Book Nook, December Book Blast, Publishing

Old Gems & New

Hey Everyone,

Happy Limbo Week… you know what I mean, the week between Christmas and New Years that makes you feel, well in limbo. The party is over, yet the next one is just days away. It’s hard to focus on anything new because you’re wrapping up all the old. It’s the best week ever, but also the worst!

So during limbo week I thought I’d focus on some of the old gems that made this site sparkle in 2015 and also some of the new ones that are planned for 2016…

This website and blog saw some changes this year. We shifted focus (especially in the Book Nook) from both middle grade books and YA, to simply middle grade. I thought the change was necessary because quite honestly, there aren’t enough hours in my day for me to read all the YA books that are amazing. I mean, sure I read YA, but it seems that by the time I read all those fabulous YA titles, the entire world has already read them first. So really then, why do readers need my YA recommendations anyway?

I have a better handle on middle grade books anyway (since middle grade is my life!) so that was the reason for the big shift. I’d like readers to be able to click on the tab and find some great titles they can check out and since I read middle grade all the time, turning the Book Nook into simple middle grade titles was a no brainer! I’ll admit sometimes I’m a little slow to update it though. I can see right now there are some titles that are listed as TBR that I read months ago! But, I’m working on it…

I also added some tools for tween writers—stuff that I think any young writer would love to use while writing their own creative gems.  Right now they’re in PDF format as a free download. Maybe one day I’ll turn them into something more concrete—like an actual print book or more possibly a downloadable app. Hmm…so many ideas so little time!

So what did you all think of the December Book Blast of middle grade books?? That was a first on the blog and I have to say it was, in fact, a blast! It was great for me to channel the books I love every day for 23 days, and encouraged me to seek out titles that I thought would appeal to the masses. But I did learn two things. There are WAY more than 23 books that are worth highlighting AND blogging every day (with mentions on both Twitter and Facebook) is way more work than I can handle. Have any of you ever tried blogging every day? If you have, I’m ultra impressed. It takes a lot of time! I hope you enjoyed the book related countdown to Christmas though. It was great fun for me. 🙂 To go back and read through the titles, click on the December Book Blast tab at the right, or click here.

Critique Corner saw some action at the beginning of 2015 and it was a big success—largely due to the bonus critiques from the lovely Mel Mercado, my writing crit partner and treasured friend. But interest has shifted, I think. Writers seem more reluctant to submit their beginning paragraphs for critique. I think that must mean that more and more of you are finding crit partners and groups and that is fantastic. I always say that finding the right people to critique your work is more valuable than all the rubies in the world! So I’ll keep you posted on the future of our in house critiques. I’m always open to hosting them if there is interest, so please keep the comments and emails coming. I love hearing your thoughts!

Speaking of hearing your thoughts, you may have noticed a new tab on the site that has a little something to do with my writing services. I’ll be posting separately about them but I will say this: The idea to offer them came directly as a result of your emails. I appreciate your questions about my work as a ghostwriter and requests for critiques.  I thought it was time I listened!  (More on that to come)

You may remember, I signed with my amazing literary agent, Rebecca Angus at the end of the summer. I consider that to be one of the most outstanding gems of my entire year! If you missed my agent announcement you can read it here. So now that I’m inching toward the 6 month mark of agent-dom, I thought you guys might be interested in hearing about what happens AFTER a writer signs with an agent and what it’s like to be out on submission. I know many writers have posted about this topic already, but each of our stories are different and I’d love to share mine. Hopefully I can help shed some light on the whole process.

Swirl and Spark saw a record number of views this year with a record number of readers. Seeing the readership grow means the world to me and is very humbling. That means that you think I have something worthwhile to offer here on the site. I’ll do my very best to keep doing it—and to do it even better in 2016!

