Monday, November 28, 2016

This Time Last Year 3

If it wasn't obvious from the title, this marks the third year of my "This Time Last Year" series! If you're curious, these are the last two: 2015 and 2014.

Normally, I look forward to writing these posts. I enjoy thinking back over everything that has happened to me in the last year, comparing where I was to where I am. Marking progress is something that helps me a lot, because it's so easy to feel like we're stuck in a rut, even if we're not. It's simply difficult to notice change on a day-to-day basis over several months, or even a full year.

This year, I'm not looking forward to it, but probably not for the reason you think. 

I'm turning twenty-two. It seems a little surreal to think that. Why? Because this time last year, my eldest brother Michael had flown from Indiana to visit us here in Idaho. He'd done so every Thanksgiving or Christmas (alternating between his family and his girlfriend's), and he had always said he wanted to spend our twenty-first birthdays with us more than any other one. "Our" birthdays being my 25-year-old brother, me, my 18-year-old sister, and my 16-year-old sister. Here's a few pictures from my 21st last year, of which I have tons of fond memories. (I've never been a party person, so my family took me out for dinner and drinks.) 

Not pictured is my 25-year-old brother, because he doesn't like his picture being taken.
Being the middle child of five had always been a source of pride for me. I love my family, through thick and thin, and having two older brothers and two younger sisters had always been one of the best parts of it. And you may notice that I've been speaking in the past tense. That has to do with these tweets:

I hated being so silent on social media following the election of the soggy cheeto, but I couldn't help it. I was in a state of shock, and denial, and trying to keep it together so I could still go to class and meet my deadlines. Why? Because on November 8th, my brother Michael (the black-haired dude up top I'm totally not holding my battle ax over) was rushed to the ER after being found in his bathroom, passed out. By the time he was found, he had been without a pulse and oxygen for half an hour. His girlfriend performed CPR until the paramedics arrived. The paramedics had to restart his heart, which took longer than it should have. Then, he was rushed to the ER.

On November 9th, my mom flew out there to be with him and his girlfriend, as he'd been in a coma and had yet to wake up or respond to stimuli. When he didn't seem to be getting better, my mom began to fall apart (which, I'll be honest, is where I first began to really worry. My mom is one of the strongest women I know) so my dad flew out on the 10th to be with her.

On November 11th, my brother was declared legally dead. At thirty-two years old. He had signed up to be an organ donor, so the hospital was able to harvest several organs for people in desperate need of them. My brother had been a blood donor for as long as I can remember, as he has B- blood. He actually saved a little girl's life when he was able to donate his blood several times to help her fight cancer. So, I know he would be proud to have been able to give his organs to people in need, and the hospital even put this flag up in honor of him:

I don't think it's insensitive of me to say I'd rather have my brother than a flag.
Death is such a strange thing. I've lost people before (two of my grandparents died last year), as I'm sure many people have. I put the characters in my books through trials and tribulations, many times forcing them to have to let their friends and family go. Even so, it always seemed like such a distant thing. Death happens in books. It doesn't happen in real life. I remember joking to my sisters that this sounds like the start of a YA novel: my brother died, we don't know who killed him, time to drop everything and hunt his killer down.

And that's why I've been so absent lately. My eldest brother is dead. He never got to propose to his girlfriend (we found his notes on how he was going to ask her father for permission to marry her; she found the engagement ring in his bag after his death). He will never get to celebrate my sisters' twenty-first birthdays with us. It's those things that hit me the hardest: the things we will never have again. I won't hear his laughter outside of videos. We won't hear him call us by our nicknames (he loved giving us nicknames). He'll never be there to make goofy faces at us or tease us over what our sneezes sound like. When the rest of us have kids of our own, they will never get to meet their goofy, laughing uncle.

This time last year, my brother was alive.

# # # 

Of course, that is not the only thing to have occurred in the past year. My books and I are represented by Josh Adams of Adams Literary, and I couldn't be happier with our team. I have new critique partners. I've mentored a new writer through Pitch Wars (if you're curious, check out her entry! I devoured her manuscript in a single day). I'm interning in the museum on campus, and by the time I graduate in Fall 2017 (I'm a senior, but decided to spread out my schedule over two more semesters) I'll have worked there for two years. I've read so many amazing books, met so many amazing people, and watched so many amazing things happen for my friends.

