Wednesday, December 7, 2016

3 The Zen of Accepting Bad Reviews

We're excited to welcome Carol Riggs, author of THE LYING PLANET, to the blog today to discuss the value in accepting negative reviews.

"Reading reviews can be eye-opening, a constructive learning experience for some (warning: not all) authors. If I choose to, I can incorporate any relevant feedback I happen to come across."

Reviews: The Danger Zone. 

Before my debut book, The Body Institute, was about to release in September of 2015, I vowed never to read the reviews about my “baby.” I figured the last thing I needed was other people’s feedback at that late point, and I knew I’d obsess over the negative reviews instead of the positive ones. That was just the way I was wired as a perfectionist, fussing over things that weren’t “perfect” about myself and my creations. Many wise, already-published authors advised against looking at reviews. They cautioned that negative reviews could burn a hole in a writer’s psyche for weeks, months—even years. This negativity could derail future writing and cripple creativity, because doubts would lodge in the brain about one’s supposed lack of skill. I totally saw how that was possible.

Sidling up and sniffing the danger. But then the ARCs went out for my debut, and advanced reviews started coming in on Goodreads. I had to look. My friends—even strangers—gave me great reviews. I floated on the high. This was fun! And when some negative reviews came in with 1-star and 2-star ratings, I dared to take at peek. After all, my “skin” was pretty thick, since I had extensive experience with critique partner feedback as well as a long submission process before I found my publisher, in which one editor would love one thing and dislike another, while another editor loved and disliked exactly the opposite thing. Reading reviews was pretty much the same experience, I figured.

Did the low-starred reviews still sting? Yes, indeed. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how some readers felt so adamantly negative. I anguished when reviewers condemned the book for a simple misunderstanding (or sloppy reading) or for some random thing no one else had a problem with. It was puzzling, agonizing, and morbidly fascinating all at the same time. 

"One reviewer said the book was “fast-paced” while another said it “dragged.” Which one was right?"

Dabbling in the danger. It went downhill from there. 

A cat’s curiosity gripped me. I kept reading the reviews: the good, the bad, and the ugly. On one hand, I saw my writing described as “delectable” while another reviewer said: “The. Writing. Was. Horrible.” One reviewer said the book was “fast-paced” while another said it “dragged.” Which one was right? I tossed those contradictory comments around in my mind for a while, until I finally decided this: It really doesn’t matter. Authors can’t please everyone, and it’s all subjective. I’d known that in my head, but I began to experience it in full force.

It helped immensely to look up the first Harry Potter book on Goodreads and see that JK Rowling had more than 64,000 one-star reviews. Whoa! That’s a staggering number of dislikes and negativity, even when compared to her nearly 2,539,000 five-star reviews for balance. I reminded myself I was in good company. The good reviews helped even out the negative ones; the praise of the higher-starred reviews helped soothe my ruffled writer ego.

Going in neck-deep. The reviews for my debut kept rolling in, and periodically, I would hop online and read them…I actually saved most of them in a Word document so they’d all be in one place (will I ever read them again? eh, probably not). In July 2016, I published Bottled, my YA fantasy. Reading those reviews was a lot easier on my toughened, now-more-relaxed psyche. When a low rating would pop up, I was like, “Oh look—there’s my first 2-star review.” While one person couldn’t bear to finish the book, others raved and wanted a sequel. It was so subjective! 

"So, after three published books, I’ve concluded readers have incredibly different tastes, and the best thing I can do is accept that subjectivity."

Close on the heels of that summer release, in September 2016 The Lying Planet came out, and I got an amusing range of reactions there too: is the concept unique and creative, or is it cliché science fiction, derivative of books like Divergent and The Giver? (There’s a Testing in it, so that bit is admittedly similar.) People’s tastes were so varied.

I’m quite Zen with it. So, after three published books, I’ve concluded readers have incredibly different tastes, and the best thing I can do is accept that subjectivity. For me, reading reviews also was beneficial in that I saw some comments cropping up repeatedly, and I analyzed whether or not I thought they were valid. Just like any other feedback from agents or editors or critique partners, I had to trust my gut. Be objective. Did the criticism strike a chord and feel true? Did I need to tighten up the pacing of my new novels, or work more on rounding out my secondary characters? Yes, maybe I did. I don’t believe authors should be chameleons who change their writing to please the critics, but reading reviews can be eye-opening, a constructive learning experience for some (warning: not all) authors. If I choose to, I can incorporate any relevant feedback I happen to come across. 

