The Order of the Key Update

I’m really trying to keep up with posting things here more often, but this month has brought changes in my day job that interfere with it. Still, I’m working on it.

All late on posting this here (some of you have probably seen this on social media already), but I recently had the chance to scope out the proof of my book! So have a gander at the inside layout and the first page.

Let me know you’re thoughts! I can’t wait to see what you think.

Title Page
Page 1

Farewell CraftQuest

Unfortunately all good things must come to an end. The CraftQuest team is still more like a family, and we’ve got big things going on in our individual futures that made it impossible to continue as we were.

Personally, I will be taking freelance edits at some point in the future. That information will be made available here on the site. That probably won’t happen until after The Order of the Key is released in July. I will keep everyone posted.

Below is CraftQuest’s statement on the closing of our business. We’ve loved working with you.

Hi all!

It is with heavy hearts that we must announce CraftQuest is officially closed for business. We all have a great love for the community and everyone we have worked with in our time together, but alas, though we love the work we’ve done with CraftQuest, we are no longer able to continue to maintain those duties as we each move on toward our publishing goals. We remain a team, although no longer in an official capacity. In this vein, we have decided to split all proceeds we have acquired as a company 50/50. Half to @Americares which is providing mental health support services for families dealing with the earthquakes in Puerto Rico, and half to @WWF_Australia to assist in protecting and rebuilding wildlife and natural resources lost due to the wildfires. As we close the business, we ask that you continue to remain in touch with us, as we are still a part of this crazy writing community. Some of us will continue freelancing, others are still writing, and others continue to have our hands on the pulse of the literary twitter world. To that end, please continue to follow us: 

@Maria_Tureaud
@SouffleLumiere
@Megan_Manzano
@Justine_Manzano
@IsmaelManzano76
@Valiance 

We wish you all the best on your writing adventures! 

Book Review: The Disharmony of Silence by Linda Rosen

I’ve been trying to expand my horizons in 2020, and have decided to read more books outside of my normal genre as well as more industry and craft books. Towards that end, my first full book of 2020 is a woman’s fiction novel with a historical slant. I received an ARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. As usual, I will be reviewing this book from a writer’s perspective as well as a reader’s perspective.

The Disharmony of Silence is by Linda Rosen and will be released on March 5, 2020. 

Book Summary: 

In 1915, jealous, bitter Rebecca Roth cuts all ties with her life-long friends, the Pearls. Eight years later, Rebecca’s son and young Lena Pearl begin keeping company in secret. Rebecca agrees to a truce when the couple marries. But the truce is fragile. Rebecca’s resentments run deep.

In 2010, Carolyn Lee, fitness instructor and amateur photographer, must come to grips with the fact that her mother’s imminent death will leave her alone in the world. While preparing her childhood home for sale, she realizes for the first time that her mother’s antique brooch is identical to the one pinned to the lady’s dress in the painting hanging above the fireplace. Coincidence or connection? Carolyn is determined to find out. What she discovers has the potential to tear lives apart or to bring her the closeness and comfort she longs for. It all depends on how she handles her newfound knowledge.

What I Enjoyed: 

This book hit me in a lot of very real places. For one, the Roth and Pearl families are New York Jews, having emigrated here from Russia. I happen to be of similar heritage, my maternal grandparents having emigrated here from Poland. While Lena Pearl and Jack Roth were being raised in New York, my mother was growing up just one generation behind them, and a lot of the stories from old New York as well as from Jewish tradition felt like they could have come from my family. 

I ended up converting when I was older, having been raised in a bit of a confusing situation as the daughter of Jewish and Catholic parents who really didn’t choose a side. Though religion has always been a complicated topic for me, the old traditions of the Jewish Holy Days stuck with me, and I teared up at a scene with a Passover Seder, just from memories and how eloquently they were conveyed. 

In addition, my mother recently fell seriously ill, and while she recovered, I also needed to clean her house out so she could move to a more accessible apartment. In that way, I could relate to Carolyn, as she cleared out her childhood home, and her curiosity as well as her inability to part with certain objects from her mother’s past. 

Therefore, I went into this with a deep connection to the main character. That connection never wavered. While sometimes, I found myself wanting to smack her upside the head, Carolyn felt like a real person with real flaws, and a deep seated need to form bonds. Those grumbly moments I felt as I went on my journey with Carolyn made her feel like a true friend. There were moments that were a bit like watching a train wreck, in that way where you cover your face, but peek between your fingers, because you want to know how things work out. 

