My Kind of Book Review: Foolish Hearts

I recently completed working on my second completed novel, Never Say Never. As I prepared to pitch, I asked my buddy/little sister/co-editor/beta reader person, Megan Manzano, for a book recommendation. I needed a comparison title to include in my pitches. She didn’t have anything right away, but with #Pitmad rapidly approaching, happened upon a book that had her rushing to me in excitement. The book in question felt like Never Say Never. It wasn’t exactly like it, but it had the same mood, the same vibe. That book was Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills.

Naturally, I rushed to read it. By chapter 3, I was in love. I rarely blog book reviews, but I’m planning to start doing more this year. My format will look like what you see below. Now, onward to the vital statistics.

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Book Summary: When Claudia accidentally eavesdrops on the epic breakup of Paige and Iris, the it-couple at her school, she finds herself in hot water with prickly, difficult Iris. Thrown together against their will in the class production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, along with the goofiest, cutest boy Claudia has ever known, Iris and Claudia are in for an eye-opening senior year.

Smart, funny, and thoroughly, wonderfully flawed, Claudia navigates a world of intense friendships and tentative romance in Emma Mills’s Foolish Hearts, a young adult novel about expanding your horizons, allowing yourself to be vulnerable, and accepting―and loving―people for who they really are.

What I enjoyed: The vibe of this book is fun and light, while still tackling real, human problems. Nobody is perfect here, everybody is a little odd, the dialogue is fun and snappy. I loved the relationship bits, and I have major love for the guy who snags Claudia’s interest, likable and over-the-top, Gideon Prewitt. With a cast of characters that truly felt like people cycling in and out of a real high schooler’s life, and an interesting plot about preparing for a play (the drama geek in me happy danced a bit), this story is all at once touching and relatable. Claudia is a fun heroine, a little deadpan, a little flawed, but a good person a heart. Tackling topics like avoiding change and fearing the unknown future, two topics that I’ve had a personal lifelong struggle with, Foolish Hearts follows Claudia into new friendships, new experiences, and new emotions. I clutched this book to my chest when I completed it.

What I’d avoid: I definitely wanted to feel more connected to Zoe. While the story is supposed to be about Claudia growing away from her and accepting that she must become her own person, feeling detached from Claudia’s best friend made it somewhat difficult to feel Claudia’s fear. It doesn’t truly harm the story, but there are places where I wish Zoe got a little more screen time, so I could truly feel the disconnect forming instead of simply be told it was happening.

Would I recommend it: For fans of YA Contemporary Romance, this book will make your heart flutter. But it’s not all about romance. It’s about friendship. The cast is diverse and realistic. Definite recommend.

What can I learn from it: I need to read this again and examine the ways she managed to introduce the reader to a large group of high school characters and keep them in the surroundings without diving too deeply into their character development, and also never really losing track of any of them. I attempted this in Never Say Never, and I’m truly hoping I managed this even half as well. Possibly? Either way, ALWAYS BE LEARNING.

In the end, Foolish Hearts was a fun, light and enjoyable read. I’d definitely recommend it, and it’s getting a place in my Pitmad pitches thanks to its very similar tone. Foolish Hearts + Greek Mythology = Never Say Never. That sounds fun, doesn’t it?

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Out with the Old, In With The New

2018

When I started 2017, I was feeling seriously optimistic. I teamed up with my husband, Ismael, and his sister, Megan, to create a free editing service called The Inkwell Council. Our trio had also united with Ismael and my son, Logan, to create a YouTube channel, The Geektastic Manzanos. I had written a new short story. I had finished a massive positive revision of The Order of the Key, my YA Fantasy novel. Everything felt like it was looking up. Megan and I had numerous conversations stating that this was our year. 2017 was gonna be awesome.

As it turned out, the year ran about fifty/fifty.

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The Inkwell Council has been a tremendous success. We’re helping the literary community and we love every minute of it. What was initially supposed to be one 3-chapter edit of a fantasy novel a month, spread into two a month, novels or short stories of any genre. We’ve got a bit of a following and we’re having a great time doing it. Follow us on twitter here. To see more about what people are saying about us, visit here.

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The Geektastic Mazanos, however, flopped. From the start, we saw the issues, but we figured we’d try it for a year and see where it went. This had been Logan’s idea from the beginning and Logan really wanted to make it happen. But Logan also has ADHD and that didn’t really make for cohesive video shoots. Also, we would have needed much more expensive equipment to shoot in the evening with any kind of visibility, and we had maybe two days where we had daylight time. Add to that increasing homework loads, and just how painstaking video editing actually is, and you’ve got a fun project that eats entire weekends. Logan’s spontaneity was being tamped down for when there was better lighting, and our enthusiasm just died a slow death. It didn’t help that, even with a giveaway, our subscribers didn’t make it over the 30 mark. That’s just sad. In the end, what remained was our love for taking loads of doofy geektastic pictures for our Instagram…so we’re keeping that.

