Tuesday, June 20, 2017

I'm Enlisting Your Help . . .

If, of course, you'd like to help me. This is completely voluntary.* If and when you do decide to be oh-so-very helpful, you'll be met with lots of grateful hugs and virtual cookies. So thank you in advance!

*Unless you wish to suffer the wrath of a bookworm with a pile of 400+-page hardbacks.

**Just kidding.

I've been querying my YA contemporary romance, Beneath the Moon and Stars, for quite some time now, and while I did receive a full manuscript request, that agent eventually passed, and I've had no other bites since. It's always hard to tell what the exact reason for this is since most rejections are form letters, but taking a look at the query letter is a good place to start.

I'd love it if you blogger extraordinaires could take a look at my letter and tell me what works, what doesn't, what you think could be improved, etc. Pretend you're picking my book off the shelf of a bookstore or library and reading the back cover. Does it interest you? Why or why not? What's missing?

Kya and Lane weren’t exactly “meant to be.” 17-year-old Kya lives with her mother and abusive stepfather in a flea-ridden apartment above a guy who grows weed. She’d never dream of the luxury of a healthy relationship. 18-year-old Lane lives in a ritzy house with maids and cooks and constantly butts heads with his mother, who accuses him of falling in love too quickly.

One day at the grocery store, Kya and Lane meet at the checkout line, bonding over their shared disgust of Miley Cyrus music. They become fast “just friends,” discussing everything from books to whether or not eating caviar is ethical. But their friendship holds the possibility of something more. That is, it could be more if Kya’s tyrannical stepfather and Lane’s manipulative mother don’t break them apart.

But with the help of Kya’s mother and Lane’s older sister, they’ll find a way to beat the odds. If the odds don’t beat them first.

Hugs and virtual cookies await! Just leave a comment. :) Thank you!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Snippets (What I'm Doing, Writing, Working On, Listening to, etc.)

So much has happened around here lately that I've had a hard time coming up with what to post about. How do I decide on just one topic??? Then inspiration struck. I'll write about EVERYTHING. I'll bombard you with little bits of my life, writing samples, pictures, and more until you wish I had just decided to write about one thing.

Buckle up, there's a lot going on in this post.

I was in a musical!

A local theater group put on "Beauty and the Beast" and it was so. much. fun. (Besides the audition where I was like 60% sure I was going to pass out but somehow made it through.) I played the bookseller, which was perfect because I got a few lines but didn't have to be in the spotlight for one of my first more serious theater productions, and I got to be in all the best songs ("Belle," "Gaston," "The Mob Song," and "Finale")! We had four performances with two different casts (the main parts were all double cast) and everyone was really talented and fun to be around. The costumes and sets were amazing, too.

I'm friends with the family in charge of the sets, so they had me pick out a few titles like Harry Potter and Eleanor & Park for them to paint on the books. They also added my books (Fauxpocalypse and Instructions For Flight) as a surprise, which was so cool!

My brother and dad built Maurice's invention
From left to right: Bookseller, Maurice, stage crew, Madame D'arque, and Lumiere.
Jazz hands!
Beauty and the Beast
With our directors and choreographer.

Somehow I managed to avoid stepping on Gaston's feet here.
My best startled and annoyed face at Maurice accosting me when I'm just trying to get Gaston a drink.
I don't know what's happening with his facial expression here, but I love it.
The directors kept these two siblings in the same cast because they had way too much fun fighting each other onstage.

Kill the beast!
Fight scene.
The beast's transformation.
They put me in charge of a small child at the last minute for curtain call.
You can see me peeking out from underneath Babette's and the wardrobe's arms.

Phew, that's a lot of pictures.

We had a party to watch the Tony Awards!

Not that I wasn't already listening to "Dear Evan Hansen" and "Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812" like crazy, but the Tony Awards just gave me another excuse to listen to them non-stop. Our friends who are also musical theater junkies (and were involved in "Beauty and the Beast") came over to watch with us.


Of course we couldn't let a perfect food opportunity go to waste.

