Guest Post: Mia Hopkins, author of THIRSTY

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Writing from the Hero’s Point of View

One day passes, then two, then three. I work myself hard at both my jobs. I exercise until my body has no energy left to feed my anxiety. In the mirror at the gym, the man staring back at me with the furious eyes is bigger and leaner than anyone who’s ever mad-dogged me before. Sweat drips off my skin. My lungs burn. I let the pain wash over me. “Pain is weakness leaving the body,” as the saying goes. My physical body is strong.

But my heart? My mind?

How do I strengthen those two things?

I don’t know.

—Salvador Rosas, Thirsty

 

Sal is the narrator of my newest sexy contemporary romance Thirsty. He’s a former gangster who’s spent the last five years in prison for car jacking and grand theft auto. Even though Sal’s physical appearance is intimidating, his time in prison has left him introverted and prone to anxiety attacks in crowds.

Thirsty is the first book I’ve written entirely from the hero’s point of view (using first-person POV, in which the narrator is I and me). Spending so much time with Sal was both a challenge and a delight. Here are some of the things I observed during the process of writing Thirsty.

 

  1. Sharper voice. Writing from the hero’s point of view forced me to drop all the “writerly” tricks I’ve come to rely upon as a romance author. While I delight in lots of metaphors and descriptive words, Sal tells stories with very little embellishment. Sal has an education, but he doesn’t spend all day obsessing over words the way I do. The result? A sharper, more muscular voice better suited to telling this particular story.
  2. Surprises. Writing from Sal’s point of view revealed surprises about his personality that I hadn’t anticipated, as if listening more carefully to his voice created new opportunities for character development. For example, in trying to come up with ways for Sal to deal with his anxiety, I realized early on that he cleans whenever he is nervous or wants to show control over his environment. Subsequent research about formerly incarcerated individuals revealed that many inmates pass the time by obsessively cleaning their cells. This extreme cleanliness eventually became a feature of Sal’s character.
  3. Free traits. In my studies of character development, I happened upon the work of personality psychologist Brian Little. Little explores familiar traits like extroversion and introversion, but he also delves deeper into “free traits,” the temporary traits we adopt when we step out of character to face particular challenges. For example, an introverted person might behave like an extrovert in order to get better service for their loved one in a hospital emergency room. In Thirsty, Sal often has to adopt “free traits.” I explored Sal’s fears as he put aside his quiet nature and stood up in a spectacular way to defend his loved ones. I had the pleasure of capturing his turmoil when he put aside his desire for privacy to display affection in public towards his crush.

 

Romance authors regularly fall in love with their heroes. I am no exception. Sal is vulnerable and strong at the same time, a scarred survivor of his circumstances who finds a way out. I learned a lot from living inside his head, and I’m excited to share his voice with you.

 

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About Thirsty

A gangster hiding from his past. A single mom fighting for her future. Can she show this bad boy the man he’s meant to be?
 
“Mia Hopkins is an imaginative author who doesn’t take the easy road to a formulaic book.”—USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog

My name is Salvador Rosas. Back in the barrio, my past is written on the walls: ESHB. Short for East Side Hollenbeck, my father’s gang—my gang. Hell, it’s a family tradition, one that sent both my brothers away. They used to call me “Ghost” because I haunted people’s dreams. Now I’ve got nothing going for me except a hipster gringo mentoring me in a new career. An ex-con making craft beer? No mames.

Still, people in this neighborhood look out for one another. That’s how I became Vanessa Velasco’s unwelcome tenant. Chiquita pero picosa. She’s little, but with curves so sweet they’re dangerous. I remember Vanessa from the old days, the straight-A student with big plans. Plans that were derailed by another kid stupid enough to think he was bulletproof. Now Vanessa knows better than to believe in empty promises. There’s fire in her . . . and if I touch her, I might get burned.

I’m trying everything I can to go straight. But when East Side Hollenbeck comes calling, I might have to risk it all to find out if there’s a future for Vanessa and me. Because she’s the only one who can quench my thirst for something real.


Praise for Thirsty
 
Thirsty is a sizzling, emotionally intense story that is both gritty and heartwarming, an addictive page-turner that will stay with me for a long time to come.”New York Times bestselling author Cathryn Fox

Thirsty is sexy and soul-wrenching, with Sal’s irresistible voice luring you through a living, breathing Los Angeles. Vanessa and Sal’s chemistry sizzles right off the page. Five smoldering, tattooed stars!”USA Today bestselling author Sierra Simone

Thirsty is an amazing read! I stayed up way too late to finish and haven’t stopped thinking about the characters. Highly recommended!”USA Today bestselling author Molly O’Keefe

 

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Award-winning author Mia Hopkins writes lush romances starring fun, sexy characters who love to get down and dirty. She’s a sucker for working class heroes, brainy heroines and wisecracking best friends. She lives in the heart of Los Angeles with her roguish husband and waggish dog.

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Guest Post by Christina Mandelski, author of the new YA release, THE FIRST KISS HYPOTHESIS

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Don’t Let Rejection Win!

Thank you so much for having me on the blog today!

I’d like to spend some time talking about rejection. It happens in love – like in my new release The First Kiss Hypothesis, and it happens in life too, especially if you’re in a creative field.

My book, about a girl who trusts that science will find her true love, and the boy who plans to prove her wrong, comes six long years after the release of my first YA novel, The Sweetest Thing. There were a few manuscripts shopped around in those interim years, which were subsequently rejected, and this led to lots of self-doubt.

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As in love, writing rejection can be devastating, paralyzing, and cause you to eat way more cake than anyone ever should.