"My new goal now is to go back to my writer cave and write more books, improving my craft and doing the best I possibly can. I treasure the readers who do connect with my writing. My writing isn’t for everyone—and it doesn’t have to be. In the end, as long as people are reading and enjoying my book; those are the ones I’m writing for. My true fans." 


The Lying Planet
by Carol Riggs
Entangled Teen
Released 9/19/2016

Promise City. That’s the colony I’ve been aiming for all my life on the planet Liberty. The only thing standing in my way? The Machine. On my eighteenth birthday, this mysterious, octopus-like device will scan my brain and Test my deeds. Good thing I’ve been focusing on being Jay Lawton, hard worker and rule follower, my whole life. Freedom is just beyond my fingertips.

Or so I thought. Two weeks before my Testing with the Machine, I’ve stumbled upon a new reality. The truth. In a single sleepless night, everything I thought I knew about the adults in our colony changes. And the only one who’s totally on my side is the clever, beautiful rebel, Peyton. Together we have to convince the others to sabotage their Testings before it’s too late.

Before the ceremonies are over and the hunting begins.

View The Lying Planet on Goodreads
Purchase The Lying Planet at Amazon
Purchase The Lying Planet at Indiebound


Carol Riggs is an author of young adult fiction who lives in the beautiful green state of Oregon, USA. Her books include her sci-fi debut, The Body Institute, as well as her fantasy, Bottled, and her recently released sci-fi, The Lying Planet. 

She enjoys reading, drawing and painting, writing conferences, walking with her husband, and enjoying music and dance of all kinds. You will usually find her in her writing cave, surrounded by her dragon collection and the characters in her head.

Monday, December 5, 2016

6 New Releases this week 12/5-12/11 plus Giveaway of MIND GAMES

Happy Monday! Don't forget to check out all the new releases and enter to win below.

Happy Reading,

Shelly, Sam, Jocelyn, Martina, Erin, Susan, Michelle, Laura, Anisaa, and Kristin


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Mind Games
by Heather W. Petty
Hardcover Giveaway
U.S. Only

Simon & Schuster Books
Released 12/6/2016

Sherlock Holmes and Miss James “Mori” Moriarty may have closed their first case, but the mystery is far from over in the thrilling sequel to Lock & Mori, perfect for fans of Maureen Johnson and Sherlock.

You know their names. Now discover their beginnings.

Mori’s abusive father is behind bars…and she has never felt less safe. Threatening letters have started appearing on her doorstep, and the police are receiving anonymous tips suggesting that Mori—not her father—is the Regent’s Park killer. To make matters worse, the police are beginning to believe them.

Through it all, Lock—frustrating, brilliant, gorgeous Lock—is by her side. The two of them set out to discover who is framing Mori, but in a city full of suspects, the task is easier said than done. With the clock ticking, Mori will discover just how far she is willing to go to make sure that justice is served, and no one—not even Lock—will be able to stop her.

Purchase Mind Games at Amazon
Purchase Mind Games at IndieBound
View Mind Games on Goodreads


Avalanche by Melinda Braun: Theresa S.


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Black Moon
by Romina Russell
Released 12/6/2016

One final secret stands between Rho and the enemy. But will the devastating truth be enough to destroy her first?

Rho, the courageous visionary from House Cancer, lost nearly everything when she exposed and fought against the Marad, a mysterious terrorist group bent on destroying balance in the Zodiac Galaxy. Now, the Marad has disappeared without a trace, and an uneasy peace has been declared in the Zodiac Galaxy.

But Rho is suspicious. She believes the Master is still out there in some other form. And looming over all are the eerie visions of her mother, who died many years ago, but is now appearing to Rho in the stars.

When news of a stylish new political party supported by her best friend, Nishi, sends Rho on another journey across the galaxy, she uses it as an opportunity to hunt the hidden master and seek out information about her mother. And what she uncovers sheds light on the truth--but casts darkness upon the entire Zodiac world.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Black Moon?

My favorite thing about BLACK MOON is that I finally got to create my very own royal ball! In addition to young adult fiction, I love the Victorian novel, so I’ve always longed to script an over-the-top ballroom scene riddled with gaudy gowns, decadent decorations, and cryptic conversations—a night rife with romantic and political entanglements—and now I finally have! Plus, the ball takes place on a new planet, so it was extra fun playing around with the setting, technology, and fashion. 

