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YA Author Rendezvous

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How I got past Writer’s Block

How to avoid writer's block - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Lauren Mayhew

At some point in every writer’s life, writer’s block kicks in, and when it does, I think you can agree it’s the absolute worst. Even though you know you’re capable of writing the story in your head, the words just won’t come out.

What I’m about to say is by no means the only way to defeat writer’s block, but this is what worked for me, so hopefully I can help a few of you out if you’re struggling too.

My writer’s block began after I’d published my first book, ‘Reality is in a Dream’. I had a short break before beginning the writing process of book 2, ‘Mourning Memories’, and when I started to write book 2, I was very enthusiastic that the process would be swift. However, about 20,000 words in, I began to hate everything that I’d written up to that point, and then I re-wrote the whole lot.

This put a massive spanner in the works. I’d completely lost my flow, and although I had a very descriptive plan, I just couldn’t find the motivation or inspiration to do any writing. At this point, I was also hand writing everything, and then typing it up later. It was a slow process, and in the end, it took me 18 months to write book 2. That didn’t include the edits, and formatting time.

Because of this extremely long process, I kept putting off the writing of book 3. I couldn’t even bring myself to write a plan out, because without this, I couldn’t start writing, or that’s what I told myself anyway. But then NaNoWriMo came around, and with the encouragement of a few others in this group, I decided to give it a go.

I didn’t write book 3 of my trilogy for NaNo, as I was still procrastinating about that one, but I did manage to write 50,000 words of a different book, the fastest I’d ever written a book in my entire life. I was no longer hand writing, simply typing directly onto Microsoft Word, and the words just kept flowing. I had a plan for this book, but I think I only looked at it once. The story ran away with itself, and turned into something I’m extremely proud of.

50K50Days - Day 50 - Lauren Mayhew Author - Young Adult Author RendezvousSo, when I finally decided to write the third book in my trilogy, I took inspiration from NaNo. I set myself a new challenge, to write 50,000 words in 50 days. I posted every day on my social media accounts, letting my followers know about my progress, and that pretty much forced me not to give up. I still hadn’t finished the plan for the book, but once I’d started, the characters took over, and before I knew it, the story was written.

Having less of a structured plan to follow, a daily target to reach, and followers on social media expecting updates, I managed to overcome my writer’s block. In the space of four months, I managed to write two books. Neither of them are close to being finished, but the story is there to be edited, and that’s sometimes the hardest part for me. I’ve given myself a break from both of them, but I’ll be going back to the third book in my trilogy soon, and hope to have it published by the end of summer.

Set yourself a challenge, and you may be surprised what you’re capable of!

Indie Author Life and Other Forms of Torture

Indie Authors - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by K. R. Conway

Last night I had an epiphany.

One would think it would have been obvious to ME for a while now, but it wasn’t.

You see, I am a self-published author, though I refer to myself as an “Indie” mainly because I operate like a business – like a small press. I am also a professional writer, and I don’t say that off the cuff or because I’ve written two novels.

I’m LITERALLY a traditional working writer, so I will admit that gives me a bit of a leg-up in some aspects. And I’ve been a professional writer for nearly two decades – a paid, published, prolific, oh-crap-I’m-on-a-deadline, writer.

Because of my professional background, I WAS a publishing snob – I believed that to be a legitimate success, you needed an editor to praise your work and a Big Six publisher to fork over the dough. I thought you needed the stamp of approval from the publishing gods and a few lines about the deal on Publishers Marketplace.

And even after I decided to jettison my brain and self-publish UNDERTOW (mainly because I wanted to write the story I wanted to write for the first time in my life . . . and I may have been nuts), I was still seeking “traditional” approval. I wanted an agent or a publishing house to suddenly fall on me and say, “Oh YEAH – we want a piece of the action!”

I wanted their approval because I thought I needed it.

I thought I needed their watermark to designate a book as worthy — as great. The reality is that it is still a total gamble. I’ve read AWESOME traditionally published books and ones that are total junk. I’ve read lots of terrible self-pubbed stuff too, while others are phenomenal . . .  although the kicker is I look AFTERWARDS for a pub imprint on the fabulous books. I know . . . the irony is sick.

Indie Author Struggle - Young Adult Author RendezvousAnd it’s true – to get reviewed in the big newspapers, you DO need such a mark. Many places will scoff at you and ignore you if you say you are self published because in their head, all that matters is a traditional publishing deal. The comments of fans, the rave reviews from book bloggers, means nothing. I take comfort in the fact that so many books come out constantly, that I find book sellers also don’t have a solid grasp on who an author is, even if the author has signed a huge deal and is a screaming success among fans. Seriously – if this describes you, don’t take offense by their lack of knowledge – they are hurled books and press releases all day long. Those writers with the biggest marketing buck are the ones they finally stock.

I am blessed that the UNDERTOW series gets a LOT of action. I owe that almost entirely from the one group of people who I had never really aimed for before as a journalist: fans. I started earning fabulous, dedicated fans and more importantly, they were buying Eila’s story, posting pictures to Facebook, Goodreads, and Instagram. They were talking about it, writing fan fiction on it, shooting my crazy story to the top of the Amazon bestseller heap. Teens even started recognizing me IN THE MALL, which was waaaayyyy out of the norm for me.

Yes – I wrote UNDERTOW for those teenagers of the Cape (I used to be one when dinosaurs still wandered the earth). I wrote for Cape Cod, but the professional writer in me also sought that “publishing deal” even though I KNEW I had taken myself out of contention the second I self published the book.

So last night, as I was cranking out pages for CRUEL SUMMER, my professional brain kicked in and I started thinking if I should query the manuscript (send it to literary agents). I started wondering if I should throw my hat into the ring with the publishing gods, even though CRUEL SUMMER is a spin off of my books.

But then a message popped up on my author page on Facebook.

It was from a fan. Someone I had never met who lived in Ireland and was head over heels for the series. She said she went to her local bookstore, who refused to order STORMFRONT because I didn’t have a snazzy imprint from the Pub gods. But to her – this random fan who was strolling the streets of a foreign country — it didn’t matter, because she went online and bought it anyway.

And THAT is when I finally realized that those publishing imprints mean nothing to readers. My background as a professional writer, means nothing. The fact that my name is not in Publisher’s Marketplace, means nothing to readers. Hell, sometimes MY NAME means nothing because they never looked at who wrote UNDERTOW.

To the industry, however, those things mean everything.

It was then that I realized, that while my professional self wanted to stay in the professional pat-on-the-back track, it was my READERS who made my day. It was their reviews and their thoughts, that counted. They PAID me, and paid me well (thanks BTW!). UNDERTOW will eventually make the same amount as an average publishing advance, not because one person from the right business said, “yes,” but because thousands of readers said, “HELL YEAH!”

For me, that knowledge is humbling. My readers have entrusted me to not let them down and to focus, not on my professional past, but on my rebellious Indie future. They want characters that they scream for, stories that keep them awake at night, and a crazy author that will aim to always please them.

Yes, it is true that I would like an agent someday and I offer outrageous applause to those awesome friends and writers who DO have publishing deals (and I will push your books into the spotlight as much as possible). But for UNDERTOW and all the books that live inside that world, I will write for my fans and keep it in my control.

My readers may not be from the Big Six publishing houses, but they gave me their stamp of approval . . . by the thousands.

What more could a storyteller ask for?

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Don’t forget to check out our awesome giveaway here!

5 Steps to Getting Published

5 Steps to Getting Published - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Christopher Morgan

Whether it’s skydiving, visiting the Taj Mahal, riding an elephant or learning to play the piano, everyone has that bucket list they’re trying to work through before they die. Having done all of these things myself already, my own bucket list is much smaller nowadays but one of the last remaining entries was to publish a novel.

This year, however, I was successful at putting a check into that box with the release of Forestium: The Mirror Never Lies. If you’ve ever wanted to put a check into that box, here are the 5 things you’ll need to do.

Step 1 – Turn intention into action

It might sound straightforward enough but the truth is that the vast majority of people that intend to write a novel never actually start. Sadly, the majority of people that start don’t even finish it either, and many of those that do get that far never cross the final hurdle of actually getting their book published. Overcoming this mental hurdle and believing in yourself is the very first, all-important step towards your goal of seeing your book in print.

Step 2 – Write something

Whether there’s something that you’ve always wanted to write or whether you are inventive enough to conjure up something on the spot, your book content is your next hurdle. Many people think that this is the hardest past of the process but that’s not necessarily the case. Don’t worry about making it perfect – just get something down first. You can always go back and make improvements.

