Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Blog Tour: Never Forget by Emma Hart

Summary: Lexy used to visit her grandmother every summer, but hasn’t been back to the small beach town in five years. She’s changed a lot since then. But soon she’s able to get back into the groove of a Lilac Bay summer- everything will be just like it used to- she and her old friend Jen are hanging out at the beach again. Everything, that is, except for the extremely good looking and very flirty gardener her grandmother hired for the summer.

Lexy kind of clobbers Alec over the head- she’s the only girl that’s ever made him consider staying past one night. But Lexy doesn’t trust Alec- she knows all about his (very well deserved) reputation.
But when secrets come out, Lexy has to decide whether she can still trust Alec, and in turn, trust her heart.

Thoughts, Feelings, Emotions and Comments from The Peanut Gallery:
First of all, big thanks to the wonderful Emma Hart for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review (and first review also. Eep!) With that being said…Never Forget was a lovely, lovely book. (And I say lovely because that sounds kind of British.) It has the distinction of being one of the only books I can remember reading that is really and truly British, which was so much fun to read. I find that most non-American authors try to set their books in America, and it's fabulous to read a book that is really and truly British. I think I'll drink some tea and have some crumpets now (It's tea time somewhere). 
Ok, I'm back. 
The characters? All were realistic and relatable- let’s just say that Lexy isn’t the ONLY control freak J, and I definitely related to the ongoing struggle of her trying to control everything, and the difficulty and slight terror of letting go.
"She doesn't trust me. I'm not stupid and I'm not blind. Unless I can prove I care, she won't touch me with a ten foot barge pole and I don't blame her. I'm not perfect. I'm not perfect enough for her but I don't care, not anymore. I want her to take a chance on me." -Never Forget
Alec was *fans self*… oh, Alec. The perfect counterpoint to Lexy- and those dimples. (Apparently, Lexy and I also have the same taste. I would think we were almost the same person except, well, the whole she’s British with one brother and I’m American with more than one brother, and then the whole fictional character thing. BUT ANYWAY.)
Her family- God, it’s so nice to have a family of a main character that’s functional! That was one thing I really appreciated when I read Never Forget- the secondary characters were THERE. Not just background wallpaper- they had personalities and they were relatable as well. And hilarious, too. :)
The plot flowed smoothly, and I was very quickly sucked into an unforgettable summer at Lilac Bay. 
Would I recommend reading it?
Yes. Preferably by a beach. Or you can read it and find me a beach.
That sounds better. You read it here and I’ll go find a beach.

BUY IT HERE.  (For a measly $1.99- which is practically free)
And make sure to enter the lovely Rafflecopter Giveaway to win a signed copy of Never Forget and all kinds of fun things. 

By day, Emma Hart dons a cape and calls herself Super Mum to a terrible two year old. By night,
she drops the cape, pours a glass of wine and writes books.
She likes to write about magic, kisses and whatever else she can fit into the story. Sarcastic, witty
characters are a must. As are hot guys. She has two new series planned as well as her New Adult
Romance, Never Forget, due February 2013. She likes to be busy - unless busy involves doing
the dishes. Her debut YA series, The Mauve Legacy, is an Apple iBooks Bestseller - and this makes Emma

GO SAY HI TO EMMA. She is a darling. 

For more Lexy and Alec, make sure to check out PenandMuse.com and Tobi Helton's blog tomorrow.

I'd love for you to let me know what you thought of Never Forget after you've read it.
(And what you think of my reviewing skills. I'm still new at this.)

