Monday, January 2, 2017

Books I Love - My Faves of 2016!

I read 100 books in 2016 and here are a few of my favorites. Most are from 2016 but a few are ones I discovered this year. Well, here they are in no particular order!
 
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And these two I got for Christmas and am super excited to read!
 
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What are your faves of 2016?
 
 
 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Cancer Update – Chemo Edition

First off, I want to say thank you to everyone who donated to my youcaring fund. When Mindy and Kate suggested starting one to help with treatment costs I was a bit doubtful that it would be successful. Boy, was I wrong. I am not a crier, but when I saw how many people donated/offered words of support, well, let’s just say there were water works.

 

Since my last post I’ve started chemo and let me tell you, it’s not like in the movies/TV. First of all, they don’t line you up in one big depressing cancer room. Where I’m at there are nice little private cubicles with TVs and big comfy chairs that heat up and have a massage function. No joke.

 

I was shocked at how nice it all was. They also don’t inject the medicine into the veins in your arms. I had a chemo port installed, which is a device placed under the skin in the chest with a tube that flows directly into a major artery. So while I may not end up with a bionic boob, I am on my way to becoming a cyborg. After they hook you up (they call it accessing your port) they pump you full of chemicals (one of mine is candy apple red) and that’s that!

 

Honestly, for the first few days after my first treatment I felt normal. Then the next few days I felt super gross…like I was hung over from the worst bender ever. Then I felt normal again.

 

Today is my second session. I’m not sure when I’ll post another cancer update, but I’ll definitely still be posting book stuff, and of course my 2016 favorites list in January.

 

I hope everyone has a great holiday, and thank you again for all your support and encouragement!!!

Monday, November 7, 2016

My Cancer Diagnosis – How My Left Breast is Trying to Kill Me

[Warning: In this post I talk about my boob. A lot. I also curse and talk about medical things, so if you’re squeamish, probably skip this.]

 

About six weeks ago, after experiencing a sharp random pain in my left breast, I found a lump. My first thoughts: HOLY SHIT, I HAVE CANCER. After an hour of online research I calmed down. I’m young and cancer doesn’t usually hurt. It doesn’t make your breast swell to twice the normal size. It doesn’t come on suddenly. Self diagnosis, I convinced myself I had a cyst. They’re common in my family.

 

I went to my doctor who also agreed it was probably a cyst but ordered a mammogram and ultrasound just to be sure. I was still convinced it was a cyst. Up until the moment when the big boss radiologist came into the room and she told me that I had three solid masses in my breast and one in my armpit. My thoughts at that moment? FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK.

 

Back to HOLY SHIT, I HAVE CANCER. Because although I’m not a pessimist, I am a realist. They don’t order a biopsy for no reason. A single mass in my breast may be benign, but three? And one already in my lymh node? Yeah, that has got to be fucking cancer. I called my sister to warn her. She cried. I told her not to cry. She cried some more. My husband and I talked about what to do if it was cancer and decided not to fuck around. To do whatever it took to get better.

 

The next day I had to go back for a biopsy. I needed four total and for each one they covered the spot in iodine, gave me a numbing shot, and shoved a super long needle with nifty vacuum suction action to take samples. Then they put a titanium marker in the spot to show where the sample was taken. (Yeah, was hoping it would make my boob bionic, but sadly, no.)

 

Rinse, repeat. The whole thing took four hours. Then they did another mammogram to make sure the markers were in place. If you don’t know about mammograms, they are not gentle. They took my already punctured, aching breast and placed it in a big machine where it was squished between two glass plates. Then they needed the side view. My poor boob was not happy.

 

Fast forward to Saturday, ten days ago. My doctor calls. I know it must be awesome news because, what doctor doesn’t love to call patients on a Saturday? Well, the cells were malignant and at 35 years of age, HOLY SHIT, I HAVE CANVER.

 

I’m starting chemo next week. I don’t know how I’ll react, so though I’ll probably be around on social media, I might not always respond right away if at all. I’m going to conserve my energy to work on my latest contracted novel.
 
 
So how am I feeling? Angry but hopeful. I have a great cancer team and am otherwise healthy. I have a good chance of coming out of this less one boob, but very much alive. Please share your stories of cancer survival for yourself/friends/and family. I would love to hear them!
 
 
 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

BAD BLOOD Signed ARC Giveaway and book bundle!

For October I'm giving away a signed ARC of BAD BLOOD!

 
 
 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 
Also included are two arcs from Delacorte authors. And GOING GEEK is signed!