Step 3 – Editing

There will be lots of opportunity along your journey to try to scrimp and save and do things on the cheap. This isn’t one of those. Don’t try to do this yourself! Get a professional to assist. Once you have finished your last chapter, the real work begins and it should start with you going over everything yourself – repeatedly – to make changes, corrections, tweaks, adjustments, etc. Then, solicit some beta readers to give you an honest assessment. These should be strangers that have no investment in wanting to spare your feelings. Your Mum will love your work and your friends and family will probably tell you it’s terrific. Ignore them all and get total strangers to give you the honest feedback you’ll need at this point. When you’ve done all of this, engage a professional editor to go over it all. You’ll be surprised at just how much better a good editor can make your manuscript.

Step 4 – Book cover

People do judge a book by its cover, so make sure it’s a good one. Yes, you can make a book cover cheaply and with readily available software programs like Microsoft Word but this is another area where money could be very well spent. The right book cover can make or break a book, so it’s worth spending a lot of attention on this. Engaging with a book cover designer is likely to be money very well spent.

Step 5 – Getting published

Sounds easy, right? Well, the truth is that it can be – depending on which route you take. When it comes to publishing, authors fall into two broad categories: Traditional (trad) or Independent (indie). The trad publishing route typically involves engaging with an agent, who then sells your idea to a publishing house, or at least tries to. This can and does work well for a lot of people. The catch is that you have to pay a percentage to the agent and also to the publisher. But, if all goes well, your book will be marketed far and wide. The downside is that you lose a percentage of your book sales, as the agent and publisher each take their cut. If you publish the book yourself, which is quite easily done nowadays, you’ll retain more of the profits for yourself, although it can be hard work competing against the traditional publishing marketing machines and will definitely require a lot more work on your part.

Don’t forget to check out our awesome giveaway here!

Burnt Leaves and Other Weirdness

Burnt Leaves and Other Weirdness - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by K. R. Conway

My mother is a wise soul.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, she’s kooky and crazy and lives out loud, but she’s got this inner Zen thing going on that makes her come out with some true treasures of insight every once in a while.

One such gem was pretty simple: she said real writers, WRITE. They don’t perseverate, they don’t make up excuses. They just write – nose to the keyboarded, possible drink in their hand (hello, Hemmingway), and a brilliant fire in their belly that demands they tell the story.

I didn’t have that drive to write when I first messed around with UNDERTOW, but once I got really rolling inside Eila’s world, I loved it – the feel of the abused keys under my fingers and how the voices and scenes washed away the world as I worked. I mean, literally – the house could catch fire and I may not realize it.

So anytime I try to excuse myself from my keyboard, I remember my mother’s words (and the fact that my readers will get on my case if I don’t finish my next novel) and I get back down to business.

But I like to think that I’m actually a storyteller first, a writer second. The tough thing about being an obsessive storyteller is that you have a MILLION stories to tell. And because the new characters and tales are screaming to come out, I sometimes think I can weave them ALL into a current WIP (work in progress). Sometimes I do, but sometimes I control the urge and tell myself they deserve their own novels. Most of the time I spin so many stories in my head, that they all jockey for attention at once, which literally melts my brain.

At night I go running for a few miles, music blaring in my ears, seeking the muse within. While I pound the pavement, those stories that are whispered in my mind suddenly come vividly to life. I no longer see the road, but rather an entire scene playing before me like a ghostly movie screen. Literally, I no longer have any sense of where I am, only that I SEE the scene in front of me. The stories that win the right to be the next one written, are the ones that build scene after scene, night after night as I run.

Tonight I went walking with Kalli, and while we strolled she suddenly asked me why I was feeling the leaves.

I didn’t even know I was doing it.

I was walking under a low slung oak branch and my fingers were trailing through the tips of the leaves above me. But in my mind, I wasn’t touching them – my character was and the leaves weren’t soft and green, but curled and windburnt.

I turned to my daughter and simply replied, “I’m writing,” as I dropped my hands and shrugged.

Of course, she thought I wasn’t normal and commented as such. A minute or two of silence sat between the two of us as we walked in the near darkness. I glanced at her out of the corner of my eye as she fiddled with her phone, seeming flustered, but then she finally huffed in aggravation and halted. “DAMN IT! Now I’m gonna obsess about what you’re writing!”

I smiled like the cat who ingested Tweety and pointed to the tree, sitting content and deep green in the night air, and said, “The leaves, in my mind, are burnt and the damage isn’t from nature. I see it every night when I run.”

Kalli looked at me, a stone-still stare that she has perfected over the years, and only her lips moved. “You are so weird.”

Yup. That’s me. The weird one.

I am my mother’s daughter. Apple. Tree.

My daughter is totally doomed to inherit that gene.

Don’t forget to check out our awesome giveaway here!

Author Spotlight

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Author Spotlight:
Barbara Renner

By: Michelle Lynn

What are the titles of your work and can you tell us a bit about them?

Lonnie the Loon Finds His Home – This is a story about a baby loon looking for his home. He tries to convince his mom where he would like to live but discovers there is only one place he can call his home.
Lonnie the Loon Learns to Fly – When Lonnie is a little older, he asks his mom a lot of questions about nature that surrounds him. He discovers more about life than just learning about his surroundings.
Lonnie the Loon Learns to Call – This is a story about a loon coming of age. Lonnie forms a relationship with his dad as he learns the four common loon calls. Readers can listen to the loon calls using a QR Code Reader App.
Lonnie the Loon Flies South for the Winter – Lonnie and his friends fly south for the winter and end up on a desert lake when they are blown off course. Lonnie forms a friendship with a little quail named Quincy who teaches him about living in the desert. The reader can hear animal sounds in this book also.
Quincy the Quail Leads His Family on an Adventure – Quincy is a little clumsy, but he is still the leader of his family. He takes them in search of food in the desert, but it turns into an adventure as Quincy is almost washed away during a sudden rainstorm.

Who’s your favorite character from your books?barbara-1

I’m fond of both Lonnie and Quincy. I’m excited about Quincy because he’s a little clumsy, but that doesn’t hold him back from considering himself as a leader. I’m a little clumsy myself! I want children to realize that even though they may have shortcomings, they also have strengths.

As a children’s book author, which comes first – writing the story or creating the images? Is there a reason for that?

I’m not sure about other authors, but I write the story first and then give the manuscript to my illustrator. My illustrators have been wonderful about working with me and revising their illustrations to match what I have in mind. When I write, I probably describe the scenes with a little too much detail. Then I have to delete words once the illustrator can picture the scenes in his/her mind. My new illustrator for Quincy put together a storyboard, which makes it easier for her to picture what I want in the book. I just have to quit writing so many words and have the illustrations speak to the reader! I’m still learning!

barbara-1A quail and a Loon are the stars of your children’s books. Why did you choose these animals when they’re less recognizable to kids?

When my husband and I first starting going to Minnesota for the summer, I discovered loons for the first time. I fell in love with them and did some research about Minnesota’s fascinating state bird. I thought everyone should know about loons, so that’s why I wrote my Lonnie the Loon books. I have facts about loons in my books, so children can learn about them too. I’ve had adults who’ve lived in Minnesota all their lives tell me they learned something new about loons. When I started promoting my books in my home state of Arizona, they didn’t sell as well as in Minnesota. That’s when I thought of writing a series about Quincy the Quail. I love watching the little quail covey run down the street in my neighborhood, so I tried to incorporate that visual in my books. I’ve had a lot of interest in my quail books here in Arizona and am enthusiastic about writing three more books about Quincy. My Quincy books have facts about quail also. I love reading my books to elementary school classes so they can learn about loons and quail – and receive a little geography lesson too.

Do you hand draw the images or are they computer generated? I doubt most of our readers are familiar with how children’s books come about, so what is the process for that?

I’m not sure how my illustrators create their images. I’m pretty sure Davina Kinney, illustrator of my Lonnie the Loon books, does all her illustrations digitally. I think my Quincy the Quail illustrator, Amanda Wells, makes sketches by hand first and then transfers them to the computer. Davina lives in Florida, but Amanda lives here in Arizona. It would be fun to have a book signing with her some time so she can explain the process to our customers. I think the illustrations are fantastic – and I’ve had a lot of compliments about both Lonnie and Quincy.

What authors have inspired you to write?

I enjoyed reading Mercer Mayer and Stan & Jan Berenstain books to my children. I also love Shel Silverstein, all of Dr. Seuss’s books, and all of the Amelia Bedelia books. I guess that tells you what era I’m from!

barbara-1What age were you when you started writing?