And reader, I did.

Over the last six years, I’ve often wondered, what is it like to face rejection as say, an accountant?

Like, maybe your boss comes around and tells you your columns don’t add up? I don’t mean to make light of accountancy. As someone who can barely do math, I have huge respect for anyone who can make sense of it – but maybe there’s a comfort to knowing that if the numbers don’t add up, you can always re-work them.

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Not so in writing. If you write a manuscript that no one wants to buy, re-writing is always an option, but it’s not a guarantee. Yeah, that’s depressing. Which is why, if you are determined to see your story published, I highly recommend these three steps:

  1. Surround yourself with encouragers.
  2. Keep doing the work.
  3. Be open to new things.

I am lucky to have in my corner an amazing critique group. I’ve been with them for over a decade now, and we read, comment, edit, assist, chime in, and yeah, we eat cake too. It’s been important for me to have this support system. When our members sell a book, celebrating those sales gives me hope, reminds me not to give up. I also have a few other author friends who will willingly and honestly read my work if I need them, and I have fabulous agent, Danielle Chiotti, who never, ever lets me throw in the towel.

These last years of bubbling self-doubt bring me to bullet number 2 – keep doing the work. Write, write, write and don’t stop, don’t give up! I don’t think you have to write every single day, that’s a lot of pressure. But I do think that the more you write, the more likely you are to be published, and the more often you will be published.

Finally – if you are a writer – be open to new things! When my agent first suggested that I try writing category romance – I wasn’t sure. I’d written a contemporary YA with some romance – but all romance, swoon and heat? I didn’t know if that was for me.

After some thinking, I decided to take a chance. Long story short, I love it! I love working with Entangled – my editor and the staff are fantastic. I love the challenge of writing a fresh and fun romance, and because I was willing to give it a shot, I have a new book out – and another two in 2018!

I know it’s hard to do this job. There are days of woe, and days of pure joy. Today, I’m celebrating a new book, tomorrow I may write 1,000 terrible words that should all be deleted. The important thing is to focus on the successes, the possibilities. Celebrate the little things, like the days when you write a hundred beautiful words that can stay right where they are. When that happens – throw yourself a party – and make sure there’s cake!

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And always, always, just keep writing. Good luck!

Thanks again for having me!

 

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About The First Kiss Hypothesis:

Nora Reid believes scientific laws control everything, even love. With her grandparents’ epic first kiss story cemented in her brain, Nora develops a hypothesis she’s determined to prove:for each person in the world, there is exactly one other person, and at first kiss, they’ll experience an immediate and intense reaction. 

But after four years of zero-reaction kisses, she comes up with a new theory: maybe that pesky crush on her stunningly hot best friend Eli Costas is skewing her results.

She needs to get rid of him, and fast.

Eli Costas is an injury-prone lacrosse star with a problem—the one chance he had at winning over the girl next door resulted in the most epically sucktastic first kiss ever. And now she’s…trying to get rid of him? Hell no. It’s time to disprove her theory and show her exactly what she’s missing. 
Game. On.

Disclaimer: This book contains a stunningly hot lacrosse player who isn’t above playing dirty to win over the stubborn girl-next-door of his dreams.

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Christina Mandelski loves to bring the characters in her head to life on the page. When she isn’t writing, she spends time with her family, working as a substitute teacher, eating (sweets, usually), traveling and reading (preferably under an umbrella at the beach).  Chris lives with her husband and two daughters in Houston. You can visit her at www.christinamandelski.com

 

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Guest Post: REJECTION & MY ROAD TO PUBLICATION by Meg Kassel

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Rejection and My Road to Publication

When looking at an authors published book, its easy to only see what they accomplished and to forget that there were likely many failures before publication. I only know of a few authors who enjoyed success straight off with the first book they wrote. Those rare, fortunate birds are the exception to the rule. Most of the time, the road to publication is a long, bumpy one, with plenty of stops and starts. My journey was like this, complete with crushing disappointments and hundreds of rejections. I wouldnt change a single thing about it.

No one will ever read my first book. It was a dreadful adult paranormal romance with a vampire and C4 explosives and a weirdly awkward love scene that told me very clearly: you are not an adult romance writer. Message received, but not after a few more failed attempts. My first young adult novel, on the other hand, was the first manuscript I wrote where I felt like my writing, storytelling and voice, all leveled up. My critique partners loved the book. My mom loved the book. I started querying. Rejections came, but so did requests for the full, and then came a delightful little thing in publishing called a revise and resubmit. It was an edit letter, essentially, which if you make the suggested changes, the agent will consider your manuscript again. I dug in and revised the crap out of that manuscript. That agent passed, but the revisions paid off when another agent offered and I signed with her. At that point, I was so naive, I thought for sure the book would sell. I mean, the agent wouldnt have signed me if it wasnt a sure thing, right?

The book did not sell. It came close three times, but didnt make it through the acquisition meetings. This was the first time I felt the rejection as more than brief, generalized disappointment. My mistake was thinking this whole process was easier than it was. Let me back up a moment and explain my thing with rejection letters: They are form letters sent from a person who doesnt know you, essentially telling you that your book isnt what theyre looking for. Ive never taken this personally because there is nothing remotely personal about them. I have known writers who do take them to heart and it seems like a terrific expenditure of energy. Maybe I was sleep deprived, or maybe Im missing a brain component, but either way, when rejection letters came, I checked off that agent and went back to work.