Purchase Black Moon at Amazon
Purchase Black Moon at IndieBound
View Black Moon on Goodreads


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by E.K. Johnston
Released 12/6/2016

The world is made safe by a woman...but it is a very big world.

It has been generations since the Storyteller Queen drove the demon out of her husband and saved her country from fire and blood. Her family has prospered beyond the borders of their village, and two new kingdoms have sprouted on either side of the mountains where the demons are kept prisoner by bright iron, and by the creatures the Storyteller Queen made to keep them contained.

But the prison is crumbling. Through years of careful manipulation, a demon has regained her power. She has made one kingdom strong and brought the other to its knees, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. When a princess is born, the demon is ready with the final blow: a curse that will cost the princess her very soul, or force her to destroy her own people to save her life.

The threads of magic are tightly spun, binding princess and exiled spinners into a desperate plot to break the curse before the demon can become a queen of men. But the web of power is dangerously tangled--and they may not see the true pattern until it is unspooled.

Purchase Spindle at Amazon
Purchase Spindle at IndieBound
View Spindle on Goodreads

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True Power
by Gary Meehan
Jo Fletcher Books
Released 12/6/2016

The War
After battling their way across Werlavia, Megan and her companions have sought the promise of safety in the mountain city of Hil . . . but the army of the True lies in wait for their arrival.

The Threat
Megan knows they can't ignore the witch menace any longer. Empowered by their guns and their allies, the True are coming for her, for her young daughter, and for everyone else she loves. Nothing less than the soul of Werlavia hangs in the balance.

The Power
Now deep into her quest, which began when she suddenly found herself a refugee from her destroyed village, Megan is no longer an ordinary miller's daughter. As her destiny has unfolded through her travels, she has taken on the role of Mother, Apostate, and Countess. And now it is up to her to protect the people of the Realm from evil. But she will have to risk everything and everyone she loves if she has any hope of succeeding against the savage forces of the True.

Purchase True Power at Amazon
Purchase True Power at IndieBound
View True Power on Goodreads

Saturday, December 3, 2016

0 Melinda Braun, author of AVALANCHE, on writing in long hand

We're thrilled to have Melinda Braun stop by to tell us more about her latest novel AVALANCHE.

Melinda, what scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

I think the hardest scene for me to write was the actual avalanche. Trying to describe it, not just what it looks like, but what it might feel like to be in one, was difficult. I have never been in an avalanche - I NEVER want to be in an avalanche. Being buried alive is definitely in my top three worst fears so writing that scene almost made me sick! While I have done my share of downhill skiing, I have never done that type of back country mountain skiing so I was fortunate to know some people who have. One of my friends even survived this type of avalanche (thanks to her airbag she was wearing at the time, which is an inflatable device that you deploy if you find yourself going under). She told me she would not have survived without it.

While that scene was the most terrifying to write, some of my favorite scenes are from the perspective of the mountain lion. When I first started the book, I had no idea those perspectives were going to show up, but now I love them. I also like how the ending turned out. I was stuck for awhile on how the story should end. It was bugging me because I usually know my beginnings and endings. It's the stuff in the middle that's the hard part!

0 Thank You to the Mentors and Participants of November 1st 5 Pages Workshop!

Congratulations to all of the participants who worked so hard during our November 1st 5 Pages Writing Workshop! And a big thanks to our wonderful guest mentors, Nancy Ohlin as our author mentor, and Tracy Marchini as our agent mentor. As always, thank you to our talented and fabulous permanent mentors, who read, comment, and cheer on our participants every month!

Speaking of our wonderful mentors, we have exciting mentor news!

CURSING FATE, the sequel to Brenda Drake's fabulous YA fantasy, TOUCHING FATE, was published on November 21. I loved this YA fantasy, so you should definitely check it out!

And on December 6, Stephanie Scott's YA contemporary, ALTERATIONS will be released! I can't wait to read it!

We are taking a hiatus in December, opening again in January, 2017! So get those pages ready - we usually fill up in under a minute!

Happy writing (and revising!)