Monday, February 18, 2013

What To Do When Your Brain Is Fried Like An Egg & There Is No Creativity Left

Sometimes, (Okay, A LOT of times), my brain is fried. Like an egg. Like a deep-fried stick of butter. Artery-clogging kind of fried. SO fried that I wonder if it will ever return to normal.
My vat of creativity is at one hundred percent empty.
Zip. Zilch. Nada.
Here’s something else you should know about me.
I LOVE spoken-word poetry. Like, to embarrassing amounts.
Another thing I love to distraction: TED Talks.
So much love, in fact, I use them as rewards and motivational bribey.
And when those two loves of mine collide?
*fangirl squeeeeee*
Sarah Kaye.
Besides for the fact that she is wonderfully talented, and so incredibly fun, and her speech (which you can watch right here) was super excellent, she introduced me to my newest tool of how to get out of a creative rut when absolutely nothing else seems to be working.
It’s called ‘Things I Know To Be True’
Here’s how it works.
Without thinking too hard (THIS IS KEY), write down the first five (or ten) things that you know to be true.
For example.
I have an unhealthy relationship with my post-its.
I miss my brothers, who are in school in Florida.
My bangs are long, and I should really cut them again.
I want to go on a road-trip. Anywhere. Right now. Preferably somewhere warm.
It smells like cookies, and now I want to eat cookie dough.
After you have your list, take a look at it. Go back and expand on the things you know to be true. Ask yourself questions about the statements you made. 
Why do I have an unhealthy relationship with Post-Its? What about my brothers do I miss? Why do I have bangs, and what possesses me to cut them myself? Why do you want to go on a road-trip? What about the smell of cookies baking makes you want to risk salmonella?

Then, like any good psychologist, ask another question based on the answer. And another one. Until it's not just about my bangs, but the stories about the wig-styling course I took. (See? More interesting than long bangs.) Until it's not just about the original statement, but of all the things that the statement is made up of. All the feelings you have. All the word associations. All the memories. All the scars and bumps and bruises. It may sound a little funny to say, but when it boils down to it, a lot of the time, even though we cite external things as inspiration, the inspiration really comes from inside ourselves.

Now, when Sarah does this exercise, she does it to help with writing poetry. It works incredibly well. The exercise, even if you aren't trying to necessarily write anything is a good way of getting your creative juices to flow again. 

Let's say you're writing something a bit longer- a novel, perhaps.

Do the Things I Know To Be True exercise as your main character.
It's incredible what you end up finding out about your MC- about their personality, about their background, and about what's going to happen in your own manuscript. Not only does it help you get your creative juices flowing, it makes your writing more nuanced. Makes your characters more real.

PRACTICE ROUND: QUICK! In the comments below, tell me five things YOU know to be true.

And as always, if it so inspires you to, please feel free to share this with others who may get value from it as well.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

100+ Twitter Peoples! And... A Book Title. *Eep*

Twitter people, I do declare, y'all are truly excellent. Fabulous. Wonderful. Hilarious. Helpful. Supportive.
I'm getting all mushy thinking about this.
And this will make this THREE blog posts in one week.
I don't think this will be the norm.
I WAS planning on another post, but this came up :)

So, I don't know if you remembered, but a little while ago (last week?) I decided to employ all some tactics I learned from working with two and three year olds for years and years and years. 
Namely? Incentives. 
Or, Bribery.

It went something like this. "When I get 100 followers on Twitter, I'll tell you the title of my WIP!"
And I was all ready to and everything! Especially since I had finally decided on a name that felt right. 

But then, there was a mutiny in my brain.
You see, the MC of the WIP is 22. And while I was writing her story, pieces of her childhood kept on appearing. So I inserted some of them into the WIP, and filed the rest away in the back of my mind, just for reference. 
But they kept coming. By the freakin' truckload.
And the next thing I knew, she was no longer 22, but 13. And refused to grow back up until I started the story in the right place. See, the WIP was the ending. I just hadn't quite started at the beginning.

To say that I kinda flipped out would be a tad of an understatement. Was I writing a series? But that was like, TEN YEARS to write about! And the POVs! And the fact that fitting this into a genre just got a LOT harder. And and and and...But after being talked down by a wonderful friend (God bless you, darling.), I realized that I was just going to write now, and worry later. 

Yes, this is a recurring theme. 

After the whole GRE spectacle, I finally sat down to write. (I had taken a bit of a break to study, which I think made me more sad than the fact I was studying math did.)

And, *Gulp*, apparently, it is now a series. Starting mainly when the MC is thirteen, and continuing until she is around twenty-two. Well, as of now. Who knows what will happen, especially since the WIP has taken on a life of it's own, and I can no longer claim responsibility for what goes on in it :). I'm not sure if this is the final title for the first book, but the current name is The Best of What Might Be

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some characters that seem to need some attention.
Happy Valentine's Day, and stuff. Feel free to join me in the chocolate-buying party that will be going on tomorrow.
No shame, y'all. No shame.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Rejection & Metamorphosis.

