Sailor Moon x Truthwitch = Moon Witch?

It’s no secret that I am in love with Sailor Moon and Truthwitch and Windwitch by Susan Dennard.  It’s also widely known that Susan also loves Sailor Moon, which is why I decided to cross the two and write this blog post.  The idea actually came to me when I posted these two Instagram photos for a book photo challenge.
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Musings of J.C. Davis


Adding Fanfiction to Your Writing Tool Belt
by J.C. Davis

Pick a fandom, any fandom, and there’s probably a community of fanfic writers and readers camped out there and having fun.  For those that haven’t heard the term before, fanfic is short for fan fiction and refers to written stories of any length inspired by books, movies, video games, television programs, music and/or celebrities. That’s a broad spectrum of fiction and the internet is riddled with it.

But why would an author writing original fiction want to consider reading and writing fanfiction as well?  Fanfic is actually a useful tool you can add to your arsenal. There are two broad areas where fanfic is useful: first as a creative catalyst and second as a research tool.

Fanfic And Creativity

Almost every writer has had moments when you hit a wall on your work-in-progress. Call it writer’s block, call it brain fog, call it a momentary blip in your creative genius. Either way – the words aren’t flowing the way you’d like them too. Fanfiction can be a great way to take a break, but still flex those writing muscles.

Pick a fandom you love, or even better, one your target readers also love, and write a flash fiction piece. Write a short story. Have fun! Indulge every ship, every pairing, every dramatic or romantic or ridiculous thought and potentiality that you like. Write until you’re smiling so big your cheeks hurt. Then take a step back and read over your work. What about it makes you happy? Yes there are characters and worlds that you love in there, but beyond that – what themes do you see? What situations? Would any of those work in your original writing?

You can use fanfic as just a break, a chance to blow off creative steam. Or you can use it to find what sparks might reignite your passion for your own work-in-progress. Either way, if you’re having fun, it’s worth every moment. Just make sure you do get back to that work-in-progress before too long!

Fanfic As Research

As of this article, An Archive of Our Own (one of the largest and most active fanfiction communities online) has close to 25,000 fandoms represented, over 115,000 users and over 300,000 works posted. More are added every day. That’s a lot of information in one place and if you know who your target readers are and fandoms that appeal to them, it’s a great way to get a peek inside what they’re passionate about!

Head over, pick any fandom you like, and sort the results by the most popular. Look for common themes. Go read the comments on a few of the most popular pieces – what are the readers saying? What are they most fired up about? What storylines seem to get the most interest? Why? What do you think makes those stories stand out (beyond good writing)? Read a few fanfic pieces and see if they spark any ideas for your own work.

Whether you use fanfic as a way to shake off the writing-blahs or as a jumping off point for your next big idea – it’s definitely worth having a look!

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About J.C.

A programmer by day, J. C. Davis writes Picture Books, MG & YA. Her debut novel, a YA Contemporary entitled CHEESUS WAS HERE, was released in April by Sky Pony Press. J. C. is an unrepentant book addict and always has a spare book tucked in her bag for emergencies. Her hobbies include photography, crafting, chasing her kids around the house and obsessing over her pet hedgehogs.

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Cheesus Was Here

Sixteen-year-old Delaney Delgado knows miracles aren’t real—if they were, her kid sister wouldn’t be dead. So when the image of baby Jesus appears on a Babybel cheese wheel, she’s not buying the idea that God’s got a dairy obsession. Soon, religious signs begin turning up all over Del’s hometown, tiny Clemency, Texas. Overnight, news vans fill the streets and religious pilgrims start searching for God in the discount aisle of the grocery store.

Hell-bent on proving the so-called miracles are fake, Del convinces her best friend, Gabe, to help her find the truth. While Gabe’s willing to play detective, as a preacher’s son he’s more interested in finding evidence that supports the miracles. But when the whole town becomes caught up in religious fervor and even the late night talk show hosts have stopped laughing and started to believe, finding the truth might cause more trouble than Del can handle. This novel is neither pro nor anti-religion, and will appeal to fans of contemporary YA novels that explore deep themes with an element of humor. The voice and characters are funny, strong, and full of heart. This is a book for anyone who loved the movie Saved!

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A huge thank you to J.C. who was so patient, and was able to touch on a topic that is so quickly talked about, but never truly acknowledged! So many of us got our starts on reading or writing from fanfiction. There is definitely no denying that it can spark creativity and make you learn form your mistakes. =)

As always, a special thank you to everyone who has participated in this feature! Your words of advice are so much more appreciated than you will ever know.

We hope you all have a wonderful weekend!


Musings of Katie A. Nelson


There are no new stories: Taking a classic and making it my own
by Katie A. Nelson

I was sitting in the theater, watching an animated movie, when I had one of those mind-blowing experiences. It was the summer time and though I was a little older than most of the audience, I went to see The Lion King, excited for a couple of hours of mindless entertainment and a king sized box of Junior Mints.