Friday, December 2, 2016

1 YALLFest interview with Dhonielle Clayton

Next up in my YALLFest interview series is Dhonielle Clayton, co-author of TINY PRETTY THINGS and SHINY BROKEN PIECES. After chatting with her, I'm amazed at everything she's doing and am convinced she either has a clone, is a robot who doesn't need sleep, or has gotten her
hands on Hermione's Time Turner. She not only co-writes with Sona Charaipotra, but the two of them also run CAKE Literary, and Dhonielle writes her own solo novels, AND she's the COO and Sr. VP of Librarian Services for We Need Diverse Books. Whew, I'm tired just typing that! Let's jump in and find out more about the wonderful things Dhonielle is doing.

Since you co-write with Sona, I’m curious how the process works at the various stages. What does it look like from the initial idea to the final manuscript?

So we brainstorm, or I’ll call her and say, “I have an idea!” And then she’ll be like, “Oh my God, and add this!” So we always kind of collaborate and put them together. And then she’s a plotter and I’m not. I’m a world-building and character person. So she will build the frame, and then I fill in the character details and the world, since that’s my wheelhouse. So we really do a divide and conquer thing. And then we usually split up chapters or characters and take responsibility. And then we go back and we’re not precious about it, so we edit each other’s work. Because her strengths are really plotting, pace, dialog and mine are world-building and character, so we just play to our strengths within each chapter. So it’s a lot of fun.

Has there been an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel?

*laughs* No. Every single time I start a book it’s painful, and I feel like a fraud. Every time. And I have to return to books that I’ve written and say, “Oh, I did this. It’s okay. I will be okay. It will turn out in some way to be beautiful. But right now, it’s trash.” So I have not reached that. Maybe ten books in? Right now I’m only four books in, and I’m still in the danger zone.

What are you working on now?

I have a high fantasy from Disney coming out called THE BELLES. It comes out in February of 2018. So I’m working on that, well copy edits. And I’m working on what will be my next fantasy. And then Sona and I will have some news about another co-written project that we have coming.

You and Sona also created CAKE Literary together, which is boutique book development company. So what is CAKE Literary?

It’s all about trying to open the door of publishing to other writers who are marginalized and underrepresented in publishing. So we got together and said, "Hey, we’ve got to show people how we do diversity and how we would have loved to see it as kids, where it’s fun, delicious, page-turning stories." So we tried to come up with a recipe.

I love the CAKE website. And it made me hungry for cake!

We thought that every time we hung out, we would go eat cake or have cupcakes, and we thought how boring would it be if every time we had to eat the same type of cupcake. And Sona was like that’s our thing - it’s cake! Because it would be really boring if it came in one flavor, and we want to show different flavors and different kinds of diversity and different ways to do it. So it’s a lot of fun, and we get to create from scratch together. It’s great.

I saw the reveal of the fantastic cover for THE GAUNTLET the other day. Is this the first project from CAKE that y’all didn’t write yourselves?

Yes, it’s by Karuna Riazi, and we packaged it, meaning I came up with the idea. I said, “I want to do an inverted Jumanji.” Because I love the picture book, I love the movie, and I wanted to do it the opposite way. I wanted to go into a game and have to work your way back out to the real world. And I said I wanted to do something with sand and India and the Middle East, and then we found the perfect writer. And we plotted it and really worked with her to make something really beautiful and scary and interesting.

How does the process work?

We do all of the legwork, meaning we do the plotting, we do the pitch, we do the characters, we do all of those things, and then we go find the writer. And we talk to them about what their goals are and if they want to break into publishing or if they’re already in publishing and are looking for another way to have like a middle grade if they write YA. And then we do a matching to see if their voices work and see if their goals line up with what we’re trying to do too. And then we go forward – we jump in.

How do you work with the authors?

We give them the outline and we hold their hands through the process and whatever they need help with we’re there, but we allow them to sort of wade into the water and know that they’ve got two other editors – two other people there – they’re not alone.

Any advice for writers who want to submit to CAKE?

I like meeting people, so most of the people that we’ve signed up are people that we’ve met at conferences, at festivals. So if you really want to write for us, come see us, come talk to us. Because what we’re finding is that the best people that we’ve signed up are the ones that we’ve met or someone who’s been a reference to us. I mean, we do accept submissions and we look at them and we try to match things, but we’ve found really good success at meeting people face-to-face. Talking to them and just getting a sense of their heart and what they’re into, which is really hard to do electronically. So it’s nice to meet people and say, “Well, what are you working on? What are you into?”

