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Monday, March 31, 2014

My Writing Process

I was tagged by the incredible Ilima K Todd, author of the REMAKE series coming out this fall from Shadow Mountain. You can check out her post here.

What am I working on?

Growing baby number five! Release date: September 20th, 2014 

Yes, folks, this is an announcement--and the reason I'm so absent online right now. 
I am thankfully into my second trimester, so I hope to be writing and maybe even blogging again soon. We'll see.

If I wasn't in preggo H-E-double hockey sticks, I'd be:

*Revising my first draft of VOICES, my 2013 NaNo project, so I can get it out to first readers

*Rewriting (for the millionth time) GUTTER GIRL based on latest beta reads.

*Researching for my super secret project

*Playing with the voice of  twelve-year-old Ruby, from LIFE IS A TONGUE TWISTER

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

All of my books, whether YA or MG have contemporary settings and tons of humor. About half of my books are in the magical realism genre. All my (YA) MC's are athletes. Sports is a huge part of my life, so it's no surprise that it trickles over to my stories. Another way I differ? Don't expect lots of kissing. I'm much more likely to write an awkward scene with an almost kiss, burp, instead of a make-out session. Again, probably because that was my HS life. Plenty of yearning, but enough awkward nervousness to keep me from getting much action. 

Why do I write what I do?

Because I have so much fun answering the question "what if." What if a girl could smell real love? What if a girl started hearing voices when she kissed boys? What if an introverted, stuttering twelve-year-old lost the protection of her mother and had to start speaking for herself? 

How does my writing process work?

One of those "what if" questions knocks me over and doesn't go away. I'm a pantser, so depending on where I am in other projects, sometimes I just jump in and try her out for a test drive--1 or 2K and see if I like what I'm creating. Sometimes, like with VOICES, the story percolates on the back burner for a year and I know more than the beginning and the ending point. These draft up faster and still give me plenty of discovery/surprises along the way. 

Unfortunately I'm an extremely messy first drafter. I word vomit all over the place and have to do a ton of clean up and sometimes complete rewrites before my stories are ready for any eyes. Then it goes out to one or two readers and based on their feedback I revise. That means I do a decent amount of rewriting, flush out parts that need more attention, combine secondary characters, and change my many characters names starting with the letter M. Once the MS goes through enough revisions and betas to be as good as I can get it, I send it to my agent. She sends me feedback and I revise like crazy all over again. 

I'm tagging the lovely Katy White. You can find her post next Monday and learn about her writing process.

Best of luck to everyone doing the A to Z challenge starting tomorrow. I'm using the month as an excuse to not blog, except for my review and giveaway of THE EIGHTH DAY by Dianne K. Salerni (spoiler: it's brilliant and I LOVE the "what if" that inspired the book.)

Monday, March 10, 2014

How do you like my new look?

As a prize for a contest on David P. King's blog, Darren Hansen redesigned my blog. Didn't he do an incredible job? I love the interactive header with it's moving bits and the classic look.

From Darren: By day I'm  a website designer and by night I like to write science fiction and fantasy. I have a special place in my heart for writers and would be happy to help with quick questions about blog design for free.
As for rates on professional work, I would charge about $200 for a professional interactive header like the one I made for you. Non-interactive headers would be much less, like $50. It really depends on the project, but those are good ballpark figures.

His website is found at
You can contact him at
Darren is also the creator of Ink Pageant where writers can share their blog posts with each other and lift each other. Check it out here.

Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to stare at my header some more (and get to work on final edits for my Publication Primer submission for LDStorymakers due today.)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Jolene Perry, THE SUMMER I FOUND YOU, & Research

This beauty released into the world yesterday. Not only is it my favorite cover of 2014, but on of my favorite 2014 reads as well. I was able to get an ARC through NetGalley. You can see my gushing review here. Since reading THE SUMMER I FOUND YOU, I've become a read-everything-Jolene-writes person. She was kind enough to come of the blog for her release week.

Take it away, Jolene:


When I started out writing The Summer I Found You, it was titled Used To Be - a pretty weak title, but it was my jumping off point.

Who did my characters used to be, who were they during the story, and who were they at the end of the story. All very, VERY, different people.

The idea of writing a returned soldier was intriguing, so the book really began with Aidan, but I needed someone who would understand him... And I found Kate.

Suddenly my sweet love story had turned into a mess of ideas involving a one-armed veteran and a girl with diabetes.

I have two arms.
I do not have diabetes.