About half way through the movie, around the time Rafiki found Simba and he had his vision of his father in the stars– it hit me. This was the story of Hamlet. Okay, so technically it was set in Africa and had some pretty catchy musical numbers as well, but the basic plot was the same: prince has to decide to avenge his father who was murdered by his uncle.

Once I’d made the connection, I began to see other parallels: seeing the ghost of the dead king, the childhood girlfriend (Ophelia/Nala), the former queen (Gertrude/Sarabi), the king’s advisor (Polonius/Zazu), even the hilarious Timon and Pumba had seeds in Hamlet, as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. By the time the ending credits rolled and Elton John sung his last note, I was totally convinced of my brilliance and dying to share my theory with everyone around me.


We weren’t even out of the theater when I shared my theory with my boyfriend. His response: “Oh yeah. Cool.” Not exactly the reaction I had expected. Even then, I guess I was a little obsessed with stories.

What I later realized was that it didn’t matter if the story we were watching (or reading) had roots in another story. What mattered was the way it was told, and if the reader (or viewer in this case) had made a connection.  And we had. We both loved it, and have since watched the movie dozens of times with our kids (Yep! I married him!) and we even attended the Broadway show.

So if there are no new stories, how does a writer take a familiar story and make it their own? Or at least make it feel new and different and compelling enough that a reader will want to experience that story, even when they know and love the original? This is a question I’ve been asked several times, as my debut YA novel is a retelling of The Great Gatsby, which most people either love or hate, thanks to decades of high school English teachers and the phenomenal team of Baz Luhrmann and Leonardo DiCaprio.


For writers, the first step is to analyze the classic you want to retell, and distill it down to its basic elements. What is the basic plot? Who are the characters? Where is it set? What point of view is it told from? What are the important themes?

The next step is to start asking questions. What would happen if the main character were a princess instead of a prince? What if it was set in space instead of medieval times? What if it was told from the point of view of the villain? What if? What if?

Once one element of the story is changed, others naturally follow. If a story is moved from Prohibition era New York to modern day Silicon Valley, CA, how will it be different? Will the American dream be more attainable? What would a Gatsby-scale party look like, especially if the characters are in high school? How will the female characters be different? And so the story begins to become something new, something different, something that’s yours.

And who knows? Maybe someday, someone will be sitting in a movie theater, watching your story on the screen. In DFX. And Dolby sound. Maybe that person will connect your story to the original that inspired you. Maybe that person will just eat their popcorn and enjoy the show. Either way, if you make a connection with your reader (or viewer), that’s all that matters.

Katie Nelson headshot

About Katie

Katie Nelson has always loved words and stories. Formerly a high school English and Debate teacher, she now lives in Northern California with her husband, four children, and hyperactive dog.


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The Duke of Bannerman Prep

The Duke of Bannerman Prep

Words are weapons. Facts can be manipulated. And nothing is absolute—especially right and wrong.

Tanner McKay is at Bannerman Prep for one reason: to win. The elite school recruited him after he argued his public school’s debate team to victory last year, and now Bannerman wants that championship trophy. Debate is Tanner’s life—his ticket out of scrimping and saving and family drama, straight to a scholarship to Stanford and a new, better future. When he’s paired with the prep school playboy everyone calls the Duke, Tanner’s straightforward plans seem as if they’re going off the rails. The Duke is Bannerman royalty, beloved for his laissez-faire attitude, crazy parties, and the strings he so easily pulls. And a total no-show when it comes to putting in the work to win.

As Tanner gets sucked into the Duke’s flashy world, the thrill of the high life and the adrenaline of the edge become addictive. A small favor here and there seems like nothing in exchange for getting everything he ever dreamed of.

But the Duke’s castle is built on shady, shaky secrets, and the walls are about to topple.

A contemporary retelling of The Great Gatsby, Katie A. Nelson’s taut debut is perfect for anyone who’s struggled to survive the cut-throat world of competitive high school.

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Thank you so much to Katie for writing this post. I know there are quite a few authors who are rejoicing and learning right now, reading your words and understanding your story. You’re all not alone, and your ideas have to come from somewhere! Just make sure to make it your own, and your story will find it’s place. =)

As always, a huge thanks to everyone who has participated in this feature. Your words never fall on unappreciated eyes, and we always look forward to the next piece of advice and story you’re willing to share.

We hope you have a wonderful rest of your week!


Mr. Men/Little Miss: Doctor Who Review


If you hadn’t heard already, BBC teamed up with Penguin Random House to bring us a series of Doctor Who picture books in the style of Mr. Men/Little Miss originally by Roger Hargreaves.  This particular series will not only feature our favorite doctors, but also villains and companions we are all familiar with.  The stories and illustrations will be done by Mr. Hargreaves’ son, Adam Hargreaves.