I wrote goofy little stories and melodramas when I was in elementary school, and my friends and I acted them out. I took a creative writing class in high school, but didn’t pursue my writing then. During my career hopping as an adult, I wrote and edited a variety of newsletters and journals. I started blogging when I was 61 because it was the thing to do! When I retired from teaching at age 63 I was bored to tears. That’s when I wrote and published my first two Lonnie the Loon books.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

All the time!! I don’t write enough – that’s the key. I need to write every day to keep the creative juices flowing.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?

I outline in my head – crazy. Then I sit down at the computer and hammer it out. That’s when what I thought I was going to write about changes directions and the story takes a different path. I haven’t written anything longer than 5,000 words, so if I write a novel, which I plan on doing one of these days, I may have to outline my story on paper or post-it-notes first.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

The only challenges I had were trying to decipher the 30-page contract with the publishing company; learning all the buzz acronyms like POD; and writing the book blurb! I jumped in with both feet and didn’t do enough research about publishing; but it turned out okay and I’m pretty happy with who I chose. However, what I thought was going to be a hardcover book the size of “Make Way for Ducklings” turned out to be a paperback the size of the Berenstain Bears.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?

My first three books aren’t written using a typical storybook model. They don’t have a conflict or a climax or a solution to a problem. They are more educational. But, I’m okay with that; I’ve sold over 200 copies of each book. If I had to do it over, I probably would have written a better “story” and get involved with a critique group. Instead of asking my hubby and friends for feedback, I should have joined a critique group. I thought I could do it all by myself. As far as publishing goes, I’ve learned that it’s very important to have a spine on your books, which mine don’t. Libraries and bookstores don’t like to display your books on a shelf without the title and publisher printed on the spine. I would have found a different publisher to ensure my books had spines.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

I’m continuing with my Quincy the Quail series, and they will have sounds that the readers can listen to. In the next book a hummingbird bullies and scares Quincy’s chicks.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

I guess the toughest criticism comes from Arizona residents when they ask “Why loons?” My friend told me, “I don’t get it.” I look at rejection as criticism also. I sent copies of my Lonnie the Loon books to The Audubon Society and The Loon Preservation Committee to see if they would carry them in their online gift shops. I never heard back from them. Other than compliments on the illustrations, the best compliment I received as an author was from a librarian when I showed her my first book. She said she liked the fact that there weren’t a lot of words on each page because fewer words were better for children ages 3-5. She said a lot of picture books are too wordy for small children.

barbara-1Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

I guess I would say to read a lot and write a lot, whether it’s writing stories, blogs, newsletter articles, etc. The cliché is “practice makes perfect.” Nothing is perfect, but practicing will make everything you write a little bit better. Also, become involved with a critique group. You can read the works of other writers as well as have them give you critical feedback on your own writing.

Do you have any strange writing habits?

Well, I don’t have any good luck charms like blue Smurfs sitting on my desk. Sometimes I get my story inspirations when I walk or hike, then I type the story on my computer. After I type it out, I let it rest or “cure” for a couple of days and then go back to it to revise it.

What others are saying about Barbara Renner:

“Getting my niece to last to the end of the book is usually a miracle. With this, she wanted me to read it again. She was mesmerized by the birds and the way they’re portrayed. It was really great to see.”

“Lonnie the Loon Learns to Fly is a great book for a small child to read as they start to take notice of the world around them.”

Don’t forget to check out our awesome giveaway here!


See all of Barbara’s books HERE!

Find Barbara on Goodreads HERE!

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In Defense of Insta-Love

In Defense of Insta-Love - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by K. R. Conway.

I do three things when I’m trolling the aisles of heaven (re: bookstore), searching for a few new books to burn my paycheck on:

  1. Seek out a kick-ass cover.
  2. Read the back jacket.
  3. Read the first page . . . and maybe the Goodreads reviews.

Let me tell ya – I’ve learned one thing about Goodreads and that’s that many readers apparently hate any novels with “insta-love,” but I’m calling out their whining as “bullshit.”

Why?

Because they’ve done it themselves. Repeatedly.

Let’s face it – novels have plenty of this “insta-love” thing going on, BUT I find that it’s (usually) not actually insta-love. It’s insta-LUST and lemme tell ya – we’ve ALL been there.

And lust . . . is dangerous. Forbidden.

Yet we don’t care, ’cause, baby,  we LOVE to lust.

We’ve drooled over the movie star, licked the Abercrombie bag (well, I have), and mentally stripped the barista hottie who’s serving Starbucks (yes, we females are just as guilty of doing it as the males, but we’re sneakier about it). Fellow writer Trisha Leaver would no doubt shove me from her car and haul butt for her TV if she realized the new season of Outlander had suddenly appeared because, well . . . hot Scot in a kilt! (FYI – it’s not on yet, damn it).

Adam Driver - Kylo Ren

Adam Driver is “Kylo Ren” in Star Wars, The Force Awakens

And Lust can corrupt your sanity and your morals. Take, for horrifying instance, my teen daughter: she’s totally in love with Kylo Ren from Star Wars. The second that jerk took his helmet off on the big screen and tried to suck the brain cells out of Rey, my daughter was drooling. DROOLING. Hello? RESIST THE DARKSIDE, GIRL! That’s lust.

And honestly, I’ve never known love-at-first-sight, but I’ve totally known LUST at first sight. Sometimes it evolves into love, other times . . . meh. More importantly, if you go back and really read all those book which have been labeled as “insta-love,” you’ll realize that they are actually insta-lust, which happens every second of every day.

I guess my point is that you can’t bash insta-love because it’s a truth of life (just sorta misnamed by readers). I tried to cover every variation of love in my books because I’ve known all the variations through my friends, family, and my own life.

For many, MANY people, lust usually comes first (Eila for Raef). If you’re lucky, it evolves into love (Raef for Eila). And sometimes hate comes first, then a slow “like,” then love (Ana and Kian). And sometimes lust comes first, but eventually burns both people out and they end up loathing one another while plotting one another’s murders (Collette and Kian).

And other times, a cautious friendship starts first, then love, then lust (Christian and Elizabeth).

But you can’t bash insta-love / lust because you think it’s cliché.

It’s not and we all know you’ve done the insta-love / lust thing with the movies, TV, books, and the Chris Helmsworth lookalike working on the roof next door. Even freakin’ love triangles are real (what a nightmare, FYI – in real life, it’s a major pain in the ass).

So, if I have no issue with insta-love / lust and love triangles in books, then what do I loathe in a novel? That’s easy: dumb heroines and crappy characters. Bad writing and thin storylines.

So, yeah – I’m calling out all you insta-love haters because we all know you’ve done it, multiple times, and lust is good for ya. If you’re gonna whine and protest about something, protest bad writing. Protest shallow characters, boring stories, and weak females, but not the lust.

Because, quite frankly, lust makes the world go round.

You can see Kate’s original Blog Post here.

Spring Fever Giveaway

 

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We all need to get away after months of cold, dreary, monotony. But even while we’re dreaming of white sand beaches and rolling waves, our regularly schedule life must go on.

But does it really? Getting away is a lot easier than you think. All it takes is a bit of spare time, an open mind, and a good book. That’s why we’re giving away tons of books! There’ll be over TWENTY winners.

And one grand-prize winner will walk away with a signed, first edition hardback of Witch and Wizard which just so happens to be written by one of the biggest names in fiction – JAMES PATTERSON! On top of that, they get a $100 amazon gift-card! 

And all if takes is a minute or two and a few clicks of the mouse.

DON’T MISS YOUR CHANCE!

Check out these other amazing prizes we have for you.

Signed copy of XODUS by K.J. Mcpike!

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Signed copy of Seer of Souls by Susan Faw

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Signed copy of Lonnie the Loon Finds His Home by Barbara Renner

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Signed copy of Order of Seven by Beth Teliho

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Signed copy of Choices by Michelle Lynn

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Signed copy of The Keeper of Dragons by J.A. Culican

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Signed copy of The Hereafter by Jessica Bucher

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Signed copy of Autumn in the City of Angels by Kirby Howell

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Signed copy of Reality is in a Dream by Lauren Mayhew

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Signed copy of The Other Inheritance by Rebecca Jaycox

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Signed copy of Orangutan by Rita Goldner

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Signed copy of Glitter and Sparkle by Shari Tapscott

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Signed copy of Into Shadow by T.D. Shields

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Signed copy of The Convergence by Tenille Berezay

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Signed copy of Counteract by Tracy Lawson

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Signed copy of Dawn of the Dreamer by L.J. Higgins

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Signed copy of On Delicate Wings by L.J. Higgins

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Signed copy of The Clay Lion by Amalie Jahn.