Unless you've new to the blog (or not following me on Twitter), you know about it.
The freakin' GRE.
The one I need to take in order to apply to graduate school so I can be there for real. (I'm only there for fake now-I'm non-matric). The one that has caused me to go back and do math- quadratic equations and geometry and other horrors I do not ever wish to contemplate ever ever again, as long as I shall live. Sorry, future children, but once you hit seventh grade, your dad will be helping you with your math homework. 

I was supposed to take the GRE on Monday. This post was supposed to be something totally different- like about how my WIP just upped and decided to rebel against me, and how my MC has suddenly lost quite a few years, and how I may possibly be writing a series now. Or any and all of the random fascinating things that came up that I wanted to discuss with you.

But then Monday happened. 
The part of Monday where the guy at the testing center told me that since my license was expired, I wouldn't be able to take the test. That my student ID (with a signature and a picture on it, mind you), would not be enough, that I would need my passport, which meant that I wouldn't be able to take the GRE, and would have to reschedule (and repay). Which meant that I might not be able to take the GRE in time for applications, thereby pushing off getting into graduate school ANOTHER year, bringing that up to the grand total of three years. (Yes, I finished undergrad reallly early. No, it still sucks.)
The part of Monday where I managed not to cry until I got out of the elevator and on to one of the busiest streets in my city. The part of Monday where I walked down the street and cried on the phone to my Mom, asking her how many times things would have to blow up in my face before something worked out. The part of Monday where I sat on the subway on the way home, tear-stained, while a creepy old guy tried to talk to me. The part of Monday where I nearly got knocked over walking home by some idiot who thought shoving by people on an icy sidewalk was a super intelligent thing to do.
The part of Monday where my normal optimistic, everything's-coming-up-sunshine-and-rainbows attitude went on a vacation.

Y'all, it sucked. 
To quote an old coworker, it sucked big donkey balls. 

At first, I was just sad. Stressed out. Disappointed. Dejected.

Then I got mad. 
I was mad at everyone- at the idiot at the testing center, for not letting me in. At his stupid  manager, who also said no. At every graduate school application that needed the GRE. 
At myself. 
For bringing an expired licence and not her freakin' passport. 

At everybody and nobody, because somehow everyone else's life was just WORKING OUT, while mine was still incapable of doing any such a thing, regardless of what people think.

So then I moped in my bed, and listened to The Piano Guys on repeat. I ate peanut butter and chocolate chips. I angry crocheted. I let my littlest sister hug me and tell me that everything was going to get better, even though I didn't believe her. I emailed the people who I told I would email. I went into work today, and told them what happened without bursting into tears. 

I put on my stupid big-girl pants, even though they itch and smell kind of funny. Even though I would rather mope around in my woe-is-me stained pajama pants. 

Because I know things will work out.
That one day, this will be an amusing anecdote, to add to the collection of other now-amusing anecdotes. 
That this, for some reason that I very much do not understand at all, needed to happen to me. At this time, in this place, at this moment of my life. That I needed to learn something from it.
That in the end, there was a supremely excellent reason for things not working out.
For all those people who said no.
For all the people who will say no.
For everyone who made me cry, for everyone who made my heart shatter.
For every time I wondered if I would ever make it out to the other side okay.
For every time I doubted myself, and every time someone made me doubt myself.
For every sneer, every derisive laugh, every eye-roll.
For every 'you're too young', for every 'you're not good enough', for every 'we don't want you'.

For every time it happened to you. For every time someone said something mean, for every time you wondered if you were crazy for going after your dreams. For every time you wondered if they were right, and you should stop fooling around, and let go.

I wish I could be the ever-calm, all-knowing one who can tell you why it all happened. That could tell me why I need to keep on hearing no. That could tell us all when things will finally fall into place. 

I wish I could be. But I'm not.

But I can tell you something that I once heard from a mentor.
When a caterpillar crawls into it's cocoon, it goes through hell before it becomes a butterfly. It's not just one of these stretch and regroup kind of unpleasant experiences. A caterpillar has to completely dissolve before it can become a butterfly. 
Metamorphosis is never a comfortable process. 
It hurts. 
It will tear you down, and nearly destroy you before you build yourself back up.