After seeing the "Great Comet" performance, I'm even more excited (if that's possible) to see it live! My dad surprised my brother and me with tickets to go see it on Broadway with Oak from "Hamilton" starring as Pierre! :)

I'm working on a thousand different writing projects!

This is a bit hyperbolic, but you get the idea. I just finished the first round of edits for Ms. Holmes and am horrified at how often I used adverbs and the phrase "She raised her eyebrows." I'm surprised my characters' eyebrows didn't fly off their foreheads from overuse.

And since I'm more sick of 221B Baker Street than I can say, I'm getting ready to tackle edits for 'Til the Last Star Dies, because I miss my little ragtag team of demon hunters and witches. I'm also curious what horrors I'll find in there. Maybe my adverb usage will have improved?

I took a break from my pirates, but I'm returning to Captain Zahira and her Wayward Crew after more inspiration struck me. I'd forgotten just how many characters I'd decided to include, so juggling all of them should be fun. Right now I'm especially fond of my half-mermaid Master Gunner, Jezebelle. Jez is that person who has a dozen different weapons hidden in the most unlikely of places and takes several minutes to unload them upon being captured by the enemy when they say, "Leave all your weapons."

I've also written a lot of flash-fiction I'm hoping to submit to the Scholastic writing contest later this year. So far my favorite one is about the four horsewomen of the apocalypse arguing over how best to destroy humanity. It's really freaking weird and probably needs a lot of work, but I loved writing it.

And finally, I've been writing a lot of poetry. Poems are always good to have on hand for contests, and I love writing them more than ever since I took that online poetry course from the University of Iowa. Who knows if they're any good, but I've definitely improved.

I completed my Goodreads goal!

Already? You might be thinking. Yes, already, because for some reason I thought setting a low goal this year would be more realistic since I wouldn't have as much time to read with the classes I've been taking at my community college. But I forgot I can totally count stuff I have to read in class toward my goal! (This is a super handy trick that I absolutely recommend if you're busy with school and need to complete a challenge.) My theatre class alone allowed me to add four or five plays to my goal of 40 books. I probably cheated a little, too, since I've been adding comic books toward the challenge, too.

In case you're curious, here are my favorite books from the year so far.

I have a bunch of writing camps coming up!

Writing camps are always the highlight of my summer, because it's the only magical place on earth where you can get a bunch of awkward and introverted writers together and turn them into these strangely extroverted creatures. Each year, I make new friends who are talented and hysterical and love all the same things I do. The classes are great and the teachers encourage you to keep in touch with them afterwards so they can continue to help you with all of your writing endeavors. It's going to be tons of fun.

In fact, I loved camp so much last year, I wrote a full-length movie script about it that's probably 85% autobiographical.

Somehow in this time, Kat managed to leave the room without being noticed and then come back through the door with a carton of Chinese food. She stops with her chopsticks midair when she notices everyone staring at her.



Where in the world did you get that?

What do you mean?

We don’t have Chinese food anywhere on campus. And we’re not allowed to leave campus . . .

I know people.

Of course you do.

Well sit back down and help us get stuff done.

Yeah, I’ve done nothing except quietly weep on the inside at how little I’ve gotten done.

Hey, Sarah and I got stuff done . . .

Really? What’d you do?

Sarah mumbles something unintelligible.

Sorry, didn’t catch that.

Wrote “Wicked” parodies.

“I’m gonna tryyy defyyyying responsibilitiiiieeeesss.”

Kate and Peyton giggle. Anna Marie looks 5000% done with everyone.

And this is why we get nothing done.


Sam and Sarah are now belting show tunes. Kat somehow got a hold of an entire large Papa John’s pizza and gives everybody a slice.

Anna Marie quietly bangs her forehead against her keyboard. Dana is surrounded by at least five different notebooks and looks panicked. Kate and Peyton are the only ones typing away at their laptops as if they’re actually getting work done.

My dog is adorable!

In other news, water is wet.

I made the dean's list!

This past semester was the first time I took on a full load of classes, and I decided I really wanted to challenge myself, so I took a public speaking course and an Intro to Human Biology class. And let me tell you, our bio professor was freaking insane.