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Up first is Dr. First of course! This picture book follows the story of the first Doctor and his granddaughter, Susan.  I’ve never watched the original series, but I did see William Hartnell in the tenth anniversary episodes with Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee. However William was ill so his appearance was very short.

With that being said I don’t know if the First Doctor is always grumpy, but overall it is an adorable book which demonstrates who much he loves his grandaughter, even if he doesn’t show it.

Reading with Haylee: I decided to read each book with my 3 year old niece because she loves the Little Miss Fickle book her other aunt has.  Plus it’s never too early to turn her into a Whovian. Unfortunately we got to this book last before my sister came to pick her up and I have not had a chance to read it to her since.  However, keep reading to find out her thoughts about the other three books!

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I 9780515158472absolutely adored this story! It was very funny and cute. I haven’t seen any episodes featuring Tom Baker, but it seems pretty accurate. The companion for this novel is Sarah Jane, who we get to meet again in series 10.  I love how Adam takes the time give a brief explanation of the Daleks’ personality.

Reading with Haylee: She definitely enjoyed this one, but kept asking “Why”.  She didn’t understand why Dr. Fourth offers a jelly baby to a bird.  She’s at that phase where she keeps asking why until you give her an answer that satisfying.  I had to explain the what a jelly baby was and tell her the bird must have been hungry so it took it.

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I am totally in love with Matt Smith *swoons* (even though Tennant is more my Doctor) and was so excited to find out who the companion was for this book!  Dr. Eleventh was the best out of all four books. It was funny, had my favorite companion (though some argue she wasn’t a companion), plus the infamous red fez!

Reading with Haylee: She immediately went for this book when I gave her the four options to choose from.  I think the fact that Dr. Eleventh is blue was the reason why we read this book first.  She thought it was funny and enjoyed herself.


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I was kind of disappointed with this story.  I think they could have gone with a different story line and Missy was not my favorite in the show.  I would have been happier with Me or even Clara for that matter. The only thing I liked about this book was the fact Dr. Twelfth had the shades and goes back in time to have lunch.

Reading with Haylee: This was her second choice and I think she also liked that Dr Twelfth had the sunglasses, but I don’t think she enjoyed this one as much.  She have any reactions to this book as much as Dr. Fourth and Dr. Eleventh.


Over all these books were adorable and I believe they’re a good introduction to the world of Doctor Who for any young reader.  They are all enjoyable and I think any Doctor Who fan would be able to appreciate them.  I look forward to reading the other books that will be releasing later.

Thank you to Chelsea Fought and Penguin Random House for sending me these books!


Musings of Diana Gallagher


A Letter to My Teenage Self
by Diana Gallagher

Hey, you.

I see you, Teenage Self.

You’re on the verge of your Lord of the Rings phase (spoiler: you won’t ever fully grow out of it). You’re wildly unfashionable (spoiler: that won’t really change, either). Much of the time, you feel uncomfortable in your own skin. You’ve grown out your bangs, switched to contacts, and chopped off much of your unruly hair. Even so, you feel the tension between who you are and who you wish you could be.

It makes you write.

You have all of these emotions to wrestle with, and sometimes, they come out in short stories and poems and stream-of-consciousness bursts. Years later, you’ll hear Wordsworth’s line about the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings and recognize how apt it is. Right now, your words are the only map you have, one of your own creation, and you have no idea where it’s leading you.

Here’s what I want you to know: you’re on the right track.

At this point in the game, you already enjoy digging in and working hard. Much like LOTR and your somewhat questionable fashion sense, you won’t be leaving that work ethic behind. Good. You’re going to need it. You’re going to face rejection and wild circumstances beyond your control. You’ll question where you went wrong and what decisions could have steered you elsewhere. You’ll wish you’d been born with a passion for something straightforward, like accounting, as you sit alone in your car and cry. (Hey, at least you finally passed your road test!)

And then you’re going to keep moving, because that’s what you do.

Here’s what else I can tell you: surround yourself with people who make you laugh, who don’t bat an eye when you wear your track sweatshirt for the fifth day in a row (it’s comfortable okay?), who find your blog and tell you you’ve summed up exactly the way they feel, too. When you lean on your friends, everything is better. Promise.

Above all of this, keep telling your stories. Right now, you have no idea how publishing works or how books end up on the shelf. You just know that someday, you want one of them to be yours. Cherish how it feels while you’re being that rebellious teen sneaking downstairs after midnight to type on the family computer with the lights off, because that’s when writing feels like flying.

Because in those moments, you make magic.

DG author photo About Diana

Though Diana Gallagher be but little, she is fierce. She’s also a gymnastics coach and judge, former collegiate gymnast, and writing professor. Her work has appeared in The Southampton Review, International GymnastThe Couch Gymnast, The Gymternet, and on a candy cigarette box for SmokeLong Quarterly. She holds an MFA from Stony Brook University and is represented by Tina Wexler of ICM Partners. Her contemporary YA novel, Lessons in Falling, released in February 2017

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Lessons in Falling

Lessons in Falling

LESSON ONE: Playing it safe beats taking chances.