I needed to research.
I know a LOT of people who went overseas in the military including cousins, my husband, high school friends, and kids I used to babysit. I wasn't starting from scratch--even though it felt like it a lot of the time.
One of my good high school friends learned she was diabetic after passing out in an assembly - that was my beginning point for Kate. I also used a writer friend of mine with diabetes, and she was SO SO helpful. 

But knowing a few people doesn't make enough research for a book.

I learned SO much more than one would ever guess after reading The Summer I Found You, and that's a good thing. Probably 95% of what I read didn't end up in the book in any way that a person would recognize. I think this is a good thing.

I spent hours on The Wounded Warrior Project. Found programs soldiers used. Read story after story after story of men and women who came home from war with missing limbs. What programs were out there to help them. Blogs of soldiers talking about what it was like to come home. Listened to my husband again on what it felt like to be home again. How he felt disjointed, out of place...

And Kate. that stubborn, stubborn girl. I knew how she would react to diabetes long before I learned anything about the disease. But I pretended I'd just been diagnosed when I researched. I poured over websites - American Diabetes Association. The Mayo Clinic. Support groups for family members and for people with new diagnosis.

For a while I woke up every morning glad I wasn't giving myself insulin shots. Glad I had both arms. That my husband came home safe.

But after all that research - my characters still did what they wanted to do - it's that I had enough information to put them in positions that were true to their situations.

Never. Ever. Underestimate the power of learning about the world you're placing your people into. It gave me ideas for plot points, which added tension, which increased Kate's understanding of Aidan, and his understanding of her, and things much bigger than both of them.

But - I'm a learner and a teacher at heart. Always will be. Hopefully as other people write, they'll find excitement and a new appreciation for their life as they research. And I know that when I read fiction dealing with things I don't understand well, it's a really, really fun way to learn...

Do you enjoy novels about situations outside of things you understand?
Just curious.
And if yes, I'd LOVE to hear what you all have been reading - especially if it gained you some greater appreciation of what you have.

Thanks so much for turning over your blog to me!!!

~ Jolene

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day

In honor of Valentine's Day, I read this Middle Grade beauty. When I saw it at B&N I knew my 8 year old, whose favorite holiday is "Love's Day," would scoop it right up.
And I'm totally in love, not only with Ollie and 1957 Binder, AK, but also with Tess Hilmo's writing. I'm not surprised by its starred reviews or the multitude of well-deserved awards. Read this beauty, you won't regret it. Oh, Jimmy and his frogs.

From Goodreads:
When Ollie’s daddy, the Reverend Everlasting Love, pulls their travel trailer into Binder to lead a three-day revival, Ollie knows that this town will be like all the others they visit— it is exactly the kind of nothing Ollie has come to expect. But on their first day in town, Ollie meets Jimmy Koppel, whose mother is in jail for murdering his father. Jimmy insists that his mother is innocent, and Ollie believes him. Still, even if Ollie convinces her daddy to stay in town, how can two kids free a grown woman who has signed a confession?  Ollie’s longing for a friend and her daddy’s penchant for searching out lost souls prove to be a formidable force in this tiny town where everyone seems bent on judging and jailing without a trial.

What are your favorite Valentine's reads?

And now, because I can't resist, a few Valentine's from me to you.

Friday, January 24, 2014

ELEVATED Cover Reveal

About ELEVATED: The last person seventeen-year-old Eleanor Livingston wants to see on the elevator—let alone get stuck with—is her ex-boyfriend Travis, the guy she's been avoiding for five months.

Plagued with the belief that when she speaks the truth, bad things happen, Elly hasn’t told Trav anything. Not why she broke up with him and cut off all contact. Not what happened the day her father returned from his deployment to Afghanistan. And certainly not that she misses him and still thinks about him everyday.

But with nowhere to hide and Travis so close it hurts, Elly’s worried she won’t be able to contain her secrets for long. She’s terrified of finally revealing the truth, because she can’t bear to watch a tragedy befall the boy she still loves.

Buy Links:

Praise for ELEVATED:
"ELEVATED will take you on an emotionally gripping journey through the highs and lows of first love."
~Carolee Dean, author of Take Me There and Forget Me Not

"Poignant, raw, and intense, ELEVATED is a novel that will grip your heart and linger in your mind long after you turn the last page."
~Stasia Ward Kehoe, author of Audition and The Sound of Letting Go

About Elana Johnson: Elana Johnson’s work, including Possession, Surrender, Abandon, and Regret, published by Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster), is available now everywhere books are sold. Her popular ebook, From the Query to the Call, is also available for download, as well as a Possession short story, Resist. School teacher by day, Query Ninja by night, you can find her online at her personal blog or Twitter. She also co-founded the Query Tracker blog, and contributes to the League of Extraordinary Writers.