Book Nook, Voice, Writing Craft

Permission to Read

So, I was sitting in the snack bar at the hockey rink last Saturday, waiting for my son’s game to begin. Normally I would be catching up with the other hockey moms, or hanging out with my daughter. But my daughter was off doing teenager-y stuff and my hockey mom-friends were, I guess, running late. So what’s a girl to do with say a half hour of free time on her hands? Well, I pulled out a book and read, of course! But what I was reading may not have been so logical apparently. The conversation I had with one of my hockey mom- friends a few minutes later went something like this:

“Why are you reading that?” my hockey mom-friend asks, disturbing my bliss, laughing like my book has three heads growing out of the pages. (It didn’t. It wasn’t a fantasy book, duh.) I look at the cover, forgetting I’m reading a middle grade book—with a bright purple cover no less.

“Oh, I read middle grade books all the time—you know that well, um I’m a writer? Well, this is the age group I write for, so it’s sort of like research I guess.”


“Yes. It helps to have a feel for middle grade language and tone and voice….” my own voice trails off.

“Oh, okay. Doesn’t it feel like you’re copying the ideas in there?”

“No! I’m not actually trying to copy what’s in the book. It helps to immerse (is that a word?) yourself in the head of middle school kids so you can write in language that appeals to them. You know, write in age appropriate style.”

“Oh, I get it.”

I bet she doesn’t. Conversation stops until I change the subject. Yeah. See, that happens to me all the time. Can you relate? So, even though my non- writer friends and family (except for my supportive husband and kids, who live amongst the chaos of MG and YA books) don’t understand why I spend my free time on purpose reading books in my genre…I still do it.

I do it because I genuinely like these books. If I didn’t, I really shouldn’t be writing them. And neither should you or any other writer. Reading books in the genre you write is essential to writing an authentic story. Through reading, not only will you learn the proper language of your audience, but also proper pacing and dialogue. I read mostly contemporary middle grade books and now speculative fiction or light fantasy stories because that’s what I write. It helps me to know my target audience and to know them well. It feels like I gain a better understanding of the genre with each book I write.

Just last weekend, I read a fabulous debut middle grade novel by Jen Malone, AT YOUR SERVICE. Not only was the story fun and well written, it taught me a bit more about voice. (Yeah, voice…uggh). In case you missed it, my Monday post this week was about voice and a trick you can do to find yours. Well, that trick came to me after reading that book! Chloe’s voice is everywhere throughout the story. And it got me thinking. What if Chloe weren’t so Chloe-ish? What if she weren’t so capable? How would she talk? How would she act given her circumstances? In essence, I gained a better understanding of the skill of voice by reading in my genre.

I also recommend reading across genres. A lot can be learned from reading a mystery novel for instance. Plotting needs to be precise in those books. I mean how Rebecca Stead created the puzzle that is WHEN YOU REACH ME, I will never know. I can merely just kiss the ground she walks on when she walks by me (sometime). Let’s not even talk about the mad world- building skills of J.K. Rowling. I’ve been practicing my curtsey for years on the oft chance I will run into her (someday). It’s also a good idea to read in other age groups too, thank goodness, like YA. THE HUNGER GAMES is one of my favorites and taught me how important it is to have big stakes in your story.

So there you have it. If you’re a writer, I give you permission to read as much as you want, especially in the genre in which you write. It will make you a better writer and you’ll feel like you’re on an adventure while you’re doing it. How great is that? Looking for suggestions? Check out the To Be Read or Book Nook– Middle Grade or YA tabs. I’ve added some new titles to the pages. I know, I know. The YA page is a little bare. I’ve been so bad about updating it. I do have more titles to add to it though and I will try my best to get on that this week. Thank you again for stopping by my site. I hope it’s been a worth- it use of your time! Have a fantastic end of the week and weekend. Hopefully many of those days will even include one of your new favorite books!

Book Nook

YA Books Anyone?

It seems like our whole country is having a colder winter than usual this year. With so much more snow! Places that don’t usually get snow have been transformed into winter wonderlands, and even the Southern most cities have felt these bitter cold temperatures. I’ve heard the people in Florida are even wearing hats and gloves!

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I’m not a fan of snow. Not when I have to drive in it, or shovel it, or dress up like an Eskimo to run even the simplest errands. Besides, this season lasts just too long. But, I am trying to look at the positives to this endless winter. And I have one really good one…

Books!  There’s nothing like curling up under a blanket on a cold, blustery day and reading a good book. Especially one you can’t put down. Add a fireplace and a cup of hot chocolate and I’m smiling inside so much that I almost forget about the blizzard outside. Almost.