After an injury ends Savannah’s dream of a college gymnastics scholarship, she quits despite her parents’ protests. She won’t risk breaking her body—and heart—again.

LESSON TWO: Catch your best friend when she falls—or regret it forever.

Rules are meant to be broken, according to Savannah’s best friend, Cassie—and it’s more fun to break them together. But when Cassie attempts suicide, Savannah’s left wondering how well she really knows her.

LESSON THREE: Leaping forward, not knowing where you’ll land, is the hardest of all.

Falling for Marcos wasn’t part of the plan. Not only did he save Cassie’s life, he also believes Savannah can still achieve her dreams. Except Cassie thinks Marcos and gymnastics will only break Savannah’s heart.

As Savannah tumbles and twists through toxic friendships and crushing parental expectations, she realizes you never know who will be there when you fall.

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Thank you so much, Diana, for writing this beautiful letter to your teenage self about never giving up hope and striving for your dreams. We’ve all been that teenager who doesn’t quite know how to achieve our dreams, doesn’t quite know when to give up, but keeps going anyways, and this is exactly who we really are: survivors, stumblers, and chance-takers. We live by stumbling, finding hope, and continuing our path to greatness.

A huge thank you to everyone who has participated in this feature. Your words do wonders for those of us who are stumbling through writing everyday. Thank you.

We hope you all have a wonderful rest of your week!


Musings of Shaila Patel


How Do You Organize?
by Shaila Patel

I’m probably the most disorganized Type A personality you’ll ever meet, but as messy and chaotic as every single one of my work areas are (day job included), I take heart in the meme that states having such a desk is a sign of genius.

(It’s on a meme, so it must be true.)

Like most of you, my story ideas come to me regardless of where I am, what time it is, or what I’m doing, and keeping track of all those thoughts and ideas is just one more job I don’t need weighing me down. No matter how many newfangled apps, digital pens, snazzy software, or digital recorders that I’ve downloaded or bought, I can’t seem to use any one of these items as a catch-all system that would revolutionize my organizational skills. I’ve even gone lo-tech with fancy blank journals, sticky notes, and colored index cards, but nothing has grabbed me enough to want to hoard coupons for my local office supply store.

My intentions are good, but in the end, the way I organize depends on where I am and/or what I’m doing.

If you look at my current work-spot du jour at my house, you’ll see it covered in sticky notes with random thoughts for editing my current work-in-progress (WIP), ideas for new scenes, and lists of things to remember to add to the story. These notes can be for a WIP or a future story that’s just a wee baby idea in my head. If I happen to be driving or not near my sticky note collection, I usually open my ColorNote app on my phone—I dictate into it if I’m driving—and add my ideas into a current note that’s usually titled by book or, for future stories, by the hero and heroine’s name since I write romance.

If that was all I did, it wouldn’t be much of an organizational strategy and there wouldn’t be much point in you reading this, would there? Luckily, there’s more to my strategy, and if you are reading this, you’re probably unsatisfied enough with your own process to be on the lookout for new ideas. You might even be suffering from the notion that other authors have some secret way of doing things that will magically make your life easier, but let me assure you—it probably won’t.

That was a lesson I learned when my Type A side was telling me I was “doing it wrong” or that there was a “better way” to be more organized and more productive. The added pressure kept me from actually being productive because I spent more time and money trying to copy everyone else’s organizational style that didn’t work for me rather than fine-tuning my own process—and accepting it.

Groundbreaking revelation, isn’t it?

So this is what I do with all those sticky notes … and notes in my app … and blank notebooks piling up on my shelves … and index cards cluttering up my drawers … and, well, you get the idea. To help illustrate, I’ve broken down my organizational strategy into three areas: pre-story, pre-writing, and writing/editing.


Before delving into the planning of a story, I jot down whatever ideas come to me. It might be several months later before I decide the story has merit and deserves a shot. To me, it’s like I’m gathering the seeds that’ll eventually grow into my finished product, if I choose to nurture it. These notes—written on anything in front of me—are not fleshed out ideas, but little tidbits to help me remember how to shape my story later. More than likely, it’ll involve sticky notes and the ColorNote app on my phone for when I can’t write something down.

All my barely legible ideas on colorful sticky notes of all sizes, backs of envelopes, random scraps of paper, or even backs of receipts, end up in a “dedicated” pile on my desk. As time permits (i.e., when I’m in the mood) I add the scribbled thoughts from paper into a specific note in my app labeled for the hero/heroine of that particular story.

At this stage, I don’t transfer the ideas into one of my ‘purty’ notebooks because I know from experience that I’ll be too lazy to go through all the pages to find what I need when the time comes. And probably most important, I don’t like dedicating a notebook to something that’s still not quite a fully formed story yet—that’s just me.