Several books later, a manuscript did sell, but I wasnt out of the rejection waters yet. My hardest trial was to come several months later when the publisher closed its U.S. division, orphaning over fifty projects and five debut novels, including mine. Not long afterward, I began to realize that my agent and I werent the perfect fit any longer. After another failed submission on a new project, my agent and I parted ways on good terms and I took the first break from writing I had since Id begun writing in earnest, five years earlier. This was the first and only time I felt defeated. Maybe Id made a mistake, thinking I could do this. Maybe I should find something more productive to do with my time. I took up soap making as a hobbywhy, I dont know. I think I made about fifty pounds of soap, but while weighing out oils and water and lye, my brain started incubating a new story idea. Not long after that, I was back at the computer, doing what I loved most (although, I DO miss smelling like sandalwood and lavender).

The summer after my Soap Adventure, I received an offer on the orphaned book AND signed with a new agent. That book is my debut, Black Bird of the Gallows, and when I hold it, I feel my whole history as a writer under my fingers. Its all therethe triumphs and the disappointments; the hope and the anxiety. All the rejected manuscripts that perished in order to push me to write better, plot better, tell the story better, served a purpose. Im sure I havent seen my last rejection letter. Im not so naive anymore, and I am still not the writer I know I can be. Rejection can be a crushing blow, or it can steel your resolve. You really do have a choice in the matter. Then again, no one has ever rejected a pleasantly scented bar of handmade soap.

 

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Meg Kassel is an author of paranormal and speculative books for young adults. A New Jersey native, Meg graduated from Parson’s School of Design and worked as a graphic designer before becoming a writer. She now lives in Maine with her husband and daughter and is busy at work on her next novel. She is the 2016 RWA Golden Heart© winner in YA.

Author Links: 

Website | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon | Goodreads | Entangled Publishing

 

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Black Bird of the Gallows 

Young Adult Romantic Fantasy/Entangled Teen – Entangled Publishing

 

A simple but forgotten truth: Where harbingers of death appear, the morgues will soon be full. 

Angie Dovage can tell there’s more to Reece Fernandez than just the tall, brooding athlete who has her classmates swooning, but she can’t imagine his presence signals a tragedy that will devastate her small town. When something supernatural tries to attack her, Angie is thrown into a battle between good and evil she never saw coming. Right in the center of it is Reece—and he’s not human.

What’s more, she knows something most don’t. That the secrets her town holds could kill them all. But that’s only half as dangerous as falling in love with a harbinger of death.

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Guest Post: REJECTION DOESN’T ALWAYS MEAN NO by Taylor Anne

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The familiar ding sounds on your computer. You have mail. Your heart beats faster as you scroll through the messages to the unopened one. Yes, it is from the publisher! No, it is from the publisher! You swipe your sweaty palms across your pants, then click the mouse to open the email. It’s what you have been waiting for. NO. Your heart sinks as you read that your manuscript just isn’t a good fit. Wiping away the tears, you swear you will never submit another manuscript. This avenue is simply not for you.

Well, guess what. A rejection letter does not always mean no. Sometimes it means, not now.

This is a true story of my first rejection. First, not last. Seems like those dreaded letters N and O appear more often than any of us like. So, I mulled over this email for a few hours. (Okay, more like one hour because I am a rather impatient person at times.) I sucked in a deep breath, and let my fingers hit the keyboard. Several backspaces and deletes later, I was satisfied with my response to this editor. I graciously thanked her for taking the time to read my manuscript and I said that I would take her advice and work on my writing skills. And there it went… out into cyberspace.

To my surprise, the editor emailed me back with an amazing offer. If I was interested, she would work with me one-on-one, at my pace to see if we could whip this story into something acceptable. I was floored. Why would she, a total stranger, take a chance on me? I couldn’t answer that question, but I was so ecstatic that I jumped on the opportunity. I wanted to go all mushy on her, but had to hold back not wanting to scare her away with my emotional junkie side.

Months later – I believe it was close to a year – my story was complete (again). Now it was up to the committee at the publishing house as to whether it was acceptable to them. Again, I found myself staring at an unopened email message from the editor. It was either yes or no. Only way to find out was to open the message. YES!!! The committee accepted!!

My debut novel, HEAT FLASH, was published in 2013 by The Wild Rose Press. In 2015 the eBook rights were obtained by Amazon Encore. And now, 2017, I am working on edits for my fourth book to be published by TWRP, and I have one book indie published. And yes, I still have the same editor!!

All of that to say again, no doesn’t always mean no. Sometimes it just means, not now. If writing is your passion, never stop at the no’s and negativities you will encounter. Get your head on, talk to other authors, and see what readers are interested in. Your dedication and positive thinking will bring forth more opportunities than you can imagine. Let those characters out of your head and put them on the paper where they are meant to be.

My advice to beginning authors is never give up. Seek your dreams and pursue your goals with everything you have. One day that NOT NOW will turn into your REALITY.

Taylor Anne

 

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I am a romance author, leaning more to the suspense side. I enjoy the challenge of getting my characters stories on paper. Sometimes they want to argue – and they usually win. It doesn’t matter who wins that battle as long as they help me write the best story for you! I bring you romance and life that is comfy, cozy, and always fun!

I live in Southwest Louisiana with my husband. Our combined family consists of two daughters and two sons – and growing with in-laws and grandbabies. I love spending time with family and friends, relaxing on the beach, cuddling with my cat (Oscar), sipping on a glass of wine, and bringing happiness and smiles to others.

Website ǁ Twitter ǁ Facebook ǁ GoodReads ǁ Amazon Author Page ǁ Taylor’s Tidbits

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GENRE (S) Fiction: Romance, Mystery, Suspense; Contemporary: Romance, Romantic Suspense

PUBLISHER: Amazon Encore; eBook Price: $3.99; Paperback: $12.99

                         

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When Kendall’s life is threatened, he has no choice but to risk body and soul-and even his heart-to save her.

