‚̧

*deep breaths*

Between a family drama and health problems, I had to let this one simmer a couple of weeks because I wasn’t sure how to respond. But when I finally returned to her comments, I realized she was right. Sometimes the gruffest¬†critiques can be the best. They make you evaluate what YOU really want as an author and go from there (a wise CP reminded me of that). And I realized the ending I, THE AUTHOR, wanted all along, wasn’t the¬†right one¬†. . .¬†neither was¬†the one my editor hoped for. Like my first two books, it may be an ending that hardly anyone expects. I know I didn’t!

But like my 14yo daughter said, “Well, Mom, you pulled total surprise endings in your first two books . . . don’t you think it’s only fitting your characters do the same thing to you for the final book?”

Still, I was flipping out . . . BUT THIS WASN’T WHAT I PLANNED?! WHAT DO I DO?!?! I should note that I never ‘planned’ to write an epilogue either. My characters had already surprised me with an extra I didn’t expect. But this time around,¬†I was leaning toward cutting the¬†epilogue completely, and the final chapter was one I hadn’t thought of until mulling things over after my editor’s email.

I was at a crossroads. And like so many other times in life, I followed my intuition. Never would I have ‘planned’ my ending this way, but I know . . . not think, not hope, not pray . . . I KNOW it’s the right one. Funny thing was, when I went back and examined some things in 18 Truths, it’s like my subconscious knew this ending was coming all along. Just took me a while to catch on!

Do you find yourself immediately listening to that little voice nudging inside of you, or does it take a few wrong tries before you realize your intuition was somehow right all along?

This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh. We post the first Wednesday of every month, so feel free to join us if you need support or would like to give some encouragement! We’ve been going for three years strong now!

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