Once I know it’s time to start planning out and writing the new story, I whip out my collection of colored index cards and start transferring my notes from my app and the latest sticky notes that haven’t made it into my phone yet. If there are ideas that now sound ridiculous, then they never make it onto an index card.

The hero and heroine each get a specific color, and once written out, those cards become a character sketch that I can reference. Plot points, scene ideas, and even dialogue snippets, all get written on their own colored cards where they can be shuffled around into different acts and scenes as the outline and story evolves. As the story gets more fleshed out in my head, I insert new cards wherever they need to go in my story’s timeline without messing anything up.

I then rubber band them together and bring them with me wherever I go.


While I use the index cards to corral all my gems, once I start writing and then editing, I use one of the journals or notebooks I’ve collected over the years to write a more specific outline of the next scene or chapter, jot down ideas I need to look into, or scribble changes I need to make because of comments by critique partners or beta readers. And I dedicate the entire notebook to that particular story.

For Book 1 of my debut, Soulmated, that notebook became a sort of series bible for all the things I need to remember for the rest of the series. Handy, right? Once the story is ready for final edits, I transfer my Word file into Scrivener, where I take full advantage of its organizational features to write myself notes for specific chapters, notes for future books in the series, or even to flag things to help me tighten the story.

And that, folks, is how I keep my head on straight.

This whole process wasn’t a conscious attempt at organization but an evolution of what I tried and failed to do while balancing my need to be in control with my natural tendency to be disorganized and spontaneous. The more I tried to be organized (driven by my pesky Type A side), the more I wasted time.

Bottom line:

  1. Work your attempts at organizing your ideas around how you normally are—not the idealized image of you as an author.
  2. Find ways that are easy, handy, and don’t make you feel guilty for not being like this author or that author.
  3. Revel in the creative process and don’t let your left-brain (the organized, logical side) tell your right-brain (the creative side) how to do things.
  4. Do what works for your life, your chaos, your personality.
  5. Be happy with however you decide to do things. It’s the best way to move forward and actually be productive and not just plan to be.

I’d love to hear what you do to organize. Let me know in the comments below! And meanwhile, be very, very wary of coupons from office supply stores. Just saying. 😉


About Shaila

As an unabashed lover of all things happily-ever-after, Shaila Patel’s younger self would finish reading her copy of Cinderella and fling it across the room because it didn’t mention what happened next. Now she writes from her home in the Carolinas and dreams up all sorts of stories with epilogues. A member of the Romance Writers of America, she’s a pharmacist by training, a medical office manager by day, and a writer by night. Soulmated is her debut novel and the winner of the 2015 Chanticleer Book Reviews Paranormal Awards for Young Adult. She loves books, craft beer, tea, and cozy window seats—but she’ll read anywhere. You might find her sneaking in a few paragraphs at a red light or online gushing about her favorite books.

Represented by: Agent Amanda Leuck of Spencerhill Associates

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Soulmated (Joining of Souls, #1)


Two souls. One Fate.

Eighteen-year-old Liam Whelan, an Irish royal empath, has been searching for his elusive soulmate. The rare union will cement his family’s standing in empath politics and afford the couple legendary powers, while also making them targets of those seeking to oust them.

Laxshmi Kapadia, an Indian-American high school student from a traditional family, faces her mother’s ultimatum: Graduate early and go to medical school, or commit to an arranged marriage.

When Liam moves next door to Laxshmi, he’s immediately and inexplicably drawn to her. In Liam, Laxshmi envisions a future with the freedom to follow her heart.

Liam’s father isn’t convinced Laxshmi is “The One” and Laxshmi’s mother won’t even let her talk to their handsome new neighbor. Will Liam and Laxshmi defy expectations and embrace a shared destiny? Or is the risk of choosing one’s own fate too great a price for the soulmated?

Publisher Information: Month 9 Books

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Thank you so much Shaila for your amazing organizing ideas, and for acknowledging that we’re all individuals with different needs. We all organize differently and have to find what works for each of us! Your organizational method is something I will definitely try, though! =)

As always, a huge thanks to everyone who has participated in this feature! Your words of advice never fall upon ungrateful minds. Thank you. ❤

We hope you have a wonderful rest of your week!


Musings of Christina June

Creating Realistic Characters
by Christina June

One of the very first authors I ever heard speak mentioned she is a terrible person to sit next to on an airplane because she eavesdrops. She steals. I heard that and was like, wow, yeah, that’s what we do. Authors are scavengers and collectors. We take pieces from real life and recycle them into our books.

As writers, in order to get things right in our book worlds—contemporary, fantasy, scifi, whatever—we have to observe the world around us. We need to see how an actual living, breathing human being reacts to something so we can make sure our fictional character should do it. We need to pay attention to situations and details, the order of operations, seasons and weather, rules and conventions, interests and preferences, to make sure that the things in our stories are believable.

In IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE, I steal a lot. And mostly from myself. My main character, Tatum, happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and winds up on house arrest for the summer, with a big fine to pay. Now, this exact thing has never happened to me, but many times I’ve been angry at the circumstances I found myself in. I channeled those feelings to make Tatum’s righteous indignation come to life on the page. Her inner monologue is pretty close to mine at sixteen…and potentially now too.

Smaller things I stole from my life: Tatum’s Eiffel Tower-shaped lamp exists in my guest room, her Magritte poster is on the wall in my office, her love for peppermint tea and cooking shows are mine as well. The songs and bands she likes are my favorites and the emotions she feels while listening are all mine. Her love interest’s favorites include weight-lifting and watching rugby—stole those from my husband.

I’ve also been known to swipe (with permission) friends’ family members’ names, hair and clothing styles, alma maters, favorite meals or restaurants, interesting tidbits, experiences that I haven’t had myself but fit in with a story, etc. I work with teenagers in my day job and while I draw the line at stealing their personal details, I am frequently inspired by the general situations they find themselves in or the emotions they’re experiencing. I confer with writer friends on the smallest of details to make sure that this is the way it would be in reality. In this way, writing is most certainly not a solitary adventure. If we only relied on ourselves, our books wouldn’t be nearly as compelling.

If you write fantasy or scifi, your characters still need to be believable, so there is not shortage of observing others for these genres. That warrior from Mars who loses his friend in battle? His grief should be realistic. Time traveling back a thousand years? Even though the details were different, emotions haven’t changed much. Characters in all genres (probably) need clothes and favorite foods and interests and feelings. They need backgrounds and experiences to make them come alive in the mind of our readers. Authors should rely on our power of observation and collection to make characters—no matter where, what or when they are—real.

If you’re borrowing something personal, absolutely get permission. If you’re writing outside your own experience, get it verified. Rely on subject-matter experts, sensitivity readers, interviews, and other primary sources to make sure you’re getting it right. Do the story justice. Listen and observe before you move forward.

And, the next time you’re on an airplane, maybe think about taking the middle seat. You never know what kind of conversation you might wind up in with your seatmates. It might even inspire the next best seller.

Christina June

About Christina

Christina June writes young adult contemporary fiction when she’s not writing college recommendation letters during her day job as a school counselor. She loves the little moments in life that help someone discover who they’re meant to become—whether it’s her students or her characters. Christina is a voracious reader, loves to travel, eats too many cupcakes, and hopes to one day be bicoastal—the east coast of the U.S. and the east coast of Scotland. She lives just outside Washington, D.C. with her husband and daughter.  Christina’s debut, IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE, releases May 9, 2017.  A companion novel, EVERYWHERE YOU WANT TO BE, will be published in 2018.

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It Started With Goodbye

It Started With Goodbye

Paperback, 304 pages

Expected publication:
May 9th 2017 by Blink/HarperCollins

Sixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night (which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client). When Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way.

A modern play on the Cinderella story arc, Christina June’s IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE shows us that sometimes going after what you want means breaking the rules.

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A big thank you to Christina, as you’ve touched on a topic that is in need of further explanation and exploration. We all struggle with making our characters seem as realistic as possible, even in fantasy worlds, and the best way to create them is to draw from what you know: real people. =)

As always, a huge thank you to everyone who has participated in this feature. Your words are appreciated for more than you’ll ever know. We are always thankful for your words of advice and support.

We hope you have a wonderful rest of your week, and a very happy Easter to those who celebrate!


Musings of Erin Beaty


Your Book Is Now a Series: When Excitement Becomes Terror and Pressure
by Erin Beaty

I was on a single lane highway in West Virginia, halfway through a 700 mile drive when my agent called to say my publisher wanted a sequel to my debut novel. We’d submitted a synopsis and the first few chapters only the day before – originally we thought to wait for early reviews and sales numbers on the first book, but I’d just been invited on the Fierce Reads Spring Tour, so the time seemed right.

They liked it, then?” I managed to say around my shaky grin.

They loved it. They want to know if you can commit to a third book now, too.”

I stared at the truck in front of me. If that semi slams on its brakes, I’m not going to be able to react in time. I eased my foot off the gas. “Ummm…”

“Do you think you can sign on to that?” Valerie said. “They want to market it as a trilogy from the start.”

My answer was something along the lines of “Hell, yeah! but the rest of the call was a blur, as was the drive. When we stopped for dinner, I ordered a giant chocolate milkshake.


Because margaritas + driving = bad idea

Over the next few days, however, my thoughts evolved from OMGTHISISTHEMOSTAMAZINGTHINGEVER to OHLORDWHATHAVEIDONE.

I had written the first book in a complete vacuum. Not only did I have no idea what I was doing – which was obvious to those who read my first draft – I had no idea how much work it would be or how hard it was to get published. There’s freedom in writing with reckless abandon and blissful ignorance. I never looked at the next step until I was almost ready to advance. (Or, honestly, until I thought I was ready. Everyone queries too early. Everyone.)