But the light at the end of the tunnel isn't an oncoming train.
I promise.

So hang on there. 
Keep going.
Keep writing.
Keep creating. 
Keep dreaming. 
Keep loving.
Keep trying.
Keep hoping.
Keep shining.

Keep shining, love. Keep shining. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

In Which I Don't Run Away From Home And Join The Circus(Featuring Ryann Kerekes)

Just a quick hello, there, darlings- coming to you from the trenches of studying. I have math problems coming out of my eyeballs. It's super attractive. Especially the parts where I wail in despair and threaten to run away and join the circus. Or something. Too bad I hadn't had that thought a few years ago when the circus actually was here and a tiger escaped, and was walking down the highway, and pretty much stopped traffic.
No, really.
Nothing happens in my 'hood, but when it does... it's just WEIRD.
There's a lot of allure, I think, to running away and joining the circus- you're not sure exactly what's going to happen when you get there, but one thing you do know is for sure- that it will be a heck of a lot more interesting than whatever is going on in your life. Unless, of course, you're part of a different circus. Then I'm not quite sure what your reasoning would be. 
So if any of you hear of any circuses coming my way before this afternoon, let me know. There's still time to bail. :)
I'm going to be back later this week with whatever randomness my brain has cooked up. But to tide y'all over until I sufficiently recover from the GRE, another book cover to drool over, and another book to add to your Goodreads list. AND IT HAS A CIRCUS (OK, Cirque. But close enough, right?) IN IT. I think it's a sign. 

The Cirque
Eighteen-year-old ballerina Ariel is determined to experience life outside the dance studio. She auditions for the cirque on a whim, and though ballet training didn't prepare her for dodging knives, she refuses to flinch and wins the spot of target girl alongside Gabriel, the mysterious knife-thrower. There’s something unmistakably dangerous yet tempting about Gabriel’s crystal blue eyes and tattoos. She’s determined to solve the mystery of his past after learning he’s on the run from the law. Especially since the distraction is just what she needs to avoid admitting to her parents she was dismissed from her ballet contract.

The more she learns about Gabriel, the scars on his body, the foster homes he grew up in, and his fascination with knives, she knows she should run the other way, but that boy’s like crack, oh so bad for you, yet addicting as hell. When he’s arrested and forced to deal with his past, she has to choose between putting her own life back together and dealing with her parents, or taking a chance on Gabriel, as no one else has.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ryann Kerekes writes young adult novels with a strong dose of romance. She lives in Minnesota with a super cute husband and two puppies, one of which may be part monkey. When not writing, she enjoys reading, hiking, laughing and day dreaming about kissing scenes. She also writes adult romance as Kendall Ryan.

The Cirque was written by the wonderful Ryann Kerekes, who you should all drop what you're doing right this second and go say hi to her on Twitter or Goodreads. Ryann is an absolute doll- and has been so nice and patient with me as I fumble along here, in the world of writers and readers. If this was high school, Ryann would be the one to come up to you and welcome you when you switched in from some other teeny tiny little high school and were kinda scared you were going to pee in your pants from nerves. One who also happens to write wonderful books. And probably bakes cookies or something. 

Now, while I know that you're sitting there all, BUT I WANNA READ IT NOWWWW (It's not just me, right? Right?), we can spout platitudes like 'Good things come to those who wait'.
Except I don't like waiting. 
Especially for books that involve knife-throwing, mysterious boys with blue eyes and tattoos, and DRAMA. 

So there' s that. 
Except for the excellent news that we don't have to wait TOO long, because THE CIRQUE is going to be released on MARCH 2, 2013. *Jumps up and down with glee* And that is less than a month away. Don't worry, I'm going broke along with you. Maybe we'll start a support group, or something. 

Now, scroll back up and gaze at that cover. 

You can stay there while I take my GRE.
I'll be back soon, peoples!


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Why I Judge Books By Their Cover, and Why You Should, Too. (Featuring Laura Howard)

“Don’t Judge a Book By It’s Cover”
So goes the phrase, but in actuality, does anyone really not judge a book by it cover? No. (Don't pretend you don't, we know you do. It's okay. We all do it.) While the quote was talking about judging people based on their appearances, and makes an excellent point,  I’m going to take this quote a bit literally today and tell you why you actually should in fact, judge a book by its cover.