I've even written another book. I wanted to write three new ones in 2016, but this year has been ten kinds of crazy, so I'm lucky to have gotten even one in! Here's the Pinterest board for it if you're curious--and please ignore the title. That was a joke between me and a friend and I've yet to change it, though it's far from its actual title (but actually gives you a good idea of its content--for a YA book, anyway).

I pitch it as a mash-up of King Arthur and Mad Max: Fury Road if Mad Max had airships instead of cars. It also has a sprinkling of circuses, pirates, time travel, friendship explorations (forming and falling apart), and lots and lots of sand and stars and dragons. Hoo boy are there a lot of dragons. And I'm so proud of one aspect of it that I'd love to tell you about but I fear it's a little hard to describe out of context. I will say this, though: it's a fantasy world dripping with magic, so I decided to have fun and do whatever the hell I wanted.

This year has been hard, and stressful, and difficult. I've lost things and won things. I've done things and not done things. I've learned a lot and taught a lot. I've laughed and I've cried and everything in between. And if there is one thing that this year has taught me, it's that I'm a survivor. I know hardship, and I know that I can overcome it. Maybe not immediately, maybe not easily, but definitely.

So, as is often the case with my posts, I'll end with a piece of music. This song inspired so much of the manuscript I wrote this year, and fills me with life every time I hear it. I hope you enjoy, and I'll see you all in the new year!


Monday, November 14, 2016

Monday Music 145

Hi everyone,

This week's selection is called Lothar from the World of Warcraft movie. Hope you enjoy!

Happy Monday!


Monday, November 7, 2016

Monday Music 144

Hi everyone,

This week's selection is called The Rising by Really Slow Motion Music. Hope you enjoy!

Happy Monday!


Monday, October 31, 2016

Monday Music 143

Happy Halloween everyone!

This week's selection is properly fitting of the date it falls upon: from the Two Steps From Hell Halloween album. (As if I couldn't love them enough, they have a bloody Halloween album.) I hope you enjoy Diabolic Clockwork by Two Steps From Hell. 

Happy Monday!


Monday, October 24, 2016

Monday Music 142

Hi everyone,

This week's selection is called Mind Games by BANKS. (I am petitioning for her to be the next singer for a James Bond theme song. Anyone with me?) Hope you enjoy!

Happy Monday!


Monday, October 17, 2016

Monday Music 141

Hi everyone,

This week's selection is called We Don't Have to Dance by Andy Black (a pseudonym for Andy Biersack of Black Veil Brides). Hope you enjoy!

Hope you enjoy!


Monday, October 10, 2016

Monday Music 140

Hi everyone,

This week's selection is called Dark Ages by Two Steps From Hell. (Anyone else hear Lord of the Rings in there, from about 0:35-1:00? Just me? Look, my nerddom is showing again--Dylan is shaking his head at me.) Hope you enjoy!

Happy Monday!


Monday, October 3, 2016

Monday Music 139

Hi everyone,

This week's selection is called White Flag by The Romanovs. Hope you enjoy!

Happy Monday!


Monday, September 26, 2016

Monday Music 138

Hi everyone,

This week's selection is called Glass Heart Hymn by Paper Route. Hope you enjoy!

Happy Monday!


Monday, September 19, 2016

Monday Music 137

Hi everyone,

This week's selection is from a band (or orchestra, really) that has remained a favorite for years. I don't even remember how old I was when I discovered them, and I think they have a lot to do with shaping the person I am now. (And some of their older songs STILL give me chills, 1000th time I've listened to them.) I hope you enjoy Magika by Two Steps From Hell:

Happy Monday!


Monday, September 12, 2016

Monday Music 136

Hi everyone,

I wrote "136" up there and holy crap, can you believe I've done 136 Monday Music posts? That's kind of hard to wrap my head around. That's two and a half years of Mondays. Hopefully these posts make your Mondays a little easier to stomach. :)

SO! This week's selection is called Land of All by Woodkid, one of my favorite bands. Hope you enjoy!

Happy Monday!


Monday, September 5, 2016

Monday Music 135

Hi everyone,

This week's selection is called One Last Moment of You by Ursine Vulpine.