Now after spending over two years carving and shaping the story that would become THE TRAITOR’S KISS, after dozens of rejections and painful revisions, the idea of selling two books that hadn’t been written yet – one of which I hadn’t even plotted – was terrifying.



credit Fox

You passed driver’s ed, kid, here’s the keys to your boss’s Ferrari. We’re sure you can handle it.

On the 700 mile return drive a few days later, new questions began bouncing around in my brain.

What if the first book totally flops?

What if I can’t deliver a good enough second book to my publisher? To the readers?

What happens beyond the second book? I’d always envisioned the story as a trilogy, but the third part was pretty vague. What if I can’t think of anything?



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Cry me a river, you’re saying. These are problems aspiring authors would kill to have. But, Dear Reader, I promise no matter how much you love writing, doing it on command and under the expectations of others is an entirely different ballgame.

The only thing you can do is what got you into this mess in the first place: write. Put your butt in the seat and make progress. You can’t fix a blank page. You can’t sculpt without putting a lump of clay on the turntable. It sounds like an overly simple solution – the kind that makes you want to punch anyone who says it in the face – but it’s the truth. If you show up, I promise you the Muse will, too. It helps to set an appointment with your WIP ahead of time, though; she’s less likely to be late to the meeting.

Six months, one full draft, and one plot outline later I’m feeling better but still scared. There’s days I love my writing and days I want to throw my laptop into the Chesapeake Bay, but that’s no different from the first time around (except then we lived in Nebraska, and I wanted to run it over with a tractor). One thing I have now, though, is a support team of people cheering me on, fully confident that I can do this. Some days I even believe them.

When I turned in that draft of the second book, my editor said she expected it to be rough, but she knew I was capable of fixing it. There’s a strange comfort in knowing it’s lumpy and needs a lot of love – those revision notes won’t hurt as much when I already know the book kind of sucks, and I’m not that attached to my words.

That’s the theory, anyway. Pass me a margarita as I wait.




Erin Beaty

About Erin

Erin Beaty was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, which means she can’t drive a tractor, but she won’t eat veggies that come from a can. She graduated from the US Naval Academy with a degree in rocket science and somehow always ended up writing her study group’s lab reports. After serving in the fleet as a weapons officer and a leadership instructor, she resigned to pursue her side hobby of populating the Church of Rome. It still amazes her when other people want to hear the stories that come out of her head.

She and her husband have five children, two cats, and a vegetable garden and live wherever the navy tells them to go.

Erin Beaty is represented by Valerie Noble. Her young adult fantasy adventure, THE TRAITOR’S KISS, the first in a trilogy called The Traitor’s Circle, will be released May 9th, 2017

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29346870The Traitor’s Kiss

An obstinate girl who will not be married.
A soldier desperate to prove himself.
A kingdom on the brink of war.

With a sharp tongue and an unruly temper, Sage Fowler is not what they’d call a lady―which is perfectly fine with her. Deemed unfit for marriage, Sage is apprenticed to a matchmaker and tasked with wrangling other young ladies to be married off for political alliances. She spies on the girls―and on the soldiers escorting them.

As the girls’ military escort senses a political uprising, Sage is recruited by a handsome soldier to infiltrate the enemy ranks. The more she discovers as a spy, the less certain she becomes about whom to trust―and Sage becomes caught in a dangerous balancing act that will determine the fate of her kingdom.

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A huge thanks to Erin for sharing her story and advice with us today. Your wit, determination, and humor is definitely appreciated! Also, your voice is incredible in this article alone, so I can’t wait to read your book! =)

As always, a large thank you to everyone who has participated in this feature. Your words of advice never fall on unappreciative ears!

We hope you all have a wonderful rest of your week!


Musings of Breeana Shields


Making the Transition from Hopeful Writer to Published Author
by Breeana Shields

When I was eight months pregnant with my first child, I was emotionally excited, but physically miserable. Some women have delicate, pretty pregnancies. They get an extra glow in their complexions and a charming little baby bump in front, and otherwise their appearance is unchanged; from the back, you might not even realize they’re expecting. Not me. My ankles swelled, my fingers got fat, and I’m confident if alien life forms had been keeping watch on our planet, they would have been able to tell I was pregnant. From space.

I couldn’t find any position that would let me get a good night of sleep. I couldn’t eat without feeling uncomfortable. I couldn’t even take a full, deep breath so that I could properly execute an exasperated sigh.

I got through my busy days at work by daydreaming about how magical life was going to be once I was un-pregnant. And not just about my new baby boy—I’d already been excited for him for months—but about mundane things. Sleeping for more than an hour at a time. Wearing my wedding ring. Eating chocolate without getting heartburn. Talking long walks without feeling like a self-conscious duck. Painting my toenails. (I’d be able to reach them again!)