Especially a self-published book.

Here’s the problem with self publishing. (Just a review here- no major earth shattering revelations.)
There are some people whose books are a result of the sweat blood and tears of not only an author, but their beta readers, editors, friends, publicity people they may have hired, graphic designers, should they have chosen to hire one. As well they should. Because, y’all, self-publishing should not be ‘oh, I wrote a piece of crap and I’m going to upload it onto Amazon with some crappy cover or not even a cover and a book that hasn't even been copy-edited at all, and expect to make a million dollars and end up with a publishing deal'.
Just, no.

And this is why I judge books by their cover.
It I see a book that has a nice, well designed cover that seems to be related to what the book is actually about (another mistake people make is deciding that for some reason, we’re all mind readers and can tell what the correlation is between their book cover is and the actual book is about. Unless there was a mix-up? I don’t even know. My mid reading skills suck), there are certain assumptions I will make.

Like the person who wrote the book used spell check. And beta readers. Perhaps an editor or two. That they took their book seriously enough to hire someone to make sure that the book looked as pretty as it was easy to read. That they cared enough to make an effort to make sure they weren't just publishing complete and utter crap.

And when someone takes their work seriously? Well, chances are it will be a good book. A wonderful, fabulous book, in fact.

Which is why I've decided to start taking part in helping with cover reveals.
Not only are they a way for me to help spread the word about upcoming books that I want to read (so we can all read them and then discuss them), but even if I don’t know the author well, I can tell you one thing.

The fact that they cared enough to spend the time on the cover tells me that they take their book seriously. That chances are, I’ll be recommending it to people when I read it.

So, I’ll be here, still judging.
And probably also lusting after gorgeous cover designs. But it's all good- because when the day comes, my cover will show people that I actually care.
And since you can't all see me with my little sign, this is my way of telling you. It's your way of telling your readers- I respect the work I've done enough to invest in it to make sure it kicks ass.
Because, of COURSE it does.

One of my first real introductions to the world of independent publishing was the form of a fabulously excellent lady from New Hampshire. We were in a business and marketing class together, and soon became friends. Now, I knew Laura wrote, but I never understood the depth and power of independent publishing until I started reading her blog and seeing her interact allllll over social media. (Because she is the queen of social media. I’m sure she has a crown hidden somewhere up there. If not, I’ll have to send one.)

So I can honestly say that everything and anything that comes out of the blog, or me actually doing something with my writing, will all be thanks to Laura. (But if it’s bad, it’s all my fault.)

Like I mentioned, I love cover reveals because not only are they awesome for stirring excitement, it helps me find the authors who care about the work they put out, and chances are, aren’t just doing it for the money.  
And so when Laura mentioned she was looking for people to spread the love (and book cover envy, truthfully) about her upcoming paranormal NA romance, The Forgotten Ones, I jumped at the chance.
Although there isn’t much I won’t do for her.

I hope I haven’t scared her off- but truth be told, I’ve said stranger things to her.

Without further ado, I’d like to invite you to join me in this book cover-lusting party, and just stop for a minute and drool appropriately at the cover of Laura’s new book.

Allison O'Malley just graduated from college. Her life's plan is to get a job and take care of her schizophrenic mother. She doesn't have room for friends or even Ethan, who clearly wants more. 

When Allison's long-lost father shows up, he claims he can bring her mother back from the dark place her mind has sent her. He reveals legends of a race of people long forgotten, the Tuatha de Danaan, along with the truth about why he abandoned her mother.

I’ll give you a minute.

I know- you can WEEP with envy, can you not?
To be one hundred percent honest, I was a little weary originally when Laura mentioned that it was paranormal romance. Paranormal, science fiction and fantasy are tricky genres for me- usually with a lot more miss than hit. 

But the summary, the cover (designed by Stephanie Mooney), and the fact Laura is Laura and she is a phenomenal writer (and has been teasing us with bits from the novel), I knew that this would be one book that I would be buying the day it came out.
If you haven't joined the 1200 or so brilliant people who think so to and have added it to their TBR list on Goodreads, now is your chance. 