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The short story sold. Blue Ice was included in the Spring 2017 issue of the Corvus Review. It’s a big time favorite of mine, and I was so happy to see it land a home. Even better, I actually re-sold another short story, Choosing to Stand Still, to Fiction on the Web in August. All good news!

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The Order of the Key, however, did not fare well. After years of revising and contracts with questionable publishing companies, and queries to loads of agents and publishing companies, I haven’t gotten much of anywhere. I love Order, and I still stand by it. It’s a great story and I love its characters, but I don’t believe the market is right for it at the moment. Though I still await contact from a few outstanding queries (whom I’d be very happy to work with, should I hear back with a positive result), I’ve mostly dealt with the idea that it’s time to put The Order of the Key on a shelf. Just for now.

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This is mostly because I’ve completed my new YA Romatic Comedy with fantasy undertones, Never Say Never. It’s fun and so very different from Order. I’ve fallen deeply in love with these new characters, and I hope you will, too. I’m currently in final revisions of Never Say Never, before I start putting this new baby out into the world, searching for acceptance. It’s a very exciting time in my life, and I hope you grow to love Brynn, Adam, Nina, Gabe, and Val. They are hopefully going to be meeting you someday soon.

So, that’s where I’m heading in the new year. 2018 will continue to be a year of determination, it will continue to be a year of meeting my goals. However, much like the outlines I make of my books, there’s always room for a little tweaking.

What are your plans for this year? Let me know in the comments.

YA Romance: When Strong Doesn’t Have to Mean Single

Hey folks! I’m guest blogging today at All the Way YA, discussing romance in YA and what the potential implications are. See a preview below. For more, click here.

When the movie Tomorrowland was doing its press tour, an interview in Vulture with writers Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof (and also star George Clooney) in which Lindelof was quoted as saying the following when asked about rendering strong female characters. “What if she doesn’t get distracted by romantic entanglements? What if her “romance” is with the future?”

In my infinite insecurity (I am, after all, a writer. We’re all insecure.) I started to think about my story while panicking. Was there something wrong with romance in an adventure story? My story doesn’t involve a romance with the future! The relationship between my main character, Jacklyn, and her confused and confusing as hell potential love interest, Kyp, is a central part of the plot. It’s often the driving force. By not having my main character’s true love be adventure, or being a hero, or something more abstract, was I being somehow anti-feminist? Considering my strong feminist stance, I was genuinely concerned that I had miscommunicated my message.

Promoting #Pit2Pub, the newest Twitter Pitch Party!

Those of you who know my publishing story, know that it was a Twitter pitch party that led me to my publisher. Now that I have another book completed – a romantic comedy, which Fantasy Works just doesn’t publish – I am shopping for a publisher for that as well, and will be shopping it at the newest Twitter pitch party, #pit2pub, on July 15th. For more information, please read below!


The Intro: Who has fun spending hours creating that perfect 140-character pitch? Then bouncing that sentence or two off others to see if it’s fantastic? And finally having to create a couple more so you’re not posting the same one every few hours?

The Why: Kristin and Ann know what you’re going through. In fact, they both did quite a few Twitter Pitch Parties so they know your pain. Kristin remembers what it was like to see that little colored star and then checking and re-checking email to confirm that someone did in fact click on the pitch and favorite it. And Ann’s recalls her heart pounding and her palms sweaty, all the while hoping and praying that it wasn’t made by accident from a friend or some complete stranger who marked it and not re-tweeted it by mistake. They both trolled the feed all day long and didn’t work their day jobs (well, mostly this was Kristin).

So it’s because of those reasons Ann M. Noser and Kristin D. Van Risseghem wanted to help other authors. So why not pay it forward? They are fortunate enough to have a published book, and working on their second. But let’s face it, the best reason for them doing this? IT’S FUN! So let’s all have a blast, help each other out, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll find that perfect relationship between author and publisher.

The When: Here’s the date for #Pit2PubJuly 15, 2015 starts at 8AM and ends at 8PM (CST or CDT, which is Chicago time).

The What: What is #Pit2Pub? A Twitter Pitch Party for writers to tweet a 140-character pitch for their completed manuscripts. Have several variations of your Twitter pitch available. The pitch must include the hashtag #Pit2Pub, the Age Group, and the Genre (#YA, #MG, #A, etc. see chart below) in the tweet. It’s important to include the hashtag(s).