When FBI agent Mason Black left Kendall Reed without warning, it devastated her, but she managed to bounce back. Now on the run from a maniacal stalker, she must learn to trust the man who betrayed her in the past. Dealing with his own insecurities and secrets, Mason will do anything to protect Kendall from the dangerous lunatic terrorizing her. But the bigger threat may be the one Kendall poses to his heart. Scared of Kendall’s reaction if she learns the truth about him, Mason puts his own problems and emotions on hold to find her stalker. But when Kendall’s life is threatened, he has no choice but to risk body and soul–and even his heart–to save her.

 

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Look,” Kendall said, irritation lacing her words. “I know you don’t want me here. You did your duty by protecting me. You saved my life tonight, and now you’re stuck here. The least I can do is keep you company.” She silently hoped that explanation would satisfy him. She was wrong.

Mason watched her. A flicker of some emotion flitted across his face before he rasped, “It was my job to watch after you. This,” he gestured to the bed and rumpled sheets pooled around his waist. “This is one of the drawbacks of my job. It’s something I’ve learned to get used to. And, it’s just that, my job, it’s nothing personal. You don’t need to babysit me.”

“I see.” She turned away from his cold stare so he wouldn’t see the hurt his words had caused. He dismissed her, just as he had done in the past. So much for thinking they could talk. So much for the flutter in her heart at knowing that Mason was back in town. She fought hard to hold back tears.

Fear of going home to an empty house turned her stomach. She lifted her hand to rub her throat. She had to get control of her emotions. She wasn’t afraid of much and didn’t want to allow herself to be scared now, even though the night’s events justified a little fear. With confidence she mustered up from somewhere, she took a deep breath, removed her hand from her throat, stubbornly set her jaw, and faced the man lying in the bed.

Her clipped words took them both by surprise. “Nothing personal. It never is with you, is it?”

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Interview: Tonya Kuper, author of the YA New Release, ENIGMA

How long have you been teaching the Writing Young Adult Literature Writer’s Workshop?

I’ve taught WYAWW since spring of 2016 at a local university, so it is still relatively “new.”

What is your approach to teaching writing? How are your classes structured?

My writer’s workshop class is a little different than most offered on our campus. Instead of reading and writing short stories, my class focuses on reading current YA literature and students start writing a novel length YA manuscript. We start with defining YA lit, various methods for plot/or not plotting, and each week build on writing elements such as character development, setting, etc.

What are some special considerations for teaching how to write for a Young Adult audience?

The one thing I always remind my students of is that kids ALWAYS read up. Technically, YA is geared toward 12 years old and older. My son, like many students, was ready to start reading some YA novels in fourth and fifth grade because he needed longer books, a wider vocabulary, etc. BUT he was only 10, so he wasn’t ready for more mature content. I encourage my students to have their audience in mind when writing, younger YA versus upper YA, or even more specific than that.

Can you give us an example of YA literature that you use with your class to show good writing?

Well, students are required to about seven YA novels through a semester (and the list changes every semester), but I also use tons of examples from a plethora of authors because “good writing” looks different to everyone. One book I’ve used a couple times is A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, a younger YA story. I’ve also used An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and many, many more.

What are the main things you would like your students to take away from your class?

I want them to know Young Adult Literature is all about feelings, no matter if it’s high concept, a quiet story, a non-conventional novel, or whatever. It’s about letting young adults know that they are seen, heard, represented, not alone, loved, unique, and valuable. Craft-wise, I want them to remember GMC – Goal, Motivation, Conflict.

What two pieces of advice would you give to someone just starting out in writing for Young Adults?

Make sure you know the main conflict and make the reader feel.

Has teaching writing for YA affected your approach to writing YA?

Yes, I think I’ve become even more aware of how I write, what I caution my students about, what I encourage them to include. You know the saying, “practice what you preach?” Welp, that definitely fits. 😊

Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured if your book?  If so, discuss them.

I try to mirror the world in my writing, so there is a diverse set of characters. The most underrepresented group/idea in Enigma is the occurrence of anxiety (anxiety attacks) in Josie. I wanted to show that even a sort of super-hero suffers from anxiety, that there doesn’t have to be stigma around mental health issues.

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

I fell in love with reading/books in second grade. Some of the first books I remember being addicted to was The Celery Stalks at Midnight, Bunnicula, and anything else by James Howe.

How long have you been writing?

I started writing my first manuscript the summer of 2009.

Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?

I loved all the “firsts” as a teenager and I love remembering them. Our teen years are so transformative, I was drawn to writing those characters. As far as scifi goes, I grew up reading and watching scifi and fantasy, so it’s just a part of me.

What do you think most characterizes your writing?

I think the fact that I write in a way that is approachable to anyone. The dialogue in my writing is pretty natural and relatable.

What do your plans for future projects include?

I’m starting to work on a secret YA manuscript this summer!

If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?

Katherine McNamara, the star of Shadowhunters on Freeform, would play Josie – in fact, she was my inspiration for Josie way back in 2013 – and, though he’s a bit too old, Chase Crawford would be Reid.

Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before? Ireland. (ME TOO)

 

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Worst. Road Trip. Ever.

Escaping with Reid Wentworth should have been fun, but how can I enjoy it when I just (accidentally) killed someone, my mom and brother are in danger, and the Consortium is trying to enslave humanity? (Yeah, they aren’t fooling around.) So feeling something for Reid Wentworth was not part of the plan. Trying to help unite the Resistance against the Consortium means I can’t be distracted by hot boys.