So, in the spirit of that, I’ve decided to add on to the Book Nook. As it is now, the books I’ve posted are strictly Middle Grade, which means they’re written for kids mostly between the ages of 8 and 12, with some upper middle grade geared toward 14 year- olds as well. It’s my favorite age group to write for and some of my favorite books to read too.

I’ve noticed though that this blog is grabbing the attention of older kids too, ones who are beyond Middle Grade books. So, I’ve decided to add a Young Adult (YA) section. Besides, some of my all- time favorite books happen to be in that category. I mean who doesn’t love The Hunger Games series or the Divergent Trilogy?

Over the next week, I will be adding some YA books and then gradually adding more just as I have done with the Middle Grade section. I’ll keep adding Middle Grade too, don’t worry. That’s my first love so I wouldn’t dare stop now! 🙂

I’ll be the first to admit though, that I’ve read much more Middle Grade than YA. If there’s a YA book that you love, please leave a comment for me, and tell me about it. I’ll put it on my TBR (To Be Read) list and possibly post it on the site. I only post about books that I’ve actually read so it may take me some time. I’m open to adding more MG books to my list too so please send those as well! This blog is for anyone who loves books so feel free to share any and all comments about the great ones you’ve read.

So keep checking back this week and in the weeks ahead to see some of my favorites posted in the Book Nook. Then go grab a blanket. You’ll definitely need one in this weather!

Oh, but before you do, thanks to all of you who posted stories last week and left comments for the January Stories. It’s great to see writers supporting each other! Hopefully the comments were helpful and encouraging. We’ll do another critique round in the Spring (whenever that is!) but until then, keep writing and keep reading. Before you know it, the birds will be chirping, the daffodils will be blooming, and the sun will actually be shining. Imagine that!

Book Nook, Critique Corner

Are You a Bouque?

You just might be.  If you can’t get enough of your favorite books… you know, if your nose is stuck in a book kind of a lot, then yup—you’re  a Bouque.

So what’s a Bouque?

The French word, Bouquiner means to read—or loosely translated, to have one’s nose stuck in a book.  So that’s what I call myself.  A Bouque. I may like to write, but I like to read too. And I’ll let you in on a little secret. The single best thing you can do to become an amazing writer is this…

Read a lot of books!

That’s right. Reading will help you to write better stories. Read as much as you can. Read whatever you can. It really doesn’t matter what you choose, as long as you read something.  I read many different types of books. I read books for grown- ups. I read books for kids. I read books for teenagers. I read magazines. I read realistic fiction. I read historical fiction. I read mystery stories and fantasy stories. I read ghost stories. I read biographies. And of course I read fairy tales. I mean who doesn’t like a good fairy tale?

I don’t have a favorite type of book. As long as the characters are amazing and their adventures take me someplace I’d love to go, I’ll give it a try. I’ve been surprised lots of times by the books I’ve chosen.  Right now I’m reading Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu.  It’s the story of Hazel and Jack. I’ve only read three chapters so far, but I can’t put it down. I have to find out what happens to them! That’s the thing about a good book. You can get carried away into their story and travel to places only your imagination can take you.  But be careful. If you’re a Bouque like I am, your nose might just get stuck in that book!

So all you Bouques out there—what books are you reading? I’m always looking for suggestions. If you’ve read a something great lately, post it in the comment box below.  If you liked it, I bet other kids would like it too. Are you looking for a book to read in your free time or for school? Just click on the BOOK NOOK tab.  One of my favorites might become your favorite too!

So go on. Read a good book. After all, that’s the very best way to become an amazing writer.  🙂

And speaking of writing…

It’s time for the October Critique Round!    

For details head over to Critique Corner. I will accept story submissions for the next 6 days and then the samples will appear on the blog next Wednesday, October 30th!  If your story appeared in the September Critique Round, you are still eligible to participate. So be daring. Submit your work. We can’t wait to read all about it!