Going Geek                    My Unscripted Life
 
 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Pitchwars Query Critique – BRISKWOOD BLOOD RAIN


 
Here is another query critique for our pitchwars hopefuls. I’ve pasted the entire query and first page, then again with my comments. Thank you so much to Christopher Joubert for sharing with us!
 
 

Dear Mentor,

When Miles Parker walks into one of his final classes of high school, the only thing on his mind is how poorly he is about to do on a quiz he didn’t study for. Then, his teacher dies – and vanishes – in front of him. After this unexplainable event happens, he thinks his day can’t get any stranger.

 

He’s wrong.

 

When severe weather roars into the small city of Briskwood and cancels school for the rest of the day, Miles thinks nothing of it. Then, the rain suddenly turns red and mutates people into gray, spike-covered creatures hell-bent on terrorizing everything that moves.


Miles soon finds himself trapped inside of his job, the Royal Cinema Theater, along with his best friend Trevor Johnson. There, he also meets a group of teenagers who can’t seem to get along, even in a time of crisis.

 

After one of the freakishly mutated people ends up inside of the building, Miles and the others find themselves up against an enemy that is much stronger than they are. The race for survival against this new, deadly species is on.

 

With the blood rain falling all around him and the yellow-eyed creatures, the threaders, out to murder anything that breathes, Miles may not live to see his graduation day.

 

This novel connects with me on a personal level because I have worked in a movie theater for more than three years now and I am familiar with how a dangerous situation would affect the fragile system of the business.

 

BRISKWOOD BLOOD RAIN, a stand-alone novel with strong series potential, is a thrilling apocalyptic page-turner with commercial appeal that is currently complete at 61,000 words. Readers of Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne and Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts will enjoy this adventure.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Christopher Joubert

 

 

Chapter 1

 

It looks like my first accomplishment of the day is booking myself a one-way-ticket to detention. Senior year has kicked my ass. Lately, I just haven’t been able to get enough sleep because of the never-ending pointless stuff that comes along with the last year of school. Just yesterday, I was forced to take what felt like a million pictures for my graduation invitations. The smell of bacon wafts up the stairs into my room and gives me just the push I need to begin another long day.

 

“Miles, you’re going to be late.” My mom screams from downstairs.

 

“Mom, you should be used to this by now.” I yell back, my voice echoing down the halls of our large house. I drag myself from the sanctuary of my bed to the bathroom, turn on the sink, and brush my teeth. The morning light breaks through the dark storm clouds outside and shines through the window. As I throw on a wrinkled Breaking Bad T-shirt and a pair of jeans splattered with spots of pizza sauce, it thunders loudly. I slam the door to the bathroom and bound down the winding spiral staircase.

 

When I enter the kitchen, I find my mom dancing to music from whatever decade used an excessive amount of horns. Not stopping to figure it out, I say hello to her over the noise of the blasting portable speaker, grab a handful of bacon, and head towards the front door. She clears her throat behind me, loud enough to be heard over the blasting saxophones and trumpets.

 

“What?” I whip around and peek my head back inside the kitchen.

 

“Are you forgetting what I asked you to do last night?” Damn. I honestly have no idea what she’s talking about and I don’t exactly have the time to hear her lecture me if I admit that. She glares at me, giving me the thorny and disapproving look that blooms inside of every mom when her child starts to mature. Small wrinkles line the sides of her sad, blue eyes. Her auburn hair is twisted into two braids and peppered with streaks of gray.

 

And now with my comments!

 

Dear Mentor,

When Miles Parker walks into one of his final classes of high school, the only thing on his mind is how poorly he is about to do on a add subject quiz he didn’t study for. Then, his teacher dies – and vanishes – in front of him. After this unexplainable event happens, he thinks his day can’t get any stranger.

 

He’s wrong. Nice!

 

When severe weather roars into the small city of Briskwood and cancels school is cancelled for the rest of the day, Miles thinks nothing of it. the weather caused the cancelation but didn’t cancel school. Then, the rain suddenly turns red and mutates people into gray, spike-covered creatures hell-bent on terrorizing everything that moves. This could be fleshed out…this is a huge part of the story and it’s told kind of in a hum drum way. Spice this up.


Miles soon finds himself trapped at work inside of his job, the Royal Cinema Theater, along with his best friend Trevor Johnson. There, he also meets and a group of teenagers who can’t seem to get along, again, kind of bland language, especially for an apocalyptic event even in a time of crisis. *

 

After one of the freakishly mutated people ends up inside of the building, Miles and the others find themselves up against use stronger words…like fighting an enemy that is much stronger than they are. The race for survival against this new, deadly species is on. This is a great end summary sentence.