Age Groups Hashtags:
#PB = Picture Book
#C = Children’s
#MG = Middle Grade
#YA = Young Adult
#NA = New Adult
#A = Adult
#WF = Woman’s Fiction

Genres Hashtags:
#CB = Chapter Book
#CL = Children’s Lit
#E = Erotica
#ER = Erotic Romance
#ES = Erotica Suspense
#HF = Historical Fiction
#HR = Historical Romance
#M = Mystery
#Mem = Memoir
#LGBT
#LF = Literary Fiction
#NF = Non-fiction
#R = Romance
#PNR = Paranormal Romance
#RS = Romantic Suspense
#SFF = SciFi & Fantasy
#S = Suspense
#T = Thriller
#W = Westerns

RULES:
Authors of all genres are welcome to pitch their completed and polished manuscripts. You can pitch more than one manuscript. Tweet your pitch throughout the day, but no more than twice per hour per manuscript. When you see an industry professional on the feed, tweet it once. Remember to include the hashtag #Pit2Pub and genre.

The publishers will tweet their submission preferences and favorite your tweet if they wish to see more. If you get a favorite from an agent or publisher, follow their submission directions on their website or look for them on this blog. Then send them their request as soon as you can. They may have tweeted what they want you to send, so check their twitter feed for that information.

Make sure to put “Pit2Pub Request: TITLE” in the subject line of your email when sending your request.

Don’t tweet agents and publishers directly unless they tweet you first.

Don’t favorite friends’ tweets. You can RT your friends to show your support. Save favoriting for publisher requests to avoid confusion.
Be sure you research each requesting publisher. Don’t submit if you don’t want to work with them.

Be nice and courteous to each other and to the industry professionals. If you do see abuse, please report it to Twitter or notify Ann or Kristin right away.

Check back on their blogs (http://www.kristinvanrisseghem.com/blog) or Ann’s Blog (http://annmnoser.com) as we post the list of comfirmed publishers who have signed up to monitor the feed on July 15, 2015!

Thank you! And let the fun begin!!!

Distinguished Press Presents…The Amethyst Chronicles, Book 2: Croceus Poison

Hi everyone! Another of my Distinguished Press sisters, K.G. Stutts, is releasing the latest in her Sci-Fi Romance series, The Amethyst Chronicles. Book 2 is called Croceus Poison, and it is available now! Learn more about it and K.G. below.


How far would you go to get back what you lost?

The second installment in KG Stutts’s Amethyst Chronicles is now available!

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Synopsis:

Ember Wilson lost it all when she lost her Amethyst transformation. Her abilities, her team, and her self-confidence seemed to vanish with her purple eyes. She has to find out who she is when she’s not Amethyst. Her internal conflict will tear at those who care the most.

Through her soul searching, she pushes everyone away. She’s afraid to accept herself, let alone the love of the men who desire her. When a lead to resolving her situation is presented, she will risk everything to follow it. In the end, is Amethyst worth risking her heart?

Excerpt:

She gripped the staff with both hands, moving to strike Lewis’s wrists. At the last second, she flipped it up and struck him on the side of his head. Lewis stumbled back, cursing and sputtering.

She didn’t give him any time to recover before moving in. But he was ready for her tactics. The end of his weapon hit her mouth, busting her lip open, before swinging down and hitting the back of her knees. Ember fell on the mat, the air rushing out of her body as her staff fell out of her hands and rolled away. Lewis stood over her with his staff pointed at her face.

“And that’s three,” he said.

She looked up at him, breathing heavily. Her head pounded and sweat rolled down her face. She touched her lip and frowned at the red droplets of blood on her fingertips.

“So it is.”

“Are you okay?”

She nodded. He tossed the staff aside and extended his hand, moving so she could get up. He gently touched her chin and frowned.

“I didn’t mean to bust you open.”

“It’s a tiny cut.”

“Looks pretty deep to me.”

“Only because you’re used to me healing already.”

“It’s going to take a while to get used to you not being -” He stopped, sucking in a sharp breath as she raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms over her chest.

“Me not being what? Finish your sentence.”

He rubbed the back of his neck. “I can’t.”

“Finish your sentence,” she ordered.

“Not being purple,” he said, letting out a haggard breath.

She smacked his hand away and walked toward her clothes.

“Come on, Wilson. You know I’m sorry.”

