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

Cover Reveal: The Order of the Key and Pre-Order info

It’s here! It’s really happening! The Order of the Key now has a brilliant cover!

The text is a little small on that one, so I’ll paste it below.

Jacklyn Madison never expected to be attacked by a beast on an evening snack run. Add a rescue mission enacted by a trained regiment of teenaged warriors, and her night officially becomes just like a scene from one of her beloved comic books. Turns out, her parents were once members of the Order of the Key, gifted humans that protect humanity from creatures spilling through inter-dimensional rifts. Unable to control her newfound abilities, Jacklyn and her family rejoin the Order.

After an attack on their headquarters leaves Jacklyn questioning their leadership, Kyp—the boy who led her initial rescue—reveals a darker secret. The Order’s leader may be corrupt, and Jacklyn’s questions could put her family in danger. Drawn into the search for proof, Jacklyn must use her guts and magical brawn to protect her family, her friends, and herself from the monsters spilling from rifts, and those hiding within the Order.

And now for the really big news. The Order of the Key is now available for pre-order at Black Rose Writing’s Website!

If you order here, use the code PREORDER2020 at checkout for a 15% discount.

And save those receipts. I’ve got a pre-order giveaway in the works and I’ll be posting about it soon.

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

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

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.

Book Review: The Stars Never Rise

As I’ve mentioned in some of my past book reviews, I am currently making my way through some books that can be seen as a comparative title to my own books. This time around, the book is The Stars Never Rise and its sequel, The Flame Never Dies, by Rachel Vincent. This series was recommended to me as a comparison to my story, The Order of the Key, due to the family connection between siblings, and the main character’s drive to protect hers in the midst of an unbelievable and frightening world.

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Book Summary: Sixteen-year-old Nina Kane should be worrying about her immortal soul, but she’s too busy trying to actually survive. Her town’s population has been decimated by soul-consuming demons, and souls are in short supply. Watching over her younger sister, Mellie, and scraping together food and money are all that matters. The two of them are a family. They gave up on their deadbeat mom a long time ago.

When Nina discovers that Mellie is keeping a secret that threatens their very existence, she’ll do anything to protect her. Because in New Temperance, sins are prosecuted as crimes by the brutal Church and its army of black-robed exorcists. And Mellie’s sin has put her in serious trouble.

To keep them both alive, Nina will need to put her trust in Finn, a fugitive with deep green eyes who has already saved her life once and who might just be an exorcist. But what kind of exorcist wears a hoodie?

Wanted by the Church and hunted by dark forces, Nina knows she can’t survive on her own. She needs Finn and his group of rogue friends just as much as they need her.

What I enjoyed: I found the idea of the Church being in charge in a dystopian future to be an idea ripe for a writer’s playground, and Vincent uses it as such, creating images wrought with the harsher sides of religious rule over the centuries. It also pokes at the idea of the corruption of religion. This is a world that feels rich and lived in.

Nina is a great main character with a strong motivation–she does everything to protect her sister. But even in that, she makes mistakes. She isn’t a perfect hero, and some of the wrong turns she makes are some of the best parts of the book.

Nina amasses a group of friends throughout the course of the story that end up as beloved and dynamic characters. Grayson becomes Nina’s shoulder to cry on, Maddock and Reese become her teachers, and Devi becomes her foil. Devi, in particular, is a fun character precisely because she doesn’t really get redeemed. She’s good, in the more important ways, but she’s also nasty and rude. And then there’s Finn. Finn is Nina’s love interest, the exorcist that saves her. Finn has the best backstory–but I can’t explain anything! It’s all spoilers. But they are all good spoilers, that end up being the most interesting part of the story.

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The second book is a fitting sequel, with a new main big bad, a new creepy section of the world to explore, and the unveiling of some surprising plot elements.

What I’d avoid: I got the distinct impression when reading this story that the author didn’t really know everything she wanted to do with this world. Some surprises and plot twists paid off well, and some felt like they came out of nowhere. Particularly one secret regarding a character in which that character had a special ability that only made sense if the end of the story was already true. I can’t really explain what I mean, but I facepalmed when I realized where it was going. As good as the story and the characters were, this particular event felt strongly like the author asserting their will. It was a frustrating moment.

Another issue I had with the story is that it was billed as a duology and the ending of book 2 left a huge plot thread open. I actually looked up when the next book was coming out. I thought for certain that it was a trilogy. Book 1 and 2 closed well, but there was far too much story left to tell.

Would I recommend it:

Though I had my issues with this story, these were all things I noticed in thinking about it after the fact (aside from that one facepalm moment). I would still say that, on the whole, the story was an interesting and fun ride. I was forced to stop reading a few times throughout the course of reading it, and I always found myself itching to get back. I enjoyed the characters and the entire plot conceit. Despite the issues, it was totally worth the ride. I would definitely recommend this book for lovers of dystopian YA.

What can I learn from it: I think the big lesson I learned from this book is to make sure that any major plot twists I intend to pull off in future books are planned well in advance, and all strange things that can’t be explained in book 1 at least have a firm explanation in my mind, as the writer. And if I come up with a good plot twist later that doesn’t fit the narrative, I’d better have a damn good explanation for it.

All in all, The Stars Never Rise and its sequel were both suspenseful reads that any lover of YA dystopian will enjoy. Just don’t squint too hard at it. You could easily miss the flaws if you aren’t looking too hard.

 

Guest Post: Shelving My Emotions

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Today, I’m guest posting at All the Way YA about the emotional and professional lead up to my decision to shelve my first novel. Here’s a snippet of the post.

The Order of the Key was my dream novel, the book of my heart. I invented the idea for it when I was fifteen years old and I never expected to be shelving it, unpublished, twenty years later.

Jeez. Twenty years later. I don’t think I ever thought of it in those terms.

To be fair, I haven’t been working on it this entire time, and the book I’m stuffing in the musty shelf of my mind is definitely not the book I started with. The version I’d created at fifteen contained a completely unlikeable, hormonal, emotional (possibly based on myself) super-cool highly powerful sorceress teen, and she hunted vampires as she romanced her way through a team of stalwart heroes. Hey, cut me some slack. It was the age of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and it showed. The current, much cooler, much more mature version involves a fun and likeable geek who blunders her way through a semi-corrupt organization that fights interdimensional monsters and manages to find herself leading the rebellion to overthrow the corrupt portion of it.

When I say it has grown by leaps and bounds, I’m not just talking about its intriguing premise. The writing of the original novel was horrid. But it was the first thing I’d ever finished. I was proud of it.

To read the rest of the post, check it out on All the Way YA.