5 Awesome Things That Happened In February (+ 1 Thing in March)

Hi all! 

Last month was an awesome month for me. If any of you read fanfiction, I’ve decided to format this post in the time honored tradition of a 5+1 fic. So, here’s my five awesome things that happened in February, + 1 from March.

  1. I got a book cover and my book went up for presale! Check out this beautiful thing! And the physical copy is up for presale. If you order through Black Rose Writing, use the code PREORDER2020 to get a 15% discount. https://www.blackrosewriting.com/teenya/theorderofthekey. It’s also available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1684335043/ref=dbs_a_def_awm_bibl_vppi_i2
    And at Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-order-of-the-key-justine-manzano/1136575285?ean=9781684335046.
    And let me tell you, those were dreams come true. 
  2. I made my first convention appearance. Sure, it was online…but I probably liked that better anyway. All. Those. People. Not that I don’t love people. I’m just easily emotionally overwhelmed when there’s a lot of them. Anyway…my first appearance was at WriteOnCon 2020, in their Indie HQ section. I gave a forum speech titled “Not Right For Me: How to Find Red Flags in Indie/Micropress.” This is a topic anyone following the journey to publishing Order knows about. Check it out here: https://writeonconforums.org/thread/3023/right-find-flags-indie-micropress
  3. I was the guest on an awesome podcast and it wasn’t (exactly) about my writing. I appeared on Ronin Uncensored, where I spoke with host Joshua Lee Ronin about raising a child with mental illness, coping with my own, and how all of this affects my writing. This is me, completely uncensored. I spoke about things I don’t normally speak about and since I’m not big on that thing where people project a representative of themselves in the public eye that looks nothing like the real them, I felt really good about this podcast. Check it (and all of Joshua’s interviews because he’s a super insightful interviewer) here: https://open.spotify.com/episode/4uZrIzdDwgbKC8R90qzrva
  4. Have you ever heard about the amazing KJ Harrowick? Well, if you haven’t, allow me to introduce you: http://halon-chronicles.com/. This is her website. Not only is she a kick ass writer, but she is now my web and logo designer. We’ve partnered to reinvigorate this here old site and make it into something as glorious as hers. So expect a new logo, a new site, and loads of awesome looking stuff to come. And go follow KJ. She’s a force to be reckoned with, and she’s glorious. ❤
  5. Now…have you heard of Boogie Down Books?
    https://boogiedownbooks.com/ Well, you should have! I’ve been doing readings of children’s books there for years and wrote a blog post on it and everything! LOL, but I forgive you. Now you need to know about them, because they will be partnering with me to sell the books at my book launch! We’re looking for a great location and have a few great leads I hope to lock up soon. Once I do, you know you’ll be notified. For now, if you’re interested in attending and you’re in the NY area, save the weekend of July 11th. 

And now for the plus one…

  1. I’ve just signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo in April! Why? Because I am currently starting work on the sequel to The Order of the Key, titled The Skeleton Key. I’ve got a lot of brilliant ideas for this one, and will likely be very busy planning the outline this month. So look for more information on this one as I work through this. 

Anyway, I hope all is well with all of you! Let me know what’s new in the comments. 

All my love, 

Justine

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. 

HUGE NEWS! PUBLICATION NOTICE: The Order of the Key is back from the dead!

A while back I wrote that I’d shelved my first novel, The Order of the Key. It was an important decision I needed to make as I moved forward with writing a different story. However, I had never truly given up on Jacklyn and Kyp, the main characters of my inaugural tale.

Jacklyn Madison Character Aesthetic

Though nearly every person I spoke to told me that YA Urban Fantasy was dead, or that I had missed the market on my story, I refused to let go, and continued quietly submitting the story to small publishers, eagerly looking to find a forever home for my plucky cast of characters.

Kyp Franklin Character Aesthetic

Ladies and Gentlemen, we’ve found that home. I have signed with Black Rose Writing, and together, we will be bringing you a newer, even stronger version of The Order of the Key in July 2020!

Everybody, pterodactyl screech with me!

Thank you all for your unwavering support! I can’t wait to bring you all along on this new journey with me.