 

With the blood rain falling all around him and the yellow-eyed creatures, the threaders, out to murder anything that breathes, Miles may not live to see his graduation day.  Delete this but move “murder anything that breathes” and “yellow-eyed creatures” up and weave in, since those are good images. “May not live to see his graduation day” is funny, but maybe move to * and tweak. Or see if it fits elsewhere since it relays the humor you touch on throughout.

 

This novel connects with me on a personal level because I have worked in a movie theater for more than three years now and I am familiar with how a dangerous situation would affect the fragile system of the business.  Funny but a lot of words for something that an agent probably won’t be interested in.

 

BRISKWOOD BLOOD RAIN, a stand-alone novel with strong series potential, Great! is a thrilling apocalyptic page-turner with commercial appeal that is currently complete at 61,000 words. Readers of Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne and Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts will enjoy this adventure. Great comp titles, capitalize them.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Christopher Joubert

 

Good start to a query, but make it more hooky!

 

Chapter 1

 

It looks like my first accomplishment of the day is booking myself a one-way-ticket to detention. Great first line! Mention here that he slept through his alarm or is running late, or hasn’t managed to get out of bed yet to set the scene. Senior year has kicked my ass. Lately, I just haven’t been able to get enough sleep because of the never-ending pointless stuff that comes along with the last year of school. Just yesterday, I was forced to take what felt like a million pictures for my graduation invitations. The smell of bacon wafts up the stairs into my room and gives me just the push I need to begin another long day.

 

“Miles, you’re going to be late.,Mmy mom screams from downstairs.

 

Mom, yYou should be used to this by now.” I yell back, my voice echoing down the halls of our large house. I drag myself from the sanctuary of my bed to the bathroom, turn on the sink, and brush my teeth. He would probably pee first. J But this info doesn’t have to be in there. The morning light breaks through the dark storm clouds outside and shines through the window. As I throw on a wrinkled Breaking Bad T-shirt and a pair of jeans splattered with spots of pizza sauce, it thunders loudly. Tweak this sentence…you make it sound like his jeans thunder loudly. I slam the door to the bathroom and bound down the winding spiral staircase.

 

When I enter the kitchen, I find my mom dancing to music from whatever decade used an excessive amount of horns. Not stopping to figure it out, I say hello to her over the noise of the blasting portable speaker, grab a handful of bacon, Wouldn’t that be gross and greasy? and head towards the front door. She clears her throat behind me, loud enough to be heard over the blasting saxophones and trumpets.

 

“What?” I whip around and peek my head back inside the kitchen.

 

“Are you forgetting what I asked you to do last night?” Damn. I honestly have no idea what she’s talking about and I don’t exactly have the time to hear her lecture me if I admit that. She glares at me, giving me the thorny and disapproving look that blooms inside of every mom when her child starts to mature. Way too self-aware here. Small wrinkles line the sides of her sad, blue eyes. Her auburn hair is twisted into two braids and peppered with streaks of gray.

 

This is a good first page, you’ve got a great voice for Miles. It just needs tightening up…too much unnecessary info.

Thanks again to Christopher Joubert for sharing his work with us!

For the next query visit Kate on her blog on 10/27 at katekaryusquinn.blogspot.com and I’ll have another critique right here next Tuesday!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Pitchwars Query Critique – ARCANUM


Here is another query critique for our pitchwars hopefuls. I’ve pasted the entire query and first page, then again with my comments. Thank you so much to Chris Hoerter for sharing with us!

 

 

Dear Pitch Wars Mentor:

Cyrus is a book-addicted 15-year-old boy who wants just one thing: to know his parents. The problem is that they’re dead. Also a problem: being home-schooled by his séance-obsessed sister, Jezanna. But when Jezanna’s latest lesson is necromancy – and the homework is bringing Mom back from the dead – Cyrus knows he has to stop her.

In ARCANUM, a 71,000-word young adult novel of supernatural horror, Cyrus must overcome his sister's betrayal, fight off her psychic followers, and uncover her plans to bring back the souls of the dead. But the hardest part might be learning to trust anyone ever again.

If Cyrus fails, his sister will unleash an ancient evil with plans of its own – and a thirst for the souls of the living.

Thank you for volunteering your time as a Pitch Wars mentor. I hope to hear from you soon!