The Resistance secret hideout isn’t exactly the rebel base of my dreams. A traitor there wants me dead, but we have no idea who it is. And with both the Resistance and the Consortium trying to control me, the only one I can trust is Reid. If we’re going to have any chance of protecting my family, controlling my unstable powers, and surviving the clash between the Oculi factions, I’m going to have to catch this traitor. By using myself as bait.

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abouttheauthor

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Tonya Kuper writes young adult science fiction and contemporary novels. She first fell in love with reading in elementary school, which eventually lead to earning a BA in Elementary Education and a MS in Reading Education, but she never thought she’d write a novel, let alone several. When Tonya isn’t writing, she teaches Young Adult Literature Writing Workshop at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, laughs as much as possible, loves music, and nerds-out over Star Wars, Marvel, Sherlock, and all things pop-culture. She lives in Omaha, NE with her husband and two rad boys.

 

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Guest Post: PULLING OFF A POLARIZING CHARACTER by Melissa Chambers

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Writers want our heroes and heroines to be likable so our readers will attach to them and root for them. We can give them all sorts of characters quirks like type-A personalities, neuroticism, perpetual clumsiness, etc., all treated in a lovable and forgivable way. But every once in a while, it’s fun to challenge ourselves with a heroine who may be tougher to like.

One of my favorite examples of an unlikable character carrying a book is Darcy in Emily Giffin’s Something Blue. We met Darcy in book one, Something Borrowed. (Remember the movie? Kate Hudson played Darcy.) Darcy is the obnoxious best friend in book one who always gets everything she wants, including the guy who Rachel (our lovable heroine) has feelings for. Book one ends with Darcy losing everything she held dear, so book two starts us out with Darcy pissed off, resentful, and downtrodden. She’s not at all the kind of girl I would ever typically see myself connecting with, but I did right from page one. It probably didn’t hurt that I’d read a couple of Ms. Giffin’s books and knew that I was in good hands with this author.

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When I set out to write book one in my Before Forever series, I went with a heroine who was shy and awkward. We learn right in the first chapter that Chloe has been through a serious situation that is easy to sympathize with. She has a best friend who outshines her in every way possible, and a tense, almost cringe-worthy situation with her father. She’s sweet and polite, but not overthetop precious. So out the gate, I set myself up for a likable and endearing heroine that the reader would hopefully want to root for. My job from that point was to not screw it up.

However, in book two, my challenge was much greater. Jenna Quigley, Chloe’s best friend, couldn’t be more opposite. Extrovert doesn’t begin to cover it. She’s confident, talented…just placed eighth on the fictional show America’s Newest Sensation (think The Voice or America’s Got Talent), and is ready to take on the world. She’s also a little self-absorbed, but fiercely loyal and encouraging to Chloe. I heard mixed reviews of what readers from book one thought about Jenna. Some loved her to pieces while she rubbed others the wrong way, which honestly, was the job of her character in that book. Chloe needed to break out of her shell, and I wanted to pair her with a best friend who would make her life uncomfortable to help her do that.

So my challenge with making Jenna a likable, relatable heroine of her own story was quite large. I had to show the reader that what Jenna portrays on the outside may not always reflect what’s going on in her head. Additionally, I wanted readers to see that life at home wasn’t always hearts and flowers for her, as one may think when they saw how close she was with her dad. I also needed to pair her with a hero who was going to constantly call her out on her crap and set her firmly in her place, helping her gain perspective and learn some things about herself by the time the book came to an end.

I had so much fun writing Jenna. She’s so opposite from me, so I was able to sort of try on a different personality in writing her. I would keep on writing her if someone would let me! But alas, there are different characters banging away at my brain, begging for their stories to come out.

Characters need flaws, because none of us are perfect. Seriously flawed characters need high arcs and plenty of time for redemption (which may be why this book ended up a little on the long side!). Sometimes the job of a polarizing character may be to get us out of our comfort zones. I know Jenna got me out of mine!

 

 

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The second Jenna Quigley turns eighteen, she’s headed to L.A. to extend the timer on her fifteen minutes of fame. Too bad her dad made her promise to graduate high school first. Silver lining? Her new school has a serious talent competition with a $25,000 cash prize, which would go a long way in L.A. Jenna’s got plenty of talent—she didn’t almost win America’s Newest Sensation for nothing. But it’ll take everything she’s got to bring down the music nerd with a stick up his butt…no matter how cute he is in those glasses.

Miles Cleveland needs to win that talent contest. When some hot girl stole his audition spot on America’s Newest Sensation, his chance to study music flounced off to New York with her. Now, not only can he win enough money to pay for his education, he can get revenge on that very same girl. He can’t start to question his plan, though…no matter how deep Jenna buries into his heart.

 

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abouttheauthor

 

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Melissa Chambers writes contemporary novels for young, new, and actual adults. A Nashville native, she spends her days working in the music industry and her nights tapping away at her keyboard. While she’s slightly obsessed with alt rock, she leaves the guitar playing to her husband and kid. She never misses a chance to play a tennis match, listen to an audiobook, or eat a bowl of ice cream. (Rocky road, please!) She’s a member of RWA and serves as the president elect for the Music City Romance Writers. She is the author of The Summer Before Forever and Falling for Forever (Entangled Teen).