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Signed copy of The Adventures of Charlie Chameleon by Ellen Buikema

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Audio version of Dawn of Rebellion by Michelle Lynn

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Kindle copy of Shine and Shimmer by Shari Tapscott

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Kindle copy of Seer of Souls by Susan Faw

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Kindle copy of Spark by Tracy Lawson

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Signed copy of Lonnie the Loon Learns to Call by Barbara Renner

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Kindle copy of The Adventures of Charlie Chameleon by Ellen Buikema

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Kindle copy of Jackson’s Aviation Adventure by Rita Goldner

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Kindle copy of Jackson’s History Adventure by Rita Goldner

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Bookmarks

Glitter and Sparkle series journal

Orangutan notecards

Book Review and Rating Myths

Book Reviews - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by L. J. Higgins

The book review. Something every author needs and wants. They can simultaneously drive them crazy and make them want to cry and have them smiling from ear to ear. But while reviews are important to authors, I don’t think readers realise how vital they are to not only authors but also themselves. Reading reviews and ratings can help you gauge if a book is worth your money and time, and if it’s the right book for you.

Reasons you should leave a review:

  • For your fellow readers – Reviews are a way for readers to help other readers. By reading through them or glancing over a books star rating you can decide if it is a book you are interested in or not. If every reader gave a quick star rating and review of each book they read, then it would make it much easier for others to find their next favourite book.
  • Meet other book lovers – Through sites such as Goodreads, reviewing books and sharing your love for them can help you meet readers and authors who enjoy the same books you do.
  • To thank the Author who wrote it – Authors not only need reviews, they love hearing what you honestly thought about the story they put so many hours, weeks, months, even years into.

Myths about Reviews:

  • They have to be long and detailed – No they don’t. The only thing they NEED to be is honest. Even one to two lines can be enough to let people know what you thought of a book. Yes, you are more than welcome to write a review that breaks down characters, plot etc. But you don’t have to. It’s your choice.
  • Reviews have to be nice – Reviews are the one time you can ignore the saying ‘if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.’ Reviews are there to not only help readers decide if it is the book for them, but also to help authors learn what their audience loves and dislikes about their books. This helps them grow and learn as writers, so really your HONEST review is helping your favourite authors become the best they can be.
  • You can be mean in reviews – Okay, now I have to take back my words and remind you of the saying, ‘if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.’ Reviews are meant to be honest, not mean. There is no need to personally attack the author or the morals you don’t agree with in the story. Remember, just because the author wrote it, doesn’t mean it is their opinion. Stories are made up, as are the characters, and sometimes characters do or say things that we don’t necessarily approve of as an author, but feel it helps the story in some way.
  • 3 Stars mean a book is bad – For many authors, anything over 2 stars is great. Accompanied with an honest review a 3 star rating can show an author that although you liked their book there were a few things that could be worked on. Here is a rough idea of what star ratings mean on Amazon.

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So there you have it. Writing reviews and rating books isn’t as scary as many people think. You don’t need to be a writer yourself to leave one that is helpful, and you are not only helping an author when you leave one, your helping other readers like yourself. So next time you read a book take ten minutes to head to Amazon or Goodreads to let them know what you honestly thought about their book. You will make an authors and possibly a readers day!

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Author Spotlight: G.K. Derosa

gk-derosa   By Michelle Lynn

What are the titles of your work and can you tell us a bit about them?
I have one book series out called Wilder: The Guardian Series – there are 4 books in the series plus a companion novella. The story is about a young girl in her senior year of high school who discovers a huge family secret after a pair of handsome brothers move into her small town.

Who’s your favorite character from your books?
I really love my main character, Celeste Wilder. I wanted to have a strong female heroine as the lead and I think she embodies that. Sure she’s silly and naïve sometimes, she is only 17 after all, but she’s also strong and resilient and can kick some butt!

Your series is a great vampire tale. Is there a reason you chose to write about these supernatural creatures?
Who doesn’t love a good vampire story right? I know it’s been done a lot with Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, True Blood etc. but there’s a reason why we all keep coming back for more! There’s something so thrilling about the idea of eternal love and then of course there’s the whole bad boy thing. So that’s why J

Whenever a story has a human falling in love with someone who isn’t so human, there are complications – sometimes insurmountable ones. Some books such as Twilight or the Vampire Diaries solve this by simply turning their human into a vampire. You didn’t take such an easy route. How did you deal with these types of issues?
It’s true, it is a difficult challenge but from the moment I started the first book, I knew what I wanted to do with that. I don’t want to give away too much but that’s the beauty about writing YA fantasy, you aren’t constrained to anything. If you can think of a way to deal with a problem and explain it somewhat logically or “realistically”, you can accomplish anything you want in the story telling. 

You’ve chosen not to have a singular supernatural focus in your books. Along with vampires, you have werewolves, witches, fairies, and of course – the guardians. How did you keep all of this straight as you were writing it?
As you mentioned, there are so many vampire stories out there and I didn’t want Wilder to be just another vampire book. I think adding other supernatural creatures and mystical elements makes for a more interesting story. This way the characters all have their unique powers they bring into the mix.

Were there alternate endings that you considered?
Yes there definitely were a few different options I toyed with regarding Aleks and Lilliana. Again I don’t want to give away too much, but after you read it, if you want to know, shoot me an email and I’ll be happy to tell you the alternate endings I had in mind. As for Celeste, Roman and Nico I knew from the beginning how I wanted it all to end.

What authors have inspired you to write?
I’m obviously a big fan of YA myself and have read a ton of it! I loved the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and read the series about 4 times already. Then there are authors like Stephenie Meyer and LJ Smith who wrote Twilight and The Vampire Diaries. They inspired me in a different way – no offense to their writing, but after reading their series it made me think I could totally do this!

What age were you when you started writing?
Honestly, I loved writing when I was back in grade school and middle school but then I totally lost track of it. It wasn’t until I was in my early 30’s that I picked it up again. Wilder was the first novel I wrote and published.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Sure, I think it’s impossible not to, but it happens pretty rarely luckily! I have a very active imagination and love conjuring up the different scenes in my head.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?
For my first book, Wilder, I just wrote. I really had no idea what I was doing to be honest! I got more organized after that and you can probably tell if you’ve read the whole series! Even by my last book Wilder Legacy, I still didn’t do a very detailed outline. I like my characters to dictate where the story goes.

Do you ever get sad when you realize that the characters that you’ve created aren’t real?
Yes! I was so depressed when I wrote the last book in the series because I couldn’t believe that I wasn’t going to be able to spend time with my characters anymore. You definitely get attached and they become like real people to you.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
I decided to self-publish from the get go so I never went through the thrill of rejection from publishers 😉 But I also had no idea what I was doing in self-publishing. I thought writing the book was going to be the hard part, but I was totally wrong. From finding an editor to a graphic designer to formatting and not to mention the all-important marketing, there were so many things to do. But it was totally worth it and I’m so glad that I did it on my own.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
Not really… except I wish I had known more about marketing and advertising from the beginning. That would have been extremely helpful!

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
Wilder is currently included in Dark Legends which is a collection of urban fantasy/paranormal romance novels with 20 other amazing authors. That has been a huge project that has been quite time consuming lately. I am going to start working on a spin-off of Wilder that I’ve had in mind since I started on the last book. This is actually the first time I’m really talking about it, but it will feature some of everyone’s favorite characters in Oak Bluffs. I’ll give you a little teaser – a hot younger Constantin brother will be one of the stars J But… the main character will again be a female and I think you’re really going to love her.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
Oh man, I had one review on Goodreads that was like 10 paragraphs long and she went through and quoted several lines from Wilder and tore it apart. Her criticism ranged from punctuation to dialog to overall plot. She was brutal! Mind you, this person was given the book for free for review! I’m really lucky that I get a lot of great reviews from my fans and they leave lots of wonderful comments on my website. I absolutely love hearing from them. One of my favorites, is this lovely lady who said she could totally see Wilder as a TV show on the CW! She’s an awesome supporter!

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
As Nike says, Just do it! As daunting as it may seem, writing and publishing your novel is incredibly rewarding, not to mention fun! I never thought I could make a career out of something that I enjoy doing so much. Never give up and no matter how scary it is, put your book out there and let people read it. It’s totally worth it!

What others are saying about G.K. Derosa:

“This story has layers upon layers of things happening that all somehow are interconnected. It’s like a bunch of story-lines melded into on in an exciting fashion. Ms. Derosa has once again impressed me, entertained me, and made me want more. She can count me as a fan.” 

“With twist and turns, and a new take on vampires, along with likable characters you root for from the very beginning, I found myself drawn into this world so immensely, that I read the entire thing in one day.”


