Thursday, April 24, 2014

BOOKANISTAS: Breakfast Served Anytime

A coming-of-age debut evokes the bittersweet joys and pangs of finding independence in one unforgettable summer away at "geek camp." 

When Gloria sets out to spend the summer before her senior year at a camp for gifted and talented students, she doesn’t know quite what to expect. Fresh from the heartache of losing her grandmother and missing her best friend, Gloria resolves to make the best of her new circumstances. But some things are proving to be more challenging than she expected. Like the series of mysterious clues left by a certain Professor X before he even shows up to teach his class, Secrets of the Written Word. Or the very sweet, but very conservative, roommate whose coal-industry family champions mountaintop removal. Not to mention the obnoxious Mason, who dresses like the Mad Hatter and immediately gets on Gloria’s nerves — but somehow won’t escape her thoughts. Beautifully told by debut author Sarah Combs, this honest and touching story of growing up is imbued with the serene atmosphere of Kentucky’s natural landscape.

This is one of those quiet books that might not seem like much when you read the plot blurb. It's not "high concept", the fate of the world isn't at stake, in fact, you might glance at this book, think, "hm, this sounds good" and then keep moving on to something shinier or fancier looking. 

That would be a huge mistake. 

The writing in this book, you guys. OMG the writing. This is one of those books that made me want to be a better writer. It's one of those books that made me stop and linger over beautiful sentence after beautiful sentence. This is a book you savor. This is a book that touches your heart. 

The characters are complex, which is one of my favorite things in a book. No one in this book is what he or she seems...they all contain multitudes. And growing with Gloria as she makes this discovery about herself and the people she meets at Geek Camp is truly a wonderful journey. 

I can't wait to see what comes in the future from Sarah Combs. This is a debut author to watch...I know there's going to be more beautiful writing from her in the future, and I can't wait to read it.
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Thursday, April 10, 2014

BOOKANISTAS: Open Road Summer

After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.

I'm sure you guys are expecting a more coherent review of this book than OMG THIS BOOK I LOVE IT SO MUCH! And, honestly, I'll try to give you one. But, seriously, OMG THIS BOOK I LOVE IT SO MUCH! 

I knew I wanted to read this book when I first heard about it because it checks all of my boxes. Romance? Check. Best friends? Check. Travel? Check. Music? Check. So, I expected to like it. Maybe even like it a lot. I had no idea how much I would fall in love with this book, though. It was just so, so perfect. 

Emery Lord's writing is beautiful. I wanted to hug this book when I was done with it (in fact, I actually may have done it) because there are so many beautiful passages and turns of phrase throughout. It's been months since I read the ARC of this book and there is one particular part that I still think about because I love how gorgeously it was worded. The whole book is like that, too. Lovely writing that is totally accessible. It's one you'll want to read again and again. (I know I do!)

I especially loved the friendship in this book. I love a strong friendship between girls on the page, where the two friends love and encourage each other. This book is about the kind of friend you want to have and the kind of friend you want to be - that one-of-a-kind friendship that holds a special place in my heart. My girlfriends have always been so important in my life, so I really love reading books like this one that celebrate that friendship.

The romance in this one is amazing, too. It's a fabulous slow-burn, we can't be together but we totally want to romance between two really well-developed characters that completely sizzles. You'll want to fall in love with these two, and you'll be sad when this book is over. For real. 

I loved everything about this book. So much so that I'm downright evangelical about it. I'm singing the praises of OPEN ROAD SUMMER far and wide. Get a copy of it next week so we can gush about it, and then pass along the recommendation to another contemp lover. I promise, you'll fall in love.
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Thursday, April 3, 2014

What A Difference A Year Makes

It's been just a little over a year since I posted this post.

I typed that up and posted it at one of my lowest points. I was frustrated with my writing and sad about the way things were going for me. I felt like nothing I did was ever going to work out, and I didn't feel like I had a good outlet for all my feels.

That very same day, just a few hours after that post went live, I got the news about PUSH GIRL.

Now, a year later, I'm in awe of how things have turned around so much since that post.

Like, I have blurbs, you guys! I don't think I ever showed you my blurbs! These amazing authors, all of whom I completely admire and think the world of, took the time to read PUSH GIRL and publicly say awesome things about it! All four of these amazing women are writers whose books I love and have spoken highly of just as a reader and a lover of YA books. This blows my mind!