Once this baby was out of my body and in my arms, everything was going to be perfect.

And then my sweet son was born and my little fantasy fell to pieces.

Sure, I could easily find a comfortable sleeping position—I was so tired, I could have drifted off standing up— but I was responsible for a tiny human who needed to be fed every two hours, so quality sleep still wasn’t happening. My wedding ring still didn’t fit. And most days I didn’t even have time or energy to take a shower, let alone paint my toenails. My rosy vision of the future started to look more and more naïve.

And yet, those early days of motherhood were still filled with some of my most blissful memories. Midnight feedings, the house silent but for the rhythmic swallowing sounds of my little boy as his wide eyes locked on mine. The way his tiny fist would curl around my finger. The smell of his skin right after a bath. The way his eyelashes looked resting on his cheeks while he slept. The first time he laughed—the way it made a bubble of joy expand in my chest, a happiness so huge it hurt a little.

As I’ve made the transition from hopeful writer to published author, I can’t help but draw parallels to becoming a mother.

When I was in the querying trenches looking for an agent, I was sure nothing in publishing would ever be more miserable. I was certain that once I had a book deal life, professionally at least, would be perfect.

Perhaps I’m a slow learner. Or maybe it’s just that humans always see that just-out-of-reach next step as the one that will pave our way to a life of bliss. If only.

Like becoming a mother, becoming an author has been a dream come true. Holding a book with your name on the cover feels exactly as magical as you would expect. Chatting with excited readers in a signing line is unalloyed joy.

And yet…

There are also things that I wasn’t quite prepared for. I thought querying had toughened me up for rejection. I knew that reading was subjective and not everyone loved everything. Of course I knew that. What I didn’t take into account was that agents, generally speaking, are lovely people who are well aware that writers are sensitive types. Their rejections tend to be gentle and encouraging, and therefore, didn’t prep me in the slightest for the firstthis sounded good, but then it SUCKED” review on Goodreads. I wasn’t ready for the way I could read twenty glowing reviews and then come across a snarky one that would ruin my day.

I also wasn’t prepared for the fear and the pressure. The anxiety about sales. The constant worry that I’ll never be able to sell another book, that my career will crash and burn before it’s really gotten started.

The difference between the fantasy and the reality was like imagining a post-pregnancy outing in nice fitted jeans and a fashionable top. Perfect makeup. Baby dressed in an impossibly cute outfit. And instead, finding yourself wandering through Target in a pair of sweats with unwashed hair that has been so coated in dry shampoo, you’re worried if you sneeze, you’ll be engulfed in a toxic cloud of powder. The baby is even more adorable than in your fantasy, but he’s still dressed the in footie jammies he slept in, because you didn’t have the energy for the cute outfit (for either him or you). And then in the checkout line, you realize the cashier is staring. Not admiring your sweet infant, but studying the suspicious stain on your shoulder. Which is most definitely baby vomit.

With both books and babies, the reality is not nearly as glamorous as the fantasy.

And yet…

I’m a published author. I wrote a book and my name is right there on the cover for all the world to see. People are reading it. A lot of them are liking it. Every once in a while, the truth of that will hit me square in the chest and fill me with delight. It’s a dream come true. But, like all wonderful things in life, the reality is a little bit messy. A little bit complicated. A little bitter mixed with the sweet.

But I wouldn’t change it. Not for the world.

Breeana Shields, small

About Breeana

Breeana Shields is the author of Poison’s Kiss (Random House, 2017) and Poison’s Cage (Random House, 2018). When she’s not reading or writing, she loves traveling, eating good food–especially if it’s pasta or chocolate–and spending time with her husband, her three children, and an extremely spoiled miniature poodle.

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Poison's Kiss (Poison's Kiss, #1)

Poison’s Kiss

A teenage assassin kills with a single kiss until she is ordered to kill the one boy she loves. This commercial YA fantasy is romantic and addictive like– a poison kiss– and will thrill fans of Sarah J. Maas and Victoria Aveyard.

Marinda has kissed dozens of boys. They all die afterward. It’s a miserable life, but being a visha kanya, a poison maiden, is what she was created to do. Marinda serves the Raja by dispatching his enemies with only her lips as a weapon.

Until now, the men she was ordered to kiss have been strangers, enemies of the kingdom. Then she receives orders to kiss Deven, a boy she knows too well to be convinced he needs to die. She begins to question who she s really working for. And that is a thread that, once pulled, will unravel more than she can afford to lose.

This rich, surprising, and accessible debut is based in Indian folklore and delivers a story that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

Thank you so much to Breeana for sharing her insight into being a published author! It may not be as glamorous as we all believe it to be, but it definitely comes with some wonderful benefits, love, and feelings of accomplishment to overshadow the negatives. =)

As always, thank you to all who have participated in this feature. We greatly appreciate your enthusiasm in helping writers, and your words never go unheard. We’re so grateful!

We hope you all have a wonderful rest of your week!