Any other upcoming projects besides THE GAUNTLET?

We have a book called LOVE SUGAR MAGIC that will come out in 2018 from Harper. It’s about a little girl in a small town of Texas, and her family owns a bakery, and she finds out that her family are kitchen witches. They run a Mexican bakery, and then of course she bungles up the magic. It’s a lot of fun.

Do you have any advice for people interested in setting up their own boutique book development company?

You’ve gotta find your shtick. You’ve got to figure out how you do things and what your signature is and what makes you different from the other packagers that are out there. Our shtick is diversity and trying to model to publishers ways to do it well.

You’re also the COO and Sr. VP of Librarian Services for We Need Diverse Books. I’m sure most people are familiar with WNDB, but remind us how it started.

It was a viral hashtag. Ellen Oh saw an advertisement for a book con of twelve luminaries in children’s book publishing, and they were all white, mostly men, and a cat. Grumpy Cat. And she was devastated because she was like there are so many more children’s book authors that are luminaries in the field. And then she got a bunch of authors together and said, “We need to start a hashtag about why we need diverse books,” and it went viral. And then we decided to make it into a nonprofit so that we could try to target the different areas of publishing to help. And try to get at the problem from many different vantage points.

In light of what’s happened since the election, what can we do as writers to help WNDB?

We need diverse books more than ever. Stories save lives. And right now we’re going into a time in our country where people’s lives are at risk, and so we have to retreat to art. So writers need to write. Artists need to create. That’s all we can do. And that’s the only way that we can change and have actual change.

What can non-writers do to help WNDB?

You can do lots of things. You can donate. You can also request diverse books at your library. You can book talk diverse books. Give recommendations. Those are the things that help because we have to get more people reading widely and diversely so they can walk a mile in other people’s shoes. That’s the problem that we have right now in this country. They don’t know each other. We are the same. We need to figure that out. We want the same things. So we need to be able to read about each other, even if we’re not in each other’s communities, so we can treat each other with respect.

To find lists of diverse books to read and recommend, go here.

Thank you, Dhonielle, for taking the time to chat with me!

As we wait for THE BELLES, make sure you've read her latest, SHINY BROKEN PIECES.


Shiny Broken Pieces
by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
Released 7/12/2016

Featuring a diverse cast of characters, plenty of gossip, lies, and scandal, Shiny Broken Pieces continues with the soapy drama readers loved in Tiny Pretty Things.

June, Bette, and Gigi have given their all to dance at Manhattan’s most elite ballet school. Now they are competing one final time for a spot at the prestigious American Ballet Company. With the stakes higher than ever, these girls have everything to lose…and no one is playing nice.

June is starting to finally see herself as a prima ballerina. However, getting what she wants might cost her everything—including the only boy she’s ever loved. Legacy dancer Bette is determined to clear her name after she was suspended and accused of hurting her rival, Gigi. Even if she returns, though, will she ever regain the spotlight she craves? And Gigi is not going to let Bette—or the other dancers who bullied her—go unpunished. But as revenge consumes her, Gigi may be the one who pays the price.

After years of grueling auditions, torn ribbons, and broken hearts, it all comes down to this last dance. Who will make the cut? And who will lose her dream forever?

Purchase Shiny Broken Pieces at Amazon
Purchase Shiny Broken Pieces at IndieBound
View Shiny Broken Pieces on Goodreads


Born and raised in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., Dhonielle J. Clayton spent much of her childhood hiding beneath her grandmother's dining table with a stack of books. As an English teacher at a ballet academy, Clayton rediscovered her passion for children's and young adult literature. To ground herself in the canon, she pursued her Masters in Children's Literature from Hollins University before receiving her MFA in Writing for Children at the New School. An avid traveler, Dhonielle's lived in several foreign countries, but she's now settled in Harlem, where you'll find her writing late into the night, lurking in libraries, and hunting for the best slice of New York pizza.


Which of Dhonielle's books have you read? Have you ever written with a co-author? Have you thought about starting your own boutique book development company? Have you requested diverse books at your library? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy reading,


Thursday, December 1, 2016

0 Red Light/Green Light Final Winner!

After a number of weeks, it is my great pleasure to announce the final winner of Red Light/Green Light. We had some brilliant entries, and I sincerely hope you all go on to query your work--we've loved the opportunity to read your words, which show a great deal of promise.