She snorted as she pulled on her pants. “Of course you are. Everyone is. The doctor is sorry he didn’t catch the croceus poison before it nearly cost me my life. The nurse is sorry she aided in the blood transfusion. My father is sorry I can’t rejoin my military commission. Commander Stewart is sorry he can’t recreate the procedure. Liam is sorry he can’t understand what I’m going through.” She spun around, fire raging in her eyes. “And I’m sorry I let myself wallow in misery. But I’m not sorry anymore. Now I’m just angry!”

She stormed out of the training room, leaving her shirt on the floor and Lewis alone with his jaw hanging open. She brushed past the people in the hallway, not caring about the gawking looks she got for walking away in her bra.

Amethyst Chronicles: Croceus Poison is on sale this weekend for $.99 at Amazon. Get caught up on the series with Amethyst Chronicles: Winter’s Kiss, also on sale for $.99 at Amazon. Please join us for fun and games on Saturday, May 30th. We’ll be partying all day on Facebook with the entire Distinguished Press crew!

About the author:

014K.G. Stutts is the author of several sci-fi romance series as well as couple of romance stories. She has a degree in massage therapy. As a contributor to Independent Writers Association (IWA) her insights can be seen regularly there and on her own blog at kgstutts.blogspot.com and her website at kgstutts.com

When she’s not weaving words, she enjoys reading, playing RPGs, hockey, wrestling, and football, and is a big sci-fi nerd. Currently she resides in North Carolina, USA with her husband, Brad.

Genre’s Bum Rap

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Allow me to set the stage for you.  Christmas time.  I’m unwrapping a gift from my brother and his wife.  It’s a book!  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  I’m happy.  I’ve wanted to read this one for a while. And then Jon says, “Yeah, I got it because I figured it was time for you to take a break from all that sci-fi crap you read.”  Am I mad at him?  No.  It’s a brother’s job to poke fun at his little sister.  Not even a job, but a sacred duty.  And I won’t even point out that he loves “The Vampire Diaries” (I have a similar duty unto him) or that he chose Gone Girl  (which was an incredible novel that I recommend) from my wishlist which means I obviously read more than just “that sci-fi crap”.  But the comment does point to another more real problem that needs addressing.

What is really wrong with reading genre work, anyway?  Nothing.

Yes, romance, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, horror, etc. novels can be formulaic and cheesy, but then, isn’t that true for any kind of art when it’s done wrong?

A good romance novel pulls you along on what you already pretty much know will be a road to a happy ending and still manages to surprise you.  A good science fiction novel has a strong message about technology, the future, the other.  Fantasy, when done correctly, can deal with the meaning and implications of power.  A good horror novel can keep you jumping.  A good mystery or suspense novel still throws you for a loop no matter how many novels of its type you’ve read.

So what separates the good from the bad?

– Strong Characters.  A character with an interesting motivation.  Someone we want to follow, maybe not in a traditional way, but we have to root for them or against them with a force created by our love or hate for them.  Ho hum characters, formulaic characters just won’t do.  Plot is what draws people into a story – characters are what keep them there.

– An interesting plot.  You can have the best characters ever, but if all they do is sit and knit all day (no offense to all you knitters out there!) nobody is going to read past the first chapter. For a genre story to be good it has to have something interesting about it that makes the tale unique.  Without that, the story just becomes another one of those formula genre novels.  There is fun to be had in those as well, but if you’re looking to stand out or blaze your own trail, you need a good hook.

– A theme.  You need to have something to say and you have to want to say it loud.  Look at The Hunger Games and what it says about entertainment and excess.  Look at the Chaos Walking series (if you haven’t read this one, do it NOW) or Ender’s Game and what they say about the nature of war.  What Divergent says about the parts of us that come together to make us whole.  What the Otherworld series says about the deeper parts of our nature. I, Robot about the dangers of technology.  Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? about the nature of humanity. Gone Girl has a lot to say about the pitfalls of marrying someone we only think we know and the ways people change under duress. They are great because they have something to say.  They weren’t merely created to fit a preordained mold.

And sometimes genre is more interesting, at least to me, for much more juvenile reasons.  Robots and monsters and cool gadgets and magic and sex and murder and badassness…and that’s kind of a fun thing to tap into.

I would like to wrap this blog up with one of the most ridiculous arguments I’ve heard against science fiction and fantasy – which is that they aren’t real.  They could never happen.  And that makes me wonder what that person is even reading fiction for?  In that case, they would probably better enjoy a biography.  Those are interesting, too, but they aren’t escapism.

For that?  Well, I’ll go back to reading my science fiction book right now.

What are your thoughts on this?  Let’s chat in the comments section below.