Hope you enjoy!


Monday, August 29, 2016

Monday Music 134

Hi everyone,

This week's selection is called Salvation by Two Steps From Hell.

Hope you enjoy!


Monday, August 22, 2016

Monday Music 133

Hi everyone,

This week's selection is called Too Deep by Ritual.

Hope you enjoy!


Monday, August 15, 2016

Monday Music 132

Hi everyone,

This week's selection is called Dawn of Freedom by Epic Score.

Hope you enjoy!


Monday, August 8, 2016

Monday Music 131

Hi everyone,

This week's selection is called Belly of the Deepest Love by Tow'rs.

Hope you enjoy!


Monday, August 1, 2016

Monday Music 130

Hi everyone,

This week's selection is called Silver Wolf by Mark Pride.

Hope you enjoy!


Monday, July 25, 2016

Monday Music 129

Hi everyone,

This week's selection is called The Legend by Lion's Heart Productions.

Hope you enjoy!


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

You With the Face and the Words I Want


I'm back as a Young Adult Pitch Wars mentor! Hello, all you wonderful writers deciding to make the nerve-wracking but so, so brave jump in your writing careers by putting your work out there. I know exactly where you are right now, because I've been there multiple times myself. It never gets any easier to submit your work--whether it be to contests, querying, or even with critique partners--but the first part of being a writer is never giving up.

You've made it this far. We want to help you go farther.

This year, I'm working with my dear friend and writing aficionado, Megan Lally.

Look at those faces, yo. WE WANT YOUR WORDS.
We're both Pitch Wars veterans ourselves, having been mentees just a few years ago. Last year, we were both solo mentors, but after our mentees went on to such success (all three of them are now agented!), we thought it would be fun if we could combine both our talents to bring you a united (we joke that we're Pitch Wars married) team of support, advice, and editorial feedback.

As such, our wishlists are going to be a little shorter and a little different this year than what we were after last year. The quick and dirty of what we're hoping to receive is simple: dark, strange, magical, romantic. Regardless of genre, if you have all four of those in your manuscript, we want to see it. We're less picky about genre, and more after specific elements prevalent in books. We want dark undercurrents, gritty atmosphere, harrowing tone, sweeping romance, and, above all, characters so real they feel like people we could pass on the street. But, because that's not as specific and can be subjective, I'll go into more detail.

Contemporary: While we both enjoy our fluff, we don't want to edit it. Fluff, for us, is something we'd rather enjoy as a reader. So, in contemporary, we're both looking for the dark and gritty stuff. The tough decisions, the hard relationships, the life or death, however metaphorically or literally that is present in the manuscript. For example, books that make you question right from wrong like in If I Stay by Gayle Forman, or books that pack punches between every relationship like in I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios, or as dark and strange as The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin. (Fun fact: IMYT is my all-time favorite contemporary novel...and I rarely, if ever, pick favorites.)

Fantasy: Because fantasy is such a saturated market, we're both far pickier about what we're looking for here. First and foremost, though, is that we don't want any hard fantasy, a la Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas. We'd rather have fantasy where the conflict encompasses the characters and plot over the world. Essentially, we're looking more for low fantasy than high or epic. Worlds like those that exist in The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, or The Scorpio races by Maggie Stiefvater. (Incidentally, all three of those are some of my favorite fantasies!)

Historical/Horror--WITH MAGIC: What should be a recurring thing you notice now (😉) is we want the dark stuff. The things that go bump in the night, that make you want to shut your curtains lest you see a face on the other side of the glass, what makes you run from a room when you turn the lights out. And if all of that can be found in a gorgeous historical setting with a splash of fantasy, you've got us hook, line, and sinker. Gothic horror is a genre we'd both love to see more of! If you can re-imagine historical events with a fantastical element, we will love you forever. Something like where the Black Plague is not actually a plague, but an infestation of demons ravaging through Europe. Or where the 1918 Spanish flu is not actually the flu, but something creepy that causes people to go mad. Or something as simple as a dark retelling of Jane Eyre or Pride & Prejudice--or a supernatural version of Peaky Blinders! We love books like The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman (one of my all-time favorite historicals!), A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly, Grave Mercy by Robin Lafevers, or Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco.