G.K. Derosa is found at the Young Adult Author Rendezvous HERE.

G.K. Derosa is online HERE.

Michelle Lynn is found at the Young Adult Author Rendezvous HERE.

Author Spotlight: Rita Goldner

rita-goldner   By: Michelle Lynn

What are the titles of your works and can you tell us a bit about them?
Orangutan: A Day in the Rainforest Canopy is my first printed book. Before that I wrote/illustrated two Kindle books about a boy, Jackson, who gets bored with traditional school, and instead uses his art to learn and explore other things. They are: Jackson’s History Adventure and Jackson’s Aviation Adventure.

Who’s your favorite character from your books?
I fell in love with orangutans even before I wrote Orangutan, but I think Jackson is more versatile, kids can relate to him more, and I can use him for future books.

Orangutan is an interesting book. It not only entertains kids, but teaches them as well. Is there a reason you chose this animal to focus the book on?
I sketch and paint animals from life at the zoo often. I just bring my own folding chair, and really enjoy myself. Over the years, orangutans became my favorite, and I became more aware of their endangered plight. So I started doing research, and decided to write the book.

The images in Orangutan are incredible. Do you do them yourself? And if so, how are they done. Drawings? Computer generated?
They started as sketches of live orangutans. Then after studying the anatomy and expressions, I moved their limbs and bodies around to poses that fit the story. I scanned the final drawings into my computer and tweaked them, colored them, and added texture (hair) digitally. (I use an inexpensive program called ArtRage.) 

I imagine writing a children’s book has its own set of difficulties outside of the fiction world. What are some of the things you have to consider?
I wanted it to be scientifically accurate and educational, but never at the cost of fun. I also didn’t want it to be sad, and the danger of extinction is sad. I chose to leave that out of the story, since there’s not much a little kid can do about it.

Why have you chosen such a young age group to focus your books on?
As I mentioned above, a young child can’t do much politically, but can fall in love with orangutans, and when he grows older, help their critically endangered status. I also have another audience, the adults who read to the child. Hopefully, they can become aware about global environmental responsibility, and habitat protection, and help with their votes and contributions.

What authors have inspired you to write?
Good illustration is so appealing to me it almost eclipses the writing. When my kids were young, I read Richard Scarry books to them, mainly because the pictures were so much fun. I loved Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, too, for the same reason. In recent years, I was fortunate to have Molly Idle, a recent Caldecott Honor recipient and a fantastic illustrator, as my teacher and my inspiration. You’ll notice I said “almost eclipses”. I consider the writing vital, too, and I was influenced when writing Orangutan by several expert wildlife veterinarians, especially at orangutan rescue centers in Borneo. They weren’t writers, per se, but were so passionate about getting the word out, that they motivated me to write a story that would inspire children.

What age were you when you started writing?
I wrote poetry in high school, and occasionally wrote for fun while raising my family and having a different career. But I didn’t take it really seriously until I retired. 

Do you ever experience writer’s block?
All the time, as all writers do. But I also share with them the nutty experience of having writer’s “Aha!” moments in the middle of the night, while trying to sleep.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I always have an outline, and a ton of research, and a picture-book dummy I make for myself, so I can see the flow, and pacing. I also want to have a rough idea of the design while I’m working, and where to put the pictures.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
It was actually serendipitous. I hired my editor to edit four books. I didn’t know she also owned a publishing company, and she then asked me if she could publish Orangutan. Her company only publishes books about the natural world, so she wasn’t interested in the other three, but did an excellent job editing. One of the others was the e-book Jackson’s History Adventure, which I am now re-writing as a coloring book. I plan to self-publish this time, and expect a boatload of challenges.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your book or getting it published that you would change?
Not really, my publisher/editor is great. Without even knowing what I was doing, I fell into the good fortune that my colleagues search for, for years. Before I met her, I had submitted other books to several agents and publishers, and collected my huge share of rejection letters, but I gave up doing that.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
I’m using my black and white drawings, for the reader to color, but it’s a story book, not just a coloring book, with text and “Fun Facts”. It’s about Jackson time-traveling back through centuries of civilization and all over the world to draw and paint his school assignment of a history report. It’s designed for left or right-handed colorists, so the coil binding is at the top. 

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
A piece of really good advice, that’s a lot of hard work to follow, I got from my marketing group. It is to create a book that is as perfect as you can make it, in readability, presentation, and quality of writing, printing and binding. This is not just because of all the competition out there, but because anything less is a disservice to your readers.

What has been the best compliment?
The compliments have been mostly about the illustrations, which I found easier than the writing. My favorite compliments are about kids liking and re-reading it.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
You have to pay a professional editor, and this is much more than a proof-reader.

With any luck, you can get proof-readers for free from among your school teacher friends, in return for your services. The manuscript should already be perfect in grammar, punctuation, spelling and usage before the editor gets it. Then they help you make it interesting to your audience.

I also think if you’re self-publishing, you should use a smorgasbord approach to buying services. Research and find an editor, a book designer, an illustrator if you need one, and a printer. I think this is cheaper and gives you more control than getting a package deal from a paid publishing company.

Do you have any strange writing habits?
I get a really slow befuddled start in the morning, sometimes not getting rolling until noon. Then I build up a head of steam in the late afternoon, and hit my stride at night.

What others are saying about Rita Goldner:

“The information relayed is very educational, but it’s the illustrations, which are so colorful and vibrant that give this book its appeal. Young kids will be entranced, particularly those who love monkeys (and oh so many kids do!).”

“Combining beautiful art, a nice story and good scientific facts’ this book for children get its act right. With fun facts in each page, kids are introduced to orangutans and their environment.”


Rita’s Young Adult Author Rendezvous page is HERE.

Rita’s Website is HERE.

Michelle Lynn at the Young Adult Author Rendezvous HERE.

YAAR Does NaNoWriMo!

NaNoWriMo Experience - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Lauren Mayhew

National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo for short, challenges people to write 50,000 words in 30 days, that’s an average of 1667 words per day. I’ve struggled to write that many words this whole year, let alone one day. You can read more about NaNoWriMo here.

I went into this challenge very pessimistically. Both of my published novels are around the 50,000 word mark, and they each took me around a year to write. Doing this in 30 days wasn’t just going to be exhausting, but mentally challenging too. However, I did it, and I couldn’t be more proud of myself.

I haven’t finished the book yet, which is encouraging, as this may turn out to be the longest book I’ve ever written! Chapter six is completely missing, and I haven’t written the ending yet, so I’d hope there’s at least another 5,000 words to add, not including all of the edits I’ve already made in my head!

NaNoWriMo challenged me to write in a way I’ve never written before, and I think I’ll continue in this way from now on. I wrote everything straight into Microsoft Word. Normally, I write by hand and type everything up later. There was no way I’d have the time to do that with NaNoWriMo, and it’s helped me to write quicker which can only be a good thing.

But I’m not the only one who took this challenge head on! Quite a few of us here at YAAR decided to give it a go, here’s what they have to say about their experience, seven days after it’s over.

NaNoWriMo Winner's Certificate - Young Adult Author RendezvousThis was my fifth NaNoWrMo and my fifth win. I love November. It’s the only month of the year that I truly write every day. My challenge now is to keep going until I finish this book … oh and to have fun with my local NaNo peeps at our “Thank Goodness It’s Over Party!” on Saturday. – Debbie Manber Kupfer

Every November I get excited. Not only because it’s the holiday season, but the creative juices around the world start reeving up and it’s addictive. Especially in the book world. And it’s all because of NaNoWriMo This is my second year to join the movement, my first year to “win”, and it was such a wonderful experience. Yes, I have mega bags under my eyes and I’m seriously sleep deprived, but the words that flowed, the relationships that were built (both literal and fictional, the stories that will come of it… EPIC.)Lili Mahoney

For the first time in my writing career, NaNoWriMo actually coincided with a time when I was able to get a lot of writing done. It really truly motivated me to write every day, which is something I rarely do. In the span of only 30 days, I was able to get 50,000 words written AND plan out the rest of the book (which will likely be over 100,000 words). Having others do this at the same time was awesome!Patrick Hodges

I had grand intentions for NaNoWriMo… I was going to finally get back in the habit of writing every day! I was going to finish my book! I was going to remember that I love writing and it’s something I do for fun, not as another chore! In the end, I didn’t write every day. I didn’t finish my book. I eked out my 50,000 words by the skin of my teeth on the last day. But I did it and most of all I rediscovered my love of writing, even in the midst of my crazy life!!T.D. Shields

I’ve done NaNoWriMo for four years, but this was the first year I ever made it to 50,000 words. My secret was getting up to speed by writing 1,000 words a day during the previous month. You really discover which parts of a book you’ve thought through and which parts you haven’t when you have to produce three to five pages a day on it.Paul Briggs

This was my first time doing NaNoWriMo and I finished my book with 60,000 chaotic, raw, heartfelt words. I’m not sure what I’ll discover when it comes to editing, but having that rough draft done feels amazing! I’d say overall my experience was overwhelming, intense, beneficial, and gratifying. I’ll be ready to do it again next year…or in 2025.Tenille Berezay

Nanowrimo was like going on a literary bender, but with not nearly enough booze.K.R. Conway

This was my first time doing NaNoWriMo and I completed my first draft of a novel that I first had the idea for over ten years ago. The challenge gave me the opportunity and the excuse to write it, and I am absolutely in love with the manuscript. Keep an eye out for my novel, Paranormal Painless.Shannon Rieger

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Author Spotlight: Gina Azzi

Young Adult Author Rendezvous Author: Gina AzziInterview by Michelle Lynn.