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THE SUMMER BEFORE FOREVER

 

 

Guest Post by Katie McElhenney

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Writer

Three of my favorite activities are running, reading, and writing. Besides being alliterative, those activities have another thing in common—they’re all solitary endeavors. And while exercising and spending time with a book can be great solo ventures, the same isn’t necessarily true for writing. Unless you’re writing professionally, most of the time you need to be creative about when you fit in your keyboard time; before work, after dinner, in those few precious moments when a child is napping. These times are chosen precisely because they allow for solitude and quiet. Yet, I’m going to make the case for adding community to your writing routine and here’s why:

Productivity

I love walking into places bustling with activity. There is something about the energy that thrives in those environments that is contagious. This is why so many writers flock to coffee shops and shared workspaces. It’s true that those places aren’t for everyone and can get pricey after a while, so it helps to explore other options. Libraries are a great place to work, as are larger bookstores (and you’re surrounded on all sides by inspiration!).

Accountability

Back in school there was no question you were going to turn in that big term paper that was worth 50% of your grade. You had a hard deadline and you didn’t give yourself a choice in meeting it. When you’re writing for yourself it’s easy to get off track with your progress because you don’t have any accountability for your work. Having a community of writers who know your goals and (kindly) remind you of them will help keep you focused and motivated.

Feedback

No one wants to complete a three-hundred-page novel then get the note that your main character needs more of an arc starting back at page twenty-five. This is the kind of thing that happens if you aren’t getting feedback as you go along. Getting other sets of eyes on your work will lead you to a much cleaner first draft. Also, I’ve found that there is value in both getting and giving feedback. If you are reading another’s work critically, you tend to look at your own in that way too. It’s a great way to hone your craft.

 Embracing the social side!

Writing is tough. There are days when the words just seem to fly out of your fingertips, and days when you want to toss your laptop out a window. Having a network of writer friends to commiserate with is essential. Whether this a group that meets weekly at a coffee shop or a forum you check in with online when you need it, having people who understand what you’re doing and have been there themselves helps you rejoice in the victories and power through the bumps in the road.

I know that this isn’t practical for everyone. Life is busy and there are many demands on your time. However, even if you can carve out a little time each week to connect with other writers, you’d be amazed at the benefits you’ll see. Check out sites like Meetup or the bulletin boards at your local library and coffee shops to find groups of writers in your area. Your book will thank you for it!

About the Author

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About Katie McElhenney

Katie McElhenney was born in Philadelphia into a big family of curious kids and patient adults. A voracious reader and unapologetic daydreamer, she knew she wanted to become a writer someday. With the support of an amazing family, great friends, and some truly spectacular teachers she has written short stories, poems, and novels. A solar-powered human, she now lives in Los Angeles and uses the great weather for year-round trips to the beach and long runs (where the best inspiration happens).

Find out more about her at katiemcelhenney.com

About the Book

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The Things They’ve Taken

All Lo Campbell wants is to be a normal teenager—to go to one high school, live in one place, and have one real friend. Instead, she travels the country with her mother, chasing the unknown, the “what else” that’s out there…

Until one day, the “what else” chases back.

Determined to rescue her mom from whatever supernatural being took her, Lo will need more help than a badly dressed demon obsessed with country music. She’s going to need a Tracker—and lucky for her, she finds one. Shaw is strong, good-looking, possibly available, and utterly infuriating. Sure, he may have secrets, and his help costs more than a brand-new car, but she’ll have to deal with him if she wants to find her mother—and get her home alive.

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Guest Post by Merrie Destefano – author of LOST GIRLS

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How Writing is Like Combing Your Hair, Sort Of

There are many stages in the writing process. There’s the glittery, I’ve just fallen in love and all of this is SO wonderful stage. This is where words fly off your fingertips, ideas come when you’re trying to fall asleep, and most of your friends get a glazed look on their faces when you ramble on about random plot elements. This is the part of writing that can get you addicted. It’s wild, it’s like caffeine and adrenaline mixed into a yummy cocktail and can I have another one of those, please?

Fortunately, this stage doesn’t last very long. You’d think it would be perfect, if only you could capture this feeling and keep it in a bottle, like lightning bugs. The thing is, not everything that comes out on your computer screen during this stage really makes sense. Some of it is a little bit disjointed and crazy.

It will have to go through another stage first before it sparkles. This next stage is a little bit painful. It’s where you need to look at your work like a reader, instead of a head-over-heels-in-love-with-my-own-creation writer.

For a long time, I’ve thought of this second stage almost like combing your hair. If you’ve ever had long hair, you know that mornings aren’t fun. You wake up with a snarled, tangled mess of hair. It can hurt to straighten out that hot mess. The comb acts like it hates you, snagging on knots that you can’t even see. If you go too fast, there’s a big OUCH waiting for you.

So, at this point, I try to look at my work from a different angle. If I’ve been working on a computer, I print out the pages. I even lay out the document in a graphics program (QuarkXPress), so it will look more like a book. Another trick you can try is to email your story in a Word document to your Kindle. Every time you read your book in different format, it will force you to see it in a new way.

Things I look for include: sentences that sound too much alike, bad rhythm, too much information, not enough information, scenes that seem to have more than one central focus, places where I get bored, characters that aren’t responding correctly, dialogue that feels off, and long scenes where there’s no dialogue.

This is a process that I repeat throughout the writing of my book. I mark the snags and tangles, go back and do my best to fix them, print out the corrected pages and read through them again. Every time, it feels like I’m combing my hair. With each pass, the comb goes through a little bit easier, my hair starts to look a tiny bit better, and I think, hey, this is working!

Because I do this throughout the process of writing, by the time I’m completely done with my ‘first’ draft, it usually doesn’t take a lot of editing. I can almost always finish my final round of edits within a couple of weeks.