Our winner is...

by Kelly Barina

Seventeen-year-old Vael meets his long-lost brother, Mordred, for the first time, only to discover that they’re destined to become enemies.

After years with only swords and tomes as companions, Prince Vael finds his first true friendship with the arrival of his surly half-brother, Mordred—a boy even more familiar with rejection and loneliness than Vael. However, an ancient prophecy haunts Mordred’s footsteps―he is destined to kill their father, King Arthur, in a battle that will destroy Britain. Vael may not believe in fate’s power, but that means little to the superstitious kingdom that wants his older brother dead.

When Mordred’s sorceress mother builds an army against Camelot and plots to use him as her pawn, Vael vows to show Mordred that destinies can be chosen, even if it means challenging the fearsome sorceress himself. If Vael cannot free Mordred from the sorceress’ twisted grasp, he will have to watch his father and Camelot fall or kill the only friend he’s ever had—his brother.


Congratulations, Kelly! Our judging agent, Marisa Corvisiero, has requested that you send in your full manuscript. We'll be in touch shortly with submission instructions!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

We're really excited to feature Abigail Johnson, author of IF I FIX YOU, this week as she shares what made the difference in becoming a published author.

"I decided to talk about critique partner's and how they were the one thing that made the most difference in getting me from aspiring author to published author".

I like to think I’ve always been an aspiring author. I wrote little stories as a kid and never really stopped. It wasn’t until college, however, that the idea of becoming a published author took root. That’s when I started writing my very first novel.

You guys, it was such a turd of a book.

It was an adult action-adventure novel with an archaeological bent a la Clive Cussler. I had no idea how to write a novel, much less one that required the obscene amount of research needed for the story I came up with. I spent months and months researching locations and time periods and historical figures who were quasi-connected to my plot. By the time I actually got into writing the story, I had so much info crammed in my head that it strangled the enjoyment for me. I don’t think I made it halfway before I gave up on it.

I didn’t mind though, because while I’ll always get a kick out of reading Dirk Pitt’s latest adventures, my heart will forever belong to YA. There is something endlessly exciting about being a teenager and straddling that line between childhood and adulthood. One I realized that I wanted to write the kind of books I loved reading most—YA—I got an idea for a new story and I could not write it fast enough. There were no tomb robbers or car chases, but there was heartache and first kisses and broken characters. That book would eventually become If I Fix You, my first published—and completed—novel.

Becoming a published author wasn’t as easy as simply finishing a book. I had to rewrite and revise and cut and tear my book apart over and over again before that happened. And I didn’t do it by myself, I couldn’t have done it by myself.

"That all started with Maggie Stiefvater."

Oh, how I love Maggie Stiefvater. Not just because her writing owns my heart. Every. Single. Time she releases a new book (The Scorpio Races remain my favorite), but because if it weren’t for her, I would never have met the two people most responsible for helping me transition from aspiring author published author.

I’m talking about Maggie Stiefvater’s Critique Partner Love Connection and the two best CP’s on the planet: Sarah Guillory and Kate Goodwin. We were all fans of Maggie’s books and follower’s of her blog when she inaugurated the annual matchup years ago. Maggie invited aspiring authors to share some info about a current WIP in the post comments and then see if anyone seemed interested in swapping pages. We were all writing Contemporary YA and ended up trading a few chapters, and we’ve never looked back.

I was drifting as a writer before I connected with my critique partners. Yes, I had a story and characters I liked, but I didn’t have a book, much less something publishable. I had a draft and a messy one at that. Once we started critiquing for each other, I gained a new focus. For the first time since college, I had people expecting me to write. I had an audience beyond family and friends. I had other writers helping me to identify the strengths and weaknesses in my writing, helping my set--and keep--deadlines, and encouraging me every step of the way. When it came time to start querying agents, they must have read dozens of versions before I sent the first one out. When the inevitable rejections started rolling in, they were the ones who kept me motivated until I landed the perfect agent for me. And you better believe they cheered as loud as anyone when I sold my first book.

We’ve all grown a lot as writers and critique partners since Maggie first “introduced” us, and if anything, I feel like I rely on them more. Beyond reading and critiquing each other’s books, every month we write short stories based on the same prompt and get to try out genres and styles we might never explore as full-length novels. We still brainstorm new ideas, titles and work through plot holes together. We share tips and book recommendations. We help each other with promotion, software, all the other non-book related stuff too. They are, without a doubt, the most invaluable resource I have as a writer and I can’t imagine writing a single word without them. And I love getting to help them too. It’s an incredible feeling to know we’re in this industry together, both as friends and authors.