Push Girl’s Kara doesn’t want to be an inspiration, but she (and author Chelsie Hill) are exactly that in this honest, feisty, and painfully real story of one girl's adjustment to life on two wheels.”
—Deb Caletti, National Book Award finalist and author of The Queen of Everything and The Story of Us
"Push Girl is more than a survival story; it's about the power of turning pain and anger into hope and inspiration. Filled with heart and humor, it's an unforgettable, moving read."
—Tamara Ireland Stone, author of Time Between Us
“A compelling journey into Kara’s unforeseen, life-altering event and a revealing look at society’s various reactions to the physically challenged. It’s a story of love, desire and regret, tragedy, loss and triumph, of those who stand with you through the darkness and others who can’t, or simply won’t. We’re with Kara as she struggles to accept her post-accident life and forge new relationships with her friends, family and most importantly, herself. Push Girl is all life-as-normal, until suddenly, irreversibly it isn’t and Kara’s journey to build a new normal is a wrenching but ultimately triumphant one of strength, determination and heart. Go, Kara!”
—Laura Weiss, author of Such a Pretty Girl
Push Girl is a tender, inspirational, and, most of all, important story about courage and adversity and never losing sight of who you are.”
—Jennifer Brown, author of Hate List
A year ago, all I had was a mess of a manuscript that I didn't know what to do with and a lot of frustration and despair. Now, just barely a year later, that mess of a manuscript has found a publishing home, and I have another book, one I never even dreamed of, one that has all those pretty blurbs on it, coming out in exactly TWO MONTHS. (Yes, two months from today. No, I'm not nervous at all. Why do you ask? *bites nails*)
Life is weird, you guys. Things can and will happen that you never, ever expect for yourself. Try not to let the bummer times get you down, and leave yourself open to new opportunities, because you never, ever know what they can turn into. 
I know there are some of you who are at that point I was a year ago, and you've been there for a while. You guys...I know your time is coming. I KNOW IT. Who knows...maybe you'll get your good news today. (Or after you post your most depressing blog post ever.)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How Do You Do It?

I work at a public school, and I'm very lucky that I have a principal who supports my "side job" as an author and is all about encouraging me and pumping me up as much as possible. Now that my secret writing life is out of the bag at work, I have a lot of my fellow teachers asking me how I have the time to basically work two full time jobs. The funny thing is, most of them don't even realize that I'm also working on my MFA, so when I tell them that, they look at me like I have Time Turner or something. They can't even fathom how I can go home after our (very exhausting) work day and then do something else that requires brain power.

But it has gotten me's obviously a Big Deal that I can somehow work full time as a teacher and also write novels when I get home. do I manage it?

Writing is a priority
I've realized as I've gotten older that you have to make time for the things that are important to you. I know it's a bit of a no-brainer, but I really do see people all the time talk about how much they want to be a writer, how much they wish they could do what I do, etc. But then when they have free time, they don't use it to write. If something is important, if you want to make it happen, then use the little time you have to actually do it. If it's something you want to do, DO IT. Otherwise, you're probably more in love with the idea than the actual thing, you know? I get it...the idea of being a writer is a lot easier than actually being a writer. But thinking about it doesn't get books written.

I have a husband, and he does pretty much all of the cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, and dog care
I'm lucky here. I'm married to the cleanest man in America, and even before I started writing seriously he pretty much took over all these tasks because he has to have them all done just so. Fine by me! So when I get home from work, I don't have to prepare a meal or clean anything up, I can just sit down and get to business, which is awesome. He also works from home, so it's easier for him to take care of mundane tasks around the house and dog stuff than it is for me.

I don't have kids
I don't have to give my time or attention to anyone else when I get home from work. (I know people who work full time, and write, AND have kids, and, damn, I am in awe of you people. Seriously.) And, honestly, my husband gets all into his TV and I get all into my writing, and I don't even give him all that much attention. The dogs curl up in my lap, so the only attention I really have to give another living thing when I get home is idle fur stroking while I write.

I do my best to leave work at work
This one is difficult for me, because teaching is one of those jobs that you never really get a break from. But I do my best to take care of all of my lesson planning / grading / emailing while sitting in my classroom, even if it means I need to stay later than I want to. Tied into this, I never write while I'm at work. I focus on work at work and writing at home, and keep those two lines as clear as I can.

I have my own computer, and I'm on it all the time
Having a computer that is 100% mine at all times is really important. If I had to share it with my husband ever...well, that would just never happen.

I don't watch TV
My husband is obsessed with having the TV on from the second he gets up until the second he goes to sleep, so it's always on, but I'm not really invested in very much. I have the occasional show I watch with him, but for the most part, I don't watch anything. I can't write and watch TV at the same time because I want to focus on the show, and since writing is the priority, TV just had to go. I know some people who manage to watch a ton of TV and still get more writing done than me, but I just can't multi-task like that.

Being an adult is hard. I get it. There's so much responsibility, so much to take care of, that it's very difficult to fit everything in. I'm lucky in that my husband takes on a lot of the adult jobs around the house and lets me contribute to our household in other ways. But in the end, it takes sacrifice to get the things you want. I have to say no to things and skip out on things and put things off so I have the time to write because it's that important to me. I don't think anything here is groundbreaking, but it's how things go for me, and it's how I get it all done. I know it may seem crazy to some, but, man, being a parent seems impossible to me. Or being a competitive athlete. Or a lot of things. But if it's important to you, you just DO it...right?

How do you do it? How are you able to fit writing in with your real life?