Of course, then there is the next round of edits that I get from my agent and my editor. Those usually require a jackhammer, a couple gallons of Coke Zero, and a series of frantic emails and phone calls to my writer pals where I ask them why I ever thought I could write. It can even turn into an existential crisis at that point. But I try to take a few deep breaths and let some time pass. Because I know that if I can make it through this last stage, there will be this thing called A Real Book.

The Real Book stage? That’s the absolute best part. It’s the reason I got started in this business in the first place. It’s pure magic, it’s starlight and fairy wings and feet that can’t touch the ground.

In fact, it’s so amazing, it makes you want to start all over again and write another book.

 

abouttheauthor

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Born in the Midwest, magazine editor Merrie Destefano currently lives in Southern California with her husband, two German shepherds, a Siamese cat, and the occasional wandering possum. Her favorite hobbies are reading speculative fiction and watching old Star Trek episodes, and her incurable addiction is writing. She loves to camp in the mountains, walk on the beach, watch old movies, and listen to alternative music—although rarely all at the same time.

Connect with Merrie online:

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Aboutthebook

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The only rule is: there are no rules.

“Merrie Destefano weaves magic.” —Rachel A. Marks, author of Darkness Brutal

Yesterday, Rachel went to sleep listening to Taylor Swift, curled up in her grammy’s quilt, worrying about geometry. Today, she woke up in a ditch, bloodied, bruised, and missing a year of her life.

She doesn’t recognize the person she’s become: She’s popular. She wears nothing but black.

Black to cover the blood.

And she can fight.

Tell no one.

She’s not the only girl to go missing within the last year…but she’s the only girl to come back. She desperately wants to unravel what happened to her, to try and recover the rest of the Lost Girls.

But the more she discovers, the more her memories return. And as much as her new life scares her, it calls to her. Seductively. The good girl gone bad: sex, drugs, and raves, and something darker…something she still craves. The rush of the fight, the thrill of the win—something she can’t resist, that might still get her killed…

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Guest Post by Author Aubrey Parr

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kindle-coverHello, I’m Aubrey Parr. I’m a debut author of contemporary romance. I am currently writing book 2, Love on Ocean Drive, in my Love on… series. But, please check out my first book, Love on the Malecon.

I thought I’d do something fun with it. I love music. I feel like we have soundtracks for our lives. It only made sense that I have a soundtrack for my book. I put together a list of songs from scenes I thought could use specific songs. Check out my page on Amazon. You can get Love on the Malecon in print or ebook. Then follow the links to the music below while you’re reading it.

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In Chapter 1, when you meet Nicole and learn her back story listen to Rascal Flatts – My Wish

In Chapter 2, when you meet Derek and learn about his past and how he started his company. Listen to Dexter Freebish – Life of Saturdays.

In Chapter 5, the first time they’re in Nicole’s hotel room together. Listen to Dexter Freebish – Higher.

In Chapter 9, when Nicole comes down into the lobby and Derek is waiting for her by the bar. She’s wearing a beautiful, gold dress that he bought for her.  Listen to Chet Faker – Gold.

In Chapter 12, Derek has made a huge decision in his life. Listen to Dexter Freebish – Beautiful Girl

In Chapter’s 14 and 15, after a big scare for Nicole. She is trying to be strong and brave, but ultimately she’s still vulnerable. Listen to X Ambassadors – Unsteady.

In Chapter 17 Nicole makes a big step in her life. Listen to Dierks Bentley – Somewhere on a Beach

In Chapter 21 and into 22, there is another stressful time. Their relationship grows from everything that happens. I don’t want to give away the plot, but listen to The Frey – Heartless

In Chapter 25, Nicole and Derek decide to go for an impromptu run on the beach. It’s a very freeing moment for Nicole and there is a sense of relief. Listen to Coldplay – When I Ruled the World

Again in Chapter 25, when Nicole and Derek go to the little restaurant with her father’s favorite fajitas. Listen to Heartland – I Loved Her First

In Chapter 27, the final pages of the book – during the last scene. Again, I don’t want to give away the plot, but please listen to Wild Cub – Thunder Clatter.

You’ll notice that a lot of music is from the band, Dexter Freebish. They’re an amazing band out of Austin, Texas. I could probably have used their music for the entire soundtrack. Make sure to check them out as well.  http://www.dexterfreebish.com/

Aboutthebook

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In the heart of downtown Puerto Vallarta, there is a magical oceanfront promenade known as the Malecon. As a tribute to her father’s life, Nicole James travels to his favorite place on Earth. On the cobblestone streets of charming Puerto Vallarta, she meets Derek, an ex-MMA fighter who invested his winnings into land for luxury hotels. Derek is fabulously wealthy, aging like fine wine, and lives on resorts like an endless vacation. Could her father have orchestrated this chance meeting with Mr. Right from beyond the grave? Derek Stone never thought a woman would fit into the world he created, until Nicole came along. She’s beautiful, smart, and sexy. More importantly, she has no idea of his money. Derek has taken care of himself for his entire life. He’s not used to trusting anyone.

Can he tear down his walls and let Nicole inside?

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abouttheauthor

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Aubrey Parr waited until she was forty to publish her first novel. Although she received her Master’s in Accounting, Aubrey always knew that she wanted to write. With a few years of life experience under her belt she decided it was time. She lives with her husband and daughter outside of Chicago, Illinois. When she’s not chasing after her daughter she sneaks off to create steamy stories of wonderful love affairs.