An interview with author Gina Azzi.

What are the titles of your work and can you tell us a bit about them?

Sure! My books are in the young adult and new adult genres. The first book I wrote is entitled Corner of Ocean and Bay. It’s a mature young adult novel that highlights the friendship of Nessa and Jacie during the summer before their senior year of high school. Primarily focusing on teen topics such as underage drinking, family issues, and first loves, the novel explores how Nessa and Jacie navigate these challenges and the impact certain situations have on their friendship.

After writing Corner of Ocean and Bay, I started working on The Senior Semester Series, a new adult and college romance series that follows four best friends as they embark on their senior year of college, new adventures, and love interests! The first book in the series, The Last First Game, focuses on Lila Avers as she completes a medical internship in California and meets football player Cade Wilkins at the airport! Their romance is a whirlwind but things grow complicated as Cade deals with the fallout of a sudden illness and Lila struggles to be there for him. The second book in the series, Kiss Me Goodnight in Rome, follows Mia Petrella to Italy and chronicles her romance with hot Italiano Lorenzo Barca. This book deals with body image issues, family financial concerns, and a looming long-distance relationship. The third book in the series, All the While, focuses on Maura Rodriguez and Zack Huntington and will release January 17, 2017. And the final book is Emma’s Story which is set to release next Spring.

Who’s your favorite character from your books?

Ah, what a tough question! I really like Lila a lot – I think she’s really laidback, fun, and easy to get along with. At the same time, she’s incredibly loyal, family-oriented, and genuine. I also really enjoyed writing Lorenzo’s character as he is rough around the edges, a bit arrogant, and pretty cocky before he falls for Mia.

In your book, The Last First Game, you tackle some pretty huge issues – namely cancer and sexual abuse. Is there a reason you chose to write about these massive topics?

In all of my books, I try to write about themes that are relatable and age-appropriate. The cancer element was really difficult to write about but it’s also something that most people can relate to – having known someone close to them that is struggling with an illness. How do they cope and handle these challenges? How does it change their relationship with this person? Sexual assault was a really important topic for me to include since statistics show that 1 in 5 women on college campuses experience sexual assault. That is mind boggling! It’s also a topic that is finally being covered in the media, discussed in politics, and receiving attention and education on college campuses. The Obama Administration launched the It’s on Us campaign in 2014 to combat sexual assault on college campuses. I think it’s a huge issue that deserves attention and awareness and I wanted to help do so through The Last First Game.

What advice would you give to someone writing about a topic that people tend to have very strong opinions on?

Be sensitive to the opinions of others, be factual in the information you provide, but never be afraid to write about something you believe in/believe deserves attention.

Amidst these big things that are happening to Lila and Cade, you manage to give them some normalcy as they fall in love and learn to rely on each other. Was this difficult?

It wasn’t that difficult since it’s very common for young people to experience a lot of challenges or things that bring them stress and pressure – and in the midst of all of that, still fall in love, form meaningful friendships, have these important relationships with other people. I think people are always dealing with things that are difficult for them but at the same time, trying to cultivate a support system is important, and connections with other people can’t be overlooked.

Were there alternate endings that you considered?

No! haha! I was pretty set on the ending of The Last First Game – I actually wrote it before I finished a good portion of the middle bit!

What authors have inspired you to write?

I’ve always loved reading – I was totally that kid that read under the covers by flashlight at night! Some of my favorite books growing up were Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Harry Potter – all of these books and more and so many talented authors have inspired me in different ways to write.

What age were you when you started writing?

Super young! I suppose about 7 or 8 – I used to write and illustrate stories to read to my friends!

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Totally! Sometimes I have to take a step back from my work for several days and just do something completely unrelated before I can go back to it. Having that break from the story usually helps me look at the content with a fresh perspective.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?

A little of both. I usually make a general outline with major plot points, themes, scenes and then just free write from there. Most of the time, I begin without knowing the ending and at some point, I sort it out and then write the ending, sometimes before I finish how the story arrives at that conclusion.

Do you ever get sad when you realize that the characters that you’ve created aren’t real?

Haha not really – they’re real to me because they exist in my mind anyway!

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

It was totally trial and error. I went the self-publishing route as I liked the idea of having complete creative control. I did some research about how to go about the process and spoke with some other self-published authors. Through learning about their experiences – and reading a lot of blogs! – I learned about how to find an editor, a cover designer, a formatter. Little by little it fell into place. Something I love about the self-publishing route is it’s a constant state of learning – and that is pretty exciting by itself!

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?

No – mainly because I really enjoyed the learning process and feel like every step of my journey has gotten me to where I am today. It’s tough to skip steps and even the mistakes I’ve made have taught me a lesson. I think experiencing these lessons first-hand is really important for me in order to value what I do and to encourage me to keep writing.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

Sure! All the While is a new adult, college romance book releasing on January 17, 2017. Here’s the blurb:

Consumed with grief for her twin brother Adrian’s death, Maura Rodriguez is spinning out of control. To cope with Adrian’s loss, she numbs her pain with bottles of vodka and sex with random men.

Consumed with guilt for his best friend Adrian’s death, Zack Huntington is yearning for a past that no longer exists. Reaching out to the familiarity and comfort an ex-girlfriend offers, Zack aims to recreate what once was but can never be again.

When their worlds collide while running on the trails along Boathouse Row, Maura and Zack find comfort in each other and in the memory of their shared connection, Adrian.

From their unlikely friendship grows an undeniable attraction, an irrefutable desire, and an unexpected love. While Maura and Zack struggle to heal, to forgive, to accept, they also learn how to let go and allow themselves to fall in love, a truth they’ve both known but resisted all the while.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

The toughest criticism has been that my characters lack depth. That’s hard to hear as I really want my characters to resonate with readers and if they’re not, then I have to try harder to create more layers for them. Another criticism is the lack of sexual content in my books – I tend to imply sexual encounters rather than write more graphic content. The best compliment is when people tell me how much they could relate to a character and understand his/her challenges, point of view, experiences. That makes me super happy!

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Keep writing! If it’s something you love to do, keep it up – even if it’s for your own peace of mind!

Do you have any strange writing habits?

I’m not sure – I like to write at coffee houses and cafes with my Spotify playlists and a sweet treat! I feel like that sounds pretty boring though.

What others are saying about Gina Azzi:

“This book tackled some very serious issues and it did so with a cautiousness I appreciated. I think it was a true representation of what might happen to a very young, very new couple when faced with these issues. They were very human.”

“Her characters are well-drawn, realistic, and could be people that you actually know (or knew). Her stories are invariably sweet and romantic, stories written about love and all the highs and lows that go with it.”

Find Gina on Amazon

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Keeping Reading in the Joy Column

Love Reading - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Cynthia Port.

Academic year 2016-2017 is officially ON!  Bring on the new friends! Sign up for  afterschool clubs! Meet some inspiring teachers! Start documenting every single page you read and every single minute you spend reading!  Wait . . . whut?

Sadly, often yes.

And I get why, I really do—not all kids are avid readers, and teachers need to insure that a minimum is happening for everybody.  For lots of kids, though, setting a “minimum” amount can make it feel like a maximum, as in, “Reading any more than the 20 pages my teacher assigned for tonight just makes me a sucker.”

Even worse, assigned reading can shift the whole experience of reading from the “joy” column in a young person’s life to the “chore” column. We definitely don’t want that.