"[Critique partners] are, without a doubt, the most invaluable resource I have as a writer and I can’t imagine writing a single word without them."

If you are looking for critique partners to help get you to the next level, a quick search will offer you are a lot of options. If you want to try Maggie Stiefvater's Critique Partner Love Connection, she's evolved and streamlined the program into an ongoing Google group here.


If I Fix You
by Abigail Johnson
Harlequin Teen
Released 10/25/2016

Readers of Sarah Dessen, Cammie McGovern and Morgan Matson will adore this thought-provoking, complex and romantic contemporary novel from debut author Abigail Johnson, about finding the strength to put yourself back together when everything you know has fallen apart.

When sixteen-year-old Jill Whitaker’s mom walks out—with a sticky note as a goodbye—only Jill knows the real reason she’s gone. But how can she tell her father? Jill can hardly believe the truth herself.

Suddenly, the girl who likes to fix things—cars, relationships, romances, people—is all broken up. Used to be, her best friend, tall, blond and hot flirt Sean Addison, could make her smile in seconds. But not anymore. They don’t even talk.

With nothing making sense, Jill tries to pick up the pieces of her life. But when a new guy moves in next door, intense, seriously cute, but with scars—on the inside and out—that he thinks don’t show, Jill finds herself trying to make things better for Daniel. But over one long, hot Arizona summer, she realizes she can’t fix anyone’s life until she fixes her own. And she knows just where to start . . .


Abigail was born in Pennsylvania. When she was twelve, her family traded in snow storms for year round summers, and moved to Arizona. Abigail chronicled the entire cross-country road trip (in a purple spiral bound notebook that she still has) and has been writing ever since. 

She became a tetraplegic after breaking her neck in a car accident when she was seventeen, but hasn’t let that stop her from bodysurfing in Mexico, writing and directing a high school production of Cinderella, and publishing her first novel.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

1 In Contentious Times, It's Time to Ask for Forgiveness

There was another incident of senseless violence at Ohio State University yesterday. It seems like the news makes no sense anymore. Ever. This Thanksgiving, I felt guilty for giving thanks for so many blessings when I know other people are hurting, whether that hurt is physical, emotional, or financial.

It’s tempting to retreat inward in times like these, to ease away from the news and social media and resort to watching videos of puppies and kittens. That’s a selfish impulse, though. We can’t retreat from the pain other people are feeling and make anything better.

What can make things better? Kindness. Compassion. Understanding.

We can make an effort to recognize graciousness and selflessness whenever we find it, and that’s what I’m going to do in this post today.

I want to give a shout out to a brand new web site called Founded by Liza Wiemer, it’s just one more example of the kindness and emphasis on forgiveness that she is constantly putting out into the world. Today, we need that more than ever. We not only need to forgive others. We need to forgive ourselves and let go of pain.

Here’s a video that explains about the site:

In a nutshell, the site is a place to post anonymous stories of the hurts, big and small, that people have inflicted on each other. The hurts that continue to stick with us. It’s a place to reach out and show the world that we all have pain and to put ourselves in other peoples’ shoes so that we can all go on to be better and kinder.

Go read these stories. Reading inspires empathy.

Have a story to share? Something you regret? A mistake you wish you could erase? A hurt you've inflicted for which you never asked forgiveness? It's not too late. Go share it. Ask for forgiveness.

And a big THANK YOU to Liza for inspiring this at a time when we need it.

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Hugs and much love,


Monday, November 28, 2016

6 New Releases this week 11/28 plus Giveaway of AVALANCHE

Happy Monday! Don't forget to check out all the new releases and enter to win below.

Happy Reading,

Shelly, Sam, Jocelyn, Martina, Erin, Susan, Michelle, Laura, Anisaa, and Kristin


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by Melinda Braun
Signed Hardcover Giveaway
U.S. Only

Simon Pulse
Released 11/29/2016

Two groups of teens—those waiting to be saved and those doing the saving—are in a race against time and a battle against Mother Nature after an avalanche traps them in an isolated cabin in this chilling novel.

“I promise it’ll be a weekend you’ll never forget.”