I was wholly driven by the mystery and then, once the mystery was solved, I was driven by watching to see how Carolyn chose to handle it. 

What I’d Avoid: Truth time. I hate saying anything negative in reviews, especially when the author is relatively new and the publisher is independent, or they are self-published. The sales of a story can suffer so greatly from a bad review.

This book is a 4 out of 5. So this is not a bad review. Still, a slight bit of critique…there were places where the pacing dragged somewhat, and I think that was the result of the two separate storylines being told. I thought that while we were following Carolyn through part of it, and Lena through other parts, the weight of one story vs. the other would sometimes tip heavily in one direction or the other. I believe these two storylines could have been balanced better. 

Would I Recommend It: Yes. Definitely. I will admit, I don’t read Women’s Fiction, or Historical Fiction much, but that doesn’t really matter if you put the onus on story. And this story made me feel. The characters drew me in, and the resolution was well worth the wait. This story is for anyone who enjoys watching a character struggle with living the results of confronting their own long-held values. 

What Can I Learn From It: Anyone who has read my reviews in the past know the editor in me demands I turn every book into a lesson, so here’s this book’s lesson. If your story has a dual timeline, pay very close attention to the pacing of both stories. You want the pivotal parts of each storyline to weave together at the perfect point in the story. If one story drags behind the revelations of the other timeline slightly, it can dampen the effect. Dual timelines are difficult, so just be careful in your planning. 


All in all, The Disharmony of Silence (and my what a perfectly assigned title that is) was a great read that left me feeling satisfied. I enjoyed the characters, and the rich environment, and can’t wait to see more from this author. 

Mailing List!

Hello everyone!

I don’t really do New Year’s Resolutions, because they almost always fail and/or they feel to vague to actually provide a sense of accomplishment. Instead, I’ve made myself a few amorphous goals I’d like to pursue in 2020, and one of them is to make an effort to be more active and INTERactive with you, the wonderful people who actually care what I’m writing and why I’m writing it.

For one, I intend to post more here on the blog, and also on social media. However, algorithms add some snags to that. Therefore, in an effort to get information about me and my upcoming book release past social media algorithms and right behind your eyeholes (or something less invasive), I’m creating a monthly newsletter!

That’s only one email a month, unless a sudden but important announcement needs to get out there in between. Even then, it won’t be much more than one extra newsletter.

If you’re interested in signing up for my newsletter, please sign up here. https://mailchi.mp/ebb8bfa2eae4/justinemanzanosignup

I look forward to a monthly party in your inbox! 🙂

The End of a Decade (And What the Hell Happened to PeWriMoMo)

Happy New Year!

Hi everyone!

It seems I have dropped the ball here lately, and I’m sorry–but it’s all for exciting reasons. 

I received my developmental edits for The Order of the Key, and they were. . .a lot. But they were all amazing and thought provoking and the novel is so much better now that I’ve made them. On top of working on those, I’ve begun working on forming a marketing plan for the book, as these things don’t just happen, and small publishers have less resources in this area. 

So, I’ve been reading up on publicity and marketing practices, and have worked out the beginnings of a plan. And I’m really excited for it. 

Then, I got my line edits for Order. And I. Am. Tired. 

All of this + the holiday season, means that while I ended up abandoning my PeWriMoMo adventure in November, I probably wrote the requested word count in just new and rewritten scenes. But I didn’t keep track. Not really. So there that wonderful idea went. 

I was going to wait until I was finished with my line edits to give you guys an update, but I realized what an important time we were in, and I didn’t want to miss out on the recap. 

This decade has been very kind to me. In the last ten years, I became a mother. My relationship with my husband has grown stronger than ever. I stepped into my own as an author. I built my career as an editor. Sold seven short stories, two personal essays, one article, and a novel, the same novel, to three different publishing companies–although, this will be the first one to actually publish it (small publishing can be a damned landmine, you guys). I have found an amazing day job with incredibly supportive people. I have continued my relationships with my family, both born and found, and built on them some more. I have forged such wonderful relationships. I have found my writing tribe. 

This decade has also been pretty harsh to me. I received rejection after rejection on things I thought were destined to be successful. I have struggled with the aftermath of sexual assault. I have helped my wonderful, amazing son battle Autism, Attention Deficit Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, Depression and Anxiety, and he has done so like a dang soldier, but that doesn’t mean it was easy. I lost my Grandmother and my Uncle Bobby. I watched friendships I thought would be around forever dwindle into nothing. I’ve had surgeries and been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, and have wondered how long it will take for it to have a real and lasting effect on me. My mother nearly died. 