Smaller specifics: It is no secret I'm a complete and utter sucker for any and all bromances. On the flip side, lady friendships are some of the most important things that can exist in YA fiction. Do you have LGBT+ characters, romances, etc? GIVE US THEM. We want the gritty stuff, not the no-conflicts-ever friendships. Friendships that fall apart, that come together, that strive through all conflict even if it tears them apart for a time. Do you have a dark carnival or circus, with witchy ringmasters and dangerous magic? PLEASE send it our way! We love claustrophobic environments, when survival does not seem certain. We want circumstances that push characters to the extreme and make you question not only their survival, but what they do in order to survive. Make us feel trapped. Make our hearts race. We love when you make us question a villain's motives: could they actually be the good guy? Could we fall in love with them (a la the Darkling? OMG YES)? Villains are their own hero, and we want to feel that.

Other things we like: swoons, kissing, enemies to lovers, fake relationships, forbidden romance, genre mashups, anti-heroes/heroines, magic, heists, assassins, pirates, heartbreak, character deaths, cocky heroes, kick-ass heroines (bonus points if it's not exclusively in the physical sense!), secret pasts that should remain secret, and healthy relationships with family. Above all and regardless of genre, we want the dark, gritty, scary, strange, creepy, magical, romantic.

Things we don't want: novels in verse, vampires, werewolves, angels, dystopian, princesses, slasher stories, abusive relationships, and love triangles (or squares, pentagons, hexagons, etc). When in doubt, reach out to me and Megan! We're both very active on Twitter, my email inbox is always open (via the Contact Me page above!), and you can always comment down below.

Most of all, though, we want someone who is ready to work. Pitch Wars is not meant to be exclusively about the agent round. The agent round is merely a bonus to the two months of rigorous work we put you through to get your manuscript in tip-top shape. Last year, for example, my mentee had to cut 20k, change one narrator's plot, and re-imagine her villain. You need to be prepared to have your manuscript torn apart and pieced back together.

A little about me:

I've been writing for nine years, across contemporary, historical, dsytopian, and fantasy, and have been involved in the YA community for going on five years. I also blog occasionally on the Writing with the Mentors blog, where I and many other Pitch Wars mentors share writing tips, Pitch Wars do's and don'ts, and much more! I've participated in many contests--in Pitch Wars alone, I've been both mentee and mentor!--and thus know what it takes to get books in tip-top shape for catching the eyes of agents. When I mentored last year for Pitch Wars, my mentee Jo Hathaway went on to sign with an agent from Curtis Brown, Ltd. Both of Megan's mentees from last year--Sheena Boekweg and Isabel Davis--have signed with agents, too.

My strengths for editing lie in line edits, action scenes, intrigue, romance, character arcs, world-building, and slam-dunk endings. If you want brutal honesty, I'm your gal--but I always cushion my critique with advice.

Megan's strengths for editing lie in big picture problems, character emotion and stakes, and romance. Beyond that, she is one of my biggest champions and never fails to make me feel confident about myself as a writer.

We are ALWAYS open to questions you may have, and are happy to talk you through problems and help smooth out plot knots, both during and after the contest. I'm afraid once you're our my mentee, you're stuck with us.

Beyond my writing credentials, I'm a senior in college, getting my Bachelor's in history with an emphasis on museum studies. I've been kickboxing for five years, absolutely love hiking--especially in national parks--and am an absolute introvert at heart. My favorite TV shows are Black Sails, Peaky Blinders, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, Reign, Supernatural, Outlander, and I Love Lucy. I blog and tweet about music of all genres (check out my Monday Music posts if you're after some new songs!). I am the middle child of five: two older brothers, and two younger sisters. My favorite animal is an elephant. Oreo cookies are my weakness. And I have a betta fish named after a character I killed in one of my books--he has been immortalized in my fish.

I hope you choose to submit to me and my co-mentor Megan Lally (and hop over to her blog for a surprise!). We have our editing styles down to a science, and are determined to bring our mentee the best of what we have to offer. Please do hop over to her blog and check out her bio and wishlist! And here is your letter for the scavenger hunt:

Please do check out the other mentors' bios in the space below! Megan and I can't wait to get your submission!!