Social Media Links:
League of Extraordinary Writers:

Rafflecopter Code: Copy and paste this into the HTML side of your website/blog. People can enter to win $15 Paypal cash by helping to spread the word about ELEVATED.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Book Review: BEING SLOANE JACOBS by Lauren Morrill

Out Jan. 7th, 2014 from Delacorte Press
*received via NetGalley for an honest review*

From Goodreads: Meet Sloane Emily Jacobs: a seriously stressed-out figure-skater from Washington, D.C., who choked during junior nationals and isn’t sure she’s ready for a comeback. What she does know is that she’d give anything to escape the mass of misery that is her life.

Now meet Sloane Devon Jacobs, a spunky ice hockey player from Philly who’s been suspended from her team for too many aggressive hip checks. Her punishment? Hockey camp, now, when she’s playing the worst she’s ever played. If she messes up? Her life will be over.

When the two Sloanes meet by chance in Montreal and decide to trade places for the summer, each girl thinks she’s the lucky one: no strangers to judge or laugh at Sloane Emily, no scouts expecting Sloane Devon to be a hero. But it didn’t occur to Sloane E. that while avoiding sequins and axels she might meet a hockey hottie—and Sloane D. never expected to run into a familiar (and very good-looking) face from home. It’s not long before the Sloanes discover that convincing people you’re someone else might be more difficult than being yourself.

This is another beauty I read over Christmas break during my "oh so brave," kindle-only road trip. This one reminded me of two of my all-time favorite movies: Parent Trap-- without the setting up the parents part, and The Cutting Edge--but with less romance ON the ice.
Though I didn't read this book in one sitting, I read it eagerly and happily. The story is told from the POV's of two Sloanes from two very different backgrounds, each running away from their issues and convinced that it would be easier to trade places (and master a new sport!), than to face their own lives.  There's plenty of scheming, pretending you know something you're clueless about, adjusting to different wardrobes, living environments, and hot boys. I'm still thinking about this book weeks later. It's not just hockey and figure skating, it's real family issues, sports performance, and yes, boy drama.

BEING SLOANE JACOBS has a believable plot (which considering the premise is rather amazing). Both Sloane Jacobs are funny, relatable, and walk-off-the-page real. Lauren Morrill, I've decided, is a master. She's now on my read-everything-she-writes, not-questions-asked list. So, no surprise here that Lauren's MEANT TO BE, is on hold at my library. I am confident I will enjoy it just as much.

Have you read BEING SLOANE JACOBS? What is your favorite book of 2014 so far? Your favorite of 2013?
My favorite surprise book (of 2014) that blew me into happy is Julianne Donaldson's EDENBROOKE.

Please sit down if you're not already.
Did you do it?
Are you seated securely? Do you have smelling salts close at head?
Okay, I'll tell you:
Julianne Donaldson was better than Jane Austen.

But back to BEING SLOANE JACOBS. Read it. You will love it whether you're a sporty girl or not.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Happy Birthday, DEFY!

The first I heard of Sara Larson's fantasy, girl pretending to be a boy, DEFY was through one of my CP's. She told me this was her second favorite book of all-time, so I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. When it popped up on NetGalley, I grabbed it, sent it to my kindle, and did my "I'm so cool I got this book" dance. But that I didn't open it. I was afraid.

What if it wasn't as amazing as my CP thought?

In seventh grade when I started to seriously work on my creative writing (and I had a gem of a teacher who encouraged me), I wrote so many stories of girls pretending to be boys at boarding schools, on soccer teams, in battle, etc.. And yes, I had the boob wrapping, awkward locker scenes, as well. I LOVE these types of stories, but they have to be done just right for me to be sucked in.

The other reason I was slow to open DEFY was because I'd met Sara at LDStorymakers and I rather like her. I didn't want to NOT like her book, so the safest course of action was to put off reading it. (Not only is she tall and gorgeous, but she is also outgoing, easy with everyone, and just plain fun.)

Finally, over my first road trip with only a kindle for my reading pleasure (scary!), I got over my fears and opened DEFY.
AND gulped it down in five hours straight. Any book that keeps me up late reading is a winner (IMO).
If you enjoy fantasy, butt-kicking heroines, love (triangles), and page turners, give this one a go. But I'm warming you, make sure you have time to set everything else aside because DEFY will suck you in to the last page.

From Goodreads:
A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and a thrilling love triangle.

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.
The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?