2019 was the hardest of these years, but all of these experiences taught me some amazing things about appreciation and perseverance, and anyone who knows me at all, knows that I have been knocked down, but I never stay down, and that I’m working on counting every triumph and blessing. 

This isn’t the first time I’ve done an end-of-year recap. The last times I’ve done one, I declared the next year to be “my year.” I’m not going to say that about 2020. I’m sure, in some ways, it will be awesome. And in other ways, I’m sure there will be struggle. 

But I am here for the fight, and I’ll keep swinging. And telling you about it. I always intend to include you for the ride. 

Thanks for another year. Get ready for The Order of the Key in July 2020. (You know I had to.) Have a wonderful holiday season and a joyous New Year. I’ll chat with you about the next adventure. 

All my love,

Justine

Indie Chicks!

Hi all!

This week, I was the featured guest on the podcast/Youtube channel Indie Chicks, where I talked to hosts Melissa Koberlein and Jeni Chappelle about dusting off an old story idea.

You can check out the video here, and please show the channel some love. They are a great pair and their series is a wonderful resource on all things writing.

Please excuse my face in the screencap. LOL

PreWriMoMo Week 1: UGGGGGH

So…last week I mentioned my desire to gain some more personal writing time, and my journey of PreWriMoMo began. I had a plan. I was going to write different parts from every project I had running in the background of my head. 

There were some complications. Because there are always complications. 

Day 1: I started out strong. 

772 Words – My blog post announcing PreWriMoMo.

43 Words – Landmarks. I absolutely love this fanfic, and yet, after I wrote a large chunk of it, I’ve been dragging along. This was a two line dialogue exchange. But it was something. 

117 Words – A Light So Dim. As I work on my edits for the first half of the story so I’m comfortable moving forward, I’m adding bits here and there. This was a descriptive paragraph, fleshing out scenery. 

103 Words – A Light So Dim Outline – Adding bits of plot and dialogue ideas, so I can flesh out the remainder of the story. 

A wonderful start! 1035 wasn’t the typical Nano 1670, but I’d take it. After all, I knew I couldn’t do the classic Nano word count. 

Day 2: HA HA HA HA HA. That didn’t last long. I didn’t write a word. Between appointments for Logan and a visit to my friend’s house for a party congratulating my friend on passing the Bar Exam, the day went on. 

Day 3: Well, I started out early and wrote about 182 words of dialogue for Nightmarescapes. I squeezed it in while waiting to leave my house. Then, I went out, got into a conversation that triggered my depression and anxiety majorly, and got absolutely NO WORK DONE. Nothing. What a waste of a day. For multiple reasons. 

Day 4: And I’m not getting much better. 

101 words – Jagged Shards Cut Deep. I’m just starting the outlining of this fic. A couple of plot points added. 

175 words – Landmarks. This fic is going to be the death of me. I can only write so much of it at a time. *bangs head on desk*

44 words – Living in the Past – This outline is killing me. I’m still really figuring out the plotline. I keep writing one plot point or two and then leaving it alone. *shrug*

Day 5: After thinking quite a bit about some of the edits I got back, I realized that my book needed a new opening and I worked towards crafting one today. Still awaiting edits on my new opening, which I adore. 

1201 words: Order Edits. 

53 words: I was on a roll, so I added a plot point on Jagged Shards Cut Deep. 

225 words: Landmarks. Added a decent chunk to the next scene.

Day 6: I was completely slammed at my day job today, which meant I never got a chance to write on downtime or breaks. So the fact that I pulled off as much of a word count as I did was kind of miraculous. 

155 words – Superhero Rom Com Outline. I just added the perfect character attribute for my new sidekick. This adds so much to the plot. I’m excited. 

327 words – Blog post. I wrote 90% of this blog post on day 6. The rest is getting written up on day 9. You’ll see why next week. 

39 words – A Light So Dim Outline. Added a teensy line of dialogue.

245 words – A Light So Dim Draft. Cleaned up a few lines and added a few explanations to make things make more sense. I think I’m almost ready to start writing new material for this one. 

52 words – Jagged Shards Cut Deep. Added a plot point. I’m starting to get a stronger idea of the places this story may go. 

Day 7: Oh booooooy. My day was super difficult at work and I was super tired. So when I got home, I fell asleep almost immediately. This amounted to:

59 words – Landmarks – wrote a line of dialogue. 

25 words – Living in the Past – literally added one plot point. 

Hopefully, next week is much better, but it’s not off to a great start. At the very least, I’ve written more? Baby steps…