Best wishes,
Chris Hoerter

 

************************

 

I never knew my mother – she died giving birth to me. But that didn't necessarily mean I wanted to bring her back from the dead.

    

I think for a lot of people, that would be exciting or something. But believe me, boring is good. Take it from me: If someone wants to give you a Tarot reading, or look at your palm -- don't get me started on Ouija boards -- do yourself a favor and go play a video game.  Maybe even go crazy and read a book. You'll be happy you did. And -- bonus points -- you'll get to live a normal life.

    

Of course, I didn't know all that the night of the séance.

    

I was perched in my favorite tree, reading. Sorry -- I mean, "being home-schooled." The truth was that my sister gave up trying to teach me anything about three years ago, when at the age of 12 I started to get ahead of her in fields like math, biology, and astronomy. Real, scientifically proven sorts of things, which Jezanna knew nothing about. Astrology, on the other hand -- but I digress.

    

Anyway, Jezanna's yelling interrupted my everything's-perfect-tree-reading moment.

 

"Cyrus, they're here! Time for the séance!"

    

I rolled my eyes, even though she couldn't see me. She was a long way off still, and I was 10 feet off the ground, resting on the gnarled bark of the old live oak, floating above a cloud of swaying Spanish moss. (Like I said: Perfect.) I went back to Herodotus, who I thought had an undeserved reputation for being a liar. He had what I thought was a pretty good approach to history -- especially when you consider the guy was an ancient Greek. He said, "I am bound to tell what I am told, but not in every case to believe it." That strikes me as a reasonable approach, one with a dash of skepticism, but not opposed to embellishing a bit for the sake of a good story.

  

And now with my comments!

 

Dear Pitch Wars Mentor:

Cyrus is a book-addicted 15-year-old boy who wants just one thing: to know his parents. The problem is that they’re dead. Great opener! Also a problem: being home-schooled by his séance-obsessed sister, Jezanna. But when Jezanna’s latest lesson is necromancy – and the homework is bringing Mom back from the dead – Cyrus knows he has to stop her. Love this first paragraph! It's grabby and interesting and reveals just the right amount of plot.

In ARCANUM, a 71,000-word young adult novel of supernatural horror, Move to a last paragraph and add anything else relevant…are you a member of SCBWI, do you work with teens? Add any pertinent details, including comp titles…maybe PARNORMALCY…although that’s a bit old. Also, your tone in this query is a bit snarky (in a good way)…is there humor in the MS? Is Cyrus a smartass? Maybe reflect that here. Paranormal horror with some snark.

 

Start second paragraph with this Cyrus must overcome his sister's betrayal, fight off her psychic followers, and uncover her plans to bring back the souls of the dead. But the hardest part might be learning to trust anyone ever again. This list seems out of order…wouldn’t he uncover her plans before he overcomes her betrayal and fights off her psychic followers?

Move to end of above paragraph. If Cyrus fails, his sister will unleash an ancient evil with plans of its own – and a thirst for the souls of the living. Great!

Thank you for volunteering your time as a Pitch Wars mentor. I hope to hear from you soon!

Best wishes,
Chris Hoerter

 

This is a great start to a query…a tad bit light on details. Maybe add just a teeny bit more…is there a love interest? What does Cyrus want? Just a few more sentences or another paragraph in the middle to round out the story. Not too much though, and what you already have is very good.

 

************************

 

I never knew my mother – she died giving birth to me. But that didn't necessarily mean I wanted to bring her back from the dead. Great opener.

    

I think for a lot of people, that idea would be exciting or something. But believe me, boring is good. Take it from me: If someone wants to give you a Tarot reading, or look at your palm -- don't get me started on Ouija boards -- do yourself a favor and go play a video game.  Maybe even go crazy and read a book. You'll be happy you did. And -- bonus points -- you'll get to live a normal life.

    

Of course, I didn't know all that the night of the séance.

    

I was perched in my favorite tree, reading. Sorry -- I mean, "being home-schooled." The truth was that my sister gave up trying to teach me anything about three years ago, when at the age of 12 I started to get ahead of her in fields like math, biology, and astronomy. Real, scientifically proven sorts of things, which Jezanna knew nothing about. Astrology, on the other hand -- but I digress. Feels like too much info here, could this info starting with The truth was…be added to a scene a little later? Right now it feels like you’re forcing his smartness on the reader instead of letting it unfold naturally.

    

Anyway, Jezanna's yelling interrupted my everything's-perfect-tree-reading moment.

 

"Cyrus, they're here! Time for the séance!"