Luckily, there are lots of way to keep reading in the joy column all year, and all life, long.  Here are a handful of ideas:

1. Make an after school or weekend library visit a regular thing, tempting your child or teen with more fun choices than she or he can handle.  You might take turns picking out books to read aloud to each other, or invent a library game.  A fun one that helps kids broaden their reading interests is “Reading Roulette,” where you walk down an aisle of books with your eyes closed, pull out 3-5 books sight unseen and select at least one of them to read.

2. Create a family reading time. This can be a family ‘read aloud’ or a family ‘read together,’ where everybody gets cozy on the couch with their own book in their hands. Either option can be 15 minutes a night, or a longer, once a week gathering—whatever works with your family’s schedule.

3. Read books for fun yourself, and do it at a time when your child or teen sees you reading.  It’s tempting to read only after the kids are tucked in, or only when they’re at school or sports, but as with most everything else in a child’s life, if they see YOU enjoying reading, they will forever associate reading with something fun and pleasurable.

4. Movies that have been made from books can also be a great incentive.  Right now my daughter wants to watch the Lord of the Rings movies.  We’ll make each one a special movie night just as soon as we finish each book.

5. You know I’ve gotta say it—check out the great books for children and teens at YAAR!  We’ve got so many amazing titles, and there’s always some on sale. Plus, every YAAR author LOVES to hear from readers.  Nothing sets reading more firmly in the joy column than the chance to make friends with the author of a book that inspires, delights, makes you weep, or gives you the shivers.

What ideas do YOU have for keeping reading in the joy column?

Author Spotlight: Miracle Austin

Young Adult Author - Miracle AustinInterview by Michelle Lynn.

An interview with author Miracle Austin.

What are the titles of your work and can you tell us a bit about them?

Doll is my debut YA Paranormal novel—it is story about mean girl (Pepper Fox) versus the outcasts, since junior high. Outcasts are now in high school and so fed up with Pepper and decide to seek help from the paranormal world to teach Pepper a good lesson, but will they get what they always wanted or something much more they never expected. Twists, spells, and social awareness issues breathe in this work.

Boundless will be my second release. It will be a very eclectic collection of micro and short stories (some less than 20 words while others are over 5,000 plus words) with many social awareness themes weaved in. Some works will be light, while others will be much darker…May need a flashlight for a few…Make sure you have extra batteries, just saying…

I’ve written various short stories and they have been traditionally published in anthologies or ezines. I love writing short stories and will continue…

Who’s your favorite character from your books?

This is hard one. I will confess Lisette from Doll is one because of her inner and outer mystery…she is more powerful than she actually realizes… Tomie (Toe-me) is also one of my faves because he has no idea what breathes inside of him…I have others, but will discuss another time.

Doll is quite the creepy book – that’s a complement by the way. Lol. Is it difficult to go from writing parts of the book to living your normal life? Difficult to get out of that frame-of-mind?

Thank you so much. I absolutely take that as a lovely compliment. It was not difficult at all to write. In fact, I rushed home each day to dive into Frost High and its related worlds—they were my escapes, in fact every time I write, I have a chance to enter the character’s worlds—love that!!

The heart of Doll is about getting back at bullies, whether they do so in the right way or not. What made you take on this topic?

I took on this topic because of what I witnessed in junior high/high school/college, being a past victim of bullying myself, and my awesome mom sharing a story with me that ignited me to write Doll.

If she had not shared that story, then Doll would never be. In fact, my mom (so appreciate her) is my biggest inspiration for writing my stories—she has shared some pretty amazing stories growing up in the 40s in Crawford, Texas, (a lot of secrets live in small country towns) and living in the 50s-today. I just use my fictional magic to bring one story at a time to life.

I love the New Orleans voodoo feel of Doll. What kind of research did you have to do to get this right?

I did very little research because my mom lived in the Louisiana area for a short time. I utilized her experiences, she was the majority of my research.

What authors have inspired you to write?

So many—R.L. Stine, Stephen King, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Octavia Butler, Shirley Jackson, William Shakespeare, and so many more….

What age were you when you started writing?

Probably around 13

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Sometimes—I will take a break, listen to some awesome music—classical, 60s love songs, or a little lite rock helps me find my way back to writing. I will also Netflix it or Hulu watch…I catch ideas from anywhere, which helps me write.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?

I do both, but now for longer works—the outline has become my writing/dance partner.

Do you ever get sad when you realize that the characters that you’ve created aren’t real?

No, because they are real to an extent. I know each character is a little part of me, others I know/observed, and/or mash-ups.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

Short version–Doll was never supposed to be a novel, only a short story, maybe 10k words. It was only a distraction because Boundless was supposed to be published first. It met over 315 rejections. —I kept persevering.

I finally landed a small publisher and everything, but personal things in publisher’s life caused my rights to be returned back to me, which was a huge blessing in disguise. It sat untouched with the publisher for almost a year. After being inspired by other Indie authors, I decided to pursue self-publishing and BOOM for Doll!!

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?

No, definitely self-pub all the way from what I had to endure for almost two years.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

Not so nice reviews, but I’m okay with criticism, but there is a way to express it in a constructive way versus being, well you know the rest… I know that not everyone will love my works for various reasons, but I write what moves me, like many writers, and there will be others who will enjoy. Best compliment—Cannot wait to read more from you!!!

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

A few things I would share:

Never allow someone to tell you not to write what you feel in your soul.

Don’t rush your teen years—take the scenic route

Surround yourself with positive bees because there will always be negative bees who will try to steal your honeycombs.

“Pay attention to those who don’t clap for you…” not sure who said the last one—love it and so true.

Praise for Miracle Austin:

“The characters were well-realized, and Pepper was deliciously evil (and I couldn’t wait for her to be taken down!). And even though one might think the ending would be predictable, it wasn’t. There were plenty of twists that I wasn’t expecting.”

“This story is dark, and full of so many twists and turns and suspicious characters that I had no idea what to expect. There were moments that sent shivers down my spine. There were moments that made my heart skip a beat. This story has everything: magic, revenge, romance, suspense…”

“With a flawless plot, descriptions and style, this book is the perfect combination of horror, suspense and a little teenage drama and romance. A definitely must-read for this year!”

Author Spotlight: George Sirois

george sirois - authorInterview by Michelle Lynn.

An interview with George Siroiswww.georgesirois.com

What are the titles of your works, and can you tell us a bit about them?

“Excelsior” is a young adult / science-fiction novel, the first part of a trilogy. It tells the story of 17-year-old Matthew Peters, who has been spending seven years writing and drawing his own webcomic about a character named Excelsior, who is from the faraway planet Denab IV. Matthew is visited by an older woman who tells him that she is from planet Denab IV, and everything he has been writing and drawing have actually taken place. So now, with Excelsior’s enemies growing in power on both Denab IV and Earth, Matthew realizes that he has the opportunity to become the hero that he thought only existed in his imagination.

“From Parts Unknown” is a five-part science-fiction / sports serial that is currently available on eBook as one complete file. The main character is Stephen Barker, a man who is trying to provide a living for his family by getting on the roster of the only sport left in America: the GCL (Gladiatorial Combat League). The company is a combination of the over-the-top characters & good guys vs bad guys storyline of professional wrestling and the reality of boxing & mixed martial arts. Stephen unknowingly becomes a pawn in a behind-the-scenes battle of control over the league between the current champion and the top villain in the company, and is turned into a monster of a man stripped of his identity and humanity. While his wife tries to find him, she discovers that the GCL is not only providing entertainment for the masses, but it is also used as a tool of distraction and stripping of people’s rights by the US Government.

The first of two “Excelsior” sequels – “Ever Upward: Part Two of The Excelsior Journey” – is currently being edited and prepped for a November 2016 release.

Who’s your favorite character from your books?

It’s easy for me to say Matthew Peters is my current favorite, since I put so much of myself and my late cousin Matthew Peter Henkel into him. He’s the ultimate in wish fulfillment, getting to be a hero that he thought was just his idea.

But looking at all the completely fictional characters, I’d have to say my favorite is General Hodera, a truly ruthless woman who is in the top ranks of the Krunation Empire. While my main character has been sitting in my head for a very long time, Hodera came to be during the rewrites of the original novel. I had a big, tall, force-of-nature like being that would really strike fear into the hearts of the Denarian people, modeled after The Undertaker in WWE. When I told my editor about him, she asked, “Can it be a woman?” Best. Suggestion. Ever. When I took the character and reworked him into a her, she leapt to life and became a truly delicious villain. I loved her almost from the beginning, and I got to use a lot of space in “Ever Upward” to further explore her character. I can’t wait to show you what she’s really made of.

In your book, “Excelsior,” Matthew is a comic book writer and illustrator before he discovers the world behind what he thought he was creating – how did you come up with such a unique storyline?