You can say hi to Laura by visiting her at her blog, or saying hi on Facebook or Twitter.

Just in case you thought Laura was not excellent enough, to show your appreciation for helping her spread the word about her upcoming book (May 15!!), you can enter the rafflecopter drawing on her page for a chance to win a fifty-dollar gift card.
Which, of course, you can use to buy a whole lot of books.

Isn’t life just grand sometimes?

PS: *Shameless self-promotion!!* As long as you’re on twitter, spreading the good news about Laura and her upcoming book, feel free to say hi to me on Twitter, as well J My Twitter handle is @kkhendin (Super original, I know). And since it’s always fun to use bribery/incentives to get things done, I’ve decided that once I hit one hundred followers on twitter, I will reveal the title of my work in progress.
Really, I’d just promise to bake someone a cake, but that’s waaaaay to complicated. This is much less messy. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Writing Under The Influence

It seems in order to really be qualified to write a Great American Novel, you have a to have a few qualifications under your belt.

One of them being writing under the influence.
I mean, just take a look at a few authors. Lewis Carroll? Hunter S. Thompson? Truman Capote? Edgar Allen Poe? Ernest Hemingway? Charles Dickens?

So, if I wasn't really thinking, I would have added 'write under the influence' to my list of "How to Become a Person Who Sells Excellent Books, and Does Not Live In A Cardboard Box".
But I don't really want to destroy multitudes of brain cells, nor do I want to pickle my liver for the sake of ahhht.

If that makes me a bad person, I do apologize in advance.

However, I think that something or someone is conspiring against me. Maybe the ghost of Faulkner. Because if I'm not too careful, I think I will be writing under the influence.

Let me explain.
I've been working at New Job for a couple of weeks now, and it is a lovely place. Really. My coworkers are really sweet, my bosses are darlings, and they let me listen to music when I work (YAY!). The fact that the work isn't terribly fascinating is actually okay with me- I don't plan on being here forever, but it's a great in-between place, especially while I'm in graduate school.

The building New Job is in is pretty cute and little. It's on a side-street, off of a bigger street, with lots of funky little shops and restaurants. The building itself is three floors with a basement- I think it once upon a time was some sort of townhouse or something. The basement and main floor are offices, and the two floors on top are residential apartments.

And someone in one of those residential apartments has a pot problem.

How do I know that? You ask, tapping your chin, glaring at me suspiciously. No, I've never been upstairs, nor have I ever seen any of the people who live up there. But the ventilation system in the building is such that the vent from upstairs ends in my office. And when the good neighbor upstairs decides it's time to smoke a joint or two (approximately every other day), the entire office is bathed in the smell of pot.

Now, I don't think you can actually get high from second-hand pot smoke, but sometimes, I'm not sure. Like when I start getting all dizzy and fuzzy-headed, coincidentally around the same time a certain someone is smoking. Next time ol' pothead upstairs decides to start puffing, maybe I'll open up a new Word document and start typing, just to see what happens.

I've always wondered about the things people will do to get into the creative zone, and if their creativity REALLY improves, or if it's just a placebo. And if it does improve, do the short-term benefits outweigh the long-term consequences? Is it one of those things that starts out of desperation, but ends up working, and is taken over and over again until it's a full-blown addiction? Or was the creativity only discovered while high on something?

Tell me: have you ever written under the influence? Influence of what? What happened? 
And should I try writing slightly tipsy? (Drunk isn't my thing either...) High on sugar? Inhale helium? Should I get some spray paint and inhale enough fumes to make me dizzy? Tell me-I will be your guinea pig... (and maybe live-Tweet the experiment.)


PS: I have opinions on all sorts of things, I just don't know which ones you would be interested in hearing about. Anything you want me to write about? Comment to let me know :) The blog is relatively new, so whatever you want to read, I will see if I can accommodate you by writing it. Because left alone, it will probably be a mix of books that look good or were good (I don't know how good of a reviewer I am, so I don't know if that's gonna happen), updates on the Not-Yet-Named-Novel, monologues about the subway and other fun people watching activities, perhaps some occasional poetry?, some fun/interesting/thought-provoking psychology-related topic, and the occasional rant on whatever gets me mad. Also words of encouragement and virtual hugs.
And cookies.
Because they taste good.