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Guest Post by Marissa Campbell, Author of the AVELYNN Series

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As writers, it’s easy to wallow in uncertainty and doubt. Our brains seem hard-wired for this—it’s a creative curse. The road ahead is filled with valleys and peaks. But writing is a marathon, not a sprint. If we commit to this path, we are in it for the long haul. This is an adventure of epic proportions. One in which even The Hero’s Journey would approve.

We embark on this odyssey because we feel compelled to tell a story. Writing is a passion that burns deep in our hearts. To stop the flurry of tapping fingers on the keyboard, or still the sweeping pen in our hands would leave us lost, a gapping hole in our souls. That being said, it’s not an easy journey, but it’s one we must embrace and milk for every ounce of awesomeness we can find. We must not let the fear of rejection, or the fear of failure deter us.

Let me tell you about a recent phone call I received from my local newspaper. The editor/owner has known me for several years, and she had a proposition. In an effort to increase advertising revenue for the paper, for anyone who placed a half-page ad, she wanted me to visit their business, try their services, and then come back and write an article about it—kind of like an advertorial, but different. You see, I’m known around here as the Yes Woman. Why? Because I’m always up for an adventure. No obstacle is too large, no challenge too daunting that I will not at least attempt the journey. I may stumble, I may have to turn back, but rather than give up, I’ll always try to find another way around—unless the adventure involves risk of death… or snakes… or spiders. Seriously, there’s no going around that (shudder).  So, the idea morphed from a simple advertorial into a challenge to see what sort of situation I could get myself involved in and the resulting article about the mayhem.

I could have said, no. But where would that have gotten me? Life is an adventure. We thrive when we live our passions and follow our dreams. As it is with life, so it is with our writing. Even if we stumble across fallen branches, or become mired in a mucky trench in the road, we need to hike up our boots, lean into the wind, and keep on trekking.

My editor and champion at St. Martin’s Press left during the production of Avelynn. That meant when it came time to offer on Avelynn: The Edge of Faith—a new stand-alone historical fiction, and the second book in the series—I no longer had anyone invested in my story, or me as an author. They declined, and I was without a publisher. I could have let that stop the dream, but why would I do that when there are so many other amazing opportunities and options available to writers today? I’m the Yes Woman. Setbacks do not ruffle my feathers; they fuel the wind beneath my wings.

I made the bold decision to self-publish Avelynn because I owed it to readers to continue her story. It was not the easiest path—there were many scary creatures lurking about in the shadows of the unknown—but I am nothing if not stubborn. So, I set out on my noble quest with a brave heart. It was a fascinating journey, filled with wonderful people and sky-scraping towers of knowledge. There were epic battles against Doubt and Rejection, but I vanquished those demons and rose triumphant in the thrilling climax! The first road to publication for Avelynn: The Edge of Faith resulted in a dead end, but I found another way. I kept my passion alive and followed my dream. And thanks to that Yes Woman attitude, the second book in the Avelynn series will be in reader’s hands by the end of September, 2016!  

Keep writing, keep submitting, and keep sending your work out there. Don’t let the spectres of rejection or self-doubt thwart you! Write your heart out. Never give up on the dream.

In gratitude, 

Marissa xo

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Avelynn: The Edge of Faith
Book two in the Avelynn Series

Now Available!

In a struggle that forces Avelynn to question her faith, her hope, and her
future, Avelynn and Alrik are thrust into the world of ninth century Wales and
must navigate magic, greed, and betrayal while the iron hands of fate threaten
to tear them apart.

Forced to flee England, charges of treason, murder, and witchcraft follow Avelynn into exile.

Arriving in Wales, Alrik and Avelynn find refuge amongst friends of the Welsh nobility. Cast out by his half-brothers, Alrik seeks to regain his honor and earn favor with the gods. When war threatens, Alrik embraces gold and the opportunity for Raven’s Blood’s crew to become mercenaries, aiding the Southern Welsh kings in their fight against Rhodri the Great.

Desperate to return home, Avelynn seeks to find a way to prove her innocence, pitting her against Alrik as their desires for the future clash. With battle looming, Avelynn’s faith in their relationship is further tested through a bitter struggle with Marared, a jealous lover from Alrik’s past. Marared’s threats turn deadly, and Avelynn runs afoul of magic and sorcery, causing her to question her beliefs and role as priestess.

When the very friends Avelynn and Alrik had come to trust betray them, Avelynn is captured and Alrik is charged with regicide. The two become separated, a chasm of greed, deceit, and ambition driving them apart. In an act of harrowing faith, Avelynn will stop at nothing to find her way back to Alrik and break them both free from Wale’s bloodthirsty grasp.

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Also available, the first book in the series, AVELYNN.

THE LIBRARIAN’s Readers Choice Best Books in Romance pick for BEST BOOK OF 2015

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abouttheauthor

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Marissa Campbell is a published freelance author, and co-author of the award-winning, spiritual self-help book Life: Living in Fulfillment Every Day. Her debut historical fiction AVELYNN, was published through St. Martin’s Press, September 2015. Look for the second book in the AVELYNN series, releasing Fall 2016. She is a proud member of the Historical Novel Society, Romance Writers of America, Writer’s Community of Durham Region, and local critique group B7. When she is not writing, she is busy looking after her wonderful children, spending time with her fantastic husband, hanging out with her awesome friends, teaching yoga, dancing, laughing, and having fun!

Find Marissa online at these links:

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Join Marissa as she chats with The Librarian, Thursday at 7:30pm ET at this link.

She will be talking about her new release and Vikings! So be ready to call in with your questions!

One lucky caller will win a $25 Amazon Gift Card and a copy of the new book!