It really goes back to 1992. When I was in grade school (1985, to be exact), I created some characters with my friends based on everything we grew up watching: Star Wars, Transformers, G.I.Joe, Voltron, etc. We were just killing time between assignments in school, and when I lost contact with them, I kept picking at them. I knew there was something there, but I didn’t know what. Anyway, in 1992, I was in between my sophomore and junior year in high school, my grades were less than stellar, and I was in summer school taking English over again. It wound up being a blessing in disguise, because one of the things we did in this class was watch the 1981 movie Excalibur, which is all about King Arthur. At that time, I was thinking about coming up with a new character, and after seeing this, I knew I wanted him to be a legend within my little universe, a god made into a man, striking down his enemies with his sword. I took elements from Arthur, Jesus Christ, and Optimus Prime and he just came to life.

The original story of Excelsior was all about the character being reborn through someone on Earth, and back then it was an adult who was a comic book writer. When I decided to start writing the novel in 2008 that would be the definitive take on him, I realized itha hads started his own webcomic, so I borrowed that element from him and named Matthew’s uncle after him as a thank you.

Have you always loved comics and superheroes? If so, which one is your favorite?

I’ve always loved both comics and superheroes, more comic book films than comics themselves. The characters grabbed me from the start, and I still love them to this day. It’s almost cliché to say Batman is my favorite, but there really is something special about him that has allowed him to endure in so many different forms.

I’ve also been a fan of Transformers, ever since I heard that they were getting a Marvel comic mini-series and animated series on Sunday mornings. Optimus Prime very quickly became a personal hero of mine, and he always will be.

Matthew gets thrown into a new world pretty quickly, yet is quick to adapt and strong throughout. What are the keys to writing a character like this?

I’m confident in saying that Matthew is not a wholly original character. He’s the form I chose to go on what Joseph Campbell referred to as “The Hero’s Journey.” He’s in the same boat as Luke Skywalker, Marty McFly, Neo, Alice, and all the other main characters who are thrust into an extraordinary adventure. I wanted to make sure that he was capable of becoming this hero, but not ready to jump in with both feet since he believed he would be giving up everything he was. I don’t know about anyone else, but it’s not always a flip of the switch for me when it comes to major milestones. Doubt lingers, confidence has its ebbs and flows, and that’s what Matthew deals with in both “Excelsior” and even more so in “Ever Upward.”

Were there alternate endings that you considered?

Kind of. When the barebones elements of Excelsior’s trilogy came together during my high school years, the first two parts were more or less how they wind up in these finished drafts but the third part was different, more than a bit darker. But after I discussed it with my editor, she convinced me to steer it in a different direction, and now I’m confident that the third part is going to wrap up Matthew Peters’ story in a very satisfying way.

What authors have inspired you to write?

I’ve been a huge fan of William Goldman’s writing ever since I saw The Princess Bride, and I went on to get his “Adventures in the Screen Trade” books that gave me the confidence in my own voice. And I wanted to be a storyteller of any kind when I saw the original Star Wars. That really got me into my love of science-fiction / space fantasy.

What age were you when you started writing?

I had been creating characters since I was nine years old in 4th grade, but I didn’t start filling notebooks with text until I was 14 years old in 9th grade. By that point, the characters had evolved to the point where I couldn’t really draw them anymore. My very limited artistic ability had hit the proverbial wall, but I wanted to keep going with them, to give them detailed origin stories, let them interact with and fight against each other. As time went on, and my writing in high school improved, I incorporated my high school friends into the stories, making them supporting characters, which got them wanting to read them. That was a lot of fun, and I almost wish I still had those notebooks today. (I say “almost” because, if they’re as bad as I remember them, it’s probably best that they stay in the past.)

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Sometimes, but more often, it’s – as Kevin Smith once called it – “writer’s laze.” If I’m not in front of my monitor hacking away at my work-in-progress, I lose the momentum and find myself either on social media or in front of the television in the middle of the latest Netflix marathon. Thankfully, I know now what gets my momentum up and running again, and that’s a deadline. I asked my publisher to let me know when they would like to launch “Ever Upward,” and once I got that, it suddenly became a little easier to sit down and edit one chapter after another.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?

I’ve done both. When I did the first draft of “Excelsior” in 2008, I knew the beginning and I knew the end. That was it. It was up to me to figure out what happened between Point A and Point B.

The outline for “From Parts Unknown” wound up being the original novel that I published through iUniverse in 2002. I was under the impression that I was just going to punch up that one, update the technology, and incorporate a subplot I had been thinking about ever since I got the rights back from the publisher. But as plans will do, that plan went awry in the best way possible because only scraps of the 2002 novel remained, and it went from a 234-page novel to a 550-page serial.

Before I started writing “Ever Upward,” I wrote an extensive outline and worked on it with my editor. That helped out a lot and became a map for me as I went through all the different twists and turns with this story. I think with the third one, I’m going to do another outline, but I want to see if I can make it not as detailed as the second, so there’s more room for me to embellish when I get to actually write it.

Do you ever get sad when you realize that the characters that you’ve created aren’t real?

Not really. I’ve taken enough elements from my life that my characters have some form of reality attached to them. Matthew Peters feels real to me because of how he’s an amalgam of myself and my cousin, and I’m grateful to the one to take him on the adventure he’s on now, since it keeps my cousin’s name alive. And Excelsior has been with me for almost 25 years, so I can’t imagine my life without him.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

The original versions of both “From Parts Unknown” and “Excelsior” were each different challenges. “From Parts Unknown” was finished in July 2002 BK (Before Kindle), and self-publishing was still looked at as the “last option” for writers. I sent it to an agent acquaintance, and he suggested I self-publish since it catered to a very niche market. That September, I came across iUniverse and they offered a setup package of just $199, which included a free hardcover upgrade. I took a shot, the book was launched in November, and it literally came and went without much of a whimper because I had no idea how to market myself or my book.

When I was working on the rewrites of “Excelsior” in 2009, I opted to self-publish that one because I didn’t want to just throw away the rights on these characters I’ve known for so long. But by this time, I had a website, I was writing regularly for a successful pop-culture website – 411Mania.com – and I was more confident in this particular story. So I set up a crowd-funding “Early Bird Special” drive where all participants would guarantee their own signed copy and their names would be listed in the back of the book in the acknowledgement section. That drive brought in all the money I needed for setup at

Infinity Publishing, everyone’s copies, and mailing of copies to everyone out-of-state. It took a while for that money to come in, so it was a stressful time while I was working on my edits, but it felt great getting it self-published without having to pay a dime.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?

If I knew what “From Parts Unknown” would go on to be, I would have just shelved the 2002 novel without releasing it at all.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

It’s going to be hard to say too much without giving away elements of the first one, but here goes…

“Ever Upward: Part Two of The Excelsior Journey” picks up six months after “Excelsior” (in Denab IV time, so SHOULD BE five years in Earth time). I gave myself three commandments for this one: I wanted it to be longer (the first book is less than 80,000 words and this one is between 110,000 & 115,000 words), I wanted it to go deeper into Excelsior’s mythology, and I wanted it to be darker. All three are definitely accomplished. We’re going to take a much bigger look at Denab IV itself, we’re going to go inside the hierarchy of the Krunation Empire, General Hodera will be given a much bigger role, we’re going back to Earth to catch up with Matthew’s uncle Jason, a major character from the original will come back to life, there will be a major battle on the 70th floor of Rockefeller Center in New York City (with cameos by former Top of the Rock colleagues), and we will not only see the complete origin of Excelsior himself, but also that of his greatest enemy.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

I’ve had people say that “Excelsior” is clichéd, which makes me want to say, “Of course it is, it’s my take on Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey,” so that doesn’t really bother me too much. The toughest critique I’ve gotten is that it’s under-written, and I understand the way of thinking behind it and I won’t fault them for saying it. I’ve always been story-driven, and I just want to get on with telling the story when I feel I’ve given enough description.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Do not – I repeat, DO NOT – be afraid to write a crappy first draft. Get it on the page, get the story out, and commit to going back and fixing what you have. Almost every bit of writing comes from rewriting, and you can’t rewrite from nothing.

Thank you George for sharing a bit of yourself and your books with us.

What others are saying about George Sirois:

“Thank you, George Sirois, for making me feel like a kid again.”

“This story grips you from the beginning and does not let go. I was blown away with the author’s ability to build worlds, and quite frankly, this is science fiction at its best.”

“Sirois has done a fantastic job of borrowing small elements of familiarity from comic books and cartoons and combining them into an amazingly original and fantastic story.”


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