    

I rolled my eyes, even though she couldn't see me. She was a long way off still, and I was 10 feet off the ground, resting on the gnarled bark of the old live oak, floating above a cloud of swaying Spanish moss. (Like I said: Perfect.) I went back to Herodotus, who I thought had an undeserved reputation for being a liar. He had what I thought was a pretty good approach to history -- especially when you consider the guy was an ancient Greek. He said, "I am bound to tell what I am told, but not in every case to believe it." That strikes me as a reasonable approach, one with a dash of skepticism, but not opposed to embellishing a bit for the sake of a good story.  Unnecessary and really brings the pacing of the scene crashing to a halt. Bring in the sister, show how un-normal she is…keep the momentum of the idea of bringing back his parents and the impending séance.

 

Thanks again to Chris Hoerter for sharing his work with us!

For the next query visit Kate on her blog on 10/20 at katekaryusquinn.blogspot.com and I’ll have another critique right here next Tuesday!
 
 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Pitchwars Critique – INTO THE PALE



Here is another query critique for one of our pitchwars hopefuls. Thank you so much to Ellie Cypher for sharing with us! Ellie has asked that I critique the first page of her newest WIP, so there’s no query with this one. I’ve posted the full page, then again with my comments.

 

The answer to what freezes first is the eyes.

 

That ain’t something most people would guess. Most folk would say it was the fingers or toes. Or maybe even the guts, if they were out. Once, I’d even heard a man say it was the tongue that froze first. But I know better. Always have.

Raising a gloved hand to my fur lined hood, I tilted my head and looked at the body by my feet.

 

Guess he knew now too.

 

I scuffed my boot across the crystal-flecked surface of the man’s canvas blue jacket. The motion sent small swirls of snow, as fine dust, out into the cold draught around us. The night had froze the man’s breath right across his face. The warm water of his lungs expelled and made real, like a spider’s web. I reached down.

 

Only idiots tried to cross the Ice Flats in the night. Greta had been once again right. Usual. Buried treasure my ass. Only thing out this way was the cold. And death. And hunger. Lots of hunger.

 

“Marjorie!”

 

I started. Shit. Would she not just leave me be? The holler came again. I frowned and jumped up.

 

Way I figured it, anyone dumb or greedy enough to think otherwise pretty much damn well had it coming. It ain’t like they couldn’t see all them grave markers out front. Little grey stone warnings in the permafrost, they made a jagged line of snowy teeth. A boundary line between life and death. Between the Flats and the whole rest of the world.

 

 

Now with my comments!

 

 

The answer to what freezes first is the eyes. I like this first line but maybe simplify to make it more punchy with just, What freezes first are the eyes or, The eyes freeze first.

 

That ain’t something most people would guess. Most folk would say it was the fingers or toes. Or maybe even the guts, if they were out. Once, I’d even heard a man say it was the tongue that froze first. But I know better. Always have. Love this voice and super creepy inner monologue.

 

Raising a gloved hand to my fur lined hood, I tilted my head and looked at the body by my feet.

 

Guess he knew now too.

 

I scuffed my boot across the crystal-flecked surface of the man’s canvas blue jacket. The motion sent small swirls of snow, as fine dust, out into the cold draught around us. Nice! The night had frozen (or keep wrong for voice) the man’s breath right across his face. The warm water of his lungs expelled WC, maybe too a big a word for current voice… and made real, WC solid like a spider’s web. I reached down. And does what? Touches his face, his frozen breath? Or does she just kneel down?

 

Only idiots tried to cross the Ice Flats in the at night. Greta had been once again right. Usual. Buried treasure my ass. Only thing out this way was the cold. And death. And hunger. Lots of hunger.

 

“Marjorie!”

 

I started. Shit. I’m fine with cursing in YA but on the first page might be a little off putting for some…you can make a world building curse that she uses that isn’t actually a bad word. Would she instead of she, maybe a name…is this the Greta mentioned above? not just leave me be? The holler came again. I frowned and jumped up.

 

Way I figured it, anyone dumb or greedy enough to think otherwise pretty much damn well had it coming. It ain’t like they couldn’t see all them grave markers out front. Little grey stone warnings in the permafrost, they made a jagged line of snowy teeth. A boundary line between life and death. Between the Flats and the whole rest of the world. Love this paragraph!

 

This is a very good first page…I would definitely keep reading to see what’s next.

 

Thanks again to Ellie Cypher for sharing her work with us!

For the next query visit Kate on her blog on 10/13 at katekaryusquinn.blogspot.com and I’ll have another critique right here next Tuesday!