A trip like that is exactly what Matt was hoping for—a fun adventure. A daring escape. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go cross country skiing in a thrilling but dangerous pass through the Rocky Mountains. The perfect way for Matt to forget about his disappointing father and maybe let loose a little with his best friend and a group of carefree adrenaline junkies.

But then their guide takes them off-path … and straight into an avalanche. By the time they make it safely into an abandoned cabin, one skier is dead and another severely injured. Trapped with no heat, no water, and no radio the group decides to wait it out. Help will come. It has to.

Until it doesn’t. And Matt knows if they wait any longer they’ll be dead—just another bunch of victims in Mother Nature’s twisted games. Armed with only a handful of supplies and his fierce determination Matt decides to goes head-to-head with the elements, battling hypothermia, frostbite, and even mountain lions in order to find help and save them all. That is if Mother Nature doesn’t kill him first.

Purchase Avalanche at Amazon
Purchase Avalanche at IndieBound
View Avalanche on Goodreads


Fate of Flames by Sarah Raughley: Any B.
Gap Life by John Coy: Ellie M.


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Dear Yvette
by Ni-Ni Simone
Released 11/29/2016

All sixteen year old Yvette Simmons wanted was to disappear. Problem is: she has too many demons for that. Yvette’s life changed forever after a street fight over a boy ended in a second degree murder charge. Forced to start all over again, she’s sentenced to live in a group home far from anything or anyone she’s ever known. She manages to keep her past hidden, until a local cutie, known as Brooklyn, steps in. Slowly, Yvette lets him into her heart and he gives her the summer of her dreams...

But in Yvette’s world things are never as they seem.

Brooklyn has a few secrets of his own and Yvette’s past comes back with a vengeance. Will she face life head-on? Will she return to her old ways? Or will an unexpected letter decide her fate?

Purchase Dear Yvette at Amazon
Purchase Dear Yvette at IndieBound
View Dear Yvette on Goodreads

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Frozen Charlotte
by Alex Bell
Scholastic Press
Released 11/29/2016

An instantly gripping, edge-of-your-seat thriller filled with haunted dolls, creepy settings, and horrific twists.

When fifteen-year-old Sophie's best friend dies abruptly under mysterious circumstances, Sophie sets off to stay with her uncle and cousins on the remote Isle of Skye. It's been years since she last saw her cousins -- brooding Cameron with his scarred hand; Piper, who seems too perfect to be real; and peculiar little Lilias with her fear of bones.

Sophie knows that in her uncle's house, there are rules she must follow: Make no mention of Cameron's accident. Never leave the front gate unlocked. Above all, don't speak of the girl who's no longer there, the sister whose room lies empty of all but the strange antique dolls she left behind.

As Sophie begins to explore the old house, a former academy for girls shut down long ago, she discovers unsettling secrets that shed light on a dark and dangerous history. But there are some secrets Sophie never expected to uncover. Secrets about her own family. Secrets that suggest Sophie may be in more danger than she could have ever imagined.

Purchase Frozen Charlotte at Amazon
Purchase Frozen Charlotte at IndieBound
View Frozen Charlotte on Goodreads

* * * *

Girls in the Moon
by Janet McNally
Released 11/29/2016

An exquisitely told, authentic YA debut about family secrets, the shadow of fame, and finding your own way.

Everyone in Phoebe Ferris’s life tells a different version of the truth. Her mother, Meg, ex–rock star and professional question evader, shares only the end of the story—the post-fame calm that Phoebe’s always known. Her sister, Luna, indie-rock darling of Brooklyn, preaches a stormy truth of her own making, selectively ignoring the facts she doesn’t like. And her father, Kieran, the cofounder of Meg’s beloved band, hasn’t said anything at all since he stopped calling three years ago.

But Phoebe, a budding poet in search of an identity to call her own, is tired of half-truths and vague explanations. When she visits Luna in New York, she’s determined to find out how she fits in to this family of storytellers, and to maybe even continue her own tale—the one with the musician boy she’s been secretly writing for months. Told in alternating chapters, Phoebe’s first adventure flows as the story of Meg and Kieran’s romance ebbs, leaving behind only a time-worn, precious pearl of truth about her family’s past—and leaving Phoebe to take a leap into her own unknown future.

Purchase Girls in the Moon at Amazon
Purchase Girls in the Moon at IndieBound
View Girls in the Moon on Goodreads