Eccentric and intense doesn't even begin to describe him. He gets like four hours of sleep each night because he gets up at 3 in the morning to run seven miles or so, then showers, drives to work, and repeats this every day. Every time I came to class, I'd try to see how much the bags under his eyes had grown. Not only is he a crazy runner, but he's a health freak, too. Anytime he'd talk about McDonald's, he'd called them "Micky D's" and get this manic glint in his eye like he was fantasizing about burning it to the ground. He frequently stopped talking about whatever it was we were supposed to be learning for the next test to go on fifteen minutes rants about how we need to get an hour of exercise a day and get our blood pressure checked and make sure we eat a nutritious breakfast. I would always describe him to my friend as a strange combination between a drill sergeant and a concerned father.

Anyways, all of this is to say that he terrified me for a good month. Imagine coming into class your first day for a course you already know is probably your worst subject and seeing this guy with a stern look on his face and bags under his eyes that could carry all of his groceries from how deep they were. And then as soon as the clock hits 9:30, he starts off class by telling us statistics from his previous classes. "Seven of you will fail, five will drop out, another seven will have to fight and claw their way to a passing grade, and maybe, maybe two of you will get an A. If you're lucky." This is a direct quote, I kid you not.

At that point, I was just hoping for a B and trying not to cry. But then he passed out index cards to all of us and asked us to write down our names and what grade we thought we'd get. I had no clue why and I'm still not really sure why he had us do this, but okay, I'd take the bait. This was a challenge. Even if I was 95% sure at that point I would get a B in the best case scenario, I wasn't going to write that down, so I wrote down I thought I'd get an A. I think most of the class did the same because they thought it was the right answer, and as he took all of the index cards back, I could see his disbelieving frown and a look of, "Yeah, sure, okay, you keep telling yourself that."

After about a month, though, he started to scare me less and less because I really tried to do everything I could to get my grade as high as possible. The tests were awful and required a ridiculous amount of memorization, so I took advantage of the fact that I was acing theater class to take extra time to study for the tests and pop quizzes. But there were also easy ways to get my grade up, like showing up to class (duh) and the participation points. He encouraged everyone from day one to raise their hands and answer questions (or ask questions), even if they didn't totally know the answer. Sometimes he'd even ask people to raise their hands to answer a question he hadn't asked yet. It was intimidating as hell, but I wasn't about to lose the easiest points possible for my grade, so I did it, and I think he appreciated that.

One day he found out that I was homeschooled and still in high school and he told me that both homeschoolers and high schoolers were always the best students in his classes, which was great motivation at that point, because I was pretty sure I'd just gotten a C on the last test we had (it was a C. I'm still bitter about it.).

By the time finals came around, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I could probably scrape an A on the course. I studied for hours because I wasn't about to let all the hard work go to waste. I wouldn't have minded a B at first, but when I was this close to an A, I'd be pretty disappointed to fall short then. Especially since he'd told us only two people in the class had As at that point (I was one of them) and that he wasn't even sure those people could keep it with how hard the final was.

It. Was. On.

After class, I went to him to see what I had to do to keep my A, and he said he actually thought I had a good chance of keeping it if I continued to study as hard as I had been, which told me his little speech before was probably a scare tactic to kick the rest of the class into high gear. "But," he said, raising his eyebrows and giving me one of his Looks. "You can't take your pedal off the gas already. There's still another lap to go." Which was a pretty weird metaphor, even for him, because he literally never used car racing metaphors before, but okay, I could roll with it. It certainly wasn't the strangest thing he'd done (I'm pretty sure gleefully shouting "Let's talk about feces!" wasn't even the strangest thing he'd done).

So long story short, there were tears and sleep lost to an entire binder full of notes, and two excruciating hours of wondering if I remembered anything I'd learned as I took the final, but my stubborn pride paid off.

I was the only student who got an A.

And since I had As in all of my other classes, I made the dean's list.

What are you excited for this summer? What are the best books you've read so far this year? Who was your weirdest teacher in school? Leave a comment!